Wednesday, December 31, 2014

ISIS extremists living in Queensland are being 'closely monitored' after returning from conflict in Syria and Iraq

Islamic State fighters who have returned from the conflict in Iraq and Syria are living in Queensland, but are being 'closely monitored' by officials.

Australia is currently facing a 'high' threat of terrorism according to the government, with a number of Islamic State extremists currently on the ASIO anti-terrorism radar.

A senior Police Commissioner has warned that the experience these fighters have gained from the conflict in makes them a major concern for Australian authorities, reports Courier Mail.

When asked about the number of extremists living in Australia, Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said 'I can't confirm the number because it can change in a heartbeat – and the risk can change in a heartbeat. Today it (the number) might be five. Tomorrow it might be 10,'.

'Obviously you don't go off fighting in foreign lands – not as a member of the Australian Defence Force – and come back and think you are not going to be on our radar,' Mr Stewart said.

'And that's because of the experiences that they have, and the skill set that they pick up by being involved in fighting elsewhere.'

Mr Stewart said while the Police strive for the utmost safety of Australians, there is always a risk of acts of terror.

It is believed that 12 Queenslanders are among the 70 identified Australians fighting in Iraq and Syria.

Some of them are hiding in Syria, fearing if they come back to Australia they will be prosecuted by severe new anti-terror laws that could see them jailed for up to 25 years.

Among the Australians who have flown to Syria are brothers Taha, Hamza, Bilal and Omar from Yagoona in Western Sydney.

The four men, aged between 17 and 28, told their parents they were taking a holiday in Thailand after winning their tickets in a competition, before revealing via text message that they had arrived in Syria.

Before they were due to come home last month, the parents received a text stating: 'We made it to Bilad al-Sham, we will see you in paradise'. Bilad al-Sham is a region in Syria. Despite the text, the parents went to the airport to pick up their sons but they never arrived.

Authorities tracked the sons down in Turkey after the family alerted them but it is believed they have since crossed the border into Syria.

Unlike some before them, the siblings were 'clean-skins' and had not been on any watch-lists that would have alerted immigration controls.


What Victoria's new Labor government has in store

Daniel Andrews’ Labor Party defeated the Liberal-National coalition at the Victorian election on November 29 and will hold a majority of about six seats, although the ALP had a swing of only about 1.3 per cent on primary votes.

So what policies can be expected from the new Labor government?

It has promised to enact a radical social agenda, including an extensive gay and lesbian wish-list, for Victoria.

Under the guise of tackling bullying, the government will require every government secondary school to have programs to support and celebrate “gender and sexual diversity” through a state-wide rollout of the Safe Schools Coalition initiative.

It has promised to repeal the criminal offence of intentional infecting of another person with HIV; to establish a GLBT Ministerial Advisory Committee within the Cabinet; and to create a dedicated Gender and Sexuality Discrimination Commissioner in the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

The ALP has also pledged to recognise foreign same-sex marriages as registered relationships under the Victorian Relationships Register Act. The proposal is to allow same-sex couples to describe themselves as “married” on the application form.

Labor is also committed to granting adoption rights to same-sex couples.

Its proposed changes to Victoria’s Equal Opportunity Act constitute an attack on freedom of religion. Under the promised changes, faith-based schools, youth clubs, charities, welfare agencies, hospitals and counselling agencies could be forced to employ people hostile to their beliefs.

Hypocritically, Labor’s proposal will not force Labor MPs to employ Liberal supporters.

In the closing stages of the Victorian election campaign, leaders of the major churches called for no changes to be made to the Equal Opportunity Act, in the interest of maintaining a fair balance between the right to equality, freedom of association and religious liberty.

Also, it can be expected that the abortion lobby will be pushing for “bubble zones” around abortion facilities to prevent pro-lifers praying for and approaching women entering an abortion facility.

The upper house losses suffered by both Labor and the Coalition to the Greens and the micro-parties highlight a major issue that has been developing over the past few decades.

Since the early 1990s, planning by successive governments has focused on a concentrated high-rise residential building spree in central Melbourne.

Hundreds of thousands of people are now living in one- and two-bedroom units. They are single-income or dual-income-no-kids households.

Coalition and ALP governments have poured billions into infrastructure support for metropolitan Melbourne. What they have created is a concentrated constituency of people inclined to vote Green.

Meanwhile, regional economies have been suffering from a lack of infrastructure development.

This has been made worse in central and northern Victoria from the huge loss to farmers of irrigation water that has been diverted to the environment under the Commonwealth government’s Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

This failure to pursue sensible decentralisation policies has left Labor bleeding to the Greens in Melbourne and the Coalition bleeding to micro-parties in the regional areas of Victoria.

The result is likely to leave Victoria with similar problems to the Abbott government, which is struggling to get its legislation though a divided Senate. The one difference in Victoria is that the upper house cannot block supply; so the Andrews government, with its control of the lower house, can easily pass its budgets.


Queensland teaching graduates heading to UK after failing to land job locally

QUEENSLAND teaching graduates are heading to the UK in droves, with nine out of 10 failing to get a job with the state’s education department.  About 230 teaching graduates this year have been offered and accepted a permanent position with the Department of Education — despite more than 2080 applying for a job.

Almost 590 of the graduates from 2014 were offered and accepted temporary positions.

But recent reports out of England have suggested there could be a deficit of almost 30,000 teachers in 2017 with Queensland teachers rushing to fill the positions.

Mitch Jones, who recruits Australian teachers to work in the UK, said there was a rush to attract not only experienced teachers but also new graduates.  “The demand for relief teachers are also so high we can guarantee every teacher regular relief work each week,” he said.  “Some teachers also choose to work casually so they can spend more time travelling through Europe.”

The agency, Protocol Education, works with about 4000 public, religious and private schools across England, and currently sends over about 500 Australian teachers each year.

The Queensland Education Department has an active applicant pool of 13,917 seeking employment for next year, the number a combination of graduates from Queensland, interstate, overseas and general experienced teacher applicants.  More than 2080 of the applicants are straight out of university.

Teaching graduate Kristen Doherty is heading to Milton Keynes in the UK next year after studying a Bachelor of Primary Education, specialising in middle years.  “I am so excited, it’s going to be so good,” she said.  “I wanted to do a bit of exploration for me.”’

She said she was extremely nervous about the move but had studied up on the curriculum for her future Year 6 class.

Queensland Teachers Union president Kevin Bates said graduates were often lured overseas for a taste of adventure.  “Some people are finding it’s difficult to get work and not willing to move outside the southeast corner,” he said.  “The other reason is that people, particularly Gen Y, are very much into this idea you go and work overseas for a few years — it’s a rite of passage.”

Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said Queensland schools were under a strong plan.  “We are working hard to make Queensland the best place to live, work and raise a family,” Mr Langbroek said.

“There is always demand for high-achieving professionals to teach in our state schools.  “We appoint a large number of teachers each year and have a range of initiatives to attract the best teachers to our schools, including those in remote locations.”


Teachers suffering under bureauracy and an old-fashioned industrial relations regime

Teachers in Australia's schools are suffering under an old-fashioned industrial relations regime and an out-dated salary structure according to new research published today by the free market think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs.

“Teachers are paid according to a ‘one size fits all’ model that pays the best and the worst teachers the same,” says John Roskam, Executive Director of the IPA.

“Promotion is based on time-served and the completion of box-ticking exercises rather than on the quality of teaching in the classroom.  For example, under existing regulations a Nobel Prize-winning scientist who wants to be a teacher must be paid the same as a 22 year-old inexperienced graduate.”

“The industrial relations regime that teachers work under means they sacrifice salary in exchange for more time off work.  For example, a teacher earning $75,000 a year has 11 weeks away from work and 17.5% holiday leave loading.  On a ‘standard year’ of 48 weeks work this equates to a salary of over $95,000 a year,” says Mr Roskam.

The report Freedom to Teach by IPA Research Fellows Vicki Stanley and Darcy Allen documents the 600 pages of regulations that stifle schools, teachers and principals.

“Teaching in Australia is managed as an industry according to systems established in the nineteenth-century.  If we are to provide young people with the best possible education we must think of teaching as a profession in which teachers are rewarded on the basis of their ability,” says John Roskam.

Key recommendations from the report include:

·       removing restrictions limiting the maximum amount classroom teachers can be paid

·       removing restrictions limiting the number of hours teachers can teach

·       allowing schools to make incentive payments to attract teachers to hard-to-staff schools


Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Four current articles below

More pressure on banks over global warming

There is an amusing perversity here.  Warmists are trying to  convince banks that lending money to coal and oil companies is risky -- on the grounds that coal and oil are old hat and will soon be replaced by windmills and solar power.  The fact that even the hi-tech "Ivanpah" project in the California desert actually depends for much of the time on "fossil" fuels is not acknowledged.  So the chance that demand for coal and oil will vanish is vanishingly small.

On the other hand, the ever-tightening net of Greenie restrictions is a real hazard to the oil and gas industry.  It bumps up their costs and hence the prices for their product -- leading to a fall in demand and a probable winnowing out of the less efficient producers.  So lending to conventional energy producers does have some risk but not because of global warming or "sustainable" energy.  It is risky because Greenies attack businesses in that field

One of the country's biggest investors, Australian Super, has asked the chairmen of the nation's biggest banks how they are responding to carbon exposure risk, as lenders face growing pressure over their response to climate change.

Australian Super's investment manager for governance, Andrew Gray, said banks needed to give investors comfort that they were "assessing and managing" the risks appropriately.

"We've actually engaged with the boards of the banks and have been asking them about this issue themselves," he said.

Mr Gray said the discussion had occurred over the past year or so and had been "constructive".

"Companies that actually have fossil fuel assets – they would have direct exposure – but banks as financiers of those companies therefore also potentially have exposure," he said.

"We would say it's a plausible issue to be examining for the banks, and so we are certainly doing that."

Former Coalition opposition leader John Hewson, who chairs the Asset Owners Disclosure Project, said that carbon didn't rate a single mention in the financial system inquiry by David Murray, who had previously doubted the severity of climate change.

"I was fascinated that the Murray Review, which is focused heavily on bank capital and the need to increase bank capital, doesn't focus on the climate risk," Dr Hewson said.

Until recently, views such as Dr Hewson's were on the fringe in the finance community, even though environmental groups have been airing them for years.

But noise is being made everywhere. In December, the Bank of England reportedly launched an inquiry into a potential "carbon bubble" in the world economy.

Earlier in the year, former United States secretary to the Treasury and Goldman Sachs chief Hank Paulson likened the growing financial risks created by climate change to the US housing credit bubble that was allowed to inflate until 2008.

Domestically, while there has been investor debate about carbon risk, it has focused on large emitters, such as coalminers, manufacturers, or airlines.

Now the spotlight is on the big four banks - Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, NAB and ANZ.

ANZ and CBA shareholders this year faced resolutions from the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility that would have required banks to disclose their "financed emissions".

Even though these were firmly rejected by shareholders, Mr Gray said it would be wrong to assume this means the issue was being ignored by long-term investors such as super funds.

"Irrespective of the ACCR resolution, that's a conversation that we were having anyway from the perspective of saying, 'Well we're a big investor in the banks, we want to understand what the risk of that looks like and how banks are managing any potential risks from this as an investment theme'," Mr Gray said.

All of the major banks now disclose more information about their lending to big carbon emitters, which is partly a response to the investor and activist pressure.

Company chairmen also told investors they consider risks such as these in detail before extending credit to customers. They say these checks are built into banks' environmental, social and governance policies, which are applied to all of big corporate clients.

ANZ chairman David Gonski faced repeated questions on carbon at its AGM in December, and argued the bank carefully considered any extra risks that big carbon emitters would face.

"We will continue to look to balance things, so that we can see that we are assisting the world in its living standards, but also at the same time moving towards renewables in a positive way," Mr Gonski said.

Despite assurances such as these, research by Tim Buckley from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis - a group pushing for action on climate change by investors - paints a less comforting picture about lenders' response to carbon risks.

Mr Buckley, a former head of equity research at Citi and fund manager, said the big four banks may have already funded "stranded assets" that were already feeling financial pain due to their carbon exposure.

He described the $3 billion Wiggins Island coal export facility as "potentially one of the first stranded assets in Australia" for banks and the associated coalmining company investors.

ANZ arranged the syndicate of local and global banks lending to the project, which has since been hit by a plunge in coal prices. Mr Buckley said this plunge in the coal price was partly the result of carbon risks materialising.

The banks' loans to the Wiggins Island project are protected in this case by take-or-pay contract rules that will in effect mean coalminers guarantee the port's cash flow.

Nonetheless, lending behaviour such as this undermines bank claims about carefully considering carbon risks – though Mr Buckley said this was now starting to change quite quickly.

He said three years ago if you were to ask senior finance executives if they understood the magnitude of their carbon risk in their loan books, infrastructure funds or equity portfolios, they would admit they had "no idea".

Now this is changing, after a collapse in coal company share prices linked to the coal price.

"I think they do have an idea today," he said. "Would they have known a year ago? No."

It had changed significantly in the past six months, he said, in part due to pressure from shareholders and signs that countries including the United States, China, Japan and Germany are acting to address their carbon emissions.

"Through the board election campaign of Ian Dunlop with BHP, the banks have gone through a bit of a baptism of fire and in the last six months," he said. "They are thinking about the associated financial risks a lot more. It wasn't even on their radar a year ago."

Despite these changes, many still remain sceptical that banks are taking carbon risk seriously.

Dr Hewson said: "I doubt if they've had serious board consideration of these sort of issues and gone through their portfolio loan by loan… whether they've actually done that sort of work, and if they have, why wouldn't they be prepared to tell the market what sort of risks they're running?"

The Asset Owners Disclosure Project, which Dr Hewson chairs, is considering "naming and shaming" how the world's 1000 biggest banks are responding to carbon risk, something it already does for pension funds.

He said the issue was not whether banks should avoiding fossil fuels, but that investors needed to be aware of the risks.

Similarly, Mr Buckley prefers to describe the risks in the language of finance, rather than environmentalism or politics.

"I actually never talk about climate change, I talk about the financial risk of stranded assets," he said.

Whatever happens to the politics of climate change, the issue is now clearly on the table as a financial risk. And as Australian Super's Mr Gray said, it was likely to remain there, especially as big super funds become more active in raising this and other social or environmental issues with boards.


Greenie misconceptions about the Great Barrier Reef

VISITORS to north Queensland who come to see the reef and rainforest are often perplexed to gaze from their hotel balconies out on to a wind-ruffled, muddy grey to brown-coloured sea.

What happened to the sparkling blue waters, they ponder. Fuelled by dim memories of media misreports, they usually jump to the conclusion that human pollution must be the cause.

Those who live along the Queensland coast, as opposed to those who preach about it from the concrete and glass metropolitan jungle, know that muddy coastal water is an intrinsic part of the natural tropical system, generated by the resuspension of seabed mud by constantly blowing southeast trade winds.

Indeed, special types of coral reef — turbid-water reefs — have evolved to live happily in just these muddy near-shore waters. The Great Barrier Reef itself — growing luxuriantly in pellucid blue, oceanic waters far offshore — is recognised in textbooks as one part of a larger mixed carbonate-terrigenous complex of both muddy (inshore) and bluewater (offshore) reefs with a long, robust geological history.

Along the Queensland coast, the shoreline is made up of sandy beaches and adjacent sandy-mud coastal lagoons and estuaries, punctuated by spaced rocky headlands. The nearby inner shelf seabed is almost flat and covered by a blanket of sandy mud and mud up to several metres thick that has accumulated during the past few thousand years.

This coastal-inner shelf system has been built, and is still nurtured, by sand and mud delivered to the coast from the Queensland hinterland at times of riverine flood — mostly after cyclones.

Dilute muddy water from even the greatest cyclonic floods only reaches from the coast to the offshore bluewater reefs about once every 10 years. It persists there just briefly before being dispersed by waves and currents, and in being dispersed introduces rare nutrients into a nutrient-starved locale.

The coastal wetlands are important ecosystems for mangrove growth and provide a nurturing environment for fish and invertebrate larvae. Also, shallow embayments with sandy low tide and subtidal beach flats provide the conditions for seagrass growth — an essential habitat for dugongs.

Prior to European settlement, this system existed in precarious but dynamic “balance”, with major cyclones causing immediate coastline erosion, followed months to years later by fairweather shoreline accretion and restoration, fed by sediment contributed by the same and earlier cyclones. It is possible that historical tree-clearing and grazing inland has increased the amount of sand and mud delivered to the coast in post-European time, with one computer model estimate of a two to four -fold increase.

If true, such sediment enhancement is no bad thing. First, the pre-European shoreline was, and remains, deficient of enough sediment to maintain its position without continuing sand nourishment, especially at locations away from river mouths. Second, more sediment nurtures not just the shoreline beaches but feeds nutrient into the ecologically vital coastal wetlands.

Ports and their access channels have been dredged along the Queensland coast since the late 19th century, and the spoil dumped at sea. Over a period of months to years, this spoil is redistributed across a wide area and merges insensibly into the sandy mud, inner shelf substrate.

The briefly enhanced turbidity caused by dredging and dumping activity represents but a small, localised disturbance within a dynamic oceanographic background that sees constantly varying rates of mud resuspension caused by wind, and by the regular interchange of shelf waters within a few days to weeks by tidal and other marine currents.

Not surprisingly, therefore, despite expensive nutrient and water quality analysis in the past 30 years, no measured evidence exists for changes in water quality on the near-shore GBR shelf in post-European time.

Furthermore, the historical dredging and spoil dumping on the shelf has had no other known significantly adverse effects either, especially not on the bluewater reefs in the distant offshore.

Spoil has sometimes been dumped at the shoreline to reclaim areas for port development — the Brisbane and Townsville ports are prime examples. Given the value of the land created, this is an entirely sensible procedure when undertaken (as it has been) as an environmentally efficacious and cost-effective commercial venture.

It is simply fallacious for conservationists to trumpet that the GBR is threatened by near-shore dredging, and it is risible and disgraceful that an international agency (UNESCO) is involved in unscientific grandstanding on the matter as well.

Caving in to activists, the federal government has rejected the two best environmental options for the spoil — either seabed dispersal or land reclamation. Instead, Environment Minister Greg Hunt has opted for the worst and possibly the most expensive environmental option — that spoil dredged from near Abbot Point will be dumped on land.

A more perfect combination of scientific ignorance and environmental stupidity would be hard to find.


Australian City Takes Moderate Approach to Sea-Level Rise

Councilors of the Australian coastal city of Shoalhaven have taken a moderate approach to planning for sea level rise. Shoalhaven’s future planning decisions and real estate notices will be made in anticipation of sea levels rising by nine inches by 2050. Nine inches was a mid-range estimate, more than an inch below the level recommended by consultants Shoalhaven hired to help develop its planning response to rising sea levels.

In addition, Shoalhaven’s planning levels were the first public rejection of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization’s (CSIRO) recommendation to plan for up to 31 inches of sea level rise. CISRO is the Australian national science agency. Other coastal towns planning for rising sea levels have adopted CSIRO’s recommendations.

Evidence, Not Models

The councilors noted research shows sea-level projections are very imprecise, and the further out you go, the less precise they become. In addition, the higher the level of sea level rise planned for, the more properties affected and higher the costs for property owners trying to insure or sell their coastal properties.

The councilors also built a relief valve into their coastal impact planning, something other councils had not done. Every seven years the town will compare projected sea levels to the actual measurements. If sea level rise has slowed or risen, adjustments can be made to coastal impact plans.

In response to Shoalhaven’s planning decision, Tom Harris, executive director of the International Climate Science Coalition, said, "The rate of change of average global sea level is immaterial to coastal planning. It is only the rate of local change that matters to cities, towns, and other settlements. It is very perceptive of Shoalhaven city planners to actually measure local sea level rise on a periodic basis and make their future plans based on what they actually observe.”


The carbon tax figures are in: Australians paid $14b to reduce global emissions by 0.004%!

We can finally assess (sort of) the carbon tax in Australia. It ran for two years from July 2012 to July 2014 and cost Australians nearly $14 billion. The National Greenhouse Gas Inventory Office released Australian emissions statistics for the June Quarter of 2014. The headlines hitting the press this week are saying we reduced our emissions by 1.4%.

The Greens are excited, but neither the journalists or the Greens have looked at the numbers.  Not only is this reduction pathetically small on a global scale, but it’s smaller than the “noise” in the adjustments. Like most official statistics the emissions data gets adjusted year after year, and often by 1 – 2%. We won’t really know what our emissions were, or what the fall was, for years to come… (if ever).

Spot the effect of the Australian carbon tax in the graph of emissions by sector below.  It operated for the last two years. The falls in electricity emissions started long before the carbon tax (and probably have more to do with the global financial crisis, a government unfriendly to small business, and the wild subsidies offered for solar power).

Did Australian industry “reduce” their emissions a year ahead of the carbon tax? Maybe. In anticipation of the pointless expense and increased sovereign risk, they may have shut down or moved overseas. Should we celebrate?

The cost-benefits of using a tax to change the weather
During the carbon tax period we “saved” something like 17Mt of CO2. That’s how much less we theoretically emitted compared to what we would have been produced if our emissions had stayed at the annual level they were at in June 2012 (subject to adjustment).

Australia’s emissions are 1.5% of total human emissions, which are 4% of global emissions*. Those global emissions from all sources during the two years of the tax were roughly 416 Gt. Thus the carbon tax may have reduced global CO2 emissions by 0.004% and global temperatures by less.

The carbon tax is often framed as “revenue” or money raised, as if the government created some wealth. It should always be called a cost. And it’s not money from “polluters” — it’s money from Australians.

The carbon tax cost Australians $6.6 billion in 2012-2013  and cost $7.2 billion (projected) in 2013-14. Over the two year period, that’s $13.8b for an average reduction of 0.004%. The carbon tax was projected to cost $7.6 billion in 2014-15 if it had not been repealed.

The story of shifting data

Despite the headlines of “record falls” in Australian emissions, the data keeps changing, and the fall was about the same size as the adjustments. Each quarter, the numbers may be revised by up to 2%. In four of the last six years the annual emissions were announced and then were later raised. In two years the original estimate was similar to the last.

In other words, any 1% change is mere noise (in so many ways). Some of the time the headlines will have announced a fall in emissions that later vanished with data revision.

According to the most recent Excel data statistics I can find (subject to change), over the two years of the carbon tax our emissions started at 555Mt, fell to 550Mt and fell again to 542 Mt. As you can see by reading across the rows, the emissions may be adjusted for years after the fact. Who knows what Australia’s emissions of 2014 will be listed as 10 years from now.

More HERE  (See the original for links & graphics)

Monday, December 29, 2014

More unscientific science

It's Warmist "science" so we know what to expect -- and are not disappointed.  The author is jubilant that, in the second year of Australia's now-abolished carbon tax, emissions of CO2 dropped more than they did in the first year.  He is clearly unaware of one of the first principles of statistics:  Correlation is not causation.  And a correlation based on a sample of two (years) is in any case indistinguishable from random noise. 

To have have shown, with any plausibility at all, that the tax CAUSED the drop in emissions, he would at least have presented data about other influences on CO2 emissions and shown that those sources were static over the years concerned.  He does not even attempt that. 

Gareth Hutchens is an industrious writer who pops up frequently in Left-leaning publications but he is a twit.  He has the self-serving tram-track thinking that is typical of the Left

Gareth Hutchens

This week the Environment Minister Greg Hunt published data on the quiet, two days before Christmas, that showed the second year of operation of Australia's carbon price was more successful at reducing emissions than the first.

The carbon price began operation on July 1, 2012 and ended on July 1 this year after the government fulfilled an election pledge by abolishing it.

The new data from Australia's National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, published this week, showed emissions produced during the second and final year.

And guess what? Carbon emissions declined across Australia by 1.4 per cent in the second year, compared with a decline of 0.8 per cent in the first year.

Economists had predicted that that would happen. It takes a while for new markets to begin working properly.

The data showed the electricity (minus 4 per cent), agriculture (minus 2.6 per cent), industrial processes (minus 1.3 per cent) and transport sectors (minus 0.4 per cent) all experienced declines in emissions this year, and that those declines were partially offset by a rise in fugitive emissions (5.1 per cent) and emissions from stationary energy (0.9 per cent).

It is worth emphasising that a nationwide decline in emissions of 1.4 per cent is much bigger than 0.8 per cent.

I say that because Mr Hunt has spent a lot of time criticising the fact that carbon emissions declined by less than 1 per cent in the first year.

His office did so again this week when I asked them what their thoughts were on the latest data.

They chose not to comment on the fall in emissions in the second year of the carbon price – the larger fall of 1.4 per cent.

"We have put in a place a policy which will start its first emissions reductions from March this year and we are confident that it will see Australia meet its 5 per cent reduction by 2020," a spokesman said.

"In its first year, the carbon tax was a $7.6 billion hit on the economy but reduced emissions by less than 1 per cent. There is a better way through the Emissions Reduction Fund."

Mr Hunt will have lots of time next year to challenge the cause of the bigger fall in emissions in the second year of the carbon price.

But he will have to acknowledge that the decline has occurred.

And instead of patting himself on the back for getting rid of a mechanism that was reducing emissions by less than 1 per cent a year, he may even have to explain why he got rid of a scheme that was showing signs of achieving exactly what it was designed to achieve.


False rape accusation costs star his football career in Australia and overseas

Britain often locks false rape accusers up. Considering the damage they do, that should be done more widely

IT WAS the rape case that ended a promising rugby union career.

Solomona Silipa was a talented half whose Australian career included stints playing for Penrith and Parramatta in the NSW Shute Shield rugby competition.

The high point came when he had an opportunity to crack a spot with French rugby giant Toulon, whose alumni includes Sonny Bill Williams and English legend Jonny Wilkinson.

But that door closed when Silipa was charged with rape and had his passport confiscated as part of his bail conditions.

A woman, who cannot legally be named, claimed Silipa raped her inside her friend’s flat at Colyton, in western Sydney, after a drunken night out on February 22, 2013.

The case ran until ­December 3 this year and ended when the jury dismissed the woman’s account, taking just 23 minutes to find Silipa not guilty.

The woman and three of her friends had been to Penrith Leagues Club to see a Manpower show before they went to a nearby nightclub called Envy.

It was not in dispute that they met up with Silipa and his cousin Stephen that night. But there, the stories ­diverged.

The alleged victim claimed she fell asleep on a couch at the flat and woke to find Silipa forcibly having oral sex with her before he had non-consensual sex.

She then claimed a friend, who lived in the apartment with a boyfriend, came into the room and pulled Silipa off her after seeing the woman’s “shocked” face.

It was alleged that Silipa punched the female friend twice in the face.

But Silipa claimed the sex was consensual and that the pair had kissed earlier in the evening. Silipa’s lawyers, Julia Hickleton and Ben Jamieson, told the court the alleged victim’s friend concocted the story and lied to the police because a neighbour had called the friend’s boyfriend after seeing her kissing Stephen.

The boyfriend was driving back to the flat and the friend wanted Silipa and Stephen out, Ms Hickleton told the court. “(The boyfriend) was trying to ring his girlfriend and when he eventually got on to his girlfriend, he was very angry because he’s been told by his friend that he had seen his girlfriend kissing someone,” Ms Hickleton told the court.

Silipa and Stephen left the unit but went back after Stephen forgot his phone. The boyfriend arrived with friends and led a “vicious attack” on Silipa where he was hit in the head with a hoe, leaving a large gash, and stabbed in the body, the court heard.

The court heard medical experts found no injuries consistent with sexual assault on the alleged victim.

Solomona Silipa was found not guilty of two counts of sexual intercourse without consent and two counts of common assault.


New Zealand shows how Australian drug regulation  should be done

On 20th November 2014, Ministers for Health in Australia and New Zealand announced that work on a mutual therapeutic products regulator would cease. Although stalled on numerous occasions since negotiations commenced in 1999, this long-winded attempt at harmonising Australia's regulatory and registration authority, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), with Medsafe, its New Zealand counterpart, was reaffirmed as recently as June 2011 with formation of an Australia New Zealand Therapeutic Products Agency (ANZTPA).

The arrangement had promised cheaper and more readily available medicines, and smaller regulatory burdens for pharmaceutical and medical technology industries. It had potential to reduce duplication through adoption of common dossiers for product registration (thereby accelerating registration processes) and to address inconsistencies in Australia's regulatory system to conform to best practice principles agreed by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).

The Ministers have now offered some benign remarks about continued cooperation "where there are mutual benefits". This must be interpreted in the context of conspicuous differences between Australian and New Zealand regulatory environments. New Zealand's relatively liberal attitude towards new technologies and deregulation of prescription medicines may ultimately have proved irreconcilable with the bureaucratic, insular and risk averse disposition of Australia's TGA as well as cumbersome arrangements administered through the Advisory Committee on Medicines Scheduling that ultimately reserves poisons scheduling responsibility to States and Territories.

Other examples of possible obstacles include New Zealand's greater emphasis on industry self-regulation and freedom to directly advertise prescription medicines to consumers. Australia limits non-prescription advertising to an approved list of just 10 ingredients. Unscheduled, low risk 'therapeutic goods' to which Australia's pervasive advertising controls apply include such innocent items as medicated soaps and some toothpastes.

New Zealand's progressive approach to switching medicines with established safety profiles from prescription to non-prescription contrasts with Australia's caution towards innovation.

Between 2003 and 2013 New Zealand proved a world leader in non-prescription switches yielding consumer gains by offering improvements on existing non-prescription medicines or effective non-prescription therapies where none previously had existed. This has created greater scope for self-care and personal health accountability than in Australia.

Abandonment of ANZTIPA seems hard to reconcile with the Australian Government's declared agenda for deregulation and competitiveness and represents a symbolic blow to a long standing agenda for closer economic cooperation between Australia and New Zealand.

Even more bewildering (to New Zealand especially) was the announcement on 24 October, 2014 that the Australian Government would independently review the TGA's regulatory framework for medicines and medical devices. This seemed to cut across years of past negotiation devoted to Trans-Tasman harmonisation.

Indeed, the impending review's Discussion Paper canvasses precisely the issues that would have been the substance of lengthy negotiation with New Zealand. An underlying justification for the new review is examination of "how international risk assessments might be better utilised within the Australian system" so as to fulfil its "innovation and competitiveness agenda". This could involve TGA acceptance of prior European or United States certification of medicines and medical technologies.

As worthy and unexceptionable as such goals may be, it is incomprehensible why they could not have been pursued concurrently with Trans-Tasman harmonisation.


Study: Gifted children benefit from bypassing school for university

While his kindergarten classmates were learning to tie their shoelaces, Jacob Bradd was solving algebra problems. By third grade he was working his way through a university calculus textbook. And at 13, he blitzed HSC extension maths after only knuckling down to study a week from the exams.

It was this astonishing progression that propelled him to university this year, where he began full-time study at 14, the youngest student on campus at Wollongong and among the youngest nationwide.

For his parents, it was difficult to decide what to do with a child too intelligent for high school but too young for adult life.

"Our main reservations were related to his social life," his father, hydrogeologist Dr John Bradd, said. "So we actively make sure he keeps up with his friends from school on weekends and when he's not at uni."

Transitioning to university at a young age is increasingly being used in Australia to meet the needs of highly intelligent students, according to a paper by academics from the University of NSW to be published in the January 2015 issue of Roeper Review.

One of the co-authors, Jae Yup Jared Jung, has been researching the career decisions of gifted students and says very few regret being accelerated.  "In fact, many would have preferred to have accelerated further or started their acceleration earlier," he said.

Without skipping a few years of school, these students are not only understimulated but they are often at risk of becoming bored, disengaged and socially isolated.

Each year in NSW and Victoria, a handful of students sitting the HSC and VCE are significantly younger than their classmates.

Jessica Kong from Our Lady of Sion College in Melbourne's Box Hill sat the VCE at 13-years-old in 2011 and planned to study biomedicine at university.

The youngest student to sit the HSC this year was 11-year-old Jonah Soewandito from The Scots College, who will graduate in 2015 after completing his remaining subjects.

But, depending on where he wants to study, there is a chance he will be too young to enrol and left in academic limbo.

Dr Jung says about 35 of 40 universities in Australia have no minimum age requirement "as long as the student has finished his or her high school requirements".

But at Monash University, you must be 17 years of age to enrol unless you have both an ATAR of 95 and approval of the dean of the faculty. The minimum age for study at RMIT is 16 unless the dean provides written permission.

Many universities, including the University of New South Wales, Macquarie University and the University of New England and in Victoria, Melbourne, Monash  and Deakin, universities, however, offer dual study programs, allowing students to undertake university study while finishing  secondary school.

Australian research has generally found accelerated students have positive experiences at university, both intellectually and socially.

Jacob Bradd says he prefers university learning to high school. "At university they get you to actually learn things yourself, instead of school where they tell you everything and get you to do it a certain way," he said.

The main concern about accelerating students is that they will suffer socially.  But Dr Jung and his colleagues have found intellectually advanced children tend to gravitate towards older friends.

That was certainly true for David Ferris, who sat HSC mathematics in 2006 at the age of 12 before graduating high school at 14. This year the 20-year-old finished his fifth year of a double degree in mathematics and electrical engineering at the University of Newcastle.

"During the orientation week I was mistaken for a starting student and I was like 'I've been here for five years now'." he said.

"When you're at school, a lot of people will consider you to be the young kid or the smart kid," he said. "When I got into university there are people who are younger and there are mature age students, so you've got a wide range of people who are all there just to learn and find out more things about the universe."

Ferris says one issue accelerated students might struggle with is "making life-long decisions about your future when you're substantially younger than everyone else".

"There are some people who, at the age of 14, still want to be firemen when they grow up," he said.

"[But] even if at the end of the day I had regretted it, I'd be regretting it at the age of 18."


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Premier Campbell Newman has delivered real results for Queensland

ON EVERY significant measure of government – from the handling of the economy to leadership, law and order, health and education, the Newman Government has exceeded expectations.

Campbell Newman was handed a broken government when he became Premier in 2012.

After years of mismanagement, economic vandalism and turmoil, the voters of Queensland declared it was time Labor disappeared for a while to rebuild itself.

Queenslanders wanted the united LNP under its energetic new leader to get a chance to set up the state up for a prosperous future.

Almost three years later, Labor is a long way from rebuilding anything and the Newman Government is a considerable way down the path to setting up Queensland for a great future.

While Labor leader Annastacia Palaszczuk has toiled admirably with her small band of underperforming MPs carping along around her, there is no real evidence Labor has learnt anything about why it was turfed so unceremoniously from office.

Labor says it has about 30 policies already out there for public consumption.  Good luck listing them.

On the other hand, the Newman Government has set about methodically rebuilding Queensland.

In the modern political cycle, where irritating, ill-informed and at times illiterate dunderheads on social sites such as Twitter define debates, style all too often trumps substance when it comes to performance.

We are left with a silly focus on language, personality and tone setting the modern media cycle.

With the so-called serious ABC dumping its local current affairs TV show, and its radio programs more intent on prosecuting immature agendas and undergraduate conspiracy theories, Queenslanders are being sorely let down.

The Newman Government’s law and order approach is a case in point.

The Courier-Mail has been unashamedly supportive of the crackdown on outlaw bikie gangs, reflecting genuine fear among Queenslanders who were terrorised by these thugs acting like they ran the state.

For months, the ABC and other media outlets in Brisbane jumped on the ramblings of absurdly conflicted civil libertarians and bikie groups, demonising instead Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie and Mr Newman.

Both men were recently vindicated in the High Court and, of course, our streets are safer. There is not a skerrick of evidence to suggest the scare campaign was even remotely warranted. But yet both Mr Bliejie and Mr Newman have suffered at the hands of the campaigning left-leaning media outlets and their comdrades in the minority left-leaning but noisy legal fraternity.

Dishonourable campaigns waged against good public policy have, to a considerable degree, contributed to public polling that shows the Government’s apparently combative style is being judged way above its under-recognised substantive reforms.

The Courier-Mail is committed to serious and robust policy debates. While we will highlight mistakes, such as the fumbled opening of the new children’s hospital, we will also applaud the much more considerable advances health minister Lawrence Springborg has presided over, or Transport Minister Scott Emerson has driven, or John-Paul Langbroek is pursuing in education. Tim Nicholls has re-calibrated the economy in a quiet and efficient manner. Mr Bliejie has suffered a relentless campaign against him while diligently delivering significant legal reforms. And unquestionably the Premier has led from the front, taking the hits as any good leader does.

Despite being tarnished by the ongoing clumsiness of their federal colleagues, Mr Newman has overseen a remarkably bold yet deliberate government that has achieved what it has said it would, unafraid of a scrap along the way.

By any measure, that’s an A-grade result for Queenslanders.


Millions wiped out in "clean" energy failure

ONE of Australia’s highest profile clean energy companies has been placed in liquidation, wiping out at least $10 million in public grants and tax breaks and exposing its intellectual property to an offshore raid.

Wave energy developer Ocean­linx went into liquidation last week after a marine accident off the South Australian coast in March torpedoed plans for a wave energy generator designed to power 1000 houses.

The cost to investors after the demise of the clean ­energy company could be much more than $80 million.

Company chairman Tibor Vertes yesterday slammed liquidator Deloitte Australia, accusing it of failing to properly assess his bid to keep the Oceanlinx name afloat by protecting the intellectual property underpinning it.

Mr Vertes will take action in the Federal Court next month to pursue Deloitte and others in an attempt to protect intellectual property, but he believes a rival bid values that intellectual property at vastly less, and expects that the technology will be lost to Australia.

“It’s money out of the country,’’ Mr Vertes said . “It’s finished, it’s over.’’

Oceanlinx had built several prototypes of wave energy units, including three off the NSW coast and had planned to expand to substantially bigger markets in the US, Europe and Asia. At its peak, the firm had been listed by the UN as one of the top 10 clean-energy stocks in the world.

The latest reinforced concrete prototype weighed about 3000 tonnes and was designed to sit on the sea floor, transferring the electricity via cable to the electricity grid.

The company went pear-shaped when plans for a groundbreaking generator failed after it sank off South Australia while being transported.

Mr Vertes has accused the then administrators of failing to maximise the chances of Oceanlinx remaining alive, claiming that too little time had been granted to enable his interests to bid successfully for the remnants of Oceanlinx.

The preferred bidder is a company known as Wave Energy ­Renewable.

Mr Vertes’s lawyers argue that officials should ensure all bids are properly considered. Deloitte did not respond yesterday.

Earlier this month, however, lawyer Dominic Calabria defended the handling of the administration. “Our clients ... have advertised the sale of the assets of the company, fielded countless expressions of interest and conducted negotiations with a number of parties over an extended period of time,’’ Mr Calabria wrote.


Sorry history of tolerating the intolerant

AT first glance the connection between Sony last week pulling the comedy The Interview from our screens and the murders in Martin Place is not obvious. Yet both are explained by tolerating the intolerant, a deadly virus that has long infected the West.

Last Tuesday, when Australians woke to news that a gunman had murdered two innocent Australians in the name of Islam during a 16-hour hostage siege, we also woke to the lethal, horrifying cost of tolerating the intolerant. As much as we would prefer to put this behind us and get on with Christmas and a brand-new year, it pays to remember just how tolerant we are.

We allowed Iranian Man Haron Monis into our country on a business visa and then welcomed him as a political refugee. Charged with fraud at home, the Iranian government asked for him back. But we said no to the Iranians. When Monis wrote inexcusable letters to the families of soldiers who died in Afghanistan, describing them as pigs and Nazis, we excused that — delivering only a slap on the wrist of 300 hours of community service. Some called for his Australian citizenship to be revoked. We said no to that, too. We allowed Monis to remain an Australian citizen, a gift sought out by millions of refugees who are keen to embrace and respect Australia as an open, generous and free country.

When Monis asked his local MP and ex-NSW Labor leader John Robertson for a letter asking the state government to consider granting Monis access to his children — despite an appre­hended violence order that prevented such meetings — the former opposition leader agreed.

When Monis was charged with being an accessory before and after the fact to the vicious murder of his former wife — she was stabbed multiple times and then set alight — we allowed him bail. When Monis was charged with 50 acts of sexual assault, again we gave the man bail. When Monis sought to overturn a criminal conviction about the letters sent to the families of soldiers last week in the High Court, we provided taxpayer-funded legal aid for him to engage one of the nation’s most expensive barristers.

This man was known for his anti-West hatred. He told us about it. He was on our radar. He was known to our security ser­vices, federal police and NSW police. On November 17, less than a month before he took 17 innocent people hostage, he posted online his hatred of the West, he wrote about his allegiance to ­Islamic State. Still, we allowed Monis to roam free among us.

Tony Abbott is right to call Islamic State a death cult, but the question must be asked: is the West’s tolerance of the intolerant a death wish? And when many on the Left blindly refuse to identify terrorism, isn’t that furthering the death wish?

When a killer slaughters ­people in the name of Islam, we should take him at his word. Monis is the newest form of terrorist. There is no Islamic State membership card, no initiation ceremony, no formal welcoming morning tea.

Moreover, terrorism is not a numbers game. It’s not about the number of perpetrators who org­anise an attack. It’s about the motivation of the attacker. It’s done to instil fear, to attack our values, to undermine our confidence in our own culture.

The Interview, starring James Franco and Seth Rogen, is a spoof about the assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. When North Korean-backed hackers recently threatened harm — “remember the 11th of September”, they said — if Sony released the movie this month, Sony capitulated. Giving the anti-free speech terrorists what they wanted, Sony pulled the movie from theatres.

We shouldn’t be surprised. The West has a sorry history of tolerating the intolerant here too. Think of the Danish cartoons. Too few media outlets decided to defend our right to free speech in 2005. Instead they caved in to the demands of Islamofascists by not publishing the silly cartoons of Mohammed.

Remember too when Random House, in 2008, pulled the publication of The Jewel of Medina, a book by Sherry Jones that told the tale of Aisha, the child bride of Mohammed. The publisher had received no threats, just “cautionary advice” that publishing the book “might cause offence to some in the community (and) incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment”. Random House chose anticipatory surrender.

Following the Danish cartoons controversy, a South Park episode featured Mohammed behind a black “CENSORED” box. It was a pointed joke by South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. Carrying on with the joke, the 200th episode of South Park reintroduced Mohammed in a bear suit. Soon enough, a Muslim website warned Stone and Parker would end up like filmmaker Theo van Gogh — the Dutchman slain by a Muslim extremist in 2004 for his film Submission, which explored Islam’s treatment of women. And in another case of depressing anticipatory surrender, the bosses at Comedy Central inserted audio beeps and “CENSORED” block outs into the episode. That wasn’t a joke.

Neither is it a joke that many vocal Muslims claim special treatment. They don’t want an equal playing field. Those who want Mohammed fenced off have no qualms about attacking Christianity or other religions. Our reaction? We tolerate that too. A few years ago, Mark Thompson, director-general of the BBC, announced that Islam deserved different coverage in the media compared to other religions because Muslims were an ethnic minority.

Human rights commissions in Canada have been used to stifle free speech about Islam. Muslim-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a convert to rationalism, a believer in Enlightenment values and a critic of Islam, has been forced to live with 24-hour protection — in countries such as The Netherlands, the US and Australia. As Hirsi Ali said a few years ago, when more of us defend Western values, “there will be too many people to threaten and at that time I won’t need protection”.

Last week the ABC’s Chris Uhlmann staked a claim, too, for Western values when he said during an interview with the PM, “in a truly tolerant Western society … we would hope for a day when Islam is so integrated that it can be criticised in the way that Catholicism is criticised”. That kind of tolerance is also my hope for 2015.


A Christmas malediction to the wind industry from Australia

The wind industry is finding it harder than ever to put its case – principally because – apart from fleecing power consumers – it doesn’t have one.

In its effort to keep the Large-Scale Renewable Energy Target (LRET) alive and the massive wind industry subsidies flowing unchecked, the Clean Energy Council (CEC) has been pumping out a dozen press releases a day, which have become so shrill, incoherent and internally inconsistent as to be nothing short of ridiculous.

2GB’s Alan Jones has been solidly belting the wind industry since the National Rally in June 2103 – reaching around 2 million Australian voters every week-day through 77 stations around the Country.

Plenty of mainstream journos have picked up on the debacle that is Australian energy policy today: joining the growing National and International backlash against the greatest economic and environmental fraud ever committed.

2014 has been a turning point in the battle to bring the great wind power fraud to a screaming halt.

European governments have run-out of patience with the eternal promises that the wind industry will grow-up soon, and no longer need a massive pile of taxpayer/power consumer subsidies. The tap has been turned off in Spain, the Brits are putting a lid on the subsidies for new projects and the Germans have chopped “welfare-for-wind” by 25% – all in the name of trying to cut spiralling power costs and keep their struggling economies afloat.

The wind industry’s subsidy fuelled mission to cover every last corner of Australia in giant fans is in melt down.

There are a handful still being speared into a couple of spots around the Country (Bald Hills and Cape Bridgewater in Victoria; Boco Rock, NSW), but the hucksters and frauds that are seeking to pocket $50 billion in REC Tax/Subsidies at power consumers’ expense are watching their plans for fans crumble before their beady, greedy little eyes.

Power retailers haven’t signed any power purchase agreements (PPAs) with wind power outfits for over 2 years – without which wind power outfits will never get the finance to plant another turbine: FULL STOP.

STT hears from insiders that – whatever happens to the LRET during the life of this Federal government – retailers are not going to enter PPAs; the banks are not going to lend for any new projects; and the banks that have lent, are all looking to call in their loans as and when the terms of their current lending facilities expire (the bulk of them expire in 2015/2016).

After which, wind power outfits will need to refinance on terms reflecting the very real RISK that the LRET will either be scaled back, scrapped, or inevitably collapse, at some point in the near future – as the completely unsustainable economic debacle that it is. That means either substantially higher rates or no-finance at all.

This will hopefully be the last Christmas celebrated by our favourite whipping boys at the near-bankrupt wind power outfit Infigen (aka Babcock and Brown): its losses continue to pile up, it’s bleeding cash, its share price is rocketing South and its mountain of debt is fast-becoming insurmountable. In a strange way, we’ll be sorry to see them go. But – rest assured – we’ll be amongst the first to let you know when they do.


Friday, December 26, 2014

Police seize rifle and shotguns in terrorism raids and charge man who wore ISIS flag on national TV over 'plotting terror attack on government target and guerrilla warfare in the Blue Mountains'

Young people can be very foolish in their quest for excitement

A man who stormed off the set of a television program while wearing an Islamic State symbol is behind bars after he was charged with possessing documents listing potential targets for a terrorist attack.

Sulayman Khalid, 20, from Regents Park in Sydney's west, was formally refused bail in Parramatta Local Court today after he and a 21-year-old Marsfield man were arrested in counter-terrorism raids overnight.

The Marsfield man, who cannot be named, was charged with breaching a Control Order. He refused bail after a magistrate deemed him an 'unacceptable risk to the community'.

It is also alleged he had plans to carry out guerrilla warfare in the Blue Mountains, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

The arrests followed raids around 1.30pm last Thursday where police seized a large number of documents outlining possible Federal and State government targets, a rifle and two shotguns.

Deputy NSW Police Commissioner Catherine Burn said the men were arrested as part of an ongoing investigation into an apparent ring of 15 to 20 people.  She said 11 people have been charged so far under the counter-terrorism operation, known by the codename Appleby.  The same investigation conducted the largest raids in the nation's history on September 18, which involved more than 800 NSW and Federal Police.  

AFP Deputy Commissioner Michael Phelan told reporters the men shared the 'ideology' of the Islamic State terror group.  'It is a group of people here in Sydney who we've been actively monitoring for a long time,' he said. 'Certainly their ideology is linked to [Islamic State].'

Adam Houda, Khalid's lawyer, told Daily Mail Australia his client has been charged with a very serious offence. 'But I want to remind you that the authorities have got it wrong in the past many times,' Mr Houda said. 'I ask that the court process be respected and for this matter to be determined on the evidence and not by politicians and the media.'

Under the name Abu Bakr, Khalid appeared on the SBS program Insight earlier this year for a forum about the Federal government's cancellation of terror suspect's passports. The part-time labourer had his passport suspended last December.

He stormed off the set after facing a grilling over his support for the Islamic State terror group.

In a separate hearing, prosecutors alleged today that the Marsfield man breached the conditions of his control order by using a public telephone and a mobile phone which did not belong to him in the space of an hour on Monday evening.

His lawyer, Arjun Chhabra, told the court the mobile belonged to his mother and said his age should be taken into consideration.

Today's arrests follow an extraordinary pre-Christmas message from Prime Minister Tony Abbott, where he warned a terrorist attack remains 'likely'.  'The briefing from the security agencies today indicated there has been a heightened level of terrorist chatter in the aftermath of the Martin Place siege,' he said.


The Australian who makes videos for terrorists: Sydney engineering student reveals he quit university to join the ISIS media team in Syria - where he dreams of being killed by an airstrike

They are a trademark of the Islamic State terror group. Slickly produced propaganda videos, filmed with high definition cameras.  Now it has been revealed that an Australian university student is behind many of the packages broadcast around the world, which often feature barbaric threats to Westerners.

In an interview with The Australian newspaper, an unnamed former electrical engineering student from Sydney said he had witnessed beheadings during his time working for the Islamic State.

But he described his life as fairly typical. 'I have a job, I live in a HQ, eat, sleep, work, hope an airstrike gets me so I can be Shaheed (martyred). Pretty typical life,' he told the newspaper.

The man was quoted saying video editing was 'kind of a hobby at first back in Australia... mostly cheap little film effects.' He stopped when he attended university, but it became a valuable skill working for the militant group in the Middle East.

The young man is one of more than 70 Australians who have left for the Middle East to fight for the militant organisation.

Many wannabe militants have failed to make it over there, with the Federal government cancelling more than 100 passports.

One Australian militant who featured in the group's videos, so-called 'Ginger Jihadi' Abdullah Elmir, 17, declared in a propaganda broadcast in October that Islamic State would not rest until 'the black flag is flying high across every land'.

The teenager vanished in June, reportedly telling his mother he was 'going fishing' - only to turn up in the propaganda video months later, surrounding by Islamic State fighters chanting loudly.

Professor Greg Barton, a terrorism expert from Monash University, told Daily Mail Australia it was 'quite chilling' to think many Australians living relatively ordinary lives had joined the terrorist group.  'It's all abstract, until the kid in the next suburb over is involved in doing that,' he said. 

Prof Barton said there has been no indication the number of citizens heading to Syria or Iraq has slowed recently.

Four brothers from a western Sydney family vanished in November after telling family they were going on a trip to Thailand. They sent a text message to their sister saying: 'we will see you in Paradise.'

Acclaimed German journalist Jürgen Todenhöfer, who recently spent 10 days embedded with the terror group in Mosul and Syria, said he was surprised by the hundreds of foreign fighters who have arrived from all over the world. In a detailed post on his Facebook site this wek, Todenhöfer wrote: 'The West underestimated the risk posed by IS dramatically. 'The IS fighters are much smarter and more dangerous than our leaders believe. 'In the Islamic State, there is an almost palpable enthusiasm and confidence of victory, which I have not seen in many war zones.'

Prime Minister Tony Abbott this week warned security agencies have picked up 'heightened terrorist chatter' since last week's siege at the Lindt cafe in Martin Place. 


Darwin chilli sauce cops heat for calling Tony Abbott 'an idiot' in the fine print on its bottle

A chilli sauce company has been under attack on social media after labelling prime minister Tony Abbott an 'idiot' on their product.

Darwin Chilli Co has triggered an online storm after a photograph of a 'Darwin Hot Sauce' bottle label was shared across Twitter and Facebook, which also drove the company's Facebook page to 72,000 percent in traffic.

The label reads: 'Darwin hot sauce (sriracha style) is what it is. We are sorry that our Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, is an idiot. Heat level: Cat3.'

The family-owned business started the labels shortly before Abbott was elected prime minister around September 2014.

The company owner, who wished to not be named, told Daily Mail Australia the idea came to light from an 'old school labelling joke that started in France from the 1980s'.  'A french clothing company wrote under their washing instructions that they were sorry that their president was an idiot. It's funny and I've always remembered that.

'When I was making my labels, I remember hearing Tony Abbott's name everywhere so I made the first label as "Don't vote for Tony Abbott, he's an idiot", he said.  'But then he got elected so we had to apologise in the labels for our next batch of chilli sauces.'

He said the label is 'just a bit of a joke' and 'nearly everyone gets it' but it has offended a few over social media and has attracted a significant amount of 'internet trolls'. 'The negative comments don't bother us - it's just a sense of humour and we think it's hilarious.

'No one cares except the internet trolls who go on our page and give us one star ratings and abuse.  'But the negative stuff has actually kicked off our business and everybody is behind us. We couldn't be prouder. We started off defending ourselves but we've had so many nice people supporting us.  'We even had to shut down our official website because we ran out of stock.'

The family from Darwin has been making chilli sauces for the past five years. 'Our main focus is let our sauces do all the talking. It's 100 percent Australian made and every ingredient, down to the garlic is all from Australia.

Despite the negative backlash on social media, the owner said the company will continue to run their 'Tony Abbott' labels.  'By popular demand, our Tony Abbott labelled sauce will be available for backorder,' he said.


South Australia: Payments slashed for solar homes that feed electricity into grid

THE once-generous payments householders received for their solar power will be scaled back to a 5.3c per kilowatt hour from the start of next year.  This equates to a return of about $540 per year from a 6kW system which is large enough to power most homes.

But if you installed the same sized system before October 2011 you would potentially be pulling in $4836 per year.  Those payments will continue until June 30, 2028.

The retailer feed-in tariff, which must be paid by your energy provider, was set at 7.6c/kWh last year but fell to 6c once the carbon price was removed.

The Essential Services Commission of South Australia has further reduced it to 5.3c/kWh because it “reflects the forecast wholesale market value of photovoltaic (solar) electricity in the coming year’’.

“The proposed value is lower than the 2014 retailer feed-in tariff of 6.0 cents/kWh, due to the lower forecast wholesale market price of electricity,’’ ESCOSA says.

Individual energy retailers can elect to pay householders more for their power.

The original 44c/kWh feed-in tariff was taken up by more than 100,000 householders before it was closed by the Government in September 2011, and reduced to 16c/kWh. Householders who receive these payments are also eligible for the 5.3c payment which is paid by energy retailers.

Those who signed up before the cut-off receive the higher tariff until the scheme expires in 2028, costing an estimated $1.425 billion — an amount recovered through fees charged to all electricity customers.

The initially generous scheme was designed to foster the growth of the solar industry.

Solar panel prices have plummeted since then, with larger systems much more affordable now.


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Frabjous joy in NZ

Australian dollar on track to dip below parity with New Zealand unit.  It has always burned Kiwis up that their dollar is worth less than ours.  Both dollars originated from the old British "Ten bob note"

The Australian dollar is on the verge of a historic low against the New Zealand dollar and could even go below parity next year, according to foreign exchange broker ThinkForex.

Currently, one Australian dollar buys $1.049 New Zealand dollars - just above the $1.042 low reached in 2006.

"The currencies have always traded above parity since being floated so this will be an historic event," said ThinkForex senior market analyst Matt Simpson.

The Aussie hold above parity was looking "increasingly tenuous," he said.  "I expect the Aussie dollar will have a battle around parity with the Kiwi during the first half of next year," he said.

The Aussie would get "initial support" at parity but could "easily reach" 95 New Zealand cents, he said.  "It's looking increasingly likely that the divergence between the Aussie and the Kiwi will continue, with the Aussie breaking below parity and hitting a low of 95 New Zealand cents."

The underlying reason, he said, was that Australia and New Zealand were in completely separate phases of their economic cycles.

"The New Zealand Reserve Bank are looking to increase rates and the Reserve Bank of Australia has hinted at potential for rate cuts. If the US does not (change) rates then I also suspect this will add pressure to the Reserve Bank of Australia to cut rates, as really they're waiting for the US Federal Reserve to move first before acting themselves."

However, Mr Simpson was more bullish on the Aussie versus the greenback.  "We are close to 80 US cents and it might get there for a quick high five but is unlikely to stay there long.

"We may actually see a bounce in the Aussie dollar during the first few months of next year.  "A rally to 85 US cents is not out of the question, especially if the Federal Reserve begin to delay their rate hike program and the Reserve Bank keeps rates on hold."

In late afternoon trading, the Australian dollar was buying 81.17 US cents, just above a four-and-a-half year low of 81.07 US cents.


Labor union treachery during World War II

By Hal G.P. Colebatch

My wife and I were flown to Melbourne for me to receive half of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s $80,000 Prize for History for my book Australia’s Secret War: How Unionists Sabotaged Our Troops in World War II

The hotel we were put up at, on the south bank of the Yarra River, was a good deal more luxurious than I am accustomed to, with uniformed doormen and all. The “gala meal” at the oxymoronically named Victorian National Arts Centre, was excellent.

My publisher, Keith Windschuttle, editor of the conservative cultural magazine Quadrant, Roger Franklin, editor of Quadrant Online, and former editor Peter Coleman and his daughter shared our table.

It was hard to judge the volume of applause from the 400-plus plus literary figures present, most of them probably leftie luvvies, when my name was announced. Our table drowned out much of those nearby. I was wearing an orthopedic boot, and the Prime Minister had to help me up the steps to receive my certificate.

My speech, briefly outlining a few of the instances strikes, go-slows, and sabotage that had undermined Australia’s war effort – with the gruesomely appropriate figure of 6 million days directly lost through strikes – was heard in silence. New facts I have been supplied with since the book was published include evidence that a longshoreman’s strike, which prevented the defenses of Darwin being completed by the time the Japanese struck, was organized by a Nazi German operative.

U.S. aircraft and airplane engines, rushed to Australian ports for the defense of Australia, were deliberately wrecked as they were being unloaded, for example by being dropped by cranes onto concrete wharves, until U.S. troops intervened.

Eddie Ward, the far-left Minister for Labour and National Service in the Labor Government which took over in 1941, dubbed Australian troops fighting Nazism “four shilling a day murderers,” a catchcry taken up by the perpetually striking longshoremen’s and coal-miners’ unions, not to mention the gas-fitting, shipbuilding, and other unions. The endless strikes probably contributed to the premature death of Prime Minister John Curtin from hypertension at 60.

U.S. troops again intervened when longshoremen refused to load heavy guns for the Battle of Milne Bay, as attempted Japanese landing on the eastern tip of New Guinea, which, if successful, would have brought more Australian and U.S. positions in range of Japanese attack. Pilfering was wholesale, including small keepsakes sent to soldiers by their families (the accompanying notes were thoughtfully left for the soldiers to read) and, as a further demonstration by the watersiders of who was boss, jeeps were dropped into harbors.

My book was the result of the testimony of scores of soldiers, sailors, and airmen (mostly lower ranks — the senior officers of World War II were mostly dead), published memoirs of senior officers including both Australia’s most senior admiral and a later State Premier, unit histories, and official Year Books and the bipartisan War Council.

It also made the point that the left-leaning history industry has largely glossed over the whole question of wartime strikes, sabotage, and go-slows. How slow can you go? It took almost as long, but in some cases longer, to build a 750-ton corvette in Australia as it took to build a 35,000-ton aircraft carrier in the United States. Canada built many times more naval and merchant ships. An armed guard had to be posted on the cruiser HMAS Perth after it was found that 6-inch nails had been driven into the electrical wiring. Awe hardly ever gets such a chance in Australia and I made the most of it.

There was some applause at the end of my speech but it did not take long to discover that, with a conservative author winning a major national literary prize, probably, as blogger and wag Tim Blair said, for the first time ever, the leftie luvvies were furious (Tim telephoned Perth to tell my daughter). Twitter was going berserk even before the ceremony finished. Leading the charge was one Mike Carlton, whose own entry, a rehashing of a naval engagement in World War I, had not won a prize. (I had previously written critically of another book by him and received a delightful note from him replete with four-letter words, a practice that is said to have got him sacked from the Sydney Morning Herald.)

He claimed my book was both “badly researched” and “fiction,” though how it could be both I am not sure. It could only be untrue if I or the ex-soldiers, sailors, and airmen who contacted me with first-person accounts, the various memoirs, unit histories, and official documents that I quoted from, were lying. I believe the man who risked their lives to defend our country were telling the truth. Where possible I quoted service numbers to help ensure accuracy.

Carlton also claimed that one of my informants, W.S. Monks — who said a strike at the end of the war prevented him and other men returning from Japanese prison-camps from being disembarked from HMS Speaker — did not exist, despite the fact an hour-long interview with him exists on YouTube.

Along with an abusive, ideologically revealing and false attack on Quadrant, one Peter Stanley, an academic, claims:

"[Colebatch] does not seem to confront the awkward fact that while the union was dominated by “Communists,” between 1941 and 1945 the Communist Party of Australia was “the leading war party,” whose officials strove to reduce industrial action and who supported more than most Australians the most vigorous prosecution of the war. While individual members of the union may well have lacked the ideological purity of their officials and may well have pilfered, struck and vandalised cargos, they were doing so in defiance of “the union.” Colebatch never grapples with this fundamental conundrum".

This is simply false. I devote a chapter to dealing with “this awkward conundrum” and come up with several possible explanations, while suggesting none are complete in themselves.

First, the strikes did occur, whether led by communists or members of the left-wing lumpenproletariat, between whom the difference was quite negligible. The official Commonwealth Year Book lists the number of working days lost — and in some industries these actually increased after Stalin changed sides in 1941.

Second, it does not take a very profound knowledge of World War II to know Stalin was not at war with Japan until the very end, and had nothing to lose by Australian Communists damaging the Pacific War effort. An important and scholarly U.S. book, Stalin’s Secret Agents, by M. Stanton Evans and Herbert Romerstein, reminds us that Stalinist Russia was not at war with Japan until the very last few days of the war (after Hiroshima). Japanese ships were still coming and going out of Vladivostok through nearly all the war. Most importantly, the authors point out that Stalin did not want a quick and overwhelming allied victory in the Pacific until he had moved troops from Europe and was positioned to take a share of the spoils.

The award was a triumph for Quadrant’snew conservative publishing house. The Quadrant magazine was founded in 1956, partly in response to the Soviet Union crushing Hungary. The magazine has flown the flag of intellectual conservatism, often against daunting odds, for 58 years. We got out the champagne. The leftie luvvies did not join us.


Bushfire insurers in line for $100 million Black Saturday payout

A class action lawsuit by more than 5,000 people sued electricity provider AusNet Services and asset manager Utility Services Corporation Ltd after a Royal Commission found that the Kinglake fire, the most deadly of the series of wildfires, was caused by an aging AusNet power line.  Bigger bills for Victoria's electricity users?

Large insurance companies are set to reap about $100 million from the settlement of Victoria's Black Saturday bushfire disaster.

The Victorian Supreme Court approved the $500 million settlement on Tuesday, ending a five-year class action over the Kilmore East-Kinglake fire in 2009 that claimed 119 lives and destroyed 1242 properties.

Insurers took an active role in the lawsuit against AusNet, formerly SP AusNet, including providing funding in the case.

They now stand to gain about $100 million through subrogation payouts - when an insurer tries to recoup money paid out to policyholders who lost homes and other assets.

Maurice Blackburn senior associate Rory Walsh said the exact amount of money going to insurers would be determined once each individual case was assessed.

"That figure will not be known until we've gone through the process of assessing everybody's losses," he said.

"Insurers have paid out somewhere in the order of $500 million directly on insurance policies to group members. How much of that will be recovered as part of the process will be determined towards the end.

"It will be somewhere in the region of $100 million."

The AusNet settlement is the largest class action settlement in Australian history, more than doubling the $200 million Centro payout.

Only two members objected to the settlement out of a total of 5000 group members.

Justice Robert Osborn called the payment a "large and commercially significant sum".

He said it was significant that none of the insurers objected, given they were "sophisticated litigants, with experience in the reasonable costs of large scale litigation".

The Insurance Council of Australia declined to comment on the case.

Mr Walsh said the role of the insurers in the case, which did not have a litigation funder, was unique.

"What we've had somewhat uniquely here is we've managed to have the co-operation of the insurers in the proceeding," he said.

"They didn't run their own proceeding, they were within our tent."


New dams coming to Queensland?

A new dam about a third the size of Wivenhoe Dam has been proposed for Linville, north-west of Brisbane.

Another potential new dam, about one-10th the capacity of Wivenhoe, could be built near Willowbank, according to a state government study released on Tuesday.

The pre-feasibility study into potential flood defences for Ipswich and Brisbane was unveiled by Water Supply Minister Mark McArdle. A third option is raising the wall of Wivenhoe Dam.

The government announced mid-year eight potential dam sites.

Mr McArdle said the government would now spend 12 months - if it wins the 2015 state election - finalising technical studies before deciding whether to proceed with any or all three of the options.

He said it was too early to begin talking about construction costs.  "There is no doubt each project could cost hundreds of millions of dollars," Mr McArdle said.  "If they all go ahead, it will be a very large sum."

Instead, he pointed to the financial damage of the January 2011 floods.  "In 2011, the insurance damage from that flood was $2.5 billion," he said.  "The total estimated damage was between $3 billion and $5 billion.  "Both in Ipswich and Brisbane there were some 12,000 buildings inundated."

The 12-month study will also include detailed engineering studies of raising Wivenhoe Dam wall by two, four or eight metres.

The proposed 370,000 to 500,000 megalitre Linville Dam could be built on the Upper Brisbane River, upstream of the town of Linville.

The proposed site at Willowbank is on the Lower Warrill Creek to the south of the Bremer River.  That was not listed in the original eight locations announced mid-year.

The Lower Warrill Creek flows into the Bremer River, to the west of Ipswich.

Mr McArdle said initial studies showed it was a good flood mitigation site.

"We believe that the Lower Warrill Creek site will provide protection for both Ipswich and Brisbane in a capacity that would save hundreds of homes in the event of a 2011 flood event."

Mr McArdle said the Willowbank site was added after the eight locations were expanded to 39 locations.

Lockyer MP Ian Rickuss said choosing a dam site on the Lower Warrill Creek - rather than the Bremer - offered more flexibility for planners.  "Because the Bremer and the Lower Warrill join, it does take the pressure of the Bremer," he said.  "You could store 120,00 or 130,000 megalitres there [Willowbank], it will really take pressure off here (Ipswich) as well."

Mr Rickuss said there was potential for water stored in a dam on the Lower Warrill Creek to be used for irrigation.

Mr McArdle said a dam at Linville would offer better flood mitigation or drinking water storage for Wivenhoe Dam.

Water from Linville flows down the Upper Brisbane River into Somerset Dam, which flows into Wivenhoe Dam.  He said the site could be kept for grazing or pasture until it was needed as a dam.  "We believe we could capture a large quantity  of water in Linville," he said.

That would free up extra "flood mitigation" storage space in Wivenhoe Dam, Mr McArdle explained.  "We could store water in Linville, drop the [drinking water] capacity in Wivenhoe and let extra flood waters into Wivenhoe, therefore protecting the whole of south-east Queensland."


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

New $7 billion offshore LNG project looms for WA after Hess-North West Shelf deal

Extremely gratifying in the light of current low prices for crude oil and gas

Western Australia looks set for a new $US6 billion ($7.3 billion) offshore petroleum development thanks to a long-awaited deal struck between US player Hess Corporation and the North West Shelf venture, which also opens a new era for the Woodside-managed venture in the processing of third-party gas.

The North West Shelf venture will process gas supplied by Hess from its fields in the Carnarvon Basin through its LNG plant at Karratha for a fee, providing an extra revenue stream and helping extend the life of the project.

The deal will allow Hess to go ahead with the development of the gas it has discovered in the Carnarvon Basin off WA, in a project expected to cost $US6 billion to develop. It will also secure LNG that it can then market to customers in the Asia-Pacific region.

Although no increase in LNG plant capacity is required, Hess' new offshore project, called Equus, will be one of the few large-scale resources projects set to go ahead in the next few years after the fading of the mining investment boom and after a splurge of investment in new LNG infrastructure that triggered an escalation in costs and made further new LNG projects unlikely. A final investment decision in Equus is not expected until 2017 or later, Hess said.

"Everybody has been saying and probably rightly that because of costs in Australia it's very challenging to build a new greenfield LNG plant but this does show that once you've got a lot of established LNG infrastructure there are these brown-field opportunities," said Graeme Bethune, principal of consultancy EnergyQuest.

"People have been saying, 'Why don't these companies get together and co-operate?', and this is an example of that."

Woodside's senior vice-president, North West Shelf, Niall Myles said the letter of intent with Hess shows the Karratha gas plant is "open for business", providing "an attractive option for third-party gas owners to commercialise their resources in proximity to existing LNG infrastructure".

Negotiations between New York-based Hess and owners of LNG plants in WA have been going on for several years, after the US company decided against building its own LNG infrastructure to process its several gas discoveries in the WA-390-P and WA-474-P permits off the coast. Potential partners for the processing arrangement also included Woodside's Pluto LNG venture and Chevron's Wheatstone venture, while Hess was also at one stage considering developing a floating project.

The initial accord struck with the North West  Shelf venture has a downside for Woodside, however, in that Hess gas would now be ruled out as an option to feed a potential expansion of its $15 billion Pluto LNG plant, also at Karratha. Woodside has so far failed to find enough new discoveries of its own to add a second LNG train at the plant, and has been in talks for years with other holders of gas resources on potential supply arrangements.

Hess would not disclose the volume of gas involved in its discoveries, nor how much LNG it would get from the North West Shelf venture for sale to its own customers.

A spokeswoman said the terms of the letter of intent were confidential, as were information on gas volumes. Estimating the capital cost of the upstream Equus project is "premature", she said.

The news of the deal came as new research from global consultancy Douglas-Westwood confirmed Australia would will see a plunge in investment in the LNG sector over the next five years.

Although total investment globally in LNG is set to surge 88 per cent to $US259 billion over the 2015-19 period from the previous five years, Australasia is one of only two regions along with the Middle East that will see a drop, as the focus of spending shifts to new North American export ventures, new projects in Africa, and new import terminals across Asia.

"Australasia and Asia have dominated global LNG capex in recent years, however, over the forecast period all the regions are expected to experience positive growth in capex, except for Australasia and the Middle East," said Amanda Tay, author of the Douglas-Westwood report.

Australia last saw a final investment decision for a new LNG project in January 2012, for Inpex Corporation's $US34 billion Ichthys venture in Darwin. Since then, Woodside has ditched a plan to build a new onshore LNG plant at James Price Point on the Kimberley coast for its Browse gas venture, while Shell and PetroChina have held off committing to building an LNG plant in Queensland for their Arrow coal seam gas venture.

Santos and GDF Suez have also called off a floating LNG plant at their Bonaparte venture off the northern coast, while ExxonMobil and BHP Billiton are holding off committing to a proposed floating project for their Scarborough gas resource well off the WA coast.

The delays have caused players to urge more co-operative development of gas resources to avoid wasteful and costly spending on new infrastructure, of which the Hess-North West Shelf deal is a significant example.

"This arrangement would bring together Hess' strong deepwater drilling and development capabilities with NWS' proven track record in natural gas processing and liquefaction," Hess president and chief operating officer Greg Hill said in a statement.

"The combination provides an attractive option for Hess to commercialise commercialise its important Equus natural gas resource in a manner that delivers secure, reliable energy supplies into Asia Pacific LNG markets and creates value for our shareholders."

Hess said it would sort out the detail of how Equus gas would be transported to the North West Shelf processing facilities as part of joint engineering studies the partners would now carry out.

"It is envisaged that Hess will deliver its gas to an offshore North West Shelf platform by means of a Hess-constructed main pipe/trunkline from our Equus platform to the North West Shelf platform," the spokeswoman said.


Penalty rates: Loadings for working weekends and holidays could be reduced

Long overdue in some cases

This could be the last Christmas millions of Australian workers will claim penalty rates for working on weekends and public holidays, unions have warned.

The Fair Work Commission on Monday released a schedule of hearings to run throughout next year as part of a four-year review of all modern awards. It has confirmed it will examine proposals by employer groups to change penalty rates as part of the wider review.

Australian Council of Trade Unions president, Ged Kearney, said employer groups have indicated they will target a range of industries including retail, hospitality, pharmacy, fast food, dry cleaning, laundry, hair and beauty, amusements and events. She said workers in those industries were at risk of losing their current penalty rates.

"If employer groups have their way, this could be the last year millions of Australian workers will be paid existing penalty rates for working weekends, late nights and public holidays – including Christmas," said Ms Kearney.

Ms Kearney said the case to cut penalty rates had begun just before the busy Christmas period when many Australians have no choice but to work on public holidays.

"While many of us are winding down to enjoy the holidays, millions of Australian workers will give up this special time with family and friends to work. They work weekends, nights and other unsociable hours and should be paid for that," she said.

The Fair Work Commission released a schedule of hearings from August next year. Employer groups have until February 13 to lodge submissions for any proposed changes to the award.

The commission will finalise its timetable and a list of witnesses after a conference in late February.

On Friday, the federal government announced the terms of reference for a Productivity Commission review of workplace laws under the Fair Work Act.

Ms Kearney said this meant that wages, conditions and penalty rates would be under attack on two fronts.

"The employers are going after them in the Fair Work Commission while the Abbott Government is using the Productivity Commission to do the same," she said.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive officer Kate Carnell said Sunday penalty rates should be similar to Saturday rates in a modern Australia.

"We think there should be penalty rates but Sundays should be in line with Saturdays. Sunday is no longer the day of rest. It's a day we go shopping just as we do on Saturdays," she said.

Ms Carnell also welcomed the announcement of the Productivity Commission review of the Fair Work Act, saying Australia needed a more modern and flexible workplace suited to its 24/7 economy.

"We need to make sure penalty rates are realistic and don't make businesses unviable," she said.

"Reform does not mean dismantling penalty rates altogether, but it does mean ensuring businesses and employees don't suffer. We otherwise risk condemning large numbers of people to unemployment and underemployment."


Outback restaurant in trouble for anti-Islamic sign

A Longreach restaurant that placed a sign reading "Sorry No Muslims" outside its front doors has caused consternation on social media.

Local Helen Day posted pictures of the chalkboard outside the Eagle's Nest Bar and Grill on its Facebook review page last Friday.

"Just a bit surprised to see the sign up [reading] 'Sorry No Muslims' ... what's that about?" Ms Day wrote.  "I certainly won't be going into a place where my Muslim friends are not welcome!"

The full handwritten message on the sign read "2000 years ago Jesus Christ made headlines turning water into wine...the tradition continues...We turn money into beer [Sorry No Muslims]."

Ms Day's pictures were reposted by Facebook group Boycott Halal in Australia? No Way, and a moderator for that group told Brisbane Times the image had since been shared widely.  "Our page has only been going three weeks and we had a 'Total Reach' of up to 7,000 people," the moderator said.  "We put the story up a day and a half ago and are now reaching almost 80,000 people and rising, because of that one post."

Anti-Islamic sentiment has risen in Australia since last week's Sydney cafe siege, with movements like #illridewithyou acting as a counter argument.

Comments on the Eagle's Nest Bar and Grill's Facebook page have ranged from outraged to unapologetic.

The moderator of the page, who wished to remain anonymous, said some Facebook groups were trying to shut it own, or making comments such as Islam forbids alcohol consumption anyway so it shouldn't matter if Muslims can't enter a bar.

"We've been deleting disgusting and hateful posts from members of the Australian Defence League, Australian Brotherhood, Boycott Halal in Australia and lots of other anti-Muslim pages since we put up the post," the moderator said.

A Longreach Regional Council spokesman confirmed a verbal complaint had been received.  He said they were seeking more information about the sign and would consider an investigation, or referring the matter to the appropriate body.

The spokesman said the operator of the Eagle's Nest had a history of writing quirky, tongue-in-cheek slogans on his chalkboard that changed daily.

A spokeswoman for the Anti-Discrimination Commission of Queensland said it had not yet received any formal complaints about the sign.  "I understand the Australian Human Rights Commission has received some enquiries about it and they have referred the enquirers to us," she said.  "So it may just be a matter of time."

However, the spokeswoman said under the legal definition of religious discrimination, the complaint would have to come from someone directly affected.

"Therefore if there was a Muslim person in Longreach who wanted to obtain the goods and services from Eagle's Nest Bar and Grill but couldn't because they didn't serve Muslims, then that person could make a complaint to the ADCQ," she said.

The Eagle's Nest restaurant is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and calls to the owners' home went unanswered.

The moderator of the Boycott Halal in Australia? No Way Facebook group said they should own up to writing the message.  "If they would only apologise and say they made a mistake, we'd be the first to publicise that. I wish they'd just clear it up so we can all move on," they said.


Must not mention that women still do most of the household budgeting

Senior Liberals were privately aghast when the Prime Minister nominated repealing the carbon tax as his "biggest achievement" for women because they are "particularly focused on the household budget".

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was forced to defend Tony Abbott's latest gender-related gaffe as Labor lashed the Prime Minister as "stuck in the past".

Mr Abbott was asked to name his biggest achievement as the Minister for Women during an appearance on the Nine Network's Today program. "Well, you know, it is very important to do the right thing by families and households. As many of us know, women are particularly focused on the household budget and the repeal of the carbon tax means a $550-a-year benefit for the average family," he said.