Thursday, July 31, 2014

Another Europcar incident

Europcar operates worldwide and has a large operation in Australia.  There have been many complaints about false damage claims by them.  The one below is fairly typical.  I would NEVER rent from them.  See here and here for previous episodes

Holidaymakers booking a hire car this summer should scrutinise the vehicle before and after rental – taking time-stamped photos – to avoid wrangles over charges for damage.

Nicholas Gentilli, a photographer-artist from Battersea, South-West London, is battling Europcar over a shock €550 (£435) bill for alleged damage sent a few days after he returned a car to its Nice Airport office in May. The bill was emailed without any detailed information, photos or a damage report.

Nicholas, 52, says: ‘When I called Europcar it said I had damaged some wheels. But when I handed back the car at check-in it was looked over by staff and I was assured everything was OK.

‘I don’t believe the damage was done by me. And even if it were I haven’t received any evidence or a damage report ten weeks on. If I had, I could at least claim on my insurance policy, which covers the hire company’s excess.’

Europcar says its French office is investigating.

Bob Atkinson, from comparison website TravelSupermarket, says: ‘Taking photos and also marking scratches and dents on the sheet from the hire firm before you set off in the hire car makes sense – as does ensuring the lights, windscreen wipers and radio work.

‘It may seem tiresome after a flight, but it will take just a couple of minutes and protect you from facing extra charges that you will end up disputing.’


Lawyer blasts Australian law that would jail journalists reporting on spy leaks

This law does sound disturbing

Edward Snowden's lawyer has labelled as "draconian" and "chilling" Abbott government legislation before parliament that would threaten ASIO leakers with 10 years' imprisonment and make it an offence for journalists to report on information they receive from whistleblowers.

Lawyer Jesselyn Radack, who is travelling in Australia, told the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne on Tuesday night that the laws being proposed by Attorney-General George Brandis went too far.

"That law is so draconian and would be so chilling in terms of freedom of the press," Ms Radack said. "It would criminalise a reporter talking to a source.

"It's the most draconian thing I've seen and it is completely antithetical to a free and open democratic society … I find it very disturbing that Australia's entertaining this kind of legislation and that there hasn't been a greater outcry, especially from the press."

The legislation makes it an offence if a person "discloses information ... [that] relates to a special intelligence operation" and does not state any exemptions, meaning it could apply to anyone including journalists, bloggers, lawyers and other members of the public. Those who disclosed such information would face tough new penalties of up to 10 years' jail.

Ms Radack said the new laws would essentially give ASIO immunity. "This particular proposed legislation is drafted so broadly that almost anything could be labelled a special intelligence operation … the definitions are so broad and vague as to make anyone subject to this."

NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, who also spoke at the Wheeler Centre, said the laws reminded him of his own trial and said that they would result in self-censorship.

"If this passes in its current form without huge changes, it is going to send a very chilling message," Mr Drake said. "It will create a climate in which people will self-censor. They will opt not to reveal anything. They will opt not to associate with certain individuals. They will opt not to share certain information just on the risk that it might be designated secret or it might be designated something that might reveal an intelligence operation. Well in that kind of an environment guess what? It has its intended effect."

Senator Brandis has previously said that the new offences were not aimed at journalists.  "It's not the purpose of this bill to place any constraints at all on freedom of discussion," he said.

"We are a government that believes very strongly in freedom of speech and freedom of the press."

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said if criminalising journalism was the effect of the new legislation, "the government will need to make changes to remove that consequence".

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has previously urged journalists not to report on national security matters that could endanger the country. Mr Abbott said news that "endangers the security of our country frankly shouldn't be fit to print".

"I'd ask for a sense of responsibility, a sense of national interest, as well as simply commercial interest," he said.


Stopping farmers from farming leads to bloodshed

This is ultimately traceable to Greenie-inspired land use restrictions

An elderly man accused of murdering an Environment and Heritage officer near Moree in north-western NSW has been refused bail.

Ian Robert Turnbull, 79, appeared in Moree Local Court on Wednesday charged with murdering father-of-two Glendon Turner, 51, of Tamworth, on Tuesday.

The court was told Mr Turnbull fired a number of shots at Mr Turner before a bullet struck the victim in the back, fatally injuring him.

Mr Turner had been serving a notice about 5.40pm on Tuesday near Talga Lane at Croppa Creek, relating to an inspection of a property after reports of illegal land clearing in the area.

His family said on Wednesday they would miss him greatly. Mr Turner, who was born near Port Macquarie, was married and had two children - Alexandra, 10, and Jack, 9.

"His passing comes at a time when his dreams of the farm and family, which he had planned and lovingly built together with Alison, were coming to fruition," a statement from the family said.

"Glen was an accomplished pianist, a gourmet enthusiast and cook, and appreciated a fine wine ... He always gravitated to the outdoor life and particularly loved taking his kids to the beach, whenever he returned to Port Macquarie - as well as enjoying his quiet time at home with the family and working together with Alison on their property."

Moree Plains Shire mayor Katrina Humphries said frustration over environmental issues around the Moree area had been so great in recent years that she had feared that it would erupt in violence, but that it "shouldn't get to this".

During the bail hearing, the court heard Mr Turnbull had been in a long running dispute with the Office of Environment and Heritage over illegal land clearing in the Croppa Creek area.

He was charged with illegally clearing native vegetation between November 2011 and January 2012 and pleaded guilty in the Land and Environment Court.

The prosecutor, the Director-General of the Office of Environment and Heritage, said Mr Turnbull used a bulldozer to clear 421 hectares of the property called "Colorado", owned by his son Grant Wesley Turnbull, and 73 hectares of the adjacent property, called "Strathdoon",  owned by his grandson Corey Ian Turnbull.

After contracts were exchanged but before the sales settled, Mr Turnbull and another unnamed man felled 2708 trees on Colorado and 694 trees on Strathdoon. Trees were pushed over and formed into piles and set alight. The family then raked out the ash heaps, ploughed the cleared land, applied herbicides to kill any emerging vegetation and sowed commercial crops of wheat and barley.

Mr Turnbull, who was arrested late on Tuesday night, appeared distraught and emotional when he was led into the dock on Wednesday.

Magistrate Darryl Pearce said there was an unacceptable risk that could not be mitigated by proposed bail conditions and the serious nature of the allegations meant imprisonment would be likely if Mr Turnbull was convicted.

Mr Turnbull will remain in custody until the case returns to court on August 5.


Strippers, brothels and 'skimpies' still part of doing business in Australia… and costing firms 'millions' in compensation payouts

A lawyer battling sexual harassment in the workplace has revealed how strippers and brothels have cost Australian companies millions.

Executives are being forced to cough up cash to female employees after using seedy corporate entertainment in scenes like something out of The Wolf Of Wall Street, lawyer Michael Harmer revealed.

Female employees are suing bosses for having to endure a culture where harassment and discrimination is commonplace.

Mr Harmer, known in court as The Undertaker, has blasted the employers he has so far bought cases against.

He claimed companies have paid from $1million to $3.5million in out of court settlements in sexual harassment cases to keep their reputations intact.

Harmer, who is responsible for bringing the largest sex discrimination claim in Australian history - Christina Rich v Pricewaterhouse-Coopers - said he 'objects' to the crude practices used in the legal, accounting, finance and property industries.

‘Where alcohol and the degradation of women is used as entertainment, you can get an overstepping of the mark by either other employees or clients,’ he told the Financial Review.

In the interview he described how he’d heard of a global chairman charging brothels to his corporate credit card.

In the landmark Christina Rich v Pricewaterhouse-Coopers case, Ms Rich received an out of court settlement in 2008 believed to be worth about $5million to $6million, plus legal costs, from the firm that she said was blighted with a 'boys' club' culture of harassment.

PwC has always denied the claims.

Mr Harmer's colleague Joydeep Hor, former managing partner of Harmers Workplace Lawyers, said at the time that many such cases were never revealed in public. 

'It's a shame the public, the employers don't see the case,' he said. 'Most of my clients are employers - they don't appreciate the significance of these issues until they have been burnt.'

Harmers Workplace Lawyers, which supplies psychological help for its clients, also previously acted for Kristy Fraser-Kirk.

The 25-year-old woman’s sexual harassment complaint against David Jones chief executive Mark McInnes triggered his shock resignation and a confession of ‘unbecoming’ conduct.

Her $37 million lawsuit against David Jones, its McInnes and nine directors of the retailer was settled for $850,000, including a 'smaller' contribution from Mr McInnes.

Meanwhile, Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick told the Financial Review how she had been contacted by concerned women who worked in the mining industry.

They were scheduled to attend the annual ‘Diggers and Dealers’ conference where a delegation of mining and exploration companies, brokers, bankers, gather in the unofficial gold capital of Australia, Kalgoorlie, WA.

In 2013 a West Australian mayor said mining towns across the state are trying to distance themselves from their association with topless barmaids.

However, he spoke to the ABC in the same week that a WA pub was fined after a 'skimpy' barmaid appeared completely naked.

In the Martin Scorsese film The Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, penny stockbrokers in the 1980s and 1990s are seen binging on women.

There is an orgy scene on the trading floor, amongst other outrageous incidents.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Flood insurance premiums slashed by up to 90% as levees relieve high cost of cover

QUEENSLAND householders are receiving hefty price cuts on insurance premiums as the rebuilding program following the Summer of Disaster helps protect towns from floods.

Suncorp is the latest insurer to declare premium reductions of up to 90 per cent in Roma as a 5km earthen wall ringing the town nears completion.

Suncorp Personal Insurance chief executive Mark Milliner believes Australia could learn a lesson from Queensland’s approach to risk management.

“Communities throughout Australia could be paying less for insurance if they were better protected from natural disasters,’’ he said.

Community Recovery and Resilience Minister David Crisafulli says more than 10 communities, including Maryborough and Mundubbera will soon also have flood levees.

Mr Crisafulli, who has been monitoring insurance premiums to ensure cost is reduced along with risk, said the levee program was just one example of the LNP Government’s practical approach to the multi-billion dollar rebuilding program following the 2010/11 floods and cyclone.

“This vindicates the position the Government took in ensuring Queensland communities are better protected when the next floods arrive,’’ Mr Crisafulli said.

Mr Milliner said Roma residents protected by the levee could now be paying around $1000 a year for flood insurance – a reduction on average of about 45 per cent.

But in extreme cases, a typical $400,000 homeowner in Roma could see insurance premiums reduced by up to 90 per cent – a decrease of up to $7000 a year.

Mr Milliner said the Maranoa Regional Council and Mayor Rob Loughnan had made a sensible decision to invest in flood mitigation.

“Suncorp promised that if disaster risk levels came down, so would the price of insurance, and we honour that commitment,’’ Mr Milliner said.

The completion of the levee means up to 90 per cent of Roma properties are considered to have no flood risk.

Further west, St George’s levee program completed this year has resulted in an average 15 per cent drop in premiums.

Mr Crisafulli said the Roma project was a great example of work he hoped to see replicated around the state in the next 12 months.

The Roma levee, expected to finish next month, runs from north of the Roma airport, crosses the Carnarvon Highway to traverse the eastern side of the town ending above Lovell St.

The levee will cost about $16 million with the bulk of funding coming from state programs such as Royalties for the Regions and Local Government Grants and Subsidies.


Giant Galilee coal mine gets Canberra nod

The federal government has approved a giant Queensland coalmine that it says will generate as much as $300 billion for the economy, but which environmental groups say will contribute to a “carbon bomb” and risk causing significant damage to the Great Barrier Reef.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt on Monday said that he had approved the Carmichael Coal Mine in the Galilee Basin and its associated rail link to the coast with “the absolute strictest” environmental conditions.

The 36 conditions, which include offsets of about 30,000 hectares for habitat destroyed, water returns for the Great Artesian Basin and $1 million for further research in protecting threatened species, will ensure the mine owner, India’s Adani, “meets the highest environmental standards”, Mr Hunt said in a media statement.

At full capacity, the Carmichael mine would produce as much as 60 million tonnes of coal a year, with a “resource value of $5 billion per annum over 60 years”, the statement said.

Apart from the boost to the local economy to the tune of 3920 jobs for operations and 2475 during construction, the mine will also “provide electricity for up to 100 million people in India”, Mr Hunt said.

Environmental groups including Greenpeace, though, warn the mine’s output would generate almost 130 million tonnes of carbon dioxide when burnt each year, or equal to about a quarter of Australia’s current annual emissions.

Billionaire MP Clive Palmer also owns two Galilee coal reserves that may produce as much as 80 million tonnes of coal a year if those mines get developed. Australia’s richest person, Gina Rinehart also holds a minority stake with India’s GVK in mines with a similar annual capacity.

“History will look back on the Abbott Government’s decision today as an act of climate criminality,” said Greens Senator Larissa Waters, the party’s environment spokeswoman. 

“The proponent, Indian-owned Adani, is in financial dire straits and has already faced complaints about breaches of environmental laws in its home country

“There’s no guarantee Adani will be able to pay for the environmental conditions attached to the approval and with the Abbott and Newman governments slashing environment department staff, there’s no capacity to enforce them."

'Coffin' for the Reef

The mine, if it proceeds, would also increase the number of ships entering the Great Barrier Reef by about 450 a year, according to Felicity Wishart, a spokeswoman for the Australian Marine Conservation Society.

“This is yet another nail in the coffin for the Great Barrier Reef,” said Ms Wishart, adding that Carmichael and other proposed coal mines and gas plants in the region would likely increase the number of ships entering the reef area from about 4000 a year to 7000 by 2020.

Paul Oosting, campaigns director at social organising group GetUp!, said the approval was an “outrageous decision”.

“GetUp! will fight tooth and nail to make sure it will never occur,” Mr Oosting said. He said campaigns had succeeded in discouraging the involvement of banks such as Deutsche Bank, Barclays and RBS in the Abbot Point coal export terminal that will link to Carmichael.

The government should also have taken greater account of Adani’s “proven and documented track record of bribery, corruption and environmental degradation” in India, Mr Oosting said.

Water watch

One of the government’s conditions is that the mine will return a minimum of 730 megalitres of water to the Great Artesian Basin every year for five years.

However, Lock the Gate’s Central Queensland spokeswoman, Ellie Smith, said the mine would do “great damage to ground and surface water systems and the communities that depend on them”.

“Environment Minister Greg Hunt has ignored his own panel of top water scientists and is putting the Great Artesian Basin at further risk by allowing mine dewatering to drain the Basin,” Ms Smith said.

Adani has said the Carmichael mine would extract as much as 12.5 gigalitres of water every year, Lock the Gate noted.

Market hurdle

Getting government approval may be easier than winning over markets that have soured on coal, with prices of the commodity dropping about 50 per cent over the past five years.

Concerns about over-supply as nations such as Russia, Indonesia and Mongolia join Australia in preparing to ramp-up production have lately been complemented by signs that global action on climate change will see carbon costs imposed on coal to curb its usage.

South Korea, for instance, this month slapped a coal tax of about $18 per tonne of coal and will introduce a broad carbon price from 2015. Neighbouring China, easily the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, has also unveiled plans for a national carbon emissions market and may aim to curb coal consumption within coming years.

Tim Buckley, a former Citibank analyst and now a director at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said the environmental approval itself was no surprise.

“I never expected [Mr] Hunt to go against Premier [Campbell] Newman nor Prime Minister [Tony] Abbott's desire to promote foreign firms trying to sustain Australia's coal industry,” Mr Buckley said.

“Ironically, should the Galilee proceed, it will actually accelerate the longer-term destruction of our coal export industry by dramatically expanding the capital invested, whilst at the same time taking coal prices globally down another 10-20 per cent.”

Adani, though, said it was standing by its longstanding guidance that the first coal from the mine will be produced in 2017

"The Carmichael mine, together with North Galilee Basin Rail and Abbot Point, will be an enduring provider of more than 10.000 jobs, ongoing partnerships with our small and medium business suppliers, and long-term export opportunities for Queensland," an Adani spokesman said.

"All commodity prices are by their nature subject to volatility," the spokesman said. "Having said that, Adani is an integrated mining, infrastructure and power company that is both the miner, infrastructure owner and operator, and eventual customer for the cost efficient and high quality coal exported from our Carmichael mine."


Hard sugar: Australian job seekers must search for 40 jobs each month and do 25 hours' community work to keep the dole

Assistant Employment Minister Luke Hartsuyker [Rather fittingly, that surname means "hard sugar" in Dutch] says there is no reason why all eligible Australians shouldn't be looking for work

Jobless Australians will be forced into working more for their welfare payments under tough new Government measures designed to get the nation's unemployed back to work.

As part of a crackdown on Australia's jobless, The Federal Government will introduce the $5.1 billion job placement scheme from July 1 next year which will make it mandatory for all Australians under 50, unless they are working part time or undertaking approved training, to look for work.

Australians under 30 will be required to do the heaviest lifting in order to keep their dole payments.

Those in the youngest working age bracket will be asked to work a minimum of 25 hours community service a week and apply for at least 40 jobs a month.

Australians aged between 30 and 49 will be required to contribute 15 hours of weekly community service and those 50-60 will need to do 15 hours a week of an approved activity.

Those older than 60 will not have to do an approved activity but are encouraged to volunteer if they opt to work for the dole.

Assistant Employment Minister Luke Hartsuyker said it was 'most important that jobseekers look for work.'  'A job seeker's primary responsibility is searching for that all important job,' he said.

Most of the new arrangements will be put in place without introducing new legislation, however some elements of the $5.1 billion package will require new laws.

Mr Hartsuyker said he will negotiate with Government cross benchers to ensure that the package is implemented 'for the benefit of job seekers and employers and to improve employment outcomes for people looking for work.'

'Work for the dole has the ability to impart on job seekers the important skills to assist them in the workforce.'

Many employers, he said, are telling him job applicants are 'presenting at the gates to their business'  without adequate skills.  'Simple skills such as turning up on time, being appropriately presented, being able to get on with work mates ... work for the dole has the ability to impart those very skills.'

He said the new measures are the least the taxpayer expected of those on welfare.

As part of the reforms, all job seekers will be encouraged to look outside of their immediate area for work and take advantage of funding that supports moving to take up a new job.

Job service providers, such as Mission Australia, Sarina Russo and Ingenues, will be rewarded for getting people into short-term work for periods of four, 12 and 26 weeks.

In essence, the scheme aims to cut red tape and reward job providers for finding unemployed people work.

Changes to wage subsidies will also be included in the overhaul of the welfare system and will be expanded for mature age workers, and extended to young job seekers under 30 and the long-term unemployed.

Wage subsidies are payments made to employers to help cover the costs of wages and training in the first few months of employment of a person  experiencing  barriers to employment.

Labor accused the Government of tearing apart the principles of the mutual obligation system.

The new arrangements it claims will mean jobseekers under 30 will receive no welfare for six months but still be required to door knock for jobs.

'They will not receive a cent, even if they look for work each day, each week, for six months,' Opposition Employment spokesman Brendan O'Connor told ABC radio.

'Yet now they're having to keep their side of the bargain.'

Mr O'Connor supported the idea of removing red tape for job service providers, but only if it was done properly in consultation with industry.


Is it a space noodle? Is it dental floss? No, it's the $3.5 million planned public artwork being ridiculed on social media

Locals are mocking a $3.5 million sculpture set to be erected in the Sydney CBD, comparing the 50-metre artwork to dental floss, a rubber band and Mr Burns from The Simpsons.

City of Sydney Council today unveiled plans to install an 'elegant cloud-shaped arch' above George Street in front of Sydney's Town Hall.

The council will spend $9.3 million on the Cloud Arch, designed by Tokyo-based artist Junya Ishigami, and other works including a giant fibreglass milk crate to be installed near Central Station a set of 60 bronze bird sculptures which will be perched around the Kent Street underpass.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the artworks would help transform George Street, which is also set to get a light rail and a pedestrianised boulevard.

'We're delighted to announce such an exciting group of artworks by some of the world's leading artists,' she said.  'I have no doubt they will become iconic landmarks of our city for today and future generations.'

But Twitter users were more sceptical, especially of the Cloud Arch, dubbing it the #spacenoodle and comparing the curvy steel sculpture to Jessica Rabbit, dental floss and a rubber band.

Others noticed out a likeness to Mr Burns as an alien in the Simpsons, and a giant car yard balloon.

But some people on social media were quick to point out that other Australian capital cities have been given much stranger public artworks in the past, such as Canberra's Skywhale or Adelaide's pig and giant ball sculptures.

The Cloud Arch sculpture will be built with steel plates to rise diagonally across from the Queen Victoria Building to the Woolworths building.

In his artist's statement, Mr Ishigami said the Cloud Arch embodied Sydney's new 'Green, Global and Connected' characteristics and would evoke 'comfort, openness and freedom'.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Slippery Peter caught

Former parliamentary speaker Peter Slipper has been found guilty of acting dishonestly in using taxpayer-funded Cabcharge vouchers to pay for trips to Canberra region wineries.

Commonwealth prosecutors spent a four-day court hearing last week attempting to prove Slipper dishonestly used almost $1000 worth of government-issued vouchers for trips to regional wineries on three dates in 2010.

Slipper pleaded not guilty to all three charges and the hearing followed three failed attempts in the past eight months to have the charges dismissed.

He was found guilty in the ACT Magistrates Court on Monday, and is due to be sentenced on September 22.

Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker found Slipper had acted dishonestly when he used the vouchers to pay for the three trips, and that he had knowingly caused a risk of loss to the Commonwealth.

Ms Walker said Slipper was travelling outside his travel entitlements, and knew he was doing so, during the three trips.

She said Slipper had intentionally filled in the dockets with false information, including using general terms such as "suburbs" to describe his pick up and drop off locations, to conceal the fact he was not on parliamentary business. 

Ms Walker said the vouchers Slipper filled out did not did not "realistically reflect" the journeys he took on any of the trips.

She said to use the term "suburbs" to describe trips to the regional wineries was "implausible" and there was no reason not to use a more specific term.

Slipper had his head bowed during the appearance and did not react when the decision was handed down.  He did not speak to waiting media as he left the court.

During the trial, the court heard the former Queensland MP used the vouchers to pay for three hire car trips to the wineries between January and June in 2010.

Slipper's defence lawyer, Kylie Weston-Scheuber, told the court it needed to determine whether there was any evidence Slipper had knowingly caused a risk of loss to the Commonwealth, or had acted dishonestly on any of the occasions.

Slipper travelled to six prestigious wineries on the trips, including Clonakilla, Poachers Pantry, Doonkuna Winery, Yass Valley Wines, Shaw Estate Vineyard and Gallagher Wines, the court heard.

On two of the occasions he was accompanied by former political staffer Tim Knapp, and on the third trip he was accompanied by his wife and former staffer, Inge Jane-Hall.

In his closing submission, counsel for the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, Lionel Robberds, QC, argued Slipper had entered false information and used multiple vouchers to make it appear the trips were for parliamentary business.

Mr Robberds said Slipper had filled in the dockets for the trips with false details of the destination and amounts paid, and had broken up the trips in "quite unrealistic" ways.

"He was acting in a personal capacity, he was having a good time on these trips, which had nothing to do with parliamentary business."

Slipper had filled the dockets in using general terms such as "suburbs", even though the wineries were outside of Canberra, Mr Robberds said.

In her closing submission last week, Dr Weston-Scheuber said prosecutors had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Slipper was not on parliamentary business when he visited the wineries.

Dr Weston-Scheuber said the court had no clear definition of what constituted parliamentary business to guide it.

She said the court needed to look at Slipper's Cabcharge voucher use in a broader context.

He was "simply following his usual practice" when he used multiple dockets to pay for trips and filled them out with general descriptions of his pick-up and drop-off destinations, she argued.

The hearing followed three failed bids to have the charges permanently stayed and dropped, including one attempt last month on mental health grounds.


Scott Morrison claims asylum seekers brought to mainland Australia are economic migrants

The 157 asylum seekers brought to Western Australia are economic migrants, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has claimed.

After spending weeks detained on the Customs ship Ocean Protector, the 157 people were transferred by plane to the Curtin detention centre on Sunday night. They will now have their identities checked by Indian officials.

Minister Morrison defended the government's intention to return the asylum seekers to India, telling ABC radio that if people could not be taken to India "what is next? New Zealand?"

"These people have come from the safe country of India ... a passage here is nothing more than an economic migration seeking to illegally enter Australia," Minister Morrison told ABC radio.

"The suggestion that people who have left a safe country are somehow fleeing persecution, I think, is absurd."

Mr Morrison called India a "vibrant democracy" that has received praise from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for its support of Sri Lankan refugees. Most of the 157 are understood to be Tamils who fled Sri Lanka during, and after, the country's decades-long civil war.

The decision to transfer the asylum seekers to Australian soil pre-empts the outcome of a High Court challenge to their detention at sea.

A court hearing is scheduled for Monday afternoon.

For the four weeks they were held at sea, the asylum seekers were kept in windowless rooms for 21 hours a day with only three hours outside. Families were separated and they didn't have access to translators.

Mr Morrison did not say what would happen to the asylum seekers if they were not accepted by India. After talks with Australia, the Indian government has only committed to accepting the asylum seekers that are Indian citizens. They have agreed to consider the non-citizen Indian residents.

"It's a fundamental principle of refugee law that no one, no person, should be made to deal with the authority of the country from which they have fled," said the Refugee and Immigration Law Centre's David Manne.

Minister Morrison says that India's processing of these people is "something for any government to do, who is the host government who is determining their citizenship or residency and it's not for Australia to do that".


Greenhouse follies must end

THE carbon tax may have gone, but the players have not moved on. For the Greens, its resurrection is only a matter of time. Labor, ever reluctant to face realities, pretends to maintain the rage, much as it did with the GST. Meanwhile, the lessons of the fiasco, and its implications for the Abbott government, are ignored.

At the heart of those lessons is a simple fact: the electorate is unwilling to bear crippling costs for the purely hypothetical benefits of decarbonisation. Despite all their apocalyptic rhetoric, the climate change advocates cannot secure and sustain popular support for the taxes needed if large-scale reductions in emissions are to occur.

Yet Labor’s scheme was based on a carbon tax that rose ever higher, with the government’s modelling envisaging an increase from an initial $23 to $60 (at today’s prices) by 2030. Moreover, that increase was vital if the scheme was to achieve its goal of reducing emissions to 80 per cent below 2000 levels by 2050.

Steeply climbing carbon taxes might have been acceptable had they been part of a credible international agreement. But with support for costly climate change policies as brittle overseas as it has proven to be here, there was never much prospect of such an agreement being reached. And there was even less prospect of a concerted global effort to impose carbon taxes rising to the levels Labor’s scheme expected.

Labor was therefore trapped between its promises to the Greens and political realities. Already at the time of the tax’s introduction, a Morgan Poll found that over 60 per cent of Australians agreed that “the carbon tax will have no significant impact on reducing the total worldwide volume of carbon dioxide put into the atmosphere”, while an even greater majority thought the tax should not rise any further.

Little wonder the Gillard government quickly descended into a tangle of half-truths, untruths and contradictions. Promising salvation without sacrifice, its rhetoric of “you won’t feel a thing” implied the “greatest moral challenge of our time” could be tackled without discernible pain. But even the government’s own analysis showed each tonne of abatement the scheme achieved reduced Australia’s GDP by $48, several times the headline tax rate, for a cumulative cost to 2020 of nearly $35 billion.

With claim after claim coming apart, Labor’s backsliding began almost as soon as the scheme had taken effect. Less than two months into its operation, the government announced that there would not be a price floor after 2015-16; instead, there would be direct linking with the EU cap and trade scheme. Seemingly untroubled by the inconsistency, Greg Combet, who only weeks earlier had justified a floor price on the basis that it was needed to “reduce the risk (to investors) of sharp downward price movements”, now claimed abolishing it, and linking to the extremely volatile EU scheme, would provide “investors with long-term certainty”.

But with public hostility to the scheme mounting, those were merely harbingers of a torrent of absurdities. The direct linking, for example, should have slashed projected carbon prices to the very low levels prevailing in futures markets in the EU. But so as to reduce Labor’s deficit, Wayne Swan’s last budget envisaged carbon prices rising rapidly after 2015-16, and going even higher in 2019-20 than originally fore­shadowed.

The farce reached its peak with Kevin Rudd’s decision to scuttle the tax and move immediately to an emissions trading scheme. Like the character in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, whose proposal is “only a notion” but who hopes for the chance “to make it into a concept and later into an idea”, Rudd’s new scheme was scant on details; and even murkier was the magic by which the low carbon prices Rudd touted would achieve his ambitious emissions reductions pledges.

All that may seem behind us; but the harm done to Australia’s international competitiveness is not. And with the Renewable Energy Target still in place, our electricity prices, which have soared far above those in other countries with abundant resources of coal and gas, will remain much higher than they can and should be.

Nor are the costs of the RET likely to decline. On the contrary, modelling by ACIL-Allen finds that over the period to 2040, it will increase the costs of electricity generation by nearly $13bn; and accompanying those costs are massive transfers to the renewables sector, with estimates by Deloitte Access suggesting each $1 in additional renewables investment the RET stimulates is bought at the price of nearly $2 in payments to producers.

Perpetuating those policies is not only economically irrational; it also lends credibility to the carbon tax. After all, if the RET is legitimate, despite the distortions it imposes, why not consider an emissions trading scheme as a less distorting alternative? How can the Coalition, having conceded the goal, simply rule out a particular instrument?

But it is not the instrument that is flawed; it is the goal that makes no sense. What conceivable purpose is served by policies which have no effect whatsoever on global emissions but damage our prosperity? And were dangerous climate change indeed in prospect, how could making us poorer facilitate the adjustments Australia will have to undertake?

Tony Abbott understands all that. But he needs to say it: for as Enoch Powell put it in admonishing the British Tories’ endless lip-service to ill-conceived economic policies, “it is impossible to go on behaving sensibly while constantly talking nonsense”. And having said it, Abbott must start cleaning out the Augean stable of climate change follies, beginning with the RET. If the carbon tax has been repealed it is because voters know those policies are less than useless. The longer it takes the Coalition to catch up with that repeal’s lessons, the greater the risk of squandering the opportunity it creates.


Long Bay guards dished out jailhouse justice to ‘smart-arse’ rapist Bilal Skaf and ‘scumbag’ paedophile Dennis Ferguson

THE notorious paedophile walked in. He was a man who needed no introduction; his heinous crimes had been splashed in print and had headlined the 6pm news. He winked at the guard who awaited his arrival.

Knowing full well of the crimes this new inmate, Dennis Ferguson, had committed, the guard fumed. ‘You are a f***ing scumbag,’ he shouted straight into the criminal’s face. ‘And you will be treated as one.’


‘I smashed him,’ said the guard, now retired. ‘The heap of shit fell to the floor telling me that I didn’t understand “this beautiful love”. Ferguson was a f***ing monster and I do not regret doing what I did. Not one bit. But I was lucky to get away with it because it happened a long time ago. There’s no way a guard today could do it.’

Or could they?

The guard stormed down the landing and snarled at the gang rapist through the locked cell.

‘Clean that f***ing shit off now,’ he screamed. Bilal Skaf puffed out his chest, grinning. ‘F**k off,’ he said. ‘Or I’ll rape your wife too.’

The guard pulled the key from his belt, opened the door and calmly walked towards the inmate. He looked at the wall he had been called to inspect before locking eyes with the skinny smart-arse.

‘I rape prison’s officer’s wives,’ read Skaf’s graffiti, which was scrawled in black texta across the wall.

‘Piece of s**t,’ the guard said, standing over the smiling criminal’s face.

‘What are you going to do?’ Skaf shouted back. ‘Nothing. That’s what!’

The guard smiled. Then —  Whack!

First came the heavy right.  Crack!

And then the left.  Splat!

The guard picked up the 22-year-old and threw him into the concrete wall.

‘Then I grabbed his head,’ recounted the guard. ‘And I used his face to clean off the texta.’

Bilal Skaf did not enjoy his Long Bay stay. First he was bashed.  ‘I gave him a real good touch up when he came in,’ said the guard.

‘Skaf was nothing and he had only just arrived. Someone asked me to give him a hand with this rapist bloke who was playing up. I went in there and saw this really little bloke with a big mouth.

It was Skaf, and he was standing there, all pumped up, looking at me, with the graffiti on the wall behind him. I towelled him up and wiped the wall down with his face. He had no remorse whatsoever for the crime he’d committed. He never said sorry for anything he did in jail either. He was quite happy to cop a hiding, and that’s exactly what he got.’

Next, Skaf learned his Lebanese brothers would not protect him. He was now alone.

‘He thought he was going to be some sort of Lebanese hero,’ said another guard. ‘That he’d become part of their gang and be sweet. But Michael Kanaan [a Lebanese Australian triple murderer. Kanaan is serving three life sentences, plus 50 years with no possibility of parole] had put the word out for him to be bashed. The Lebanese hated Skaf as much as anyone because he’d tarnished their whole race and made innocent Lebanese people targets because of his disgusting crimes.’

Skaf was jailed for 55 years after being convicted on 21 counts of aggravated rape, assault and kidnapping. In 2000, he’d led 14 Lebanese Australian Muslims on a series of gang rape attacks on Australian women. One of their victims was raped 25 times at Bankstown, in an attack that lasted six hours. It’s alleged she was called an ‘Aussie pig’ and told she’d be raped ‘Lebanese style’.

‘What this trial showed was that he was the leader of the pack, a liar, a bully, a coward, callous and mean,’ said Judge Michael Finnane in his sentencing remarks of Bilal Skaf. ‘The worst of all offenders who conducted himself as if the proceeding were a joke.’

Skaf began his sentence, which was later reduced to a maximum of 28 years on appeal, in Long Bay. He was placed in protection in 2 Wing after receiving death threats from fellow inmates.

‘He would be in his cell, crying every night,’ said an inmate. ‘My mate did the plumbing in that wing, because the shitters were blocked up all the time. He’d go in there and unblock them, and I would carry his tools for him. I would walk past Skaf’s cell and he’d be crying.

He thought he was a tough c**t when he went in — he believed all the Lebos were under the impression he was a legend because of what he’d done to the Aussie girls, but they hated the c**t. They wanted to kill him as much as anyone else, maybe more. He drove me mad with his crying, and I’d scream at him, calling him a little girl. He was just a little punk. A nothing.’

His mother was barred from visiting him for two years in 2002 after she was caught on video attempting to smuggle out a letter to his then fiancee.

Skaf’s only ally in Long Bay was his brother Mahmoud, a member of his rapist gang.

‘I probably had more dealings with Mahmoud,’ said a guard who currently works at Long Bay. ‘He was a vicious little shit. I worked in the hospital before it became the Medical Training Centre. Any maximum-security prisoner who needed medical treatment was moved in there. That’s where I had plenty of dealings with Mahmoud. He had a mouth like his brother, but he was nothing too. They both ended up in protection because everyone wanted them dead.’

Skaf did not back down despite the bashings and the death threats. He claimed that he started a gang while in jail called W2K — Willing To Kill — and threatened to shoot court officers and prison guards. He drew pictures depicting rape and sent white powder that looked like anthrax to prison boss Ron Woodham.

But Skaf also sobbed in his cell and attempted to commit suicide.

His Long Bay horror ended when he was transferred to Goulburn Supermax after prison authorities said three prisoners were plotting to inject him with a needle containing HIV/AIDS drawn from an infected prisoner.

‘That might have been bulls**t,’ said a guard, disputing the claim. ‘I think the politicians just made it up because they wanted an excuse to send him to Supermax. I worked in his wing and didn’t hear of any such plot, neither did the other guards. Regardless, he was a piece of shit and we were happy to see him leave.’

Another guard revealed a few protections have had near misses while being locked away in Long Bay Jail.

‘There have been some very close calls,’ he said. ‘I’ve seen several that have been stopped at the last moment. I jumped on a bloke just after he slashed a dog’s [informer's] eye. He would’ve been killed if we hadn’t got to him in time.’

The same guard witnessed three men murder an alleged dog while working at Silverwater Jail.

‘I was in the MRRC (Metropolitan Remand and Reception Centre) when they killed Johnny Tram. He was a DOG and they killed him over the John Newman assassination. They stabbed him 27 times, with industrial scissors, in front of everybody.

He was in there, doing his work, and these three Asian guys just walked up to him and started stabbing. The officer grabbed him, but the attackers didn’t stop. It was brutal. He died on the spot. As soon as I heard about it, I rushed in to help. I saw the last one go through and watched Tram die.

I believe we had some information on the Newman murder and that’s what got him killed. They’d put a hit out on him and got him. He was sewing linen sheets at the time. It was the worst thing I have ever seen in all my years working in jails.’

Former prisoner Abo Henry said a paedophile was brutally bashed while in Long Bay.

‘There was a bloke who did 16 years for raping and killing a kid,’ Henry said. ‘He had a couple of weeks to go. He said he wanted to get out from the main jail and finish his time in protection. He was warned against it, but he thought he’d be sweet after 16 years. He thought that no one would know him. Anyway, they found him in the weights room with his head caved in. A mate of Neddy Smith’s was the main suspect, but he beat the charge.’

Four sex offenders and one dog were murdered in Australian prisons between 1980—1998.

‘The general prison population f***ing hated the protections,’ said an inmate. ‘If they got hold of them, they’d kill them. Now and then there would be a little bit of a slip-up and they would grab one. Say, one of them had been on protection for a while and they thought the circumstances had sorted themselves out.’

In that period, Long Bay recorded the second highest number of prison homicides in Australia with five men killed while in custody.


Monday, July 28, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is having another shot at PUP

What the RBA really said about renting versus buying

A Reserve Bank Research Discussion Paper on whether Australian housing is over-valued attracted considerable media attention. The bottom-line was that Australian housing is currently fairly valued, but that the average household might be better off renting now if, 'as many observers have suggested,' future real house price growth is less than the historical annual average rate of around 2.5% since 1955.

As it turns out, the 'many observers' actually referenced in the paper are the Reserve Bank itself, which makes one wonder whether the paper's conclusion is part of its broader jaw-boning effort directed at talking down expectations for future house price appreciation.

In fact, the Reserve Bank's paper makes an excellent case for being indifferent between renting or buying before the fact. The Bank makes use of the 'user-cost' approach, which focuses on the cost of occupying or renting a dwelling. This is in contrast to other widely cited but flawed measures of housing affordability that focus on the cost of acquiring rather than occupying a dwelling.

The user-cost of owner-occupation and renting should be equal in the long-run, because people can always substitute between the two if one becomes relatively more expensive.

The Reserve Bank shows that this has been true for Australia historically based on matched data for house prices and rents. In the short-run, there can be significant deviations from this long-run relationship. In principle, one could profitably substitute between owner-occupation and renting based on these deviations. But this is made difficult by the very high transaction costs associated with buying/selling and moving. It is these transaction costs that explain the short-run deviations in the first place, because they prevent a rapid adjustment to changes in the relative cost of owner-occupation and renting.

There will always be periods of time for which it is possible to show that, after the fact, a household might have been better off renting or buying. But before the fact, there is no reason to favour one over the other. We should be indifferent between renting and buying, especially at long time horizons.

A reduction in the transaction costs associated with buying and selling, for example, the abolition of stamp duty, would shorten this time horizon and bring the costs of renting and buying into an even closer relationship.

The bottom-line is, don't sweat on the rent-buy decision


Australian teachers face significant classroom challenges

In 2008, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development conducted a survey of teachers, asking them about their working conditions and the learning environment in their schools.

The survey, called the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), is to be repeated every five years. The results of the 2013 survey, with 34 participating countries including Australia, were released recently.

Among other things, it reveals that Australian teachers have some of the most challenging working conditions among participating countries, and far more challenging circumstances than countries with which Australia competes in international tests such as the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).

The following statistics apply to lower secondary teachers (usually years 7 to 10):

    33% of Australian teachers work in schools where for more than one in ten students the language of instruction is not their first language. The average for participating countries is 21%, and the averages for high-performing PISA countries Korea, Japan and Finland are between 0% and 9%.

    26% of Australian teachers work in schools where more than one in three students is from a socioeconomically disadvantaged home. The average for participating countries is 19%, and the averages for high-performing PISA countries Korea, Singapore, Japan and Finland are between 3% and 8%.

    66% of Australian teachers work in schools where students frequently arrive late. The average for participating countries is 52%.

    59% of Australian teachers work in schools where students are frequently absent. The average for participating countries is 39%.

    25% of teachers work in schools where students frequently intimidate and verbally abuse school staff. The average for participating countries is 3.4%.

These statistics reveal the different context within which teachers in different countries must work, requiring caution when making cross-country comparisons. They confirm the need for teachers to be well-prepared for these challenges with rigorous and comprehensive teacher education. According to the TALIS report, Australian teachers are among the most highly-educated in terms of completion of tertiary educational qualifications, but the content of the courses is not as strong as it might be.

In addition, the TALIS statistics on the working conditions of teachers are a reminder of the need for school management at all levels to support teachers to deal effectively and early with disciplinary issues, both for the sake of teachers themselves and other students.


Greens blast work for dole for jobseekers

The Greens has condemned plans by the federal government to force all jobseekers to work for the dole, saying there's nothing to prove it's effective.

Greens family and community spokeswoman Rachel Siewert says in a statement today the tough new rules fail to address barriers to employment such as lack of available jobs and training or discrimination.

Ms Siewert says the announcement is all about punishing people and that it's nonsense to say people have to apply for at least a job a day if jobs aren't available.

Almost all jobseekers will be required to work for the dole under tough new federal government rules expanding the scheme.

The government is making it mandatory for jobseekers aged 18 to 49 to work for their welfare payments from July 1, 2015.

Those aged 18 to 30 will be required to work 25 hours per week while people aged 31 to 49 will have to work 15 hours.

Those over 50 will have the option of participating in the program.

The new rules will ensure jobseekers are actively looking for work, Assistant Employment Minister Luke Hartsuyker says.

"It also allows jobseekers to give something back to the taxpayers and community that supports them," he told AAP in a statement on Sunday.

Work for the dole currently applies to jobseekers aged up to 30, who have been out of work for a year, in 18 locations of high unemployment around the country.

They have to work 15 hours per week for six months to receive welfare payments.

The expanded scheme is part of a new employment services model to be announced by Mr Hartsuyker and Employment Minister Eric Abetz on Monday.

While some aspects will come under legislation, it's understood the new work for the dole rules could still be implemented if the Senate rejects them.


NSW ALP disowns its corruptocrats

SEVEN of Labor’s most notorious former members — including Eddie Obeid, Joe Tripodi and Ian Macdonald — have received life bans in a symbolic move aimed at regaining the public’s trust in the beleaguered party.

Ordinary members will also have a say in choosing the party’s NSW leader to remove power from the factional bosses as part of the reforms adopted at today’s NSW ALP State Conference.

However, a proposal by party elder Senator John Faulkner to amend the rules to allow party members to also directly elect upper house candidates in NSW and federally was voted down with even some members of his own Left faction opposing the move.

In a passionate debate held at Sydney Town Hall largely focused on pointing fingers at who led the party into decline, Left faction leaders attacked the Right for allowing the party to be infiltrated by “greed and self-interest”.

NSW ALP assistant general secretary John Graham, who had had backed the Faulkner amendment, launched a scathing attack on his Right factional opponents for being more focused on themselves than a vision for the party.

“Right now, party members simply feel that power in the Labor Party is in the hands of too few people,” he said.

“At times, I’ve felt like a member of that other totalitarian party — the Chinese Communist Party.

“It’s generals launching crackdown after crackdown on corruption, while failing to acknowledge that central insight of democracy — that power corrupts.”

Senator Faulkner blamed the existing system which allowed the factional bosses to choose the upper house candidates for elevating “corrupt individuals” such as Mr Obeid, Mr Macdonald and former Labor minister Tony Kelly.

While acknowledging his bid to clean up the party would be “slaughtered”, he implored the party faithful to adopt his change to ensure the “mistakes of the past” would not be repeated.

“Obeid, Macdonald and Kelly were preselected by the current system over and over again,” Mr Faulkner said.

“It is our responsibility to change that system that not only indicted them on our party, but the people of NSW.

“We bear responsibility not only for the actions of those corrupt individuals, but for elevating them to such high office. It’s time we take steps that it never never happens again.

“The truth is, those with power will never give it up.”

NSW ALP general secretary Jamie Clements, who opposed the Faulkner reforms, admitted the past few years had been difficult but said the move to allow members to have a say in the parliamentary leader from March next year was a significant step towards democratising the party.

“NSW Labor had to change and we did,” he said.  “We have undertaken root and branch reform.”

Both factions supported the largely symbolic move to impose life bans on seven former members, which also included former Health Service Union chiefs Craig Thomson and Michael Williamson and Mr Tripodi’s former aid Ann Wills.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

NSW Labor Party adopts pro-Palestinian stance

A FUTURE Labor government may consult like-minded nations about recognising a Palestinian state, after the NSW branch of the party voted to adopt a motion critical of Israeli settlements.

THE draft resolution, moved by former foreign minister Bob Carr, was passed without debate at the NSW Labor conference in Sydney's Town Hall on Saturday.

"NSW Labor welcomes the decision of the Palestinian Authority to commit to a demilitarised Palestine with the presence of international peacekeepers, including US forces," the amendment said.

"If, however there is no progress to a two-state solution, and Israel continues to build and expand settlements, a future Labor government will consult like-minded nations towards recognition of the Palestinian state."

The amendment also applauded the previous Labor government for opposing Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land, and for branding the settlements illegal under international law.

"NSW Labor recognises a Middle East peace will only be won with the establishment of a Palestinian state," the amendment said.

"The state of Palestine should be based on 1976 borders with agreed land swaps and with security guarantees for itself and Israel."

As foreign minister, Mr Carr rolled then prime minister Julia Gillard and pushed for Australia to abstain, instead of oppose, a vote that augmented Palestinian status at the United Nations.

Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten is expected to address the conference on Sunday.


New university rankings out

The Center for World University Rankings (CWUR) publishes the only global university ranking that measures the quality of education and training of students as well as the prestige of the faculty members and the quality of their research without relying on surveys and university data submissions.

CWUR uses eight objective and robust indicators to rank the world's top 1000 universities:

1) Quality of Education, measured by the number of a university's alumni who have won major international awards, prizes, and medals relative to the university's size [25%]
2) Alumni Employment, measured by the number of a university's alumni who currently hold CEO positions at the world's top companies relative to the university's size [25%]
3) Quality of Faculty, measured by the number of academics who have won major international awards, prizes, and medals [25%]
4) Publications, measured by the number of research papers appearing in reputable journals [5%]
5) Influence, measured by the number of research papers appearing in highly-influential journals [5%]
6) Citations, measured by the number of highly-cited research papers [5%]
7) Broad Impact, measured by the university's h-Index [5%]
8) Patents, measured by the number of international patent filings [5%]

The top 5 this time are unsurprising:

1     Harvard University   
2    Stanford University   
3    Massachusetts Institute of Technology   
4    University of Cambridge       
5    University of Oxford

The rankings in the top 100 were overwhelmingly dominated by U.S. universities.  There were 4 other UK universities in the top 100 and only two Australian universities:  The two oldest, University of Sydney and University of Melbourne.  I hold a large document issued to me by the first of those


Tony Abbott cuts asylum deal with India

AUSTRALIA has offered more help to India to disrupt people-smuggling from its shores and to fight transnational crime, after the “generous offer” to consider taking back most of the 157 ­asylum-seekers who have been detained at sea for a month.

Fending off claims of policy failure on “stopping the boats”, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott have declared none of the 157 who left India by boat to seek asylum in Australia would be allowed to ­settle here. “Don’t get on a boat to come ­illegally to Australia,” the Prime Minister said yesterday. “Because even if you get here, you won’t stay here. You will not become a permanent resident of Australia.’’

Mr Morrison said: “The message from this voyage to people-smugglers is Australia and India are engaged together to stop you and the full suite of measures that are available to the Abbott government remain and will be deployed.

“In the last seven months there has not been a single successful people-smuggling venture to ­Australia and this remains the case even for the venture that remains at sea.”

About 17,000 asylum-seekers arrived on about 200 boats in the corresponding period last year, under the previous Labor government.

Labor and the Greens said the Coalition’s border-protection policies were not working.

Labor’s acting immigration spokeswoman, Michelle Rowland, said: “What we saw today was an admission from Scott Morrison that he has lost control of his ­portfolio.”

“A few weeks ago, Scott Morrison refused to even confirm these 157 people existed. His border-­protection policy is in a complete shambles — his job is now being done by the High Court.”

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said Mr Morrison was a “spectacular failure” and that the issue was making Australia an international disgrace.

The decision to move the people from the Customs vessel at sea to the mothballed Curtin detention centre on the mainland was taken to allow Indian consular officials in Canberra to conduct face-to-face interviews.

The Australian government considered providing access by phone and video link to avoid bringing the asylum-seekers to the mainland, and even considered taking the Indian officials to sea.

Mr Morrison said the Indian offer was generous and followed discussions between ministers, ­including a 72-hour flying visit to New Delhi by Mr Morrison to meet India’s powerful Home ­Affairs Minister, Rajnath Singh.

The 157 mostly Tamils left India’s southern coastal city of Pondicherry last month.

They were intercepted in international waters and taken aboard an Australian Customs vessel.

Human rights groups have challenged the government’s ­actions in the High Court as the people were detained at sea while the government negotiated with India about taking them back.

Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul welcomed Mr Morrison’s announcement, but said it would act as a “serious blow” to Operation Sovereign Borders and challenged government claims the asylum-seekers would not be able to make legal claims once on the mainland.

Mr Rintoul said it was highly likely the asylum-seekers would be entitled to settle in Australia, though he remained concerned about the visas that would be ­issued.

Although the Indian government has agreed to consider taking back all Indian residents and some who aren’t, it is possible a handful — who are not Tamils — will face being returned to Sri Lanka.

Indian High Commissioner Biren Nanda last night told The Weekend Australian he was preparing a team of consular officials to interview the asylum-seekers and it was Indian practice not to use video links.

“The first step is we have to go and interview them and collect information about them and then we have to send the information to Delhi, which will make a determination about their exact status,” Mr Nanda said.

The Australian government decided it was too dangerous and would take too long to send Indian officials to the ship. It was decided it was easier to reopen the Curtin detention centre instead of sending the 157 to the still-crowded Christmas Island or to the more distant Nauru or Manus.

As part of the co-operation talks, Mr Morrison has written to Mr Singh offering to increase Australia’s help, such as intelligence sharing, to India in disrupting ­people-smuggling ventures as well as establishing a permanent group to work more closely on transnational crime including narcotics and people-smuggling.

Mr Abbott is considering a visit to India in September for talks with new Prime Minister Narendra Modi that will include people-smuggling, but also India’s push to expand its nuclear energy generation and uranium imports from Australia.

In announcing the decision to transfer the people to the mainland, Mr Morrison said the government had never claimed to have “stopped the boats” and that it required permanent vigilance to deter people smugglers.

“It is the policy of the government … to prevent the illegal entry of vessels to Australia and their passengers,” he said. “This is the best way to ensure that no one is ever resettled in Australia who seeks to come to Australia by that method. Our policy of denying the illegal entry of vessels and their passengers to Australia is first achieved through co-operation with our regional partners — which includes the government of India — to disrupt ventures before they depart.

“In cases where a venture may depart, the government has a series of highly effective measures available to it to deny the vessel and persons onboard entry to Australia. During the same period of time last year … more than 17,000 people arrived on more than 200 such ventures.”

News of the group’s imminent transfer to the mainland will come as a relief to families awaiting word of those who left India’s Sri Lankan Tamil refugee camps last month.

A Chennai-based advocacy group for the 60,000-strong community of camp dwellers in southern India, the Organisation for Eeelam Refugees Rehabilitation (OfERR), said it feared the move would only presage a new and more protracted phase of limbo.


Gifted students vie for a seat in popular OC classes

If your watch gained two minutes every hour and you set it to the correct time at 7am, what time would it show at 1.30pm?

It was questions like this that nine-year-old Gabriella Moussa found “pretty easy” in her opportunity class (OC) placement test on Wednesday morning.

The McCallums Hill Public School student was one of more than 10,000 year 4 students across the state vying for a spot in the specialty classes for academically gifted children in years 5 and 6.

The students attempted 70 multiple choice questions over 60 minutes – less than one minute per question – meaning a successful candidate would probably know by now that the time on the watch would be 1.43pm.

“I got to the end but I had to quickly rush the last few questions,” Gabriella, who sat the test at Kingsgrove North High School, said. “I feel like I did well.”

With fewer than 1800 positions available across 75 schools, only one in five applicants will be chosen.

The classes, designed to nurture the state’s brightest students, are highly sought after, with many parents viewing them as a stepping stone to selective high schools. While they do not act as formal feeder schools, a high proportion of students do transition to selective high schools.

The Education Department stresses it does not endorse intensive tutoring for the test but many coaching colleges in Sydney offer group classes and private tuition specifically tailored to the OC exam.

Gabriella had a quick look at some sample questions on Tuesday night but her mother Claudia Moussa wanted the experience to be as stress-free as possible.

“She hasn’t done multiple choice before, so I explained that to her and told her to read things twice and not worry too much,” she said. “But she had no real practice. I only want her to get in if she’s naturally going to get in. I wouldn’t push her.”

Mrs Moussa's two preferences were Greenacre and Hurstville public schools, both about five kilometres from her daughter’s school. “If she got in, it would be a big decision but it would definitely be up to her,” she said.

Unsurprisingly, many of the primary schools that record the highest NAPLAN results are those with OC classes.

As a result, they are also among the largest and fastest-growing schools in the state. Artarmon Public School has swelled from 753 students in 2010 to almost 1000 this year and Chatswood jumped from 710 to 928 over the same period.

Matthew Pearce Public School at Baulkham Hills, consistently one of the top academic performers, is the largest primary school in NSW with 1184 students this year, up from 875 in 2010.


Friday, July 25, 2014

New Australian private university in Adelaide

As a peak body committed to expanding choice, equitable treatment of students and recognition of the contribution private providers make in the higher education sector, the Council of Private Higher Education (COPHE) congratulates Torrens University Australia, on its official opening today.

“Torrens is an excellent example of how opening the door to a wider range of provider types increases diversity and opportunity for Australian students,” COPHE CEO Adrian McComb said after attending the opening.  “An international corporation such as Laureate International Universities establishing a new university in Australia is a solid vote of confidence in our higher education sector.”

Laureate International Universities, operates the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School (BMIHMS) in Sydney and Leura, and THINK Education - a group of eight colleges across the Eastern seaboard. What distinguish these and other niche institutions are impressive jobs-ready graduates, strong industry support and outstanding employment outcomes.

At BMIHMS campuses, which are focused on hospitality education, there is already evidence of the type of high quality global educational experience that Torrens is offering to its on-campus students in Adelaide and on-line cohort across Australia, the Asia-Pacific and further afield.  In 2011, Guy Bentley, Chief Executive Officer of the BMIHMS was presented with a Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award at the Accommodation Association of Australia’s National Accommodation Industry Awards for Excellence.  This indicates the top quality that such providers can attain.

Torrens’ broad range of programs in the university environment can extend this experience to more students and build even more links with employers.

Most of the growth worldwide in higher education over the last decade was in private for-profit institutions. In the US, Laureate has been held up as a positive example of making educational opportunities available to all students.  Australian students can now benefit as Torrens draws input from a wide international network on how to best meet an individual's needs.

Although many of the partnerships established by our public universities in achieving their objectives are with for-profit entities, in areas such as pathways for overseas students, this is a significant step.  Just as Australians depend on the contribution of for-profit hospitals in our health system, over time, higher education could reach its potential in the same way.  Such private investment in higher education, especially as our government is encouraging the Australian higher education sector to aim to be one of the best in the world, is to be welcomed.

As we look to a more diverse range of higher education provider types which take us beyond the dominance of the research-intensive university model in Australia, it is appreciated that there are going to be challenging times for the existing institutions. Institutions, such as Torrens University Australia, help enhance equity, expand choice for students and deliver more diversity in types of institutions.  Students will ultimately be the beneficiaries.

Via email

Grappling with the truth behind the great Labor lie

Mark Latham

It’s the great Labor lie. A dazzling piece of sophistry designed to deflect from the true purpose of party reform.

It was reproduced in these pages on Monday when NSW Labor Secretary Jamie Clements argued against Senator John Faulkner’s proposals for democratising the selection of upper house candidates.

Clements insisted that ''more than 350,000 affiliated union members in NSW need to have some say in the selection of our candidates – we don’t want a white-collar-only upper house''.

He was supporting the present system of Labor preselection, the model that gave us Eddie Obeid, Tony Kelly and Ian Macdonald. It operates as a factional oligarchy, whereby right- and left-wing union secretaries control voting blocs at the State Party Conference, giving them the numbers to select upper house candidates (for the NSW Legislative Council and  Federal Senate).

In practice, the ''350,000 affiliated union members in NSW'' have no say in this process. A few of them go to State Conference as union delegates, but once there, they vote as a bloc under the instruction of union secretaries. Anyone displaying signs of independence is automatically black-balled from future conferences.

These highly-disciplined union numbers are the backbone of the party’s factional system. They put Mr Clements in his position and keep him there, as long as he doesn’t challenge the authority of the union secretaries. Clements has argued for the status quo not because it’s the best system for Labor, but because it’s the best system for union-sponsored powerbrokers like him.

The case for change is self-evident: during the term of the last state Labor government, the party’s union/factional hierarchy preselected and protected a group of corrupt Legislative Council members. It didn’t generate a blue- or white-collar upper house, it created striped-collar Labor representation – as in the collars worn by criminals.

How did this happen? By its nature, tight factional control gives powerbrokers the feeling they can get away with anything inside the party. Once in government, it’s only a small extra step to carry this ethos of invincibility into ministerial decision-making.

Having run the NSW Right, Obeid thought he could run the NSW government for private financial gain. In this project, he co-opted the assistance of the long-time secretary of the NSW Left, Macdonald – an example of cross-factional corruption.

Instead of arguing for the status quo, Clements and the union secretaries should be apologising for it. They should be repentant about the self-serving excesses of the factional model and acknowledge the need for democratisation.

The underlying weakness in their position is this: the only people in NSW who would think the existing system works well are Clements and the union secretaries. While they have the numbers to prevail in the short term, they lack the legitimacy and strength of argument to prop up their position indefinitely.

Yes, they have the power to hand-pick more Obeids and Macdonalds for the upper house, more union officials, more dopey apparatchiks, more yes-men and women, but that doesn’t make it right. Change will come eventually and when it does, history will pass harsh judgement on Clements and his fellow factional warlords.

Faulkner’s reform plan, to be put to State Conference this weekend, is to allow ALP branch members to select the party’s upper house tickets. Having given rank-and-file members a say in the selection of Labor’s federal and state leaders, why shouldn’t they be empowered to preselect upper house candidates? Why doesn’t Clements trust the True Believers who staff the polling booths, who keep their local branches alive, who fight so passionately for the cause of Labor?

Far from restricting rank-and-file union involvement, democratisation encourages it. It says to union members: don’t allow union secretaries doubling up as factional bosses to make all the big decisions. Join your local ALP branch and have a direct say in how the party is run: in picking federal and state leaders, in selecting Labor’s lower and upper house candidates.

This is what Faulkner is trying to achieve: Labor as a membership-based party, rather than a narrow factional-based clique.


Kissing cousins and a Beirut bonus: arranged marriage will be investigated over alleged fly-in welfare fraud

Muslims, if I mistake not

TWO first cousins in an arranged­ marriage are being investigated for immigration and Centrelink fraud and rorting the baby bonus by returning to Australia from Lebanon for the births of some of their seven children.

The woman, 33, told the Federal Circuit Court sitting in Parramatta her husband also had her return several times to Australia solely to update Centrelink­ details so she could continue to get social security.

The family was receiving Family Tax benefits that in the last financial year totalled $25,265.74, despite three of their children having lived in Lebanon since 2009, Judge Joe Harman said.

“On at least two occasions (the mother) returned to Australia for a brief period purely to allow the child then carried by (her) to be born in Australia and to then receive the baby bonus then operating,” the judge said.

The case was before the court because the Australian-born mother is applying for the return of her three eldest children, aged 12, 10 and nine, from Lebanon and custody of all seven children.

The others are aged seven, five, three and two. The eldest live with their father’s brother and paternal grandmother in a mountain village.

The now-estranged couple wed in Lebanon in 2001 two weeks after meeting in an ­arranged marriage. They ­returned to Australia and lived for a time with their relatives — the woman’s sister is married to the man’s brother.

There would appear to be, at least potentially, some anomaly as regards the eligibility requirements for citizenship at the time the application was made

The husband, 39, was ­granted citizenship in 2006 in circumstances which Judge Harman said troubled him since the couple had ­decided to live in Lebanon.

“It is concerning (the man’s) evidence is his citizenship was granted in 2006 at the very time when, consistent with his evidence, he had formed the desire and intention to live permanently in Lebanon and to return to Australia … solely for the purpose of earning a greater income than was available to him in Lebanon, and returning the funds to Lebanon,” the judge said.

“There would appear to be, at least potentially, some anomaly as regards the eligibility requirements for citizenship at the time the application was made ... (and) whether it was obtained on the basis of full, frank and candid disclosure or otherwise.”

He said he would refer the case to the Immigration and Human Services departments for investigation.

The woman, who alleged her husband was violent ­toward her, was met at the airport by the Australian Federal Police when the pair returned to Australia in March.

The judge refused the father permission to leave Australia and put him on the Airport Watch List until he has facilitated the return to Australia of the eldest children.


Must not criticize judges

Supreme Court of NSW Acting Justice Nicholas has made a finding that I am in contempt of court for the crime of journalism and also for making a complaint of criminal conduct about Justice Ian Harrison. I made the complaint via email to Chief Justice Bathurst, the then Attorney-General Greg Smith and Federal Police Commissioner Tony Negus and others. According to Justice Nicholas’s judgement if you make a complaint about a crime you yourself could be committing a crime and in this matter I am guilty says Nicholas.

I have seen many dodgy judgements and plenty of judicial corruption but this one takes the cake for its absolute stupidity. I have written to Premier Mike Baird and the Attorney-General Hazzard and said:

“As all judges know given the 2004 High Court precedent of Coleman v Power no laws can stop people exercising their constitutionally protected rights to political communication. This is not just an attack on political communication but an attack of free speech as a whole.” 

The key part of the judgement is at section (1) (3) where it in effect says that I am in contempt of court because of: “an email to the Chief Justice of New South Wales and other persons.


Kerry Stokes sued me for defamation in April which is still afoot and went to court Ex parte (without my knowledge) and had Justice Harrison put a suppression order on it so I could not tell anyone that I was being sued. I wrote an email of complaint to the Chief Justice, A-G and police etc as it was very dodgy which I was right because the suppression order lasted only two days.

Justice Harrison said he put the suppression order on to protect my reputation. Stokes lawyers argued that a suppression order was needed because I had previously disobeyed an instruction by Stokes in 2011 not to publish a threatening letter from his lawyers. Either way a suppression order was not justified.

I also did a post on this site letting people know I was being sued and sent a tweet on Twitter on the same day but they are covered by Qualified Privilege (your right to political communication) as well. That is the crime of journalism so Stokes says. The email is clearly political communication as it is complaining about judicial corruption and was sent to the Chief Justice, Attorney-General, federal police and the Office of the legal Services Commissioner who investigate complaints against lawyers.

I took the action I did because it was clearly dodgy what was happening. Ex parte hearings (only one party is in court with the knowledge of the other party) are only meant to happen in extreme situations and suppression orders are pretty much the same. Stokes or his lawyers or the court has ever been able to justify what happened. So given I write about judicial corruption I thought it might be a set-up of some sort and I wanted people to know what was happening in case something went wrong and I never got another chance. In hindsight I did the right thing as I have no doubt that Justice Harrison would have corruptly extended the suppression order otherwise. Stokes’s barrister Sandy Dawson were arguing for the suppression order to be extended permanently.

Judgement of Acting Justice Nicholas

Justice Nicholas lied all over the place in the judgement and ignored the submissions I put forward in regards to Coleman v Power. For example he said at paragraph 15: “The defendant did not file and serve any evidence as directed, and adduced no admissible evidence at the hearing.” That’s a lie as I filed 2 affidavits but is doesn’t matter what evidence I filed as there was a clear precedent that supported my case and that was Colemen v Power. For a list of some of the dodgy things that Nicholas did during the hearing read my post from last week. (Click here to read)

Justice Nicholas knew what he was doing because he was one the barristers in the 2004 High Court precedent Lange v ABC which set what is known as the Lange test which in effect makes laws invalid if they are an unconstitutional restriction on political communication. It is one of the precedents that Coleman v Power relies on. A suppression order stopping me from sending an email complaining about the suppression order to the relevant authorities clearly is political communication and makes the suppression order invalid in that situation. The courts do not like this fact because they love their suppression orders to cover-up what they do.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Anti-Islam party to contest next Federal election

AN anti-Islam party based on the hardline views of Dutch politician Geert Wilders plans to field candidates at the next federal election, raising fears among moderate Muslims of a rise in extremism.

Mr Wilders, an influential far-right figure expected to shape the results of this year's European elections, told followers in a video message that the Australian Liberty Alliance was being formed to "offer civil minded Australians fresh political vision and better policies".

Policies advocated by Wilders' Party for Freedom include deporting immigrants convicted of a crime and stopping all immigration from Islamic countries.

"Many of you are disappointed by current political parties and have had enough of politicians who sell our Western civilisation," Mr Wilders said in his video. "Like you, good people in Europe, America, Canada have had enough of politicians who don't share our values and foolishly declare all cultures are equal, and who lack the courage to speak the truth and say that Islam is the biggest threat to freedom today."

Australian Liberty Alliance was registered as a not-for-profit business last month by Debbie Robinson, the president of the Q Society, an anti-Islam think tank that was responsible for bringing Mr Wilders to Australia last year. The party will be headquartered in Western Australia and is expected to be launched by Mr Wilders early next year. It is yet to be registered as a political party with the Australian Electoral Commission.

Ms Robinson said she intended to stand as a candidate.

Islamic Friendship Association of Australia spokesman Keysar Trad urged Muslims to ignore the fledgling party, warning it would "galvanise hardliners" on both sides of the debate.

"The extremists within our community love to see something like this," Mr Trad said. "All this does is create further division."

Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson said despite Australia's implied constitutional protection of political speech, any party had a responsibility not to "inflame prejudice".

"Australia had Hansonism and saw it for its shallowness and flaws, and I think people will see exactly the same thing with Wilders," Mr Wilson said.

Q Society spokesman Andrew Horwood said the party would have no formal relationship with either the Q Society or Mr Wilders.

He said the party would be secular, conservative and campaign openly against Islam. "Australia is a different country to The Netherlands but we will be absolutely fearless in saying we don't believe Islam is good for this country," Mr Horwood said.



Shoppers were thrown into chaos when Kazem Payam, an Iranian asylum seeker sought revenge against a fellow Iranian national at Westfield Parramatta last Tuesday plunging a knife into Nabil Naser’s chest. Apparently there was a long running dispute between both Muslim men who agreed to meet at the shopping centre to resolve their differences however Kazem bought a knife at the centre which was used in the murder of Nabil.

Graphic scenes were met with screams from dismayed onlookers to intervene as Kazem kept plunging the knife into his victim’s chest. After the victim fell to the ground, the accused calmly removed his shirt, lit a cigarette and made a phone call as he waited for the Police to arrive. When the Police arrived, Kazem taunted them saying, “What are you scared of?”

It has been reported in the media that Neda Esmaeili, girlfriend of Kazem Payam and former partner of Nabil Naser were all involved in a bitter love triangle that has ended in murder.

Kazem was an illegal that arrived in Australia by boat in 2009. He was granted a protection visa by the then Labor government in 2010. From 2007 to 2013 over 50,000 illegal boat people breached our shores seeking the keys to Centrelink. These asylum seekers who arrived by boat are a crime and welfare ridden demographic with over 85% of asylum seekers still on welfare after 5 years of residence in Australia.

Kazem joins a long list of Afghan, Iranian, Sudanese and Tamil asylum seekers or refugees charged with a range of offences, including people smuggling, paedophilia, rape and murder in Australia. There are currently 21 Muslim men who are incarcerated for terrorism or related charges posing a huge and growing threat to our national security.

Last year, a failed Sudanese asylum seeker went on a murderous rampage on a bus in Norway killing two Norwegians and one Swede. This random act of hate and murder was seen as retribution for Norway Immigration Department’s decision not to grant the Sudanese asylum seeker refuge.

Western governments including Australia have a moral duty to protect our citizens from third worlders but this is not happening with current humanitarian programs. Again, the Australian public are the ones who have to pick up the pieces of a policy that has only brought misery, division and chaos to our shores. This is just another example stating some of the obvious problems third world asylum seekers bring to Australia.

It is long overdue for our government to round up the existing asylum seekers in ‘Labor-Green’s community detention’ and deport them immediately to safeguard citizens from possible acts of violence, rape, murder and terrorism.


Survey of city teens highlights 'concerning' Australian urban-rural divide‏

Key findings:

*        77 per cent of city teenagers know little or nothing about farming and food production.
*        17 per cent never been on a farm; overall two-thirds visited a farm less than three times in their life.
*        68 per cent don’t know, or know only a little, about how food gets from farm to plate.
*        More than 90 per cent, however, perceive farming and food production as very important to Australia.
*        Careers in agriculture rate lower than many other occupations.

A new survey of city teenagers has further highlighted Australia’s ‘urban-rural divide’, finding 77 per cent of those surveyed know only ‘a little’ or ‘nothing at all’ about farming and food production.

The research – commissioned by agricultural banking specialist Rabobank – has also revealed 17 per cent of urban teenagers surveyed have never been on a farm, while a further 50 per cent have only been to a farm three or less times in their life.

However, most still perceived farming and food production as extremely or very important to the nation.

Conducted by House of Brand, the Rabobank Farm Experience Urban Youth Research surveyed 600 students aged 15 to 18, from major Australian capital cities –including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth – and currently attending government and non-government schools.

Rabobank Australia and New Zealand head of Sustainable Business Development Marc Oostdijk says the research showed a “concerning knowledge gap” among Australian youth when it comes to agriculture and food production.

Mr Oostdijk says Rabobank had conducted the research as the bank, and its farming clients, had a genuine concern that the next generation of Australians may not understand or appreciate the role of agriculture in the nation’s economy and future.

“It is also important to help bridge this disconnect between city and rural communities in order to attract young people to work in agriculture and become part of securing the sector’s future,” Mr Oostdijk says.

“The very limited exposure many young people in Australian cities have to farming and where their food and agricultural produce comes from was clearly identified in this research, with the survey showing two thirds of city teenagers have had very limited direct farm access, and some none at all.”

 Paddock to plate

Almost 20 per cent of teenagers in the survey says they “don’t really know anything” about “how food gets from the farm to my plate”, while 49 per cent knew only “a little”.

Mr Oostdijk says while there was generally low awareness of the food production process among the teenagers, it was more acute once produce and ingredients had left the farm.

“When it comes to what happens to the ingredients and produce once they leave the farm, 28 per cent of respondents says they know nothing about this and 47 per cent says they only know ‘a little bit’,” he says.

A third of the teenagers did not know how food ingredients and produce were packaged and got to the supermarket, while 45 per cent knew only a little about this.

In terms of farm activity, 20 per cent did not know what farmers needed to do to grow ingredients and produce, while 49 per cent says they only had a little understanding.  However, 27 per cent knew “quite a bit” about this and three per cent a “great deal”.

Mr Oostdijk says there was little difference in the overall knowledge levels among government and non-government students.

However, knowledge and understanding of farming and food production was considerably higher among the students who had spent more time on farms, he says.

“Those who had visited farms five or more times in their lives reported being considerably more knowledgeable about food production,” he says.

Perception of agriculture

Mr Oostdijk says that while the survey showed there were considerable knowledge gaps in relation to agriculture, it was encouraging that most urban teenagers surveyed perceived farming and food production as extremely or very important to Australia.

Sixty per cent believed farming was “extremely important” to Australia and 39 per cent says the impact would be “significant” if there was no farming in Australia.

“Pleasingly 93 per cent had positive associations with farming, primarily around the themes of fresh food and agriculture being good for the local economy,” Mr Oostdijk says.

“Negative associations were around issues like drought, low pay and animal management issues.”

The survey found one in five of the city teenagers was “extremely” or “very” interested in finding out more about agriculture, while a further two in five was “somewhat interested”.

“Encouragingly, those more knowledgeable about farming were still more interested in finding out more about the industry; however those who hadn’t visited a farm were less interested,” Mr Oostdijk says.

Career prospects

Careers in agriculture rated lower than many other professions among the students surveyed.

Medicine and business were rated highest (by 24 per cent and 19 per cent respectively) in terms of career choice.  Seven per cent of respondents expressed interest in a career in agriculture.

Mr Oostdijk says the Rabobank Farm Experience Urban Youth Research was the first in a number of initiatives Rabobank was undertaking to help address bridging the ‘urban-rural divide.  A Farm Experience (FX) program, giving urban teenagers the chance to spend a week on a farm, living with a farming family and learning about life on the land and food production, will be piloted in Australia next month.

“Working with the next generation of Australians, educating and involving them in the agricultural industry is a great place to start,” he says.

The Rabobank Farm Experience is to be piloted in two states, with students from Western Sydney aged between 15 and 18, being hosted in the Western Riverina district in New South Wales, and students from Perth being hosted by farmers in the Geraldton and Narrogin areas in the Western Australian wheatbelt.


Aussie kids on top of the world at International Olympiad in Informatics

Mostly Han Chinese, I'm guessing, though Ishraq Huda sounds Indian

Our team brings home two Gold and two Silver medals with Australia's 1st perfect score and 1st and 5th place in the world for computer programming.‏

Australia’s four-member secondary school student team achieved our best ever result at the 2014 International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI) held in Taipei, Chinese Taipei, from 13 to 20 July. The top performer in the Australian team was 16-year-old Ishraq Huda, who was one of only three in the world to attain a perfect score, Australia’s first IOI perfect score and best individual ranking result.

Ishraq shared first place with students from China and the United States. Ishraq won a bronze medal in 2013 on his first attempt.

First-time team member, Oliver Fisher, solved 5 out of 6 questions perfectly and also won Gold. Oliver ranked 5th which made Australia the only country in the world to have two students in the top five.

Competing against more than 311 contestants from over 82 countries, the 2014 Australian team brings home 2 gold and 2 silver medals, compared to 3 Silver and 1 Bronze last year.

Countries represented in the top ten include Australia, China, United States, Russian Federation and Bulgaria. This is Australia’s highest ranking since Australia commenced participating in 1999.

Informatics is the science of computer programming and information processing, requiring mathematics skills and creative solving. Hosted by a different country each year, the IOI is part of the UNESCO-sanctioned International Science and Mathematics Olympiads, which are annual worldwide competitions for exceptionally talented secondary school students and represent the pinnacle of achievement in each discipline.  It is the most recently established and now the second largest of the Olympiads.

 The cut-off scores for a Gold medal was 449 and Silver was 323 marks.

The not-for-profit Australian Mathematics Trust, under the Trusteeship of the University of Canberra, runs the training and selection for Australia’s International Mathematical and Informatics Olympiad teams.

The first stage in selection for the Australian IOI team is the Australian Informatics Olympiad (AIO), a 3-hour annual computer programming competition held in high schools. The next AIO will be on Thursday, 4 September and is open to all high school students who can program. For more information contact the Australian Mathemetics Trust on 6201 5137.

Adjunct Professor Mike Clapper, Executive Director of the Trust, said, ‘We are extremely excited about these excellent results and where they might lead us for future participation. This is the best outcome for Australia to date’.

The Trust’s best-known activity is the annual Australian Mathematics Competition sponsored by the Commonwealth Bank which, together with other competitions, helps to identify students for participation and development in the Olympiad programs.  The Mathematics and Science Olympiads are supported by the Australian Government Department of Education through the Mathematics and Science Participation Program.

 The Trust also offers students the opportunity to explore whether they have an aptitude for programming through the Australian Informatics Competition (AIC), which is a non-programming competition designed to promote logical and algorithmic thinking.  In 2015, the AIC will be available on-line and there will be a new division for Upper Primary students.