Sunday, August 31, 2014

HSU's Jackson lashes out at Bill Shorten and Stephen Conroy as 'vultures'

Health Services Union whistleblower Kathy Jackson has accused Labor Party leader Bill Shorten and his allies of being in a "corrupt little gang" and of circling unions like vultures to further their own political power.

She has also called on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to put the HSU into administration and accused the union of putting her through "judicial gang rape".

Speaking outside the royal commission into trade union corruption on Friday, Ms Jackson, who is on sick leave as national HSU secretary, accused Mr Shorten of being part of a "corrupt little gang" that put the troubled HSU into administration in 2012 for "their own political ends".  "It was about protecting their power base," she said.

"This is a minister of the Crown abusing federal crown resources about putting this union into administration to advance his own political needs. "

Ms Jackson, who has been questioned in the commission about alleged misuse of a union slush fund, said the fund had been necessary to protect members from being taken over by the Labor Party's right-wing faction. She denied allegations she used the fund to pay for a divorce settlement with her former husband Jeff Jackson, or used it inappropriately for travel to Hong Kong and the US.

Ms Jackson said Mr Shorten and his ally from the ALP right, Senator Stephen Conroy, were circling unions like sharks to get more votes at ALP state conference.

"Slush funds, I agree, are abhorrent. But to play the game and to be an effective union leader, to be left alone by those vultures, namely Shorten and Conroy from the right, you need to be able to fight back and protect your patch from these people," she said. "They are cashed up, so you need to have these funds to make sure that these vultures that are circling these unions to take them over aren't able to do that."

Ms Jackson said she has written to Mr Abbott, who has previously described her as a "hero", asking him to put the HSU back into administration.

Ms Jackson side-tracked the commission for more than an hour on Thursday after she asked for barrister Mark Irving to be stopped from cross-examining her because she had had sex with him 21 years ago.

On Friday she said: "Forget the former lover stuff. Everybody makes mistakes and has a charity shag along the way. I just could not believe he had the audacity to sit there and want to cross-examine me."

Ms Jackson said Mr Irving was not "your normal ... barrister" and was part of a vendetta to bring her down.  "Mr Irving is a combatant in this. Mr Irving has skin in the game," she said.

Mr Shorten declined to respond to Ms Jackson's claims, saying he will not provide a running commentary, but said the royal commission was being used to settle scores.  "It will be up to the royal commission to sort out, amongst the evidence, what is right and what's wrong," he said.

Ms Jackson said the HSU had subjected her to "judicial gang rape".

"They've got lawyers, guns and money. You should ask them how many hundreds of thousands of dollars have they spent on getting Kathy Jackson," she said.

Asked whether, if she had her time again, she would have blown the whistle on former HSU boss Michael Williamson's corruption, she said: "I don't think so. Why would you go through this?"

Acting Health Services Union secretary Chris Brown said Ms Jackson should be credited for reporting Mr Williamson's corruption to police. "But that doesn't excuse her having done the same sorts of things as what Michael Williamson has. That is: misused members money for her own personal benefit and her own personal gain," he said.


Choice ridicules government's piracy crackdown

Consumer advocacy group Choice has stepped up its campaign against the Abbott government's proposed anti-piracy measures with a crowdfunded advertising campaign aimed at politicians.

The 30-second satirical TV advertisement depicts a fake "Minister for the Internet" who unveils a decidedly useless-looking "internet filter" as the government's "foolproof" solution to online copyright infringement.

"The increased price we'll all pay for the internet will be worth it for this 100-per-cent effective solution," the fake minister says.

The government last month released its Online Copyright Infringement discussion paper outlining three proposals that would see internet providers such as Telstra and Optus take a leading role in policing copyright infringement.

While not describing a government-run internet filter, the proposals would require providers to take "reasonable steps" to monitor and prevent copyright infringement by users. This could include blocking access to websites that contain infringing content.

The proposals also include extending authorisation liability, a policy that would effectively reverse the High Court's 2012 ruling that service provider iiNet was not liable for copyright infringement on behalf of its users.

The government is also considering allowing copyright owners such as movie and recording studios to take legal action against providers to force them to terminate offending individuals' internet connections.

Choice campaign manager Erin Turner said the government's course of action against online copyright infringement was "ineffective" and "high cost for low result".

"Anyone with access to basic technology or the ability to Google how to get around an internet filter is going to be easily able to circumvent these measures," Ms Turner said.

Internet providers - which have also opposed the proposals - were likely to pass the costs of compliance on to consumers, she said.

Rather than targeting consumers with its campaign, however, Choice will air its advertisement on WIN television in Canberra during a parliamentary sitting week in a bid to capture the attention of policymakers.

It will also deliver the $11,000 campaign nationally via YouTube.

Ms Turner said the key message to parliamentarians was that the government must "work smart, not hard, to stop online piracy".

"There's no independent evidence that the government's proposal will work," she said.

Instead, she said online piracy should be treated as a competition issue. She added the root causes of piracy in Australia - high prices and poor availability of overseas content - must be addressed.

"What we are looking for is affordable content, opening up access to international content markets," she said.

"We don't expect this will stamp out piracy 100 per cent - there will still be people who will illegally download no matter what - but if you want to fix the bulk of the problem in Australia then the best starting point is looking at this as a market and trying to find a market-based solution."

A parliamentary inquiry last year found Australians pay up to twice as much as overseas buyers for IT goods and services.

Digital rights advocacy group Electronic Frontiers Australia is urging the public to make submissions before the consultation period closes on Monday.

EFA executive director Jon Lawrence said the plan to extend authorisation liability was a "blunt instrument" that could also implicate providers of public Wi-Fi such as libraries, universities and cafes.

The provision for copyright owners to make court injunctions to block offshore websites was "entirely futile", he said.

"The Pirate Bay is the most blocked website in the world and they have no trouble doubling their traffic year-on-year."

Mr Lawrence said internet access was a basic right and the EFA opposed a policy of disconnecting repeat offenders for what is essentially a civil issue.

Both Ms Turner and Mr Lawrence said copyright holders had a legitimate right to protect their content, but that consumers had shown they were willing to pay for content at a fair price.

This was evident in the growing instance of consumers using virtual private networks to circumvent geoblocking and access US movie streaming service Netflix, which is not yet available in Australia, Mr Lawrence said.

The rate of piracy in the United States was shrinking alongside the rise of Netflix, he said. A Netflix subscription costs $US8.99 ($9.60) a month.

Choice has made six recommendations to the government in its submission, including monitoring the pricing of electronic products, removing import restrictions, and reforming legislation around geoblocking.

It also flagged "serious concerns" that internet providers would be encouraged to terminate customer accounts "on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations made by content owners", with "little to no safeguards in place to protect" customers.

It also raised concerns around a proposal that would give the government "carte blanche" to prescribe a scheme of its choosing if no effective agreement was reached by industry. The group called for further independent research to properly quantify the costs and benefits of any policy proposals on the matter.

A parliamentary inquiry last year found Australians pay up to twice as much as overseas buyers for IT goods and services.


Federal cops discredited

The Australian Federal Police should not be let "anywhere near" an investigation of fresh evidence casting renewed suspicion on the Calabrian Mafia for the assassination of Colin Winchester, according to a retired judge with extensive knowledge of the case.

The AFP was last week subjected to a blistering criticism for its failure to seriously and impartially investigate secret new information potentially linking the 'Ndrangheta to the 1989 killing of the assistant federal police commissioner outside his Deakin home.

John Dee, QC, retired Victorian judge and counsel assisting to the original inquest into Mr Winchester's death, believes an independent taskforce needs to be set up to properly look at the fresh evidence, utilising Victoria Police, a force with past intelligence involvement in the case.

A senior Victoria Police source  said the creation of such a joint organised crime taskforce was feasible, albeit under an AFP lead, and said his state's detectives were skilled and well placed for such a job. "It can be done," he said.

Mr Winchester was said to have double-crossed members of the organised crime group, who believed the assistant commissioner had been paid off to guarantee protection over drug crops near Bungendore.

But 11 Mafia members, known as the "Bungendore 11", were later charged over the crops following a mission codenamed Operation Seville, which Mr Winchester had worked on in the early 1980s.

Links between the group and Mr Winchester's murder were only ever speculative, and extensive investigations failed to identify any individual suspect.

But the inquiry into David Eastman's conviction for Mr Winchester's murder this year unearthed new, untested claims that appear to have taken the Mafia theory further.

The evidence is highly sensitive and was heard in secretive and restricted hearings before inquiry head Acting Justice Brian Martin earlier this year.

Yet internal AFP documents showed the agency was reluctant to investigate the new claims.

They reveal the AFP had a policy of not looking at areas already investigated by Operation Peat, the original team on the Winchester murder.

They also reveal the AFP believed such an investigation would be an "unnecessary diversion" from the factual issues surrounding Eastman's conviction, and that public disclosure of the new evidence could result in public criticism of the agency.

Mr Dee said he believes the AFP are not the right agency to be investigating the 'Ndrangheta theory.

"I wouldn't allow anybody from the AFP to get anywhere near it, except on a peripheral basis," he said.

"I would think it'd be good to have a separate taskforce from [Victoria Police] to have a look at it, because they're well in touch with what's going on up there, and they're very experienced at what they do."

Eastman's long-term campaigner and former lawyer Terry O'Donnell also said the new claims need to be properly investigated, and supported a call for Victoria Police to look at the matter, given their background with the case.

Mr Dee, years before Eastman's trial, warned the AFP about their use of Victorian forensic expert Robert Collins Barnes.

He had worked with Mr Barnes on the trial for the infamous Russell Street bombing of the Victorian police headquarters in 1986, and believed Mr Barnes had not been independent and was trying to be the "star of the show".

It is now known that his warnings were accurate. Mr Barnes was found to be biased and his work deeply flawed in the report of the inquiry into Eastman's conviction.


Tasmanian conservatives' Forestry Bill passes first vote in Legislative Council

THE Liberals are on the verge of achieving their dream of ripping up the Tasmanian Forest Agreement, with the Forestry Bill passing an initial vote in the Legislative Council.

The Bill – passed by 9 votes to 5 – has now reached committee stage, with MLCs currently debating a list of amendments that were introduced last week.

The MLCs who voted against the Bill at its second reading were independents Kerry Finch, Ruth Forrest, Rob Valentine, Mike Gaffney and Labor MLC Craig Farrell.

In favour of the Bill were Liberals Vanessa Goodwin and Leonie Hiscutt and Independents Adriana Taylor, Tania Rattray, Rosemary Armitage, Robert Armstrong, Ivan Dean, Greg Hall and Tony Mulder.

In State Parliament this morning Resources Minister Paul Harriss said the Bill represented a turning point for Tasmania.

“For the first time it seeks to remove reserves from the clutches of the Green locksmiths,” Mr Harriss said.

Central to the Bill is the removal of 400,000ha of native forest from reserves created under the TFA.

Also in State Parliament this morning, Treasurer Peter Gutwein confirmed he had signed a “letter of comfort” assuring the Government could cover Forestry Tasmania’s debts.

The Greens have asked repeated questions in the House of Assembly on whether the Liberals were continuing to prop up the finances of Forestry Tasmania after removing the taxpayer subsidy FT received under the TFA.

Mr Gutwein said a letter of comfort was not unusual and that one had been supplied by the previous government.


Report  shows the NBN is worth doing

The Vertigan report on cost-benefit equations for various broadband rollout options gives Labor's aborted fibre to the home project the dunce's cap. It reaches that conclusion after making assumptions about the future, however, and that's a fraught exercise.

Vertigan says that if government does nothing and the private sector rolls out broadband in high population density areas where it sees the strongest demand and the best revenue and earnings potential, the net benefit will be biggest, at $24 billion.

It says the Coalition's plan to roll out a "multi-technology" hybrid network that matches population densities with fibre to the premises, fibre to the neighbourhood node, wireless connections and satellite coverage produces a benefit of $18 billion. The benefit is lower than the one an unsubsidised rollout generates because the Coalition will still directly connect 1.5 million premises to broadband fibre, and extend to areas outside the cities that cost more to connect and generate less user activity.

The fibre to the premises rollout that Labor began and the Coalition killed off after it took power would also have delivered a benefit, Vertigan concludes, but a much lower one, only $2 billion. The report says this reflects the cost of rolling much more fibre, and a more extended construction phase and revenue ramp-up.

My first conclusion is that Malcolm Turnbull was right to argue patiently inside the Coalition when it was in opposition that while Labor's gold plated network should be scrapped, the concept of a national network should be retained.

Its hybrid rollout will create $6 billion less value between 2015 and 2040 than an unsubsidised, undirected private sector rollout would on Vertigan's calculation, but it will deliver a national network instead of an urban one.

Passing up a gain of $6 billion or $240 million a year between now and 2040 to achieve that outcome is politically acceptable, even if Labor had not signed watertight contracts with Telstra for its fibre to the home rollout. That locked in value for Telstra that will be preserved in the Coalition's modified project, and would spark multi-billion dollar claims for compensation if it were not.

As for whether the report conclusively condemns Labor's fibre to the home project, it is trite to say so, but only time will tell.

The report is lengthy and thorough, but it pivots on estimates of future demand for broadband capacity that are rooted in our understanding of what Broadband is today.

It says for example that video downloading and streaming is going to a key driver of broadband capacity demand in future. That's an obvious trend: the more interesting questions are how obvious it would have been 10 years  ago, or 20 years ago, and what technologies and applications will be new demand in 10 or 20 years.

We can speculate, but we can't know: or as Sydney University associate professor and digital technology commentator Kai Riemer put it yesterday, we can make a reasonable fist of extrapolating the cost of building a new broadband network, but "the benefits it will unlock are fundamentally unknowable and unpredictable."

It cuts both ways, of course. The same unpredictability makes it impossible to assert that a fibre to the home rollout would have made a better fist of "future-proofing" Australia against communications technology developments.

Fibre still offers the best upload speeds, and unlike wireless it doesn't slow down as the number of users rises. For long haul, it appears to be unassailable. Wireless is increasingly competitive over shorter distances, however, and as the Vertigan report also points out, the lower cost, less ambitious hybrid network is less of an all-or nothing technological bet than the network Labor was building.


Saturday, August 30, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG draws both the ALP and the Greens rather persuasively.  He is disgusted by their narrow mindedness

Friday, August 29, 2014

African predators in Sydney

A TERRIFIED woman who was chased by two would-be rapists along two trains in a 10km escape says she feared for her life.

The woman, identified as Merlyn, claims two men ­approached her at Wolli Creek station at 11pm on Tuesday night, calling her “babe” and trying to grab her, before she escaped by jumping on to an outgoing train.

Thirty minutes and 9.4km later at Beverly Hills, the scared 29-year-old was forced to fend off one of the same ­attackers with her umbrella outside Beverly Hills station when the attack escalated.

She said the terrifying ­ordeal started at Wolli Creek as one of the two men followed her down the stairs to a ­platform. After switching trains at Turrella and getting off near her home at Beverly Hills around 30 minutes later, she was terrified when she saw the same two men get off the train and again follow her.

Still visibly upset 12 hours after the alleged incident yesterday, Merlyn said she tried to fend off one of the men with her umbrella as he chased her down the middle of King ­Georges Rd in pouring rain while she screamed for help.

Later she was attacked again at Beverly Hills station, but managed to beat them off with

Later she was attacked again at Beverly Hills station, but managed to beat them off with her umbrella. Picture: Toby Zerna

With no one stopping to help Merlyn said she feared she would be killed or raped until a woman named “Helen” whisked her to safety in her car. “If not I don’t know what would have happened,” she said. Merlyn, who migrated from the Philippines eight years ago and has a four-year-old son, said she believed the pair were going to abduct and sexually assault her.

Merlyn said both men were aged 18 to 22 and of African ­appearance. One was skinny with curly hair, the other was fat. Police are investigating.


Islam in Australia: Living and dying for the flag of Allah

A SENIOR leader of radical Sydney-based Islamic organisation al-Risalah has denounced the Australian flag, as the group’s supporters posted Facebook messages about ­beheading “non-believers”.

Wissam Haddad, the head of the al-Risalah Islamic Centre in Sydney’s southwest, yesterday told The Daily Telegraph he followed the “flag of Allah” rather than the flag of Australia.

The flag, called the Shahada, is the same as the one used by Islamic State terrorists who have been spreading death and terror across the Middle East.

“For me to have the Shahada flag, as it’s called, that’s a flag that I stand and live and die for and I don’t stand and live and die for the Australian flag.”

It is frequently found on modern Islamic flags and over the last few decades has been adopted by Islamic insurgents.

Mr Haddad, who has ties to Sydney men fighting with Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and Syria, avoids appearing in public and never allows his photograph to be taken.

He said his group was entitled to fly the ancient symbol. He cited the “genocide of Aboriginals” and the use of their flag as justification for supporting the Shahada.

Mr Haddad, who was not invited to join a group of Muslims for talks with Mr Abbott yesterday, has had eight social media accounts shut down, forcing him to rename his profile. He claims Muslims are being unfairly targeted both by Facebook and Twitter.

“I know a lot of people (who have had to shut down and restart their accounts),” he said. “Pretty much anyone very outspoken is getting their accounts shut down.”

In the past week, al-Risalah followers have posted messages about beheading, in the wake of the shocking image of Sydney terrorist Khaled Sharrouf’s son holding the severed head of a Syrian soldier.

This followed fellow terrorist and former Sydney boxer Mohamed Elomar posting similar photographs on Twitter. Al-Risalah members wear black supporter vests, which sell for $65.

The al-Risalah centre has hosted radical preachers, and Mr Haddad is a supporter of the Islamic State’s “Jizyah” protection tax on Christians and Jews in Syria and Iraq.

Also yesterday, teenage Muslim extremist Sulyman Khalid, who was arrested for an alleged hate crime against a Bankstown cleaner, has been released on bail. Mr Khalid, who calls himself Abu Bakr, will front Bankstown Local Court on September


Apartheid Billboard -- "Wrong in South Africa. Wrong in Palestine" -- taken down
Libel has never had free speech protections and the message on  the billboard is an egregious lie -- grossly defamatory to Israel and Israelis

The Free Palestine billboard that was taken down last week from its City Road, Southbank [Melbourne] position by oOh! Media pending a determination, will not be put back.  

The Chief Operating Officer of oOh! Media said that his company had decided the Apartheid message – Wrong in South Africa. Wrong in Palestine. was political and that it was within its rights to terminate the contract with Australians for Palestine.   He also advised that the Advertising Standards Board would not be making a ruling.

While clause 10.1 does allow for termination of the contract, the required seven (7) days written notice was never given.  Instead the billboard was arbitrarily taken down within 48 hours.  The company claimed that it had made its decision after considering the unprecedented number of complaints.

Ms Samah Sabawi speaking on behalf of Australians for Palestine said “that this action contravenes the rights to freedom of opinion and expression as set out in articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Australia is party.”

According to the website of the Attorney- General’s department, Article 19(2) of the ICCPR protects freedom of expression in any medium, for example written and oral communications, the media, public protest, broadcasting, artistic works and commercial advertising. The right protects not only favourable information or ideas, but also unpopular ideas, including those that may offend or shock.”

In regard to this particular advertisement, Ms Sabawi went on to say “that the advertisement was truthful and in no way offensive, and furthermore, that its message was informational and educational rather than political. It is shameful, “Ms Sabawi said,  “that in a democratic country like Australia, such pressure can contradict the opinions of the world’s two most eminent human rights proponents – Mandela and Tutu.”


Senate Must Seize Chance To Back Sensible Reform
The passing of the Government’s Fair Work Amendment Bill through the House of Representatives gives the Senate the opportunity to demonstrate that it is in support of sensible and balanced industrial relations reforms that will help boost economic and jobs growth. 

“Master Builders urges the cross bench Senators to seize this chance to back the Bill’s balanced productivity reforms which for the building and construction industry means it can increase its productivity and create jobs,” Wilhelm Harnisch, CEO of Master Builders Australia said.

“The Bill is a positive step in returning the industrial relations system to the sensible centre and includes reforms recommended by the previous Labor Government’s Fair Work Review Panel,” he said.

“Particularly important are proposed changes to right of entry provisions to end abuse by building union officials who use right of entry as an illegitimate industrial weapon and brutal exercise in power,” Wilhelm Harnisch said.

“Claims by union officials that right of entry abuses are justified on safety grounds have been thoroughly discredited. Safety is paramount for contractors and workers on construction sites. However union officials continue to debase the importance of safety by using it as an industrial weapon,” he said.

 “Master Builders also supports reforms to Greenfields Agreements to curtail the ability of building unions to drive up costs and hold up the delivery of vital community infrastructure projects,” Wilhelm Harnisch said.

“Why should the community have to pay more for less hospital beds and class rooms because of the union’s unjustified and unlawful behaviours on construction sites?,” he said.

“The Fair Work Amendment Bill does not constitute a return to WorkChoices but instead introduces common sense changes which will improve the productivity and job creating capacity of the construction industry and the broader economy,” he said.

“Master Builders urges the Senate, particularly the cross bench Senators to support this Bill when it comes before them,” Wilhelm Harnisch said.


Scientists reveal how they feel about climate change in handwritten letters and photos

Another attempt to substitute appeals to authority for actual evidence

SCIENTISTS can be a practical bunch, they deal with facts, data, hard evidence. But even scientists can lose their s*** sometimes and now they are revealing how they really feel.

Academics from around Australia have posed for striking photographs, while others have put their feelings about climate change in handwritten letters as part of two independent projects.

In one masters project, Australian National University student Joe Duggan contacted scientists and asked them to write the letters about how they felt about climate change.

“What follows are the words of real scientists. Researchers that understand climate change,” states the Is This How You Feel website, where Duggan is publishing the letters.

The letters feel more personal because they are handwritten and the passion, frustration and anxiety is palpable in some of them.

But there is also guilt that they too are left feeling apathetic because of the lack of action and interest in tackling the problem.

A letter from Dr Ailie Gallant of Monash University reflects many of her fellow scientists views: “I hate feeling helpless. I’m ashamed to say that, sometimes, my frustration leads to apathy. I hate feeling apathetic.  “All I can hope is that people share my optimism and convert it into Action.”

Duggan told that scientists were generally called on to communicate with the public about climate change using data and clinical prose but it occurred to him that this might not be the best way, and perhaps giving them an opportunity to express their passion might be a way of cutting through the apathy that many people felt about the issue.

“I’m not trying to convert denialists, I’m trying to reach people who are apathetic, who don’t have an opinion, to show them that climate change is relevant to them,” Duggan said.

On another website launched this month, some of Australia’s top minds have posed for striking portraits and describe what they are most scared of.

This includes earth system scientist Will Steffen of the Australian National University, who says his biggest fear is the loss of control of the climate system.

“If we push the climate too far, if we start losing ice too rapidly, start flipping things like the Amazon, then the internal dynamics of the climate will take over - and even if we pull emissions back, we won’t be able to stop very large changes - that’s my biggest fear.

“The thing people don’t realise, is getting emissions down is not only feasible but economically promising and will actually lead to a better life.”

One of the founders of the site, photographer Nick Bowers said the project was a labour of love that came about after conversations with two fellow creatives copywriter Rachel Guest and art director Celine Faledam.

“We were interested in environmental issues and discussed this constantly among ourselves, we all have young kids,” Bowers said.  “We wanted to try and bring authenticity and humanity to this issue.”

He said the scientists were photographed while they were being interviewed. This includes many prominent names such as mammologist and palaeontologist Tim Flannery.

Bowers said he thought scientists were more willing in recent years, to put forward their personal views as the information around climate change had become overwhelming.  “There’s more evidence of rapid change in climate and that it is going to effect us,” Bowers said.

While some critics have suggested climate scientists are motivated by grant money, Bowers said he got the sense that they just wanted the debate to move on so they could do other science.  “They want to get on with doing other stuff, they are sick of trying to spruik this stuff themselves.”

Duggan has also experienced a strong response from scientists willing to put forward their views. He said he had received about 20 letters from scientists in Australia and estimated that about 70 to 80 per cent of those he had contacted had responded.

“The thing that hits me the most, are that these people are the ones that understand the facts, that understand the data and can pass judgment on climate change and they’re scared. They are literally scared for the world they are leaving behind for their children.  “They get the statistics, they get the facts and they are scared.”

However, Duggan said that while he expected that fear would be the overriding sentiment, he did not expect how optimistic the scientists would be.  “They expressed optimism as well, even with all the problems, there was optimism that they could reach their goals.”


Thursday, August 28, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is desperately hoping for some enlightened politicians

Lying old bag, Gillian Triggs

One hesitates to call the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, a liar but she leaves you little room to call her anything else. Her appalling display when chairing an inquiry into child detention on Christmas Island last Friday left Scott Morrison nonplussed and viewers of A-Pac Channel reaching for bricks.

“I’m a lawyer”, she screeched when asked to withdraw a claim that there were armed guards at the children’s detention centre. She refused, and continued to make ridiculous assertions that there wasn’t a blade of grass to be seen, that children were diseased, suicidal and Ill-cared for without decent medical facilities.

Having recently visited the site Ms Triggs was knowingly telling bald faced lies and was determined to mislead the Press who were eager to report her “opinions”, rather than those of Minister Morrison.

Such blatant dishonesty can be expected of [Greenie Senator] Sarah Hanson-Young, but not from a Human Rights Commissioner.

Ms Triggs, a confessed Lefty, was appointed to the position of President of the Human Rights Commission in 2007 and up until 2013 had ample opportunity to criticise the sparse facilities afforded more than twice the number of children detained under Labor. She chose not to.

Yet conditions at Christmas Island under Morrison are first class and above anything available to residents on the island. “Children have a fenced pool and access to swimming lessons, schooling, Tai Chi/Yoga, they participate in community sporting events, have a Persian band, disco, movie nights, picnics and many other activities, all supervised”, according to our Christmas Island contact.

“They have the best of medical care and are immediately flown to the mainland if specialist care is needed, I wish we had the same services ourselves”, he said.

“I find it most distressing that her professional ethics have resulted in the detainees being used as pawns for her political agenda.”

Perhaps Ms Triggs might reflect on the care she afforded her own child, Victoria, who she describes as, "being profoundly retarded as anyone who is still alive can be".

Triggs told the Melbourne Age, "Her condition usually results in death shortly after birth. In fact, the doctors kept saying to me, 'just leave her in the corner and she'll die.’ I know it sounds terrible, but I'd look at Victoria and think, 'Well, you're going to die, so I'm not going to invest too much in you.’”

But Victoria didn't die so, at six months of age, an impatient Triggs, found a family prepared to look after her. The family gave her the primary care she so desperately needed before she died seven years ago at the age of 21.

Now there’s a CV befitting a Commissioner for Human Rights.
Resign now Ms Triggs and stop degrading your commission and your adopted country. You are truly an obnoxious disgrace.


Some background on the old bag here

Tim Blair hits back over Muslim ghetto in Sydney

Last week’s column about Sydney’s Muslim heartland of Lakemba upset one or two people. Shouty lawyer Chris Murphy, guest Fairfax columnist Zeynab Gamieldien and the usual online types all decided that the piece was racist.

Apparently these people believe Islam is a race rather than a religion. Here’s a typically charming note from Twitter identity Melinda: “Tim, you’re a dumb, racist little bitch, you really don’t amount to anything, hope you die.”

Thankfully, for Mel and other fans, there is a quick way to sort this out. First, convert to Islam. All you need to do is recite the Testimony of Faith, which runs something like this: “La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammad rasoolu Allah.” There you go. Job done.

Now try converting to Asian, or white, or Aboriginal, or some other race that you are not. It’s slightly more difficult.

While you’re struggling with that racial change, consider the reaction to revelations in my column that Lakemba’s Islamic Bookstore is selling books that demonise Jews, praise Hitler and slam women as unintelligent and worthless. “To try to paint the whole of Lakemba as being typified by the contents of an obscure bookshop really stretches the imagination,” wrote Canterbury mayor Brian Robson.

The shop isn’t obscure. It’s large and it’s in the middle of Haldon street. Moreover, it has been there for 16 years and is clearly profitable, which is more than many other Sydney bookstores can say. Note to Borders: maybe your chain would still be open if you’d concentrated on selling sexist and anti-Semitic texts in Sydney’s south west. Seems to be quite a market.

“Last time I checked, nearly every suburb in Sydney has bookstores, yet we don’t define the residents of those suburbs by what the authors of those books say or think,” wrote Labor’s member for Lakemba Robert Furolo. “That would be just absurd.”

Really, Bob? In almost every other Sydney suburb, a shop selling outright hate literature would face protests and closure. In Lakemba, however, it’s a successful business model.

At least those two mentioned the shop. A number of other critics couldn’t even bring themselves to acknowledge it. The Sydney Morning Herald‘s John Birmingham offered 341 words on my column last Saturday, all of them avoiding a certain awkward subject. “The truth of Lakemba,” he concluded, “is the greater truth of Sydney.” Birmingham wrote that from 1000 kilometres away in Brisbane.

Lakemba resident Zeynab Gamieldien, writing for Fairfax’s online ladypages, also side-stepped the book issue, merely noting that I’d provided “several quotes from three books he happened to spot amongst the hundreds on shelves.” As it happens, one of them – Women Who Deserve to go to Hell – was in the front window. On those quotes, it may be instructive to change a key word or two. Imagine the reaction if Sydney stores sold books containing these lines:

 *  “Is it allowed to support and love Muslims? No, it is not allowed.”

 *  “Men’s perfection is because of various reasons: intelligence, religion, etc. At most, four Muslims have this perfection.”

 *  “No one can deny the fact that the Muslims are the worst kind of barbarian killers the world has ever known!!! The decent great Adolf Hitler of Germany never killed in the manner of the Muslims!!! Surely only mad people or those who love killing infants, pregnant women and the infirm will think differently.”

Just a hunch, but that sort of thing might lead to a protest or two. When an Islamic store presents identical slurs against women and Jews, however, the PC crowd is absolutely silent.

Their standards are difficult to understand. A few weeks ago, for example, Sydney journalism academic Wendy Bacon led an attempted advertiser boycott of the Daily Telegraph after I ran an online poll making fun of feminist “frightbats”. Apparently it’s just fine, though, to sell books that claim women are worth only half the value of a man. And they are going to hell.

The ABC’s Jonathan Green performed an impressive leftist two-step, first describing my Islamic Bookstore criticism as a case of “book burning” then urging censorship of images showing the imminent Islamic State beheading of US journalist James Foley. Consistency isn’t exactly his strong suit – unless you’re talking about consistent cowardice in the face of Islam.

Anyhow, enough of this evidence-based malarkey. Time to get my apology out of the way.

For any readers who actually followed those instructions at the top of the column and converted to Islam, I neglected to include an important warning. Although converting to Islam is extremely easy, converting from Islam – particularly in the Middle East – may cause beatings, head loss and death by stoning.

Looks like you’re stuck with it. Sorry about that.


Pyne position the way to get budget through Senate

One moment last week it seemed that most of the budget had sailed through Parliament as if the need for fiscal repair had miraculously disappeared.  It looked like the government was going to wobble on its mantra on the need to repair the budget. Fortunately Finance Minister Mathias Cormann put that nonsense down at the weekend but one MP said to me that many were still wondering: what is the message we are supposed to be selling? It's a fair question. It still needs a clearer answer.

What I'm calling "the Pyne position" is the only way to go. If the Senate refuses to give the government the chance to keep its election promise to repair the budget then the government is perfectly entitled to cut somewhere else, where the government does not have to rely on the Senate. So, he might not want to do it, but Education Minister Christopher Pyne is not just within his mandate to cut research spending or some other university spending but he has an obligation to do so. That's not blackmail, as his opponents say - the Senate has deliberately reduced his options.

But on the other side of the coin, if the Senate is blocking revenues or spending measures and thereby limiting the extent of fiscal repair, the government should drop its own unfunded budget proposals. Unfortunately the government is intending to do the opposite and increase debt as a consequence. Apparently the $20 billion medical research scheme is to continue regardless of the reality that revenue from the co-payment is now unlikely to be supported by the Senate. In my view, the medical research scheme, which was only ever a poorly thought out and rushed political tactic to soften the blow of the Medicare co-payment, should be axed if the co-payment is rejected. I find it hard to understand how the government can talk about fiscal repair and then propose an unfunded new scheme. I thought unfunded schemes were one of the main legacy problems left by the dysfunctional Labor government. I also opposed budget measures for infrastructure spending before the budget even being announced because I thought fiscal repair was the number one problem. 

The rationale for infrastructure spending is that it is needed to stimulate a weak economy. Personally I doubt that it works as well as the Keynesians would claim. But the issue now is should the government be spending money it doesn't have? And if we want to do something, then why isn't the government pushing for labour market reform that would cost nothing to the budget but which would significantly improve economic performance?

Of course, the budget is not the only starting point for governments who like spending.

I now understand that the Abbott government is thinking seriously about proposing or part financing a whopping great big new gas pipe to bring gas from Western Australia to Sydney. Apparently the rationale is to supply gas to Sydney because it looks like there will be gas shortages that will affect business and maybe residential users.

I find it hard to understand why the Commonwealth would even be considering the matter when the prospect of gas shortages has been obvious for at least 18 months while NSW has done virtually nothing. Under former premier Barry O'Farrell, NSW had been largely paralysed by green campaigners who totally opposed any fossil fuels and had been given a platform by radio commentator Alan Jones. Nearly all their claims have been largely debunked by independent scientific advice from the likes of GeoScience Australia and others. Even if at the very last moment NSW finally wanted to do something about gas shortages, there is nothing to stop the NSW government fast tracking private sector gas production within NSW and running a pipe from northern NSW to Sydney. It would be cheaper than transporting gas from WA, much quicker to build and would utilise the coal seam gas now available in NSW.

The other reason for such a pipeline might be to permanently "import" gas into NSW. About 95 per cent of gas for NSW now comes from states other than NSW, and NSW users pay for that transportation. But it's a long way from WA compared with some coal seam gas in NSW.

I don't understand why the Commonwealth should be even thinking to clean up the consequences caused by the failures of the NSW government to ensure gas supplies to Sydney. A benign framework for infrastructure is essentially the responsibility of the states, even though Prime Minister Abbott wants to be the PM for Infrastructure. Infrastructure is a state responsibility and it makes no sense for the Commonwealth to fund some infrastructure such as roads but not rail. Only the states can take the comprehensive approach that is required to best plan the needs of our great cities and beyond.


School chaplain funding to go ahead despite High Court decision

THE Abbott government has moved to circumvent a High Court decision, allowing school chaplains to still be funded in schools.

In June the High Court ruled the scheme’s funding was not constitutional, awarding a Queensland father Ron Williams his second victory against the Commonwealth.

But today the Coalition has announced the program will go ahead, but instead of giving funding directly to schools, it will flow to states and territories.

In a statement, Parliamentary Secretary Scott Ryan said he would be writing to state and territory leaders “in the near future” inviting them to participate.

The scheme, which sees schools given $20,000, will still be exempt from secular workers.

“The Government believes that school chaplains make a valuable contribution to the wellbeing of students and school communities,” Senator Ryan said.

“I encourage State and Territory Governments to accept the invitation of the Commonwealth to participate in the National School Chaplaincy Programme and give all schools the chance to apply for funding for a school chaplain.”

Labor had opened the program up to secular workers, but the Coalition reversed that decision when announcing an extra $245 million over four years in the May budget.


New Poseidon aircraft on the way

AUSTRALIA is a big step closer to buying eight advanced Poseidon patrol planes from the US.

UNDER the deal worth up to $7 billion, Australia is buying the aircraft from the US Navy, which is in the process of acquiring them from manufacturer Boeing on Australia's behalf.
This is termed a Foreign Military Sale, where equipment is acquired through the US military.

Defence Minister David Johnston says these state-of-the-art planes will boost Australia's ability to monitor its maritime approaches.

The eight Boeing P-8A Poseidon aircraft will replace the RAAF's ageing Orion AP-3C aircraft which entered service in the mid-1980s and are due for retirement in the coming years.

The Poseidons will operate in conjunction with Triton unmanned surveillance aircraft and will be based at RAAF Base Edinburgh in South Australia.

Delivery of the first aircraft is set for 2017 with all eight to be delivered by 2018.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Asylum seeker sent back to Afghanistan

AN asylum seeker is believed to be the first to be sent back to Afghanistan under the coalition government after losing a last-minute legal battle to remain in Australia.

THE 29-year-old Hazara man, know only as SZUYW, said "please help me" when told through an interpreter that the court wouldn't block the government's plan to deport him.

"I can only apply the law as I see it," Judge Nicholas Manousaridis replied during the brief judgment in the Federal Circuit Court. "The application for an order that the applicant not be removed is dismissed."

Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said the man, who arrived in Australia in 2011, was due to fly to Afghanistan at 9.40pm (AEST) on Tuesday.

He fled Afghanistan afraid he would be harmed by the Taliban, the court heard.  "It will be the first forced removal of an Afghan asylum seeker to Afghanistan," Mr Rintoul said.

Several applications for ministerial intervention were lodged by the man when his asylum claim was being assessed, the court heard.

But only the Refugee Review Tribunal has the power to determine someone's immigration status and it denied the man in December 2012.

Since then conditions in the man's home district, Jaghori, have deteriorated, Mr Rintoul said.

"It makes no sense to send an asylum seeker back to Afghanistan when the country's descending into war," he told reporters after the hearing.

Judge Manousaridis said: "The security situation in that district is reasonably stable relative to other parts of Afghanistan. "There was not a real risk the applicant will suffer real harm in that district."

Another Hazara asylum seeker was last Thursday deported to Pakistan.


Blaming coal is reefer madness

ON Sunday, as NSW residents took stock of a week of torrential rain, The Sunday Telegraph broke the disturbing news that former NSW premier Bob Carr’s mothballed desalination plant was costing $534,246 a day in service charges.

For once it is hard to disagree with NSW Greens MP John Kaye who called the expensive and unnecessary piece of kit “a white ­elephant”.

Carr ordered the plant to be built in 2005, a year after the CSIRO had spooked him with a prediction that the state could be up to 6.4C warmer and 40 per cent drier by 2070.

“Frightening,” was Carr’s reaction. “Even small changes in average temperature have got enormous implications.”

Indeed, but even by the inflated forecasts of the time, the CSIRO’s figures seemed ludicrous. In hindsight, Carr would have done well to stick to Dwight D. Eisenhower’s advice, delivered in his final presidential speech in 1962.

“In holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.”

In October 2011, a coalition of eco-crusaders met in the Blue Mountains to try to build a united front against coal. A leaked strategy document, Stopping the Australian Coal Export Boom, that emerged after the meeting gives an insight into their tactics.

“We urgently need to build the anti-coal movement and mobilise off the back of the community backlash to coal-seam gas,” it reads.

“We are seeking investment to help us build a nationwide coal campaign that functions like an orchestra, with a large number of different voices combining together into a powerful symphony.”

The anti-coal battle would be fought in the courts and boardrooms. Lawyers would be hired to mount challenges designed to frustrate and delay the expansion of the coal industry.

“We are confident that, with the right resourcing for both legal challenges and public campaigning, we can delay most if not all of the port developments by at least a year, if not considerably longer,” the document reads.

They would aim to create investor uncertainty and reputational risk “by symbolically contesting coal industry conferences and annual general meetings, ongoing direct engagement with ratings agencies and key analysts”. Queensland’s Galilee Basin was singled out for special attention. The activists recognised the proposed mines were at the expensive end of the cost curve and could be made un­viable.

In May a group of activists swarmed Deutsche Bank’s annual meeting in Frankfurt and were rewarded with a promise from the bank’s co-CEO, Jurgen Fitschen, that he would not entertain financial applications for port development at Abbot Point [without an assurance from both UNESCO and the government that it wouldn’t damage the reef.]

HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland made similar ­noises.

This sophisticated campaign of “law-fare” and divestment pressure is biting. Earlier this month Peabody Energy chief executive Greg Boyce urged the coal industry to do more to counter the attacks.

Greenpeace’s focus is not just on the big end of town. The anti-coal strategy document proposes the introduction of US-style community organisers to support and direct grassroots campaigns.

The big campaigners have opportunistically latched on to local issues and turned them into national ones. The impact of the protest against Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek mine has demonstrated the power of the country-cappuccino alliance.

Like the wilderness movement a generation ago, today’s Australian environmental activists are borrowing the tactics of America’s Sierra Club and adapting them to local conditions. Having succeeded in shutting down the dam construction industry in the 1980s, they now intend to do the same for coal.

It is against this background that Greenpeace’s contrived and belated campaign to rescue the Great Barrier Reef must be judged.

The reef’s recent deterioration is almost entirely due to the crown of thorns starfish and to storms, but Greenpeace is intent on convincing us that coal is to blame.

It is trying its level best to turn the expansion of the port facilities at Abbot Point to export coal from the Galilee Basin into the next Franklin Dam, despite the paucity of evidence it has to work with.

Dredging three million tonnes of clean sand and depositing it on more sand does not really cut it, particularly since the dumping site is farther from the coral reef than Calais is from Dover.

This is, however, a purely symbolic campaign. The battle for the reef, as the ABC’s Four Corners pitched it last week, is a battle of good and evil between coral and coal.

The recent breakthrough in the eradication of the coral-eating starfish barely rated a mention.

Teams of divers funded by the government have administered needles to hundreds of thousands of these noxious invertebrates. Farmers are being paid to keep rivers free of nutrients in which the starfish blossom.

Rays of hope such as this, however, cannot be allowed to dilute the apocalyptic narrative that is mandatory in ABC documentaries on the environment.

“How much do we really care about our most iconic national treasure?” Kerry O’Brien asked rhetorically. On reflection, that’s not a bad question.


Tony Abbott warned over backflip on hate spoeech

Tony Abbott has been warned by his own MPs that his decision to dump proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act will see Coalition supporters flock to Clive Palmer.

And several MPs have also cautioned the Prime Minister against dealing with certain Islamic groups.

Mr Abbott dumped his long-held promise to repeal section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act after a backlash from ethnic communities earlier this month.

He said he needed the support of the Australian Muslim community for proposed changes to anti-terrorism laws.

The decision to abandon the government's election pledge was raised in the party room on Tuesday by several MPs including Liberal senator Cory Bernardi and Nationals MP George Christensen.

Mr Christensen told the Prime Minister that for many Coalition voters, the decision to abandon making it no longer illegal to insult or humiliate someone on the grounds of race was the last straw. He said many were now planning to vote for the Palmer United Party instead of the government. 

Senator Bernardi told his colleagues he was disappointed the government had ditched its pledge altogether instead of coming to a compromise. He then went on to warn the Prime Minister against dealing with individuals such as the Sydney Muslim community leader Keysar Trad and groups like the Islamic Council of Victoria, parts of which have advocated for some aspects of sharia law in Australia.

Senator Benardi's caution were echoed by Liberal MP Luke Simpkins who told MPs the government shouldn't "give oxygen" to people whose plans are "inconsistent with the values of our country".

Senator Bernardi also formally told his colleagues he would be supporting crossbench senator Bob Day's compromise bill in the Senate, as previously revealed by Fairfax Media.

Another MP complained that the decision to abandon the repeal of section 18c was made via the media and without backbench consultation. However, the Attorney-General George Brandis said backbench dissent on the issue had been "very influential" in the government dropping the idea.


Restaurants claim victory in fight for lower weekend penalty rates

WEEKEND trading will be a bit more affordable for Australian restaurants following a hard-fought decision to reduce casual workers’ penalty rates.

Hospitality industry union United Voice had appealed a Fair Work Commission ruling to allow the reduction in weekend loadings from 175 per cent to 150 per cent.

But the appeal was dismissed by the Full Federal Court with Justice Rares, Justice Bromberg and Justice Griffiths ruling that the lowering of penalty rates should stand.

CEO of Restaurant and Catering Australia John Hart said the decision would provide much needed labour cost relief, and encourage businesses to remain open on Sundays.

“It’s taken 900-days and $1.8 million in legal costs but finally this decision has been made,” said Mr Hart.

“It will save restaurants around $120 million a year, and that saving will allow businesses to open, to provide staff with more hours and customers with more choice.”

Had penalty rates been raised to 175 per cent, restaurateurs would have had to pay casual employees at level two and below, around $32 an hour.  Most of the workers receive a base rate of $18 an hour.

United Voice had challenged the commission’s decision to allow the reduction on the basis that cutting weekend rates would lead to high staff turnover in the industry.

The union represents about 120,000 hospitality workers.

Penalty rates have long been an issue for the restaurant industry with many now opting to close on weekends and public holidays rather than pay staff a premium.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Trade union royal commission hears allegations of bullying, harassment culture at Health Services Union

A royal commission into trade unions has heard fresh allegations of a culture of bullying, harassment and intimidation within the Health Services Union (HSU).

The Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption has so far focused on the affairs of the union's number 3 branch in Victoria between 2003 and 2010, but has now turned its attention to the conduct of officers in the number 1 branch.

The hearing was told Marco Bolano and Diana Asmar ran for the position of branch secretary in late 2012.

Ms Asmar won the vote, but the role of assistant secretary went to Leonie Flynn, who ran on Mr Bolano's ticket.

What followed was a period of tension between the two office holders, with Ms Flynn alleging she was threatened by Ms Asmar.

Counsel assisting the commission Jeremy Stoljar SC said he had received damning evidence.

"They raise allegations against Ms Asmar of breaches of union rules and a culture of bullying, harassment and intimidation," he told the hearing.

Mr Stoljar said the role of assistant secretary "carries with it significant responsibilities", including management of financial affairs.

Ms Flynn said Ms Asmar obstructed her from performing her required duties by threatening to "have the rules changed" through the branch committee of management "for her to have financial control".

The commission has also heard allegations concerning Ms Asmar's approach to Right of Entry Permits.

The permits were issued by the Fair Work Commission and allow the holder to enter and remain on an employers' premises.
HSU staffer 'deeply uncomfortable' with carrying out instruction

Applicants must undertake training and sit an online test, but the hearing was told Ms Asmar instructed other members of staff to sit the tests "on behalf of other employees and organisers".

One of those staff members, Peggy Lee, has told the commission she carried out the instruction despite being "deeply uncomfortable" with it.

"Because of the pressure I felt I was under while at the branch, I actually completed Right of Entry tests for other people knowing it was wrong to do so," her statement to the commission read.

The Fair Work Commission was also investigating the matter after it received a complaint in September 2013.

Ms Asmar is expected to give evidence tomorrow.

She released a statement saying the allegations of wrongdoing and bullying against her were false and had been made by people with ulterior motives.

She said the claims were made by people with an election agenda and she was looking forward to setting the record straight when she fronted the inquiry.

Outside the commission she denied the claims.  "Are you a bully?" a journalist asked.   "Definitely not. Look forward to proving they're lies," Ms Asmar said.

Mr Stoljar said the branch went through "fraught and bitter" times between 2006 and 2009, when Jeff Jackson held the position of branch secretary.

Mr Jackson is the ex-husband of HSU national secretary Kathy Jackson.

Ms Flynn is currently on leave from her position as assistant secretary of the branch.

Kathy Jackson to appear again at commission

During the last hearing in July, the royal commission questioned Ms Jackson about a slush fund account in which members' money was allegedly used to pay off her personal credit cards.

The National Health Development Account (NHDA) was first set up in 2003 with a $250,000 payment from the Peter McCallum Cancer Institute.

The commission has been told that until 2010 funds from the number 3 branch bank account were transferred to the NHDA "on Ms Jackson's instructions".

Ms Jackson told the July hearing she could not recall details about a $50,000 payment she authorised from the NHDA.

She asked for legal representation when pressed about the matter by Mr Stoljar.

Mr Stoljar produced evidence that the money was paid to Mr Jackson and asked her why she did not disclose that.

Ms Jackson told the commission she had been "ambushed".

Ms Jackson is one of 24 witnesses expected to give evidence in Sydney in this latest hearing and will appear later this week.

The HSU is one of five unions being scrutinised by the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption.


Construction sector plagued by phoenix tax, pay dodges

Some of Australia's biggest construction projects are being probed by regulators in relation to claims of corruption and tax avoidance.

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) are paying special attention to what is known as phoenix activity in the construction sector, where companies go into liquidation to avoid paying entitlements to their staff.

The ATO and ASIC have joined forces with the Fair Work Building and Construction directorate to examine illegal phoenix scams which are costing as much as $3.2 billion per year.
Audio: Listen to Peter Ryan's report. (AM)

The investigations will also examine allegations that some scams in the construction industry have links to organised crime.

ASIC commissioner Greg Tanzer told the ABC's AM program that the phoenix activity was focused on "off-the-books" sectors such as transport, security and cleaning services.

"Our intelligence suggests that there's a range of issues that arise in the construction industry," he said.

"What we're finding is that there is a disproportionately large number of cases perhaps because of the nature of the industry and the number of workers involved in those industries but, whatever the reason, it seems to be a target for this type of activity.

"We have found that the construction industry is a particular hotspot for phoenix company activity, and this affects not just the employees in the construction industry who might be affected directly because their superannuation entitlements might not be paid, or their leave entitlements might not be paid.

"But also, critically, other contractors - sub-contractors and sometimes head contractors - are affected by companies going out of business, doing so intentionally with the absolute deliberate intent of defrauding all of those creditors and employees."
Phoenixing costs up to $3.2 billion

Consulting firm PwC, in a study for the Fair Work Commission in 2012, found that illegal phoenix activity costs between $1.2 billion and $3.2 billion per year.

"From our perspective, we see just far too many individual problems that are caused by this type of activity, because it doesn't need to be a large amount of money if you've been gutted out of your leave entitlements or your superannuation entitlements," Mr Tanzer said.

ASIC has commenced a wide ranging program aimed at the construction industry in which 6,000 smaller companies were targeted, and hundreds visited, to be reminded that heavy penalties apply for proven phoenix activity.

Mr Tanzer said the investigations would examine claims that organised crime is involved in construction sector corruption.

"We are concerned that the construction industry in particular seems to be a target for this type of activity and it really can be quite pernicious and cause very serious effects for the employees and the other creditors of companies that phoenix," he added.

Phoenix activity, where a company "rises from the ashes" of liquidation, without paying taxes or entitlements, is constantly in the sights of ASIC and the ATO.

Greg Tanzer told AM that such activity appears to increase during softer economic times, such as those being experienced now.


Muslim apologists blind to radical reality

A motley group of some 60 self-proclaimed Muslim organisations or self-appointed leaders garnered publicity Wednesday with their snubbing of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s offer to discuss proposed changes to terrorist laws.

The ABC and Fairfax lapped it up.

But anyone who took the time to see who organised the ban and who signed up to its idiocy would have realised that the signatories did themselves a serious disservice.

Among those on the list was Hizb ut-Tahrir Australia, which supports honour killings, the Perth-based Aboriginal convert Mohammed Junaid Thorne who enjoys the support of extremist organisation Millatu Ibrahim, banned in Germany because of its ties to mass murder in Iraq, and the Sydney book shop al-Risalah, which has claimed its imam is terrorist Bilal Khazal who is serving a 12-year sentence for promoting violence against non-Muslims.

Muslim Leaders including Sheikh Isse Musse (centre right) leave Treasury Place in Melbourne after a meeting with Tony Abbott last week.
Organiser of the ban was self-anointed community activist and Muslim convert Rebecca Kay, who re-Tweets propaganda from the Hamas terrorist organisation and is married to a brother of notorious drug boss Abdul Darwiche, who was gunned down outside a Bass Hill service station five years ago.

The usual medley of Muslim student organisations also signed on, along with an assortment of imams, who, according to Kay, believe the proposed changes target Muslims unjustly – though she admits that the language of the law is neutral.

She says that in practise these laws will target Muslims because of a “trumped up” threat from “radicalised” Muslims returning from Irag or Syria.

She claims there is no solid evidence to substantiate this threat – despite the Facebook postings of various Australian-born murderers who have joined the murderous Islamic State posing with weapons and severed heads in their selfie videos.

The home-grown risk is real, as the British have discovered to their cost

She goes on to say that “racist caricatures of Muslims as backwards, prone to violence and inherently problematic are being exploited”, presumably a reference to psychiatrist Tanveer Ahmed’s prescient view that “there remains a marked difference in the way males are raised within some Lebanese groups which predisposes them to greater acts of anti-social behaviour” and his observation from studying Arab youths in prison that “there is a rampant anti-social character to some youths from this segment which stems in part from unsuccessful child rearing. The horrific moves towards terror acts can be seen as an ideological extension of a propensity towards bad behaviour, combined with an unshakable victim mentality.”

Kay and her followers haven’t come to terms with the hard evidence of beheadings of children as well as adults, crucifixions, and mass murder of fellow Muslims as well as the slaughter of apostates, Christians and other non-Muslims in areas where Australia’s terror tourists are at large.

The home-grown risk is real, as the British have discovered to their cost.

It’s now a dozen years since Omar Sheikh, a London-born private school and London School of Economics graduate, was in Pakistan after fighting in the Balkans and Kashmir. Ten years ago he was arrested and jailed for assisting in the kidnapping of three Britons and an American in India.

After being released in 1999 in exchange for the passengers and crew of the hijacked Air India flight IC-814, he was connected to the bombing of an American cultural centre in Calcutta in January 2002 and that same month organised the kidnapping and beheading of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

Muslim leaders including Sheikh Isse Musse (centre) were involved in meetings with Prime Minister Tony Abbott last week.
In 2003, two British Muslims Asif Hanif and Omar Khan Sharif carried out a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv on behalf of Hamas, which Ms Kay gives succour to via her Twitter account.

Four British Islamist terrorists killed 52 civilians on July 7, 2005 in the first suicide bombings to take place in Britain. The former head of the Islamic Society at University College London, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, attempted to explode his “underwear” bomb on a plane as it landed in Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009. He was a follower of Anwar al-Awlaki, who was later killed in an American drone attack in Yemen three years ago.

Ms Kay’s claims are unsupportable. There is no reason why Australia is under any lesser threat from home-grown terrorists than Britain, the US, Belgium, the Netherlands or France – or Indonesia.

In an important interview with The Australian, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono condemned violent Islamist extremism, labelling the actions of the Islamic State terror group as “embarrassing” and “humiliating” to the religion.

His government has banned the ISIS (now known as the Islamic State), which is supported by some of the signatories to Ms Kay’s statement, and called for respect for all religions – which some of Ms Kay’s supporters reject.

Acknowledging the reality that Ms Kay rubbishes, President Yudhoyono said a number of Indonesians have joined IS to fight in Syria and Iraq.

“Our citizens here in Indonesia are picking up recruitment messages from ISIS containing extremist ideas,” he said.

“The philosophy of ISIS stands against the fundamental values we embrace in Indonesia. Last Friday, in my state of the union address to the nation, I called on all Indonesians to reject ISIS and to stop the spread of its radical ideology.

“My government and security agencies have taken decisive steps to curtail the spread of ISIS in Indonesia, including by prohibiting Indonesians to join ISIS or to fight for ISIS, and also by blocking internet sites that promote this idea.”

Yet Ms Kay and her group are opposed to less radical actions proposed by the Abbott government.

It would appear that in Indonesia, which has the largest Islamic population of any nation, community leaders are helping the government communicate to their members the dangers of ISIS.

Which demonstrates just how isolated Muslims like Ms Kay and her radical supporters are from the rational world in their blind refusal to engage on the obvious problems of the radicalisation of young members of the Australian Muslim community.


Brisbane woman Kym Garrick banned from Port of Brisbane job over 'Coal Dust Free' car sticker

The Port of Brisbane has banned a security guard for displaying an anti-coal industry sign in her car.

Kym Garrick's employer Corporate Protection Australia Group fired her from her job at the port earlier this month, telling her it was because she displayed a sign that read "Coal Dust Free Brisbane".

Ms Garrick said she was warned about the sign by staff at the Port of Brisbane and initially removed it, then changed her mind and put it back.

"I felt angry, frustrated and belittled. Also, this is a democracy and I wanted to have my say on something that I truly believe should happen," she said.

The security guard has now been banned from all five of the Port of Brisbane's sites.

In a letter to Ms Garrick, Corporate Protection Australia Group said: "We acknowledge you did remove the sign, but recently returned to site with this sign displayed again. The Port of Brisbane have advised us that you are unfortunately banned from their sites."

A spokesman for the Port of Brisbane said the company would not be making any comment on the issue.

Corporate Protection Australia Group has confirmed Ms Garrick is no longer working for the firm.

A spokesman said she was removed from work at the port due to a security risk.

Ms Garrick reacted angrily, saying: "They don't want anyone to ruffle their feathers."

The security company has offered Ms Garrick another contract to work at a different site, which she has declined.

She has received legal advice that because of that offer, her chances at winning an unfair dismissal claim are slim.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Australia's BOM caught with its pants down

No surprise. NASA GISS does the same.  See also here and here and here

THE Bureau of Meteorology has been accused of manipulating historic temperature records to fit a predetermined view of global warming.

Researcher Jennifer Marohasy claims the adjusted records resemble “propaganda” rather than science.

Dr Marohasy has analysed the raw data from dozens of locations across Australia and matched it against the new data used by BOM showing that temperatures were progressively warming.

In many cases, Dr Marohasy said, temperature trends had changed from slight cooling to dramatic warming over 100 years.

BOM has rejected Dr Marohasy’s claims and said the agency had used world’s best practice and a peer reviewed process to modify the physical temperature records that had been recorded at weather stations across the country.

It said data from a selection of weather stations underwent a process known as “homogenisation” to correct for anomalies. It was “very unlikely” that data homogenisation impacted on the empirical outlooks.

In a statement to The Weekend Australian BOM said the bulk of the scientific literature did not support the view that data homogenisation resulted in “diminished physical veracity in any particular climate data set’’.

Historical data was homogenised to account for a wide range of non-climate related influences such as the type of instrument used, choice of calibration or enclosure and where it was located.

“All of these elements are subject to change over a period of 100 years, and such non-climate ­related changes need to be ­accounted for in the data for ­reliable analysis and monitoring of trends,’’ BOM said.

Account is also taken of temperature recordings from nearby stations. It took “a great deal of care with the climate record, and understands the importance of scientific integrity”.

Dr Marohasy said she had found examples where there had been no change in instrumentation or siting and no inconsistency with nearby stations but there had been a dramatic change in temperature trend towards warming after homogenisation.

She said that at Amberley in Queensland, homogenisation had resulted in a change in the temperature trend from one of cooling to dramatic warming.

She calculated homogenisation had changed a cooling trend in the minimum temperature of 1C per century at Amberley into a warming trend of 2.5C. This was despite there being no change in location or instrumentation.

BOM said the adjustment to the minimums at Amberley was identified through “neighbour comparisons”. It said the level of confidence was very high because of the large number of stations in the region. There were examples where homogenisation had resulted in a weaker warming trend.


More on BoM shenanigans

WHEN raging floodwaters swept through Brisbane in January 2011 they submerged a much-loved red Corvette sports car in the basement car park of a unit in the riverside suburb of St Lucia.

On the scale of the billions of dollars worth of damage done to the nation’s third largest city in the man-made flood, the loss of a sports car may not seem like much.

But the loss has been the catalyst for an escalating row that ­raises questions about the competence and integrity of Australia’s premier weather agency, the Bureau of Meteorology, stretching well beyond the summer storms.

It goes to heart of the climate change debate — in particular, whether computer models are better than real data and whether temperature records are being manipulated in a bid to make each year hotter than the last.

With farmer parents, researcher Jennifer Marohasy says she has always had a fascination with rainfall and drought-flood ­cycles. So, in a show of solidarity with her husband and his sodden Corvette, Marohasy began researching the temperature records noted in historic logs that date back through the Federation drought of the late 19th century.

Specifically, she was keen to try forecasting Brisbane floods using historical data and the latest statistical modelling techniques.

Marohasy’s research has put her in dispute with BoM over a paper she published with John Abbot at Central Queensland University in the journal Atmospheric Research concerning the best data to use for rainfall forecasting. (She is a biologist and a sceptic of the thesis that human activity is bringing about global warming.) BoM challenged the findings of the Marohasy-Abbot paper, but the international journal rejected the BoM rebuttal, which had been prepared by some of the bureau’s top scientists.

This has led to an escalating dispute over the way in which ­Australia’s historical temperature records are “improved” through homogenisation, which is proving more difficult to resolve. If Marohasy is right, contrary to widely published claims, last year cannot be called the hottest year on ­record. BoM insists it is using world’s best practice to determine temperature trend and its methods are in accordance with those of its international peers.

But in furious correspondence with BoM, Marohasy argues the computer “homogenisation” of the records is being undertaken in a way that is at odds with its original intent.

“In (George Orwell’s) Nineteen Eighty-Four Winston Smith knows that, ‘He who controls the present controls the past’. Certainly the bureau appears intent on improving the historical temperature record by changing it,” Marohasy says.

There has been correspondence between Marohasy and BoM involving federal MP Dennis Jensen and the parliamentary secretary responsible for the bureau, Simon Birmingham.

After taking up the issue for Jensen, Birmingham says he is “confident that the bureau’s methods are robust’’. On its website, BoM says it is “improving Australia’s temperature record” by carefully analysing records “to find and address spurious artefacts in the data, thus developing a consistent — or homogeneous — record of daily temperatures over the last 100 years”.

BoM says historic high temperatures are unreliable, some having been collected by thermometers housed in a beer crate on an outback veranda.

In response to questions from Inquirer, BoM says “the premise that data homogenisation results in diminished physical veracity — in any particular climate data set — is unsupported in the bulk of the scientific literature’’.

But Marohasy is not convinced.

“Repetition is a propaganda technique,’’ she wrote back to Birmingham. “The deletion of information from records, and the use of exaggeration and half-truths, are ­others.

“The Bureau of Meteorology uses all these techniques, while wilfully ignoring evidence that contradicts its own propaganda.’’

Marohasy has analysed the physical temperature records from more than 30 stations included in the BoM set that determines the official national temperature record.

And she remains disturbed by a pattern whereby homogenisation exaggerates, or even produces, a record of steady warming against a steady or cooling trend in the raw data.

Marohasy says the clearly ­stated intent of homogenisation is to correct for changes in equipment, siting, and/or other factors that conceivably can introduce non-­climatic factors into the temperature record.

“The bureau, however, is applying the algorithms subjectively and without supporting metadata, in such a way that the temperature record is completely altered, despite the absence of evidence that there were any changes in siting, equipment, or any other factor which could have conceivably introduced a non­-climatic discontinuity,’’ she says.

Marohasy says the “corruption” of the data was of no practical consequence to climate scientists at BoM because they do not use historical data for forecasting either rainfall or temperature — they use simulation models that attempt to recreate the climate based on assumed physical ­processes.

But she says the remodelling is “of considerable political value to them, because the remodelled data better accords with the theory of anthropogenic global warming’’.

Marohasy presented a paper on her research to the Sydney Institute earlier this year. She has since expanded the number of physical temperature records analysed and says the results have only added weight to her concerns.

At Amberley, in Queensland, temperatures have been collected at the same well-maintained site within the perimeter of the air force base since 1941.

But through the homogenisation process BoM has changed what was a cooling trend in the minimum temperature of 1.0C per century into a warming trend of 2.5C per century.

“Homogenisation has not resulted in some small change to the data set, but rather a change in the temperature trend from one of cooling to dramatic warming,’’ Marohasy says.

This has been achieved by jumping-up the minimum temperatures twice through the homogenisation process: once in about 1980 and then around 1996 to achieve a combined temperature increase of more than 1.5C. NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, based in New York, also applies a jump-up to the Amberley series in 1980, and makes other changes, so that the annual average temperature for Amberley increases from 1941 to 2012 by about 2C.

In correspondence, Marohasy was told by NASA the Amberley data was adjusted to take account of historic temperature records at nearby stations.

But these 310 “nearby” stations stretched to a radius of 974km and include Frederick Reef in the Coral Sea, Quilpie post office in southwestern Queensland and even Bourke post office in NSW.

Considering the unhomogenised data for the nearest weather station, BoM’s jump-up for Amberley creates an increase for the official temperature trend of 0.75C per century. Temperatures at old Brisbane aero, the closest station that is also part of the national temperature network, also shows a long-term cooling trend.

“Perhaps the cooling at Amberley is real,’’ Marohasy says.

“Why not consider this, particularly in the absence of real physical evidence to the ­contrary?”

Another example is Rutherglen, a small town in a winegrowing region of northeast Victoria, where temperatures have been measured at a research station since November 1912.

There have been no documented site moves but an automatic weather station was installed on January 29, 1998.

Temperatures measured at the Rutherglen weather station also form part of the national temperature network (ACORN-Sat), so the information from this station is homogenised before inclusion in the official record that is used to calculate temperature trends for Victoria and also Australia.

Marohasy says the unhomogenised/raw mean annual minimum temperature trend for Rutherglen for the 100-­year period from January 1913 through to December last year shows a slight cooling trend of 0.35C per 100 years.

After homogenisation there is a warming trend of 1.73C per 100 years. Marohasy says this warming trend essentially was achieved by progressively dropping down the temperatures from 1973 back through to 1913. For the year of 1913 the difference between the raw temperature and the ACORN-Sat temperature is 1.8C.

BoM is adamant the purpose of homogenisation is to remove non-­climatic disconuities. But Marohasy says because there have been no site changes or equipment changes at Rutherglen, but very large adjustments made to the data, it is perhaps reasonable to assume that the bureau has changed the record for Rutherglen because it is very different to the record for the neighbouring stations.

According to a technical manual written by Blair Trewin from BoM, changes can be made where discontinuities are apparent when the trend at a site, for example Rutherglen, is compared with up to 40 neighbouring sites.

But Marohasy says analysis of nearby sites finds temperature trends show almost no warming during the past 100 years.

Marohasy says the changes to the minimum temperatures for Rutherglen are broadly consistent with many other changes made to temperature records for eastern Australia, which make the trends consistent with the theory of anthropogenic global warming.

But these changes are not consistent with the overriding principle of homogenisation, which is that changes should only be made to correct for non-­climatic factors.

In the case of Rutherglen, she says, the changes do not even appear consistent with a principle in the bureau’s own technical manual, which is that changes should be consistent with trends at neighbouring weather stations.

At Burke, in western NSW, BoM deleted the first 40 years of data because temperatures before 1908 were apparently not recorded in a Stevenson screen, the agreed modern method.

Marohasy says this could have been easily accounted for with an accepted algorithm, which would not have changed the fact that it was obviously much hotter in the early 20th century than for any period since. Instead, the early record is deleted, and the post-1910 data homogenised.

“Rather than searching for a real physical explanation for the early 20th century cooling at Bourke since the hot years of the late 1800s, the Bureau has created a warming trend,’’ Marohasy says.

“This homogenisation, and the addition of data recorded after 1996 from the airport, means that the official record shows an overall warming trend of 0.01C per century and 2013 becomes about the hottest year on record for Bourke.’’

BOM says major adjustments at Bourke related to site moves as well as comparisons with neighbouring areas, while the Amberley and Rutherglen adjustments also were made after comparison with neighbouring stations.

And the bureau says an extensive study has found homogeneity adjustments have little impact on national trends and changes in temperature extremes.


Jennifer's personal comments on the BOM

EARLIER this year Tim Flannery said “the pause” in global warming was a myth, leading medical scientists called for stronger action on climate change, and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology declared 2013 the hottest year on record. All of this was reported without any discussion of the actual temperature data. It has been assumed that there is basically one temperature series and that it’s genuine.

But I’m hoping that after today, with both a feature (page 20) and a news piece (page 9) in The Weekend Australia things have changed forever.

I’m hoping that next time Professor Flannery is interviewed he will be asked by journalists which data series he is relying on: the actual recorded temperatures or the homogenized remodeled series. Because as many skeptics have known for a long time, and as Graham Lloyd reports today for News Ltd, for any one site across this wide-brown land Australia, while the raw data may show a pause, or even cooling, the truncated and homogenized data often shows dramatic warming.

When I first sent Graham Lloyd some examples of the remodeling of the temperature series I think he may have been somewhat skeptical. I know he on-forwarded this information to the Bureau for comment, including three charts showing the homogenization of the minimum temperature series for Amberley.

Mr Lloyd is the Environment Editor for The Australian newspaper and he may have been concerned I got the numbers wrong. He sought comment and clarification from the Bureau, not just for Amberley but also for my numbers pertaining to Rutherglen and Bourke.

I understand that by way of response to Mr Lloyd, the Bureau has not disputed these calculations.

This is significant. The Bureau now admits that it changes the temperature series and quite dramatically through the process of homogenisation.

I repeat the Bureau has not disputed the figures. The Bureau admits that the data is remodelled.

What the Bureau has done, however, is try and justify the changes. In particular, for Amberley the Bureau is claiming to Mr Lloyd that there is very little available documentation for Amberley before 1990 and that information before this time may be “classified”: as in top secret. That’s right, there is apparently a reason for jumping-up the minimum temperatures for Amberley but it just can’t provide Mr Lloyd with the supporting meta-data at this point in time.

SOURCE (See the original for charts)

Clive Palmer and his Senate colleagues are a creation of the main parties' making

"Palmer was a splash of colour on a wall of grey. People voting for Palmer United Party didn't respond on an analytical level. They were responding to the pictures, the chuckling, the twerking, the colour and movement. And he campaigned well, he had a significant presence and a bold new logo."

This "presence", the election ad campaign, was funded with $12 million that Palmer misappropriated from his Chinese business partner, the state-owned Citic Pacific, according to the claim the company has brought against him.

If true, it would mean that Palmer had built his election campaign on money stolen from the Chinese Communist Party. Palmer denies the claim.

This was exactly the uncomfortable topic he was seeking to avoid this week when he launched his frenzied, calculated attack on China. The host of the ABC's Q&A, Tony Jones, was pursuing him over the question when Palmer activated the first rule of politics – the best form of defence is offence.

This deftly made Chinese "mongrels" and "bastards" who "shoot their own people" the topic of national outrage. This was a brilliant outcome from Clive's point of view.

Handled differently, the alternative might have been national outrage at Clive's alleged theft of the mongrels' $12 million to pay for his TV ads.

Palmer's policy offerings may be a jumble of nonsense, but he is no political dummy. He's a shrewd operator who studied at the knee of one of the masters of media management. Palmer was a press secretary to Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

The late Queensland premier used to call it "feeding the chooks" when he gave a news conference. His notoriously convoluted babble would keep the media guessing while he executed shrewd business and political deals behind the scenes.

Palmer's flailing attack on China was also a convoluted babble. For at least three reasons.

First, his target was plainly the Chinese government. Only the government could possibly be accused of shooting its own people, recalling the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Yet the next day he tried to extricate himself by saying he was referring to his business partner, Citic Pacific.

Second, his angry revulsion at a government that could "shoot its own people" is a complete reversal. In the years between Tiananmen Square and today, Palmer publicly fawned all over the Chinese government when it suited his business needs. He named his landmark coalmine planned for the Galilee Basin, and the biggest proposed coalmine in Australia, the "China First" mine. His anger flies under a flag of commercial convenience.

Third, he claimed that China had harmful intent against Australia because it wanted to "steal our resources", If so, the Chinese are doing a truly terrible job of it. These thieving "mongrels" paid $94 billion to Australia last year for its exports. This is more than any country has ever paid.

The Palmer tirade was jumbled, hypocritical and plain wrong, quite apart from being gratuitously offensive. But it worked as deflection.

Will it do serious harm to Australia's relationship with its biggest trading partner? No. Some Chinese entities may well use the outburst as an excuse to shun Australian dealings. But the Chinese trade with Australia as a matter of self-interest, not charity. And they know that Palmer does not speak for Australia. The government and opposition made that forcefully clear.

A Chinese general threatened to attack Los Angeles with a nuclear bomb a few years ago. Did this do any serious harm to the US-China relationship? No. All governments, including China's, know a blowhard maverick when they see one.

But the episode demonstrates that Palmer will recklessly endanger the national interest if it suits his own needs.

How did the main parties give him the balance of power? Palmer and his senators only have power when the other parties can't agree. The government has the numbers to get its legislation through the Senate if Labor will support it, or if the Greens will support it. Only when Labor and the Greens oppose the government does Palmer get to sit in judgment as the wielder of the balance of power.

And this is why Palmer's relevance is in the hands of the three main parties.

There is a good deal of scope for the main parties to make progress by talking to each other. Remarkably, a big potential agenda has gone unexplored so far.

The government has so far chosen to negotiate with the crossbench, including Palmer's senators, before Labor and the Greens. This is a matter of political vanity rather than political pragmatism. If the government will lower itself to negotiate with Labor or the Greens, it could well achieve some key goals.

And where Labor is intractable, the government has an unexplored opportunity to do business with the Greens. The Greens have 10 senators compared with Palmer's three or four. It sounds preposterous. But even the most anti-Greens members of the government have the ability to set ideology aside long enough to cut deals.

The leader of the government in the Senate, Tasmania's Eric Abetz, is probably the harshest critic of the Greens. As he likes to say, everyone has to have a hobby and tormenting the Greens is his. Yet even Abetz can cut a deal with ideological opponents. In student politics his conservative group formed a coalition with the campus Maoists. The reason for this unlikely alliance? To damage their mutual enemy, the Australian Union of Students.

What could they possibly agree on? For a start, there's the government's petrol excise proposal. By merely returning to a system of increasing the petrol excise in line with inflation, the government proposed in the budget to raise $2.2 billion over the next four years.

This would add just a couple of cents to the price of a litre of fuel in the first year, yet provide a steady revenue stream for the government to spend on road building. The plan is currently opposed by all the non-government parties in the Senate.

But this is also an environmental measure that, in principle, the Greens support. They've contorted themselves into the ridiculous position of opposing a prudent and modest environmental measure. Why? Because they insist the proceeds be spent on public transport rather than roads.

The Greens will never hold government. If they want to change, they must negotiate. The government's budget agenda is blocked and Palmer controls its destiny. If the government wants to get its way, it must negotiate. There is a potential win-win if both sides can set political pride aside.

Other key measures include the government's carbon farming initiative. It already has won passage of most components of its Direct Action carbon policy but faces a wall of Senate opposition on this last piece. It needs a deal.

The Greens are opposed to Direct Action. But they support carbon farming as a stand-alone initiative. The government and Greens have had some cautious indirect contacts on this and they both know there is potential for a deal. It's something they both want. Again, there's a possible win-win. All that's needed is to set political vanity aside and negotiate.

And they don't need to consult Clive Palmer. He need not control Australia's destiny if the main parties refuse to let him.


IVF pioneer Alan Trounson slams high cost of procedure in Australian clinics

IVF could be done for hundreds of dollars in Australia instead of about $8500 if clinics stopped charging what "the market will handle", a pioneer of the technology says.

Professor Alan Trounson, the scientist who led the team responsible for Australia's first IVF birth in 1980, is challenging fertility specialists to put people ahead of profits in a provocative speech to a conference in Melbourne this weekend.

The stem cell expert who introduced two world-first procedures that improved IVF success rates said the cost of IVF in Australia did not reflect the outlay by clinics or specialists, but rather supply and demand.

"The barrier to change is that medical professionals don't want to charge less because they make so much from treatments. They charge what the market will handle," he said in a statement released ahead of his appearance at the Society for Reproductive Biology forum Making Babies in the 21st Century.

The attack comes amid growing commercialisation of IVF in Australia, causing some to fear profit-driven business models will undermine the integrity of fertility medicine. Over the past 14 months, two of the largest providers - Monash IVF Group and Virtus Health, which runs Melbourne IVF, IVF Australia and the Queensland Fertility Group - have floated on the stockmarket with great success.

Professor Trounson, who made an undisclosed amount of money out of the sale of Monash IVF in 2007, said his Low Cost IVF Foundation could do a basic cycle for about $500 in Africa and Mexico, and that despite making this known, no Australian specialists had asked for his advice to try to emulate it. He said while Australian clinics may face costs associated with regulation, there was no reason why they could not cut prices, especially through automation in their laboratories to replace costly staff.

In Australia, most clinics charge about $8500 for an IVF cycle, but after Medicare rebates, the out-of-pocket cost is about $3000-$4000. Most clinics say these cycles have a 30 to 40 per cent success rate of a live birth, depending on the woman's age and circumstances.

There is also a small number of "low-cost" clinics emerging in lower socio-economic areas which perform IVF without a choice of doctor or additional services such as sperm and egg donation or pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. These clinics advertise out-of-pocket fees ranging from $500 to $2000 per cycle and some do not offer embryo freezing for further attempts in future.

While the clinics are still new, one provider has estimated lower success rates of about 25 per cent per cycle. The main reason for this difference is that the clinics use less hormone stimulation to retrieve fewer eggs for fewer embryos. This means that if a woman is not successful in the first cycle, she will require repetitive stimulation for egg production and more surgical procedures to retrieve eggs.

In contrast, full-cost clinics usually use high-dose hormone stimulation to produce a lot of eggs for one surgical egg retrieval procedure to create as many embryos as possible. The embryos can then be frozen for transfer into the woman's uterus for future pregnancy attempts.

Professor Trounson said his foundation had also used a low-stimulation drug to produce less eggs, which meant a clinician could retrieve eggs from the woman in a few minutes with sedation, instead of a general anaesthetic. He said the success rate in dozens of women had been about 25 per cent per cycle. But he added that this was only suitable for women under the age of 38 and would not be used if men had sperm abnormalities that required other technology.

The CEOs of Monash IVF Group and City Fertility said Professor Trounson's $500 model was unrealistic for a developed country like Australia where clinics aim for gold standard, individualised treatment and employ highly qualified staff. 

Monash IVF CEO James Thiedeman said while his group aimed to make a profit for shareholders and did let the market decide the price, it also reinvested money into innovation to improve success rates and training of staff. He said there were no plans for automation of his clinics' processes.

"We're dealing with people's gametes here, so I'm always a little bit wary of automation," he said.

Adnan Catakovic, CEO and Scientific Director for City Fertility Centre, said while anyone could do a "cheap and nasty" IVF cycle, success rates were more likely to be 10 to 15 per cent with low-stimulation cycles, not 25 per cent. He said his group had no plans for automation and that it was "offensive" to hear such comments from Professor Trounson after he had made "a motza" out of the sale of Monash IVF.

"I think in the initial sale he made a fortune," Mr Catakovic said. "He is the Clive Palmer of IVF... He just loves stirring the pot."

A spokeswoman for Virtus Health declined to comment.


The unholy big push to rewrite history

SINCE last year’s election, there has been an unholy rush by participants competing to get their versions of history into print. First out of the chute was Rob Oakeshott’s own explanation for the failure of the nation to find any beauty in the ugliness of Julia Gillard’s minority government he helped install.

In The Independent Member For Lyne (that’s the title), he reveals how dopey he was to believe he could achieve anything meaningful.

Tony Windsor, who also dudded conservative constituents to support the loopy Labor-Green-independent disaster, was the subject of a very friendly biography (Tony Windsor, The Biography) by rural historian Ruth Rae.

Despite the best efforts of the author, she failed to persuade this reader that Windsor is anything more than a small-town wheeler-dealer with a massive chip on his shoulder.

All you want to know and more about Greg Combet — a throwback to an industrial era that saw union thugs smash their way into Parliament House, causing hearts to flutter among the wannabe revolutionaries at the ABC with his protests against modern wharf practices during the dock dispute — is in Fights Of My Life. Sure to be compulsory reading wherever the teachers’ union controls study lists.

Joe Hockey’s authorised biography Not Your Average Joe, by sometime ABC compere Madonna King, was the next to lob and play into the hands of those who were never sure of Hockey’s judgment.

This week Wayne Swan launched his work, The Good Fight. It’s about as honest as the string of Budget surpluses he never produced. Belongs on the fiction shelf somewhere near Oakeshott’s fantasy.

Still to come, Julia Gillard on Julia Gillard, Peter Garrett on Peter Garrett, and others as their egos demand.

Personally, I can’t wait for Paul Kelly to put the catastrophe in perspective in his book, Triumph And Demise, due next week.