Tuesday, June 16, 2015

FM Bishop tells Indonesia to fix its borders over people smugglers payments claim

Foreign minister says Indonesia can resolve concerns by securing its borders, as Jakarta investigates claims people smugglers were paid to turn back boats

The claim that Australian authorities paid people smugglers to return their boat to Indonesia has escalated into a diplomatic war of words, with the Australian foreign minister, Julie Bishop, suggesting Indonesia is to blame for failing to secure its borders in the first place.

Over the weekend the Indonesia foreign minister, Retno Marsudi, ordered an explanation from the Australian ambassador, Paul Grigson, over the allegations and Jakarta has launched an investigation.

“I look forward to hearing the full ­results of Indonesia’s investigation of the people-smuggling crimes committed in Indonesia, including any breaches of passport and visa laws, and establishing whether the captains and crews of these boats are part of people-smuggling syndicates or are paid by them,” Bishop told the Australian newspaper on Monday.

“The best way for Indonesia to resolve any concerns it has about Operation Sovereign Borders is for Indonesia to enforce sovereignty over its borders,” she said, referring to the Coalition’s hardline border protection policy, which includes the measure to turn boats around at sea.

“Operation Sovereign Borders is necessary because Indonesian boats with Indonesian crews are leaving Indonesia with the express intention of breaching our sovereignty, facilitated by illegal people-smuggling syndicates,” Bishop said.

Indonesia has been critical of the turnback policy in the past, urging a regional solution to the problem of asylum boats, rather than a unilateral one.

While the situation escalates internationally, the Coalition faces mounting pressure at home to definitively confirm or deny the claims, which relate to an incident on 31 May in which boat crews were allegedly paid US$5,000 each to turn a boat containing 65 asylum seekers back to Indonesia.

The prime minister, Tony Abbott, has steadfastly refused to do so, citing the Coalition’s long-held refusal to talk about operational “on-water” matters.

“There’s really only one thing to say here, and that is that we’ve stopped the boats,” Abbott said on Sunday. “That’s good for Australia, it’s good for Indonesia and it’s particularly good for all those who want to see a better world.”

News Corp has claimed that a “senior intelligence source” has told them Australia’s foreign spy agency, Asis, may have paid the smugglers during a covert operation.

“Put it this way, the navy doesn’t have authorisation to do such things nor do they sail around with safes full of US dollars in them,” the anonymous source is reported as saying. “But for obvious and good reasons, we don’t talk about operations of that agency.”

The shadow immigration minister, Richard Marles, has written to federal auditor general Grant Hehir to ask if public money was used appropriately.

“I ask you to urgently investigate these concerning circumstances, including if any payments to people smugglers or their agents were made, and if so, the nature of how or whether it was properly authorised,” he said in the letter.

Marles told ABC TV that “the auditor general is precisely the right person to investigate the propriety of any government expenditure and whether or not the proper processes were gone through in respect of any government expenditure”.

Social services minister Scott Morrison, who had the immigration portfolio until December last year, told reporters in Canberra the government was “keeping faith” with voters by keeping its promise to stop the boats.

He dismissed concerns that law enforcement agencies acted illegally.  “I have every confidence that officers working as part of Operation Sovereign Borders, based on my own experience of them, is that they have always and will always operate lawfully,” Morrison said.


US shows faith in Australian shipbuilders

The Austal-designed USS Jackson in Mobile, Alabama

Australian shipbuilder Andrew Bellamy says Australia should be able to build its own warships and rejects the view that they ­inevitably will be late and cost too much. He should know.

In Mobile, Alabama, over the weekend, he witnessed the “christening” of the latest of 10 combat ships his company, Austal, is building for the US Navy.

About 15 per cent of the vessels in the 300-ship US fleet will be made by the West Australian company that started life three decades ago building crayfishing boats.

While Australia’s shipbuilding industry struggles with delays, cost overruns and uncertainty about its future, Austal is a success story that has sailed largely under the radar.

It employs more that 4000 people in the US, about 500 in Perth and 200 in The Philippines. It has contracts worth more than $5 billion to build 21 vessels for the US Navy — 10 littoral combat ships and 11 joint high-speed vessels — at its US yard. That number is ­expected to increase.

Mr Bellamy, Austal’s chief executive, told The Australian he would consider buying the troubled shipbuilder ASC from the government and promoting Austal as a possible partner for a foreign designer and builder if some or all of the navy’s new ­submarines were to be built in Australia.

The struggling Air Warfare Destroyer program was rightly ­receiving a lot of attention. “But we don’t believe the issues in that program lie in the workforce,” he said. “We fundamentally believe that skilled Australian labour building ships in the right infrastructure, and management and incentives, can be as productive as anywhere else in the world.”

Shipbuilding had to be seen as a strategic industry for the nation, he said.

The latest Australian-designed littoral combat ship to be comp­leted by Austal at its US plant was formally named the USS ­Gabrielle Giffords after the congresswoman who survived being shot in the head by a gunman in Tucson, Arizona, in 2011.

The USS Gabriel Giffords is a sleek, futuristic and predatory-looking warship, 127m long and capable of well over 40 knots.

Ms Giffords, who is still recovering from her wounds, told those gathered for the launch that the new ship was wonderful. She thanked Austal and its staff.  “She’s stealthy,” Ms Giffords said. “She will defend freedom around the world. Go navy!”

Captain Mark Kelly, Ms Giffords’s husband and a former astronaut, said the vessel represented the ships of the future and he was not surprised it was designed in Australia.

“Australia makes great stuff,’’ he said. “Australia’s an ­innovative country and we don’t mind at all. We’ll find who’s making the best ship and we’ll go and buy it.”

Assistant Navy Secretary Dennis McGinn said the ships were so versatile the US Navy considered them its Swiss Army knife. The first of the ships was already deployed with the US fleet. “It just gets better and better,’’ he said.

Littoral combat ships are fast warships which can operate anywhere in the world and carry enough firepower to defend themselves in hostile waters.

Wide, stable and roomy, the tri-hulled vessels are built from aluminium, which makes them much lighter than steel-hulled ships. It also means they require less fuel and have a range of 3500 nautical miles.

Austal is the only foreign company building warships for the US. Through its American subsidiary, Austal USA, Austal is playing a key role in an emerging US naval strategy to ensure the flow of ­global trade by protecting “choke points’’.

The US priority is to keep open narrow stretches of ocean such as the Strait of Gibraltar, the Pan­ama Canal, the Red Sea, the Strait of Hormuz, Malacca Strait and the South China Sea to ensure shipping can run smoothly.

To do that the US aims to ­deploy a large number of cost-­effective warships to those locations. As part of that strategy, the US Navy may opt to base a littoral combat ship, designed to operate close to shore, at a strategic port such as Singapore and fly the crew there to man it. That puts more ships where they are needed more of the time.

On the issue of the Australian shipbuilding industry, Mr Bell­amy said he fundamentally disagreed “with the point that says you have to pay a 30 or 40 per cent premium to manufacture in Australia”.

“The cop-out in all of this is that people think we can’t manufacture productively in Australia, and it’s not true,’’ he said. “The problem is not the Australian workforce or the skill set or the ­designer, because we have ­exported 250 ships out of Perth, so it can be done.”

A lack of focus on exports was part of the problem, along with an expectation that facilities would be filled by the government. That created the wrong culture, Mr Bellamy said.

Austal was building ships in Australia and the US for the same cost. “We are equally competitive in both markets,’’ he said. ­

“Because we are exporting that high-speed vessel built in Australia to the Middle East against international competition we can be pretty confident that not only are we competitive in the US but we are also competitive internationally.

“If we don’t mobilise industry and start to look outside the country, that will be the inevitable conclusion. When we came to America we did not know how to build frigates for the US Navy but we are now building frigates for the US Navy.”

Mr Bellamy said he had ­spoken to government ministers about ways to get the industry back on track.  “We are actively engaged with the Australian government, and with Defence in particular, and we are trying to provide some thought leadership on what the industry needs and what the ­industry should look like.”

In its plant at Henderson in Perth’s south, Austal is building a $330 million fleet of eight Cape-class patrol boats for Australia’s Customs and Border Protection Service.  To date, six of those boats have been delivered, on time and on budget.

It is also building in Australia two high-speed support vessels for the Royal Navy of Oman and two large, high-speed catamaran ferries.

Austal also hopes to build warships for Saudi Arabia, which is prepared to spend between $15 billion and $30bn. “There’s a great opportunity for Australia to build those ships in conjunction with the Saudi Arabian government,” Mr Bellamy said.  The ships could be built in Perth and Adelaide, or in Perth and the US.

“It’s too easy to fall into the trap that we can’t do this in Australia and export it,” he said.

Australia’s ambassador to the US, Kim Beazley, said Australia had been very supportive of the US bolstering its presence in Southeast Asian waters.  “These are the vessels with which they are enhancing their presence,” he said.

“So these ships, produced to an Australian design by an Australian company, are a focal point of the American rebalance.”



Coal seam gas: How left-wing groups are closing Australia to business

The latest blow to the economic wellbeing of the nation and future generations is the proposal by some members of the NSW National Party to buckle before Green extremists and oppose coal seam gas mining in the Northern Rivers region as outlined before the State election.

Without any exaggeration, the growth of CSG as an energy source has been an international game changer, reducing the dependence of Western nations on Arab and Russian energy supplies and subservience to the oligarchs who run the petroleum cartel.

Locking up our own gas reserves and artificially forcing a reliance on imports is a no-brainer, but then no-one ever accused the Green lobby of being either smart or putting the interests of the nation before its international agenda to end fossil fuel consumption.

The Nationals, having lost their formerly safe Northern Rivers seat of Ballina to the Greens at the March election have been spooked but a blanket ban on CSG in any area hits at investment security across the nation as surely as Victorian Premier Daniel Andrew’s decision to tear up the contracts for Melbourne’s $6.8 billion East West Link.

The decision by NSW Nationals leader and deputy Premier Troy Grant may have something to do with the shrill anti-CSG campaign mounted on the Leftist anti-social media networks but the Nats have traditionally shown more backbone.

NSW Minerals Council CEO, Stephen Galilee, said expressed alarm at the move yesterday.

“Calls for an end to CSG drilling in the Northern Rivers region are concerning,” he said, “because the chief proponents are the anti-mining Greens who have used fear and misinformation to whip up community uncertainty about CSG in order to generate opposition to mining more generally. The Greens agenda to end the NSW resources industry would result in tens of thousands of job losses, devastate regional communities, and put NSW into recession.

“With the right policy settings, the resources sector can continue to underpin the strength of the NSW economy for many decades to come. The International Energy Agency predicts that global electricity demand could double by 2035 and that coal is likely to fuel more of that supply than either oil or gas for the foreseeable future. This is because coal is superabundant, easy and safe to move, and it is cheap compared to other energy options.”

The activists have as usual relied heavily on hysteria generated by the anti-fracking lobby in the US and falsehoods peddled in emotional pseudo-docos like the recently produced Frackman, which was hyped by the taxpayer-funded ABC and funded with the assistance of the Australian taxpayer.

Naturally, it made no mention of the fact that fracking has been practised widely in the US and Canada since 1947 and in South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland without incident since the late 1960s.

Just last week, the US Environmental Protection Agency released a draft assessment of a study on fracking which concluded that “hydraulic fracturing activities have not led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources”.

Thomas A. Burke, the EPA’s science advisor and deputy assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development, acknowledging that potential water vulnerabilities exist said the study was intended to help identify those vulnerabilities so the nation could take measures to reduce risks and better protect its water.

The evidence gathered by five-year, multi-million dollar study underscored the reality that in the US, fracking is being conducted safely under the environmental stewardship of state regulators and industry best practices.

The EPA, following a congressional request, studied all aspects of the use of water in fracking, from the acquisition of the water, chemical mixing at the well, injection of fracturing fluids, the collection of fracturing wastewater, and wastewater treatment and disposal.

There is no reason why Australian environmental regulators and CSG operators could not follow the same practises and permit ordinary Australians to enjoy the economic benefits of a thriving CSG industry.

The Australian public has been lured down a very dangerous path the koala-suited extremists.

Renewable energy is not the answer for this nation.

Solar, windpower, even hydro, are inherently unreliable. There are cloudy days, there are windless days and there are droughts. Those are the facts the Greens will not face.

We have an abundance of coal, a cheap source of energy, and we have gas. The Greens are opposed to the use of both forms of fuel – and, of course, they hate uranium, which is probably the best long-term fuel available and again, a mineral which is found here in copious quantities.

Thanks to the Greens and Labor, taxpayers are still being slugged billions to keep the renewable energy sector afloat through generous subsidies, most of which are sent to offshore manufacturers.

On a cost-basis, the renewable energy alternatives just don’t stack up.

The Nationals haven’t helped by caving in to the apocalyptic Greens on CSG.


The Australian Defence Force – What A Mess

A Dithering Assistant Minister, Questionable Decisions & A Hostile Muslim Imam for the ADF

After the Iraq war and the war on terror in Afghanistan one would think that our ADF and defence organisation had possibly learned a thing or two, but they apparently learned nothing at all.

Australia does not have one politician, defence bureaucrat or past or present military leader that can convincingly articulate a credible strategy for dealing with the runaway locomotive that is ISIS in the Middle East.

Retired former chief of the Army, Peter Leahy says that sending Australian troops into battle with the Iraqis is not the answer. The now Professor Leahy, who has taken up a position as head of strategic studies at the University of Canberra, says we should only provide non-combat elements such as logistics training. This opinion appears to ignore that fact that the Iraqis don’t seem to have the stomach for a fight and recently ran from the enemy gifting them some $1.5 billion worth of military hardware.

On the other side of the coin we have former Major-General Jim Molan, who appears to have the ear of government, saying that we should be sending our troops into battle with the Iraqis in an effort to give them confidence and stop them running away from the fight.

Then there is the real fly in the ointment that is actually causing more angst. That fly is Barrack Obama’s ‘Rules of Engagement’ that make it almost impossible to conduct any form of effective counter to ISIS. For instance, during the Iraq war there were approximately 250 air strikes per day against enemy positions as opposed to only about 10 per day against ISIS because of Obama’s interference. What is the point of sending our ADF personnel to Iraq if they are to be hampered by the ridiculous rules of engagement that actually prevent any meaningful attempts to engage and defeat the enemy?

On top of that there is absolutely nothing constructive or meaningful coming from the dithering Assistant Minister for Defence, Stuart Robert, or the Department of Defence bureaucrats. It seems that they are more concerned with the political correctness of turning the ADF into an diverse, inclusive, tolerant, multicultural love in.

Theirs is a parallel universe where military law is set aside to allow homosexual servicemen and women to march in a divisive political homosexual Mardi Gras, where homosexuals are permitted to disrespect military insignia by including it on the so-called ‘rainbow’ jewellery that proclaims their perverse sexual preferences and where male military personnel are allowed to run around in women’s clothing and insist on being called by their chosen females names.

In the ADF world that these divisive people are attempting to build, white Anglo-Australian males who have done Australia proud on the battlefields for over 100 years are shunned in favour of having homosexuals, male transsexuals in women’s dresses and Muslims as our front line troops. So much for those claims of ‘inclusion’ and ‘tolerance’. We hear from the Assistant Minister for Defence that such an ADF will be infinitely better placed to engage the enemy. Really? What are they going to do, scare them into submission by waving their rainbow underpants at them?

One has to really wonder at the intelligence and competence of Stuart Robert, who was labelled The Minister For Stupidity by Bernard Gaynor, after his announcement that he has appointed a Muslim Imam to the ADF ‘s Religious Advisory Committee To The Services. He didn’t appoint just any old Islamic Imam. Oh no, he appointed Mohamadu Nawaz Saleem who supports and is an advocate for radical Islamic sympathiser and possible terrorist groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir.

For those not familiar with Hizb ut-Tahrir, that is the Islamic organisation that was a short time ago demanding that an Islamic army be formed in Australia to impose Sharia law upon all Australians. This group displayed more of its dangerous ratbaggery when a spokesman, Urhman Badar wanted to use the Sydney Opera House as a stage to promote the concept of ‘Honour Killings’. In addition to this Badar called for Pakistan to use its nuclear capability to impose a new Islamic Caliphate over this region. There is much more that could be said about Hizb ut-Tahrir but it is suffice to say that an Imam who defends the actions of this and similar groups is a danger and should not be let anywhere near the ADF.

As highlighted by Bernard Gaynor, the appointment of this particular Imam, or any Imam for that matter, to cater for less than 100 Muslims in the ADF is ludicrous when taking into account that there are more military aged Muslims who have departed Australia to join the ranks of ISIS fighting against Australia than there are joining the ADF to defend Australia and there is no guarantee of the continuing loyalty of those Muslims who do join the ADF.

It doesn’t stop there with Imam Mohamadu Nawaz Saleem. The Australian National Imam’s Council recommended this bloke for the appointment and Stuart Robert went along with it. They are the same group that were up in arms about the government proposing laws to prevent Islamic organisation and individuals from advocating terrorism. They screamed about the restrictions to their freedom of speech. This Islamic group also criticised the Abbott government for using the ADF to assist Kurdish fighters fighting against the ISIS. One has to ask, just what side are they on? Silly question really, because they will never be on the side of Australia until it becomes Australiastan.

To top it off, this is the Imam who will advise the Department of Defence on how to recruit even more Muslims into the ADF. How can our government be part of this madness that is playing right into the hands of an unpredictable Islam that is incompatible with everything that is Australia.


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