Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Divide on migration amid fears Muslims won't integrate

The Australian Institute of Progress does seem to be politically centrist but their poll was an online one -- and such polls notoriously give unrepresentative results.  They have some uses but are useless for parameter estimation. The correlations may be interesting but the percentages should be ignored. 

The report below also fails to distinguish between legal and illegal immigration, which is pretty brain-dead.  Attitudes to the two tend to differ widely.  Lumping them together obscures the truth.  More professional surveys have found about two-thirds opposed to illegal immigration -- JR

The nation is deeply divided about Muslim migration, with research revealing widespread concern that immigrants from Islamic countries will not integrate into mainstream society and hold beliefs that are incompatible with Australian culture.

Underscoring the challenge Malcolm Turnbull faces as he seeks to promote "mutual respect" among different cultural and religious groups, a survey on migration attitudes has indicated that almost one in two voters believes an increase in Muslim migrants has been "bad" or "very bad" for the nation. This compares with 8 per cent who think it has been "good" or "very good", and 42 per cent who are neutral.

The survey findings from a Brisbane-based think tank, the Australian Institute of Progress, emerged as the Prime Minister today joins other political leaders to meet Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders to launch a "national day of unity" promoting community and interfaith harmony. At pains to limit an anti-Muslim backlash in the wake of the Parramatta shooting of a police worker and seeking to reset relations with the Islamic community, Mr Turnbull said yesterday the actions of extremists were undermining "the most successful multicultural society in the world".

While the AIP research paper finds Australians are overwhelmingly supportive of current or even higher levels of immigration, the survey identifies "deep-rooted" concern in some sections of the population about the cultural impact of Islamic migration.

Sixty-nine per cent of respondents included in the Australian Attitudes to Immigrationreport were in favour of continued -migration at current or higher levels, compared with 27 per cent who wanted to see fewer migrants.

The findings mirror those of a Scanlon Foundation Social -Cohesion survey from last year, which recorded a low level of concern about immigration, with 35 per cent believing the immigration intake to Australia was "too high" while 58 per cent agreed it was "about right" or "too low". The Scanlon survey also gauged community attitudes to various -religious groups, finding less than 5 per cent were negative towards Christian and Buddhist faiths, but 25 per cent had expressed negative attitudes towards Muslims. 

[The Scanlon Foundation appears to be some sort of Leftist do-gooder organization devoted to encouraging migration. Their figures about migration should therefore be taken with a large grain of salt.  I tried to find on their site details of the study referred to above but I could see no sign of it depite clicking a lot of possible links.  Was it so poor that it was taken down? -- JR]

The hostility to Islamic -migrants identified in the AIP research is most strongly felt among Liberal voters (75 per cent) and those who support minor parties other than the Greens (69 per cent). Among Labor and Greens voters, most respondents took a neutral position, but about 20 per cent said Islamic migration had been negative, and 15 per cent believed it to be positive.

AIP executive director Graham Young, a former campaign chairman for the Queensland Liberal Party, said he had been surprised at the depth of feeling uncovered in the survey. "There is a genuine level of concern," Mr Young said. "People are in favour of immigration, so this is not, per se, xenophobia towards someone who does not have a European or Anglo-Saxon background. This is a specific group that we are specifically worried about."

The qualitative survey, derived from questionnaires of almost 1400 people last November, cited concerns about a potential "clash of cultures" based on Islamic -migrants holding beliefs that were not in line with widespread Australian values. Examples given from across the political spectrum included the perceived treatment of women and homosexuals, the wearing of the burka or niqab, and sharia law being incompatible with Australia's legal system.

"There is a very strong feeling that immigrants from Islamic countries are part of a culture war pitting their way of life and beliefs against ours," the report says.

Mr Young said the findings of the survey, undertaken before the Lindt cafe shooting in Sydney's Martin Place, were not a knee-jerk reaction to recent events.

He said Muslim groups should view the research findings as an indication that more needed to be done to demonstrate that Islam could successfully coexist with other religions groups and secular society. "They need to understand this is not just something that pops up when there is an incidence of -violence; it is something that is strongly held in a large segment of the community," he said.

The report also finds that Labor and Green voters view migration policy measures through the prism of refugee policy, compared with right-wing voters who view it in terms of its economic benefit.

Voters least enthusiastic about immigration were those who supported minor parties other than the Greens, including the Palmer United Party, the Christian Democrats and Family First. Among these "other" minor parties, 43 per cent of respondents wanted -migration reduced a little or a lot, compared with 31 per cent who wanted it increased.

The AIP survey reported that 84 per cent of Labor voters favoured current or higher levels, with only 13 per cent favouring lower levels. Liberal voters were divided, with 40 per cent wanting an increase, 34 per cent believing it should remain unchanged, and 23 per cent believing it should -increase.


Don't let the facts get in the way of a good story

Bjorn Lomborg

Six months have passed since plans for Australia Consensus were first announced. It has been intriguing and disturbing to see Australian media descriptions of me and my think tank, the Copenhagen Consensus Centre, that are ungrounded in reality.

Intriguing because, while Cop-enhagen Consensus has spent a decade working on development priorities, any Australian newspaper reader would be forgiven for believing our efforts are all in the trenches of global warming politics.

Disturbing because some in the Australian press seem to have difficulty distinguishing between journalism and campaigning, especially when they misinterpret data and make up quotes.

Copenhagen Consensus has existed for a decade. With more than 300 of the world's top economists and seven Nobel laureates, we have conducted nine major research projects highlighting the costs and benefits of different investments on topics from HIV-AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa to Latin American development priorities. Only one project - Copenhagen Consensus on Climate in 2009 - dealt exclusively with climate change. Top climate economists and three Nobel laureates asked where a dollar spent could do the most good for climate, for example with reforestation, carbon taxes or technology transfers.

Of 339 research papers published since 2004, just 51 tackle the economics of climate change. (Symptomatic of the state of debate in Australia, I feel compelled to add that all accept the reality of man-made global warming).

For the past 18 months, Copenhagen Consensus has focused on the UN Global Goal agenda, showing its 169 development targets to vary hugely in societal benefits. A Nobel laureate panel found the UN should focus on 19 phenomenal targets including efforts to eradicate tuberculosis, improve girls' schooling, increase family planning and phase out fossil fuel subsidies.

As president, my role includes connecting with policymakers, international organisations and the public to ensure this research shapes real-world decisions.

During the past year, my articles and interviews about Copenhagen Consensus research have been published more than 1000 times in 89 countries, from The Age,Washington Post, Times of India to The East African and Venezuela's El Universal. Only a small portion focused on climate change; the vast majority talked about everything from malaria and domestic violence to air pollution and broadband access.

Yet in Australia my name is never published without "climate" by its side. Despite Australia Consensus plans focusing on development and prosperity, Australian reporters regularly have mislabelled it a "climate change think tank".

Recently, two media outlets went further than getting basic details wrong. In August, the Guardian Australia announced that "Lomborg's `consensus centre' was to spend up to $800,000 of its $4 million in government funding on promotion and marketing".

Yet the reporter hadn't stopped to properly fact-check and call us. She had a draft budget in which the University of Western Australia casually labelled some spending "Dissemination, promotion and mar-keting". This was a poor description because the entry covered academic publishing, book printing, multimedia production, websites for academic research, media monitoring, newsletters and mailing lists for research findings. Not the impression left by the Guardian Australia.

Of greater concern, the reporter wasn't actually reading the budget that showed how we would spend government funding but a different budget, mostly consisting of $8m extra from private funding sources. So she mischaracterised the proposed use of the funds and overstated the public component by more than 100 per cent.

We emailed the Guardian Australia to discuss these errors. The journalist did not respond. Her "scoop" has been extensively quoted elsewhere, including in The Conversation.

Despite its tagline "Academic rigour, journalistic flair", The Conversation has offered the most breathtaking example of Australian journalism. In a piece by Mon-ash University media studies lecturer David Holmes, the outlet published an incorrect quote.

Despite our record, Holmes believes that Copenhagen Consensus is climate-focused and we use development as a stalking horse to "attack" climate policies.

He rests this assertion on the claim that in 2013, writing for The Australian, I forgot the name of my own think tank and described it as the "Copenhangen (sic) Consensus Centre for Climate". In Holmes's mind, the veil slipped: my quote revealed that our work is really climate-focused.

Except it didn't. "Copenhagen Consensus Centre for Climate" never appeared in my text. I did refer to the project I mentioned earlier, "Copenhagen Consensus on Climate".

The word "Centre" was added to the quote in The Conversation. Given the article's argument wouldn't make sense without the fabrication, it is difficult to allow for a generous interpretation where this was just an error.

We have tried getting other factual errors acknowledged and fixed in the past. The Conversation told us these were a matter of "differing interpretations". I beg to differ. Campaigning reporters have every right to advance their own perspective, even if I question whether this should be called journalism.

What is dispiriting is when they do not engage with our research or record. Or the facts. Copenhagen Consensus has helped ensure billions of dollars is spent on highly effective measures such as malnutrition.

In any topic, I don't shy away from making unpopular arguments based on what cost-benefit analysis shows. Indeed, in the last months of this year, as global leaders prepare to strike a new climate treaty in Paris, Copenhagen Consensus will focus again on climate as we make the case for an effective treaty with more spent on research into green energy.

No doubt this will lead to further attacks and mischaracterisation of our work. I cannot help but think that this reflects more on the critics than it does on Copenhagen Consensus.


Militant unions have Michaelia Cash on their case

There's a story about Employment Minister Michaelia Cash that dates back to her time as a lawyer at Freehills.

Working on a high-profile industrial relations case against the construction union last decade, Cash stepped into a lift with two union officials. In front of the cameras, the story goes, the union guys had been all smiles. But alone in the lift they "went her" with a shockingly abusive tirade, which -abruptly ended when the lift doors opened and it was time to smile for the cameras again.

"She never forgot that -moment," one of Cash's Canberra confidants says.

The incident might have been in the back of her mind years later when in June she rose to her feet in the upper house as a senator for Western Australia and attacked the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union for defending officials who had committed, she claimed, "outrageous acts of violence against women".

And it must still have been in the back of her mind a mere three months after that in September this year when Malcolm Turnbull promoted her to cabinet and gave her the Coalition's union-busting industrial relations portfolio.

In an interview with The Australian after her appointment, Cash made a frank assessment of the construction union: "They're militants. They don't play by the rules and they should be held -accountable. It's as simple as that."

In the same interview, she praised Margaret Thatcher as a woman who found her way in a man's world and conveyed a difficult message to the people.

It all bolsters Cash's credentials to take on the unions ahead of the findings of the royal commission into trade union governance and corruption, which will report in December. And beyond that, at next year's general election, which is shaping up to be the first to consider workers' wages and conditions since the Coalition's disastrous 2007 defeat over John Howard's Work Choices industrial relations policy.

At the prospect of another such battle, the unions say "bring it on".

Even so, Cash's aside about Thatcher - an enthusiastic response to a question about a 2011 speech to her old high school - stunned the labour movement, playing out in social media land where the unions are king.

"There's a hairstyle that hates unions" went one comment on a blog, referring to Cash's impeccable coiffure, which bears some resemblance to Thatcher's.

Of course, conservative supporters were delighted with the comments. "We have high hopes for her," says the Centre for Independent Studies' James Paterson.

In appointing Cash to the IR role, Turnbull elevated a powerful parliamentary performer.

As the junior immigration minister, she won a federal case against the Maritime Union of Australia over the government's issuance of special purpose visas for offshore oil and gas workers. She took on the union's campaign over 457 visas, accusing them of running the "fraudulent" and "hypocritical" line that she was perpetuating the use of cheap foreign labour.

Says independent senator Bob Day, who has watched Cash from his seat on the crossbenches: "She's one of the most impressive parliamentary performers I've ever seen. She's a big slugger. She hits every ball over the fence for six. That's why they don't ask her many questions; she demolishes them. It's a pity there aren't more like her. She's across her brief. She knows her stuff backwards."

Effervescent and charismatic, Cash was praised for being an energetic and effective junior minister to Scott Morrison and then Peter Dutton in immigration and assisting Tony Abbott on women.

Cash has an excellent relationship with Julie Bishop, the most senior female parliamentarian and a fellow West Australian.

While the two didn't know each other in Perth, since Cash entered parliament in 2008 they're known to have become "mates".

Although Cash's comments some years ago that she was "not a feminist" attracted some fire, she is passionate about increasing workforce participation for women.

Turnbull, in the days after the reshuffle, said he didn't want to wage war with the unions. But it helps him to have a nuclear weapon in his arsenal. Because despite the conditional olive branch the ACTU extended after he seized the leadership from -Abbott, and the amicable feeling at last week's Canberra summit, the unions still might want to wage war with him.

Says one senior union source, "I was telling a meeting of delegates yesterday . Turnbull is a merchant banker. He believes in de-regulation. He is tipping his hand towards penalty rates. There's an argument to be had, and we're going to have it."

To this end, the union movement has amassed a war chest estimated at about $30 million.

The plan for a grassroots door-knocking and cold-calling campaign based on last year's success in the Victorian election using a volunteer army comprising workers from firefighters to teachers to target marginal seats won't prove expensive.

Much of the big spend will go on TV advertising. The labour movement is particularly pleased with the response to the anti-China free-trade agreement ads by Melbourne guru Bill Shannon.

Luke Hilakari, the Victorian Trades Hall secretary who helped to mastermind last year's Victorian campaign, told The Weekend Australian: "If Minister Cash takes cutting penalty rates to the next election we'll fight the Liberal Party all the way to the ballot box."

In recent weeks, penalty rates have become a lightning rod for the IR debate in the community.

Cash says it is an "unfair flashpoint".

Since taking over the portfolio she has backed the view of employer groups that weekend loadings belong in "history" while Turnbull has hinted at the inevitability of penalty rate reform.

But as Turnbull and Cash are at pains to point out, there is no deviation from Coalition policy, which promises not to meddle in the Fair Work Commission's process for setting penalties. The commission is not expected to make a decision before next year.

In an attempt to move the debate along John Hart, of the hospitality industry lobby group Restaurant & Catering Australia has asked Cash to make a submission to the Fair Work Commission pushing the industry's case for penalty rate cuts.

The government has ruled this out until now.  But Hart is confident Cash will at least take his plea to reconsider back to cabinet.  "We've found her very open," he says.

Next month's Productivity Commission report on its workplace relations inquiry could prove a game changer. Cash promises a "careful and methodical" review of the report, which rules out a snap judgment on whether to adopt the review's recommendations but strongly suggests it will form the case for changes. The Coalition then will seek a mandate from the people to make them.

However, a more immediate test of Cash's powers of persuasion looms ahead of the next election.

Cash is now charged with shepherding the government's workplace relations bills through the Senate, where they have stalled.

Day says the legislation, which includes changes to how workplace agreements are struck under the Fair Work Act, has come up against with "100 years of class warfare rhetoric" from opposition senators. "Even the most benign change or amendment, even changing a comma in the Fair Work Act, the response is always the same, hours and hours of rhetoric: `You don't care about the poor, you only care about the rich. Why are you hitting the most disadvantaged?' Hours and hours," Day says.

"You have to understand most of the opposition are union to their bootstraps. This is what they grew up on. This is what they were weaned on. They eat, sleep and breathe unionised workforce."

Other bills to resurrect the Coalition's powerful Australian Building and Construction Commission watchdog - designed to bring the CFMEU to heel - and changes to the Registered Organisations laws that would bring rules for unions into line with companies were also defeated in the face of insurmountable resistance from Labor and the unions.

"The unions were meeting with the crossbenchers and fuelling an idea in the crossbenchers' heads that (our legislation) . would be a return to Work Choices," says a source close to Cash's predecessor, Eric Abetz.

"The ACTU was up at Parliament House on a regular basis with (crossbenchers) Jacqui Lambie and Glenn Lazarus. Good luck to (Cash) trying to change that."

Ultimately, Abetz was unable to make a powerful case for the legislation out of fear of the union backlash. Abetz was "doing exact-ly what he was told to do and keep the temperature down".

Did the Coalition's legislation suffer as a result?

"Of course."  What's more, the government's agenda is still to keep "the temperature down on the issue".

It doesn't seem to bode well for the new minister, but Day says Cash does not share Abetz's "dour" demeanour.

"I'm not sure what the previous approach necessarily was," Cash told The Australian in her post-spill interview. "My approach -always was to sit down and talk to people and listen to their concerns if they have any. You have to bring the people with you."

Among the biggest campaigners for industrial relations reform is the building industry lobby Master Builders Australia.

MBA chief executive Wilhelm Harnisch says that to beat the unions in the IR debate in the Senate and more widely across the nation, Turnbull and Cash must demonstrate how every workplace relations reform will benefit communities and households.

It's not an easy task. Arguably, this is what the Productivity Commission was asked by the government do to and its draft report failed to satisfy many. Yet all sides seem to agree on the need for change to usher the economy through the post-mining slump.

Opposition workplace relations spokesman Brendan O'Connor says the pace of change today "makes the Industrial Revolution look like an evolution" and we need a plan to stay competitive. But he won't countenance any cuts to wages.

Industry says it is relying on Turnbull to devise a deft policy that will resonate with the electorate. "Cash needs a story to sell. IR is not an end in itself, it's a means to a broader end," says Harnisch.

Her success will depend on whether she has the support of her department, while working closely with the rest of cabinet.  "It's a great portfolio that can make or break her," Harnisch says. "This is only the beginning."


A global bubble looms large, but Labor wants to push us down the wrong path

We are now deep in bubble territory.

Australia's sense of its own prosperity floats in large part on a property bubble while the global economy floats on an unprecedented liquidity created by governments.

"Low rates, almost by definition, build bubbles – stock market bubbles, real estate bubbles, even bubbles in the art market," warns Carl Icahn, one of the world's most prominent financial magnates.

Last week, Icahn took the unusual step of releasing a 14-minute documentary video on YouTube entitled Danger Ahead, to warn of a coming financial storm: "I don't think it's if it will happen, it's when it will happen."

He regrets his reticence in 2007, when he believed a financial storm was building and acted on his fears, but did not think he was public enough about his concerns.

"If more respected investors had warned about the market in '07, we might have avoided the crisis in '08. I've been worried for the past five, six months about the market, and the economy, and the dangerous spot we're in."

He is not making that mistake twice.

If Icahn is even half right, it is worth noting that the alternative government of Australia, led by Bill Shorten, intends to fight the next election on the issues of penalty rates, higher taxes, class warfare and subverting the Free Trade Agreement with China, all relying on union financing and manpower in campaign for marginal seats.

This is not an election strategy, it's a suicide note.

If Labor wins on this mandate, Australia loses. It is Rudd II. But if the electorate decides it does not want a union-dominated government to manage Australia through global financial stress, then Labor loses. It's a high-risk strategy.

The world economy is already a dangerous place for Australia. The crash in the global commodities markets is as precipitous as the general stock market crash of 2008.

Canada, another wealthy, resourced-based economy, is in recession. In three years the Canadian dollar has gone from parity with the US dollar to 75¢, the lowest in 11 years.

Australia's dollar has seen an even more precipitous decline. In April 2013, it was worth $1.05 US dollars. It has since declined to 69¢, a 34 per cent decline in 29 months.

This year, US$11 trillion ($15.75 trillion) has been wiped off the value of global stock markets, or more than 10 times the size of Australia's gross domestic product. At the centre of that decline has been the commodities crash.

Icahn thinks worse is to come. He blames corporate greed and a dysfunctional political culture in Washington.

He argues that the enormous liquidity, at near-zero interest rates, pumped out by the Federal Reserve and other central banks, is building pressure into the global system. "If low interest rates were a simple panacea, we would never have recessions."

"The irony of lower interest rates is that while you think it's going to help to create jobs and make workers more productive, it's not happening…

"The Federal Reserve balance sheet has mushroomed from less than US$1 trillion to over US$4.5 trillion. This is a huge, almost unbelievable move, and all that money, it crowds out the little guy, the middle-class investor. There's nowhere to go with their money but into the stock market or, even more concerning, high-yield bonds that are very risky ... It's financial engineering at its height."

Icahn offers a series of protective measures to release the pressure.

"One obvious problem the government should have fixed a long time ago is the carried interest tax loophole … Not having to pay full taxes on money that you are earning is an absurdity."

He also believes the world's largest economy, which the world needs as an economic locomotive, has locked up US$2.2 trillion in corporate cash sitting on the sidelines because US companies will not pay 35 per cent tax on income that has already been taxed abroad.

"No other country demands that from their companies. It's absurd. Because these companies are willing to pay a tax."

He then turns to what he ominously calls "the earnings mirage". He believes the share prices of hundreds of companies have been pumped up by financial engineering and accounting tricks, which he lists. "I know this stuff. I've taken over companies … These earnings are fallacious."

The scale of share buy-backs and corporate acquisitions have returned to the peaks they reached in 2007, just before the crash. "This year, mergers and acquisitions business has doubled in four or five years to US$2.3 trillion,"  says Icahn, describing most of it as short-term financial engineering. "It weakens the balance sheet."

Icahn is scathing about the amount of corporate debt being created to finance deals, another echo of the excesses which led to the 2008 crash.

"High yield really stands for junk bonds. People are buying these not really understanding what they are buying. If you look at the numbers, they are amazingly risky. There are US$2.2 trillion ($3.15 trillion) in junk bonds, up a trillion dollars in five years."

Icahn believes Donald Trump could crash through to presidential victory in 2016 and is so disenchanted with Washington he thinks Trump may represent the shake-up that Congress needs.

For Australia, the end of the China-led commodities boom does not spell an end to China-led export growth. Agriculture represents a huge opportunity, as do services and education, while China's need for commodities will never be modest.

Yet Labor has decided to oppose the China-Australia Free Trade Pact, risking serious blow-back from Beijing, largely because the corruption-riddled Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union wants to protect its existing cartel arrangements.

Labor's compliance with CFMEU dictates is a recipe for economic decline. It could also prove a recipe for disaster for Labor in 2016.


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