Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The key moments from Scott Morrison’s appearance at the National Press Club

Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke at the National Press Club today, where he focused on reframing the debate about Australians’ security.

Mr Morrison pledged to combat cyber-bullying, help victims of domestic violence and boost the nation’s military. But other topics were on the agenda as well. Here are the Prime Minister’s words on all the key issues.


Mr Morrison said “disappointment” was “not a strong enough word” to express his feelings towards those advocating changes to asylum seeker policy, citing his time as immigration minister under Tony Abbott.

“I lived through those horrible years when the bodies were piling up, and I vowed to myself when I came to government, when Tony was prime minister, that we were never, ever going to allow this to happen again,” he said.

“And what is happening in our Australian parliament right now, it may be entirely well motivated. I’m not making any judgments about people’s motivations here. In fact, quite the opposite.

“But what I am doing is — they do not know what they’re playing with. They have no idea of the consequences of what they are playing with. And they will unleash a world of woe again. How do I know? I’ve seen it before. And I never, ever want to see it again.”

He rejected any suggestion that he and his frontbenchers had been misrepresenting the contents of the bill on asylum seeker medical transfers.


The Prime Minister was asked whether he wanted to see anyone from the banking and financial services sector go to jail in the wake of the royal commission’s report.

“Well, in this country, it’s courts that are going to determine that. That’s how it works,” he said.

“Everyone should face responsibility for their actions and be accountable for what they’ve done, and matters have been referred off for ASIC and the others to take forward, and they’ll be pursued and they’ll end up in court, I have no doubt, and then the courts will decide.”

Mr Morrison spruiked a couple of the government’s policies, including the Banking Executive Accountability Regime and the creation of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority.

“So there are a lot of actions I can take to ensure people face accountability and face justice and we’re taking those actions,” he said.


The mortgage broking industry reacted angrily to the banking royal commission’s recommendations, which would essentially up-end their business model.

Mr Morrison tried to ease its nerves.

“The mortgage brokers understand, with the cautious way we’ve responded to the report, that we understand the important role that they play in the community,” he said.

“The royal commission has recommended some changes that will need to be absorbed over time, and they can be absorbed if they’re done in consultation. But I want to see as many mortgage brokers in this country, five years from now — in fact, more than there are today.

“I don’t want to see this sector wither on the vine and be strangled by regulation that would throw them out of business, but more importantly, would deny choice and competition in the banking system.”


A large focus of Mr Morrison’s appearance was his government’s commitment to security - not just national security, but Australians’ personal security.

That included new measures to combat cyber-bulling.

“A few weeks ago, I had the great privilege as Prime Minister of awarding Kate and Tick Everett the honour of being local Australians of the Year. Kate is with us today. She’s up the back. Give her a round of applause,” he said.

“Every Australian parent can only try to begin to imagine the pain of Kate and Tick when they lost their daughter, Dolly, to online bullying just over a year ago.

“Through Dolly’s Dream, they are transforming what I can only describe as indescribable grief into a force for change to protect the children of our country.

“For parents, it used to be a warning of stranger danger for kids as they played in the front yard or on the nature strip. The online world has opened up a place for children — a terror of parents everywhere, including me and Jen.”


In a similar vein, the Prime Minister promised more support for victims of domestic violence.

“Women in Australia, are still the targets of violence, abuse and disrespect. And this must stop,” he said.

Mr Morrison praised Kelly O’Dwyer and Paul Fletcher for their work in this area.

“Where immediate action is needed, we have delivered. And that includes committing a further $20 million just in the past year for 1800-RESPECT.”

He announced a $60 million investment in emergency accommodation and $18 million for the states and territories to keep women and children safe in their homes.

“We can’t ask women and children to leave dangerous homes if they have no other place to go. And where it is safe, women and children survivors should be helped to remain in their homes and in their communities. You’ve got to be safe in your own home,” he said.

“We’ve listened to the front-line workers and survivors throughout the consultations we’ve had over the past year, and that is why one focus of our measures also, we will be announcing soon, will be on prevention. On changing the attitudes to violence and helping those who think that violence is an option to stop.

“This new commitment will build on the more than $350 million our government has invested since 2015 to stop this violence against women and children.”


Young football player Hakeem Al-Araibi, who was accepted into Australia as a refugee, is still languishing in a Thai prison as he fights a request to extradite him to Bahrain.

Mr Morrison has written to Thailand’s prime minister twice on the matter, adding his voice to the public campaign to get Mr Al-Araibi freed — but so far, without success.

“The only thing I’m concerned about right now is getting him home. I want to get Hakeem Al-Araibi home,” he said.

“I know that (Foreign Minister) Marise Payne has been working with the consulate and others from DFAT. And our Australians of the Year, the international sports community, others, have been making this case. But they’ve been making it respectfully, been making it carefully and I will continue to do that as well.”

The Prime Minister urged Australians to be patient.

“It’s not my job to get upset, it’s my job to get him home and that’s what we’re working towards and we will keep doing that.

“But I would ask Australians, who I know desperately want to see him come home, that we have to manage this carefully. We have to be patient. It’s not a straight up and down issue. I know it looks like one. Most issues do. But you know, to solve them requires a lot more patience and a lot more diligence, and that’s what we’re applying to this.”


Confronted with the Liberal Party’s record of knifing two sitting prime ministers, Mr Morrison insisted voters could trust his promises would be implemented.

“I think there’s a great myth that is going around about what happened in 2013. The Labor Party had quite a few prime ministers, that’s true — and they weren’t very good! We’ve had three good ones, I would argue!” he said.

“What happened in 2013 was that the Labor Party were thrown out because they were a very bad government. They had manifestly stuffed it on so many points, it was embarrassing.

“Now, people can rightly say that we’ve had three prime ministers — that is true. What they cannot say is that we’ve mismanaged the finances. They cannot say that we’ve mismanaged the Budget or the economy. They cannot say that we’ve mishandled the borders or failed to invest in the Defence Forces or secure our position in the Pacific and the broader Indo-Pacific region.

“The great myth of the 2013 election was that Labor was thrown out only because they had too many prime ministers. They were thrown out because they were a joke in government and they will be again. And let me tell you why — they have learned nothing. Absolutely nothing.”


The Prime Minister was asked whether he would acknowledge that climate change was leading to more frequent extreme weather events.

“I don’t know if I agree with your reasoning,” he said. “We have a clear commitment to reduce emissions to 26 per cent by 2030. So that is our response. We are taking action on climate change.

“I acknowledge it’s a factor. Of course it is. Australians do. The vast majority of Australians. But the issue is how you achieve it.

“We believe you need sensible, achievable targets to address climate change, and we have them and we’re achieving them. What we disagree with is having reckless targets that shut down your economy and take people’s jobs, which is what Labor proposes.”


Today the long-awaited $50 billion contract for a French company to build submarines in South Australia was finally signed.

Off the back of that, Mr Morrison was asked whether he would consider building a new naval base in the state.

“Look, our plate is pretty full,” he replied with a chuckle, before going on to praise the shipbuilding deal.

“I said this morning with the other ministers, this is vision. This is what it looks like. People say I want you to have some vision. How about turning 1.5 per cent defence spending into 2 per cent by 2021, and engaging the biggest recapitalisation of defence forces since the Second World War?

“That’s vision and it’s not just vision — it’s happening. It’s happening right now.”


Perspective on the extraordinary 2019 flooding in Townsville

Extraordinary floods go back a long way

A new study examines how unusual meteorology interacted with topography and other local conditions to generate some of the most devastating floods in American history.

A new study categorizes the 1903 Heppner Flood in eastern Oregon, shown here, as a “strange flood,” which stems from uncommon flood agents or extreme conditions. Credit: National Weather Service
By Aaron Sidder  4 February 2019

On 14 June 1903, a massive swell of water overwhelmed the small town of Heppner, Ore., killing more than 250 people. Ordinarily, floods are reported in probabilistic terms: A 10-year flood, for example, describes streamflow conditions that have a 10% (1 in 10) chance of occurring within any given year. But the Heppner Flood was so extreme that it defied standard descriptions. At its peak, the flood was more than 200 times larger than the discharge of a 10-year flood.

“Strange” is not an adjective commonly applied to floods and other natural disasters, but Smith et al. argue that it may be the most appropriate descriptor for extreme and unusual flooding. The Heppner  Flood, they argue, may have been one of the strangest floods on record. It was triggered by an intense hailstorm in June, in a region where spring snowmelt typically drives peak annual streamflow. These conditions are characteristic of strange floods, which they define as extreme events triggered by circumstances that contrast with the common flood-generating mechanisms in a region.

The researchers examined extreme floods across  several decades in the conterminous United States, using annual flood peak observations from more than 8,000 U.S. Geological Survey stream gauging stations. They developed a statistical framework they call the “upper tail ratio,” in reference to the upper tail of a statistical distribution, where rare events reside. The upper tail ratio is defined as the peak discharge for a flood of record, divided by the stream’s 10-year flood magnitude. The 1903 Heppner Flood registered an upper tail ratio of 200, topped only by the 1976 flood caused by the bursting of the Teton Dam.

The team discovered that record floods share many traits. In the western United States, severe flooding is linked to mountainous terrain and intense thunderstorms; in the east, it occurs in coastal regions susceptible to tropical cyclones. Major floods also have a different seasonal distribution than annual peak flow events:  Annual flood peaks across the United States tend to have winter or spring maxima, whereas the strange floods in the upper tail nearly always occur in the warm season.

In addition to the analysis of floods across the United States, the authors provided a case study of the Blue Mountains, the setting for the Heppner Flood and other strange floods in the 1950s and 1960s. In the case study, they examined the hydrology, hydrometeorology, and hydroclimatology of the extreme floods in the region.

Strange floods are the least expected and most damaging floods, but their infrequency can make them difficult to study. The analysis offers insight into extreme floods and provides a platform for comparing floods around the world to those in the United States. (Water Resources Research, https://doi.org/10.1029/2018WR022539, 2018)


Boats battle: Labor eyes asylum deal

Scott Morrison faces the potential loss of two critical votes on the floor of parliament this week, with Bill Shorten considering support for a newly amended version of the medivac asylum-seeker bill before moving swiftly to force a vote on extending parliamentary sitting weeks in response to the banking royal commission.

The Prime Minister will escalate his attack today on Labor’s border protection credentials ­before tomorrow’s return of parliament with a headland national ­security speech in which he will accuse the Opposition Leader of learning nothing from the tragic failures of the past.

“I know what compromise and poorly thought-through change can do to this policy,” Mr Morrison will say in his first address this year to the National Press Club.

“Labor proposes to do both, again. They have learned nothing from their failures. They will ­abolish regional processing as we know it. Our plan is simple. We won’t change it. Labor will.”

Mr Shorten will seek to bring a swift end to debate over border protection with the possibility that a vote could be brought on as early as tomorrow afternoon. Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo will brief the Labor leader this morning on the implications of the medivac bill before a shadow cabinet meeting to consider any changes to Labor’s position and potential amendments that could strengthen ministerial discretion.

Labor’s caucus is due to meet today at 6pm to consider the cabinet’s position, with some left-wing Labor MPs demanding the opposition support the medivac bill as is, while others call for Labor to abandon it altogether.

It is now likely Labor will draft its own amendments to those that passed in the Senate last year that sought to supplant departmental and ministerial discretion over medical transfers of asylum-seekers and refugees to Australia with an independent panel of doctors. But last night Mr Morrison was defiant, declaring: “This bill is completely unnecessary,” he said. “If anything, it takes border protection backwards.”

In what is shaping as a ­potential turning point in pre-election positioning by both major parties, Mr Shorten will seek to move as early as Wednesday for a vote in the house on ­extending parliamentary sitting weeks so anti-bank legislation can be passed in response to the 76 recommendations of the royal commission. The move could be potentially passed with the support of the full crossbench as the government seeks to fend off any attempts to extend parliament ­beyond the two weeks scheduled before the April 2 budget.

The Law Council of Australia, however, will side with the government today, having warned against calls for extra parliamentary sitting weeks for fear a rush to legislate could have unintended consequences. “Confusing, convoluted and inaccessible laws have already let down the Australian people. We must take the time to get this right,” Law Council President Arthur Moses said.

In the strongest sign yet that Labor is preparing to modify its position on the medical transfers bill, ­opposition immigration spokesman Shayne Neumann said Labor had “great respect” for the assessments of the security agencies, and would ensure the minister retained the “final” say over who came to Australia.

“Labor has always had two clear objectives: making sure sick people can get medical care, and making sure the minister has final discretion over medical transfers,” he said.

But the government continued yesterday to stare down the possibility of a defeat on the bill, saying Labor would own the consequences if it failed to change its position.

“If Bill Shorten wants to pass this legislation, Shorten’s law will weaken border protection in Australia, there’ll be more people-smuggling boats arriving, we’ll have to reopen Christmas Island — that’ll cost $1.4 billion to do,” Leader of the House Christopher Pyne said. “So it’s back to those hideous days where there were 50,000 unauthorised arrivals on 800 boats, and at least 1200 deaths at sea — that’s Labor’s policy and they want to re-implement it.”

There is growing nervousness within Labor that the medivac bill will leave the party exposed to a pre-election attack on border protection. One senior right-winger said “children” on Labor’s frontbench and within the caucus needed to grow up and face the ­reality that they could soon be in government.

“The children in our party who believe in fairytales have to be stopped. National security is just too important to be allowed to be run by children,” the source said. “We have got to ensure the minister retains the unequivocal discretion to override the doctors.”

Confidential security advice revealed by The Australian last week, which has since been declassified, warned the medivac bill passed by the Senate with Labor support risked dismantling the “third pillar” of the nation’s border-protection architecture. It is understood the dominant view on the Right of the Labor Party is that the advice of ASIO and Home ­Affairs is credible and must be heeded.

A Labor Right MP said it would be better for the opposition to act like it was ready to govern rather than score political points by forcing Scott Morrison into an embarrassing defeat on the floor of the House of Representatives.


Thousands back call for minister to reinstate principal dragging defiant child

If the principal cannot enforce discipline, who can?

Parents have rallied behind a Melbourne principal accused of dragging a primary school-aged pupil through a playground.

Steve Warner, the principal of Manor Lakes P-12 College in Wyndham Vale, was stood down after video footage of the incident emerged last month.

Almost 15,000 people had signed a petition calling on Victorian Education Minister James Merlino to reinstate Mr Warner by midday on Monday.

Parent Mark England said the school community had written to federal and state ministers but the principal's fate remained uncertain.

The footage is being investigated by both the Department of Education and Victoria Police.

The petition, started by Mr England on change.org, said Mr Warner had been an "amazing influence" on the school and its students since his appointment two years ago.

It said he had "turned the school around" with renewed focus on learning and improved discipline.

"The worst outcome of this situation would be for the school to lose him as the principal and leader," Mr England wrote.

"His work has only just started to take effect and there are only good things that could come from him continuing in his role.

"We are asking that his dedicated work at the school not be in vain due to this one isolated incident."

Mr England said he had collected 200 comments from the school community speaking of their positive experiences with the principal to forward to state and federal politicians.

Mr England said he would withdraw his two children from the school if Mr Warner was not reinstated. He had heard of other parents considering the same.

It is understood the footage was captured on Snapchat by another student on January 31 and then shared on social media. The circumstances leading up to the incident are unclear and are being investigated.

Shortly after the footage emerged, Mr Merlino said it was "appalling and concerning".

The minister has been contacted for comment. A police spokesman said its investigation was ongoing.


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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