Thursday, January 16, 2020

Qld. move towards taxpayer-supported election campaigns  threatens free speech

Not-for-profits warn laws will end public debate

Background: Queensland will impose Australian-first election campaign spending limits and laws to block large political donations among a suite of integrity reforms announced on Tuesday. Although controversial, many integrity experts argue tipping the balance towards taxpayer-funded elections increases transparency and reduces the influence of large donors. The laws would restrict third-party organisations, including unions, political action groups like GetUp and industry bodies, to spend $87,000 in a single electorate, with an overall cap of $1m. The government would increase payments to candidates from $1.57 a vote to $3 a vote, with the eligibility threshold lowered from 6% of the first-preference vote to 4%.

CHARITIES have warned they will be "silenced" by a Queensland Government crackdown on election spending that could crimp their ability to fundraise and stifle public debate.

In free-speech backlash, not-for-profit groups warned that planned laws will discourage them from advocating on a wide range of issues because they risk being hit with caps on donations and spending.

Unions including the Nurses Union and Together argued that the planned laws could restrict them from campaigning on policy issues that affect their members.

As part of the Palaszczuk Government's plan to limit election spending, groups that spend more than $1000 in a bid to "directly or indirectly" influence votes up to a year before an election would be forced to register as a third party with the Electoral Commission.

These groups would have to disclose donations, face caps of $4000 per donor for political matters every four years and limit their spending to $1 million or $87,000 per electorate. Queensland Law Society president Luke Murphy said the law would have a "chilling effect" on public debate. Many charities backed the plan to restrict election spending by parties, but argued that they should not be caught by the rules.

Queensland Council of Social Service chief Mark Henley warned that the laws could "stifle public advocacy from not-for-profits, including small community groups and charities". The spending limit could include amounts spent on research, polling and staff, as well as advertising, he said.

Greenpeace Australia's Terry O'Donnell said that an ad about "the impact of climate change on the bushfires" would be caught by the laws "even if it does not mention a party or candidate".

Australian Conservation Foundation chief Anthony Moore said that the planned laws would "make Queensland elections more inequitable, by silencing community voices, while letting the largest third party actors — corporations and industry groups — off the hook".

A government spokesman said that they would consider recommendations from a parliamentary committee that is examining the laws.

From the Brisbane "Courier Mail" of 13 January, 2020

Defence advised to walk away from French subs

A key adviser to the federal governmen­t was so concerned about the $80bn Future Sub­marine Project it warned Defence it should consider walking away from the French-built boats.

A report by the Australian Nationa­l Audit Office released on Tuesday revealed the Naval Shipbuilding Advisory Board warned that Defence should consider whether proceeding with the project was in the national interest.

The ANAO said in the report the submarines’ design phase was running nine months late, and “Defence cannot demonstrate that its expenditure of $396m … has been fully effective” in achieving key milestones.

The report also revealed Defence­ had approved the fabric­ation of complex hull parts for the first future submarine to be undertaken in France, rather than Australia, to guard against delays to the build schedule.

The revelations follow the ­Defence Department’s admission to a Senate estimates hearing late last year that construction of the first boat had been pushed back by up to a year, and the cost to build and maintain all 12 submarines would reach $225bn over their 50-year lifespan.

Defence told the ANAO that if the subs project was delayed by more than three years, it would “create a gap in navy’s submarine capability” that could affect plans for the nation’s Collins-class ­submarines.

In a sign of the tensions between­ Defence and French shipbuilder Naval Group, the report said the government’s Naval Shipbuilding Advisory Board, chaired by former US Navy secret­ary Don Winter, warned in September 2018 that “Defence should assess whether program risks outweighed the benefits of proceeding”.

At that time, Defence was struggling to negotiate a strategic partnering agreement with Naval Group. “The Naval Shipbuilding Advisory­ Board expressed a separate­ view that, even if the strategic partnering agreement negotiations were successful, Defence consider if proceeding is in the national interest,” Defence told the ANAO. “This consideration was represented in the advice to government seeking approval to enter the (SPA).”

The agreement was finally signed in February last year and included a provision for Aust­ralia to break the contract if the subs were delayed or failed to deliver­ promised capability.

Defence has previously warned of “high to extreme risk” to its naval shipbuilding prog­ram, with differing engineering methodologies between France and Australia cited as a potentially major issue.

The Auditor-General said that establishing “an effective long-term partnership between Defence and Naval Group” was a key risk-mitigation measure.

Opposition defence spokesman Richard Marles said government “mishandling” of the nation’s biggest ever defence acquisition­ posed major risks.

“On all three measures of this program — on time of delivery, on the cost of the project, and on the amount of the Australian content — the numbers are all going the wrong way,” he said.

Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick said the ANAO report was “one of the most concerning reports I have ever seen”.

“The alarm bells are ringing. If the minister is not hearing them, they need to be turned up,” Senator Patrick said. “Defence’s view that they can recover the schedule is naive at best.”

But Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said the schedule delay had been essential to get the submarine design right.

“Doing so will reduce costly changes and uncertainties while the Attack-class submarines are built, and will reduce the need for larger construction contingencies,” she said.

She said the first submarine was still due to be delivered to the navy in 2035, as planned.

The Naval Shipbuilding Advis­ory Board’s role is to provide­ expert, independent advice­ to the government on its $90bn shipbuilding program. Its membership includes three retired­ senior navy officers — Rear Admiral Thomas Eccle, Vice Admiral William Hilarides, and Vice-Admiral Paul Sullivan — and former Department of Education secretary Lisa Paul.

Australian Strategic Policy Institute defence analyst Marcus Hellyer said the advice of the high-level board was normally confidential. “It’s the first time I have seen that gloomy assessment,” he said. Mr Hellyer said the potential “capability gap” was likely to refer to the risk of having fewer than six operational submarines at any point.

He said it was now likely all six Collins-class boats would have to have their lives extended.


Greenie versus Greenie

MOUNTAIN bike riders and environmentalists are at loggerheads over potential trails through protected bushland on Brisbane's southside.

But both parties will have to wait up to five more months to see what Brisbane City Council's citywide off-road cycling plan looks like. Council says the plan will create more to see and do in a "clean and green Brisbane", and aims to provide safe and sustainable recreation opportunities that offer better protection for natural areas.

Between March and May last year, council engaged with key stakeholder groups and the broader community about their ideas for future off-road cycling opportunit-ies across the city. Now the council is in the process of analysing the "significant amount of community feedback" and developing the draft concept plans.

Author and off-road cycling enthusiast Gillian Duncan has been fighting for the rights of mountain bike riders and has been campaigning for the past 15 years for legal trails in south-east Queensland. She wants riders to have access to fire trails, and hopes the council will go one step further and open up a "satisfying trail experience" through Karawatha Forest.

But bushcare groups are "strongly opposed" to these ideas and do not want bikes destroying the habitats of native wildlife.

Currently, Mt Coot-tha is the only designated location for off-road mountain bike riding, and those tracks and trails are used more than 700,000 times each year. Karawatha Forest Protection Society treasurer Cornelis Van Eldik said mountain bikes in the reserve would cause havoc with the flora and fauna.

"Council should not allow this to happen," he said. "They (riders) won't be content just staying to the fire trails — they will want the extra thrill of a scrub dashing, which is what our major concern is."

Ms Duncan insisted a mountain bike-riding management plan would curb that sort of behaviour.

From the Bribane "Courier Mail" of January 11, 2020

Federal minister: Greta Thunberg and Climate Activists Just Want to ‘Upend Society’

The real concern of environmental activists like Greta Thunberg is not climate change, but to “upend society” and “move away from capitalism,” Australia’s Resources Minister Matt Canavan said Tuesday.

He spoke after the Swedish teenage climate worrier unsuccessfully tried to force German telecommunications group, Siemens, to drop its role as a contractor for the giant Adani coal mine now being planned for Australia’s north.

Canavan intervened and secured the company to stay and complete railway signalling at the site, but not before he took a passing swipe at the intervention of Thunberg.

Canavan told Sky News in Australia “common sense has once again prevailed,” and said the “likes of Greta Thunberg” claim to be concerned with emissions reduction remains a fallacy

“Their policy prescriptions aren’t actually about reducing carbon emissions, it’s about the radical massive changes to our economy and society”, he said:

The Adani mine, which received final environmental approval in June, is expected to produce at least 10 million t of thermal coal every year.

Nationally, the Australian coal mining industry employs 50, 400 people, when thermal and coking operations were combined, Australian Bureau of Statistics labour force data for November showed, with exports going mainly to China, India, Korea, Japan and Chile.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who once once famously brandished a lump of coal in parliament, crying, “This is coal – don’t be afraid!” has also vowed climate protesters like Greta Thunberg would not be dictating the country’s energy or trade policy.

As Breitbart news reported, last month he backed Adani and coal production.

“We won’t embrace reckless targets and abandon our traditional industries that would risk Australian jobs while having no meaningful impact on the global climate,” he said in an opinion piece for the Daily Telegraph.

“In short, we will continue to act responsibly on climate change, avoiding extreme responses and get the balance right.”

Coal exports were worth an estimated AUS$67 billion (US$45.9 billion) to the nation’s economy in the 2018 – 2019 financial year, overtaking iron ore as Australia’s most valuable export.


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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