Monday, November 01, 2021

Black gold and housing boom driving Qld economic recovery

China shot itself in the foot. It cut off orders for Australian coal when the demand for coal was going through the roof worldwide. Result: Blackouts in China and big profits for Australian coal miners

About $60 billion in mining projects are driving the state’s economic engine room right now, the vast bulk related to coal.

Queensland’s exports to China were nearly halved in the past year, but high prices of coal are still driving a strong economic recovery for the state, according to a new report.

It will be revealed in the Deloitte Access Economics investment monitor report to be released today.

There are about $60 billion in mining projects driving the state’s economic engine room at the moment, the vast bulk of which are related to coalmining, it found.

A housing construction boom is also helping to drive growth in the economy.

The report found investment in private housing in Queensland had grown more than 11 per cent and was back above pre-pandemic levels.

But report author and economist Stephen Smith warned the construction boom soon stall due to material and worker shortages looming as a result of complications from the pandemic.

Queensland’s exports fell by about 10 per cent in the 2020-21 financial year, including a 48 per cent drop in goods sent to China.

Beijing’s ban on Australian coal was the driving factor in this, but the report found that rising to record high prices for both thermal and metallurgical coal would lead to a strong recovery for the state’s export sector.


Cyberbullies to be suspended, more social media put on notice under new online safety laws

I am not sure about this. It is normal for kids to be very critical of one-another. We would have to be careful not to stop a normal part of growth

Australia’s program to shut down cyberbullies will get even bigger next year, reaching social networks like Snapchat, Discord and WhatsApp.

Children who suffer threats, harassment and humiliation in gaming forums and private messaging apps will be able to ask the eSafety Commission for help in a shake-up of the country’s world-first anti-cyberbullying laws next year.

The changes, which could see bullies stripped of their accounts or taken to court, will also reduce the time social media giants are given to remove harmful messages from their platforms from 48 hours to just one day.

But experts say cashed-up social media and gaming platforms needed to improve how they tackle cyberbullying and shouldn’t rely “on the eSafety Commissioner to do their job”.

The changes come after weeks of pressure on tech giants, with Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen revealing the company’s own research showed Instagram had the potential to harm children, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged to introduce new laws to deal with offensive content on social networks.

The expansion of the Australian eSafety Commission’s cyberbullying scheme will come as part of the Online Safety Act due to begin in January.

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said cyberbullying reports made to the agency jumped by 30 per cent last year, and one third of those reports involved children being bullied in private messages.

A recent study of 3600 Australian children by the Commission also found one in five children were bullied while playing online games, but the current anti-bullying scheme was only set up to deal with content posted to open social networks.

“We know that harms happen in any online spaces that kids are in,” Ms Inman Grant said.

“(With this change) we’ll be able to help children who are experiencing serious cyberbullying on whatever platform they’re on.”

Under the new rules, any Australian child or their guardian will be able to report serious threats, intimidation, harassment or humiliation to the eSafety Commission that have been sent using services including WhatsApp, Discord, Twitch and Snapchat, and in private messages on Instagram or Facebook.

The harmful content must first be reported to the platform that hosts it but they will have just 24 hours, rather than the current 48, to take action before it can be escalated.

While the agency could currently seek court-ordered injunctions against online bullies and civil penalties from online platforms which did not respond, Ms Inman Grant said the new scheme would require a different approach.

“We might not be dealing with content take-down notices because this is happening in real-time but there are important things that can be done to make sure platforms are enforcing their own policies and, if there are abusive accounts, that they are suspending them,” she said.

Cybersafety educator Leonie Smith welcomed the change to the reporting scheme, saying “the majority of cyberbullying reported to be from schools happens in direct messages”.

But she said social networks and online gaming platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Roblox, needed to do more themselves.

“This will put pressure on social media companies to make reporting easier and that’s what they should be doing,” she said. “But we shouldn’t be relying on the eSafety Commissioner to do their job.”

Ms Smith said online platforms needed to introduce greater safeguards for children under the age of 13, including easier reporting and better moderation of online bullying, and greater parental controls for younger users.


$130k tweet storm shows there is no more doubt that the ABC exists in a parallel universe

Mike O’Connor

If there was ever any doubt that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation now exists in a parallel universe, it has been swept away by the Commonwealth auditor-general.

Investigating a decision by ABC management to pay $130,000 in legal costs and damages awarded against staff member Louise Milligan for a defamatory tweet she had made, Auditor-General Grant Hehir found that there was “no documented advice … prepared to support the appropriateness of the decision to meet the costs of an employee”.

In other words, someone decided that it was a good idea to burn $130,000 of taxpayer funds on behalf of an employee when there was absolutely no appropriate reason for it to do so.

The ABC did not publish the tweet. Milligan did, yet the ABC paid. The individual defamed by the tweet, Federal MP Dr Laming, had asked Milligan to delete it and apologise. The chances are that at this stage, the issue could have been defused, but Milligan refused to apologise and so we picked up the tab.

It is only a few months since under questioning by the senate, the ABC was forced to reveal that legal action taken by former Attorney-General Christian Porter against it and Milligan had cost it $780,000.

While all this was taking place, ABC managing director David Anderson was enjoying a 10 per cent pay rise, which boosted his salary to $1.098m, while chairwoman Ita Buttrose had to struggle by on $195,000.

Sadly, Ms Buttrose has been a profound disappointment to those who had hoped she would have the courage to subject the ABC to desperately needed corporate and editorial discipline.

Belatedly, she has ordered an ­external review of the corporation’s Audience and Consumer Affairs Investigation Unit, but only after ongoing claims that complaints made against the ABC were routinely dismissed. It investigates itself and finds – surprise, surprise – that all is sweetness and light.

In recent months, Four Corners screened Exposed: The Ghost Train Fire series. It took an external review, only commissioned after an outcry, to find that the series wrongly implied that former NSW premier Neville Wran was linked to corrupt activity.

Complaints were made to the Audience and Consumers Affairs unit and the program faced accusations of sloppy journalism and lazy research, but no ­action was taken.

David Hill, a one-time ABC managing director and chair who has been among the critics of the complaints-handling process, said the review was essential because the complaints process that followed the airing of Ghost Train was “deeply flawed”.

Then there was the two-part TV series Juanita Nielsen: A Family Mystery – removed from the ABC website after serious doubts emerged surrounding the accuracy of material it contained.

When I was learning this trade as a young, moustachioed, safari suit-wearing newspaper reporter – yes it’s true – the ABC represented the gold standard of journalism.

Balance was rigorously enforced and opinions were banned with the emphasis on hard news accurately reported – what happened, where did it happen and when did it happen? If you heard it on the ABC, then you knew it was right.

It is sad that what was once the ­nation’s premier news-gathering organisation has now lost its way.

Climate change alarmism, doomsday projections, endless opinions parading as news and a perceived lack of impartiality are now its trademark.


Watchdog admits holding back Right to Information details

The Queensland Building and Construction Commission’s senior Right to Information officer has admitted holding back details about an RTI request.

The bombshell admission comes as hundreds of small businesses are at risk today of closing their doors as a result of the State Government’s new fire protection regulations.

It has sparked fresh calls for a commission of inquiry into the troubled government body.

According to evidence tabled to a recent parliamentary hearing, the QBCC’s principal RTO officer wrote to the integrity and complaints director, Geoffrey Airo-Farulla, on March 23 after a request for invoices.

“I’ve already taken out as much as I can in line with LPP (legal professional privilege),’’ she says.

“If this were to go to OIC (Office of the Information Commissioner), more information would be released than (sic) what I’ve decided.’’

State Opposition Leader David Crisafulli said Public Works Minister Mick de Brenni must resign to preserve the integrity of the Government.

He said it was further evidence of the culture in Mr de Brenni’s office.

“It’s becoming increasingly apparent that this third term Labor government doesn’t value honesty and transparency,” Mr Crisafulli said.

“Mr de Brenni operates the QBCC like a fiefdom and Queenslanders are worse for it.

“Every week we have another scandal involving the QBCC and Minister de Brenni at a time when proper regulation of the industry has never been more important.”

Opposition public works spokesman Tim Mander said this was another example of Mr de Brenni not following the rules.

“The Right to Information Officer is admitting she is deliberately keeping stuff out,” Mr Mander said.

“Every week another QBCC scandal comes to light.

“Just last week we heard further evidence of Ministerial intervention in to QBCC operational matters despite de Brenni’s denials.

“Allegations of a conflict of interest by Board Members gave us no choice but to call for a commission of inquiry.

“There must be a full and thorough review into the QBCC and how much influence the Minister has over it.”

Mr de Brenni has been under fire over claims he made to parliament that he and his office did not get involved in QBCC operational matters.

Emails show the former commissioner Bret Bassett had regular correspondence with Mr de Brenni’s office but the Minister says there has been no interference from his office.




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