Monday, July 22, 2024

The Pell case is another one that should never have even been prosecuted

An even shakier case than in the Brittany Higgins debacle. Higgins was a beneficiary of pro-feminist prejudices. Pell was a victim of anti-Catholic prejudice

The Pell case was a serious miscarriage of justice. So far there has been no inquiry into the actions of the police or how the legal system managed to get this so wrong, and worst of all there seems to be no mood in Victoria for a serious inquiry into Pell’s case.

However, as Daniel Andrews made pretty clear, the presumption of innocence didn’t even seem to apply in cases such as the cardinal’s, with the then Victorian premier’s “we hear you and believe you” remark after the High Court judgment, meaning all complainants are “victims”.

Nevertheless, many commentators and distinguished legal experts have called for such an inquiry, not the least of whom is former High Court justice ­Michael Kirby, who has said basic evidence in the case showed “a very serious doubt was raised as to cardinal Pell’s guilt”, adding: “Effective protections against miscarriages of justice must be there for all serious cases, even for a cardinal.”

So, what do the shenanigans in Rome have to do with any of this? Good question. The charges against the cardinal occurred close to the time he had alleged that corrupt forces within the Vatican had sought to stop his work in reforming the Catholic Church’s finances. Shortly afterwards, some of the people he had brought in from outside were sacked.

I saw him just after the police interviewed him in Rome and he was simply incredulous about the obvious attempts to fit him up, including about things that supposedly happened in Australia when he was overseas. He frankly dismissed the whole thing and told me he had more to worry about in Rome than those “clowns” in Victoria because he had “great faith in the Australian justice system”.

Nevertheless, Pell was found guilty in 2018. The Victorian Court of Appeal upheld the conviction in August 2019. While all this was happening the vast irregularities of the Vatican finances began to emerge. Archbishop Angelo Becciu fell under suspicion and has since been found guilty of embezzlement, complete with a telephone recording that emerged later saying after Pell’s conviction, “the way is now open for you”. So it seems there could have been a link between the prosecution of the cardinal and the financial misdeeds of clerics close to the Pope.

Or could there? What does any of this really matter to us?

There are several strands in modern-day Catholicism. There is the nominal Catholic, the everyday practising type (me) and then there are the real ultraconservatives. At that end of the spectrum are a growing number of Catholics who have been disappointed with the current papacy and the Pope’s pronouncements on everything from marriage to war and the calibre of candidates for the priesthood in seminaries. Pell was not a fan of the current papacy, so it is not hard to see how a conspiracy theory about Pell has flourished in some conservative milieus.

However, the fact remains for all Australians that the case against Pell should not have been prosecuted. The Victorian Office of Public Prosecutions rejected it three times. Even the magistrate in the committal hearing noted: “If a jury accepted the evidence of the Monsignor (Charles Portelli) and Mr Potter (Max Potter, the sacristan) … then a jury could not convict”. Pell was convicted on the say of one accuser with no corroborating evidence. The High Court went as far as stating that no jury acting “rationally” would not have found reasonable doubt. So why didn’t the jury act “rationally”?

Obviously, the main reason was the huge campaign instigated by the Victoria Police in concert with the ABC to denigrate the cardinal as a covert sexual predator. He was subject to a relentless campaign of persecution by the public broadcaster whose minions, Louise Milligan and Sarah Ferguson, were desperate to pin something, anything, on that man, even after the High Court had exonerated him: bizarre accusations about swimming pools, a libellous book, even nasty songs – all of it was aimed at the public.

The injustice Pell had to face in Victoria, not Rome, is where the focus should lie. Each time I met the cardinal and even after he was convicted and had to go to prison, he said he had great faith in the Australian legal system. It is a great pity that faith was so sorely tested and that some of the powers that be did not have the same faith.


Why some parents have swapped school for homeschooling

Heidi Ryan says it took until her eldest child reached year 11 to realise mainstream school was doing her three children more harm than good.

So she turned to homeschooling.

Like her two older children, now 24 and 20, her youngest daughter, 16, is autistic. Each struggled with the teaching style at school and so, six years ago, Ryan decided to become both teacher and mother.

“It was the best thing we ever did,” she said. “For their mental health, us as a family and for their understanding of who they are and how they learn.”

She is one of a growing number of “accidental homeschoolers” who now account for about 85 per cent of the sector, according to Queensland University of Technology education researcher Dr Rebecca English.

“These are families who never intended to homeschool but for reasons such as school refusal, neurodivergence, bullying or just having kids who are different prompted parents to look for alternatives,” she said.

A speech therapist, Ryan said not having to follow standardised assessments took the pressure off and allowed activities and subjects to be child-led. A fan of cosplay, Ryan has included wig styling in their lessons.

“We don’t do any formal assessment, I don’t quiz them on things. I can see and acknowledge their learning is happening in subtle ways.”

Ryan has used open university courses, online apps and programs from support organisations like the Home Education Network, and has tapped into parent-run groups, which organise excursions and other learning opportunities.

She made sure her children kept in contact with existing school friends and encouraged them to form new friendships through their homeschooling network and extracurricular activities, such as volleyball, archery, pottery, cosplay and tennis.

Once the domain of libertarians and Christian families, English said the impact of COVID restrictions on schools had proved a tipping point for many families.

“It was like a risk-free trial,” English said of enforced homeschooling under COVID restrictions. “People got a taste of how family life could be organised, and once they tried it many didn’t go back.”

Department of Education data shows the number of students being homeschooled jumped 112 per cent from 5333 in 2018 to more than 11,332 students in 2022.

As of June last year, there were 10,481 students registered. While it represents an 8 per cent decrease on 2022’s COVID-induced spike, data shows registrations have grown steadily since 2018.

“The numbers were tracking up anyway but COVID was a real shot in the arm,” English said.

Last year 59 per cent of homeschooled students were aged under 12, with the remainder aged 13 and over.

Families who chose to homeschool need to register with the Victorian Registrations and Qualifications Authority, which audits 10 per cent of homeschooling households a year. Parents are not required to follow a prescribed curriculum or provide progress reports, but they do need to submit lesson plans covering eight key learning areas.

If requirements of homeschooling are not met, the authority can cancel the homeschooling registration.

Kirsty James from the Home Education Network said homeschooling suited a range of students, particularly neurodiverse, disabled and high-performing students and those unable to attend mainstream schools.

“Some children with sensory issues can’t deal with noise or uniforms that are uncomfortable or scratchy, or they struggle with bright lighting,” James said. “When a child is in their home they are in an environment that is comfortable to them.”

Asked what she would have done if homeschooling wasn’t an option, Ryan pauses.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I think we would have just pushed through because we wouldn’t have had a choice. We would’ve come out of the other end with a dislike of school and learning. Which is a bit sad.”


Nuclear experts have refuted Labor’s claims about nuclear energy water use

ALL power stations vaporize a lot of water for cooling purposes

Leading nuclear experts have rejected Agriculture Minister Murray Watt’s claims that nuclear power stations would take water from farmers and put cropping and grazing land at risk of accidents.

State and territory agriculture ministers from around the country raised concerns on Thursday about potential effects of proposed nuclear power stations on farming land.

A joint statement issued ahead of the quarterly meeting of agriculture ministers called on the opposition to outline plans to protect land used for cropping and raising livestock in the event of an emergency.

Agriculture ministers or government representatives from Labor states endorsed the joint statement, but Tasmania, a Liberal state that is not home to a proposed nuclear reactor, was not included.

Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt, speaking at The Australian’s Global Food Forum in Brisbane on Wednesday, said the Coalition’s plan to build nuclear plants on seven coal-fired power station sites in Queensland, NSW, Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia would take water from farmers.

Senator Watt on Thursday rejected Coalition claims that Labor was running a scare campaign, and cited parliamentary research showing there were 11,955 farms located within an 80km radius of the selected sites, requiring “expensive” risk mitigation plans.

“I think it’s about time the federal opposition provided some answers to Australia’s farmers and our ag sector, about where the water will come from, what would happen in the event of a nuclear accident, and what preparations they would be making with the agriculture sector to prepare for such an event,” he said.

“What are those 12,000 farmers going to be expected to do if we do have an accident, and what steps would they need to take to ensure that the food and fibre that they produce is safe?”

The claims have been refuted by nuclear engineering experts and Nationals leader David Littleproud, who accused Senator Watt of misunderstanding the science of nuclear energy production and the comparable rate of water usage between coal and nuclear power plants.

Nuclear engineer and advocate Tony Irwin, an honorary associate professor at the Australian National University, said new technologies meant reactors were safer than ever and could be set up for use with significantly less cooling water.

“Solar and wind farms have far more effects on farming in Australia than nuclear will ever have,” Dr Irwin told The Australian. “There’s far less impact from nuclear plants because they are on existing industrial sites … using existing cooling water supplies.

“I think Labor are getting a bit desperate … Wind and solar have definitely a part to play … but when you start taking farmland for solar and wind, that’s a bad idea.”

Dr Irwin said the concerns around nuclear accidents on farmland were unfounded.

“There’s always fallback plans for any sort of disaster,” he said.

Nationals MP Keith Pitt, a former water and resources minister, said Australians wanted a nuclear energy debate based on facts. “Nuclear reactors in Europe have been operational for decades in agricultural environments and coal-fired power stations already have significant water allocations and storage,” he said.

Minerals Council of Australia CEO Tania Constable said it was disappointing “misinformation” was being used to stir fear in regional communities.

“For decades, operating nuclear power stations have coexisted with productive agricultural regions throughout Europe and North America without any negative impact,” she said.


Immigration has become a potent issue that lies beyond the traditional political divisions

Buried away in the British election results is a huge warning for Australia, made all the more relevant by the Senator Fatima Payman saga. On the face of it, the election was a triumph for British Labour, of course. It won over 65 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons. But in electoral terms, it won only 34 per cent of the vote.

The Conservatives saw their vote plummet from 44 per cent to 24 per cent in just five years. But behind the facade of that result lurked the toxic issue of immigration and multiculturalism. It’s what the Americans like to call a “third rail” issue.

Across the English Channel, the French election was also a huge warning for Australia. In that election, the anti-immigration party of Marine Le Pen won more votes than any other political party although the parties of the centre and the left by collaborating each won more seats. Le Pen’s party won 37.3 per cent of the vote while the coalition of the left won 26.9 per cent. This was a huge vote against immigration and multiculturalism.

This same trend has been seen over the past year in the Netherlands and Italy and more importantly helps explain the Trump phenomenon in the United States. For a long time, commentators argued this rise in support for these hitherto fringe political movements was caused by globalisation: the loss of manufacturing jobs to China, the decline in living standards in traditional industrial towns, and so on.

There may be some truth in this. After all, centre-left and centre-right governments believe heavy manufacturing should be closed down because of the CO2 emissions it generates. Better to transfer those emissions to China and India. A lot of punters may think that policy is not just damaging to them but intellectually absurd. But still, that isn’t the main reason many people are shifting away from traditional parties.

The fundamental cause of this drift away from traditional political parties of the centre left and centre right is the way immigration and multiculturalism have been handled. It would be a mistake to think that in Britain, France, the Netherlands, the US and Italy the public are opposed to immigration. It’s not that simple. And it’s not that they object to people because of their colour. Immigration is not so much the issue as two aspects of it. The first is unregulated immigration. Tens of thousands of migrants have been pouring into Europe and America without approval, normally courtesy of people-smugglers.

Unregulated immigration is deeply unpopular. And the second issue is those migrants who fail to integrate into society. Multiracialism is one thing but the term multiculturalism, which we all praise, denies the existence of cultural norms that bind a society together. That is resented and creates tensions and divisions.

In France and the UK, some migrants have congregated very heavily in particular suburbs of major cities, turning those suburbs into what appears to more traditional people little more than foreign enclaves.

The people within those enclaves are often alienated from the rest of society by virtue of their physical isolation. The enclaves have their own schools, religious institutions, shops and so on. In recent elections, these concentrations of migrants have had an alarming effect on electoral outcomes.

In the recent UK election, in constituencies where at least 40 per cent of people are Muslims, the Labour vote actually declined from the 2019 election by nearly 34 per cent! In constituencies where Muslims made up between 10 and 20 per cent of the vote, Labour’s vote fell by 6.8 per cent, whereas in constituencies where Muslims accounted for less than 10 per cent of the electorate, Labour increased its vote by an average of 3 per cent. In a general election that was a triumph for the Labour Party it nevertheless lost five seats to Muslim activist independents.

This recent practice of migrants or the descendants of migrants of a particular religious persuasion voting en bloc – in this case on the issue of the Hamas-induced war in Gaza – has alarmed not just the Labour Party but the broader British population. But for immigration and multiculturalism to be embraced, and for a country successfully to hold together as an entity, there have to be some binding principles and attitudes that define the nation. Without that, the nation will atomise.

As British philosopher Sir Roger Scruton wrote: “We, like everyone else, depend upon a shared culture for our security, our prosperity and our freedom … we can welcome immigrants only if we welcome them into our culture, and not beside or against it.” Three days after the election, former Labour prime minister Tony Blair gave some stark advice to the new government. He said new Prime Minister Keir Starmer “needs a plan to control immigration” and made the very simple point: “If we don’t have rules, we get prejudices.” That’s exactly right.

In the US this issue is also very potent and one of the driving forces of former president Donald Trump’s popularity. It is claimed that some 10 million illegal migrants have entered the US since President Joe Biden was elected. That figure may be a bit of an exaggeration, but still, the problem of illegals pouring over the Mexican border is huge.

Within the US multiculturalism is embraced and accepted. In the main. But like anything, it can be taken too far. To use it as a tool by specific ethnic groups to denigrate the nation that has welcomed them, to pour scorn on its history and to appear supportive of its adversaries is politically inflammatory. It is also disrespectful of the country that has welcomed these people to its shores.

So what about our own country? We have to be careful. Senator Payman was elected on a Labor Party ticket and has resigned from that party over the issue of a foreign war in which Australia is not involved. If our politics is going to descend into this kind of ethnic conflict, then it’s going to be hard to keep our country together.

But don’t worry, the punters won’t tolerate that and will start voting with greater enthusiasm for fringe political movements if our two mainstream parties don’t just control immigration – the Howard government explained all that many years ago – but make sure there are core principles that hold our country together. We cannot afford to allow a hugely successful country to atomise.




Sunday, July 21, 2024

Hatred of feminism linked to violence, report finds

Rubbish! The headine above may perhaps be accurate but the "Report" that underlies that headline shows no such thing. the "Report" is here
All it shows is that various negative attitudes tend to correlate with one-another. There is NO demonstrated link to violence or any other form of behaviour.

"Reports" are a common way of bypassing the critical scrutiny that publication in academic journals articles requires

A new report has warned that anti-feminist beliefs are a strong predictor of violent extremism, with 20 per cent of Australian men surveyed believing feminism is dangerous to society and should be fought with violence if necessary.

According to the survey of 1020 men and women, 30 per cent of all respondents agreed or slightly agreed with hostile sexist attitudes and 19.4 per cent of the men believed it is legitimate to resist feminism using force.

Some of the statements put to the respondents include that feminism has ruined modern relationships and feminists are trying to get more power than men.

The research found hostile sexist attitudes and attitudes permissive of violence against women are strongly associated with most forms of violent extremism, including extremism motivated by religion, ethnicity and incel ideologies.

The Misogyny, Racism and Violent Extremism report said addressing the role of racial and gendered biases as underlying drivers of violent extremism and terrorism is significant but an “overlooked” security concern.

Report author Dr Sara Meger, who teaches international security and gender in international relations at the University of Melbourne, said she sent her research to commonwealth agencies in the hope it will help the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation redefine what is recognised as violent extremism.

“The biggest shortcomings we had this year with the Bondi Junction attack is that the current acting definition of terrorism can’t grasp how someone is motivated for a hatred of woman or anti-feminist ideology,” Dr Meger told The Australian. “We were motivated to do this research because … we thought we needed some empirical data to corroborate the growing recognition that there is some sort of element of gender ideology driving violent extremism.”

Independent MP Allegra Spender has called for a greater focus on violence against women following the Bondi stabbings.
The report also found that if policy were to define violent anti-feminist beliefs as a form of extremism, it would be the most prevalent form in the country.

It said that young people and boys are more likely to support violent extremism in all forms and those in the 18-39 age bracket are more likely to agree with restricting a woman’s right to choose her sexual partners compared to older respondents.

Dr Meger said “online echo chambers” are the biggest influence on younger generations preferencing these views over older people.

“These young men for whatever reason who are struggling socially, financially, emotionally, they’re looking for answers in these online forums. They find an easy one and blame feminism. Some forums might say feminism is the reason your life isn’t as good,” Dr Meger said.

She said it would take a whole-of-society approach and more online content regulation to prevent young Australians from adopting harmful views.

“I think it’s going to be a very difficult issue as there’s such mistrust with authority figures that goes along with this radicalism and polarisation,” she said.

The report said terrorist attacks and incidents of mass violence in Australia were found to have gendered and racialised determinants, and pointed to the Lindt Cafe siege terrorist who had a domestic violence intervention order against him at the time of the attack, and the Bondi Junction killer who was described by his father as frustrated by his lack of dating success.


Government guarantees tax breaks for private schools

The Albanese government has buckled to a private school backlash by ruling out plans to axe tax breaks for donations to more than 5000 schools within five years.

The Productivity Commission on Thursday unveiled radical tax reform proposals that were condemned as a “direct attack’’ on ­religious schools.

Despite a storm of protests from private and Catholic schools, the commission refused to back down on its controversial call that parents and other donors be stripped of tax deductions for donations to school building funds.

But Andrew Leigh, the Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury, immediately ruled out changes to school donations.

“The recommended changes to tax settings for donations to school building funds are not being considered,’’ he said.

“A world-class education system is essential to tackling inequality, driving economic growth and supporting well-paid, secure jobs, and our school system is a key part of it.’’

In its final report on philanthropy, released on Thursday, the commission calls on governments to directly fund school infrastructure instead of relying on public donations.

It also recommends the Albanese government axe tax deductions for donations that pay for religious instruction or ethics education in schools.

Tax breaks benefit wealthy parents in private schools, the report states, adding: “The capacity of schools to raise donations varies widely, depending on the wealth and income of the school community. There is a material risk that higher levels of indirect government support to schools through tax-deductible donations would benefit communities with higher socioeconomic advantage.

“A DRG (deductible gift recipient) status for school building funds is unlikely to deliver support to the areas of greatest need.’’

The PC warns donors could benefit financially, because building funds lower the cost of school fees. “There is the potential for a donor to be able to directly or indirectly convert a tax-deductible donations into a private benefit,’’ the report states. Potential donors are most likely to be people directly involved with the school and benefit directly from donations, such as students, their parents or alumni. Alternative government funding arrangements should be put in place.’’

The commission calls for a five-year transition period before schools are stripped of their DRG status. The report states that “it is highly unlikely that donations would fall to zero without it’’.

The commission found that private schools make up 3500 of the 5000 schools with building funds. Its analysis of donations shows that 20 per cent of all ­donated money went to just 1 per cent of schools, with 71 per cent of total donations shared between 10 per cent of schools.

The commission says tax breaks should be granted to education charities that have “an explicit equity objective’’ – such as scholarships for poor students.

It says universities and TAFE colleges should retain their DRG status because they “tend to be involved in public research’’.


Australians pay the price for CFMEU tactics, figures show

Australians are paying the price for union tactics that add billions to the nation’s building costs and weaken productivity, as the federal government works on an urgent draft law to ensure it can overcome any attempts to block an overhaul of the CFMEU.

Labour productivity has fallen 18.1 per cent in the construction sector since 2014, far worse than in other parts of the economy, while the CFMEU is being blamed for a cost surge in the industry.

The work on the draft law comes after the federal government said the Fair Work Commission would seek to impose an external administrator on the CFMEU after days of revelations from an investigation by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian Financial Review and 60 Minutes into the union’s ties to organised crime.

Employment Minister Tony Burke is preparing the new laws so they are ready to go next month if needed to impose the changes despite union objections.

Union to go to war over bid to stamp out CFMEU corruption
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has turned the dispute over the CFMEU into a political test over the cost of living, claiming the union has added 30 per cent to the cost of major projects.

The changes have the potential to influence costs across the economy because of the central role of the construction sector and the way major projects can be a burden on taxpayers and can impact households through housing and other costs.

Dutton’s cost claim is backed by Master Builders Australia and has some support from independent economists as well as the former head of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Rod Sims.

“If somebody said the behaviour of the union was pushing up costs by 30 per cent, that would not surprise me,” Sims said.

“I don’t have any evidence to support the 30 per cent, but directionally it’s got to be right, and I suspect the quantum is not far out.”

Sims said construction affected everything from new supermarkets to office blocks and the cost increases were passed on to consumers.

“It also means there are projects that are not going ahead because they can only proceed if costs are below a certain level, and if the costs are pushed up because of activity by the CFMEU, then that means some projects don’t go ahead,” he said.

“It’s quite clear to me, from general observation over a long time, that that is exactly what’s happening.”

Master Builders Australia commissioned Queensland Economic Advocacy Solutions to analyse CFMEU wage deals that imposed sweeping conditions that could stop work, limit hours and put other restrictions on how work was done.

The analysis said an apartment project would be 3.5 per cent more expensive with a low application of the CFMEU provisions, 18.2 per cent more costly with a medium application and 33 per cent more expensive with a high application of the rules.

This meant a two-bedroom unit in Brisbane would cost $287,000 more than otherwise, it said. A three-bedroom unit would cost an extra $430,000, pushing its cost to $1.7 million.

CFMEU national secretary Zach Smith has not responded to requests for comment since the government’s announcement on Wednesday, and it is not yet known whether he will support the administration process.

Independent economist Harley Dale, who was the Housing Industry Association’s chief economist for 17 years, said CFMEU conduct at building sites had hampered productivity and added costs to consumers in both the residential and commercial sectors.

Labour costs were also a factor alongside issues such as planning delays, the cost of construction materials and the shortage of skilled workers, he said.

“There’s been a trend in the decline of labour productivity in construction since 2014 and it had a fresh low in 2023 after more than 10 years,” he said.

“I would argue that some of the obstructive behaviour on the part of the CFMEU has certainly been part of that.

“All of that’s got to feed through to the bottom-line pricing of these construction projects. Absolutely, it has to be passed on.”


‘Reckless renewables’: The NSW community fighting a massive solar farm

The residents of the tiny hamlet of Wallaroo in the NSW Southern Tablelands are quick to say they support renewable energy, yet they are united against a proposal for a giant solar farm on their doorstop.

In a microcosm of the problems besetting the broader renewables rollout, the community sent a clear message to the NSW Independent Planning Commission at a public meeting on Thursday: the proposed Wallaroo Solar Farm is the wrong project in the wrong place.

Many of the 570-odd community members – farmers, vineyard owners, commuters to Canberra and retirees – have solar panels on the roofs of their own homes or farm sheds, and some have a biodiesel generator as back-up.

But a massive solar farm, with about 182,000 photovoltaic modules, a substation and battery storage system spanning 165 hectares across two properties in Wallaroo, is a different proposition.

The project, which could power about 48,000 homes mostly in Canberra, is deemed state significant, and is supported by the NSW Department of Planning, Housing and Infrastructure.

Community member Adam Gresham told the meeting his main concern was the number of trucks travelling on the narrow country roads each day during construction and beyond.

He said there were 56 children, including his own – aged 16, 12 and 10 – who catch the school bus from the end of their driveways or across the road.

“The verge is quite small and to think that people would allow multiple trucks to come through that area daily, and not think that is a risk, is quite scary for us,” he said, speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald after his presentation.

His wife Christy added that they were “not wealthy people”, and with a “monster mortgage”, they would be unable to move if prices dropped.

Gresham, an ACT firefighter for more than 20 years, is also concerned about the fire risk both in Wallaroo and on the outskirts of Canberra since the area is prone to bushfires and battery storage systems can be volatile.

“To have something within hundreds of metres of residential properties and the toxins that will be created if something goes wrong, that will be carried through smoke to these residents is a major concern,” he said.

At the Murrumbateman Community Hall about 20 minutes from Wallaroo, the public meeting stretched over four hours, with a break for lunch. Twenty-five residents spoke against the project, raising issues about the impact on views, tourism, traffic and road safety, and fire risk.

Only the development manager for the project, Ben Cranston, spoke in favour. He said the project would deliver $1.6 million for community projects over 30 years, employ 150-200 people during construction, and four to five during the operational phase.

“If the project is approved, we will remove approximately 215,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere [annually],” he said.

Cranston said the project had been amended in the past week to reduce the footprint, as well as previous concessions to add landscaping, reduce glare, and control traffic.

Community member Ben Faulks told the Herald the landowners would make money, but the rest of the community would pay the price in lost amenity and lower property values.

“This is a transfer of wealth from the residents of Wallaroo to one or two landowners,” Faulks said.

Faulks said he supported renewables, but argued the project location was driven by the proponents rather than a planning decision about where a solar farm should be sited.

Real estate agent Mark Johnstone, a resident of 23 years, told the meeting he expected a 20 per cent drop in property values from the loss of scenic beauty.

“I support renewables but not reckless renewables,” Johnstone said. “This is not the right location.”

Community member Andrew Cunich told the meeting he bought his property in 2020, paying a premium for the view, and building an outdoor lifestyle around it.

“Imagine if you bought yourself a brand new telly and somebody came up with a black texta and just went right across the centre of it and said ‘enjoy your TV’,” Cunich said.




Thursday, July 18, 2024

The coverup of vacine side-effects takes a life

She and her family knew she had vulnerabilities from pre-existing conditions but were not told of the vaccine side effects that combined with those conditions to kill her

The death of a young woman in her 20s after she received a Covid-19 vaccine could progress to a full coronial inquest.

Coroner Catherine Fitzgerald told the involved parties that she would tighten the reins on expert reports being filed to the court, as mountains of medical information piled up.

Natalie Boyce, 21, died in March 2022 at The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, five weeks after receiving a Moderna vaccine booster.

Lawyers for Ms Boyce's family opposed Moderna's request on the grounds the doctor saw the young woman for lupus four years before she died.

Natalie Boyce died from myocarditis. She spent the last three weeks of her life unconscious.

Ms Boyce was studying at Deakin University. She spent the last three weeks of her life unconscious. Her death certificate lists myocardial infarction with subacute myocarditis as the cause.

When she was 15, Ms Boyce was diagnosed with an uncommon blood clotting disorder that affects about one-in-2000 people.

Ms Boyce's mother, Deborah Hamilton, previously told a parliamentary inquiry that she believed her daughter would be alive if she had not received the Covid-19 vaccine booster.

'Had we known that there were risks there would have been no way that I would have allowed Natalie to receive another vaccine and I know that she would not have had it either,' Ms Hamilton told MPs in Canberra in 2023.

The day after getting the Moderna booster, Ms Boyce fainted, had a fever, stomach pain and vomiting. Her condition deteriorated over trips to doctors and several different hospitals.

Ms Hamilton has blamed both the vaccine mandates and 'medical negligence' from Victoria's health system.

Ms Boyce was encouraged by her part-time employer to get vaccinated and required a vaccination to go to the university campus.


Cleo Smith update: New photos show insight into her life after being kidnapped

The family of Cleo Smith have shared a miracle update on their little girl three years after she was kidnapped.

image from

Cleo made international headlines when she was snatched from her sleeping bag as she slept alongside her mother, stepfather and baby sister inside a tent at the Blowholes campsite, about 960km north of Perth, Western Australia, on October 16, 2021.

A mammoth police operation was launched for Cleo, who was four years old at the time, which led to her dramatic rescue 18 days later.

Now aged seven, Cleo has adjusted to a normal life following the horrific abduction and intense media scrutiny.

A collection of photos, shared to Instagram on Wednesday by 60 Minutes Australia showed a beaming Cleo enjoying life with her family.

The photos received an overwhelming response from social media users all around the world, with many sharing well wishes for the family and for Cleo.

Police smashed down the locked door of a house in Carnarvon - just 3km from her family's home - at 12.46am on November 3, 2021, freeing the little girl.

Cleo was held captive by Terrence Darrell Kelly and locked alone in a bedroom of the home.

Terence Kelly was arrested and subsequently charged with one count of forcibly taking a child under 16.

Her captor, one of Australia's "First Nations" people

He pleaded guilty and was sentenced on April 5, 2023, to 13-and-a-half years behind bars. The sentence was backdated to his arrest in November 2021. Kelly will be 48 by the time he's eligible for parole in May 2032.


Top doctor hits out at plans to introduce a 'sin tax' on sugary drinks in Australia

Nick Coatsworth has hit out at a proposed tax on sugary treats arguing that '$8 cans of coke' will only punish the poor and fail to fix the nation's obesity crisis.

A recent Senate report recommended a 20 per cent tax on unhealthy products such as soft drinks in order to curb surging obesity rates, particularly in children.

But the prominent doctor, who became the face of Australia's Covid vaccine campaign as the national deputy chief medical officer, argues that implementing a so-called 'sin tax' is misguided and echoes the draconian government overreach seen during the pandemic.

'It's hard to escape the conclusion that sin taxes are proposed by rich people looking down on the behaviour of the sinful masses,' Dr Coatsworth told Daily Mail Australia.

'Can you imagine a can of Coke costing $8? Is that what it will take to reduce consumption?

'In regional and indigenous communities I predict it will reduce consumption by precisely zero.'

He noted that while governments can legitimately regulate things such as age of consumption of products such as alcohol and penalise people who sell harmful products to children, it should be cautious in applying such restrictions to adults.

'The recent trend to is to make penalty and prohibition the first choice and not the last resort, and this is leading to bad policy choices,' Dr Coatsworth said.

'If you're struggling to make an income and support your family there is much less capacity to make good health choices, and the 'sins' help you get through a tough day.

'A sin tax that does nothing to lift people into a position that they can make positive health choices.'

Dr Coatsworth also warned there are limits in trying to legislate people into being healthier.

'We've just been through a very disturbing episode in our lives where we criminalised or harshly penalised legitimate actions of citizens in the name of public health,' he said referring to the Covid period.

'As a basic principle public health should operate by consent of the community not by coercion.

'This applies as much to current debates as it did to Covid.'

The Australian government already imposes similar taxes on tobacco products and raises the excise every year to make it prohibitively expensive. It currently stands at about 75 per cent of the sale price.

Although the rate of smoking has decreased from above 20 per cent in 2001 to 11 per cent now, illegal vaping rates have soared along with the illicit tobacco trade.

'It's a law of diminishing returns,' Dr Coatsworth said.

'Tobacco excise had climbed so high that a black market has blossomed.'

'It's clear that the Australian Federal Police can't stop illicit tobacco coming into the country, let alone illegal vapes and it's creating a problem for state policing who now have to deal with the emergence of organised crime.

'It's bizarre that the same people who acknowledge that a 'war on drugs' is the wrong way to tackle hard drug use passionately declare that a 'war on vapes' is likely to work.'

Despite Dr Coatsworth's opposition to raising taxes on unhealthy food and drink, he does agree that there is an 'obesity crisis in Australia and that diabetes is an enormous cost-burden for our health system'.

'There is a big gap between agreeing with that and asserting that sugar taxes will have a meaningful impact on either,' he said.

'The classic behaviour of the activist is to surf a moral panic and then criticise an opponent as being an enemy of the public good.

'Labelling someone as being an enemy of public health is a very effective way of silencing debate.'

Earlier this month a Senate report recommended the federal government implement a levy on sugar-sweetened beverages and look to international examples to fix prices.

It pointed to the British example of 'tiered tax' where the levy grows with the amount of sugar in a product.

The Parliamentary Budget Office estimated applying a 20 per cent tax on all sugar sweetened drinks would bring in about $1.4billion annually


PsiQuantum to help shape Qld university offerings

Queensland’s biggest universities have struck a skills partnership with PsiQuantum that gives the Silicon Valley startup a say in the direction their science, technology and maths courses take.

The memorandum of understanding, which comes as the company looks to secure a pipeline of talent for its attempts to build the world’s first fault tolerant quantum computer, also opens the door to joint research projects with the universities.

Five universities, together accounting for some 110,000 students, are represented in the consortium: the University of Queensland, Griffith University, Queensland University of Technology, the University of South Queensland and the University of the Sunshine Coast.

Announced on Tuesday, the university and research tie-up with PsiQuantum is the first partnership to emerge from the $940 million joint investment by the federal and Queensland governments.

The investment, which includes $370 million in equity, has been mired in controversy since it was announced in April, with key details still to emerge almost three months on.

Under the new partnership, the five universities will work with PsiQuantum to create targeted educational programs that develop the skills required for quantum computing and other advanced technology industries.

PsiQuantum will have input in the development of “study modules, courses, degree, lectures and industry training”, including at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

The programs will also provide “pathways for traditional STEM careers like engineering and software development into the quantum sector”, allowing upskilling of “diverse scientists” to take place.

Roles in the company’s sights include quantum applications engineers, software developers and other technical lab staff, as well as more traditional roles like mechanical, optical and electrical engineers.

“This collaboration will provide a framework for academic institutions in Australia to offer opportunities for academic, postgraduate, and undergraduate placements that will attracts and retain leading Australian and global talent,” PsiQuantum said.

The company has also previously promised PhD positions, mentoring and internship opportunities, although they were not included in Tuesday’s announcement.

PsiQuantum chief executive and co-founder Jeremy O’Brien said the partnership will “help ensure that Australia is developing the necessary skills and driving research to continue leading this field for decades to come”.

Professor O’Brien developed the beginning of the photonics-based quantum approach being pursued by PsiQuantum at the University of Queensland. The approach uses uses photons as a representation of qubits instead of electrons.

University of Queensland vice-chancellor Deborah Terry said the university will “work with PsiQuantum across the education spectrum – from schools, through TAFE, to universities– to prepare our students for future jobs in quantum and advanced technologies.

“Our researchers are also incredibly excited to explore and find projects of common interest with PsiQuantum, taking full advantage of this unique opportunity,” she said.




Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Suspended doctor says he told truth about COVID

A doctor suspended over allegations he wrote fake COVID-19 exemptions and shared misleading information about the virus insists he told the truth about vaccines and their risks.

Disciplinary proceedings have begun between the Medical Board of Australia and Mark Hobart, with the Melbourne doctor maintaining he did nothing wrong.

In a brief hearing at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, Dr Hobart applied on Monday to have the matter dismissed or struck out on the grounds it was "frivolous, vexatious, misconceived".

He has filed a 27-page document setting out his submissions.

Despite this, his application to have the matter dismissed was denied.

A mention for those proceedings is expected to be held on August 16, with a three-day hearing expected to start early next year.

Dr Hobart has been suspended since November 2021 based on eight allegations of misconduct, including issuing almost 600 COVID-19 vaccination and mask exemptions.

Dr Hobart argues that the Board exceeded its jurisdictional powers in the matters, and says it cannot tell doctors what information they can or cannot provide to patients.

He also claims he told the "truth to patients about vaccines" and complied with his duty of care, including the obligation to do no harm.

Tribunal senior member Elisabeth Wentworth denied Dr Hobart's application to dismiss the matter, saying the allegations against him were serious.

"This is not a frivolous proceeding," Ms Wentworth said in her written findings.

She said the allegations raised important questions about a doctor's professional responsibility in relation to disease prevention and control.

Victorians were subject to strict vaccination mandates and mask rules throughout the pandemic.

Melbourne's metropolitan area was subject to six lockdowns of a cumulative 260-plus days in 2020 and 2021, giving the Victorian capital the dubious honour of being the most locked-down city in the world.


Take heart! Australia is still better and fairer than most

Ross Gittins

Don’t be disheartened by recent events. Things in the Land of Oz are far from perfect, and we have our share of problems. But don’t be tempted by the thought that if America’s going to the dogs, we won’t be far behind. No, we’re holding things together much better than the Yanks are.

Of late, it’s been tempting to think that the goal of every generation being better off than their parents has been lost. It’s not true. Not yet, anyway. And there’s still time to ensure that Gen Z – youngsters in their teens and early 20s – get a fair shake.

It’s not easy to compare generations with statistical accuracy. But lately, statisticians have made progress in linking information from the census and official surveys with banks of data held by government departments. And last week, the Productivity Commission used this advance to publish a much more authoritative study on economic mobility.

It confirms that, on average, each generation earns more than its parents did at the same age. That’s because the economy has grown almost continuously over the decades, raising material standards of living. This would be true of all the developed economies.

Of course, it’s also true that it’s easier for children born into poorer families to do better than their parents than it is for children born into well-off families.

However, living standards haven’t grown much over the past decade or so. Were this to continue for a further decade or more, it could become true that Gen Z isn’t doing better than its parents.

A different question as to whether overall living standards are continuing to rise in real terms over the years is how easy it is for people to change where they stand in the distribution of incomes as their lives progress.

How easy is it for people starting out towards the bottom of the ladder to climb to a higher rung?

This is the meaning of income mobility. Can you better yourself if you try hard enough?

Now, this is where the Americans keep telling themselves they’re the land of opportunity. Log cabin to the White House and all that. Well, it may have been true in Abraham Lincoln’s day, but it hasn’t been true for decades. As a general rule, the more unequal incomes are, the harder it is for people’s positions on the ladder to change.

America’s incomes are highly unequal, and it’s one of the countries where changing your income status is hardest.

But this is where the Productivity Commission’s research brings good news. On income inequality, Australia is in the middle of the pack of rich countries. But when it comes to income mobility, we do what Australians love to think of themselves as doing: punching above our weight.

We pride ourselves on being the land of the fair go. Or, as dear departed Scott Morrison preferred to put it: if you have a go, you get a go. Well, guess what? We now have documentary evidence that it’s still true. According to the commission’s calculations, Australia is among the most income-mobile countries, scoring better than even the fabled Scandinavians.

Two qualifications. First, people in the middle 60 per cent of the distribution enjoy the most opportunity to move. If you start in the bottom 20 per cent of personal incomes, you have less ability to improve. And if you’re already in the top 20 per cent, it’s harder to go higher.

Second, although the commission doesn’t spell this out, mobility cuts both ways. Remember, we’re talking about relative incomes, not absolute incomes. So, if it’s easier for me to pass you on the ladder, it’s easier for you to fall below me.

How do people seek to improve their earning potential? The obvious way is to get a better education. On average, people with a uni degree or higher earn 23 per cent more over their lifetime than those who only complete year 12. And those who complete high school earn significantly more than those who don’t.

Mobility is adversely affected by significant life events, such as unemployment, serious health problems and relationship breakdowns.

So far, we’ve been focusing just on income. But wealth – the assets you own – also affects your mobility. Unsurprisingly, the less wealth you have, the harder it is to move up, and the more wealth you have, the easier it is to stay up.

The rich have always been with us, but I think the inordinate rise in the cost – and value – of homes, which is already handicapping young people without access to parental help, will also make inheritance a bigger influence on people’s income mobility.

As Australians, we have a lot to be pleased about and proud of. But we have no cause for complacency.


I witnessed the rot set in at the CFMEU. Here’s how it happened

The expression that evil flourishes when good people do nothing goes a fair bit of the way explaining the mess the CFMEU construction division is in today. Yet eventually people who turn a blind eye for long enough become as big a problem as their plainly corrupt colleagues.

Why do these people turn a blind eye? For some, it’s out of physical fear. For others, it’s just a question of keeping your head down and staying on the payroll.

Corruption and criminality in the CFMEU didn’t start during the time of John Setka’s reign. The 1986 deregistration of Norm Gallagher’s Builders Labourers Federation (BLF) is probably the starting point. They were deregistered by the Hawke government because of their industrial recklessness, thuggery and corruption.

Gallagher was jailed for taking kickbacks from developers to build his beach house. His union used extensive industrial action to get the big construction companies to influence the government to release him. Not exactly how our judicial system works.

When the BLF was deregistered, other building unions recruited tens of thousands of BLF members in NSW, Victoria and the ACT. In the early 1990s, the building unions formed the new super union, the CFMEU.

As part of that process, the federal industrial relations minister Peter Cook was keen for the non-deregistered BLF branches in Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania to join the new union. A sticking point was what to do about some former BLF officials from Victoria. The BLF branches and Cook were keen for the CFMEU leaders to let them in. Protracted negotiations, which I participated in, saw former Victorian official John Cummins come onto the books of the CFMEU.

Agreement could not be reached about young John Setka because of his past behaviour. History shows that within 18 months, Cummins secured Setka a job in the Victorian CFMEU.

Between 1993 and 2000, the former BLF forces gradually strengthened their position in the Victorian branch and didn’t hide the fact they aimed to take over the federal office and grab control of the whole union. In 2000 they made their move, and a series of ugly events saw gangsters, corruption, bitter internal fighting and the Cole royal commission into the building industry.

Between 2000 and 2010, the Victorian branch didn’t have the numbers to take control. The NSW, Queensland, ACT and Tasmanian branches stood together and represented the biggest faction. A new Queensland CFMEU leader took office around 2008 and started voting with the Victorians. This represented a serious change in the direction and culture of the CFMEU construction division.

Warning on CFMEU intimidation sent to Allan, Albanese in 2022
Those who had been trying to remove me since 1994 now had the numbers, and I left the union at the end of 2010 after 31 years.

Shortly thereafter there were leadership changes in the NSW branch, which then became embroiled in ugly allegations of corruption. Gangsters started to circle. The Heydon royal commission into trade unions ventilated extensive evidence about nefarious activities by leading NSW officials. Remarkably, no criminal charges followed. The officials subject to examination by the royal commission were not deterred and strengthened their control of the branch. Father and son Darren Greenfield and Michael Greenfield have been the secretary and assistant secretary for the past seven years or so.

Meanwhile, Setka, who became the Victorian branch secretary in 2012, continued to strengthen his control of that branch. Many longstanding officials and site delegates were replaced by a new brigade, some with a history of bikie gang activity and criminal involvement.

Given the size of the Victorian branch and Setka’s powerful presence, he became the dominant force across the construction division nationally. For many years, the Victorian and NSW branches had been at loggerheads about the appropriate style of unionism, but under the Setka and Greenfield leaderships there was a new close affinity. Paralleling this was the rise in prominence of colourful identities Mick Gatto in Victoria and George Alex in NSW.

Is the Setka style of unionism all bad? No. In many ways, the crude use of power and muscle corresponds with the raw nature of the construction industry. Big developers and construction companies often crush small fry, whether subcontractors or workers. The use of union militancy to push for wage demands and safety has often been positive. But when Setka and his band took control, muscle became everything – no matter where the muscle came from.

What is the future of the CFMEU construction division? Nothing short of a clean-out of corrupt officials in the Victorian and NSW branches will suffice. It’s highly unlikely the union can clean itself up.


Controversial British author Toby Young unloads at 'woke' Australia: 'Crocodile Dundee would be in jail'

A right-wing British author has claimed Australia is surrendering its larrikinism to the 'woke mind virus' and argued free speech is under threat in the country.

Toby Young, 60, made the comments after wrapping up a nationwide speaking tour of Australia last week.

Young authored 'How to Lose Friends and Alienate People' - which was turned into a 2008 Hollywood movie starring Simon Pegg, Kirsten Dunst and Megan Fox.

Young, the founder of the Daily Sceptic which runs pieces challenging government positions on climate change and Covid, also founded the Free Speech Union.

He says the union, which has chapters in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, protects the right to express opinions - across the political spectrum - from attempted restrictions by the 'radical progressive left'.

Young told Daily Mail Australia the country was losing its famed free-spirit and anti-authority bravado - and had become more closed-minded than it was decades ago.

'These days it is as if Crocodile Dundee is languishing in a prison cell waiting for trial,' he said. 'He’s awaiting trial for hate speech somewhere in Victoria.

'The emergence of wokeism has introduced a puritanical intolerance into the left which has meant a downgrading of how much they value free speech.'

Young argued free speech was in 'dire straits across the western world' because America had 'exported the woke mind virus'.

'We’re seeing the gradual spread of the woke religion, the great awokening, across the media, universities, governments, officials, the museums and heritage sector, the arts and that’s all been deeply depressing,' he said.

'And here you don’t seem to have much at all to protect you.'

Young said Australia's Online Safety Act 'has empowered your eSafety Commissioner to effectively run amok'.

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant recently made an unsuccessful bid to force X to take down images of the Wakeley Church stabbing from its platform worldwide.

'That was an extraordinary over-reach on the part of the eSafety Commissioner to demand not just a video be removed from X in Australia but globally,' Young said.

'That is indicative of just how unlimited the censorious ambitions of people like Julie Inman Grant are.

'They want to cleanse social media of any dissenting or heretical content that challenges their radical progressive views, under the guise of protecting people.'

'What does she think gives her jurisdiction, the authority to make a demand like that?'

Young also took aim at the Albanese government's proposed laws to curb misinformation and disinformation online.

He argued 'we all know' what misinformation and disinformation 'really means'.

'It is any opinion that members of the radical progressive left disagree with,' he said.

'The fact that the losing side in the Voice referendum blamed misinformation and disinformation gives you a clue as to what a chilling effect the anti-misinformation Bill would have on free speech in Australia.'

Young said he was a victim of cancel culture in 2018 when then-British Prime Minister Theresa May appointed him as a non-executive director of the Office for Students regulator.

Young's education credentials were established when he set up the West London Free School, a first-of-its-kind school independent of the educational authority but which received government funding.

Young said the board position was a 'nothing burger of a job' which was not paid and only required he meet with other directors four times a year.

'That was the invitation to offence-archeologists to go back through everything I had ever said or written from 1987,' Young said.

'Because I have been a professional journalist all my life, it didn’t take long to find a Tutankhamun tomb’s worth of offensive content.

'After eight days of leading the news on 'resignation watch' I stood down and apologised for some of the more sophomoric things I had said on X late at night.

'I thought that would draw a line under it but it was just the opposite effect. It was like throwing raw beef to a shoal of piranha fish, there was blood in the water.

'They came for me in four other jobs so I ended up having to stand down from five other positions. So, I was well and truly cancelled.'

It was that sequence of events that inspired to launch his Free Speech Union, which takes up the cause of other people who have been cancelled, fired or banned for expressing an opinion.

'When I recovered I thought what I really needed when that was happening to me to was a professional organisation who could provide me with really good advice, should I apologise or will that make things worse?' Young said.

'Should I get out and defend myself or will that just prolong the story?

'Is there anyone else this has happened to and you can put me touch with and give me a few pointers for support?

'But there was no organisation like that so that’s why I decided to start the Free Speech Union.'




Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Climate plans of Australian companies would be exempt from private litigation for three years under proposal

Long overdue. Should be 5 years

The climate plans of Australian companies would be immune to private litigation for three years under an Albanese government proposal before parliament.

The grace period is included in legislation before the Senate that would expand the information companies must provide about the risk the climate crisis poses to their business and what they will do about it.

The bill has been praised as a necessary step in improving corporate climate disclosure and accountability, but lawyers and shareholder activists are concerned that polluting companies accused of greenwashing could avoid public scrutiny – and investors could be denied information about companies – for an extended period.

The draft legislation says some types of statements by companies, directors and auditors would be protected from legal challenge during a phase-in period unless the business was accused of criminal behaviour or an action brought by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (Asic).

Law firm Equity Generation said the laws would have almost certainly prevented cases that successfully challenged the Commonwealth Bank and NAB over funding fossil fuel projects. The bill could also have stopped a “world-first” challenge to Rest Super over its duty to consider the climate crisis when making investments.

David Barnden, Equity Generation’s principal lawyer, said the proposed immunity – which applies to company statements about climate scenario analysis, transition plans and “scope 3” emissions released by customers when they use the company’s products – would “remove a critical avenue for investors to ensure market integrity”.

The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility, a shareholder advocacy organisation, said “an extended enforcement holiday” from existing accountability would reduce motivation for companies to take mandatory climate disclosure requirements seriously.

Its executive director, Brynn O’Brien, said she was particularly concerned the immunity period would affect the information disclosed by big heavy emitters that already release climate transition plans in line with the recommendations from the global taskforce on climate-related financial disclosures.

“[The centre’s] case that challenges statements made by oil and gas company Santos, for example, could not be brought by a shareholder for three years under the draft legislation,” O’Brien said. “It is an inappropriate burden to place the sole responsibility of enforcing these provisions on under-resourced regulators for such a prolonged period.”

Mayleah House, of boutique fund manager Ethical Partners, said the immunity period would undermine shareholder rights and corporate responsibility. She said directors had adequate protection under existing misleading and deceptive conduct laws.

“Companies that have had the foresight to see what’s coming down the track should be – and are – prepared for disclosures,” House said.

The Greens have proposed an amendment to reduce the three-year immunity period to one year.

The party’s spokesperson for economic justice and Treasury, Nick McKim, said Labor’s mandatory disclosure legislation was “an important part of pushing money out of coal and gas and into the clean investments we need for a safe future”, but “a three-year holiday given to the biggest corporations is too generous”.

“Asic hardly has a reputation as a tough corporate cop on the beat, so we hope the government supports the Greens’ amendments in the Senate to rein in the disclosure immunity back to one year and narrow its scope,” he said.

The mandatory disclosure proposal is based on the work of the International Sustainability Standards Board. A spokesperson for the treasurer, Jim Chalmers, said the government was “taking action on climate reporting to unlock more investment in cheaper and cleaner energy and help companies and investors manage climate risks”.

“We’re doing this in a responsible way that ensures we incentivise more investment as quickly as possible without the risk of penalising businesses that are trying to do the right thing,” he said.

The Coalition has said the mandatory reporting regime would increase costs on business, particularly small and medium-sized operators, describing it as “more red and green tape”.

If passed, the new regime would start on 1 January.


Lending statistic about big four banks: Greenies are 'very concerned'

Australia's big four banks loaned more than AU$3.6 billion to fossil fuel projects and companies in 2023 - at odds with the government's 'net zero' targets - according to research by Friends of the Earth.

Analysis by Market Forces - a part of the green group Friends of the Earth - found ANZ, NAB, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac loaned a combined total of $3.6 billion to fossil fuel reliant energy projects in 2023.

That was half the level of financial support that existed in 2022.

Market Forces banks analyst and report author Kyle Robertson said it was important the Big Banks understood its customers didn't appreciate greenwashing.

'Customers are very concerned that big banks are pouring billions of dollars into companies expanding coal, oil and gas when we must accelerate efforts to limit climate change and deadly disasters,' Mr Robertson said.

'The big four banks are engaged in a monumental facade as long as they continue undermining a safe climate by funnelling billions to companies steaming ahead with more coal, oil and gas.'

'When will the banks live up to their climate commitments, follow the science and stop funding climate collapse?'

The new research found 2023 was the first year the big four Australian banks did not directly finance a new or expanded coal, oil or gas project since the Paris Agreement on carbon dioxide emissions was signed.

'ANZ takes the cake as the biggest funder of fossil fuels, pouring more than $20 million into coal, oil and gas since Australia adopted the Paris Agreement to limit climate change,' he said.


CFMEU want traffic controllers paid $250,000 per year

A deeply parasitic union. They have no shame

More than one 100 construction workers are striking at the access to one of Brisbane’s major Cross River Rail sites, marking the latest instalment of tense CFMEU protests in the city.

About 150 tradies are outside the entry to the Roma St entrance of the Brisbane City Cross River Rail site after gathering around 6.30am.

Workers are also protesting at Albert St, Woolloongabba, Boggo Rd and the Exhibition Station sites, with many holding flags and banners.

It’s understood the protest occurred following a breakdown in days-long negotiations between the CFMEU and CPB, the Cross River Rail lead contractor, over pay.

People familiar with negotiations revealed the union had asked for traffic controllers on sites to be paid the equivalent of an entry-level construction worker - some $250,000 if the union is successful in its call for a pay increase.

CFMEU representatives and CPB were locked in negotiations for several days, including almost all of Monday, in an effort to avoid protest action.

It’s understood the stop work action could happen for the rest of the week.

No roads are blocked and the group is not causing any disturbances.

The Courier-Mail understands a group of CFMEU members are discouraging workers from entering the sites, but not physically preventing them from entering.

Earlier reports that the worksites had been blocked by a padlock are incorrect.

It’s understood the action is over a pay dispute between the union and contractor, CPB Contractors, which has been ongoing for months.

The previous agreement between CFMEU and CPB Contractors expired at the end of last year.

A Cross River Rail Delivery Authority spokesman said it was a matter between the contractor and union.

“Enterprise Bargaining Agreement negotiations have been ongoing for some time, and this is a matter between the major contractor and unions representing employees,” the spokesman said.

“We encourage all parties involved to continue to bargain in good faith and to reach a resolution, so we can continue to deliver this transformational project.”

The protected action is expected to continue until Friday, and again on Monday, July 22.

CFMEU’s Qld Assistant State Secretary Jade Ingham slammed the CPB Contractors over major occupational health and safety hazards.

“I cannot speak highly enough of the workers who, over the past four years, have given everything to turn this job around despite immense pressure and mismanagement by CPB,” Mr Ingham said.

“Many workers are labouring long hours, and with none of the usual protections afforded to permanent workers.

“That’s why CPB workers are resolute in their demands for equity across the entire project, so that no worker is left behind in the agreement.

“The workers are united in this democratic action and expect CPB to engage in good faith.”

In Bowen, Hills, about 20 workers were also sat at the end of the gate 5 driveway at the Exhibition Showgrounds talking to workers as they approached.

Another group were standing near the Exhibition Equestrian Centre entrance on O’Connell Tce.

They had tied CFMEU flags on nearby street signs.

At a site carpark across the road workers were gathered in small groups chatting as others left.

The union has previously made headlines earlier this year when a picket line at Dutton Park Cross River Rail site was the scene of an explosive brawl among workers.

Sources at the time told The Courier-Mail frustrated subcontractors were attempting to access the site to work, only to be confronted by men - some wearing CFMEU-branded attire - blocking access.

In 2022 the union stormed the Department of Transport and Main Roads building, forcing staff to hide.


Time’s up for Qld Labor’s own Dead Parrot Sketch

If you are not familiar with the Dead Parrot Sketch as made famous by John Cleese and the Monty Python crew, it goes something like this.

Cleese brings a parrot into the pet shop where he had bought it a few hours earlier and complains that it is dead. Plainly, it has deceased. Not so, says the pet shop owner. It’s sleeping.

If Premier Steven Miles and his merry band are wondering why it seems likely they’re headed for the Opposition benches in October, it’s because Queenslanders have finally tired of political versions of the Dead Parrot Sketch.

There’s the one in which the government tries to pretend that opening medical centres which have no beds or doctors is the same as building new hospitals. Most people know this is nonsense, and those who don’t find out quickly enough when they turn up for treatment and are sent off in search of a real hospital. The parrot is dead, not asleep.

The government blames immigration, winter, road accidents and everything except the war in the Ukraine for an ongoing and scandalous shortage of beds and staff in the health system, when it is evident that the cause is a lack of planning and political leadership under Labor for the past nine years. The parrot is not dead, the government insists. It is sleeping.

We’re told that everything will be just fine come 2032 and that Brisbane will host an Olympic Games of which we will all be proud.

No we won’t. Most people don’t want them and the entire affair has been a shambolic, half-arsed, ego-driven exercise since day one. Little has happened except lots of meetings which have generated nothing but media releases.

Watching from our imaginary grandstand we can see this but we are told that all is sweetness and light. Our Olympic plans aren’t dead. They’re sleeping.

If you heard a whistle blow last week, it was the one announcing the imminent arrival of the latest gravy train to pull into trade union headquarters courtesy of Premier Miles and Energy Minister de Brenni.

On board was a draft copy de Brenni’s plans to apply Best Practice Industry Conditions to the state’s renewable energy projects, plans which he said were close to being finalised.

BPIC is the sweetest of sweetheart deals struck to accommodate one of the government’s paymasters, the Construction, Forestry and Maritime Employees Union. This deal guarantees massive take home pay packets for its members and ensures it takes up to 65 weeks longer to build an apartment block in Brisbane compared to Sydney and depending on size, adds from $140,000 to $600,000 to the cost of an apartment.

The state’s renewable energy projects, those that actually have a business case and some chance of being built, backed by government subsidies and in semi-remote locations offer the potential for even richer pickings for the CFMEU.

Everyone knows that BPIC is a disgraceful rort for which ultimately we all end up paying, but Minister de Brenni insists otherwise.

“Our job is to deliver good wages for working Queenslanders – that is our purpose,” he says prodding the supine parrot and insisting it’s just sleeping

No it’s not minister. It’s to govern the state in the best interests of us all without fear or favour.

It’s not sleeping, mate. It’s dead.

The government can at least claim to have outshone the rest of the nation in one regard and can now proudly claim to run the most strike-prone state in the country with 105 days lost to industrial action on every worksite in the first three months of this year.

CFMEU Queensland boss Michael Ravbar, giving the parrot’s cage a shake, has dismissed claims of industrial anarchy as representative of an “unhealthy obsession with our union”.

All those non-CFMEU workers not earning $250k-plus and who have to turn up on hot days and when rain threatens reckon the parrot didn’t move. It’s not sleeping, mate. It’s dead.

Should Opposition Leader David Crisafulli gain government, he has the job in front of him to show the electorate that responsible government in Queensland isn’t dead. It’s just sleeping.




Monday, July 15, 2024

Australian Territory drops more details from its COVID-19 death reports

The history of Covid is one coverup after another

ACT Health has decided to stop sharing the age ranges of COVID deaths in a move to match the reporting of other notifiable diseases.

The change comes after the Health Directorate's weekly report revealed a patient in his 40s had died, making him the youngest-COVID related death this year. ACT Health did not report whether the man was immunocompromised or had any comorbidities due to patient privacy.

Officials were notified of his death between June 21 and 27, but said he did not die during this period. They reported his age range and sex in the weekly respiratory surveillance report along with three other COVID-related deaths - a woman in her 80s and two women in their 90s. The deaths were reported last month, a period which recorded the highest monthly COVID activity this year with 844 PCR-confirmed infections.

In the following weekly report, from June 28 to July 4, ACT Health stated two people had died but did not include their age range like it had done in reports published since March 2023. ACT Health was contacted for comment as the report did not state a reason for the lack of age-related information.

A spokesperson told The Canberra Times the Health Directorate was following a new process and the change in reporting aligned "more closely" with the reporting of other notifiable diseases. Influenza and the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are examples of other notifiable respiratory diseases.

"ACT Health regularly reviews and updates public reporting processes," they said. "[The change] is consistent with the approach taken nationally and in the majority of other jurisdictions. ACT Health does not publicly report death age range or sex information for any other notifiable conditions."

NSW Health stopped including ages and sexes of COVID-related deaths in May 2023 while Victoria's Department of Health still included age ranges in weekly reports.

Although the World Health Organization continues to classify COVID-19 as a global pandemic, Australia's chief medical officer Professor Paul Kelly declared it was no longer of national significance in October last year. He said it was still "a serious threat" but Australia would manage COVID like other common communicable diseases by focusing on prevention, reducing spread, serious cases, hospitalisations and deaths.

The ACT Health spokesperson said the age and sex of all COVID-19-related deaths were reported, especially during the declared public health emergency, on social media. They said social media updates stopped from March 23 last year because the structure and content of weekly COVID reports were updated as part of "transitional reporting changes".

"These changes reflected the ACT government's transition to managing COVID like other notifiable conditions, and a focus on carefully monitoring the severity of illness and the impact on the health system, rather than overall case numbers," the spokesperson said.

About 200 infections and an estimated eight deaths were reported this month, as of July 12. Before the death of the man in his 40s, the last COVID-related death of a patient under 50 years old reported to ACT Health was in January 2023, the spokesperson said in a statement.

Professor Peter Collignon at the ANU Medical School said not reporting age-related information about COVID deaths "distorted" people's view of the disease.

He said the majority of deaths from COVID and the flu were people over 80 years old with underlying conditions but said it was useful to know when younger people died. He said it would improve public awareness of the risk to age groups.

The infectious diseases expert believed "balanced" public health reporting would share when young people were affected by these diseases, with context. He said governments should report death data annually at the least.

"When [someone young] dies you run the risk of overemphasising their youth, but by the same token, you've got to put a human face on this, and the rare exceptions ... make it real," Professor Collignon said. "I think it's a mistake not to report the ranges."


There's been another rise in homeschooling in Canberra

Homeschooling continues to grow in popularity with the latest ACT Schools Census showing a 6.5 per cent increase in the amount of students being taught outside traditional schools.

In the year to February 2024, the amount of students being homeschooled increased to 495. In the same period, private school enrolments increased by 2.1 per cent and public school enrolments fell by 0.6 per cent.

An Education Directorate spokesman said the numbers in the ACT reflected nationwide trends, with many jurisdictions experiencing larger increases in homeschooling numbers.

"Families have the choice to enrol in alternative educational pathways outside public/non-public schools," the spokesman said.

"The increased level of enrolment in home education may be attributed to both increased awareness of alternative pathways, as well as ongoing impacts that arose from the pandemic."

Queensland University of Technology education researcher Dr Rebecca English said the ACT's regulatory environment was kind to parents seeking homeschooling options. "It's much easier to homeschool in ACT than NSW or Queensland. Registration is geared towards parents' needs," she said.

"In the ACT because of the way the regulators have worked with advocates it's a really positive environment for homeschooling."

In her home state, by contrast, advocates assume between 50 to 80 per cent of homeschooled children may not be registered.

"[In Queensland] it's just a bit of a blind spot. The government doesn't have a strong relationship with the community."

Dr English said homeschooling could often be a positive option for students. "I think the research shows us that it is at worst benign and at best a better option than traditional schooling, in terms of students' reports of satisfaction with their education and civic engagement," she said, noting that much of the research comes from the United States.

Sydney Home Education Network president Vivienne Fox said conditions for homeschooling in the ACT are hugely favourable.

"The ACT already allows for kids to do part-time homeschooling. The regulatory system is the best in the whole country," she said.

Ms Fox, who homeschooled her five children and has worked with various homeschooling organisations, said the option was growing in popularity even before COVID-19.

"During COVID it got a kick in the pants, so many people got the opportunity to see what their kids were really doing at school," she said.

"I thought schools would become more flexible and there would be more recognition of the value of a tailored form of education but NSW hasn't improved at all in that way.


Setka self-destructs

Welcome news.

Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke says “everything is on the table,” after the sudden resignation of construction union boss John Setka amid allegations of misconduct.

The Victorian state secretary resigned from the Construction, Forestry and Maritime Employees Union (CFMEU) following 12 years in the top job on Friday, with immediate effect.

It followed allegations in Nine newspapers he had allowed bikies and members of organised crime to act as union delegates, with instances occurring at government-funded projects.

Speaking on ABC’s Insiders, Mr Burke said the alleged actions were “completely unacceptable” and if necessary, he would deregister the CFMEU or appoint administrators to certain branches.

“In the advice I sought from the department, I want to make clear: everything is on the table,” he said.

Mr Burke said he had sought information on the powers he has as the minister. Multiple agencies will also be investigating the claims, including the Fair Work Ombudsman, the Australian Federal Police and state police organisations.

“When I think of union delegates, I think of someone who will serve you on a check-out at Woolworths or Coles, work as a cleaner in a major centre, a highly trained colleague … to see any criminal element, is not just a problem, but completely unacceptable,” he added.

Mr Burke said he had “put the union absolutely on notice,” however said he had no interest in halting infrastructure projects where the alleged actions had occurred.

“I don’t think any has interest in that,” he said.

“I want to make sure that we’re able to deliver a situation where workers are well paid and companies are profitable, taxpayers get value for money and the infrastructure we need is built.”


The big four bank boss who says there’s more room for risk

ANZ chief executive Shayne Elliott says cautious lending standards are taking a disproportionate toll on younger generations, arguing banks should be allowed to take more risk in their loans to property developers and first home buyers.

ANZ’s largely affluent customer base has mostly muddled through the high-interest rate environment, but Elliott is attuned to the need to make housing more affordable as cost-of-living pressures squeeze many, especially outside the main banks.

If it were up to him, existing regulations would allow banks to take on more risk. But he also acknowledges major banks could rethink their risk appetite within existing bounds. “We have to be more open-minded,” he says.

As house prices grind higher, Elliot is concerned increasing swaths of Australians and New Zealanders are being locked out of the financial system and the housing market.

Speaking in the bank’s head office in Melbourne last week, Elliott argued there’s a case to be made for letting banks take more risk – both in their lending to big business clients, as well as first home buyers.

“If we restrict credit, it does come at a cost,” he says. “Certain parts of the community pay a higher price than others, and one of them is the younger cohort, particularly those who have an aspiration to buy a home.”

The comments on housing and risk – a long-running theme for Elliott – came as the bank also sought to respond to allegations of cultural problems in its markets division.

On Thursday, in an internal note to staff, Elliott said the allegations reported in the media were not new and that the bank was treating them with “utmost seriousness”, including engaging external legal counsel to assist in its investigations.

Elliott flags that one area where the bank could allow more risk is in its institutional bank, where it lends to some of the country’s biggest businesses, therefore having a role in the supply side of housing.

Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority (APRA) chairman John Lonsdale last month said this was not the time to wind back the clock on banking regulation. But at the same time, Lonsdale also said there was scope for banks to increase their own risk appetite.

‘Certain parts of the community pay a higher price than others, and one of them is the younger cohort, particularly those who have an aspiration to buy a home.’

Elliott says the bank could lend money for more affordable housing models such as “build to rent to buy” (BtRtB), where a community housing provider is the developer for a property, charging lower-than-market rent until the tenant has saved enough for a deposit to buy the property they are renting.

UNSW housing research professor Hal Pawson says it’s a model that helps those who earn below a certain income level to save for a deposit through not only lower rent, but also a longer-term contract that eliminates the constant moves often required in the private market.

“The BtRtB model seeks to help potential first home buyers who might otherwise be locked out of the market to transition over a period to full homeownership,” he says.

That model also can reduce the cost of building houses because of the lower financing costs and tax benefits that can be given to not-for-profit community housing developers.

Elliott says the bank is already taking a closer look at this model.

“We can help [builders] drive down the cost of construction, and the way we do that is by taking more risk and being prepared to take different risk,” he says.

This modified risk appetite could also apply to how the bank assesses home loan applicants, Elliott says, although he is wary of acting only on the demand-side, which could worsen housing affordability.

“We have to be thoughtful about how we assess risk for first-home buyers,” he says, noting the current standards are a result of both regulation and prudent thinking by banks.

“If you came into the bank, or any bank, and decided to borrow money, we would look at your income today and assume you never get a pay rise for 30 years, which is kind of a ridiculous assumption,” he says. “We make all sorts of assumptions about your current position that probably aren’t terribly relevant, or terribly true.”

As an example, Elliott says there’s a question around whether banks should be more generous in their assumptions of people’s income and factor in future increases.

But he also thinks there could be a change to the serviceability buffer, a stress test required by APRA that adds a 3 percentage point “buffer” to the rate of a loan to determine eligibility.

Last year, Elliott backed the 3 per cent buffer, saying it “feels about right”. But his views have since changed.

“I’m not sure [the serviceability buffer] makes sense today, given where interest rates are today,” he says. “You would imagine as rates rise, the buffer would come down, and as rates lower, the buffer would go up. I think 3 per cent is probably a bit burdensome at the moment. A number more like two is probably more reasonable.”

Elliott is under no illusion that such a tweak would bring about significant change: “But for some, particularly first home buyers, I think it would make a difference, and I think that’s a reasonable risk to take.”

“Our [retail and small business] customers have definitely increased their savings buffers, which is staggering, actually,” he says. “The big end of town in general is doing really well so we’re seeing remarkably low stress. Where the stress is, is probably more in the middle market, so more private and domestic companies. The obvious ones have been in construction, and the other area is discretionary retail.”