Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Another Australian black shielded from justice

A senior academic staffer has accused James Cook University of “basically doing nothing” after she complained that the head of the Indigenous Education and Research Centre had allegedly threatened to “spear” her if she didn’t increase enrolment.

The woman alleges Martin Nakata, the Townsville-based deputy vice-chancellor of Indigenous Education and Strategy, made the threat in front of staff and a student three times in two days, first on November 16 at a whole-department training day.

In a complaint to James Cook University’s human resources department and WorkCover Queensland, the woman said Professor Nakata had told her she needed to increase Indigenous enrolment from 670 to 1000, a target she felt was unrealistic.

“He’s a Torres Strait Islander man and because of that and because we’re the Indigenous centre, we have things on our walls, and one of the things is the spear,” she told The Australian.

“He points to the spear and says if you don’t reach that target, I’m going to take that spear off the wall and I’m going to spear (woman’s name).

“On the Friday he repeated the same comment, and later that day he repeated the same thing in front of a student.

“It flabbergasted me. Everybody felt very uncomfortable … they sat there in silence, I think in shock. “I felt totally humiliated, and I was also quite dumbfounded.”

The Australian asked Professor Nakata for a response.

He did not comment but a JCU spokesman said: “(The) university is aware of the alleged incident. All such allegations are taken seriously and handled in accordance with the university’s policies and procedures.”

The woman said she had worked with Professor Nakata for more than five years and they had previously had a good working relationship.

She said she tried to resolve the matter unofficially, by emailing Professor Nakata and telling him she “respectfully requested him” to stop making the comments.

“He said he was sorry and it was just a joke,” she said.

The woman said she had accepted his apology and was keen to work together as normal, but her relationship with him had deteriorated to the point where he did not speak to her. “On a normal day I’d have to speak to him half a dozen times, so that means I can’t do my job,” she said.

The woman said she felt bullied, and made a complaint to JCU’s human relations department on December 3, after she had been contacted about the alleged incident by The Cairns Post.

She then made a claim to WorkCover. “I went to HR and they’ve basically done nothing,” she said.

“He’s a very respected Indigenous academic and he’s very high-profile and I think they don’t know what to do.

“If it was somebody at a lower level, they would have been suspended or sacked. They are trying to work out how to make me want to go away.”

The JCU spokesman said: “JCU has endeavoured to meet with the complainant but scheduled meetings have had to be postponed due to respective leave commitments.”

The woman has been on stress leave and annual leave.

Professor Nakata is the first Torres Strait Islander to graduate with a PhD in Australia and his decades-long research career has focused on Australian Indigenous education.

He was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia in 2020.


Daniel was forced to have a Covid jab to keep his job. Then he fell gravely ill. Now he has secured a HUGE legal victory

A public servant who was forced to get a Covid vaccination to keep his job, but then fell gravely ill, has won a major legal battle and will be paid compensation.

Daniel Shepherd, 44, received two Covid-19 vaccinations when he was a youth worker at Baptist Care South Australia in 2021 and suffered adverse reactions to the jab.

The father of one started a new job with the Department for Child Protection (DCP) on October 19 that year, but was told on January 28, 2022, that he had to get a booster shot to keep his job as a child and youth worker.

Mr Sheperd was given a Pfizer mRNA jab on February 24, 2022, but a day later he had serious chest pains.

The pain kept getting worse until March 11, when he thought he was having a heart attack and was rushed to Adelaide's Ashford Hospital. There he was diagnosed with post-vaccine pericarditis - an inflammation of the membrane around the heart.

The illness meant Mr Shepherd was only able to work for a few months in a part-time administrative capacity.

DCP acknowledged the pericarditis was caused by the Pfizer mRNA booster shot, but it denied workers compensation liability, saying it was a legal government directive and so was excluded under the SA Emergency Management Act.

But Judge Mark Calligeros, the SA Employment Tribunal's deputy president, rejected the DCP's arguments.

'It is not surprising that some people who receive a dose of Covid-19 vaccine will sustain injury as a result,' he wrote in his judgment.

'It would be astonishing if parliament intended that an employee of the state, injured adhering to an EM (Emergency Management) Act direction, was to be precluded from receiving workers compensation.

'I am not satisfied that parliament intended to deny compensation to employees of the state injured by heeding a vaccination mandate designed to protect the health and welfare of citizens.'

Judge Calligeros added that Mr Shepherd was required to be vaccinated to continue working in healthcare.

This was 'because (the state) sought to protect and reduce the risk of infection to the public and general and those members of the public receiving healthcare services in particular.

'It would be ironic and unjust if Mr Shepherd was denied financial and medical support by complying with the state's desire to preserve public health.'

In a landmark ruling, the judge ordered that Mr Shepherd should get weekly income support payments and the payment of medical expenses.

The ruling came despite SA Health still enforcing a mandatory Covid vaccination policy for some employees, even though similar policies have been dropped in other states.


‘We want our school back’: Newington parents, old boys gather to protest co-ed move

Students returning to Newington College on Wednesday were greeted with a parent protest outside the school’s gates, as backlash intensified against a decision to admit girls to the 160-year-old institution.

A group of parents and alumni gathered at a Stanmore park before walking to the private school’s main campus gates carrying placards that called for the college to reverse plans to transform into a fully co-educational school by 2033.

Newington announced late last year that it would admit girls in the junior school from 2026, and become a fully co-educational campus by 2033. The decision, made almost two years after the idea was first floated to the school community, has drawn intense criticism from some parents and old boys.

An online petition objecting to the co-ed move has garnered 2300 signatures, while a separate group of parents is threatening legal action against the college over the plan to enrol girls.

In November, a letter from law firm Brown Wright Stein was sent to the council chairman Tony McDonald on behalf of parents and old boys, challenging the validity of the co-ed plan and arguing it was contrary to the inner west school’s trust, which was established in 1873.

The decision also prompted Newington’s Founders’ Society chairman Greg Mitchell to quit his position and withdraw his bequest to the school.

“I believe this decision is ideologically driven by the minority and is now being imposed on the whole of the Newington community with potentially disastrous consequences,” he told the Herald last year.

The Founders’ Society was established in 2010 to raise money for the college and for student scholarships by asking alumni to donate by making a bequest in their wills.

A separate coalition of parents and old boys have also set up a group called Save Newington College to campaign against the co-ed move and lobby the school to overturn the decision.

“Such a seismic shift in this extraordinary school will destroy the great traditions and heritage that make Newington College the greatest school for boys in Australia,” a message on the group’s website says.

Morgan, who graduated from the school in 1990 and is one of the founders of the Save Newington group, said 640 alumni and current and former parents had registered to be a part of the group.

“The Save Newington group is not directly involved in any legal action, however many of our groups’ supporters are, and we are all interested in its success,” said Morgan. “The group has helped to pass on information from the legal action group to our supporters, including fundraising efforts.”

A former parent at the school, Kerry Maxwell, who is part of the MOONS (Mothers of Old Newingtonians), said she attended the protest to help “speak up on behalf of a lot of families I know that are furious about this decision, but they’re too scared to talk”.

“Parents signed up for a boys’ school. They heard nothing about possible co-ed plans for months and then there is a sudden announcement. Now if parents try and get their boys into other schools they can’t.”

Another old boy, Tony Retsos, who graduated in 1977, said he had “nothing against co-ed” but the school “had been a private elite boys’ school for 160 years and the process to consult about a decision of this kind wasn’t sufficient.”

“All we want is for the decision to be reversed and a proper consultation with all stakeholders. Without more information the decision is unfathomable,” he said.


‘Divide and conquer’ key to Anthony Albanese’s class warfare

You don’t have to be a dewy-eyed romanticist about the past to believe that in the past year Australia has become angrier and more divided than we can ever recall.

The evidence is everywhere. White versus black, rich versus poor, women versus men, women versus trans, and every other schism one can imagine yawns wider than it ever did. For some, this is not only deliberate but necessary. And, indeed, a damn good thing. You can’t have a revolution without conflict.

However, because Marxist conflict theory and old notions about class warfare are discredited everywhere in Australia (except in our law schools and other radical corners of our universities), it is not politically astute to advertise that you are deliberately stoking conflict. As an instrument of statecraft, inciting and capitalising on division is a decidedly old-fashioned and brutish concept. That is why the Albanese government is polishing its messages to hide its intent. Pull the curtain aside, and its modern political platform is deeply rooted in class, race and gender wars.

While superficially playing a neutral and reassuring game, this government believes Australia is broken and needs radical change, which can only be achieved after, and as a result of, significant conflict. Like its tax policies, none of this was advertised at the 2022 election.

Because most Australians think Australia is basically a pretty good place, which only needs incremental rather than revolutionary change, a political party that wants to make major change must hide that from the voting public.

The voice was a classic example. The government tried to tell mainstream Australia this was a minor change, a simple matter of good manners. It did so even though those drafting the words were saying the opposite. Though the government did fail miserably in its constitutional quest, the ugly and bitter campaign did achieve one of its goals; by stirring up anger and division, it energised activists to intensify their fight.

The most rancorous Australia Day in history is testament to that. The aim of activists is to make Australia Day so contentious it will have to be abandoned. Predictably, those who want to mark Australia Day are not taking this lying down. Peter Dutton’s call for a boycott of Woolworths for its apparent abandonment of Australia Day is in fact reactive – he is simply channelling the anger many feel about the activists.

Moreover, it’s likely that dialling up the rhetoric against Australia Day – with local councils refusing to hold citizenship ceremonies and Tennis Australia refusing to mark Australia Day – will simply generate much more heat and light without effecting any substantive change.

Success by the activists will simply perpetuate the division. If a new Australia Day is chosen, the anger of those unhappy with the change will be directed to changing the new date. Division will become permanent.

A particularly repulsive new form of division has emerged from the grisly merger between the Indigenous sovereignty movement and the pro-Palestine movement. Anthony Albanese cannot wash his hands of what he has wrought. By stoking the “always was, always will be” claims about ownership of Australian land he made it inevitable this particular narrative of colonial dispossession would merge with claims that Israel too is a colonial power. The “always was, always will be” crowd have joined in conflict with the “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” brigade.

As if we weren’t divided enough about Gaza with every conceivable group from the LGBTQ Mardi Gras to the ABC violently split, now we are told to view Gaza through the prism of colonialism and dispossession. When virtually every event in human history is explained by some variant of oppressor/oppressed analysis, and everyone is allocated to one or other of those buckets, it is any wonder we find more and more reasons to divide ourselves up into warring groups?

Mind you, this division into oppressor and oppressed can bring benefits to some members of the allegedly oppressed. Indeed, some members of these groups become the new privileged, immune from criticism or punishment no matter how badly they behave.

For example, until this newspaper exposed the death threats made by Indigenous cultural adviser Ian Brown against white project manager Rochelle Hicks, it appeared Brown’s Indigeneity gave him immunity from the normal legal consequences of his actions.

At the ABC, impartiality rules don’t seem to cover the work of Indigenous affairs editor Bridget Brennan.

In her Australia Day news report, she announced that the country “always was and always will be Aboriginal land”. After the Prime Minister released proposed words for the voice in July 2022, Brennan appeared on ABC’s Insiders panel telling Australians the voice must include reparations. These are the demands of an activist stoking division, not an impartial journalist.

Under this government, class warfare – the forerunner of the kinds of conflict theories that drive colonialism, race and gender wars – remains a critical part of its political playbook.

Anthony – “my word is my bond” – Albanese has reneged on the stage three tax cuts in favour of “divide and conquer” class war politics. The PM is effectively saying, without a hint of shame, that it is fine for him to break the promise that was crucial to winning the 2022 election because it enables him to take from the rich to give to the poor.

You can ignore the PM’s cries of “we had no alternative”. Reneging on stage three was a deliberate choice of one preferred policy among a large number of options. If the PM wanted to provide more cost-of-living relief while still keeping the tax cuts, there would have been many ways to fund it. Spending cuts or deferrals of environmental or industrial policy would be but a few of the obvious ways for him to have kept his promise on stage three while still funding cost-of-living relief.

No, the real reason the PM broke his promise is that he is still “fighting Tories”. Class warfare, it would seem, justifies any dishonesty in the PM’s world.

Wedded to identity politics, the Albanese government is going to war on many fronts, knowingly fermenting division while apparently promising to fix society. Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, for example, has released discussion papers aimed at dramatically skewing the law on sexual assault.

Everything is on the table, it would seem, from specialist courts with suitable attitudes, to re-education camps for lawyers involved in this work, to the abandonment of trial by jury in favour of some method of adjudication that will ensure more convictions.

Everything is being considered, it would seem, except for any consideration of the rights of accused persons. They are apparently expendable. Mere roadkill in the path of the new conviction-focused juggernaut.

A successful, peaceful country needs values that unite us. Australians have shown time and again they have no time for class warfare, or warfare based on race, gender or any other form of identity politics. This is why the ALP has spent so little time in office federally since World War II. However, it explains why this Labor government wants to do as much as it can as quickly as it can while it still has a House of Representatives majority and a favourable Senate. It wants revolution not evolution, and is prepared to stoke division to get there. What it needs to remember though is that revolutions have a nasty habit of eating their own.




Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Dutton commits to defunding Environmental Defenders Office under Coalition government

The Coalition will strip funding from the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) if it wins the next federal election, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has promised.

The EDO is an environmental legal centre that runs litigation and offers legal support in climate change and environment cases.

Federal funding to the non-government organisation was cut by former prime minister Tony Abbott in 2013 but reinstated by the Albanese government when it came into power.

The government committed to providing $8.2 million to the EDO over four years, with the rest of its revenue received from state and territory governments or philanthropy.

But the EDO has recently worn criticism for its conduct in court. Federal Justice Natalie Charlesworth ruled the group had confected evidence and coached witnesses in its legal challenge of a Santos gas project in the Timor Sea.

In the wake of that case, Mr Dutton vowed to revive the Abbott-era cuts if the Coalition won government.

"They have obviously been discredited in a recent federal court case but the federal government has had nothing to say about it," Mr Dutton told resources groups in West Australia this morning.

"The same activists are now seeking to use the courts to thwart Woodside's $16.5 billion Scarborough offshore gas field project here in WA.

"It does stymie existing projects and it does stop new endeavours from taking off. "We think it needs to be defunded."

Mr Dutton's commitment follows a pledge by the LNP in Queensland to pull state funding for the EDO if it wins the next election, and calls from former WA Liberal premier Colin Barnett for the group to be abolished altogether.

On Tuesday, EDO chief executive David Morris wrote to supporters acknowledging the court had been critical of "some aspects of the handling of the case", and said the office was treating that with the utmost seriousness.

"We are reviewing the judgement carefully but as the matter remains before the court, we are limited in making further comment," Mr Morris wrote.

"While this decision was devastating for EDO's clients and deeply disappointing for EDO and supporters like you, our determination to continue providing public interest legal services to communities across the continent is unwavering.

"We provide these services in circumstances where, were it not for EDO, access to environmental justice in Australia would be seriously diminished."


The hate-filled Aboriginal industry

I have had enough of the Aboriginal industry and the posturing, harassment and denigration that it hurls at everyone else. And I have had enough of its latest destructive offshoot, the campaign against Australia Day. And I have already had enough of the latest campaign for which we are clearly being softened up, namely that the next governor-general should be an Aboriginal or, to use the latest piece of nonsense, that he or she should be someone from the so-called First Nations.

To start with that nomenclature, it is utterly absurd to refer to Aboriginal tribes as First Nations. They were never nations because they have never had any of the attributes that the word has meant to convey and it is false to pretend that they have. That is not to diminish their culture or traditional way of life, which I for one would like to preserve. It is simply to give the thing some sort of rational basis rather than the fantasy world on which the notion of First Nations is built.

Then there is the equally absurd notion that the European arrival in Australia was an invasion. Even if you do not believe Australia was terra nullius at the time, as I believe it was , and no matter what the High Court says about it, the factual reality is that this country was not settled until 1788. There was at the time a general understanding among civilized nations that there was a right and a duty to settle what were largely uninhabited territories and give their people a chance to share in the better life that modern society could give them. The British, and those who came later in waves of immigration, did exactly that, and they were a great success.

Obviously, there were blemishes in the settlement. But the motive behind settlement was good and its benefits were enormous and cancel out the blemishes a thousand times over. Of course, the Aboriginal industry will never accept that argument, because settlement was effected by the European race and to say that the European race could do anything decent or worthwhile is anathema to it.

I happen to believe that white settlement brought great benefits and opportunity to Aboriginals. Indeed, we should forget about Sorry Day and implement a Thank You Day, when Aboriginals and all Australians can give thanks for the bounty, prosperity and national identity we have received for being part of European civilisation.

In any event, if the settlement was an invasion, there is a very obvious and simple way of undoing it and atoning for it, and one that is still available to the do-gooders who have seized on the Aboriginal issue to denigrate all Western civilisation: give the land back, starting with the suburban block to give everyone a chance to share in that noble project. Strange, but I have not found a solitary Australian who will take part in such a gesture. Instead of that, we are content to blame the present generation for every perceived shortcoming of all previous generations, which is grossly unfair and does not help a single Aboriginal to better their lives. Rather, it turns the mainstream Australian population against them, as we saw with the Voice.

Worse still, this hectoring is now destroying our national identity and I worry for the future. No sporting match, no cultural event, no civic activity and no celebration is now safe without uncoupling it from any recognition of Australia Day or any suggestion that it might be an event of which Australia should be proud. And that attitude is utterly destructive for building a national spirit and identity. Just how bad this has become has just been seen by the abuse of Peter Dutton for daring to oppose Woolworths’ virtual ban on products for Australia Day which it presents under the deceitful guise of being a commercial decision. Dutton should be commended for taking a stand and he is emerging as the first Liberal leader with backbone since Tony Abbott. And here is a better policy to defend Australia Day: no money, absolutely none, for any municipal council or other body, private or public, while it will not celebrate Australia Day.

Like me, you probably feel that you could and should have objected to the unrelenting trend to debase Australia. But I have changed and am making my own protest and I hope you will. I have found that, surprise, I can actually live without shopping at Woolworths and without patronising the Nova Cinemas and Readings Bookshops in Melbourne for their abuse of our national day. I assure you: it gives you a great feeling of liberation.

It is said, of course, that our appalling record is shown by failures on Aboriginal health, education, housing and incarceration. There are simple solutions for all of these ills, if only our governments had the guts to use them. The answers are very straightforward. Health: stop taking drugs and start eating decent food. Education: go to school. Housing: start saving up. Incarceration: don’t commit the crime.

On the next governor-general, to say that he or she must be an Aboriginal is tokenism of the worst order. It is based on racism and should be abhorred. It would do as much damage to Aboriginals as was done by the discredited Voice. The appointment is by the Crown, the same Crown that made our national settlement; so how can the same Crown now deny the legitimacy of that settlement?

Finally, on a note of optimism, there is now a new challenge, the proposed treaty which should be opposed with the same vigour that defeated the Voice because it is just as bad, and for very good reasons. Only governments can make treaties. A nation cannot make a treaty with itself or its citizens. And we all know what the lobby will try to include: control over development and the use of land; more tokenism; the right for one race and its non-elected representatives to have more power in government decisions to all other races and to the prejudice of all other races. If you can defeat the Voice, you can defeat the so-called treaty. But only if you try.

We are losing our nation. Even the so-called national broadcaster now maintains that the news comes from Gadigal country, a completely offensive assertion that suggests it is not even part of Australia. The way we are going, Aboriginals may well be the First Nations. But Australia will become the Lost Nation. That is a tremendous sadness and it should be opposed in every way.


Anthony Albanese’s broken tax pledge does not make up for losses in cost-of-living crisis

Anthony Albanese’s broken tax pledge would return less than 10 per cent of the real disposable income average earners have lost per week, as a leading economist warns bracket creep is more damaging to workers than interest rate hikes.

As the political battle sharpens over competing tax relief plans for “middle Australia” and the Prime Minister refuses to apologise for his broken election promise, the Coalition has released analysis of national accounts data showing the government has presided over a fall in real disposable income for average earners now amounting to $153 a week.

However, Labor’s new tax model, which reduces the size of tax cuts to higher-income earners to redistribute to lower-wage earners, would deliver only $15 extra a week to an average earner beyond the original stage three cuts. The opposition claims the data exposes the revised tax plan as providing “a drop in the ocean” in addressing the cost-of-living and inflation crisis the Albanese government claims it is addressing with its plan.

The Australian understands the Greens are considering demanding that Labor raise the $18,200 tax-free threshold in order to win the party’s support on the stage three rewrite in the ­Senate.

The Coalition’s fresh attack on Labor’s stage three broken promise comes as EQ Economics managing director Warren Hogan claimed bracket creep had a worse impact on workers over the past two years than the Reserve Bank of Australia’s 13 interest rate hikes.

A separate analysis of the national accounts by Mr Hogan showed total mortgage interest repayments increased by $18bn a quarter in the two years to September, from about $11bn in the three months to September 2021 to $29bn in the three months to September 2023.

This is compared to the quarterly increase of $26bn in income tax paid over the same period – from $65bn to $91bn a quarter – although high migration numbers have also been a factor in the workforce tax figures. “This government has basically spent its first 18 months in office blaming the RBA for all the misery out there when it is actually income tax that has gone up more,” Mr Hogan said.

“Bracket creep has had a bigger impact on middle-income Australia than the RBA’s interest rate hikes.”

The Coalition’s analysis of national accounts data from the December 2023 quarter shows real net disposable income per person fell by 8.6 per cent in the first 18 months of the Albanese government.

For an average income earner this is a decline in take-home pay of just under $8000. The primary drivers of the hit to net disposable income have been rising prices, rising mortgage payments, falling real wages and bracket creep.

The Coalition claims an average earner would receive just $804 more under Labor’s policy – $15.46 a week – than it would under the existing tax laws.

Opposition Treasury spokesman Angus Taylor claimed this was less than 1 per cent of their annual wage and returned just 10 cents for every dollar they had lost to cost-of-living pressures.

The opposition analysis is based on the difference between what the average full-time wage earner on a salary of around $95,000 would have received under the existing stage three tax cuts as legislated by the former Coalition government and Labor’s new model, which it will need parliament to pass before July 1.

The analysis assumes a 3.5 per cent rise in real wages and a 9.4 per cent rise in prices amid population growth of 3.5 per cent.

This amounted to a loss in real net disposable income of $7953 a year. “Labor is selling their broken tax promise as a solution to the cost-of-living crisis,” Mr Taylor said. “Labor’s failures on workplace relations, energy, housing and tax are driving up the cost of living for all Australians.

“Rather than boost productivity and rein in spending to control inflation, Labor has broken its core election promise to raise taxes. Anthony Albanese has sold his integrity and started a class war for a 10c election sugar hit. Bracket creep is the tax increase nobody voted for. Labor’s broken promise entrenches bracket creep in our tax system.

“Remarkably, it is a tax cut that increases taxes by $28bn on more than four million Australians. Labor is trying to tax its way out of inflation and hardworking families are paying the price.

“Strong economic management, not broken promises, is the only way to provide relief to middle Australians from Labor’s cost-of-living crisis.”

A spokesman for Jim Chalmers accused Mr Taylor of “fumbling around for the usual incoherent excuses to play politics with our bigger tax cuts for middle Australia”.

“This is why nobody takes Angus Taylor seriously. He says he’s for lower taxes then opposes bigger tax cuts for more people to help with the cost of living,” he said. “All those words and he still can’t explain why he wants higher taxes on middle Australia to fund even bigger tax cuts for those on the highest incomes.

“This shows once again his mindless negativity is no substitute for economic credibility, and he will harm not help the workers and families of middle Australia.

“If the Liberals really understood how tough people are doing it in middle Australia they wouldn’t be opposing more help for them via the tax system.”

Mr Albanese on Sunday continued to defend his broken election pledge, having promised in opposition to not relitigate the stage three tax cuts, which he previously supported. He said new legislation would be introduced in “coming weeks” with parliament due to return on February 6.

It would unwind the existing tax cuts – which were due to begin on July 1 – and replace them with Labor’s revised model. Labor will need the support of the Greens, which are hostile to tax cuts, and two of the Senate crossbench – or rely on the Coalition not to stand in the way of the changes.

“We are putting our plan to the parliament and we are hopeful of getting support. We will talk to people across the parliament,” Mr Albanese said Sunday.

“We’ll put it first to the House of Representatives. We will put it to the Senate. And I’m very confident that people will look at the two plans … one of which leaves a whole lot of people behind.

“All those people, the part-time workers, the renters, the people earning under $45,000, (it) leaves them behind and gives them nothing.”

He said the 13 interest rate hikes – 12 of which have come since Labor was elected in May 2022 – had been the driving factor in his change of mind.

“Well, the challenge and the clear obligation that we had was to not put further pressure on inflation. So that was the context here. That was the problem with, you could hand out, the easy politics is to hand out cheques.”

However, the Prime Minister appeared unable to clearly define what salary a person needed to be earning to be considered part of “middle Australia”, despite his claim Labor’s tax model was aimed directly at this group. His comments come after repeatedly defending the stage three tax cut overhaul by arguing the changes will overwhelmingly benefit middle Australia, which is doing it tough in cost-of-living pressures.

“So that, for the average family (that) earns $130,000, instead of getting just $1000, they’ll be getting $2600. That makes a substantial difference to them. So our choice, very clearly, is to give every taxpayer a tax cut. We have done that. We have aimed the biggest benefit … squarely at middle Australia.”

The Coalition has yet to confirm its position on whether to oppose the changes or incorporate them in a broader election tax package that would also reinstate the original stage three cuts.


Forensic lab’s latest failure

After years of catastrophic problems, revealed by The Australian’s Shandee’s Story podcast, Queensland’s forensic laboratory is undoubtedly overwhelmed in retesting a backlog of about 100,000 samples from more than 30,000 criminal cases dating back to 2007. But its management must do better at prioritising urgent tasks. As Sarah Elks and Michael McKenna reported on Saturday, the lab is taking months to formally identify and release the bodies of a couple killed in a plane crash in October, forcing their grieving son into financial distress and ­delaying his parents’ funeral.

Private pilots Alwyn, 73, and Jenny Rogash, 75, died on October 28 when their light plane crashed in dense, mountainous bushland west of Mackay, after taking off from Townsville. DNA forensic testing was ordered by the coroner before a death certificate could be issued. Their son, Bryan Rogash, wants his parents’ funeral to go ahead and to deal with his parents’ estate. He can do neither, however, without his parents’ remains or a death certificate. Mr Rogash, 38, is a military veteran who was injured during his RAAF service and is unable to work.

Authorities are relying on a sample of bone to formally identify the couple. But since December 2022, bone samples have not been able to be processed at the lab, forcing Forensic Services Queensland to send them to an Australian ­Federal Police testing centre ­interstate. Such poor service is not acceptable. The Miles government needs to intervene.




Monday, January 29, 2024

Misuse of police in hospitals

A former police officer and opposition frontbencher has slammed the Queensland Premier for dismissing concerns about cops being stuck at overstretched hospitals as just doing “their job”.

An ex-Queensland superintendent also weighed in, saying police were being forced into a “terrible situation” amid a “raging crime crisis”.

It comes after The Courier-Mail revealed police were being held up for nearly a week in Queensland hospitals guarding prisoners, left for hours in waiting rooms and made to ramp alongside ambulances with injured or mentally ill people in patrol cars.

A spreadsheet collated by Brisbane officers, obtained by The Courier-Mail, lists three years of occasions when police were kept from their normal duties because other frontline services were too busy.

But in response, Premier Steven Miles said police being tied up at hospitals was “part of their job”.

“Well, it is their job, it’s part of their job,” he said.

“Hospital workers and police work together.

“Sometimes that does mean that police have to spend time at the hospital to keep our hospital workers safe while ensuring that those in custody get the healthcare that they need.”

But LNP Police spokesman Dan Purdie said police initially created the register because of this “growing problem”.

“I’ve been a police officer all my adult life and it was never our job to care for a patient in the back of a police car ramped outside a hospital for up to eight hours, but it is now thanks to a chaotic Labor government that has lost control of services across the board,” he said.

“If Labor believes this is just business as usual, then why did they fight so hard to keep it hidden?”

Former Gold Coast superintendent Jim Keogh said the scenarios were “not the job of the police at all”.

“They are being faced with a raging crime crisis in Queensland, and they are being forced to compensate for the failings in other departments,” he said.

“Those police are trained law enforcement officers and that’s what they should be allowed to focus on – and they are being turned into health managers.”

Mr Keogh said it was crucial each department was “funded and resourced properly to be able to do their own jobs”.

But Health Minister Shannon Fentiman backed Mr Miles, and said it was “the job” of police to offer support to patients at hospital when needed, particularly those with psychosis or in serious mental health distress.

“It is really important that police, as a frontline service, are involved with our ambulance service and our hospitals – particularly for those patients who may have come from prison and need health care, or those patients who are experiencing extreme distress and mental ill health.”

Ms Fentiman said she had spoken with Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll about how beat police were facing a spike in call-outs related to mental health.

“It is definitely part of their job these days,” she said.

Ms Carroll said demand for policing services had “increased exponentially”.

The Health Minister pointed to a rollout of co-responder models over the past few years, which was due to be expanded.

“The big hospitals that have been mentioned in this spreadsheet, in the last performance data, have seen more and more people presenting, but actually they’re treating people with the recommended time frame,” she said.

But pressed on the inside information showing sometimes ambulances didn’t even show up, Ms Fentiman conceded it wasn’t good enough.

“We have invested in an additional 200 paramedics, just this financial year, they’ve all been employed and they’re all on the front line,” she said.

Mr Miles reiterated that officers had the responsibility to keep the community safe, including health care workers at hospitals. “Obviously, they do their very best to minimise the amount of time spent in those kinds of circumstances,” he said. “But ultimately this is our emergency services, our police and our health services working together.”

The Queensland Police Union declined to comment.

Opposition Leader David Crisafulli slammed the government’s response to revelations that police were being stretched thin, ramping patients and guarding prisoners at hospitals for up to a week.

“For a Premier yesterday to address that police sitting at an ambulance ramp for eight hours is business as usual is not normal,” Mr Crisafulli said.

“If we are given the privilege of governing in October, working harder for Queenslanders will be a priority for us and we will see an end to this chaotic behaviour,” he said.


International student visa numbers fall amid migration squeeze

The number of international student visa holders approved to come to Australia is on track to plummet by more than 90,000 this financial year, as the federal government rejects an increasing number of applicants to curb the high levels of temporary migration.

The number of visas granted to offshore students dropped to 139,132 in the first half of the financial year, figures from the Department of Home Affairs reveal, with nearly 20 per cent of all applicants rejected. If the approval rate continues 91,715 fewer overseas students will arrive in 2023-24 compared with the past year.

International Education Association of Australia CEO Phil Honeywood said the figures were part of the government crackdown on giving visas to applicants who were more interested in work rights than study, which the government refers to as “non-genuine students”.

“The focus has been on winding back a large number of diploma-level vocational students doing courses such as diploma of leadership, and instead the primary focus is on students who can add skills to the Australian economy,” he said.

The total number of student visas approved – including for non-residents already in Australia – was 195,934, which is also on track to fall below the record 577,295 visas granted in 2022-23.

The change in the numbers is being driven by the number of rejected applicants, with 81 per cent of student visa requests being granted in the past six months.

This is down from 86 per cent of applicants being approved in 2022-23, 91.5 per cent in 2021-22 and 89.9 per cent in the pre-Covid year of 2018-19.

A Department of Home Affairs spokeswoman said visa approvals needed to be “balanced against upholding the integrity of the student visa program”.

“The department has seen increasing levels of integrity concerns across the student visa program,” she said.

“The department received higher levels of fraudulent documents, fraud related to English language testing, non-genuine claims and non-genuine subsequent marriages being presented in student visa applications.

“The department will refuse a visa application to non-genuine applicants who do not meet regulatory requirements and where fraud is present.”

Education Minister Jason Clare said Labor was committed to improving the standing of the nation’s higher education sector and combating exploitation.

“The Albanese government’s migration strategy and the other integrity measures we’ve put in place send a clear message that we will act to prevent the exploitation of students and protect Australia’s reputation as a high-quality international education provider,” he said.

A global push is under way to limit student migration, with Canada seeking to curb its numbers by announcing a two-year cap on foreign students that will cut numbers by 35 per cent, and Britain barring foreign students from bringing dependants.

Migration expert and former immigration department official Abul Rizvi said the decline in student visa approvals reflected a bid from the government to lower net migration and ease the pressure on infrastructure and the housing market.

“The reason I think the government is targeting students right now is to get net migration down to a more sustainable level,” he said. “And in our history, whenever net migration has hit or approached around 300,000, problems have occurred in terms of congestion, inadequate infrastructure and housing, but also many government services start to strain at that level of net migration.

“And of course last year, we hit over 500,000, which is the highest in our history and not surprisingly, all of those things are under strain as a result.”

Mr Rizvi said the Australian, Canadian and British governments’ different approaches to bringing down student numbers were all poorly designed, arguing that the Albanese government’s strategy of upping refusals wasted resources. “Australia’s approach has been to crank refusal rates,” he said. “I personally think all three countries have got it wrong; they’re just doing it badly.

“Not letting dependants come is poor practice, student visa capping in an arbitrary way and it’s also chaotic … and Australia’s approach is subjective refusal rates.

“That’s not very good either, it’s just a waste of resources.”

Opposition immigration spokesman Dan Tehan has accused Labor of pursuing a “Big Australia policy” and allowing a record intake of international students to help “drive overseas migration to a record 518,000 people as Australians endured housing shortages, rent hikes, and a cost-of-living crisis exacerbated by population growth”.

“Labor says they’re not running a Big Australia policy but they also said they would deliver the stage 3 tax cuts,” he said.

The rate of visas being granted to international students in the university education sector alone dropped to 82.5 per cent since July, from 87.5 per cent in 2022-23 and 96 per cent in 2021-22.

In the past six months 98,198 student visas have been granted for study in the higher education sector showing a trend downwards from 2022-23 when 261,317 visas were granted through the course of the year, the highest in more than a decade.

While the rate of overseas Chinese university students being granted visas offshore remained steady at about 97 per cent, grant rates for offshore higher education students from India, Australia’s second-biggest market, dropped from 74.2 per cent in 2022-23 to 60.8 per cent this financial year. Grant rates for the third-biggest market, Nepal, went from 65.2 per cent to 48.8 per cent in the same period.


Bookshop owner sorry for ‘just white kids, no wheelchair, rainbow or Indigenous’ comments

A Melbourne bookstore owner who complained that there were not enough books with “just white kids on the cover” has apologised.

Susanne Horman, owner of the Robinsons Bookshop, railed against the “woke agenda” in publishing last month in a series of posts on X, which have attracted widespread criticism after being shared by the Instagram account coffeebooksandmagic on Sunday.

Ms Horman, who purchased the business in 2007, has since deleted her X account amid the widespread backlash.

“What’s missing from our bookshelves in store? Positive male lead characters of any age, any traditional nuclear white family stories, kids picture books with just white kids on the cover, and no wheelchair, rainbow or Indigenous art, non-Indigenous Australian history #weneedbetterstories,” she wrote in one X post on December 9.

The next day she added, “Books we don’t need — hate against white Australians, socialist agenda, equity over equality, diversity and inclusion (READ AS anti-white exclusion), left-wing govt propaganda. Basically the woke agenda that divides people. Not stocking any of these in 2024.”

She concluded in a follow-up on December 20, “So I am advocating for a substantial shift in the focus of Australian publishers to be in line with public opinion and requests for books and for what is GOOD! We aren’t going to stock books that intend to cause harm and make Australians hate each other.”

Sharing the comments, Emily Rainsford of coffeebooksandmagic wrote that she was “not one for willy nilly ‘cancelling’ but the comments … are so wildly out of pocket that I have no problem suggesting a widespread boycott would be appropriate”.

“She has not only said she wants more white people on covers and in books, but goes further to say that she won’t be stocking anything that … well, what, exactly? Isn’t about white people? And then somehow manages to claim that she’s fighting division,” she wrote.

“This kind of mentality has no place in the modern landscape and I truly hope it will eventually die out with the generation that’s as archaic as her website.”

Ms Horman has since issued a public apology to staff and “anyone who was offended by the comments” which she claimed were taken out of context, The Age reports.

“We clearly state, so there is no misunderstanding, that we fully support and encourage stories from diverse voices, minorities and we are most definitely stocking these important topics and the authors that write them,” Ms Horman told the newspaper.


Climate of naivety our greatest danger

Hubris is a well-known occupational hazard for self-made billionaires. They risk mistaking obsequiousness for admiration and are vulnerable to the knowledge delusion: the conviction that their business acumen qualifies them as experts about everything.

Andrew Forrest took the opportunity to share his wisdom on international security at a sod-turning ceremony at one of his wind turbine plants this month.

He claimed investing in wind and solar would make us safer in a world where bad actors want to control fossil fuel supplies. “I don’t want machine gun-toting, fruitcake extremists in Yemen, firing missiles in the Red Sea, to dictate if I can drive my kids to school here in Dubbo,” Forrest said. “Why would I back oil and gas when it’s controlled by people like Putin?”

You don’t have to be Henry Kissinger to spot the flaws in Forrest’s analysis. Whatever the assumed benefits of stripping native vegetation to erect wind turbines, they are not an obvious deterrent to Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. Warships tend to be more effective.

The Russian President may be a man of some influence, but he does not have the power to impose limits on Australian gas or coal production. Punitive royalties and activist judges are much better at doing that.

Australia is the world’s second-largest exporter of coal, pushing Russia into a distant third. We are the third-largest exporter of liquid natural gas, shipping three times more than Russia. We do less well when it comes to pipelines, but that’s a small price to pay for the security of living on an island continent.

We could be more than self-sufficient in oil if we put our minds to it. Geoscience Australia estimates our identified recoverable reserves of conventional oil at 1.8 billion barrels. There is significant potential for unconventional oil, which could be recovered with fracking.

It would be nitpicking to point out to Forrest that Yemenis sweeten their cakes with honey, not fruit. It is true that Iranian-backed terrorists from this dirt-poor but troublesome country are a not inconsiderable threat to our trade with Europe, the Middle East and parts of Africa. They pose little, if any, threat to our oil imports, however.

Less than 40 per cent of international oil exports come from the Middle East, almost all of which comes from the Persian Gulf. The tankers the Houthis delight in setting on fire in the Red Sea are bound in the first instance for Europe and the Mediterranean.

One doesn’t have to travel to Dubbo to guess that electric vehicles are seen less frequently outside its school gates than in Cottesloe. For those concerned about domestic energy security, that’s a good thing. While Australia is rich in lithium, cobalt, rare-earth minerals and almost everything that makes a lithium-ion battery, nearly all of it is sent offshore for processing, predominantly to China. The Chinese manufacture two-thirds of electric vehicles, including the BYD Atto 3 and MG ZS EV, the third- and fourth-best-selling electric cars in Australia.

That’s no problem if you live in Twiggy Land, where the People’s Republic of China is a benign player in world affairs and is the country that will turn the battle against global warming. Back in the real world, however, outsourcing our energy future to the Communists in Beijing is about as stupid as government policy gets.

Turning to wind and solar makes us highly dependent on China. Most of the world’s solar panels come from there, and they are aggressively attacking the wind turbine market. Chinese belligerence is the most significant external threat by far to the security of energy supply as we continue to run down our coal-fired power stations and put obstacles in the path of gas.

The most significant risk to energy security, however, is homemade. Labor’s ambitious 2030 energy target and opposition to nuclear power is driving coal out of the energy mix with no alternative source of base-load energy.

Rising interest prices and lengthy approval processes are stifling the growth in insecure, intermittent wind and solar. Reaching the target of 40 new 7MW wind turbines a month has been a little trickier than Chris Bowen seemed to imagine in his first weeks in the job.

Bowen has precious few opportunities to turn sods, so it is hardly surprising he was prepared to travel to the picturesque NSW Central Tablelands this month for a photo opportunity with Forrest at Squadron Energy’s Uungula wind turbine development.

Uungula was the only commercial wind turbine project to reach financial closure last year. Hundreds of renewable projects are “in the pipeline”, as renewable enthusiasts like to say.

Mercifully for the local communities they are helping to destroy, however, precious few of them are likely to get off the ground. Uungula has been in the planning stage since 2011. In 2016, CWP Renewables, the previous incarnation of Squadron, sought approval for 249 turbines on the site that it claimed would be connected to the grid by 2020.

That proposal has since been scaled back to 69 6MW turbines and is unlikely to be connected until the end of 2025 at the very earliest after submitting neighbouring residents to two years of construction hell.

We must be thankful for small mercies. The original proposal threatened 1880 hectares of native vegetation. The revised proposal’s footprint covers just 639 hectares, an area some 1½ times larger than the Perth suburb of Mosman Park.

Sooner or later, the impossibility of reaching the government’s back-of-the-envelope targets will sink in. Governments in a liberal democracy are bound to obey the laws, including the laws of physics. They will take stock of the energy graphs and realise the last thing we need in the middle of the day is more renewable energy, and the last thing we need the rest of the time is energy we cannot rely on.

In a world that grows increasingly unstable and in which we, or more accurately our friends, are already fighting two wars, we will realise we are indeed the lucky country, blessed with abundant resources which we must learn to mine and process ourselves.

We will learn that the greatest threat to our future is not global climate change but homegrown naivety.




Sunday, January 28, 2024

How identity politics destroyed Rochelle Hicks’ world

Since nobody else is mentioning it maybe I should: Ian Brown is a white Aborigine. So his possession of genuine "cultural knowledge" is unlikely. He has been given special privilege likely without justification. The bureaucrats made assumptions about him far too quickly. The whole episode is a mess.

The Labor government’s handling of the Rochelle Hicks matter has revealed what happens when identity politics merges with Labor’s old-style brute politics. As one lawyer told me this week, that political merger has turned into a highway to hell.

That’s the road the successful and highly regarded senior executive within Transport for NSW has been forced down. Hicks had project managed the Coffs Harbour Bypass, a $2.2bn infrastructure project. Her performance reviews were excellent. Her career was headed in one direction – up.

That was until her world came crashing down after bureaucrats above her refused to take seriously a death threat made against her made by Indigenous man Ian Brown. Hicks wanted Brown removed for the safety of her workplace, given he had made threats against her and others. In other workplaces, a bad joke could get you tossed out.

Instead, at Transport for NSW, according to its own internal documents, senior bureaucrats decided they should take no action against Brown because he was an influential Indigenous man and a “cultural knowledge holder”. Instead, they tried to get rid of Hicks.

If ever we needed reminding of the wretched influence of identity politics, of its dire and unfair outcomes, here it is. The first reaction of Transport bureaucrats was to ­effectively side with an Indigenous man who threatened to kill a white woman. They wanted to have the white woman removed. Hicks was forced to stay at home to protect her safety.

Senior public servants in the NSW Transport Department allocated a higher rung in the hierarchy of victimhood to the Indigenous man and perpetrator of the death threat. The white woman who was the subject of a death threat was treated by the public servants as expendable.

So much for the NSW Transport Department’s promise to end gendered violence and to make all workplaces safe for women.

The rot is so deep that when The Australian exposed this scandal, department bureaucrats organised professional psychological support, not for Rochelle Hicks, but for other public servants who may have been upset at our coverage of the debacle.

This baloney should be the stuff of comedy … except there is nothing remotely funny about the mistreatment of Rochelle Hicks.

A mother of two young children, Hicks should be lauded by her bosses as a role model for other women to consider successful and rewarding careers in the male-dominated infrastructure industry. And an example should have been made of the man who made a death threat against her. His swift removal would have signified that the department took violence, and threats of violence, against women very seriously. Instead, Hicks has been forced to engage lawyers; her career is on hold as she fights to be fairly compensated for the end of her successful career.

If departmental heads within Transport are flinching, they have only themselves to blame. It’s their fault that this matter has now entered the political arena.

Now that politicians are involved, Minns has a chance to show the sort of leadership that has been absent throughout this debacle. But, sadly, so far the reaction of the NSW Labor government suggests Minns is just another Labor hack who favours brute politics over doing the right thing.

When National MP Sam Farraway brought a motion to release internal department documents in response to our coverage in November, the Minns government blocked the motion. So much for leadership.

As The Australian reported, one Labor ministerial staffer even tried to smear Hicks to a crossbencher as mentally unstable to avoid internal documents being released. So much for integrity and compassion.

Hicks was delivered another blow when those other political hypocrites, the Greens, sided with Labor. We should never again take seriously the words of NSW Greens MPs about wanting to to protect women against violence.

Release of the documents supported Hicks’ version of events and revealed Transport bureaucrats behaving very badly indeed. The Greens should be in uproar. Instead, they are silent, pathetic ­patsies to identity politics. These tossers apparently believe all women – except when a black man threatens violence against a white woman.

It was never in anyone’s interest to follow the bone-headed mantra of the left that we “believe-all-women”. Minns need look no further than to the Prime Minister to understand the dangers of that ­approach.

The Albanese government’s handling of Brittany Higgins’s workplace complaint is the high water mark of maniacal devotion to that inherently flawed ideology. Proper processes were not followed. Higgins’ complaints against her former Liberal bosses were not tested. Some of Australia’s most senior lawyers who have read the Deed of Settlement in Higgins’ favour have laughed out loud at the utter legal crookedness of Labor paying $2.4m to Higgins to inflict political damage on senators Linda Reynolds and Michaelia Cash, and senior Liberal staffer Fiona Brown.

The Higgins matter was patently not handled on its merits by the Albanese government or the Finance Department.

If, from the start, the Hicks matter had been handled on its merits by her bosses, rather than through the war­ped filter of identity politics, Transport bureaucrats wouldn’t look like a bunch of overpaid muppets.

If the Minns government had dealt with the Hicks saga on its merits from the start, rather than choosing brute politics, it wouldn’t be knee-deep in this mess either.


"I would prefer to deal with Satan than with my insurer"

After two years of floods inundating the east coast of Australia, thousands of customers are still waiting for claims to be processed.

Figures from the Insurance Council of Australia show that of 160,000 building insurance claims made across four major flooding events in 2022, more than 6,000 are yet to be closed.

More than 4,000 claims made for damage to buildings during the catastrophic flooding across NSW and SE Queensland in early 2022 are still outstanding.

Meanwhile, more than 1,300 building claims made during the south-east Australia weather catastrophe later that year, described as "the most devastating flooding event in Victoria's history", are also yet to be resolved.

The ABC analysed flood events the Insurance Council classified as a "catastrophe" or "significant" in 2022.

The Insurance Council of Australia said the industry was facing a "perfect storm" of multiple climate disasters, supply chain problems, builder shortages and a housing crisis all making their work difficult and delaying claims processing.

"Insurers are now dealing with multiple events across the country at any one time," Insurance Council of Australia chief executive Andrew Hall told the ABC.

"With 250,000 claims emerging from just one event in 2022 [the south-east Queensland and New South Wales floods], it was inevitable that we would have some claims that didn't work perfectly, but we are determined to understand what are the issues around those claims."

Among those struggling with their insurer is the Sibberas family, who live in the rural Victorian town of Rochester.

The northern town was hit by flooding for the second time in two years this month, meaning some customers will be making their second claim in as many years.

Shellei and Paul Sibberas made their first claim in October 2022 when the Campaspe river broke its banks and the water that flowed into their house was knee deep.

Their insurer RACV was initially helpful, Ms Sibberas said, but the situation fell apart once it came to supplying appropriate temporary accommodation.

The couple and their adult son ended up living in two caravans on a property next door, which were subsequently damaged in a storm in October last year. One was taken away to be repaired.

"I was living in a swag in the shed, then we found out that that caravan had been written off," Ms Sibberas said.

Despite their home being insured for $680,000, she said they were initially offered around $240,000, then later $356,000 and then $468,000.

"There is a huge difference," Ms Sibberas said.

"They're trying to tell us majority of the damage was pre-existing, which we know it in fact wasn't."

RACV said their engineer determined there was significant damage to the house's stumps and roof, but it was caused by age and not the flood.

"The pre-existing damage to the roof and timber stumps meant that our builder could not warrant the repairs," a spokesperson said in a statement.

The engineer recommended a dry-out period of six months so the full extent of the damage could be determined.

Vicki Staff from Financial Counselling Australia said the family's experience was common and many financial counselling clients had claims denied because the issuer claimed there were pre-existing maintenance issues.

As the Sibberas family negotiated with RACV, their home continued to fall into disrepair because of the delay in repairs to the water damage. Now, the house will need to be rebuilt entirely.

"Our floors are dropping. We have a roof that has started to drop, so we have a leak in the roof in our lounge room," Ms Sibberas said.

"There were just consistent lies, 'We're going to do this were going to do that'. It all boiled down to lack of communication.

"I would prefer to deal with Satan because it's like dealing with the devil. Mentally, I just cannot do it."

Following the ABC's inquiries last week, RACV contacted the family the next day and agreed to a figure closer to the fully insured amount.

In a statement, a spokesperson for RACV said the insurer responded quickly to the initial claim with offers of temporary accommodation and support, and paid out their contents insurance promptly.

"Throughout the process, we have been in continuous contact with the member," they said. 

"Our focus has been ensuring our members are safe and supported during their recovery.

"We've finalised 93 per cent of claims from the October 2022 Victorian floods. We are working as quickly as possible to complete the remaining 7 per cent."


Slack prosecution was a penalty in itself for the accused

Charges dropped for defendant. Senior Constable to face court

A magistrate has ordered a senior constable to face court after prosecutors dropped all charges against a man who was still waiting for a brief of evidence nine months after the officer was ordered to produce one.

There was confusion and frustration at Kingaroy Magistrates Court on Monday when Matthew Eric Cross indicated he was about to plead guilty to various charges laid against him.

Mr Cross, 34, was in court for five charges including obstructing a police officer, stalking and breach of bail.

Before the case was heard, Police Prosecutor Sophie Stewart approached Mr Cross to tell him she would asking the magistrate to impose a sentence of three months in jail.

Mr Cross could be heard responding: “Three months in prison just for asking what was going on?”

Senior Constable Stewart told him he could tell his side to the magistrate.

When that time came, Ms Stewart indicated police were offering no evidence for some of the charges before having a brief conversation with fellow Police Prosecutor Barry Stevens.

While this was going on, frustration was palpable in the gallery where Mr Cross’ two supporters were sitting.

“This is a complete joke, they don’t know what they’re doing,” one of them could be heard saying.

Once it was decided three of the charges would be dropped but the others would remain, Mr Cross asked the court: “Before I enter that plea, can I just say that I didn’t even receive the brief I ordered the last court case I was here.

“I just want to deal with this so I can get on with my life. “The last 12 months has been nothing but a drama to the point where I’ve lost everything, two jobs, thousands of dollars. “$460 a day, that’s what I was on before all of this started.

“I lost my job from being dragged into Toowoomba watch house for two days for apparently sticking my finger up,” Mr Cross said.

Magistrate Sinclair interjected explaining he needed to understand what happened with the brief of evidence he ordered police to send to Mr Cross.

“I just need to find out because it’s highly unsatisfactory, it happens frequently that the police officers do not provide material which I ordered them to,” Mr Sinclair said

“What happened to the brief that I ordered to be ready by the first of June, 2023,” he asked the police prosecutors.

Snr Const Stewart replied the brief hadn’t been compiled due to “personal circumstances” of the arresting officer.

“Are they exempt from my orders and directions?” Mr Sinclair asked.

Mr Cross then asked if he could speak again and stressed he needed the brief so he could decide what direction to take.

“I’m here to tie up all these loose ends to get on with my life … something as simple as the brief so I can make a decision,” he said.

The two police prosecutors could be seen speaking to one another again before Snr Const Stewart announced: “Your honour, in relation to all charges for this defendant, the prosecution offers no evidence”.

“You’re dropping the lot?” the magistrate asked.

“Yes, your honour,” Snr Const Stewart replied.

“There you go, it’s all been tidied up,” Mr Sinclair said to Mr Cross.

After Mr Cross and his supporters left the courtroom, the magistrate addressed the prosecutors. “It’s the prosecutor's’ job and the officer in charge’s job to make sure that the directions that I make are complied with. “That means getting another police officer to do it.

“Why has it not happened for nine months?” Mr Sinclair asked.

“It’s not my fault, Your Honour,” Sergeant Stevens said.

Mr Sinclair then ordered the officer who was meant to provide the brief to appear before him.

“I’m going to direct Senior Constable M. Stalley to appear before me in person to show cause for why he shouldn’t be charged,” he said

“I’m going to do that for every officer who doesn’t provide briefs as directed. “He can explain to me what’s happened … it’s far from an isolated case.”

Snr Const Stalley must now appear in person at Kingaroy Magistrates Court on February 9, 2024.

Outside court, Mr Cross told this publication he was going to try and find new employment now he was able to freely work again.

“All of that just for them to drop the charges,” he said before leaving.


More coal coming

Dartbrook mine set to reopen after 18 years

Australian Pacific Coal and Tetra Resources have finalised a three year US$60 million debt facility with energy and commodity group Vitol Asia.
Dartbrook coal mine near Muswellbrook is a step closer to reopening, 18 years after it was placed into care and maintenance.

Australian Pacific Coal and Tetra Resources announced on Tuesday that they had finalised a three year US$60 million debt facility with energy and commodity group Vitol Asia to cover the cost of reopening the mine through to first coal.

The funding will cover equipment acquisitions, the completion of remediation work and the acquisition of additional mining systems during ramp-up to achieve full capacity.

The companies been working to recommission the mine since September 2022.

"This is a landmark event for Australian Pacific Coal, our shareholders, and the Dartbrook mine," Australian Pacific Coal interim chief executive officer Ayten Saridas said.

"Our ability to secure debt funding for Dartbrook during a period of high inflation and global tension is testament to the quality of the project, the vision and work ethic of the team of people bringing it back to market, and the commitment of our shareholders."

The debt facility will be structured as a loan notes issuance agreement and will involve a three-year facility with repayments commencing after an initial grace period to allow for mine production startup.

"From the moment we engaged with Vitol, they have seen the potential value we can create at Dartbrook," Saridas said.

"They have been thoroughly professional during this process and we are looking forward to working closely with them in coming years.

"Vitol will play a key strategic role in the development of the project following their appointment as sole marketing agent for Dartbrook coal. Dartbrook product is very high quality and we anticipate strong interest from export markets.

The schedule to first coal is under review and will be announced in AQC's quarterly report later this month, Saridas said.

The Independent Planning Commission approved an amended application to reopen the mine in 2019, despite community opposition.

The conditions stipulate that the mine will have to use the Hunter Tunnel rather than transport coal by truck. It must also use existing processing infrastructure and cannot mine the Piercefield Seam to reduce groundwater impact.




Thursday, January 25, 2024

Australia Day is a true celebration of the positive

And attacks on it are just Leftist poison. What it celebrates is to the benefit of ALL Australians, including Aborigines. Sad that the Left have stirred up a few Aborigines to protest about it. Leftists have a yen for destruction and destroying a holiday that was widely enjoyed is a triumph to them

Far from the beginning of oppression and slavery on an idyllic continent, the first Australia Day marked the arrival of things previously unknown but devoutly to be wished: the rule of law, liberal institutions, science, markets, and the sacred notion of individual equality in rights and dignity.

This is what makes it truly a day to be celebrated by all Australians, regardless of whether their citizenship ceremony was last night or whether their ancestry in this country stretches back tens of thousands of years.

January 26 is not the anniversary of Britain’s claim of possession over Australia nor of the actual arrival of the First Fleet. But it does commemorate the first flag raising on Sydney Harbour and thus appropriately marks the birth of modern Australia.

To all those arguing for a different date or angsting over whether we should feel pride or shame every January 26, I say name a date that’s more suitable; or better yet study the real history of our country before falling for the cultural Marxist claptrap that British settlement was a disaster, especially for Indigenous people.

Our continent was never going to remain forever the preserve of a few hundred clans of hunter-gatherers. That’s not to disrespect the achievement of the Aboriginal people who had survived, ingeniously, for hundreds of generations in an often harsh environment. But the instant modernity erupted into an ancient land, life was going to change, in the short term, sometimes for the worse, with new diseases and new conflicts; but soon, for the better, with new learning, new opportunities and new protections especially for women and children.

The best Indigenous leaders, such as Jacinta Price and Warren Mundine, recognise this. Looking at the harshness of local life at the time, and at the competing colonial records of France, Spain, Holland, Portugal and Belgium, it’s hard not to conclude that British settlement, for all its occasional blemishes, was more of a deliverance than a curse.

The British government instructed governor Arthur Phillip to “live in amity” with the native people. Phillip himself, when speared at Manly Cove, put it down to a misunderstanding rather than launch a punitive expedition. Under governor Lachlan Macquarie, schools were opened for Aboriginal people and some received land grants. Early land grants often specified that the rights of local people to hunt, fish and camp should be respected. In 1838, after the notorious Myall Creek massacre, white men were hanged for the murder of blacks. When in 1894 in South Australia the right both to vote and to stand for parliament was finally given to women, in what was a world first, that included Aboriginal women too. Hence this notion that the lives of Indigenous people were uniquely or even especially harsh in early colonial Australia is simply not borne out by the facts.

That’s why, as a nation, regardless of our individual ancestry, we really do need to get over the epidemic of breast-beating that every year marks the lead-up to Australia Day. This year, it wasn’t just ultra-woke Tennis Australia that planned a pride day, a disabilities day, and a so-called First Nations day at the Australian Open, but nothing to mark Australia Day; Cricket Australia (before backflipping) announced it would not acknowledge Australia Day as such, rather it would ­acknowledge on the day that January 26 meant “different things to different people”; and Woolworths announced that it would no longer stock Australia Day merchandise, even though it’s only too happy to celebrate other dates such as Ramadan and Diwali. Worthies such as cricket captain Pat Cummins (no stranger to left-wing causes) weighed in and criticised the date, even though there’s no consensus on a suitable alternative, history cannot be rewritten, and most of the change-the-date brigade don’t actually want the date changed, they actually want Australia Day abolished because of their fundamental objection with any non-Aboriginal settlers on this continent.

Of course, Aboriginal people have sometimes been treated harshly in this country: subjected to “protection” regimes, for instance; and denied a clear federal right to vote until 1962; but contemporary Australia has never been less racist and more colourblind (as our immigration intake plus the slight over-representation of Aboriginal people in the current parliament attests) and is certainly far less race-conscious than countries such as China and Japan. That’s why, when it’s not a noxious mixture of ignorance and virtue-signalling, the current disdain for Australia Day manifests an ideological dislike of our country and its people that should not be pandered to if we are to avoid something akin to a collective ­national identity crisis. If last year’s resounding defeat of the voice referendum meant anything, it was that Australians dislike being guilted about our history and reject being divided on the basis of ancestry. Yet instead of accepting that they’d grievously misread the national mood, pro-voice entities (such as Woolies, which gave the Yes campaign $1.5m of shareholder money, and Cricket Australia, which publicly advocated for a Yes vote) have doubled down on their politically correct virtue-signalling.

There’s no sign that, post-voice, the educational institutions encouraging pupils to write letters of contrition for Aboriginal dispossession or to apologise for their white privilege are rethinking the damage they’re doing to youth mental health or to our long-term national unity. Although Anthony Albanese has said that he accepted the people’s vote, his government is still pursuing separatist local and regional voices, treaties, and so-called “truth telling” to rewrite our history from an activist perspective. He says he supports Australia Day and will personally participate in Australia Day events but his government removed the previous insistence that local councils hold citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day, which some 81 green-left ones have now duly cancelled. While maybe not personally opposing Australia Day, he’s certainly eroding it; and while claiming to support it, he’s green-lit all those who don’t.

As well, he’s enshrined the practice of never appearing before an Australian flag without the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags alongside it (as if the flags of some of us are coequal with the flag of all of us); and he’s entrenched the practice of never beginning an official event or official speech without an acknowledgment of country (as if particular parts of Australia belong to some of us rather than to all of us).

There’s a real opening here for a political leader to commit to ending the angst over our national day by enshrining it in legislation that’s harder-than-usual to change or even to put it in the Constitution. And to promise to have just one flag for one people. This wouldn’t be engaging in culture wars; rather it would be ending them in a way that polls show the vast majority of Australians want. If Peter Dutton were to announce this, building on his decision to oppose the voice while it was still apparently popular, he would cement his position as the national leader the quiet Australians have long been seeking. A country where an angry mob shouts “gas the Jews”, while ­important institutions snub the national day, really has let itself down.


Stunning revolt underway against political, corporate garbage policies

Robert Gottliebsen

Something very different is happening in Australia, and it has caught many political and corporate leaders on the wrong foot. Two of the leaders caught by this change, Anthony Albanese and Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci, may have woken up that they had missed the change.

This week we saw remarkable events emerging to underline the drama taking place below the surface as leaders grapple with the 2024 Australia which different to what they had expected.

In my arena I decided to collect 12 key policies of Donald Trump simply to explain to readers, including myself, what was happening below the public Trump bluster and court battles. I made a minimum of comments on those Trump polices which cover issues like migration, crime, gender, buying a house, tax cuts, tariffs, local manufacturing and of course lower energy costs as the carbon debate is turned on its head.

To my astonishment, it sparked a reader frenzy. While the drawbacks of Trump were clearly expressed, the majority of readers embraced his policies with enthusiasm and urged Peter Dutton to copy them. And, of course, none of the Trump policies involved Indigenous Australians or Australia Day. Some invited Trump to come to Australia. They wanted clear policies and leadership.

A special Roy Morgan opinion Poll, shows a majority of Australians (68.5 per cent) now say we should keep celebrating Australia Day – up 4.5 per cent from a year ago — and the date should remain at January 26 (58.5 per cent)

As the largest supermarket retailer, the Morgan poll conclusions represented Woolworths’ customers at a time when a large number of those customers are angry at supermarket prices. Clearly, Woolworths executives had lost touch with their customer base.

Wisely, Banducci took out full page advertisements that in my view represented: a “correction” and of course used all the other media channels to convey the same message.

It was classic damage control.

Then, in a most surprising decision, the Prime Minister announced that Kim Williams would be the new chair of the ABC.

Like Woolworths, the ABC had not realised the fundamental change taking place in its customer base.

I know and respect many ABC journalists, and I am not into ABC bashing. But rightly or wrongly, a big segment of its audience took the view that it was biased and they turned away. (The danger Woolworth faced).

Williams is one of the most forceful media executives in the land and when he says that he wants to restore the ABC reputation for unbiased credibility, and then he will do it. And if necessary, he will do it forcibly.

Albanese must have realised that appointing Williams as the ABC chair will mean that he and his ministers will face a lot more encounters, like the clash between the ABC’s Michael Rowland and the Prime Minister over the tax cut “promise”.

It is just possible the ABC will point out to its audience that the industrial relations bill before the Senate provides a smokescreen for an attack on mortgage and rent stressed people which, if passed, will offset the benefits they will receive via the tax cuts.

It's not an issue Albanese wants highlighted.

As my readers know Albanese by making employing casuals too complex with big fines for mistakes, he effectively stops casual employment which, if legislated, would deliver a 25 per cent cut in take home cash for those who desperately need it. And the smokescreen also extends to an unprecedented attack on the main employer of those under rent and mortgage stress, family business and greatly damages the gig economy which those under stress use to find second jobs to cover their payments.

Williams will demand that both sides of all events — not just the tax cuts and Aborigines – be fairly set out for the ABC customer base which, like the Woolworths customer base, represents the entire nation.

Commercial media needs to watch out because under Williams they face a very different ABC. But we must acknowledge that the Albanese made a decision to “rescue” the ABC in the full knowledge, but it could adversely impact portrayal of the government’s policy stances and will create unhappiness in some sectors of the ABC staff.

For Dutton issues like Australia Day and tax cuts are relatively straightforward but in watching my readers embrace Trump’s wider policy spectrum it became clear that the silent majority that turned their back on the ABC and expressed their views so clearly in the referendum and the Morgan poll have a much wider set of views which differ markedly from the views of sections of the government and large corporations.


Call to remove all race powers from Constitution

Liberal senator James Paterson has called for the removal of the races power in the Constitution, the set of words that opened the door to the White Australia policy and later legislation on Indigenous land rights, Indigenous health and the protection of ­sacred sites.

Australia’s first prime minister, Edmund Barton, once described the races power as necessary to “regulate the affairs of the people of coloured or inferior races.”

It specifically did not apply to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people until 1967, when Australians voted that it should. This was because states were failing in Indigenous affairs and the public wanted to give the commonwealth power to take the lead on Indigenous policy.

Senator Paterson’s proposal to get rid of the races power – section 51 (xxvi) – is likely to stoke debate about separatism and assimilationist ideals. These were recurring themes of an at-times vicious referendum campaign in 2023 when Australians were asked to decide on a proposal for an Indigenous voice or advisory body in the Constitution.

On October 14, 60 per cent of Australians voted No.

Proponents of the voice had argued that saying no to the Indigenous advisory body meant the commonwealth would continue to have constitutional backing to make special laws about Indigenous people without any constitutional obligation to consider advice from Indigenous people about those laws.

Writing in The Australian, Senator Paterson acknowledges that constitutional law experts including George Williams were against repealing the races power without a suitable replacement.

Professor Williams has previously said that doing so would undermine the validity of existing, beneficial laws. “An important achievement of the 1967 referendum was to ensure that the federal parliament can pass laws for Indigenous peoples in areas like land rights, health and the protection of sacred sites,” he wrote in a 2013 essay titled Race and the Constitution.

“A continuing power should be available in such areas, but in a different form.”

Senator Paterson believes the races power can be removed while preserving programs that benefit Indigenous people. “It is true that there are reasons to be cautious, as both Professor Williams and professor Anne Two­mey have warned,” he writes.

“There are today laws and programs which are beneficial to Indigenous Australians and may hinge on the race power, such as native title. But surely we are capable of thinking of other ways of preserving these programs without keeping a provision in the Constitution which we would all agree is racist.”

Senator Paterson writes that the resounding defeat of the voice referendum suggests a majority of Australians would support removing any section of the Constitution that divides by race.

“Such a change could unify Indigenous people, those who descend from British settlement, and newer generations of migrants who came to Australia because of our sense of fairness and freedom,” he writes.


Santos’ Barossa project to be delayed and cost more after environmentalist lawfare

Santos’ Barossa LNG project will produce its first gas three months later than initially scheduled and the development will cost as much as US$300m ($456.3m) more, as the oil and gas company reveals the toll of two legal challenges.

The updated timings and cost is much less than some had feared, and the outlook sent Santos shares up nearly 1 per cent.

Santos chief executive Kevin Gallagher praised the work of his staff in keeping the project on track and as much on budget as possible.

“The team has done a great job in keeping Barossa close to the original schedule and managing the costs of delay,” Mr Gallagher said.

Mr Gallagher revealed drilling and pipeline work was now fully underway as the outlook for the company continues to brighten.

First gas from the project is now expected in the third quarter of 2024.