Friday, January 31, 2014

Abbott intensifies pressure on Labor to allow return of ABCC

THE Coalition has seized on fresh claims of corruption in the multi-billion dollar construction industry, saying Labor must now endorse the restoration of the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

Tony Abbott said the revelations demonstrated the pressing need for the reinstatement of the ABCC with "full power, full authority, (and) full funding".

"If the Labor Party is serious about tackling corruption, again, they will stop standing in the way of the re-establishment of a strong cop on the beat in that particular industry," the Prime Minister said.

As the government prepares to establish a promised judicial inquiry into union slush funds, new reports claim union officials are being bribed by corrupt companies to help them secure lucrative contracts.

Mr Abbott declined to say today whether the scope of the inquiry would be expanded in light of the latest revelations, or whether it would take the form of a full royal commission with coercive powers.

"The government will make appropriate announcements in due course," he said.

Mr Abbott said it was a "tragedy" that Labor had axed the ABCC, set up by the Howard government following the Cole royal commission into the construction industry.

"When the ABCC was operating ... we got a much stronger observance of the ordinary law of the land in the commercial construction industry," he said.

"Once you've got a strong cop on the beat, the whole culture of an industry improves."

Labor and the Greens are opposed to the restoration of the ABCC, which the previous Labor government replaced with the Fair Work Inspectorate.

Employment Minister Eric Abetz linked Labor's reluctance to restore the ABCC to its acceptance of $6 million from the CFMEU in recent years.

"That is why Bill Shorten and Labor are so heavily prejudiced against the re-establishment of the ABCC," he said.

Opposition workplace spokesman Brendan O'Connor said Labor had no tolerance for corruption, but the allegations should be tackled by police, not a rejuvenated ABCC.

"If people are committing crimes, if there are serious allegations of crimes, where better than to refer such matters to the police could there possibly be?" he told ABC radio.

He said the ABCC added an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy and failed to improve productivity in the construction industry.

The construction union also urged police to investigate the allegations.

"These are serious allegations and our reaction is very clear the union has no tolerance for corruption among any of its employees, officials or representatives," CFMEU national secretary Dave Noonan said.

He defended the union's dealings with companies linked to organised crime figures, saying it negotiated enterprise agreements with employers in the industry on behalf of members.

"There are a number of employers, and I stress employers, in the construction industry, who do appear to have links with criminal organisations," Mr Noonan said.

"That is not news to us. The union's responsibility is to represent our members in negotiations, not to select who employs them or indeed, who starts companies in the industry.

"The alternative would be ... that the union will play no role in ensuring minimum wages, standards and conditions for workers who are employed by that company."

Mr Noonan said he had investigated the union's links with a company linked to Sydney underworld figure George Alex, whose labour hire firm has a contract to supply workers on the Barangaroo building site.

He confirmed the union had an enterprise agreement with the company, but said it had played no role in helping secure its contract.

Lend Lease, the principal contractor at Barangaroo South, said it did not tolerate corruption and did not have direct dealings with companies employed by its subcontractors.

Mr Noonan said the union has sacked officials in the past for corrupt conduct, and would do so again if necessary.


Ex-cop targets building criminals

Qld. is not waiting for the Feds

QBCC's new commissioner Stephen Griffin is a former detective who worked in drug enforcement, organised crime and internal affairs in the New South Wales police force. Picture: Liam Kidston Source: News Limited

THE head of Queensland's new building and construction watchdog has vowed to crack down on corruption and organised crime within the industry.

Stephen Griffin starts his job as the Queensland Building and Construction Commissioner on Monday.

The former detective - who worked in drug enforcement, organised crime and internal affairs during his time in the New South Wales police force - said restoring confidence in the industry and eradicating corruption are among his top concerns.

His comments come as the Federal Government considers holding a royal commission into revelations unions in southern states were involved in corruption and organised crime.

Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie has called for any inquiry to look into possible corruption in Queensland.

No firm links have been revealed here but Mr Griffin said that did not mean it was not happening.

"It would be wrong for us to suggest that it doesn't exist," Mr Griffin said.

"Our role at the QBCC will be to work very closely with the Crime and Misconduct Commission, the police and, if the Commonwealth Government comes up with a Royal Commission, work very closely with them.

"(We will) obtain the information we need to make sure that if there are people in the industry that are forming links or associations with organised crime, we remove them from the industry."

"We will be doing everything we can. If they are not fit and proper people, they will be removed from the industry."

Housing Minister Tim Mander said the Government was determined to ensure Queensland's building and construction industry was clean.

"If that type of activity is happening in the southern states it would be naive to think there wasn't some sort of element happening here," Mr Mander said.

The commission has the power to order investigations into building and construction licensees and resolve disputes between consumers and the industry.

The QBCC has replaced the controversial Queensland Building Services Authority which was disbanded in December after a parliamentary inquiry ordered it be scrapped and replaced.

Mr Griffin said his goal would be to ensure the new body represented the rights of customers and contractors equally and he intended to put his investigative skills to good use in the new role.

"The vast majority of the building and construction sector are very good, hardworking, law-abiding people and it's only the very small minority that you need to pay attention to so I will be making sure our resources are focused on those people," he said.


Queensland chief magistrate Tim Carmody warns judiciary against using position to criticise new laws

QUEENSLAND'S Chief Magistrate has told his colleagues Parliament runs the state and they should not abuse their positions by voicing personal political beliefs.

As the acrimonious relationship between the Newman Government and prominent members of the judiciary continues, Judge Tim Carmody called for each branch of government - the legislature, executive and judiciary - to "keep their hands to themselves", saying judges and magistrates "must not meddle" with laws enacted by the Parliament.

"The separation of powers doctrine is a two-way street," Judge Carmody said in a speech to a packed courtroom which included Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie and Chief Justice Paul de Jersey.

"In return for the unfettered independence to make decisions - regardless of whether others think they are right or wrong - judges must not meddle in the administration of enacted laws by the executive and departments of state.

"They do not have the liberty of allowing curial decisions to be infected by bias or extraneous considerations such as personal opinions or ideological political or religious belief.
2000-plus rally for bikies' rights 0:45

"It is clearly wrong, therefore, for judges to deliberately frustrate or defeat the policy goals of what they might personally regard as unfair but nonetheless regular laws under cover of office as a form of redress or amelioration."

Judge Carmody also took a swipe at members of the judiciary who sought to circumvent or criticise the Government's new bikie laws and tough bail conditions saying they were leaving the courts vulnerable to criticism.

Several bikies or associates have been granted bail following their arrest under the government's anti-association laws, including members of the so called Yandina 5.

"The paramount rule of democratic government is that Parliament is supreme," Judge Carmody said.

"The laws it makes are to be taken to be valid and in the overall best interest of the State unless and until held otherwise.

"The courts will be vulnerable to criticism, for example, if their members use the weight of their office to engage in the public debate or make comments about the comparative morality or fairness of regular laws regardless of which political party sponsored them, or routinely adopted approaches to bail or sentencing practices clearly at odds with legislative or administrative policy intents or legitimate criminal justice objects such as deterrence or community protection via hard line incapacitation strategies.


Tropical cyclone frequency falls to centuries-low in Australia

The number of tropical cyclones hitting Queensland and Western Australia has fallen to low levels not seen for more than 500 years, new research published in Nature shows.

But while that's seemingly great news for people in cyclone-prone areas, our new research into Australia's past cyclone records also highlights a serious risk.

Low-lying coastal areas such as Cairns, Townsville and Mackay in north Queensland have all been developed on the unproven assumption that the cyclone activity of the past 40 years will continue unchanged into the future.

The concern is that our new results closely matched several recent studies that have projected fewer - but increasingly intense - tropical cyclones for Australian region due to global climate change.

And if those projections prove to be right, we are taking a big gamble with existing homes, roads and offices, as well as threatening proposed developments such as the A$4.2 billion resort casino planned for low-lying coastal land near Cairns.

There is no such thing as a risk-free development, especially when building in cyclone-prone regions. However, being properly informed and cautious about developments in such regions is in all Australians' interests - because if we get it wrong, we all stand to pay through higher insurance premiums and largely taxpayer-funded disaster clean-ups.

Our study shows that current seasonal cyclone activity is at its lowest level in Western Australia since 500 AD and since about 1400 AD in Queensland. That decline began about 40 years ago.

While Australia's official cyclone records only date back to 1906, we can track cyclones further back in time using measurements of isotopes housed within limestone cave stalagmites. Those stalagmites grow upwards from the cave floor as rainwater containing dissolved limestone drips from the cave ceiling.

The isotope chemistry of tropical cyclone rainwater differs from that of monsoonal and thunderstorm rainwater. As a consequence, it is possible to analyse the chemistry of each of the stalagmite layers, which are approximately 1/10th of a millimetre thick, and generate a record of cyclones over the past 1500 to 2000 years.

My colleague Jordahna Haig then matched the isotope records with the Bureau of Meteorology's cyclone record over the past 40 years and generated a Cyclone Activity Index, which plots the seasonal activity of cyclones over the past 1500 years.

In the short term, the recent decline in tropical cyclone activity is good news for all those who live in and visit tropical north Queensland and Western Australia. However, there are some possible dark clouds on the horizon that we would be reckless to ignore.


Facebook shuts Australian  Aboriginal memes page

FACEBOOK has shut down a racist Facebook page which vilified Indigenous Australians with revolting jokes and illustrations, despite earlier telling a complainant the page was acceptable under its 'community standards' policy.

The Aboriginal Memes 2014 page was today shut down after a query from News Corp about why it failed to be classified as 'hate speech' under the social networking site's community standards policy.

It featured so-called jokes referencing the Stolen Generation and poverty among other issues too inflammatory to reference.

Facebook supplied a statement yesterday that said: "We remove content that is reported to us that violates our policies. Our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities that everyone agrees to when they create an account and which are linked to throughout the site explains what is and is not permitted on the site and explicitly prohibits hate speech."

But earlier the site had responded to a complainant with a statement that said: "We reviewed the page you reported for containing hate speech or symbols and found it doesn't violate our Community Standards."


It's a bit difficult to find out what we are not allowed to see but the two images below appear to be part of it.  One alludes to Aboriginal drunkenness, welfare dependency and foul language usage while the other refers to Aboriginal begging, which can be very intrusive.  "Centrelink" is Australia's major welfare agency and the female wants to get money from them for grog.

Thursday, January 30, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is amused at the dilemma facing the ALP as they face  the call for a crackdown on corrupt unions

UPDATE:  Graphics problem now fixed

Navy abuse 'likely to be untrue': ABC

AN ABC news journalist has admitted asylum-seekers' claims of mistreatment by the Australian navy are "likely to be untrue" a week after the broadcaster claimed it had footage that "appears to back up" the allegations.

In an email to a former senior army officer, who forwarded the correspondence to News Corp Australia columnist Andrew Bolt, ABC national reporting team journalist Alison Branley sought off-the-record information from navy personnel.

"I have been tasked with finding some navy personnel who might be willing to speak to us in a background capacity - not on the record," she wrote. "It follows the story our Jakarta guy ran on the asylum-seekers' burns claims.

"My boss feels the allegations are likely to be untrue and we want to get people on board some of the ships up there to background us."

Her boss, national reporting team editor Jo Puccini, told The Australian last night she did not have a response to the revelation. An ABC spokeswoman said last night: "At no stage did the ABC report (the asylum-seekers') allegations as fact, and at no stage did the ABC express an editorial view in support of either the allegations or the denials.

Rather, it has at all times consistently sought information to either support or disprove these allegations. "In a climate where official information about asylum-seekers operations is scarce and hard to come by, the ABC makes no apologies for seeking as much information as it can from as many sources as it can to either verify or disprove the allegations at the centre of the story."

The spokeswoman said the leaked email showed the broadcaster continued to seek the facts.

"Any suggestion that in our reporting we (a) indicated the allegations were true or (b) now believe they are false is incorrect. The point of the email was to encourage navy personnel with any information which could possibly disprove the allegations to come forward," she said. The ABC did not deny the validity of the email.

The report, by ABC Indonesia correspondent George Roberts, featured claims Australian navy personnel beat and burned asylum-seekers during a tow-back operation this month.

It came despite strong assertions from the government and the Australian Defence Force that the claims were unfounded and another television network, Seven, treating the asylum-seekers' claims with much greater scepticism a fortnight earlier.

The report centred on video footage of the asylum-seekers receiving treatment for burned and blistered hands at a medical facility in Kupang, West Timor.

The asylum-seekers claimed the burns were a result of being forced to hold hot engine pipes by navy personnel. They also alleged they were badly beaten by navy personnel before their boat was turned back to Rote Island on New Year's Day.

Indonesian police said they were investigating the claims but later said all information of alleged abuse had come from the asylum-seekers.

"This video and the version of events given by Indonesian police appears (sic) to back up the claims of mistreatment first made by the asylum-seekers when they spoke to the ABC a fortnight ago," Roberts said in a video report.

ABC news director Kate Torney last week defended Roberts and his report, saying the ABC had approached the ADF for comment before publishing "and are still seeking their side of the story".

Editor of The Australian Clive Mathieson said last night: "If the ABC now believes the story is 'untrue', we look forward to seeing the correction."


PM Abbott blasts ABC reporting

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has accused the ABC of acting against Australia's interests, in a scathing assessment of the national broadcaster.

The ABC has been at the centre of political attention in recent months over its reportage of Australian spying on Indonesia - based on documents leaked by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden - and of claims asylum seekers may have been abused by navy personnel.

Interviewed on commercial radio on Wednesday, Mr Abbott took aim at the broadcaster's standards.

"It dismays Australians when the national broadcaster appears to take everyone's side but our own and I think it is a problem," the prime minister told Macquarie Radio.

"You would like the national broadcaster to have a rigorous commitment to truth and at least some basic affection for the home team, so to speak."

Referring to the Snowden documents, Mr Abbott said the ABC "seemed to delight in broadcasting allegations by a traitor".

"The ABC didn't just report what he said, they took the lead in advertising what he said. That was a deep concern," Mr Abbott said.

The ABC should report the news straight and should not "leap to be critical of your own country".

Labor communications spokesman Jason Clare said Mr Abbott had promised the day before the 2013 election that there would be no cuts to the ABC but was now laying the groundwork for cuts.

Liberal senator Cory Bernardi last year told a coalition joint party room meeting the government should cut the broadcaster's funding to balance the federal budget.


Abetz defends the "incorrect" Bernardi: what counts are the facts, not if someone is offended"

Eric Abetz, leader of the Government in the Senate, defends Liberal MP Cory Bernardi from the modern shut-uppers - people who demand important debates be shut down simply because they cause “offence”:

I contrast the lack of attention so far paid to Australia’s Secret War - Hal Colebatch’s book, with the affected morale outrage over another recently released book, which I can confirm I have also read cover to cover, word for word, and which I would also commend to you.

It was written by my colleague, Senator Cory Bernardi, and entitled The Conservative Revolution…

What was disappointing was the rank misrepresentation, from either sheer dishonesty or ignorance, by the gaggle of critics, of the inescapable conclusions of peer reviewed research cited in the book.

Labor Leader, Bill Shorten, claimed to be"offended" by Senator Bernardi’s commentary about so-called ‘non-traditional families’.  ‘As a step-father I am offended,’ he said.  The media simply ran the ‘I’m offended’ line.

You know the trip; “I claim victimhood.  I declare that I have taken offence.  So you cannot question me or assail me with undisputed, objective studies"… studies which actually tell us time and time again that the gold standard for the nurturing of children is a married man and woman with their biological children.

Do some such family units fail?  Of course they do.

Do some single mums and dads do a fantastic job?  Of course they do.

Do some blended families work exceptionally well?  Of course they do.

But that does not disprove the undeniable evidence that the gold standard and best practice model is the traditional family!

The thesis of Senator Bernardi’s book is that, as a consequence, public policy should be supportive of the traditional family.

Our would-be Labor Prime Minister claimed to have been offended by the articulation of these facts.

Mr Shorten, thinking that he had a knockout blow, rhetorically asked on what basis Senator Bernardi was suggesting these children are more likely to be criminal?

Well, let me answer Mr Shorten’s rhetorical question with a substantive answer, by reading to you what is in Senator Bernardi’s book, and I quote: 

“we know the statistics – that children who grow up without a father are 5 times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; 9 times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison.  They are more likely to have behavioural problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of this.  Can I simply observe that for the sake of our society these things need to be said.”

Oh…. and for the record, can I confirm the quote that I just read was an extract from Senator Bernardi’s book - quoting President Barack Obama’s Father’s Day address of 2008.

I wonder if the would-be Prime Minister Shorten would be as critical of and disrespectful to President Obama as he was towards Senator Bernardi?  I think not…

The fact that this ill-informed and embarrassing criticism came from Bill Shorten was bad enough.  Regrettably some came from within our own Party.

One criticism was that we could supposedly dismiss Senator Bernardi’s thesis and all its evidentiary basis because it was a minority view…

I would invite the Young Liberal Movement and young people more generally not to consider whether Senator Bernardi’s is a minority view or majority view, but whether it is right or wrong

SOURCE  Apparently drawing on Hansard

Censorship by Poetry Editor of Leftist "Little Magazine"

It is a cliche, the way conservatives and so-called progressives are said to regard each other. On the starboard side of political opinion the general view is that the left is simply misguided, many members of its various tribes perhaps capable of better things and deeper thoughts if only someone with time and patience would make an effort to explain it all.

And on the left, where perceptions tend to be rather more simple? Well they just think we’re evil.

Then again, there are also those on the left who might normally be dismissed at a glance but, due to some act of arrogance or idiocy, draw your attention by virtue of sheer, antic inanity. That whine of unctuous self-righteousness, their grasp of higher moralities which they alone may interpret and adjudicate, the tendency to believe that “shut up” amounts to an argument – well, you know the type. Normally, you wouldn’t worry too much about these sorts, as sooner or later most will nod along with some or other epistle in The Age until they are deeply and silently asleep. The 11,381st lecture about the perils of climate change or the joys of gay marriage can have that effect, even on the most ardent.

When such a featherhead is in a position of influence, able to advance or retard reputations and careers at the stroke of a pen, a closer look is warranted, unpleasant though it may be to pore over spite and pettiness in the fetid quarters of their native environment. In this instance the individual is Peter Minter, poetry editor and academic, whose pulpit for proclaiming on the moral worth of lesser mortals is that little-read and much-subsidised quarterly Overland, “the most radical of Australia’s long-standing literary journals.”

As singer, songwriter, poet and sometime-Quadrant contributor Joe Dolce noted on our website over the weekend, Minter informed him in writing and on the record that his verse would no longer be published in Overland, which just by the way of background was blessed with $399,000 in Australia Council grants between 2010 and 2013. The reason: his association with Quadrant. Dolce, who admits to voting Labor last September, was taken aback by Minter’s zeal in appointing himself Australian poetry’s blacklister-in-chief and, as the policy of exclusion sank in, by the thought that the policy might be at odds with the Australia Council’s goals, standards and procedures. He would seem to be right about that, going by the organisation’s mission statement in regard to literary journals:

“The Literature Panel aims are to encourage the writing and reading of Australian literature, to open up opportunities for our writers to earn from their creative work, and to keep the avenues of debate, discussion, analysis and criticism open.”

Nowhere does the Australia Council state or hint that it is acceptable to bar writers who do not happen to hate and detest the same people as the magazine’s editors. Legal minds might also have opinions on whether or not such a threat constitutes a secondary boycott.

Students of the left and its conceits will need no prompting to guess at Minter’s defence of his edict. Writing on the Facebook page of  theatre critic, “best-selling author” and friend Alison Croggon, herself  a recipient of $40,000 in 2013 from the Australia Council’s Literature Board, chaired by Twitter buddy and fellow traveller on the writers’ festival circuit Sophie Cunningham,  Minter in his prolix style laid out a case that might be summed up thus: Quadrant and Nazis, same thing really.

But don’t take our word for it. In his contributions to an entertaining, if increasingly unhinged, debate, Minter stands revealed in his own words. Note the snide jabs at Quadrant’s poetry editor Les Murray in this talk-to-the-hand response to Dolce:

Peter Minter – ” Joe, let me end with a very simple (perhaps brutal) analogy. I hope this goes to the heart of the debate raised about whether poems should be judged on merit, or whether they should be judged also on their political context. Let’s imagine we are in Germany in the 1930s. We are writing what we think are good poems, free of any overt political substance, and we decide to send them to the “Nazi Literary Weekly” for publication, because the poetry editor loves poetry and everyone thinks he is going to win the Nobel Prize and so they all suck up to him in order to gain the satisfaction of feeling that they are being ordained by the holy poet. The Big Poet publishes the poems and everyone feels nice. Nevertheless, and this is the crux, history will shine its irrevocable truth upon the poets who submitted their poems to the “Nazi Literary Weekly” and they will be forever stained by the association.

Have you heard of the German philosopher Martin Heidegger? Heidegger’s philosophy is certainly wonderful and extremely influential and should be considered “on its merits” in the same way people argue that poetry should simply be judged “on its merits”. And yet, Heidegger joined the Nazi party and his reputation, and the reputation of his philosophy, is forever stained by the association.

So you can say whatever you like about how wonderful it is to be published by Les Murray (those of us who know also know that this is not what it seems!!) the fact remains that those who choose to publish in Quadrant will be forever stained by the association (or by being published in Overland, depending on your perspective). You need to get over the adrenaline rush of seeing your name in print, and start thinking about where you want to see your name in print, and what it means.

This is not about limiting freedom of expression. We are in a free society and anyone can start any kind of magazine they like and publish what they want. What this is about is editorial responsibility and making ethical decisions about how and where you chose to publish.

No more correspondence will be entered into. Bye! “

There is undoubtedly compelling evidence of original thought in Minter’s  academic work, but the dog-eared equivalence he preaches between Hitler’s followers and Quadrant’s contributors suggests one would need to wade through it with a keen eye to be sure. By contrast, only an open ear is needed to absorb the pointed inquiries made by then-Opposition spokesman on the arts, Senator Eric Abetz, at an Estimates hearing about funding allocations .

As Abetz observed, it is either a remarkable coincidence that left-wing literary journals keep scoring bags of Australia Council cash while, year by year, Quadrant sees its stipend shrink. Or maybe, as the Senator intimated, the fix is in.

After this latest episode, perhaps someone in Tony Abbott’s government might like to weigh in on a taxpayer-supported literary magazine brazenly refusing to publish the work of those it identifies, to quote Minter’s pontification, as those “who choose to publish in Quadrant [and are] forever stained by the association.”

After that, who knows? Perhaps a full, sweeping review of arts funding, who doles it out and how, and why do some seem more blessed by the Australia Council’s largesse than others.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Australia's foreign-born population on the rise as record number of people become Australian citizens

A record number of people took the pledge to become Australian citizens at Australia Day ceremonies over the weekend, as the nation's foreign-born population continues to rise.

Almost 18,000 people became Australian citizens on Sunday, which has contributed to making more than a quarter of the country's population foreign-born.

The latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show people born in the United Kingdom continue to be the largest group of residents born overseas, accounting for 5.3 per cent of the population, followed by 2.6 per cent born in New Zealand, 1.8 per cent born in China and 1.6 per cent born in India.

Monash University's population researcher, Dr Bob Birrell, says Australia is an attractive destination for migrants because of its affluence and substantial job opportunities.

"That along with the opening up of our migration program by successive governments has led to a record high influx of both permanent and temporary migrants in recent years," he said.

As Australia's total population approaches 23.5 million, demographer Bernard Salt says the country's population is growing at close to record rates.

"At the current time, it's largely driven by overseas migration, which is tracking around 230,000 people per year," Mr Salt said.

Dr Birrell says Australia's population growth is exceeding those of many other countries around the world.

"We're growing at about 1.8 per cent a year, which is much faster than the other western countries and indeed most Asian countries," he said.

'Better opportunities'

People born in Nepal, India and Pakistan are among the fastest growing groups of migrants in Australia.

Electrical engineer and musician, Ranjan Vaidya, grew up in the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu and moved to Australia 15 years ago.

"I came to Australia mainly looking for better opportunities and also I heard about Australia as a fair go country, with hard working people," he said.

Mr Vaidya says most people from Nepal come for jobs, education and to get away from years of political instability.  "You have got a lot of things right here," he said.  "The political system is right, your economic system is right, all the prosperity, everything is right."

The main settlement point for those born overseas are the major cities of Melbourne, Sydney and Perth, as well as south-east Queensland.  "That's where the jobs are," Dr Birrell said.

"It's also where the major migrant communities are located and Asian migrants in particular prefer to settle where there are established communities of their own ethnic and religious backgrounds," he said.

According to the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development, about 73 per cent of people aged between 15 and 64 have a paid job in Australia and the average disposable income is nearly $US29,000 a year.

Life expectancy at birth is almost 82 years and the OECD says there's a strong sense of community.

Mr Salt says people can also find their own community within Australia.  "Australia has a place, I think, for everyone," he said.

"If you want to do the outback thing you can, if you want city sophistication you can, if you want to raise a family in middle suburban you can do that as well."
Room for more

Geographically, Australia is very diverse with vast coastlines, beaches, tropical rainforests and snowfields in between major cities and country towns, while nearly 20 per cent of the land mass is classifed as desert.

As the planet's 6th largest country, Mr Salt says there's room for more people.  He believes Australia can grow to over 30 million over the next 50 years.

"I think we have a moral obligation if you like, to accept migrants from overloaded parts of the rest of the world," Mr Salt said.

"There's also an economic argument that as the baby boomers move beyond the working age into retirement we need more workers or tax payers."

But Dr Birrell says a growing population is not without its challenges.  "Worsening congestion, inability to keep up with infrastructure, education, health and other areas are where the pressure points are at the moment," he said.

In addition, he says finding a job is becoming more difficult than it was a few years ago and the cost of living is on the rise.

It's those challenges the nation's governments will have to carefully consider when planning for more people.


First shark killed in controversial WA catch-and-kill policy

THE first shark has been caught and shot dead under Colin Barnett's controversial shark-kill policy.

It happened before 8am this morning, less than 24 hours after drum lines and baited hooks were set off Old Dunsborough in the South-West as part of the WA Government's "shark mitigation program".

The fisherman contracted to set and monitor the drum lines was back on the water at 6am this morning to check the nine drum lines and their baits.

He discovered one had successfully hooked a large shark and the animal was reportedly shot four times before being towed "well out" to sea.  The species of shark has not been confirmed, but there was reportedly confusion over whether it was a tiger or bull shark.

Sharks under 3m are to be released if possible and those over 3m are destroyed.

At 2.45pm today, there were no reports of any more sharks being caught and killed.

Conservationists and green groups including the Animal Rescue Team immediately denounced the shark kill and labelled it a "slaughter".

By 4.15pm yesterday, nine drum lines had been set 1km offshore from Old Dunsborough and Castle Rock at Cape Naturaliste.

The drum lines were attached to the ocean floor by anchor and connected to buoys and baited hooks designed to snare big sharks.

Within a couple of hours, PerthNow in a nearby boat watched as a very big ray investigated one baited hook.

Under his contract with the State Government, the professional fisherman who set the drum lines must now monitor the coast 12 hours a day between 6am and 6pm, rebaiting the hooks and waiting for a catch.

Yesterday's start came amid strong protests from green groups and activists who were in Dunsborough but did not interfere with the operation.

Amy-Lea Wilkins, spokeswoman for conservation group Animal Rescue Team, said she had a team of 22 volunteers in Dunsborough, including a vet and a marine biologist who would enter the water with diving gear to free hooked sharks as well as by-catch, such as dolphins, turtles and rays.

"We don't want any marine life dying and we'll do our best to save any animals that are caught, including sharks," Ms Wilkins said.

Anti-cull campaigner Simon Peterffy, who has formed a "marine response unit", yesterday pledged: "We'll be stopping the hunt, we will be neutralising these drums and we'll be doing rescues of dolphins and other by-catch."

In his only interview from the back of his boat, the fisherman - whom PerthNow has decided not to name - said he used mackerel to bait the "very large" hooks but from next week he would be using "really good bait", salmon from South Australia.


When you need more power to keep the lights on the answer is most certainly NOT blowing in the wind


THANK God - or Gaia - for King Coal.  But for our coal-fired power stations, in last week's heat, the lights and air conditioners and everything else would have gone off for Victorians and South Australians.

If we'd been relying on wind farms, we would have had multiple blackouts and hundreds, if not thousands of extra deaths.

No doubt to Green fanatics like Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, that would have been a price worth paying - just like the thousand or more who have drowned because of the disastrous Labor-Green asylum-seeker policies - to enable her consequence-lite moral (actually, totally IM-moral) preening.

As my colleague Andrew Bolt has pointed out, back in 2011, Senator Hanson-Young was asked after another 200 people had been lured to their deaths by the Labor policies they supported, whether the Greens took any responsibility.

Her reply: "Of course not. Tragedies happen, accidents happen."

Presumably she's say the same at the many, many, more deaths that would occur in a heatwave, if we were crazy enough to embrace her dark-Green agenda and close down our coal-fired power stations and replace them - correction, pretend to replace them - with wind and solar.

The evidence is clear, unambiguous and undeniable. Except of course to deniers like Hanson-Young and Tristan Edis of the - embarrassingly, also our - Climate Spectator website.

When you need more power to keep the lights on, to keep industry working, to, at its most basic, keep people alive, the answer is most certainly NOT blowing in the wind.

When we needed more power last week, wind went missing in action. This truth is captured in the graphs.

When power usage was exploding from 6000MW to over 10,000MW and peaking above 12,000MW, the - already marginal - contribution from wind was almost invariably going down.

The graphs show that on only one day of the four-days of plus-40 degree heat across southern Australia, did wind provide anything close to a sustained - but still essentially insignificant - contribution to Victorian and South Australian power supply.

On each of the other three days, wind power essentially went missing for a number of hours right at critical times. On Tuesday, wind output dropped almost to zero for a sustained period right at the peak of the heat in the afternoon.

The data comes from the excellent windfarmperformance website of Andrew Miskelley. He collects the raw data from the official AEMO - Australian Energy Market Operator - feed, and publishes wind farm output at five minute intervals for the full 24 hours of every day.

The data gives the lie to the core claim made for wind farms - that if you scatter them across enough territory, the wind will always "be blowing somewhere."

Well, for three hours on Wednesday, we got barely 140 megawatts (MW) in total out the 28 wind farms "scattered" across NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.

That's 140MW when demand was peaking at over 10,000MW. Thank you coal.

The wind farms are - jokingly - supposed to have a total capacity of 2660 MW. So we were getting power equal to just 5 per cent or so of that 'capacity.'

There are two other equally significant - and utterly damming - messages in the graphs.

The first is that it is precisely when you need more power, that wind falls off. When it gets hot.

Through most of the heat of Tuesday, that 2660MW of joke-capacity was producing 600MW falling to 400MW. On Wednesday, apart from the three hours of essentially nothing, for the whole of the rest of the day, we got barely 300-400MW.

Thursday was the only day where we saw a sustained, semi-reasonable contribution. But then it was still mostly only around 900MW.

Friday saw some hours of around 1200MW. Except it spiked down to 400MW, or less than 4 per cent of power demand - smack in the middle of the afternoon, when we needed the power most.

This points to the second damming message. Precisely because the wind can stop blowing - and as we can see, it can stop blowing right across Southern Australia at the same time - you have to keep real power stations ticking over all the time, to be able to pick up the slack.

Even warmist propagandist Edis tacitly - and completely unknowingly - admits this, in his ludicrous attempt to claim reliability for wind.

On his website he wrote that AEMO had an "ace up its sleeve" - being able to accurately forecast the amount of wind power that would be generated 24-hours in advance.

He charted the forecasts against the actual output and showed a remarkable - indeed impressive - co-relation.

Leading him to triumphantly conclude that gave both AEMO and the generators advance notice as to when "wind generation was likely to be low such that they can be prepared to fill the gap."

In doing so he beautifully - and so totally unknowingly - captured the point: that coal-fired power stations have to be kept ready to take over when …. the wind don't blow.

It also didn't help his case that his article carried a correction that the accurate forecasting wasn't 24 hours ahead but just a single hour.

What a way to run a grid - checking whether the wind is blowing and then 'forecasting' it will continue to for the next hour. And, oh by the way, having a nice coal-fired station to call up when it doesn't.

Further and fundamentally, we can handle this when wind is barely 5 per cent or so - 10 per cent on a rare good day or hour - of the grid. That's to say, while wind is still essentially a vanity highly expensive Green-warmist feel-good form of power generation.

It would be impossible - even with what Edis thinks is the luxury of a single hour's notice - in a grid where wind was a much bigger component. That would be especially so, if the coal-fired stations were actually decommissioned.

In the classic dishonest warmist way, Edis tries to suggest that wind is actually more reliable because in the middle of last week, one of Loy Yang A's generators went down, going from generating 450MW to zero in minutes.

"This outage was certainly not forecast in advance," he snarkily added.

No it obviously wasn't. But there's one huge difference in a rare accident to a single generator in a coal-fired plant and the times - the many times - that the entire wind industry goes to zero or near enough to zero.

Perhaps Edid can tell us how many times have all the generators in all the coal-fired stations gone to zero at the same time?

That's the absolutely damning point about the uselessness of wind. You can't just take a 'time-out' when they go to zero. You either have blackouts or you substitute.

You have to keep extra coal-fired - or gas - stations ticking over, literally 24/7, to be able to supply power when …. what's that phrase again? Oh yes …. when the wind don't (so often) blow.


School's $500 lightbulb bill

Doomadgee is an Aboriginal community

Doomadgee State School, on the Gulf of Carpentaria, was billed $200 for labour alone after the teacher was told workplace health and safety regulations prevented any staff member from buying and replacing the bulb themselves, The Australian understands.

Queensland Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek yesterday ordered an internal investigation into the bill, saying over-the-top red tape was adding to the spiralling financial costs of delivering services in remote areas of Queensland. The probe was launched after the internal document was leaked, according to sources, in a bid to expose waste and duplication of state and commonwealth services in some of the state's remote communities.
Mr Langbroek said Queensland's teachers and principals were beset with "crazy rules" that included a requirement that a school hire an outside contractor to retrieve a ball in the playground if it became lodged (for instance, in a tree branch) at a level of 1.8m or higher. "This is the sort of red tape that needs to end," he said. "It's crazy."There is no excuse for a $480 bill to put in a fridge lightbulb. The teacher is not going to get electrocuted putting it in."

I have already asked for a review on the type of regulation where a school has to pay someone to get a ball from a branch or a gutter that might be only 1.8m high. There has to be a balance.

The Newman government has already moved to find cost savings in the Education Department, opening up tenders for school maintenance contracts to the private sector. Mr Langbroek said it was difficult to find private contractors who could supply services in some of Queensland's more remote communities. Doomadgee State School, which has 303 students, is among the most expensive in the state, with commonwealth figures showing it cost taxpayers $15,879 for each student per year, compared with the state average of $9000.

The school - which offers prep to Year 10 in the indigenous community of 1500 people - is among the state's poorest performers with the lowest attendance rate in Queensland of just 54 per cent.

Mr Langbroek, along with Indigenous Affairs Minister Glen Elmes and Local Government Minister David Crisafulli, went to Doomadgee last week in a bid to lift the attendance rates, after a visit late last year by Premier Campbell Newman."We are trying to lift the attendance rates, trying to get community support to get these kids to school," Mr Langbroek said."We talked to the community, the council - it is very challenging."


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Building union rocked by claims of corrupt dealing with crime figures in exchange for construction contracts

Union officials have formed corrupt relationships with organised crime figures, receiving kickbacks in exchange for arranging lucrative contracts in the construction industry.

A joint investigation by ABC's 7.30 program and Fairfax Media has discovered that bribery, extortion and threats of violence are used to cement the influence of crime figures on Australia's construction sites.

Companies connected to major crime figures have won contracts on private and government projects, including Victoria's desalination plant and the Barangaroo development in Sydney.

Evidence including covertly recorded conversations, bank records, police intelligence files and whistleblower accounts implicate a number of senior members of the influential Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) in New South Wales and Victoria in corruption.

In a secretly recorded conversation, one building industry figure tells a colleague that he has given cash bribes and other inducements to several members of the union's Victorian hierarchy, along with lower-level union shop stewards.

Labour hire companies have paid crime figures and union officials to obtain contracts for major building projects, even though some of those companies have become infamous for ripping off workers and leaving them without their entitlements.

The CFMEU is able to pressure large builders to use certain contractors - including labour hire companies - by wielding the stick of costly industrial action and holding out the carrot of peace on building sites.

A Victorian CFMEU official, Danny Berardi, resigned immediately after Fairfax and 7.30 supplied evidence that he got at least two companies to help renovate his properties for free in return for getting them work on Melbourne construction sites.

Investigation into influence of Sydney crime figure

The CFMEU's national executive has also launched an internal investigation into the influence of Sydney crime figure George Alex in the union's NSW arm after a whistleblower questioned his relationship with senior union officials.

Mr Alex - a convicted criminal with links to Comancheros bikies, murderers and drug traffickers - runs a labour hire company that has landed lucrative contracts in NSW and Victoria, including the Barangaroo development.

It has been alleged that union figures helped Mr Alex obtain those contracts, despite the fact he has become notorious for running phoenix companies, which go bust then resurface under a different name. As a result, some workers have been left without their entitlements.

Late last year, Mr Alex's companies owed more than $1 million in workers' benefits and unpaid taxes in NSW and Victoria. The NSW CFMEU recently recovered $250,000 from Mr Alex.

In Victoria, Mr Alex employed Melbourne underworld figure Mick Gatto to negotiate with the unions and obtain work for his labour hire companies, Active and United.

Union chief concerned about claims of criminality

In separate statements to 7.30 and Fairfax Media, Victorian secretary John Setka and his NSW counterpart, Brian Parker, said the union played no part in deciding whether particular labour hire companies got contracts on construction projects.

"The union is not in a position to check the property, or other interests or connections of employers and managers of companies," Mr Parker said.

"The union might have a view about a contractor and their history of compliance, but ultimately, whether a subcontractor wins work is up to the builders who contract with them."

Mr Parker also said he had a "professional" relationship with Mr Alex, but no social relationship, and that he had not sought work for Active Labour Hire at Barangaroo.

CFMEU national secretary Dave Noonan said he was "deeply concerned about any criminal activity in the industry", and urged anyone with evidence of criminality in the industry to report it to police.

"We will not tolerate corruption within the union," he told ABC News Breakfast.

"Construction workers are entitled and are proud of the fact we have had a strong and effective union in the CFMEU. Any individuals that have engaged in corrupt activity will not be continuing their employment with the union. They will be sacked."

Mr Noonan said he "absolutely refuted" suggestions that the union had been inactive in fighting corruption.

"Our policies are very clear on probity and corruption and on all of these matters, and we have dealt with them in the past," he said.

"The CFMEU is not the corporate regulator to approve which individuals and which companies can and cannot operate in the industry, nor are we the body that can investigate criminal matters. These are issues for ASIC and the police force and we have consistently called on them to do their job."

'Field left open for corrupt officials'

Nigel Hadgkiss, the director of the Fair Work Building and Construction Commission, has revealed law enforcement agencies have recently obtained evidence about "the payment of bribes to senior union officials" in Victoria.

However, he said that in the past, police had not acted on evidence of corruption in the building industry, leaving the field open for criminals and corrupt officials. He described this as "very frustrating".

History of corruption

Claims of corruption in the construction industry are nothing new. In 2003 the Cole Royal Commission found:

    Widespread use of inappropriate payments in the industry

   Threatening and intimidatory behaviour

    Widespread requirements to employ union-nominated persons in critical positions on building projects

    Unlawful strikes and threats of unlawful strikes
In 2010, intelligence gathered by a Victoria Police and Australian Crime Commission drugs investigation revealed that Mr Gatto and his crane company business partner, Matt Tomas, were allegedly involved in "criminal activity in the building industry and narcotics" and have close connections to "the Hells Angels, the CFMEU and drug importers".

It has been alleged that two Victoria labour hire firms, KPI and MC Labour, have hired criminal figures and friends and relatives of union officials in return for help getting contracts on building projects, including the massive desalination plant in Gippsland.

A number of outlaw motorcycle gang members and other people linked with them were given jobs at the plant.

A KPI staff list sent to a major contractor at the Victorian government-funded Springvale Road overpass project reveals it is employing the relatives of two CFMEU shop stewards, two outlaw bikie figures and several relatives of Mr Gatto.

The labour hire companies sought favour with union officials by supplying gifts such as AFL grand final tickets, Formula One grand prix tickets, and trips to Crown casino's high-end Mahogany Room.
Government, builders call for re-establishment of ABCC

The Federal Government says the claims of widespread corruption and criminal activity by union officials strengthen the Government's case for re-establishing the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

"Any argument against the re-establishment of the ABCC has just disappeared out the window," Senator Abetz said this morning.

"Bill Shorten and Labor need to acknowledge that there is corruption and there is a need for the ABCC."

Master Builders Association chief executive Wilhelm Harnisch says the allegations are unnacceptable and prove that the ABCC needs to be restored

"It was exactly these sorts of allegations that led to the establishment of the Cole Royal Commission," he said.

"These fresh allegations of corruption and criminality are totally outside the community's expectations of how normal people should behave and there must be a full inquiry to get to the truth."

Mr Harnisch says the allegations point to a culture of intimadation and coercion created by the building unions.

"These allegations also illustrate how the behaviour of building unions holds back the productivity of the construction sector to the detriment of the Australian community," he said.

Lend Lease chief executive Steve McCann told the ABC they have a "zero tolerance approach" to corrupt or fraudlent behaviour in the industry.


Federal government to seek independent review of the health impact of wind farms

The federal government will press ahead with "an independent program" to study the supposed impact on health of wind farms as it emerged a report on the issue has been handed to government but withheld from public release.

Activists, some linked to climate change sceptic groups, say people living near wind farms suffer sleep disturbance and other health effects from low-frequency noise and infrasound, with illnesses dubbed ''wind turbine syndrome'', ''vibro-acoustic disease'' and ''visceral vibratory vestibular disturbance''.

Various international and Australian studies have cast doubt on the sicknesses and the National Health and Medical Research Council began its review of evidence about the effects of wind farms for the government in September 2012. Its findings have been sent to the ministers of health, industry and environment and will be released publicly "in coming months", a council spokeswoman said

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said this month that research should be refreshed "from time to time" to consider whether there were "new facts that impact on old judgments".

"It is some years since the NHMRC last looked at this issue. Why not do it again?" he said.

A spokesman for Mr Abbott declined to clarify whether the Prime Minister knew of the council's latest study when calling for the council to reopen the issue.

Competing concerns

A "rapid review" of the evidence by the council in 2010 found "renewable energy generation is associated with few adverse health effects compared with the well-documented health burdens of polluting forms of electricity generation". About three-quarters of eastern Australia's power comes from coal.

Simon Chapman, a professor of public health at Sydney University, said Mr Abbott appeared to have been swayed by a tiny group of anti-windfarm campaigners, such as the Waubra Foundation, in calling for another study even before the survey of scientific literature is released.

"We all need to be concerned about whether he’s being influenced by little more than a cult,” Professor Chapman said, adding that research to date has failed to link wind farms under current noise guidelines with ill-health.

Sarah Laurie, chief executive of the Waubra Foundation, supports the extra study. “Research and data if done properly is what enables proper regulation,” Ms Laurie said.

The NHMRC study should not only look at noise impacts from wind farms but also similar effects from coal seam gas and open-cut coal mining operations, she added.

The wind industry is concerned the prospect of a new study is the latest sign governments are turning against renewable energy. Mr Abbott, other coalition figures and his senior business advisor Maurice Newman have lately blamed the Renewable Energy Target for pushing up power prices.

The goal, now set at generating 20 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020, will be reviewed this year. Industry sources say the environment and industry ministries are resisting efforts to have the Productivity Commission - expected to take a hardline against the RET - conduct the review.


Work-for-the-dole could be expanded into aged care homes, Federal Government says

Newstart recipients forced to work for their welfare payments could be asked to volunteer in aged care facilities as part of a reinvigorated work-for-the-dole scheme.

The Federal Government wants to make good on its election commitment to reinstate the Howard-era program, but says much of the detail is still to be worked out, including when the scheme will restart.

Dole recipients would be asked to take part in civic maintenance, cleaning streets and parks, as occurred in the scheme's first inception.

Assistant Minister for Employment Luke Hartsuyker says it is also possible welfare recipients could work in aged care facilities, doing maintenance work such as gardening and painting.

"We would not intend that work-for-the-dole participants would be involved in the care of patients, but perhaps be involved in work that the facility could not otherwise do," he told the ABC's AM program.

"We'll be releasing the implementation for work for the dole in due course.

"There is not a start date locked in at this point in time."

The Government says its is focused on ensuring that the work-for-the-dole scheme does not remove incentives for paid work, and wants to place job seekers with not-for-profit organisations.

Mr Hartsuyker denied it would create a regulatory burden for charities wanting to engage in the program.

"We want to implement this program in a measured and a methodical way," he said.

Opposition demands details of work-for-the-dole scheme

Labor's employment spokesman Brendan O'Connor says making people on the dole work for their welfare takes them away from time they could spend finding a job.

"If you've been a long-term employee who's just been retrenched, the last thing you need is work experience, you may need skill acquisition," Mr O'Connor said.

Mr O'Connor has also called on the Government to provide more details about its plans.

"How much money is going to be dedicated to these initiatives? What engagement do they have with future employers who might want to employ people in this arrangement?" Mr O'Connor said.

"What are the workers' compensation arrangements? What is the public liability arrangements?

"There are so many questions, fewer answers than questions so far."

The Government says it is still working on the program for people on unemployment benefits and cannot say how much it will cost.


Brisbane tree pruning ban cut down by conservative admin.

A two-decade ban on Brisbane residents cutting trees on their properties has officially been lifted.

Amid much controversy, Lord Mayor Graham Quirk announced last year residents would be able to maintain the trees on their properties and nature strips that had previously been protected by local laws.

The amendment to Brisbane's Natural Assets Local Law was prompted by last year's Australia Day storm, when the council received more than 10,000 reports of damaged trees and spent weeks cleaning up.

Not only would the amendment slash red tape, Cr Quirk said, it would enable residents to regain responsibility for their own safety.

“The changes make it easier for affected property owners to understand what vegetation is protected, which works do not require a permit and which works do require a permit,” Cr Quirk said.

“This is a great result which achieves the right balance between respecting the environment and private property rights.”

Under the new amendment, residents can apply for long-term permits to prune street trees, eliminating the previous single validity permit requirement.

The number of categories of protected vegetation has been reduced from 11 to four.

All vegetation currently protected under the existing NALL will remain valid and the council will continue to require that any protected trees which are removed be offset with new ones.

Council officers will also have the power to issue on-the-spot fines to those who don't comply.

In leading the formal adoption of the amendment in October, Cr Quirk said there were nearly 600,000 street trees in Brisbane.

At the time, Opposition Leader Milton Dick raised concerns council's tree maintenance budget had been slashed.

"They have cut back the amount of tree trimmers across the city ... and as a result they have sent it out to the ratepayers to cut their trees themselves," he said.

However, Cr Quirk rejected the claim.  He said council's vegetation maintenance resources had been reallocated from trimming trees to cleaning up felled trees, removing debris from parks and streets and cleaning up the city's suburbs following last year's Australia Day storm event.

The NALL amendment came into effect on Monday.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Indonesian hypocrisy

Two democracies, neighbours, trading partners, no strategic tensions, no history of war. Australians had plenty of reasons to forsake Bali after the bombings there in 2002, the Jakarta Marriott Hotel suicide attack in 2003, the Australian embassy bombing in 2004 and the second Bali bombings in 2005 but they have kept going.

On November 21, I used this column to blast Prime Minister Tony Abbott over his handling of the Snowden spy revelations, saying he had been insensitive to Indonesia. On November 25, I blasted him again, saying he could have made the controversy a diplomatic victory instead of a debacle. "When Abbott spoke in Parliament I was thinking, 'No, this can't be happening'," I wrote.

Abbott was wrong then, even though he had nothing to do with the spying. But he is not wrong now. His government has quickly and successfully curbed the criminal smuggling operations from Indonesia, for which he has an emphatic election mandate. In this, the Indonesian navy has been almost invisible and its military ineffectual. Yet when an Australian navy vessel made a single, brief, unintended, inconsequential incursion into Indonesian waters, the Indonesian navy was mobilised as if it were a military threat.

Given all the events I have detailed above, this is towering hypocrisy. It proves that Jakarta has been largely indifferent to the systemic breaches of Australian waters by Indonesian boats, with Indonesian crews, from Indonesians ports. Its decision to militarise the ocean border with Australia over a minor breach is a triumph of jingoism and cynicism. It is no accident as Indonesia is in the midst of an election year and the government is still smarting from the Snowden spying revelations.

Indonesia's claim that Australian navy personnel may have tortured asylum seekers fits entirely with this cynicism. These claims are patently dubious given the long history of systematic deceit by those who employ people smugglers. Most of them have cynically destroyed their documents after reaching safety in Indonesia. There have been innumerable examples of self-harm and numerous cases of vessels being scuttled in open sea - brinkmanship of the highest order. Children have been deliberately placed at risk.

This latest example of unverifiable claims of torture follows this pattern. It is a variation on a theme. That the ABC should run with this story as if these claims of torture were credible is also a variation on a theme. It was the ABC that chose to damage Australia's relationship with Indonesia by publishing the Snowden spying leaks. It is the ABC that has a mother lode of form in portraying document-destroyers and ship-scuttlers as victims.


Speaking English an obligation: Senator Fierravanti Wells

As citizenship ceremonies and barbecues fire up across the country for Australia Day, a senior government MP called for migrants to speak English as their main language.

Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, parliamentary secretary for social services and from the Liberals' hard-right faction, told Fairfax Media that speaking English is not only a personal responsibility, it is "an obligation to our country".

Senator Fierravanti-Wells spoke no English when she went to kindergarten as a little girl in Wollongong, several years after her Italian parents migrated to Australia.

On her first day at St Francis of Assisi school, she said, there were 75 children - three of whom spoke English. "It wasn't very difficult: within three months, we had all learnt English and we were all busy singing away with our Maltese teacher, who taught us," she said.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells said Australia Day was an apt time to discuss the "personal responsibility" of migrants to learn English.

But she went further, arguing that not only should migrants learn English as a second language, they should learn to speak it as their main language.

The importance of this, she said, was underlined by the experience of ageing postwar migrants, many of whom were suffering dementia and forgetting conversational English.

"Retaining a knowledge of one's mother tongue is important but not at the expense of learning English," she said. "Learning English as a second language is a struggle but, in the 21st century, English is even more important as we move from a manufacturing to a service economy.

"But it is not just a benefit for the nation. A lack of English has a personal cost, especially in an ageing population with health issues or for parents that cannot understand their child's teacher."

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will use an Australia Day address in Melbourne to call for multiculturalism to be put at the forefront of Australia's identity.

"From this day on, instead of talking about migration as a threat to the peaceful, multicultural nation we have built, let us see it as the irreplaceable element in the making of modern Australia," Mr Shorten will say.

"All of us, from the first Australians to our newest citizens, should be proud to live in a country that is the best hope of so many. Because welcoming migrants is not just the duty that a safe and civilised nation owes its region and the world. It is, as it has ever been, the driver of our national prosperity and the foundation of our national success."

Mr Shorten will argue that Australia urgently needs consensus.

"The sooner we recognise the benefits that migration brings, the faster we will arrive at a policy that truly reflects the warmth of the Australian people," he will say.

But Senator Fierravanti-Wells said that there was no argument from the government.

"[That] Bill Shorten insists on harking back to outdated views on multiculturalism is puzzling," she said.

"There is no need to 'fight' for the proposition that multiculturalism has been good for this country when, overwhelmingly, the community, the Prime Minister and the government are in furious agreement."


Adelaide City Council dumps hundreds of policies to save costs and improve customer service

ADELAIDE City Council will dump hundreds of policies in a bid to save its administration from drowning in bureaucracy, improve customer service and encourage entrepreneurs.

An audit has found 321 of the council's 501 policies - more than 64 per cent - were obsolete or in need of review.

The outdated or conflicting policies cover everything from parking, busking and smoking to tree planting, volunteering, workplace bullying, complaint handling and crime prevention.

Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood said a comprehensive policy review had not been done for "many, many years" and was needed to reduce red tape and "change the culture of the organisation".

"If you have a culture where you can't be flexible and come up with creative solutions because we've had 20 or 30 years of written rules and regulations, you don't encourage the next generation of entrepreneurs to put their best foot forward," he said.  "We certainly don't need a thick rule book that doesn't help creative people come up with solutions."

Event management and outdoor dining were two areas that needed simpler policies to make doing business in the city easier, he said.

The audit by KPMG covered the council's vast array of policies from high level strategic and corporate plans to action and management plans and hundreds of operating guidelines across every council department.  It found 206 policies were obsolete and 115 needed review.

A council report says the audit found staff were straining under the weight of "obsolete,  superseded, out of date policies and policies with no owner", that there was "no apparent process around rescinding policies" and "no central repository, oversight, (or) monitoring".

"Should the policy register continue to be out of date there is a risk that policy is not  relevant, usable or accurate," the report says.

"A risk approach has been taken to verify (that) policy documents do not have significance elsewhere in the organisation and therefore rescinding 206 documents provides minimal risk."

"This clean-up will mitigate any further confusion where documents have been superseded, duplicated or expired."

The clear out will also help identify "policy gaps".

"This will ultimately better support governance and policy development practices that are flexible and creative," the report says.


Rite of passage comes with a high risk for those seeking foreign adventures

In the early hours of January 11, Jan Meadows was lying in bed. Just after midnight she had sat up, wide awake. Her husband, woken by her stirring, asked what was wrong. "I don't know," she told him. "I just can't sleep." The time on her mobile phone on the bedside table was 4am.

A few minutes later, Meadows' phone rang. The flashing screen told her it was an incoming call from her 26-year-old son, Lee Hudswell, who was nearing the end of a two-week trip to Thailand and Laos. Meadows' mind was racing. "About 50 things were running through my mind: has he lost his wallet? His passport?" Meadows picked up the phone and asked, "Lee? What's wrong?" but it wasn't her son calling.

It was Scott Donaghy, one of two mates Hudswell was travelling with. "Jan, it's not Lee," he said. "I don't know how to tell you this," he kept saying. Meadows sat up in bed. "What is it, Scott, what's wrong?" she asked. "Lee has passed away," Donaghy told her.  "When I heard that," Meadows says, "I just started screaming."

Lee was one of the 1138 Australians who died while overseas in 2011-12, with illness the leading cause. Almost 9 million Australians travel internationally in any given year, the number of Australian tourists under 25 having doubled in the past decade. A 2013 report from independent policy think tank, the Lowy Institute, noted activities more likely to cause injury or death, such as adventure travel or extreme sports, are becoming more common.

Searching for new experiences by travelling internationally has been a rite of passage for many young Australians. But lots of young tourists leave behind parents who, while keen for their child to explore and experience the wonders of the world, are also fearful about the risks.

Lee Hudswell had travelled to Vang Vieng in Laos to have an adventure. The gregarious and talented sportsman with a degree in commerce from Wollongong University journeyed to the once quiet agricultural town, now packed with young tourists, to float along the Nam Song river on giant tractor tubes (known as "tubing"). At the time, cheap alcohol was sold by the bucket at bars on the edge of the river, and travellers got their thrills on rope swings, zip-lines, and giant waterslides.

Hudswell had climbed up a bamboo tower to have his second go on a zip-line strung high across the water. As he reached the end of the line he was flung awkwardly into the river. Young tourists on the banks noticed he hadn't surfaced and started calling to each other to look for him. The search became frantic. It took five or six minutes to pull Hudswell to the surface. He was unconscious. Scott Donaghy was one of Hudswell's friends who took him in a local tuk-tuk taxi to a nearby clinic; he died shortly afterwards.

Newspaper reports show Vang Vieng's tiny hospital recorded 27 tourist deaths in 2011 alone.

"Life is very difficult without Lee," says Meadows. "For the first six months I was in a daze. I drove through red lights, I left the gas stove on, I left the gate open in the paddock and our racehorses got out. It never leaves your mind."

Determined to save other young lives, Meadows lobbied Laotian authorities to have the zip-lines pulled down, along with the slides and swings along the notorious stretch of river. A few months after Hudswell's death the equipment was dismantled, and dozens of illegal bars were closed. "It was totally and utterly unregulated tourism," Meadows says.

David Beirman, senior lecturer in tourism at the University of Technology, Sydney, says certain events and activities in some countries encourage travellers to take risks. "Going with an unlicensed, unregistered operator who may be using faulty equipment can be a bit of a death trap," Beirman says. "I think a lot of younger travellers want to have intense experiences and so there is a tendency to expose themselves to risk a bit more than they would at home."

Paul Dillon, the director of Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia says a whole new industry in high-risk tourism has emerged in the past 20 years that encourages young people to push the boundaries. "The evidence is very clear that young people are aware of the risks and know what the consequences can be, but they think it won't happen to them," Dillon says. There is a tendency, Dillon says, that the shorter the trip, the more intense an experience young people will seek.

Melbourne psychologist Sabina Read says part of parents supporting, nurturing and raising an independent child is learning to let go. "Just having a child travel overseas is quite significant," she says. "It would be extremely unusual for a parent not to feel some sadness, anxiety, concern and a sense of loss of control in that process." But, she cautions, living in an anticipatory anxiety mode of what might go wrong is not helpful for parent or child. "Part of this process is to accept that we can't always protect our children, as much as it's our instinct to do so."

Exacerbating the difficulties for parents are the practical implications of the loss. "You have to negotiate a whole other country with their values, infrastructure, government and laws," Read says. "You specifically get on a plane where everyone is laughing and talking about where they are going and which hotel they are staying at, and you are going to identify or collect your child's body. That level of pain, distress and trauma is beyond comprehension."

In most cases, travel insurance can help families negotiate their way through unfamiliar foreign requirements. "For many families, their distress at the loss of a loved one is often compounded by the cost and complexity of the procedures in place overseas, for example post-mortem investigations and repatriations," says Justin Brown, head of the consular and crisis management division in the Foreign Affairs Department. Up to a third of Australians who travel don't take out travel insurance.

Increased demand for government help for overseas travellers is thought to have recently prompted Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop to flag a "user-pays" approach for consular assistance. Government funding may not be forthcoming if people acted in defiance of local laws, travelled without insurance, or ignored travel advice, Bishop warned. Many travel insurers will also refuse to cover travellers for illness, accident or misadventure if they believe that the traveller was inebriated at the time of the incident.

For many parents, trying to piece together the last moments of their child's life and the circumstances of their death can be incredibly distressing. "Part of the human psyche is wanting to know the details around the death," says Sabina Read. "Not being able to imagine what the landscape was like, or the culture of the people, or how exactly it happened, means that parents are dealing with an extra element of the unknown. "

After travelling to Thailand to repatriate her daughter's body in October 2012, Julie Fitzsimons says she will never go back. Nicole Fitzsimons, 24, was a talented dancer who was completing a degree in media and communications by correspondence at Griffith University. She was on holiday in Koh Samui and sitting on the back of a motorcycle driven by her partner, Jamie Keith, when a local Thai man on another motorbike hit the couple from behind as they turned into their hotel driveway. With no helmet for protection, Nicole suffered severe head injuries and died before her parents arrived.

"I didn't want to go to Thailand and I didn't want to see it [the place where Nicole died], but I'm glad I went," Fitzsimons says.

"We did a Buddhist ceremony and released her spirit. It was traumatic. But I know I'll never go back."

In the days before Nicole's memorial service, people told Fitzsimons they wanted to donate to a charity that focused on road safety and the dangers of riding motorbikes overseas. Fitzsimons says it was a way of channelling their grief.

Just months after Nicole died, 21-year-old Kate left her corporate job and became the face of the Nicole Fitzsimons Foundation. "I read the statistics of places like Bali where the hospitals there are treating up to 300 traffic victims every day, and I wanted to know why my sister wasn't given the chance to be educated about this before she went overseas," says Kate.

Last year Kate Fitzsimons travelled to 40 schools in NSW, Queensland and the Northern Territory, raising awareness of travel safety overseas.

"This has been the most fulfilling, rewarding 12 months of my life. I never thought that I'd say that so soon after losing my best friend and sister, but I think she's up there opening doors … she's with me every step of the way."


Sunday, January 26, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG sets out some qualifications for "Australian of the year"

Australia's migrants leaving their new home in search of a better life

A lot of Afghans move on.  No mention of them being missed

AUSTRALIA'S migrants are abandoning their adopted country at record levels - using the lucky country as a stepping stone to a better life.

The number of former migrants leaving country has doubled in just over a decade to 48,000 and last year made up more than half of all Australians moving overseas.

It is not homesickness driving the numbers, but a new wave of country-hopping migrants looking for the best deal.  "Today's migrants can use Australia as a stepping stone to go to other countries," said Associate Professor Val Colic-Peisker from the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT University.   "They are skilled migrants who can then be headhunted by Scotland, Malaysia and other countries. They go where the best work is."

The most recent figures from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection show 40 per cent of migrants who decided to leave Australia did not return to their native home.

New Zealand was the first choice for country-hopping immigrants followed by Singapore, Hong Kong, the UK and USA.

Migrants from Afghanistan and South Africa are the most likely to move on, with more than 80 per cent moving overseas after settling here.  More than a third are employed as professionals or managers.

New Zealand's Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said Australian residents entering the country will "normally be granted a residence class visa to enter and stay, work and study in New Zealand", as long as they are of good character.

And providing information on permanent residency in Australia simplifies the process of achieving residency in Hong Kong.

Dr Yadu Singh, President of the Indian Australian Association of NSW, said Singapore, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates are the popular choice of former immigrants from India.  He said these countries are more accustomed to migrants in the workforce.

"Many come to Australia and are working in jobs they are over-qualified for because they are told they need local experience," he said. "This can lead to disillusionment and even depression. The opportunities and earnings can be better elsewhere."

According to Dr Singh, foreign companies will head hunt immigrants who have worked in Australia.  "Australian experience and even getting a degree or diploma makes them more marketable."  But New Zealand is not high on the list for Indian immigrants. "I know more people that are leaving New Zealand," Dr Singh said. "They wait three years to receive a passport and then come to Australia."

Westpac's Head of Migrant Banking, Jennifer West, is keen to encourage immigrants to stay in Australia because of the financial and cultural benefit they provide to Australia. Research by Westpac on new Australians, released to coincide with Australia Day, reveals migrants contribute $200 billion to the Australian economy annually and almost one quarter are in jobs earning $70,000 or more.

"The US, Canada and New Zealand are proactive in attracting new skilled migrants," she said.  "But our research shows Australians are welcoming of immigrants and Australia Day is a great opportunity to celebrate the role new Australians play in our society


Fascist tendencies in Australia

Salute exceptionalism in Australia...well, hardly. We are becoming suffused with an intrusive public health mantra that is the antithesis of exceptionalism. For those who believe there are proper standards for the relationship between authority and liberty, beware of post-modern Australia, where public health (sometimes known as population health) has become a role model jealous of uniformity and groupthink.

Australian public health authoritarianism manifests as funding of interventionism, premised on some valued 'public good' for which myopic individuals are neither personally accountable nor 'willing to pay.' The maintenance of 'civil society' hence becomes an excuse for meddling bureaucracies to save us from ourselves and for government interfering - usually at considerable unrequited cost - so prescriptively and in so many aspects of our lives.

Domestic swimming pool fencing is one of the most egregious examples. Australia has become a world leader in self-righteously enforcing costly pool fencing standards with scant regard to evidence of commensurate net social gain.

Well-intentioned post-natal nurses routinely follow up new mothers with intrusive questions in quite evidently innocent family settings about domestic violence.

Baby capsules (now costing some hundreds of dollars) must be fitted in motor vehicles by authorised fitting stations and need comply with stringent criteria without parallel in comparable countries (although paradoxically, taxis remain exempt).

Rather than prioritising risky road behaviours that constitute discernible threats to welfare, police are applauded for random breath testing for alleged alcohol misuse or for relentlessly apprehending minor technical transgressions of ever changing speed limits - without yielding differences in road safety statistically significant to comparable high income countries that concentrate simply on targeting reckless driving. Small wonder the time cost of metropolitan travel has become so burdensome.

The folly of poison scheduling in Australia restricts to pharmacies the sale of many non-prescription medicines of infinitesimal risk that are generally available in most other countries at a fraction of the cost in supermarkets.

Because of diminishing personal accountability, it has become judgemental and politically incorrect to 'stereotype' or target the source of readily identifiable human risks such as foetal alcohol syndrome. Analogously, in the early 1980s authorities ran their HIV/ AIDS 'grim reaper' campaign by inefficiently targeting the whole country.

Australia should seek to engender authentic personal accountability. Instead it celebrates the tyranny of costly and inefficient paternalism that stifles a willingness to weigh our own risk exposures. Obesity is one of the principal sources of Australia's burden of disease yet, although highly social patterned, its control and prevention strategy is a conspicuous failure - principally because of neglect to acknowledge it is ultimately much less a realm of public policy than of personal or parental responsibility (or ill-chosen parents).

Australia's bureaucracies should reflect upon the limits of power that society may justifiably exercise over individuals. John Stuart Mill called this liberty.


The ABC in their own words

Pickering has some interesting quotes below

While Left-Green commercial media drowns in red ink, the taxpayer funded ABC, still pining for Gillard, continues to defy its charter, openly seeking to discredit and undermine the Abbott Government... and not a murmur of disapproval from the responsible Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

Decent journalists have departed the dying Fairfax Press in droves leaving the dross free to practise their treachery and disdain for middle ground politics.

Left-Green journalists have now taken to cannibalising their own with tweets regarding respected centre-ground journalist, Gerard Henderson with:

“Henderson…What a pompous, pretentious turd you are.” - Mike Carlton.

“What a haughty flapping half-arsed buffoon he is” - Malcolm Farr.

“You are a fool, Henderson, a malicious and mendacious piece of shit… Now F_ck off.” - Mike Carlton again.

“Old Australian saying. ‘He wouldn’t know a tram was up him unless the bell rang’. Wholly appropriate to Gerard Henderson” - Phillip Adams.

“Gerard [Henderson] is a complete f-ckwit”- Malcolm Farr again.

“The nation mourns Gerard Henderson. He’s in perfect health.” - Peter Van Onselen, SKY. I guess that means they disagree with "The Australian's" Gerard.

Sacked Left-Green scribes have drifted to the ABC, The Conversation, The Guardian On-line and other far Left media.

Sky gives Green Senators (the insane Milne and loopy Hanson-Young) exposure way beyond their political station.

Channel 7 is a rats’ nest of anti-Australian Lefties.

Channel 10 persists with "warmist" Bongiorno and his crazy pro-illegal immigrant stance.

Who really cares, they will die by their own swords soon enough, but the ABC belongs to us... and we want it back.

The pro-Jakarta public broadcaster has now placed itself firmly within the Indonesian crime syndicates’ interests and has incredibly implied the Australian Navy has insisted illegals hold on to hot pipes!

    Only a demented fool or a Green would believe the RAN practises torture.

The ABC has been allowed to run riot for far too long and the Gillard-appointed Leftie Chairman, Spigelman, and his co-conspirator, MD Mark Scott, are past their Labor Party use-by dates.

If the fiery anger in Morrison’s and Abbott’s eyes means anything then the guillotine is about to fall and Turnbull had better quickly decide what he wants to do...

...fiddle with the NBN and his donger at the same time or begin acting like a responsible Minister.


Self-inflicted damage set to be coming for NSW Police

Paul Sheehan

The NSW Police can be their own worst enemy. In recent weeks the Herald has reported and editorialised extensively about drunken violence, with great sympathy for the police who have to bear much of the brunt of this. But bubbling beneath the surface is a torpedo that is heading for the police, aimed by the police. This is going to be a self-inflicted harm.

The indications I am receiving point to the Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, leaving his job this year and Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn getting hit by collateral damage. There is no suggestion here that either of these officers has been guilty of misconduct, but both could be damaged by the misconduct of others.

Reputational damage is likely heading for the NSW Crime Commission, the star chamber of law enforcement in this state, which may have acted above the law.

More reputational damage is certainly heading for the Special Crime and Internal Affairs unit, which itself came under investigation for over-zealous pursuit of suspected police corruption. At the other end of the spectrum, the NSW Police Association has also caused a reputational problem for itself. As a former executive member of the association told me: "Increasingly, it has become little more than a branch of the Labor Party."

The sound and fury of the impact of the torpedo may be muffled by Premier Barry O'Farrell keeping a lid on a report pending from the NSW Ombudsman.

The person most likely to step up to the job of commissioner this year is Nick Kaldas, who holds the most operationally senior role of the three deputy commissioners. He already has oversight for the majority of the 16,000 officers in the force.

It does not hurt that Kaldas' investigative work is currently on display in The Hague where the United Nations' Special Tribunal for Lebanon is conducting the trial of four members of Hezbollah who have been charged, in absentia, with the 2005 car-bombing that assassinated Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafic Hariri, and killed 22 more.

Kaldas served as the lead investigator for the bulk of the investigation. He laid an evidence trail that led to the leadership of Hezbollah.

The irony in all this is that Kaldas himself was one of the officers wrongly subjected to a wire tap during an internal police investigation that lurched out of control. That covert operation has become the torpedo.

The torpedo has a name: Operation Prospect. It has been run by the NSW Ombudsman, Bruce Barbour, and has a budget of $3.5 million and two years to complete its inquiries, in secret, and report. The time for its report is approaching and the outlines of its main findings have taken shape.

Operation Prospect was set up in response to complaints lodged with the Ombudsman's office by about 50 serving and former police officers who had been the subject of wire taps by the special crime and internal affairs branch between 1998 and 2002.

Last year, Barbour told a parliamentary committee that Prospect's scope was "enormous", examining listening device warrants issued by judges that allowed the bugging of more than 100 police at a time. The investigation has examined wire taps of more than 100 police officers and civilians, including Kaldas, who were the subject of covert recordings by an operation code-named Emblems, run by internal affairs from 1998 to 2002.

Commissioner Scipione and Deputy Commissioner Burn had responsibility for internal affairs during some of this time and during the aftermath of Emblems, hence their vulnerability to collateral damage.

All complaints to the ombudsman's inquiry say there were no grounds for the surveillance and many claim their careers were damaged. These claims have the potential for litigation. This is of concern to the government even though the events and their aftermath occurred long before it took office.

Also of concern for the image of the police is the shrill anti-government language being used by leaders of the Police Association. The treasurer of the union, Sergeant Prue Burgun, wrote of the O'Farrell government in an opinion piece last month: "Get out of the pocket of the Australian Hotels Association." The vice-president of the union, Inspector Pat Gooley, was even more sneering and political in an open letter published on the association's website: "Where were you, George Souris on New Year's Eve? Somewhere safe, shielded from the horrors of what people can do to each other?"

If the police union wants to operate like a branch of the Labor Party, then the service will come to be regarded as a branch of the Labor Party, and the NSW Labor Party is no stranger to the abuse of power.