Thursday, 28 August 2014

RECAP: The score now stands at ICAC 13 Liberal Party of Australia 0


Arthur Sinodinos Federal Liberal Senator for NSW and Assistant Treasurer in the Abbott Government  - not fulfilling assistant treasurer duties for the duration of the ICAC Operation Credo and Operation Spicer investigations, after allegations concerning the corporation Australia Water Holdings of which he was a director were made during Operation Credo  .

Barry O’Farrell NSW Liberal MP for Ku-ring-gai  – resigned as Premier and Minister for Western Sydney effective 17 April 2014 and moved to the back bench when it was proven that he had not told the truth when giving evidence at a NSW Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) Operation Credo hearing in relation to an undeclared $3,000 gift from the then CEO of Australian Water Holdings.

Mike Gallacher NSW Liberal MLC – resigned as Minister for Police and Emergency Services on 2 May 2014 after being named as one of the subjects of ICAC’s Operation Spicer investigation, suspended from the Liberal Party and moved to the cross bench.

Chris Hartcher NSW Liberal MP for Terrigal – resigned as Minister for Resources and Energy, Special Minister of State, Minister for the Central Coast on 9 December 2013, suspended from the  Liberal Party and moved to the cross bench.

Marie Ficarra NSW Liberal MLC – resigned as parliamentary secretary on 17 April 2014 after it was alleged she solicited an unlawful political donation, suspended from the Liberal Party and moved to the cross bench..

Darren Webber - NSW Liberal MP for Wyong and Member, Legislative Assembly Committee on Law and Safety - suspended from the Liberal Party of Australia (NSW) after corruption allegations, moved to the cross bench and not re-contesting his seat at the 2015 state election.

Christopher Spence - NSW MP for The Entrance, suspended from the Liberal Party of Australia (NSW) after corruption allegations, moved to the cross bench and not re-contesting his seat at the 2015 state election.

Andrew Cornwell – resigned as NSW Liberal MP for Charlestown after admitting in evidence that he had received unlawful political donations and paid his tax bill with some of that money.

Tim Owen – resigned as NSW Liberal MP for Newcastle on 12 August 2014 after admitting he had not told the truth concerning unlawful political donations when giving evidence at an ICAC Operation Spicer hearing and had met with another ICAC witness allegedly to convince that witness not to tell the truth.

Garry Edwards - NSW Liberal MP for Swansea on 14 August 2014 announced he had moved to the cross bench, after allegations during evidence that he had received an unlawful political donation.

Jeff McCloy - Newcastle Mayor, resigned his mayoral position due to admissions that he had made to ICAC that he had made unlawful political donations to the NSW Liberal Party.

Ian McNamara - chief of staff to Opposition Leader John Robertson  called as witness in Operation Spicer investigation and has stood aside while ICAC hearings continue.

Bart Bassett - Liberal MP for Londonderry, on 27 August 2014 it was reported by ABC News that he had moved to the cross bench after ICAC commissioner Megan Latham announced that new evidence had emerged to widen the inquiry's scope to examine whether Nathan Tinkler's firm Buildev tried to influence Mr Bassett.

The score now stands at: ICAC 13 Liberal Party of Australia 0

See Operation Credo and Operation Spicer hearing transcripts here.

Do your bit for bees

Have you seen any of the Australian bee species in your garden? 

Have bees been disappearing from your yard over the last ten years? 

Time to look into making your garden bee friendly.

“Plant a variety of species native to the area,” advises Heard. Gum trees are great for larger backyards. Palm and grass trees are more suitable for smaller gardens. Most flowering native shrubs, including grevillea, tea tree, and bottlebrush, are an excellent source of food for bees. • In terms of introduced plants, try lavender, thyme and salvias. A broad variety provides a steadier supply of nectar throughout the seasons. • Avoid pesticides and seeds that have been coated with systemic insecticides such as neonicotinoids. • Experiment with companion gardening, partnering high-nectar flowers with vegetables that need pollination. • Provide refreshments. Malfroy recommends “a shallow tray with a bit of timber or leaves floating in it, or a pond with some aquatic plants. Something the bees can sit on while they’re drinking”. • Let areas of your garden go wild. Dead stems, tree hollows and undisturbed soil provide nesting places for native bees. See more at: http://www.greenlifestylemag.com.au/features/2794/bees-backyard#sthash.H4sGFwpe.dpuf


For this introductory guide we have chosen ten major groups of Australian native bees. The states and territories of Australia in which these bees have been found are shown in the following Location Table. Click on the name of each bee in the table to read a brief account of its nest and behaviour.

(More detailed information about these fascinating species can be found in Native Bees of the Sydney Region: A Field Guide and in Aussie Bee bulletin. And visit the Aussie Bee Photo Gallery for more photographs of our colourful native bees!)




Tony Dum-Dum strikes again


Yet another commentator exposes Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s kindergarten-level understanding of demographics, economics and the national tax system……

Microbusiness 22 August 2014:

Tony Abbott has spoken-out against Treasury Secretary, Martin Parkinson’s, claim last night that the Government had failed to sell the case for tax reform, noting instead the following:
“I’ve been saying on many occasions that tax reform starts with scrapping the carbon tax and scrapping the mining tax. It certainly doesn’t end there and that’s why we’ve got a white paper on tax that we will be publishing towards the end of next year.”
No, Prime Minister. Tax reform involves broadening the tax base and replacing inefficient taxes with more efficient ones. The scrapping of the carbon and mining taxes do neither and will push the tax burden further onto Australia’s diminishing pool of workers – hardly a sensible approach given the ageing of the population (not to mention adverse impacts on the environment).

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

One of the reasons why there is a need for the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption


The Sydney Morning Herald 16 November 2012:

FROM barrister to barista, John Hart managed to put his past as a defender of petty criminals behind him to reach the summit of Engadine's culinary scene.
He emerged from an investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption in 2010 to buy the favourably reviewed Jack of Harts and Jude cafe in an arcade off the Old Princes Highway last year.
But the allegations that were the subject of the ICAC inquiry - judge shopping, false promises to clients and the extraction of a dubious payment - are nipping at his heels.
The ICAC made adverse findings against Mr Hart and sent the brief of evidence to the Department of Public Prosecutions.
Police have now charged Mr Hart with 11 counts of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

ICAC prosecution outcomes updated 26 August 2014:

The Department of Attorney General and Justice commenced proceedings against Mr Hart for 10 counts of the offence of acting with intent to pervert the course of justice under section 319 of the Crimes Act, and one count of the offence of obtaining property with false pretence under section 179 of the Crimes Act. On 18 November 2013, Mr Hart pleaded guilty to five section 319 offences.
On 22 August 2014 Mr Hart was convicted and sentenced to 2 years 9 months imprisonment with a non parole period of 1 year 10 months.

Coincidentally, a John Hart (chair of the Liberal Party’s North Sydney Forum, vice-chair of Restaurant and Catering Australia's NSW/ACT state council and a Federal Government’s National Centre for Vocational Education Research board member) is also to appear before the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption Operation Spicer investigation. Although he has twice been removed from the witness list schedule for the week beginning 25 August 2014.

Tony 'I live to freeload' Abbott and the public purse


Remember when Prime Minister Tony Abbott made a great show of rejecting an alleged 2.4 per cent increase to his $507,338 per annum parliamentary salary – even though the remuneration tribunal had made it clear he was never getting an increase in 2014 in the first place?

Well, the Remuneration Tribunal Determination 2014/16: Members of Parliament –Travelling Allowance has been published and it seems that from 31 August 2014 he still has a rather generous allowance for those many nights staying in a self-contained flat at the Australian Federal Police training college in Canberra:

Prime Minister shall be provided with accommodation and sustenance up to a limit of $560 for each overnight stay in a place other than an official establishment or the Prime Minister’s home base. Accommodation and sustenance at official establishments shall be provided at government expense…..
In exceptional circumstances, the Commonwealth may pay the accommodation and sustenance costs incurred by the Prime Minister
where those costs exceed $560 where:
(i) those costs are incurred in respect of overnight stays in a place other than an official establishment or the Prime Minister’s home base; and
(ii) the overnight stay is occasioned by official business as the Prime Minister

Abbott already takes full advantage of his prime ministerial travel allowance:
Snapshot from The Canberra Times 27 August 2014

UPDATE

Unfortunately for Abbott, his pork pies to his senators have also come back to haunt him as those leaks to the media continue.

The Sydney Morning Herald 28 August 2014:

Tony Abbott broke with tradition and skipped an annual black tie dinner held for government senators when he attended a party fund-raiser in Melbourne on Monday night….
Almost every government senator attended the dinner at the Boathouse restaurant in Canberra. The leader is always invited and usually attends, Fairfax has been told.
This year Deputy Liberal Leader Julie Bishop and Nationals Leader Warren Truss were the Coalition star attractions.
A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said Mr Abbott "receives a lot of requests to attend functions. Unfortunately, he can't accommodate them all".
The spokeswoman said "none of the dates proposed for the Coalition senators' dinner could be accommodated".
The dinner is always scheduled for the first Monday night of the first sitting week after the winter break.
One source said Mr Abbott's absence from the dinner was partly behind Senator Macdonald's decision to publicly question the Prime Minister's priorities.
They expressed surprise that the Prime Minister would choose to attend a fund-raiser instead of spending time with senators, some of whom have openly opposed the leadership on budget measures, the Racial Discrimination Act and the planned parental leave scheme. 

The Australian 28 August 2014:

LIBERAL and Nationals senators were gathering for their annual black-tie dinner on Monday night when a whisper went around the room that Tony Abbott wouldn’t be coming. As they chattered over drinks at the Boat House restaurant in Canberra, the senators heard the Prime Minister had to skip the event this year to attend to national security matters.
Only the next day did they learn they had been rubbed out of their leader’s diary so he could get to a fundraising dinner in Melbourne the same night….
Whether the grievance is a dinner cancellation, a late arrival or an overnight policy switch on racial discrimination laws, the backbench sees a recurring problem: a lack of respect for party colleagues…..
Tuesday’s meeting heard a rebuke about the “brains trust” in the Prime Minister’s office that keeps springing surprises on the backbench, while several MPs warned about the unpopularity of budget measures including the $7 copayment on GP visits.
Victorian Liberal Russell Broadbent challenged Education Minister Christopher Pyne on the $5 billion cuts to university funding.
NSW Liberal Russell Matheson questioned whether key ­policies were being neglected by merging portfolios such as health and sport and aged care.
Queensland Liberal National Party MP Warren Entsch was sharply critical of the way MPs would first learn of decisions by reading about them in the newspapers.
That point was drummed home when one MP stood to complain about the way Abbott abandoned the amendments to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act without any consultation with the backbench.
“We may as well not exist, that’s what it comes down to,” said one member of the party room yesterday.
The argument from MPs is that if they are consulted they have some ownership of the outcome. Right now, they feel, they are being denied the opportunity to be even seen to contribute to a decision, let alone get the ear of the leader.
As usual, some of the concerns focus on Abbott’s chief of staff, Peta Credlin, who is blamed for the “command and control” style of government.

Readfearn picks apart Tony Abbott's favoured climate science denier


Graham Readfearn writing in The Guardian, on Abbott Government chief business adviser Maurice Newman’s claim that the world should prepare for global cooling which was published in The Australian on 14 August 2014:

Growing evidence?


At the beginning of the column, Newman claims a recent article in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics “adds to growing evidence that climate change is determined by the sun, not humans”.
The problem with this statement is that the journal article in question did not even consider the interactions between the sun and long-term climate change.
Even one of the climate sceptic websites that recently featured this research, said: “Unfortunately, it was beyond the scope of this paper to address the potential impact of solar activity on climate.”
Professor Steve Sherwood, director of the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, explains:
Evidence that the sun influences climate has decreased, not increased. About a decade ago calculations showed the sun caused about 10 per cent of the warming observed since the late 1800s, but it is now estimated to be only about 5 per cent. This new paper does not change these estimates at all, it is only an attempt to extend the sunspot record back to times before direct observations began a few hundred years ago. The paper makes no mention of climate, because it does not have any new implications for climate.
Since 1980, during which time we have seen strong warming, solar output has if anything declined slightly. In fact, it is looking increasingly doubtful that the sun even had much to do with the so-called “little ice age”, which most mainstream scientists used to attribute to the minimum in sunspot activity at roughly the same time, but now looks to have been caused mainly by volcanic eruptions.
Newman tells his readers that experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Europe had “validated” a hypothesis from Danish physicist Professor Henrik Svensmark that “the sun alters the climate” by interacting with cosmic rays.
The former ASX chairman makes it sound like a done deal. But what did the lead author of that research actually think? Did it “confirm the hypothesis” that the sun alters the climate “by influencing cosmic ray influx and cloud formation” as Newman had claimed?
Professor Jasper Kirby, who led the research, said at the time “it actually says nothing about a possible cosmic-ray effect on clouds and climate, but it’s a very important first step”.
So that’s a no, then (minor nit, as Nature also explained, the experiment didn’t use the LHC, as Newman had claimed, but rather the same bit of kit – a particle accelerator - that feeds the LHC).

Newman and the IPCC


Newman wrote that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “and its acolytes” tend to “pay scant attention” to science that might “relegate human causes” as the driver of climate change.
Professor Sherwood was a Lead Author on the latest IPCC report chapter to look at these cosmic ray claims. He told me:
In writing the relevant section of the report, we examined Svensmark’s work along with many other relevant studies. It is quite clear that the evidence suggesting that cosmic rays influence cloud cover, does not hold up to scrutiny. The IPCC is quite comprehensive in assessing the scientific literature and making an overall assessment. If there is any cherry-picking going on, it is by the so-called skeptics, who typically focus on a tiny handful of papers and often draw unwarranted inferences from them not made by the authors themselves, as Newman has done in this case.

Sly misrepresentation


Newman name checks other organisations and scientists to try and bolster his argument.
He quotes work by “leading British climate scientist Mike Lockwood, of Reading University” to try and convince readers that the sun might be the dominant driver of the climate.
But Newman doesn’t mention what Lockwood actually thinks about these claims of cosmic rays or the sun dictating global temperatures
After his work was misrepresented in the British press last year, Lockwood responded on the website Carbon Brief:

So what do we think the effect of a return to Maunder minimum conditions on global mean temperatures would be? The answer is very little.
In a paper with scientists from the Met Office’s Hadley Centre, we used an energy balance model to show the slowing in anthropogenic global warming associated with decline in solar irradiance to Maunder minimum levels.
We found the likely reduction in warming by 2100 would be between 0.06 and 0.1 degrees Celsius, a very small fraction of the warming we’re due to experience as a result of human activity.
I sent Newman’s article to Lockwood to ask if he felt his work and his views were being fairly represented. Suffice to say he’s not too happy. He wrote:
The wording in the quote you sent me is a very sly misrepresentation. As a scientist I try to write sentences that are unambiguous ... but this is deliberately ambiguous to make it look like I am saying something that I certainly am not. I have never, ever written anything whatsoever about the “year without summer”, so I have never ever connected it to solar variability and the Dalton minimum. So if I trim the sentence down to “... Mike Lockwood, of Reading University, found 24 occasions in the past 10,000 years when the sun was declining as it is now, but could find none where the decline was as fast. He says a return of the Dalton Minimum (1790-1830) is ‘more likely than not’” Then I would be happy - but the addition of the phrase which included “the year without summer” makes it look like I am connecting that year to the Dalton minimum which I certainly am not. There is absolutely no credible evidence whatsoever that the “year without summer” was either caused by low solar activity or was in any way significant as an indicator of global climate trend.
I also asked Lockwood what he thought of Newman’s claim that there was “growing evidence that climate change is determined by the sun, not humans”. Lockwood said:
[This claim] is, frankly, scientifically ludicrous. There are a few papers that use inadequate statistical techniques to claim a link between global temperatures and solar activity. Proper significance testing against an appropriate noise model invariably shows that the probability that these sun-global climate connections are purely coincidental is extremely high and that they have been selected whilst a very large number of counter examples have been ignored. This is bad science: it’s equivalent to finding on albino rabbit and declaring all rabbits are albino.
There have been many studies, including ones that I have been involved in, that show the solar influence on global mean surface temperatures is extremely small. I personally think there is evidence for some interesting effects in winter (and only in winter, and there are compelling scientific reasons why only in winter) in locations that are strongly influenced by the northern hemisphere jet stream.
However these effects are re-distributions of temperature and so, for example, if Europe suffers a cold winter, Greenland has a warmer one. Hence these are regional and season climate changes and quite distinct from global climate changes.
That looks like one less Christmas card for Maurice Newman.
But there’s still more to go at here. Newman quotes a University of Pennsylvania professor of psychology Philip Tetlock as saying: “When journal reviewers, editors and funding agencies feel the same way about a course, they are less likely to detect and correct potential logical or methodological bias.”
The quote is actually a decade old and comes from an article published in the journal Political Psychology.
Newman probably got it trawling the blogs of climate sceptics (an article discussing the paper was reposted on the UK’s Global Warming Policy Foundation website earlier this month), which is where, in my view, he probably gets most of his ideas about climate science.
You might think, given the context of the article, that Tetlock was talking about environmental science or climate change.
But no. The Tetlock article was discussing his concerns about the preservation of the discipline of “political psychology”. Most of the article is discussing issues around war and peace and racism.

Unlawful developer donations scandal getting closer to NSW North Coast Nationals


The Sydney Morning Herald 17 August 2014:
                                             
Mr Cadell [NSW Nationals regional co-ordinator] is also listed as an adviser for the project, to lobby for a coal loader, in the email sent to two executives of Mr Tinkler’s company Buildev – Darren Williams and David Sharpe – on April 20, 2011.
Mr Tinkler had made a $50,000 donation to the federal and NSW Nationals three weeks earlier, Electoral Commission records show.

Echo NetDaily 19 August 2014:

A prominent Tweed businessman gave the National Party a $175,000 loan after the ban on developer donations came into effect in 2009, Sydney media has revealed.
The revelation this morning has sparked calls for the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) to probe developer donations to the National Party on the north coast in the same way the state Liberal Party has been investigated.
The current ICAC investigation into illegal developer donations has led to the resignation or standing aside of up to 10 NSW Liberal MPs and forced Newcastle’s mayor to quit in disgrace.
The National Party, according to a News Corporation report, faces having to repay a $3,000 donation it received for its state election campaign after it emerged that it came from leading Tweed National Party identity Idwall Richards, who is also a Kingscliff developer.
Labor’s shadow minister for the north coast, Walt Secord, said, ‘It appears that prohibited donations aren’t just the sole domain of the NSW Liberal Party, it seems that the north coast Nationals are in the same murky territory’.
The Daily Telegraph report this morning names Mr Richards, owner of Rico Investments, as the businessman who gave the $175,000 loan to the National Party, but both he and the party claimed it was a loan for the federal election campaign and therefore did not come under the donor laws.
Mr Richards, according to the report, said he did not believe he was a developer, but he signed a letter earlier this year as the ‘proprietor’ of Real Living Projects Pty Ltd, which built the Azura development at Kingscliff Beach.
In the letter, Mr Richards says: ‘We had the pleasure of working with the Cullen Group on our luxury multi-residential and commercial development at Azura–Kingscliff Beach’.

Perhaps it also not too late for NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption investigators to direct their attention to North Coast Nationals' 2011 shenanigans.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Joe Hockey either told a political lie to the Australian Parliament and voters then or is doing so now


Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey continues to alter facts to suit the questions being asked or the audience he is addressing and, if that means telling untruths to Parliament and voters then that is what he will do.

THEN

Australian Government Budget 2014-15 Overviews - Health presented to the Australian Parliament on 13 May 2014 by Joe Hockey:

ABC Q&A program on 19 May 2014:

Given that of the $7, $2 goes to the doctor…

NOW

House of Representatives House TV Joe Hockey speaking during Question Time on 26 August 2014:

It is a payment for a service….We are asking Australians to pay $7 when they go and visit a GP. That goes to the GP. The bottom line is it’s a payment for service. [my red bolding]

If the total $7 doesn’t go to the GP then it is not a genuine payment for service – it is a payment with an indirect tax attached.

So does the GP keep the money, Mr. Hockey? Or have you introduced another tax?