Monday, 31 December 2007

Rudd's deeds speak volumes

Mungo McCallum writing in The Byron Echo (January 1, 2008) has a telling yarn about the character of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

McCallum wrote, in part:

"The most interesting political story of the holiday break came not from the news pages, where
the election and its aftermath had finally succumbed to the demands of sport, but from the letters column of the Sydney Morning Herald.

Last week a social worker from St Johns Church in Canberra revealed that on the morning of Boxing Day the Prime Minister, unannounced and accompanied only by a security guard, had
arrived to help serve breakfast to the homeless of the national capital, of whom there are rather more than is generally supposed. Kevin Rudd talked to both workers and clients at some length,
and then announced as the most serious of his new year resolutions his intention to do something about the plight of the homeless.

A cynic commented that this would all have been more convincing if he had been engaged in similar activities before becoming Prime Minister – but he had. During the hectic campaign, after the exhausted media retired for the weekend, Rudd regularly visited homeless centres in whichever city he found himself.

As with St Johns the visits took place without any kind of publicity, and the fact that they had taken place only came out after polling day. They were acts of private charity and compassion
which some observers have clearly found surprising and disconcerting in a man who has been seen as a ruthlessly efficient and single minded politician."

To read more about this go to http://www.echo.net.au/archives/22_29/pdf/p10.pdf

Comment: Former PM Howard had neither the guts nor the common decency to do anything such as this during his 11+ years in the post. What more needs to be said, other than good riddance to bad rubbish.

Want a New Year's resolution that you can keep?


Here's one New Year's resolution that will be relatively easy to keep - reduce the amount of palm oil which comes into the house in products you buy.
Palm oil plantations are expanding to Australia's north and causing rapid deforestation with loss of habitiat for the endangered Orangutan.

According to the Palm Oil Action Group at http://www.palmoilaction.org.au/

"Only 3 vegetable oils must be labelled in food products in Australia and New Zealand. Those are peanut oil, sesame oil and soy bean oil. The reason for this is that a percentage of the population suffers allergies to these oils.
All other vegetable oils can be labelled as vegetable oil. However the label must declare the amount of saturated fat in the product. So if the label states vegetable oil and then goes on to state the amount of saturated fat you can count on that vegetable oil being either palm kernel oil, palm oil or coconut oil. This is a way of potentially identifying if a product has palm oil in it as other vegetable oils are not saturated. This is for Australia and New Zealand only. Labelling may be different in other countries.
Also if palm oil is used in cosmetics it must be labelled. No exceptions. However it is usually not labelled as Palm oil. It is labelled as Elaeis guineensis This is the name given to palm oil by the International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredients. (INCI). Misleading labels on cosmetics can lead to action by the Australian Competition and Consumer Association.
So if you want to avoid buying palm oil, when buying food look for the label stating it is vegetable oil. Then look for saturated fat. If only vegetable oil (no animal fat listed) is used and there is saturated fat in the product - you are buying palm kernel oil, palm oil or coconut oil, most probably palm.
"above information provided by primates4primates quoting Australian Government sources"

The image above shows some products this site identifies as containing palm oil. Not forgetting takeaway foods like KFC fried chicken and most soaps.

Ending the year as it began

Popped across to A Clarence Valley Protest a few moments ago and saw this post.
It seems the NSW North coast may be ending the year in much the same way as it began.

Monday, 31 December 2007

Here they come again?

On the last day of 2007 it appears that the National Water Commission wants to blame everyone, but itself and its former political masters, for the continuing lack of an adequate response to long-term drought.
Unfortunately this also means that the Commission is obliquely taking aim at the NSW Northern Rivers region once more.
It seems that damming coastal rivers, such as the Clarence River or one of its tributaries, is still on the minds of both water barons and bureaucrats.

"Mr Matthews also criticised governments for failing to charge the full cost of water supply, and for implementing "policy bans" - positions taken for political reasons, such as the government stance on desalination plants, dams and other infrastructure.
"It is really important that they should all be on the table, they should go through a process of analysis, logic and evidence," he said.
"To have a policy ban at the outset is, in my view, indefensible."
See link:
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,22988794-643,00.html

The Rudd Government and local Labor MPs Janelle Saffin and Justine Elliot need to remember that the Clarence Valley voted them in on the back of an unequivocal assurance that a Labor federal government would not seek or endorse water diversion from the Clarence River catchment area."
 
 

Kevin Rudd will never be a true believer

Kevin Rudd is not one of the true believers of old. Like most modern Labor politicians he is merely a man in a tailored suit following his chosen career path.
However, this same man attained government on a proud Labor history and political pragmatism does not remove him from a place within this history or absolve him from honouring the expectations which voted his party into power.
Therefore in 2008 the Rudd Government needs to remove all Australian military personnel from Iraq and Afghanistan. No half measures are acceptable.
Australia broke international law when it marched into both countries and relies on legal fiction to keep troops there.
Just because Iraq and Afghanistan were barely mentioned in the 2007 federal election campaign doesn't give the Rudd Government a mandate to continue war crimes initiated by the Howard 
Government as part of the Coalition of the Willing.
In case you didn't notice, Kevin - people on the NSW North Coast stood on beaches and in fields to literally spell out their opposition to Howard's warmongering.
From the day the Rudd Government was sworn into office it became responsible for every Australian death caused by unrest and fighting in these two countries. The fault now lies with it for every Iraqi and Afghani civilian death.     

Under Brendan Nelson the Libs continue to cloak themselves with hypocrisy

"Whilst it is understandable that Mr Hicks thanked those who helped secure his release, the rest of the country will expect nothing less than an unqualified apology for his self-confessed material support for terrorism," the opposition leader said."
 
The rest of the country will expect an unqualified apology? Myself, I'll accept the thankyou from Mr. Hicks.
The apology I expect is one from members of the former Howard Government for their complicity in the US rendition program and treatment of all Guantanamo Bay detainees.
 
If you're not too busy revising history Mr. Nelson, I'd like that apology now.  

Sunday, 30 December 2007

North Coast Community Housing Company puts a Yuletide foot firmly in its mouth

I suppose that with the media reporting "A Galaxy survey commissioned by online auction website eBay has found two-thirds of Australians have received at least one unwanted gift.
The survey estimates $985 million was spent on unwanted Christmas gifts, up $35 million on last year." there may be some slight excuse for skewed thinking by one of the most prominent publicly-funded NSW North Coast housing agencies.
The Sydney Morning Herald on Boxing Day:
 
However, North Coast Community Housing Company had one foot firmly in the mouth when its December newsletter described this company's Christmas greeting to tenants as "truly magnanimous", and one of the authors went on to brag to a clientele struggling to make ends meet that he or she "haven't even started my shopping yet".
Yes, a socially insensitive Yuletide attempt at communication if ever there was one.
 

Clarence Valley Council admits there is little that can be done for property owners in the face of 'inevitable' coastal erosion

Of course, what Clarence Valley Mayor Ian Tiley told the community is not unexpected, but this would be the first time the inability of local government to offer traditional solutions to future coastal erosion has been so clearly articulated at a NSW North Coast level.
The mayor described rock armouring, sand pumping, beach replenishment, large-scale housing retreat and house buybacks as "Possible remedies have proven beyond the financial reach of councils."
Although the mayoral minute did mention three small vulnerable village areas, it remained silent about the fate of larger coastal towns like Yamba. Perhaps because this town is one of Clarence Valley Council's rate cash cows and it wouldn't do to scare the horses.
Even though parts of the town's ocean front residential land currently have a 1-in-1000 statistical probability of sliding into the ocean after a few days of constant rain combined with high tides and heavy seas.
The minute was also careful to lay bad planning policy on local councillors dead for a generation or more. Thereby neglecting to take responsibility for more recent decisions, especially those made by the former Maclean Shire Council under Mayor Chris Gulaptis.
Looking to state and federal government for a remedial or preventative policy is also totally unrealistic, in the face of what could be widespread erosion and salt water inundation predicted to occur along the Australian east coast due to climate change. There just wouldn't be money enough for what in the end would likely be stopgap measures.
King Canute couldn't hold back the ocean and neither can we on the North Coast.
 
Clarence Valley Council mayoral minute:

Neither alert nor alarmed - just plain stupid

The Daily Examiner on Saturday ran a small item which said that a rumour was going around that someone from Grafton had joined Al Qaeda and is now working alongside Osama bin Laden.
Sounds a bit like the old rumour that some of the newspaper's letters to the editor were being translated and sent to Al Qaeda to give aid and comfort to the enemy.
Such a load of bulldust! What on earth was the newspaper thinking.
With ASIO spooks and the AFP living on the edge of unreason since 2001, let's hope that The DEXy chicks will be the only ones having their doors broken down if this silly piece of nonsense gains credence among the Canberra mob. 

In the final count down to 2008

Well the 2007 festive season is on its last legs and national torpor prevails. Will 2008 bring any solutions to the many problems which confront us as a society and nation?
 
The Murray-Darling river system gets some relief from recent heavy rains but fundamental problems remain:
 
Poverty and inequality remain a fact of life for many Australians:
 
Human rights for the aged or mentally ill demonstrably in doubt across the country:
 
In the month since the federal election Labor voters are still blindly optimistic:
 
Liberal Party leader Brendan Nelson battles to control his party's 'message' and deputy leader Julie Bishop signals a desire to obstruct IR reform:
 
Deputy-Prime Minister Julia Gillard makes a tactical error in retaining Workplace Authority's Barbara Bennett:
 
Kevin Rudd Sucks battles on, but is anyone listening:
 
The media continues to enjoy reporting climate change sceptics:
 
Virtually ignoring 21 state and territory election defeats in a row, the Liberal Party looks for alternative answers because it still can't face the fact that active dislike of the party's underlying neo-con philosophy combined with personal hatred of John Winston Howard and the Federal Coalition's abuse of parliamentary processes were at the bottom of its recent federal election defeat: 
 http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,22981323-5013946,00.html

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Damaging Surf Warning for NSW North Coast

IDN28500
Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology
NSW

Priority
NSW SEVERE WEATHER WARNING
Damaging Surf
For people in
Northern Rivers

Issued at 5:20 am on Saturday 29 December 2007

Synoptic Situation: 3:00 am EDT Saturday
A developing elongated tropical low with a central pressure of 1000hPa is developing over the Coral Sea about 275km nautical miles east-northeast of Gladstone. The low is expected to move southeast and intensify during the next 24 hours. Persistent easterly winds south of the low will result in increasing easterly swells along the northern New South Wales coast.

Damaging surf conditions are expected on Sunday on the far North Coast between Tweed Heads and Wooli, with waves expected to exceed 5 metres in the surf zone. These waves are likely to cause significant beach erosion. Dangerous surf conditions with waves around 3 metres are expected to affect the Northern Rivers today, and the northern parts of the Mid North Coast on Sunday.
Emergency services advise you check your property regularly for erosion or inundation by sea water, and if necessary, raise goods and electrical items.

Surf Life Saving Australia recommends that you stay out of the water and stay well away from surf-exposed areas.

For emergency help in floods and storms, ring the SES [NSW and ACT] on telephone number 132 500.

The next warning is due to be issued by 11 am Saturday.

This warning is also available through TV and Radio broadcasts; the Bureau's website at www.bom.gov.au or call 1300 659 218. The Bureau and State Emergency Service would appreciate this warning being broadcast regularly.

Bureau of Meteorology:

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Holiday season 2007

North Coast Voices wishes everyone a happy and safe holiday season.
We will not be posting between 24 to 30 December.
Everyone's off to do the family thing, hit the beaches and enjoy the fact that 2007 is almost over.                    

Forgot to be consistently kind to children and help little old ladies across the road these last ten years? Then the drought's all your fault!

Catch the Fire Ministries demonstrates why secular government is such a good idea.
 
"A RADICAL Christian group with the ear of prominent politicians has blamed "sinful" Australians for the nation's record drought.
Catch the Fires Ministries, which has links to several prominent politicians including Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, has hired Festival Hall so 5000 of its followers can pray for rain on Australia Day.

Leader Danny Nalliah said moral decline, not climate change, was responsible for the drought.

"Australia has turned away from Almighty God ... the sinful condition of mankind has contributed to the stem of rainfall," he said."
News.com.au full article:

Going without this Christmas

Television is littered with Christmas greetings from station personalities, carols and hymns are aired on radio, shops are decked out in tinsel and baubles; but this facade hides a grim truth for many on the NSW North Coast.
 
More than a few people are struggling just to meet the rising cost of living. Young families on minimum wage, retirees, the unemployed and pensioners are all in the same boat when it comes to the festive season.
In regional areas with a high seachange/treechange population the problem is compounded by the distance from family. High petrol costs mean that some relatives will not be making that Christmas visit journey.
 
Christmas can be a depressing time of year when you can't even put together a decent traditional dinner because of rising costs. The only free dinner that I know of is in Yamba and the numbers attending are growing each year.
 
Australia-wide it appears to be a similar story.
"With one in 10 Victorian families having found themselves without enough money for food at some time in the past year, charities expect more families than ever will be forced to ask for help this Christmas — many for the first time."
The Age today:
 
So as you raise a glass and Ho, ho, ho, this holiday season - spare a thought for those not as lucky and think about what your own community might do in the coming year about the pockets of quiet desperation in many local streets.

 

Ex-British PM Tony Blair applies for "Get Out Of Jail For Free' card

Media reports today say that former British PM Tony Blair has converted to Roman Catholicism.
Want to bet one of his first acts as a new convert will be to ask for a remission of his sins for unlawfully invading Afghanistan and Iraq.
Only counts if you mean it, Tony. Really and truly only counts if the people of Afghanistan and Iraq forgive you for their prolonged and unnecessary suffering.

Camden goes crazy, egged on by Rev. Fred Nile MLC

Watching televised footage this week of the Camden public meeting to protest an Islamic school development application was a real eye opener.
Xenophobia was rife, near hysteria evident......and a little something else.
 
"Mr Nile told the crowd he opposed the school because Islam opposed Christianity."
The Sydney Morning Herald yesterday:
 
Is it any wonder that the Christian Democratic Party did so badly at the recent federal election when it ran candidates in 44 of the 49 electorates. This party currently has no members in either the House of Representatives or the Senate.
Rev. Nile is a poor advertisement for this political party's so-called Christian values.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Rudd family in The Lodge for Christmas

Nice to see the Australian Prime Minister's official residence, The Lodge in Canberra, is once more being used for the purpose it was designed.
Nice too to see a family in residence, along with their pets. Gone are the days of sterile emptiness caused by John Howard's erratic tenancy.
Let's hope the new prime minister resists the urge to undertake major renovations - the country cannot afford such luxury given the rather bleak international economic forecasts of late.
 

Bouquets and brickbats

Bouquets for Federal Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and Minister for the Environment and Arts Peter Garrett for achieving a backdown by the Japanese Government over plans to hunt and kill Humpback whales in southern waters.
 
Floral posies also to Clarence Valley Council who adopted a Humpback male whale last month and Ballina Council who named their adopted whale "Shelly" last week.
The Daily Examiner:
Ballina Shire Council:
 
Such grassroots support has not gone unnoticed by Japan.
"Machimura said Japan and Australia had cultural differences over whales but that Tokyo hoped to preserve relations with Canberra, where the new Labor government has stepped up pressure against the hunt.
"Australians consider whales to be very affectionate, something I can't really relate to. But apparently they give names to every whale and there's quite strong public sentiment," Machimura said."
The Courier Mail  yesterday:
 
Brickbats to the Japanese Government for continuing to call the intended slaughter of over 900 other whales this season "scientific research".

The great government lie about pensions

Your only income is a full old-age or disability pension? Facing the usual Christmas without any of the trimmings? Well be heartened and start carolling - you are in the money! Or are you?
 
That old Howard Government lie about how well pensioners fare out of government payments is still out there.
"Improvements to pension indexation have greatly improved the economic status of the elderly and those on disabled and single-parent allowances.
Pensions used to be adjusted according to changes in the cost of living, but now they track average male weekly earnings, which rise more quickly as productivity increases."
 
Any one living on a full pension can tell you that this was a load of codswallop. The Howard Government may have promised to keep pension payments at one quarter of average male weekly earnings but this promise was never fully implemented and resulted in continuing poverty line payments.
 
During the recent federal election campaign I heard Kevin Rudd himself state that line about guaranteeing pensions would be 25% of average male weekly earnings.
While Jenny Macklin was somewhat more circumspect. 
"Jenny Macklin's reply was as follows:
I understand that it can be difficult for many pensioners to meet the rising cost of goods like food, petrol and utilities bills. Federal Labor's plan to help pensioners with the costs of living – Making Ends Meet – was released earlier this month, and includes increases to the Utilities Allowance and the Telephone Allowance for eligible pensioners. We hope that this will go some way to helping pensioners with their cost of living pressures. We have also committed to increasing the pension in line with a new pensioner cost of living index, which would more accurately reflect the wider consumer price index, or in line with increases to the benchmark of 25 per cent of average male weekly earnings, whichever is higher."
 
Now the Australian Bureau of Statistics Key National Indicators show that average weekly earnings for an adult in full-time work at ordinary rates this period last year was $1,058.90.
In the twelve months to August 2007 an increase in the male average weekly earnings of 5.2% was recorded.
This example sounds a lot, but using this calculation criteria will still see pensioners and the disabled scratching to house, feed, clothe and manage their health from a current pension allotment of around $537.70 per fortnight plus $5.80 pharmaceutical allowance or $271.75 per week.
 
So Prime Minister, what's it going to be? Are Australian pensioners going to continue receiving fortnightly pension payments calculated on CPI or the percentage increase in AMWE (both of which keep them on or below the poverty line) or are they going to receive payments which are set at a more realistic level? 

Friday, 21 December 2007

Never mind the quality - feel the width!

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) met yesterday for the first time since the 24 November federal election completed a Labor hat trick across the country.
 
The communique issued at the meeting's end was optimistic, covered quite a few areas of concern and did seek some restructuring of how COAG operates.
The 20th COAG meeting communique:
 
However, most recent COAG meetings ended with an upbeat communique running a spin on cooperative effort across many areas of concern. The meeting last year was a good example.
The 19th COAG meeting communique:
 
The proof of true COAG cooperation will of course be tested further down the track. Right now there is more than a little hype attached and everyone is still visibly overattached to those underwhelming campaign slogans.
One has to wish COAG well and hope that years of entrenched adversarial interaction have not ruled out change for the better.
Wall-to-wall Labor governments are a yet untested combination.

Are all governments control freaks?

When John Howard 'ruled' Australia he had government departments and agencies so cowed that they rarely stepped too far from the right-wing message. Even the CSIRO at times appeared to self-censored itself in order to save some grief. Nobody wanted to place either their promising careers or somewhat pedestrian jobs at risk.
But what the Rudd Government is attempting right now seems to be a new twist.
 
"A directive was issued this week by the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research to about a dozen statutory agencies.
Recipients include the CSIRO, the Australian Institute of Marine Science, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, the Australian Research Council, the Co-operative Research Centres and Invest Australia. Even the Questacon science museum in Canberra was sent the directive.
It says the Prime Minister's office has instructed that "all strategic media releases which relate to the Government's key messages" must be forwarded to the department which will then submit them to the office of the minister, Kim Carr.
If necessary, Senator Carr would send the release to the Prime Minister's office. The department would contact the agency "regarding required changes".
The directive says releases "of a more pedestrian nature" need not be vetted but anything to do with climate change, industrial relations policy, education and science reform, tax policy, national security and health must be submitted."
The Sydney Morning Herald today:
 
It makes one wonder if Rudd Government ministers are not being welcomed with open arms by the now highly politicised public service and its agency cousins.
 

Adding insult to injury

Saw an ad on the tellie last night. It was an attempt to sell the Iemma Government's high-handed plan to begin the basement sale of state-owned electricity assets.
Yup. Really believe you, Morrie. This sale will make everything rosie - high level of service, reasonable costs, customer satisfaction, pensioners and rural Australia safe. 
Yup. Just like the sale of Telstra, eh Morrie. Now that one really made everything rosie in the bush didn't it?
Morris Iemma is obviously going to retire before the next NSW state election. Why else would he be pushing the electoral suicide of Country Labor.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Six new Victorian senators announced

The Australian Electoral Commission has announced that the count for the election of six Senators for Victoria was completed earlier today. 

The successful candidates for the six Senate vacancies for Victoria are (in order of their election):

  1. Jacinta Collins (ALP)
  2. Mitch Fifield (Liberal)
  3. Gavin Marshall (ALP)
  4. Helen Kroger (Liberal)
  5. Scott Ryan (Liberal)
  6. David Feeney (ALP)

December 19 media release regarding AWB prosecutions

"07-332 ASIC launches civil penalty action against former officers of AWB

Wednesday 19 December 2007

ASIC has commenced civil penalty proceedings in the Supreme Court of Victoria against six former directors and officers of AWB Limited (AWB).

ASIC alleges that the defendants contravened section 180 of the Corporations Act, which requires company officers to act with care and diligence, and section 181, which requires company officers to discharge their duties in good faith and for a proper purpose.

ASIC is asking the Court for declarations that each defendant has breached the law, the imposition of pecuniary penalties (for each breach a maximum of $200,000), and disqualification of each defendant from managing a corporation.

These actions arise out of investigations following Cole Inquiry. The structure of those investigations is as follows:

(a) The AFP and Victoria Police are investigating criminal breaches of both Commonwealth and Victorian law (which investigations continue).

(b) ASIC is responsible for investigations under the ASIC Act, possible civil and criminal breaches of the Corporations Act.

Investigations into civil penalty proceedings was given more priority by ASIC because of the statute of limitation periods which apply to those actions and which do not apply to possible criminal proceedings (which investigations by ASIC continue). Commissioner Cole examined 27 contracts between AWB and the Iraqi Grain Board (IGB). The Corporations Act limits the time for the commencement of civil penalty proceedings to six years. The time limit had expired for 20 of the contracts when the Cole Inquiry concluded in November 2006 and two expired in February and June 2007.

The contracts covered by ASIC's proceedings were entered into between 20 December 2001 and 11 December 2002 and involved the payment of AUD$126.3 million in breach of UN sanctions.

The defendants in the ASIC actions are:
  • Andrew Lindberg, the former Managing Director of AWB;
  • Trevor Flugge, the former Chairman of AWB;
  • Peter Geary, the former Group General Manager Trading of AWB;
  • Paul Ingleby, the former Chief Financial Officer of AWB;
  • Michael Long, the former General Manager of International Sales and Marketing for AWB (2001-2006); and
  • Charles Stott, the former General Manager of International Sales and Marketing for AWB (2000-2001).
ASIC alleges that these officers breached their duties under the Corporations Act in connection with AWB's contracts with the IGB under the United Nations (UN) Oil-for-Food Program, which contained payments for purported inland transportation fees (ITF). The ITF payments were made to Alia, a Jordanian company partly owned by the Iraqi Ministry of Transport.

ASIC alleges that Messrs Long, Geary and Stott were officers of AWB who:
  • knew of and implemented various AWB contracts that included the purported inland transportation fees;
  • were aware or ought to have been aware that the fees were not genuine; and
  • knew or ought to have known that the fees were, or were likely to be, contraventions of the UN sanctions upon trade with Iraq.
ASIC alleges that Messrs Lindberg, Flugge and Ingleby:
  • knew, or ought to have known, about the AWB contracts that included the purported inland transportation fees;
  • had obligations to make reasonable inquiries to ensure that AWB complied with obligations under UN sanctions upon trade with Iraq;
  • were aware, or ought to have been aware, that the fees were not genuine; and
  • knew, or ought to have known, that the fees were, or were likely to be, contraventions of the UN sanctions.
The regulator further alleges that all defendants caused harm to AWB through their conduct.

ASIC Chairman, Tony D'Aloisio said 'We have commenced these actions as we believe that the conduct of the directors and officers in these circumstances fell short of what the law requires in relation to the management and supervision of corporations'.

Background

ASIC alleges the payment of the inland transportation fees were in breach of UN Sanctions on Trade with Iraq, in particular Resolution 661, which prevented member states from making any payments that resulted in funds being made available to the Government of Iraq.

The regulator also believes Resolution 986 was breached. This resolution required funds from the UN Oil-for-Food program to be used exclusively to meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi population. "

http://www.asic.gov.au/ASIC/asic.nsf/byHeadline/07-332%20ASIC%20launches%20civil%20penalty%20action%20against%20former%20officers%20of%20AWB?opendocument

Commonwealth Ombudsman's report into Welfare to Work and Centrelink tales

Yesterday the Commonwealth Ombudsman released a report of his office's investigation into the application of penalties under Welfare to Work legislation.
 
"The report was critical of the practice of stopping a person's welfare payment before a decision was made about whether or not a penalty should apply. Under the Welfare to Work reforms, a jobseeker who does not comply with an activity (such as attending an interview) can face an eight-week non-payment period for a third or subsequent participation failure (or breach) in any 12-month period. Before a decision is made to stop payment, the suspected breaches must be reviewed by a specialist Centrelink officer to check if the person had a reasonable excuse for not completing the activity.
The Ombudsman's investigation queried whether the practice of stopping a payment before a decision is formally made was supported by the social security law. Timeliness in decision making was also raised as an issue.
The practices criticised in the Ombudsman's report could adversely disadvantage Centrelink customers, by depriving them of the following options:
* arranging their financial affairs in anticipation of a penalty being imposed
* applying for a review of Centrelink's decision (because no formal decision had yet been made)
* accessing the Financial Case Management scheme administered by Centrelink, which can assist a customer to meet the costs of essential household and living expenses."
Commonwealth Ombudsman media release 19 December:
 
What is fascinating in all this is that Centrelink had been acting in breach of legislation for at least a 15 month period and there was apparently no oversight by any federal government department as to how this outsourced service was implementing the Welfare to Work penalty provisions.
 
Miraculously government bureaucrats and Centrelink management began to develop a conscience after being contacted by the Ombudsman and benefit payment is no longer stopped before the suspected breach is reviewed. 
However, I have to wonder if the imminent federal election made them all more amenable to the draft report.
The Howard era of blame-the-victim and all-the-unemployed-are-worthless-bludgers was obviously in full swing up to that point.  
 
Practically everyone on the North Coast has their favourite Centrelink story about a local trying to avoid being 'breached' when on unemployment benefits. This one was relayed to me a few years back by someone living in Iluka, a small town at the mouth of one of the largest rivers on the east coast of Australia.
It goes something like this.
ILUKA: I'm phoning to ask if I can fax in my lodgment papers today instead of attending the office in person, as the town where I live is cut-off by flood water at present. 
CENTRELINK: Which office do you usually attend?
ILUKA: I usually drop off at the agency in Maclean, but Grafton is the main office.
CENTRELINK: You can't get into Maclean or Grafton at all?
ILUKA: No, the only road out of town is cut.
CENTRELINK: Yamba has a Centrelink agency and it's close to you, why can't you go there?
ILUKA: Yamba is on the other side of the Clarence River.
CENTRELINK: Can't you take a boat or something across the river and hand in your papers?
ILUKA: You want me to get in a dingy and row across a mile-wide river in full flood just so that I can lodge my papers? There are whole trees whizzing down that river right now. If the flood didn't wash a small boat out to sea, one of those tree trunks smashing into the boat would demolish it and kill anyone onboard.
CENTRELINK: Well OK, but you can only fax your papers this once.
 

Heigh-ho heigh-ho, it's off to work we go

Kevin Rudd has recently announced an extra 15 sitting days for the 2008 federal parliamentary year and 14 of these will be Fridays.
This will be a total of 82 sitting days up from an average of 62 days each year under the Howard Government.
Good one, Kev. Time for those regular long-weekends to disappear. Time to make all pollies (specially those beggars now in opposition) work their tails off to address the backlog of unresolved national problems Howard and his mates left us with.
Fourteen Fridays is a good start, but remember that Federal Parliament started its life averaging around 95 sitting days a year.
From what I can gather it also took those earlier pollies around seven times longer to debate the merits of a bill than it does now. Must have been some serious debating back in those days.
Now, Kev - about those taxpayer-funded overseas 'study' tours pollies take when parliament isn't sitting........

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Rudd Government lives up to its dubious promise regarding NT Intervention land grab

Under the NT Intervention the Howard Government promised a paltry $5 million over 15 years and 25 new houses over 2 years in its grab for pristine and valuable land on Bathurst Island in the Tiwi island group.
The deal struck was contentious and appears to have split the indigenous community.
The Rudd Government has lived up to its election promise to let this 99 year lease agreement on the Nguiu township stand and on 14 December did the necessary amendment to allow the land grab to go forward.
See:
It appears we can change the political colour of federal government, but we can't remove the cheapskate mentality.
Nor can we seem to impress upon the new Rudd Government that any planned measures to improve the lives of indigenous Australians did not require taking control of their lands for the next two generations.

Healthy rewards for unsuccessful NSW North Coast Nationals

Never say that losing at an Australian federal election doesn't have its advantages.
Taxpayers make sure candidates are not seriously out of pocket and in some cases may even award a healthy profit.
With independently wealthy Liberal Malcolm Turnbull rumoured to have partially funded Libs and Nats in marginal seats, one has to wonder if unsuccessful North Coast Nationals will end up making a slight profit on the whole political exercise.

Chris Gulaptis who lost in Page appears to be taking home around $77,317 in AEC authorised payment.
Sue Page who lost in Richmond seems to be receiving about $63,289.
In case you're wondering - that's a bit over $2 for every person who marked them as number one on the ballot paper.

The Australian desperate for a 'bad' Labor story?

Over two weeks ago Deputy-Prime Minister Julia Gillard appeared on Channel Ten's Meet the Press in a panel interview discussing the proposed implementation of changes to industrial relations legislation.
The show's transcript records this exchange between The Australian representative and Ms. Gillard.
"BRAD NORINGTON: Good morning, Ms Gillard. We've heard what Dr Nelson has just had to say about your proposed transition bill to abolish WorkChoices. When will we see your transition bill and what's in it?
JULIA GILLARD: I can very clearly tell you what's in it, Brad. The transition bill, the policy decisions associated with it will go to Cabinet before Christmas. We will have our transition bill for the opening of Parliament next year. And the transition bill is a very simple one - it will end the ability of employers to make Australian Workplace Agreements. Now the choice here for the Liberal Party and for the Leader of the Opposition is very clear - do they want to support Labor's bill and end forever the ability of Australians to have the safety net at work stripped away from them or do they stand for stripping away the safety net from Australians at work? It's a clear choice. Australian Workplace Agreements can strip the safety net away. We want to end that. Does the Leader of the Opposition support ordinary Australians at work being at risk of losing basic conditions?
BRAD NORINGTON: You've been very quite clear, specific - the bill is all about abolishing Australian Workplace Agreements. When will Labor reinstate unfair dismissal laws for all workers? JULIA GILLARD: For anybody who has read our policy plans - and they were comprehensively published many months before the election - people would know the transition bill was always going to be about ending workplace agreements. There of course will be a second substantial piece of legislation which will deliver on the rest of our promises, including that the promise to ensure there's a simple unfair dismissal system. I simply don't believe it's fair or balanced for a worker who has given good service for 5, 10, 15, 20 years to lose their work without reason and have no remedy. Once again, it's a question for the Leader of the Opposition - does he think that's fair, that after 20 years you could be sacked for no reason and have no remedy because that's what WorkChoices provides and that's what we want to get rid of?
BRAD NORINGTON: Will you overturn the Howard Government's unfair dismissal regime and give all workers the right to claim unfair sacking?
JULIA GILLARD: Well, we will do that in our substantive piece of legislation. We will get that in to the Parliament as soon as it can be done. Obviously we want to draft it in a consultative way, including an exposure draft, that will take a number of months. People should anticipate that in the first half of next year.
MARIA HAWTHORNE: You will try and get that through with a hostile Senate? We'd be saying to the National Party and the Liberal Party that the Australian people have spoken and they've asked for a fair and balanced industrial relations system. This wasn't a marginal part of the last election campaign, it was a key part. So we would ask for the will of the Australian people to be honoured and ask the Liberal Party and the National Party, do they stand by awards stripping AWAs, do they stand by good workers being sacked unfairly for no reason and having no remedy?
BRAD NORINGTON: Labor achieved a lot of support from people because of its promise to abolish the Howard Government's WorkChoices. What do you say to people who may have a long wait for the AWAs are abolished and based on what you have just told us, may have to wait many months before they have a right to claim unfair dismissal?
JULIA GILLARD: We've always been crystal clear with the Australian people about this. It's in our published policy and I said it consistently in the run-up to the election - we can't overnight undo all of the harm that the Howard government has done to working Australians through WorkChoices. We need to legislate for change. We want to legislate in a careful and measured way. We want to get the legislation right. The last thing we want to do with the substantial piece of legislation is do what the Howard government did with WorkChoices, which is draft it poorly and then amend it again and again and again. We want to get it right first time. We'll take the time necessary to do that. But from that piece of legislation on, WorkChoices will be over and there will be a fair and balanced system for people in this country. That's what they voted for and they voted for knowing it would take some time to build because we told them that before the election."
Meet the Press transcript for 2 December:
 
Now it seems The Australian editor is rather desperate for a 'bad' Rudd Government story and while ignoring the substance of the Meet the Press exchange, this bit of misdirection was all he could come up with after a good boo-ya about unions.
"JULIA Gillard's hopes of dealing quickly with industrial relations and moving on to the federal Government's promised education revolution are looking more optimistic than ever. Cabinet has ticked off on Labor's election promise to scrap Australian Workplace Agreements with a cumbersome but short-lived transitional plan. The more substantial changes being planned by Labor are now less certain and will have a longer gestation than anyone anticipated.----
"While quick action to outlaw new AWAs was expected, even though existing ones can continue until the next term of government, few had anticipated the potential Pandora's Box that Ms Gillard has opened up to deal with the balance of Labor's IR reforms. The first hint that not everything was set in stone came during an interview with Ms Gillard on the Ten Network's Meet The Press two weeks ago. Ms Gillard said that contrary to expectations, Labor's initial IR legislation would not include the reintroduction of unfair dismissal laws for small business. The unfair dismissal provisions would instead be dealt with in a second, comprehensive package of legislation that would involve a period of consultation and be ready some time next year."
 
Although the related story "Unions in IR threat" tried to turn the issue into a confrontation between the Rudd Government and the union movement over unfair dismissal laws allegedly not coming in until 2010, the truth managed to slip across the page.
According to ACTU President Sharon Burrows; "A major problem with Work Choices was the haste with which it was rushed through parliament," she said.
"Labor won't make this mistake. New IR laws need to be properly drafted and subject to reasonable consultation. The ACTU is not setting a time frame but do want to see the main components in place as soon as practicable."
The Australian article:

What the 2007 federal election is costing taxpayers in little extras

According to a media release yesterday the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has authorised the first payment to political parties and candidates for votes received at the 2007 federal election.

The total of the first payment is $46,536,277.23. Payments have been made to seven parties and 15 independent candidates.

Payment is made in two stages. The first stage is 95 per cent of the amount due based on the number of votes counted as at the 20th day after election day. The second is the remainder due once vote counting is finalised.

Payments are calculated using an indexed sum per first preference vote. At the 2007 federal election, each first preference vote was worth 210.027 cents.

In order to obtain election funding a candidate must obtain at least 4% of the first preference vote.

At the 2004 federal election, the AEC paid out $41,926,158.91 in total to ten Parties and 15 independent candidates. The funding rate for the 2004 federal election was 194.397 cents per vote.

Below is a breakdown of the first payment of election funding for the 2007 federal election

AMOUNT AS AT THE END OF COUNTING ON 14 DECEMBER 2007

Name Amount ($)

Parties
Australian Labor Party 20,922,325.51
Liberal Party of Australia 17,222,359.78
Australian Greens 4,148,615.11
National Party of Australia 3,076,663.58
Pauline's United Australia Party 202,440.72
Northern Territory Country Liberal Party 160 719.91
Family First Party 133 965.51


Independent candidates
Nick Xenophon (Senate, South Australia) 296,627.70
Tony Windsor (New England) 105,217.86
Bob Katter (Kennedy) 64,919.66
Gavin Priestley (Calare) 37,979.71
Tim Horan (Parkes) 34,114.90
Caroline Hutchinson (Fisher) 21,141.74
Gavan O'Connor (Corio) 21,010.05
Noel Brunning (Forrest) 19,800.93
Aaron Buman (Newcastle) 12,655.91
Ben Quin (Lyons) 12,155.10
Cate Molloy (Wide Bay) 11,125.55
Ray McGhee (Boothby) 8 759.18
Rob Bryant (Murray) 8,727.25
Tim Williams (Macquarie) 8,270.34
Jamie Harrison (Lyne) 6,636.23

Total 46,536,277.23

Senate seats for NSW declared today

At 1.30pm today the following candidates at the 2007 federal election will be declared elected as senators for New South Wales:
Mark Arbib (Labor)
Helen Coonan (Liberal)
Doug Cameron (Labor)
John Williams (Nationals)
Marise Payne (Liberal)
Ursula Stephens (Labor)
 
Party representation at this election was matched with both Labor and the Coalition having three senators each.
Go Whalers!
 

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Was the Coalition dishonest when in government?

At the declaration of the poll for the electorate of Page on Monday December 17 the unsuccessful National Party candidate Chris Gulaptis had this to say about the Coalition's loss:

"It's an opportunity for conservatives in opposition to make sure they represent us honestly."

Reading between the lines, one could easily arrive at the conclusion that Gulaptis thought that when the Coalition was in government its representation was something less than honest.

Quite honestly, that's rather easy to believe. Just look at the bundles of tripe the Howard government, and especially a number of its infamous ministers, served up for public consumption.


The Daily Examiner's report on the declaration of the poll is at:
http://www.dailyexaminer.com.au/localnews/storydisplay.cfm?storyid=3758647&thesection=localnews&thesubsection=&thesecondsubsection=

ANZ Bank to use Equator Principles when looking to finance Gunn's contentious pulp mill in Tasmania

The Australia and New Zealand Banking Group will be using the Equator Principles to assess any financial involvement with Malcolm Turnbull's 'love child', the Bell Bay pulp mill in northern Tasmania.
Would-be pulp mill owner Gunn's has been a customer of the ANZ since 1995. Not nearly as long as some of the bank's Mum and Dad account holders or other corporate clients.
I'm sure that a good many investors, bank customers and potential customers will be watching this process with interest.
Any attempt to use these principles simply as a PR airbrush is likely to have the opposite result.
ANZ Current Issues page:
 
"For a number of years, banks working in the project finance sector had been seeking ways to develop a common and coherent set of environmental and social policies and guidelines that could be applied globally and across all industry sectors. In October 2002, a small number of banks convened in London, together with the World Bank Group's International Finance Corporation (IFC), to discuss these issues. The Banks present decided jointly to try and develop a banking industry framework for addressing environmental and social risks in project financing. This led to the drafting of the first set of Equator Principles by these banks which were then launched in Washington, DC on June 4 2003. These Principles were ultimately adopted by over forty financial institutions during a three year implementation period. A subsequent updating process took place in 2006 leading to a newly revised set of Equator Principles that were released in July 2006."
The Equator Principles:

Housing affordability on the NSW North Coast

It's good to see Lismore City Council adopting an innovative resolution to spend up to $2.5 million to guarantee the purchase of 50 homes for first home-buyers.
However, this move might help the few lucky families eventually involved but it does little to solve the home affordability issue which has crept out of the large metropolitan areas and is now making home ownership a distant dream for many in low-income areas on the NSW North Coast.

Lismore City Council has also recently approved a homeless shelter in the district.
With private rental costs steadily rising it is time for the Rudd Government to reassess the state of public housing across the nation and move, in partnership with the States, to rebuild these housing stocks to a level which reflects actual need on the ground.
Quixotic gestures make us feel good, but serious and widespread effort is required if Kevin Rudd is to live up to his election campaign rhetoric.
Of course it's early days yet and in rural and regional Australia many hope that 2008 will see a commitment to address public housing shortfalls.


The Northern Rivers Echo last Thursday:

http://www.echonews.com/index.php?page=View%20Article&article=19337&issue=306

Few noticed Andrew Bartlett's leaving as Senate forms a new face

In all the blather surrounding the Kyoto conference in Bali there has been little time to notice that the Australian Democrats federal leader and Queensland senator, Andrew Bartlett also lost his seat at the 24 November election and will no longer sit after 30 June 2008.
One of the saddest outcomes of this election has been the demise of the Democrats.
They will be sorely missed on Senate committees.
November 24 delivered us the same old two-horse race in the upper house, with minor parties and independents holding the balance of power.
A list of senators announced as elected so far (final AEC list should be out later today):
Nick Sherry (ALP)
Richard Colbeck (Lib)
Bob Brown (Greens)
Carol Brown (ALP)
David Bushby (Lib)
Catryna Bilyk (ALP)
Don Farrell (ALP)
Cory Bernardi (Lib)
Nick Xenophon (IND)
Penny Wong (ALP)
Simon Birmingham (Lib)
Sarah Hanson-Young (Greens)
Ian Douglas MacDonald (Lib)
John Joseph Hogg (ALP)
Sue Boyce (Lib)
Claire Moore (ALP)
Ron Boswell (Nationals)
Mark Furner (ALP)
Kate Lundy (ALP)
Gary Humphries (Lib)

Monday, 17 December 2007

Howard acolytes scramble for a new place in the sun

"The next group of potential losers comes from those interest groups and lobbyists identified with the Howard government. Every lobbyist in the country is reflecting now on their contacts with the new Government and rethinking their strategies. But those most urgently reflecting are those who campaigned against Labor. Some are even attempting to rewrite the history of their role.

The potential losers include some in the business community. They got preferential treatment from the Howard government in various ways, including the industrial relations reforms, and are now nervous about their future. The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry was recognised as the business lobby group closest to the former government. Not surprisingly its chief executive, Peter Hendy, has been under internal pressure since the election to justify his position.

The National Farmers' Federation has also been retreating from its pre-election advocacy. Some of its campaign advertising, though not all, was pro-government and anti-Labor. This was a calculated risk. Since the election, the federation has tried to deny that this was the case."
The Canberra Times last Thursday:
http://canberra.yourguide.com.au/news/opinion/opinion/losers-scramble-for-a-place-in-rudds-new-queue/1104275.html

Of course all these lobbyists and special interest groups will retain access to the Federal Government. However it would be nice to see these rabid little neo-cons fall to the back of the queue for a while at least. A smidgen of poetic justice wouldn't go astray right now.

Sore loser or clumsy archivist?

This is what came on the screen when I tried to click on to www.chrisgulaptis.com.au to see if unsuccessful Nationals candidate for Page Chris Gulaptis had released a concession speech after 24 November.
Reverse lookup command gone wrong? Or perhaps second thoughts about leaving those campaign bon mots out there for all to see?
Surely not a deliberate attempt to bar North Coast residents from the website.

You are not authorized to view this page

The Web server you are attempting to reach has a list of IP addresses that are not allowed to access the Web site, and the IP address of your browsing computer is on this list.

Please try the following:

  • Contact the Web site administrator if you believe you should be able to view this directory or page.

HTTP Error 403.6 - Forbidden: IP address of the client has been rejected.
Internet Information Services (IIS)


Big Brother 2007

In the Northern Territory certain Australian citizens can have personal control of money from their own old age pensions taken away, because of how they are thought to be behaving or because of how they just might behave in the future.
Queensland is about to do the same thing to some other citizens.
Other types of welfare payment are also subject to this snatch and grab.
Just how long do you think it will be until every Australian pensioner has to behave as Big Brother orders or lose control of their money? 
I'm betting less than three years, if the Rudd Government continues to be led through the nose by a public service so politicised during the Howard years that it is still actively running a right-wing agenda in advice given to government.
 
Struth, it's so crook that one portfolio within the Deputy-Prime Minister's brief, the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, employs some public servants openly lamenting Howard and Hockey's demise. While loudly criticising everything about the new minister from her IQ to her speaking voice, laying bets on when she shall lose this portfolio and vowing to make sure that everything will be steadily moving forward according to their own agenda.
Word in your ear, boys - when you go home for the hols don't discuss the matter in public if you want to keep your little revolt quiet. Oops! Think you've already opened your mouth.

Wasn't it nice to see Bali delegates finally lose patience with America

Well I'm sure that wasn't something the United States was expecting.
Its delegate to the Kyoto conference in Bali loudly booed from the meeting floor, and then tiny Papua New Guinea rising to tell US representatives that if America was not prepared to lead on climate change solutions it should get out of the way.
Of course by then the US had all but wrecked the efforts of over 190 nations to create meaningful greenhouse gas emissions targets for the world to work towards over the next few years.
Maybe by 2009 Kyoto countries will have found the spine to kick the US right out the conference door if it remains as intransigent.
One can almost hear that famous American sphere of influence beginning to shrink, and the more effects of global warming begin to bite, the quicker that influence will disappear.
 

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Where, oh where, has Caro gone?

Journalist Caroline Overington is becoming harder to find than Wally. I haven't seen a recent article by Overington in The Australian online since, well since just before the 24 November federal election.
Is she on holidays, leave of absence, resigned, been 'let go', busy suing bloggers or what?
If anyone sees Caro drop me a comment - would love to know where she finally roosts at full moon.

How 'fat' is fat and why is it a disease?

"The next time someone, even a health minister, tries to make you feel guilty about carrying a few extra kilos, just say no."
Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon gets a slap on the wrist. And not without a measure of reason.

'How to stop the US sabotaging a global response to climate change' in one easy lesson

Once again we have witnessed the United States impose its will on a reluctant world. The UN December 2007 conference on the Kyoto Protocol and climate change has bowed to American pressure. The Bali 'roadmap' has been watered down until it is simply another signal that it's acceptable to continue to go slowly on any global response to climate change.
 
Sometimes it seems that US economic might and defence capability leaves us all with no choice but to cave-in when this bully thumps the table to protect what it sees as its own economic 'divine right'. However, concern over global warming is so widespread that ordinary people now have an issue which unites their individual economic power into an international might which could take on the US.
 
So if you are one of those ordinary little people who want to see global warming tackled before it is too late, use your personal economic power to send a message to America to shape up or ship out. Decide today that you will no longer buy goods, services, products or produce which originate in the US or come from US-owned companies.
Boycott America until it decides to become a responsible global citizen.
 
Where to start? Look at the labels on groceries stacked on supermarket shelves, make sure you check company and country of origin on those jeans, CDs, stereos, TVs, washing machines etc., that you are thinking of buying. If you own shares, become an ethical investor and dump any that represent US-owned companies. 
What better way than to start than with the Fortune 500 at:
 
If America only views the world through the prism of its own short-term economic bottom line - let us all give it a bottom line to remember in 2008.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Australia leading from the rear on climate change

Fair dinkum, it's embarrassing. There's the Rudd Government huddled at the bottom of a Bali trench yelling "Charge!" and urging other nations over the top in this latest battle of the War on Global Warming.
While the Rudd Government's loyal opposition, protected by its non-combatant status, hands out white feathers to delegates as they move up to the firing steps.
I know Minister for Climate Change and Water Penny Wong is probably breaking her heart trying to do a good job at the UN conference, but it is disappointing to see a new government (which earlier this year promised Australia that it would have 20% renewable energy by 2020 and committed itself to establishing domestic emission reduction targets) publicly and privately knuckle under to American interests in this way.
It's no way to fight a war. It's no way to tackle climate change. It's no way to protect Australia's future.
Like many others on the North Coast I await dispatches from the front this morning and hope for better news.

Why are greedy tax cheats accorded protected species status?

Adele Horin in The Sydney Morning Herald (December 15), has rightfully pointed out the slanted position taken by authorities when addressing the issue of moneys missing from the public purse.

Horin takes a look at how welfare cheats and tax cheats are treated in Australia.

Welfare cheats are soft targets so they get a hammering but tax cheats, who are a protected species, get easy runs home.

In part, Horin wrote:

If tax cheats were hounded as assiduously as welfare cheats, Australia would be better off. But under the old regime, welfare cheats - so-called - were pursued to the ends of the Earth while tax cheats slid under the radar.

Millions of dollars were poured into detecting welfare fraud while in the last years of the Howard government one-third as much was spent tracking down tax cheats, according to budget papers.


The inequity led Professor John Braithwaite, of the Australian National University, an expert on corporate crime, to remark last year that the DPP had taken "soft, easy cases and they are the frauds of poor people. The frauds of sophisticated rich people who are aggressively defended by the best lawyers money can buy deliver lower success rates [to the DPP]."

The government stood to recoup far more from tax cheats than from welfare cheats. On economic grounds alone, it should have ramped up the fight against tax avoiders. According to budget papers, for every dollar spent chasing tax avoiders, the government would recoup $7.53 compared with only $1.94 from the welfare fraudsters. In the end, fewer than 3500 people are convicted of welfare fraud in a year from a population of 6.5 million social security recipients.

Read the entire article "Tax dodgers laughing as the poor are hounded" at:
http://www.smh.com.au/news/opinion/tax-dodgers-laughing-as-the-poor-are-hounded/2007/12/14/1197568262862.html


Unfortunately, Horin didn't include superannuation cheats in her article. Although they didn't get a mention, superannuation cheats are out there in big numbers.

So, you ask, "Who are the superannuation cheats?"

Answer: These cheats are thieving employers who do not make the mandatory super contributions for their employees.

"Who's responsible for ensuring employers do the right thing and meet their responsibilities and pay their employees' super?"

Answer: The Australian Taxation Office.

"If the ATO doesn't address the issue of tax cheats properly how can it be expected to address the problem of super cheats?"

Answer: To use the words of Horin, "more hounding, and more tabloid headlines, would not go astray."

PS:
Memo to all employees
- contact your super fund and check to see that your employer has paid your super in full. Unfortunately, many employees are being dudded every pay period. Their pay slips show how much super should be going to their fund BUT their employers are pocketing it for themselves.

You can change the racing silks but the nag remains a nag and not a thoroughbred

The post-election Liberals yet again showing signs of desperation.
"Queensland Liberal Senator Ian Macdonald, the former Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation, today urged the Nationals to join the Liberals to form a united conservative party.
He said it was a "farce" that the two parties pretend to be different.
It's not the first merger proposal between the two parties, with then prime minister John Howard and Nationals leader Mark Vaile blocking a proposal from Queensland Nationals leader Lawrence Springborg and his Liberal counterpart Bob Quinn in 2006."
 
I would have thought that the Nationals only chance to regain ground over the next three years lay in donning their own distinctive colours, distancing themselves from the now discredited Liberal Party parliamentary nags and running candidates against their current coalition partner at the 2010 federal election.
As it now stands the Liberals frequently treat them as an irrelevancy - so why shouldn't voters.

Stakes raised in opposition to Japanese whale hunt

Australia is looking to the Rudd Government to begin active protection of whales in Australian territorial waters.
"The Humane Society International is seeking a Federal Court injunction to stop the Japanese whalers and says the public will expect strong action from the Rudd Government if the group is successful.
"They will be required to stop the hunt," HSI spokeswoman Nicola Beynon said to ABC radio.
"The traditional means for stopping the hunt would be to intercept the ships and forcibly stop the hunt.
"And if the Government's not prepared to do that, the Humane Society International and the Australian public will be expecting them to find some other means of stopping the hunt."
 
The Coalition squibs it.
"While the Coalition opposes the whale hunt, Dr Nelson – the former defence minister – says the proposal to use the navy to gather evidence on Japan's whalers raises more questions that it answers.
And he is worried it could harm strong security and trade ties with Japan."
 
News.com.au article yesterday:

Friday, 14 December 2007

A blast from the past

Just for the record, this snap shows Chris Gulaptis (middle), who was the National Party's unsuccessful candidate for Page in the 2007 Federal election, providing 'advice' to the current State MP for Clarence Steve Candsell (left) and the former Federal MP for Page Ian Causley.

Whatever Chris said, it wasn't worth a cracker.

Coalition still in terminal post-election spiral?

The Liberal Party has been locked in its own internal blame game at federal level and is tearing itself apart at state level in Western Australia, Queensland and the ACT, with the Liberals ACT leader Bill Sefaniak being the most recent victim to lose his head on the block.
Continuing Federal Liberal leadership speculation indicates the blame game is not about to end anytime soon.
The Age article today:
http://news.theage.com.au/turnbull-denies-leadership-challenge/20071214-1h29.html

Here is an short honour role of the principal blame gamers.
Andrew Robb:
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/12/13/2117529.htm?section=australia
Wilson Tuckey:
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/12/12/2117120.htm?section=justin
Alexander Downer:
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,22895466-33435,00.html
Brian Loughnane:
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,22916201-2702,00.html
Malcolm Turnbull:
http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/libs-blessed-to-have-turnbull-nelson/2007/12/02/1196530481020.html
Peter Costello:
http://news.sbs.com.au/worldnewsaustralia/costello_blames_howard_for_election_loss_136671
Tony Abbott:
http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/libs-turn-on-howard/2007/11/26/1196036812217.html
Christopher Pyne and Nick Minchin:
http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/articles/2007/11/26/1196036846690.html

Akerman plays fast and loose with the truth again

Under the guise of an opinion piece, The Daily Telegraph's Piers Akerman misrepresents the history of the David Hick's matter and tries to smear Labor MP Maxine McKew by association using an incredibly long bow.
Given the subject of his blog was the imminent release of Hicks, why on earth was it relevant to mention that Maxine McKew received favourable comment from GetUp! during the election campaign?
It seems poor Piers is still unable to come to terms with his Liberal Party hero's fall from grace and is indulging in a little nasty and misdirected payback.
The Daily Telegraph on Wednesday:

Noel Pearson tries to claw back credibility and influence

Noel Pearson made a real goose of himself during the recent federal election campaign and lost much of his credibility, when he used every opportunity to buttress the Howard Government and uttered statements regarding the Labor Party such as "Understand the heartless snake here. If you harbour any hope that these buggers are going to do anything courageous in relation to Indigenous affairs, then you're living in an illusion."
ABC News Noel Pearson on election eve: 
The Australian and Pearson on Kevin Rudd:
 
The Howard Government's subsequent resounding electoral loss left Noel Pearson out on a limb.
It is sad to see him in the media attempting to use the tragic circumstances of a rape case in order to revive his own political agenda concerning 'passive welfare' and reassert his influence with federal government. It may have been wiser to do a little quiet, behind the scenes fence building with the new Rudd Government instead.
 
There has been extensive media coverage of the Court's judgment in the Arakun rape case.
The Australian on edited sentencing submission in The Queen v Names Withheld:
The Courier Mail on Indictment No.146 of 2007 Cairns District Court;