Monday, 31 March 2008
Google reveals that before it was announced that Stuto, 27, was one of the four finalists in the running for the leading role he had no prior history in Googleland.
What? A 27 year old who doesn't have a Google track record?
Perhaps the Catholic church has pulled off the best long shot of the year. Then again, it could be that forces have been at work to ensure the church's selection has the appearance of a clean skin.
Sunday, 30 March 2008
That Mercy Ministries avails itself of government funding for highly questionable motives is in itself a disgrace, but that no government department, and especially a cabinet member of the Rudd Government, has as yet stepped up to the plate and put this matter on the public record suggests this mob of bible-bashers continues to wield power that they ought not have.
Mercy Ministries' Peter Irvine initially reckoned "only (that's Irvine's wording, not mine!) three" women had negative experiences with Mercy Ministries. Irvine subsequently revised the number and said it was six. Come on Mr Irvine, spare us the crap. One is one too many!
Hillary Clinton will lose New Hampshire and the race will be over
Hillary Clinton wins New Hampshire, defying the predictions and the polls
Hillary Clinton will lose the big states on Super Tuesday and the race will be over
Hillary Clinton wins the big states on Super Tuesday – and wins them by double digits
Hillary Clinton will lose Texas and possibly Ohio on March 4th and the race will be over
Hillary Clinton wins both Texas and Ohio on March 4th – and she wins Ohio by double digits
Despite Hillary Clinton's big victories on March 4th, "the math" works decisively against her
The math is simple: neither candidate has reached the number of delegates required to
secure the nomination and either candidate can win
Barack Obama is substantially ahead in the pledged delegate count; pledged delegates are the
The candidates are within fractions of one another on delegates; Barack Obama needs super
Sometimes it's just not worth getting out of bed for an unsuccessful Nationals candidate and mayoral hopeful
The difference between The Australian's take on what Kevin Rudd told Asahi Shimbun and what appears in that Japanese newspaper on the issue of Antarctic whaling appears to be more than a matter of nuance.
The Australian has Kevin Rudd willing to develop a whaling issue "scheme" and abandoning "legal action" but Asahi Shimbun remains completely silent on the former aspect and does not specifically address the latter.
So is Kevin Rudd starting to back down on Labor's support of the international moratorium on whaling or is someone being rather mischievous here?
Given that there seems to have been only one interview with the Japanese newspaper and knowing the rather unfortunate reputation of The Oz, one has to suspect that the Australian newspaper may have expanded what was said.
Last Thursday The Australian ran this article under the banner "Whaling olive branch to Japan"
"I know that it is not easy to have a solution and I understand that there exist very strong views about it in Japan," Mr Rudd is quoted as saying in the front-page article. "On the other hand, there also exist very strong views in Australia and in international society as well."
Rather than pursuing any legal action against the Japanese government-sponsored whaling, Mr Rudd wants to settle the matter diplomatically, Asahi told its readers yesterday.
The Japanese fleet is returning to port after killing an estimated 500-600 whales during the recent Southern Ocean hunt, partly in waters claimed by Australia.
The catch, less than two-thirds of the "research" quota Japan granted itself for this summer, reflects disruption by the harassing tactics of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Greenpeace vessels and a diplomatic row that forced the Japanese to abandon plans to kill 50 humpback whales for the first time in 20 years.
Canberra officials are examining evidence, including images of whale killings gathered by the Customs vessel Oceanic Viking, to decide whether to take action in an international court against Kyodo Senpaku whaling company.
"Our activities are to find out what's going on in the area, to find out if it is for scientific purposes, or is it commercial whaling?" Mr Rudd told Asahi. "When we (have) gathered (the) facts, we would like to co-operate with our Japanese friends to establish a scheme for the solution of the issue."
The interview came amid growing concern in Japan about the Australia relationship, and in particular with a Government led by a Prime Minister who once was a China specialist.
On the same day Asahi Simbun online ran this piece in Tokyo under the title "Rudd: Whale talks very, very difficult"
BY AKIHITO SUGII AND YUZURU TAKANO
CANBERRA--The feud between Japan and Australia over whaling can be resolved through diplomacy, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said, but he reiterated Canberra's criticism against Japan's research whaling.
"I'm optimistic that we can resolve these matters diplomatically," Rudd said Tuesday in an interview with Yoichi Funabashi, editor in chief of The Asahi Shimbun. "I am fully appreciative of the fact that it would be very, very difficult."
Rudd pledged to oppose whaling during his campaign in November last year that led his Labor Party to win control of the government for the first time in 11 years.
The Australian government under Rudd has dispatched a customs ship to conduct surveillance of Japanese whaling vessels and other steps to strengthen restrictions on whaling.
Rudd reiterated the Australian government's position that has been critical of what Japan has described as scientific whaling.
"The reason we have undertaken the actions we have is to establish in our own mind the facts of what's transpiring down there, vis-a-vis scientific or commercial whaling," Rudd said.
Despite the differences over whaling, Rudd stressed the importance of bilateral relations with Japan for Australia, especially in the area of national security.
"The relationship with Japan is an absolutely core relationship for the Australian government," Rudd said.
Rudd indicated his government would maintain the same course in the cooperative relationship on national security between Australia, Japan and the United States established by his predecessor, John Howard.
"We have reaffirmed the importance of our trilateral discussions between ourselves, the United States and the government of Japan," Rudd said.
At the same time, Rudd took a more pessimistic view toward a proposal made by then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to create a four-party cooperative relationship that would include India.
Rudd will visit the United States, Europe and China from Thursday on his first major trip abroad since becoming prime minister.
When asked about concerns that Rudd's government was skipping Japan, the prime minister indicated that the fundamental relationship would not be affected because he described the relationship between Australia and Japan as "good, strong, mature, robust."
Rudd also expressed expectations that Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda would demonstrate leadership during the Group of Eight summit to be held in July at Lake Toyako, Hokkaido. Rudd has been invited to represent Australia at that summit as an observer.
"It depends on how Prime Minister Fukuda wishes to conduct the summit, and I understand that obviously climate change will figure prominently at the summit," Rudd said.
Rudd also indicated that he would bring up the issue of clashes in Tibet during his talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao on his trip to Beijing.
"I will raise the human rights concerns with the Chinese government," Rudd said.
The interview Tuesday was Rudd's first with a Japanese media organization since he became prime minister.(IHT/Asahi: March 27,2008)
Saturday, 29 March 2008
Next time readers sit down to one of their gastronomical extravaganzas featuring such delicacies as baked beans (salt-reduced, of course) they should spare a thought, or two, for the poor GPs who suffer the enormous indignity of having to rely on drug company handouts for their very survival.
Yes, readers, "every working day, more than 200 health professionals, mostly doctors, attend an "educational event" garnished with food and drink supplied by a pharmaceutical company." (SMH, March 29)
The Herald reports that "in just six months last year these get-togethers attracted attendances totalling 385,221."
But, there's more, ...
A "review by consulting firm Deloitte found drug companies paid out $43 a head in hospitality. It has identified 52 events which will be investigated for breaches against the industry's code of conduct, which was designed to end lavish dinners and entertainment for doctors."
And, even more, ...
In addition to the largess described above there's "routine schmoozing that the $17 billion-a-year pharmaceutical industry undertakes with individual doctors."
"Not covered by the seemingly exhaustive list of 14,633 events reported are even more frequent sessions drug company representatives hold with individual doctors and staff at morning teas or light lunches that a rep brings to the surgery. Many practices are called on more than once a week by reps, who, while they cannot sell drugs to a doctor, promote their company's products."
Read the Herald's report here.
Friday, 28 March 2008
TONY EASTLEY: The Federal Government will quarantine the $5,000 Baby Bonus from parents who neglect or abuse their children. Families Minister Jenny Macklin says parents will instead receive the bonus in the form of vouchers to buy items like prams and nappies.
Leaving aside the fact that Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs is merely parroting the former Howard Government and the previous ministerial incumbent; the Welfare Rights Centre pointed out in 2006 that such a move was not going to solve the problem of bad parenting and would be unlikely to stop individual abuse of welfare payments by recipients with an established alcohol, drug or gambling addiction.
Since then Ms. Macklin has moved from endorsing a straight voucher system to talking of implementing a debit card or store cards which would be useable at approved stores and for approved purchases.
The aim still appears to be to progress that old neo-con agenda. Starting with the Baby Bonus and other family payments as a trial of the electorate's gullibility, before moving onto the unemployed, disabled and finally introducing universal income management for all pension, benefit and allowance recipients from groups which are not seen as politically powerful.
Such income management would eventually stop 50% of the fortnightly welfare payment from going directly into a recipient's own personal bank or building society account, and 100% of all advance or lump sum payments would also no longer be given as cash payments into accounts.
Now here's the rub for any rural or regional parent receiving one of these debit/store cards (who even lives within commutable distance of one of the government-favoured big three, Coles, Woolworths and K-Mart) covering the Baby Bonus or other family allowance. These future guinea pigs who are already being identified as 'bad' by both the media and the Minister.
Rural and regional towns and villages are by definition reasonably small - if you don't actually socialise with the person standing next to you, you frequently know a friend of theirs or their children go to school or weekend sports with yours.
Store clerks and cashiers have no training and often no tact when it comes to welfare recipients as it is. They sometimes have no compunction in identifying store gift vouchers, being presented for payment of purchases, as having come from a non-government welfare agency.
In one instance I witnessed a cashier confiscating a packet of sweets from a very average pile of groceries a developmentally challenged adult (whom she only knew as a regular store customer) wanted to purchase with his gift voucher, on the stated grounds that lollies are not good for you.
When under any income management scheme almost inevitably one of these cashiers loudly and publicly tells a parent accompanied by a child that an item the parent wishes to purchase is not on the Centrelink/Community Services/Government list, everyone within earshot will be able to identify that family as 'dysfunctional' and the child as possibly considered to be neglected or abused.
Just how long do you think that child's privacy will last and his/her dignity remain intact when the local rumour mill will have that checkout incident across town and in the schoolyard within days?
One of the saddest aspects of Labor's rush to create its own form of Big Brother has been the sight of Ms. Macklin rising to her feet in Parliament last week and relying on a caller to the Alan Jones radio show for evidence of a need for Baby Bonus income management. A show notorious for setting up straw men to further its namesake's own biased arguments.
Ms. Macklin and the rest of the Rudd Government need to slow down here and develop a little political humility and compassion.
They are displaying nothing less than an arrogant paternalism. At the same time ignoring the fact that the Baby Bonus is currently not being handed out as a lump sum to identified dysfunctional families, but rather is being successfully and discretely delivered in instalments - without placing any child's right to privacy at risk or exposing a family to malicious gossip.
ABC News reported this late last night.
A senior Australian diplomat will be allowed to visit Tibet tomorrow, as a part of a delegation granted access by the Chinese Government.
Australia had requested diplomatic access to Tibet to assess the situation in the region, after a recent Chinese Government crackdown on protesters.
After initially ignoring the request, the Chinese Government has agreed to allow one senior diplomat from Australia's Beijing Embassy to join other foreign diplomats on a trip to Tibet, accompanied by Chinese officials.
The speed of China's approval has surprised the Australian Government.
Before leaving Australia for an overseas trip today, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd described the lack of access as a sticking point.
A spokeswoman for Foreign Minister Stephen Smith says the Australian diplomat hopes to check on the welfare of four Australians known to be in Tibet.
Clearly an instance where Kevin Rudd and Stephen Smith made better ground than might have been possible if John Howard and Alexander Downer were still at the helm.
Coming out from under 11 years of John Howard using this very same tactic, it was easy to spot the political dog whistles.
Teenagers out-of-control, bad parents, addicts.
This was confirmed mid-week when the COAG communique was posted at the Prime Minister of Australia website here.
"Binge Drinking. COAG today agreed on the importance of tackling alcohol misuse and binge drinking among young people. COAG agreed to ask the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy to report to COAG in December 2008 on options to reduce binge drinking including in relation to closing hours, responsible service of alcohol, reckless secondary supply and the alcohol content in ready to drink beverages. COAG also asked the Australia New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council to request Food Standards Australia New Zealand to consider mandatory health warnings on packaged alcohol.
Gambling. COAG agreed to continue to discuss issues related to problem gambling".
A perfect example of sound and fury signifying very little.
Not so easy is it fellas. Just because you are now teh Federal Government doesn't automatically mean you would be able to come up with instant easy-fix answers or allow you to pretend that this focus on binge drinking and gambling was anything other than a beat up.
I look forward to hearing you discover Laura Norder, border security and welfare 'cheats' next week.
Thursday, 27 March 2008
Ms Clague told The Daily Examiner that "For us as film-makers it's important to give it back to our community," ---
"This film is a gift to the Clarence River. It identifies Yaegl country really well,"
Pauline said she was excited and nervous about showing the film at Yamba.
"As a writer and producer it's hard to bring it back to my own community, but Mum and Dad have seen it and they're happy with it," she said."
Details of the film here.
When Colin Met Joyce will also be shown on SBS at 7.30pm on 1 August 2008.
However, Opposition spokesperson for environment and water Greg Hunt continues the Liberal's new tradition of counting kookaburras whenever it is brought face-to-face with another instance of cooperative endeavour between the Commonwealth and the States under the Rudd Labor Government.
Yesterday when a real breakthough was announced on management of water within the Murray-Darling Basin, I swear I heard Hunt on the teev repeating a version of his February line about the Murray-Darling being an "defining failure" of the Rudd Government.
Only this time he was calling it "an abiding failure".
After the complete, utter, total, abiding failure of the John Howard-Malcolm Turnbull attempt to bully the states into a collective formal agreement over this dying river system, all Hunt could do yesterday was accuse Rudd of a similar failure.
He has definitely taken to imitating the Laughing Jackass. A real Koo-koo-koo-waa-aah-aah-ah!
This new agreement may not be perfect, but at least it's a fair dinkum attempt.
You remember what fair dinkum means don't you, Greg?
Here is the Murray Darling Basin Reform Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Prime Minister and every Premier and State Minister with territory within the Murray-Darling Basin.
Wednesday, 26 March 2008
Apparently Abbott has been complaining about a lack of bipartisanship in government decision making in areas covered by his Indigenous Affairs shadow portfolio.
That was on Monday. By the next day that ever changeable far-right media tart was saying something different according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
They are now bringing out the family silver and holding a lottery. With first prize being an intimate dinner for three.
Will Barack finally talk detailed policy then?
Some of Barack's favorite moments of the campaign have been opportunities to meet and talk with the most important donors to this campaign: ordinary Americans just like you.
You've heard about all of these political fundraising dinners, hosted by Washington lobbyists and filled with representatives of special interests.
Contributions like these are at the root of what's wrong with politics. And John McCain and Hillary Clinton have built campaigns fueled by them.
But our campaign is different.
In February alone, more than 94% of our donors gave in amounts of $200 or less. Meanwhile, campaign finance reports show that donations of $200 or less make up just 13% of Senator McCain's total campaign funds, and only 26% of Senator Clinton's.
Our funding comes from a movement of more than one million people giving whatever they can afford.
And in the next week, four supporters will be selected for a new kind of fundraising dinner.
Make a donation in any amount between now and 11:59 pm EDT on Monday, March 31st, and you could join Barack and three other supporters for an intimate dinner for five.
We're reserving two of those seats for new donors like you. If you've ever thought about making a donation to join our campaign, now is the time:
This movement is changing the way campaigns are funded.
More than one million individual donors have demonstrated that this election is about more than a candidate -- it's about each of us having a personal stake in the future of American politics.
Meanwhile, Senator McCain has raised more than 70% of his total campaign funds from high-dollar donors giving $1,000 or more. Senator Clinton has raised 60% of her funds from $1,000-and-up donors. And both Senator McCain and Senator Clinton have accepted millions of dollars from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs.
Refusing to accept donations from lobbyists and special interests has allowed this campaign to answer only to ordinary Americans like you. And this dinner will be an opportunity for you to sit down with Barack and your fellow supporters and talk about the issues that matter in your life and in your community.
Get the kind of treatment that John McCain and Hillary Clinton reserve for special interests -- make a donation in the next week, and you could share your story and your ideas with Barack in person:
With every single donation, we're building a movement to change American politics. Help the movement grow, and own a piece of this campaign today.
Thanks for your support,
Obama for America
Tuesday, 25 March 2008
Monday, 24 March 2008
Port Stephens Council decided to use shipping containers to punish residents who lopped down 20 trees to improve their sea views.
A move which looks like being a lot more effective than the relatively small, neat and tidy bill boards commonly being used by councils on the NSW North Coast.
Well done, Port Stephens!
National Generators Forum wants major Australian emitters to be given greenhouse get-out-of-gaol-free card
Sunday, 23 March 2008
On 27th November 2007 in the case Walker v Minister for Planning  NSWLEC 741, Justice Peter Biscoe of the Land Environment Court ruled against a coastal development at Sandon Point, on the NSW south coast on the grounds that it will be likely to suffer from coastal flooding as a result of Climate Change. He found that the NSW Planning Minister had failed to consider "whether changed weather patterns would lead to an increased flood risk in connection with the proposed development in circumstances where flooding was identified as a major constraint on development of the site".
A part of his judgement relating to Ecologically Sustainable Development Principles
covers 49 pages and follows the history through the United Nations and other world forums of these principles which relate to, inter alia, preserving biodiversity and taking inter generational responsibility to ensure current developments are sustainable and will not impose an unnecessary burden on future generations.
An area of coastal vulnerability noted in the case was land within 3 kilometres of the high tide mark and under the 6 metre contour.
When we look at the current transportation policy in relation to road and rail freight corridors between Sydney and Brisbane we find that both the rail line which transports mainly bulky goods and the road freight corridor (Pacific Highway) which transports mainly non bulky goods both run within 1 kilometre of the coast when they pass through Coffs Harbour and both are situated under the 6 metre contour.
Lands within 3 kilometres of the coast and under the 6 metre contour have been recognised by planners and the Insurance Council of Australia as being vulnerable to severe weather events and coastal inundation.
A CSIRO report to the Victorian Government suggested that 1:100 severe weather events could occur every 5 years by 2070.
Buffer zones at Hearnes Lake (calculated for the Sandy/Hearnes Lake Estuary Management Plan) where the proposed motorway will run within 600 metres of the High Water Mark take into account rising sea levels and it has been suggested by WBM Oceanics (authors of the EMP) that planning horizons should cover the next 100 years and that the creation of major infrastructure within the coastal zone should be avoided.
The Environmental Assessment for the Sapphire to Woolgoolga section of the Pacific Highway indicates the cost of the new 6 lane motorway upgrade will cost close to $850 million by completion.
Given that $450 million has been invested in the Sydney Brisbane rail line recently and about $850 million will be spent on the 25 kilometre Sapphire to Arrawarra section of the Pacific Highway alone one has to wonder why is so much money being spent on ecologically unsustainable motorways.
The Tourism Transport Forum Ltd claims responsibility on their web site for lobbying the Howard Government into committing AusLink funding for the Hexham to Tweed upgrade of the Pacific Highway to tolled motorway standard and having it declared a national road freight corridor.
SHAG wonders if its members like the NRMA, the RTA, Toll Transport, Macquarie Bank and the AbiGroup who profit from motorway building will ever display the same awareness of Justice Peter Biscoe and others who embrace Ecologically Sustainable Development Principles and face the challenges of Climate Change and Peak Oil and the responsibility to future generations with wisdom and courage.
It is alarming to think that since the WBM Oceanics paper was written, the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets have been found to be melting at a rate of 150 billion cubic metres every year (Refer Appendix F).
Climate Change expert with NASA, Dr James Hansen (Appendix F), predicts that if the Earth’s temperature increases by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius this century that ocean levels could rise by up to 1 metre every 20 years. He claims the last time the Earth was 2 to 3 degrees warmer sea levels were 25 metres higher than they are today.
The Planning Minister Frank Sartor, should adopt the Precautionary Principle, refuse Pacific Highway upgrade works in the Northern Beaches of Coffs Harbour and get on with securing a "fit for purpose" rail freight network between Sydney and Brisbane as well as returning road freight to the New England Highway.
Sandy Hearnes Action Group (SHAG)
*Guest Speak is a new North Coast Voices feature airing serious or satirical comment by local individuals or groups.
Saturday, 22 March 2008
Obama for America
Friday, 21 March 2008
An Australian Senate committee report has highlighted that those who rely on the pension as their sole income are among those most in financial stress.
The committee's findings come as no surprise to those who struggle to subsist on the meagre pension, particularly single pensioners.
For some perverse reason, politicians, bureaucrats and other assorted bean counters have long figured that single pensioners have overheads that are significantly less than those of their married counterparts.
Even the most cursory examination of pensioners' expenditure records readily reveals that, for want of a better term, 'economies of scale' are had when couples live under the one roof and contribute towards their shared overheads such as rent and utilities.
Single pensioners face the same costs as couples. One doesn't have to be an Albert Einstein to understand that a more equitable approach to pensioner payments is long overdue.
That the committee has reported its findings and recommended an overhaul of pensions is commendable, but for something to be done about it, well that's another thing completely different.
Pensioners can expect to have to wait in their queue for some time. They would be well advised to not hold their breath while waiting for an appropriate course of action that would improve their lot to be implemented.
Heaven forbid, but some fiscal nerds are likely to respond that married pensioners are too well paid and call for their pensions to be cut, bringing them in line with their single counterparts. Too silly for words? Don't be too sure of that!
In part, The Sydney Morning Herald (March 21) reports:
Older single women tend to have missed out on compulsory superannuation and must rely on a pension that is low by English-speaking countries' standards.
They receive a pension of $546.80 a fortnight, compared with the $913.60 for couples, even though many fixed costs such as rates, rents and bills vary little between singles and couples.
The meagre payment meant pensioners were often reduced to relying on donations of food from friends and even, according to one inquiry witness, to "raiding dumpsters to retrieve bread, fruit, vegetables … and sometimes meat" discarded by grocery chains. Others told the inquiry of going to bed early to cut heating bills, and forgoing social visits to or from friends because of transport and meal costs.
The committee agreed to a bipartisan verdict acknowledging pensions had increased in real terms in the past decade. But after hundreds of submissions the committee said the comparatively widespread prosperity "obscures the fact that the distribution of wealth among many older Australians is unbalanced".
Many Australians, particularly those on low, fixed incomes with little discretionary spending capacity, were vulnerable to living cost rises. They were disproportionately affected by increases in essential goods and services: food, rent, petrol, utilities and health care. Growing medical and pharmaceutical costs and the lack of affordable dental services were disturbing.
"These older Australians do not enjoy a decent quality of life," the committee said.
The committee's call for a rethink on the level of the pension and the way it is calculated triggered a chorus of calls from seniors groups for the single pension to be lifted from the current 60 per cent to at least two-thirds of the couple rate.
The chief executive of National Seniors Australia, Michael O'Neill, said the findings "confirm what every pensioner knows: living on a pension has become almost impossible unless you have additional income".
The Government late yesterday signalled that it would consider lifting the single pension.
Read the report in The Sydney Morning Herald here.
Thursday, 20 March 2008
The Liberals Joe Hockey went ballistic and tried to shut the motion down. The Opposition then tried twice more in succession to gag debate of the motion.
Thwarted they tried a third time and then Uncle Joe unsuccessfully moved that the Deputy Speaker's ruling be dissented from.
On and on and round and round the arguments and divisions went, from 11.39am to 1.02pm, until Ms. Gillard's motion was finally voted in.
Immediately after that the Opposition Deputy Leader Julie Bishop rose to a make a motion praising WorkChoices and the whole uproar started again for another 21 minutes, as the Government retaliated by gagging this debate and forcing a vote.
Almost two hours of parliamentary mayhem, only lightened by the unconscious irony of former Howard Government minister Tony Abbott referring to another party's parliamentary tactics as "jackboot government" and Labor's Anthony Albanese losing patience and calling Hockey "fool".
Such a waste of taxpayers money.
News.com.au reported on aspects of the uproar yesterday.
Hansard records it all here.