Saturday, 25 December 2010

Seasons Greeting from all at North Coast Voices in 2010


Season's Greetings

To all our readers

And to those Australian and overseas bloggers

we regularly read ourselves

From everyone here at

North Coast Voices

Have a happy and safe time during this year's festivities



As is our usual custom we will be taking a holiday break from

Christmas Day 2010 until New Year's Day 2011.

Animated image from fanpop!

Friday, 24 December 2010

More rubbishing.....

Are we too late to add Maccas rubbish in Yamba today to the North Coast Voices online pile before Santa comes tonight?

Anony-mice
Yamba

Last puzzled word on the state of Australian sedition law in 2010


Remember the Anti‑Terrorism Act (No. 2) 2005 (weakly amended in 2006 in order to protect mainstream media and professional journalists) which contained new draconian sedition law introduced by the Howard Government which virtually made every blogger, letter to the editor writer, whistleblower and protester potentially vulnerable to political charges of sedition and/or treason in certain circumstances? Were you one of those outraged by its provisions?

Recall the 2006 Australian Law Reform Commission Inquiry which in Fighting Words: A Review of Sedition Laws in Australia (ALRC Report 104) recommended conservative changes (including the removal of Schedule 7–Sedition) which would ease the more punitive effects of this legislation and, the fact that in 2008 the Rudd Federal Government formally supported 25 of these recommendations and two others in principal?

Can you bring to mind this undertaking made in the Australian Parliament:

Review of Security, Counter-Terrorism and Sedition Laws
Mr Ciobo (Moncrieff) asked the Attorney-General, in writing, on 24 February 2009: When does the Government plan to introduce legislation to: (a) establish the statutory office of National Security Legislation Monitor; and (b) implement the recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission's review of sedition laws.
Mr McClelland (Barton) (Attorney-General) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows: (a) As I announced on 23 December 2008, as part of the Government's comprehensive response to the reviews of Australia's security and counter-terrorism laws, the Government is progressing legislation to establish the statutory office of the National Security Legislation Monitor as a matter of priority. The legislation is being developed by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in consultation with the Attorney-General's Department. (b) As I announced on 23 December 2008, as part of the Government's comprehensive response to the reviews of Australia's security and counter-terrorism laws, the Government will introduce legislation to implement the recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission with respect to the federal sedition laws. The Government is planning to release exposure draft legislation in the first half of 2009. This will provide an opportunity for public input prior to the introduction of any legislation into Parliament.

Well the exposure draft was published in 2009 and, the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 (finally introduced in September 2010) which allegedly intends that Schedule 1 contains proposed amendments to the treason and sedition offences in Division 80 of the Criminal Code in response to recommendations from various reviews apparently does not really remove those wide sedition provisions across the board. Instead they have been rebadged as treason.

Indeed, under the current Australian Attorney-General this bill will expand the existing sedition offences (to be renamed offences that 'urge violence') to also cover urging force or violence on the basis of 'ethnic' or 'national' origin and it will also add to Part 5.1 (Treason and Sedition ) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 so that an Australian citizen, resident, corporation or accepted refugee can be imprisoned for life if found to have materially assisted another person considered to be taking part in an undeclared war which the Commonwealth in its turn considers itself to be party to.

While Senator Ludlam's private members bill Anti‑Terrorism Laws Reform Bill 2009 which (among other matters) actually proposes to remove rather than rebadge the offence of sedition, after a Senate Inquiry has morphed into the Anti-Terrorism Laws Reform Bill 2010 and now idles during the parliamentary silly season holidays.

I seem to recall that in the second half of 2007 the Australian Labor Party began to tell the electorate that it would remove those constraints on free speech and freedom of association which could be implied from Howard's draconian legislative measures.

I don't know about the rest of Australia, but I am ending 2010 confused as to the actual state of play, highly suspicious of the political process and, never quite sure if I'm being seditious or not - either verbally, in writing, waving a placard or making a donation to a charity with international programs.

Orams falls foul of yet another Daily Examiner reader


Even the Federal Member for Page (whose electorate covers part of the Clarence Valley where The Daily Examiner is situated) disagrees with that newspaper's über conservative journalist, Graham Orams, on occasion and went so far as to write this letter to the editor published on 21 December 2010:

Supporting patches

I DISAGREE with Graham Oram's editorial (DEX, December 12) critical of the Federal Government making nicotine patches available through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. I actively lobbied for this to happen.

My disagreement is based on the primary principle that health care must be made available without discrimination.

If we start to ration it based on blame, where does that lead? Do we say you have to pay if your illness or injury is self-inflicted, through smoking, drinking, over eating, abuse of legal and illegal drugs, dangerous sports, driving too fast etc?

Public policy should be directed to a number of things and the primary aim is about service and helping people, and should be done on the basis of being effective. In health policy the government promotes healthy behaviours as well as providing treatments.

Nicotine patches are effective.

If someone wants to use them, they are well on the way to giving up smoking.

Let us support them.

JANELLE SAFFIN,

Member for Page

Background:

Australian journalism continues to attract blinkered conservatives into its ranks

Is there an annual award for foot-in-mouth journalism?

Now who has been loose with the facts in the Clarence Valley rate debate??

Orams Returns! (groan)

One of the Clarence Valley's resident "opinionated jerks" is at it again

The Battle of the Rates continues in The Daily Examiner as Orams gets trounced

The last polling I'll inflict on readers this year - I rooly trooly promise!


From the folks at Essential Research on 20th December 2010:




Click on images to make them grow


I'm off to do a bit of camping and fishing - if I can find a dry spot to pitch the tent - see you all in February 2011.

McDonald's rubbishing Yamba in December 2010


Clarencegirl sent me these pics of McDonald's branded litter in Treelands Drive within 100 metres either side of this hamburger joint's driveway at 11am on Monday 20th December 2010.
Not yet open a month in this small coastal town and this is how McDonald's Australia and the franchisee say Merry Christmas?


What is truly mind boggling is that McDonald's litter is now turning up near the corner of Baker Street and River Road, Maclean - at least 16 kilometres away as seen by this pic of what was picked up there by a local at around noon on 21st December 2010.


And this final pic is of litter retrieved from Admiralty Park in Yamba - a good 5 minutes walk from messy Maccas.


More McDonald's Yamba branded litter pics here.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

In 2007 Monsanto gets US Government to run heavy-handed interference in Europe?


If you thought that Monsanto & Co doesn’t 'own' successive U.S. governments, this excerpt from a diplomatic cable from the American Ambassador to France concerning the GMO maize variety Mon810 and forwarded to Washington may change your mind.

The highlighting is mine.

¶1. (C) Summary: Mission Paris recommends that that the USG reinforce our negotiating position with the EU on agricultural biotechnology bypublishing a retaliation list when the extend "Reasonable Time Period" expires. In our view, Europe is moving backwards not forwards on this issue with France playing a leading role, along with Austria, Italy and even the Commission. In France, the "Grenelle" environment process is being implemented to circumvent science-based decisions in favor of an assessment of the "common interest." Combined with the precautionary principle, this is a precedent withimplications far beyond MON-810 BT corn cultivation. Moving to retaliation will make clear that the current path has real costs to EU interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech voices. In fact, the pro-biotech side in France -- including within the farm union -- have told us retaliation is the only way to begin to begin to turn this issue in France. End Summary.

¶2. (C) This is not just a bilateral concern. France will play a leading role in renewed European consideration of the acceptance of agricultural biotechnology and its approach toward environmental regulation more generally. France expects to lead EU member states on this issue during the Slovene presidency beginning in January and through its own Presidency in the second half of the year. Our contacts have made clear that they will seek to expand French national policy to a EU-wide level and they believe that they are in the vanguard of European public opinion in turning back GMO's. They have noted that the member states have been unwilling to support the Commission on sanctioning Austria's illegal national ban. The GOF sees the ten year review of the Commission's authorization of MON 810 as a key opportunity and a review of the EFSA process to take into account societal preferences as another (reftels).

¶3. (C) One of the key outcomes of the "Grenelle" was the decision to suspend MON 810 cultivation in France. Just as damaging is the GOF's apparent recommitment to the "precautionary principle." Sarkozy publicly rejected a recommendation of the Attali Commission (to review France's competitiveness) to move away from this principle, which was added to the French constitution under Chirac

¶4. (C) France's new "High Authority" on agricultural biotech is designed to roll back established science-based decision making. The recently formed authority is divided into two colleges, a scientific college and a second group including civil society and social scientists to assess the "common interest" of France. The authority's first task is to review MON 810. In the meantime, however, the draft biotech law submitted to the National Assembly and the Senate for urgent consideration, could make any biotech planting impossible in practical terms. The law would make farmers and seed companies legally liable for pollen drift and sets the stage for inordinately large cropping distances.
The publication of a registry identifying cultivation of GMOs at the parcel level may be the most significant measure given the propensity for activists to destroy GMO crops in the field.

¶5. (C) Both the GOF and the Commission have suggested that their respective actions should not alarm us since they are only cultivation rather than import bans. We see the cultivation ban as a first step, at least by anti-GMO advocates, who will move next to banor further restrict imports. (The environment minister's top aidetold us that people have a right not to buy meat raised on biotechfeed, even though she acknowledged there was no possible scientific basis for a feed based distinction.) Further, we should not beprepared to cede on cultivation because of our considerable planting seed business in Europe and because farmers, once they have hadexperience with biotech, become its staunchest supporters.

¶6. Country team Paris recommends that we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the EU since this is a collective responsibility, but that also focuses in part on the worst culprits. The list should be measured rather than vicious andmust be sustainable over the long term, since we should not expect a nearly victory.
PARIS 00004723 002 OF 002Stapleton

* This post is part of North Coast Voices' effort to keep Monsanto's blog monitor (affectionately known as Mr. Monsanto) in long-term employment.

A 'Bah, Humbug!' for Telstra from one irate customer


Hanging up on Telstra is still on the cards on the NSW North Coast if this 20 December 2010 featured letter to The Daily Examiner editor is any indication:


Click on image to enlarge

Bob Brown and Co say have a brilliant summer

 

Senator Bob Brown, Federal Leader of The Greens, looks forward to the holidays in his latest media release…………

Dear friend,

What a fantastic 2010! And it will flow into 2011, not least with our four new senators increasing our team in the federal parliament to 10 on 1 July.

Three of the great policy challenges for 2011 will be saving the Kimberley's James Price Point from a gas hub, permanent protection for Tasmania's high conservation value forests and getting a decent carbon price for Australia.

But Christmas is coming first. Don't tell Paul, but I've been down to the outdoor gear shop to get him a decent sleeping bag so that we can head off to Tasmania's central plateau, careless about any summer blizzards. I don't need any present as there is a new footbridge over the Liffey River, which will be a boon for platypus watchers and walkers headed for Drys Bluff alike.

I and my fellow MPs, Christine, Rachel, Sarah, Scott and Adam, wish you and yours a brilliant summer with many happy times together.

Yours sincerely

Bob Brown

Wikileaks - when the shoe finally drops


Ian Martin over Laberal noticed the paucity of US diplomatic cables mentioning Oz Coalition pollies:

That is now changing and it’s fitting that remarks by a former Howard Government foreign minister become some of the first to see the light of day.

The Age on 22nd December 2010:
“THE former Howard government urged the US to force the collapse of the North Korean regime by denying it aid, despite advice the country had a growing nuclear arsenal and could unleash an artillery barrage on South Korea's capital at a moment's notice
''Let the whole place go to shit, that's the best thing that could happen,'' former foreign minister Alexander Downer told the commander of United States and United Nations forces in South Korea at a meeting in Canberra in February 2005.
A leaked US embassy cable reports that Mr Downer told General Leon LaPorte that the international community should sharply increase pressure on North Korea, suggesting that "aid that could prop up [North Korea's] failing infrastructure should be withheld in order to bring an end to the regime's tyranny''.
And, according to the cable obtained by WikiLeaks and made available exclusively to The Age, Mr Downer's ''off the top of his head'' remarks also derided the approach of New Zealand to the Korean problem.
If US officials wanted to hear the ''bleeding hearts'' view of ''peace and love'' with respect to North Korea, Mr Downer joked, they only had to visit his colleagues in New Zealand.”

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Clarence Valley shows Citizens Electoral Council the door

From A Clarence Valley Protest earlier today:

Citizens Electoral Council's Clarence River proposal filed under rubbish

The Daily Examiner on 22 December 2010 recounts efforts by that LaRouche-inspired, climate change denialist, fringe political party, the Citizens Electoral Council of Australia, to further their conspiracy theories and support of the water raiders:

AN IMPROMPTU visit by members of the radical, right-wing political party, The Citizens Electoral Council (CEC), to Clarence MP Steve Cansdell's office last Thursday resulted in the former boxer coming out swinging in defence of the Clarence River.

Mr Cansdell said his “fight” lasted only five minutes before the campaigners were asked to leave. He said the two women conned their way into his office under false pretences, claiming they wanted to talk about flood mitigation of the Clarence.

“They started talking about world order and conspiracy theories and I said if you don't want to talk about anything local, I'm not interested,” he said.

The women went on to ask Mr Cansdell about his views on the management proposals for the Murray Darling Basin, and whether he supported the diversion of the Clarence to revive the Murray River system.

“There is no way I would support diverting the Clarence River and if that's what you want to talk about you are wasting your time,” he told the women.....

When the CEC members visited The Daily Examiner's Grafton office, a journalist listened to their theories and filed their leaflets in the bin when they left.

Centrelink finally comes to Iluka once a month and Yamba getting an upgrade


Welcome news delivered via Federal Labor MP Janelle Saffin's media release on 20 December 2010:

Page MP Janelle Saffin is delighted to be able to advise residents of Iluka that there will soon be a Centrelink presence in their town.

“I had been approached by a number of people in Iluka wanting to have easier access to contact with people from Centrelink.

“There are a significant number of people on pensions and other benefits in the town and I took up the issue on their behalf.

“Now I’m pleased to report that early in the new year Centrelink officers will visit Iluka on a monthly basis.

“This trial will be evaluated in April, and will give Centrelink a clearer understanding of the service needs of the community.

“Meanwhile I am advised that Centrelink’s Yamba office is expected to open around the middle of 2011.

“So this will mean better access to services across the lower Clarence,” Ms Saffin said.

Japan's whaling fleet extends Antarctic killing fields for 2010 hunt


Montage from Tsaparang

Australia-Japan-New Zealand news roundup concerning the whale slaughter about to take place in the Southern Ocean.

Asahi Shimbun 1 December 2010 Pro-whaling nations gather for confab:

SHIMONOSEKI, Yamaguchi Prefecture--Delegates from 23 nations and regions kicked off a two-day conference here Tuesday on devising a strategy to resume commercial whaling now banned under international rules. Japan's Fisheries Agency hopes the Meeting of Representatives on Sustainable Use of the Cetaceans will come up with a new proposal on commercial whaling to be submitted to the general assembly of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in London next year…….Although research whaling fleets usually leave Japan around mid-November, whaling ships had not departed for the Southern Hemisphere as of Monday due to concerns about heightened confrontations with anti-whaling groups. The Fisheries Agency plans to have armed Japan Coast Guard officers join the whalers for the next expedition.

Earth Times 2 December 2010 Japan's whaling fleet leaves port for annual hunt :

Tokyo - The Japanese whaling fleet left Thursday for this year's hunt in the Antarctic later than usual and with a much smaller fleet, the Greenpeace environmental group said. The reason for the delay was the lack of demand for whale meat, the non-government organization said. Traditionally, the fleet leaves Japan in November and returns in April. "The reduced size of the Japanese whaling fleet means they will be unable to catch more than half of their quota," said Wakao Hanaoka, oceans campaigner for Greenpeace Japan, which said the reduced fleet was caused by ships being sold or scrapped. The whalers "are up to their necks in it," Greenpeace marine biologist Thilo Maack said. "First, they lose their tanker and refrigerator ship, then their sightings ship. Now they have to satisfy themselves with a halved quota and a drastically shorter hunting season." A majority of Japanese do not eat whale meat, leading to the accumulation of a huge stockpile. According to the latest government data available, as of the end of August, there were 5,790 tons of whale meat in cold storage.

Evri 15 December 2010 NZ warns of dangerous Antarctic whaling season:

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand warned Wednesday that the mood between Japanese whalers and protesters who challenge them annually off Antarctica is especially volatile this year, and urged both sides to show restraint to ensure no one is killed.

The Sydney Morning Herald 16 December 2010 Fillip to Australian whale case

NEW ZEALAND has come to the aid of Australia's legal case against Japan over whaling.By deciding to ''intervene'' rather than formally filing as a ''party'' to the case, New Zealand will enable both governments to have a judge on the panel hearing the case in the International Court of Justice.Its decision was pragmatic and reflected Australia's preference, the Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, said yesterday.''New Zealand will be able to make both written and oral submissions to the court that Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean is contrary to its obligations under applicable international conventions,'' Mr Rudd said.His NZ counterpart, Murray McCully, said his country already had a judge on the court, Sir Kenneth Keith, and joining the two actions would have resulted in Australia losing its entitlement to a judge.Canberra has yet to nominate an Australian judge.Mr McCully said he had spoken to the Japanese Foreign Minister, Seiji Maehara, about further diplomatic initiatives.

ABC News 17 December 2010 Conservationists condemn 'illegal' whale hunt :

The Japanese whaling fleet has come under more pressure to abandon its annual hunt in the Southern Ocean this summer.Conservation groups have accused the country of breaching an injunction issued by the Federal Court two years ago by undertaking its annual whale hunt this summer.The Japanese whaling fleet is currently on its way south and this year its quota includes more than 1,000 whales.The injunction, secured by Humane Society International in January 2008, argues the hunt in Australia's Antarctic territorial waters is illegal.The Federal Government's case also calls into question Japan's scientific whaling program.It has been lodged in the International Court of Justice, but it could take years before the matter is heard.ABC News 20 December 2010 Newest anti-whaling boat to set sail:The newest addition to the Sea Shepherd anti-whaling fleet is due to leave Hobart this morning for the Southern Ocean. The 30 metre monohull and its crew of 11 have spent the past two weeks preparing for the campaign against the Japanese whaling fleet. The multi-million dollar Gojira will meet up with the conservation group's ships Bob Barker and Steve Irwin.

The Sydney Morning Herald 21 December 2010 Whalers double hunt area to foil activists:

JAPANESE whalers have radically changed their plans this summer, doubling the area of the Southern Ocean in which they say they may hunt.The change, notified to the International Whaling Commission, will make it more difficult for anti-whaling activists to find the whalers.Japan's self-awarded scientific permit for 2010-11 gives the whaling fleet millions of square kilometres of ocean south of Australia in which to hunt, as well as south of New Zealand………The Greens leader, Bob Brown, said the shift made it imperative for Australian authorities to watch the hunt, at least through aerial surveillance.''I will be talking to the Japanese ambassador in Canberra and offering the opinion that this is criminal behaviour in the Australian Antarctic Territory,'' Senator Brown said.The Environment Minister, Tony Burke, said there had been no decision to send a monitoring vessel south this season, and there were adequate international protocols to fulfil search-and-rescue obligations.The permit confirms that a four-ship fleet plans to take up to 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales this summer. Humpbacks also have been included, but Japan told the commission it would continue to suspend this catch ''as long as progress is being made in the discussions on the future of the IWC''.These talks stalled at the commission's annual meeting in Morocco last June, and no further talks have been scheduled.Greenpeace's international whales campaign co-ordinator, John Frizell, said the fleet's size had been reduced for the second year, and the season shortened by one month.''Whatever they are doing, it is not business as usual, and I suspect it is being driven largely by the fact that sales of whale meat in Japan are poor and that they need to cut operating costs,'' he said.

What gives with Kwoff these days?


Every so often this warning turns up when I try to have a look at Aussie news aggregate site Kwoff. As far as I can tell this notice is unwarranted, so who dislikes this site so much that they are reporting it?


Tuesday, 21 December 2010

PNC 2010 Christmas Price Index


Peter Martin found and posted this first and here is the YouTube version of PNC Wealth Management's annual Christmas offering for your amusement...

Wikileaks cables: Crikey the only MSM not treating readers like mewling infants


While much of the rest of the world's media published transcripts of diplomatic cables (released to the media by Wikileaks) which were the subject of newspaper articles, Australian editors remained reluctant to publish full texts of material released to them until Crikey broke the mould.

Whether these editors thought this would increase acceptance of the journalists perspective on information contained in these cables or because they were hesitant on other grounds, as one can see from the two examples below these cables contain very little which has not been reported on in some shape or form previously and in one instance only exposes how erroneous political predictions from outsiders can be.

1074
6/10/2009 22:19
09CANBERRA545
Embassy Canberra
CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN

VZCZCXRO5793OO RUEHBC RUEHDBU RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHDT RUEHIHL RUEHKUK RUEHPB RUEHPWDE RUEHBY #0524/01 1550727ZNY CCCCC ZZHO 040727Z JUN 09FM AMEMBASSY CANBERRATO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1573INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATERUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATERUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATERUEHBN/AMCONSUL MELBOURNE IMMEDIATE 6392RUEHPT/AMCONSUL PERTH IMMEDIATE 4656RUEHDN/AMCONSUL SYDNEY IMMEDIATE 4617RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI IMMEDIATE 1211RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATERUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATERUEKJCS/CJCS WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATERUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATERHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL IMMEDIATERUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATERHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATERUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATERHEHAAA/THE WHITE HOUSE WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATERUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO IMMEDIATE 0868RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK IMMEDIATE 0811

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 CANBERRA 000545 NOFORN SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/31/2019 TAGS: PGOV, ELAB, AS

SUBJECT: GILLARD: ON TRACK TO BECOME AUSTRALIA'S NEXT PRIME MINISTER

REF: A) 08 CANBERRA 609 B) CANBERRA 167 C) CANBERRA 305 Classified By: CDA Daniel A. Clune for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C/NF) SUMMARY: Described by her many supporters as "smart, tough, loyal, and the best parliamentary performer in the Australian Labor Party (ALP)," Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard - who visits Washington later this month - has positioned herself as the heir apparent to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd as ALP leader (ref A). Part of Rudd's inner circle, she has handled a combined workplace relations and education portfolio with confidence and ability. Gillard has had a good year. She successfully shepherded through Parliament the Government's key workplace relations reform bill in March and she is overseeing the Government's investment in every school in Australia. Gillard, a product of the ALP Left in the state of Victoria, has shifted towards the political center since Rudd became ALP leader and is now a strong supporter of the Australia-US Alliance and Israel. Although she is still seen as a leftist by key right-wing union powerbrokers, that is not likely to stop her from succeeding Rudd as the next leader of the ALP. END SUMMARY

THE GANG OF FOUR

2. (C/NF) With Treasurer Wayne Swan and Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner, Gillard is part of Rudd's inner circle, a group collectively known as "the gang of four." She is a member of the National Security Committee of Cabinet and when Rudd is out of the country, or on leave, Gillard is Acting Prime Minister. Labor insiders speak admiringly of her ability to understand issues quickly and of her negotiating toughness. Unlike Rudd, however, whose brittle temperament and micromanagement have come under fire, Gillard is seen by most we've spoken with as a good manager. She oversees one of the better-managed offices in the Government and her staff seem very loyal. Conservative columnist Janet Albrechtson - no friend of the ALP - says of Gillard: "most people I've spoken to are of a firm view that Gillard is far more engaging and impressive than the dour Prime Minister."

A GOOD LISTENER WITH AN EVEN DISPOSITION

3. (C/NF) Gillard listens carefully to advice. Kim Beazley, the former Defence Minister and Leader of the Labor Party, told Charge that Gillard listened intently when she met with him to learn his views on national security policy and the alliance with the U.S. The next day, Beazley recounted, he was startled to hear her in a radio interview repeating many of the things he had told her the day before. Unlike the Prime Minister and many other members of the Government, who have been criticized for occasional emotional outbursts, Gillard's demeanor is always controlled. A member of her protective detail told Charge that he was with her constantly for several months and never saw her mistreat staff or even raise her voice, rare behavior for ministers, he commented.

A STAR AT QUESTION TIME

4. (C/NF) Gillard is almost unanimously viewed as the Government's best parliamentary performer. She is a superior debater to Rudd, who gets bogged down in bureaucratic jargon and tends to speak for too long. In Parliamentary Question Time, it is evident that ALP MPs enjoy hearing Gillard more than Rudd. She enjoys taunting the Opposition but, as one Qthan Rudd. She enjoys taunting the Opposition but, as one journalist noted, "the only problem is getting her off the corpse." Late last year, in a widely publicized exchange, Gillard pummeled Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop (who was under pressure in a Treasury portfolio she has since relinquished). Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull later described Gillard as "very nasty" and "vicious." A visiting U.S. political scientist noted after watching Question Time that the Opposition normally heckled Government speakers but in stark contrast, they were completely silent when Gillard was on her feet.

A LEFT-WINGER NOW A PRAGMATIST

5. (C/NF) Many believe that Rudd, after he became ALP leader in December 2006, did not give Gillard the Treasury portfolio (the normal portfolio for a deputy leader) because she was from the Victorian Socialist Left faction - traditionally the most radical faction in the ALP. Gillard recognizes that to become Prime Minister, she must move to the Center, and show her support for the Alliance with the United States. Albrechtson, who attended the June 2008 Australian-American Leadership Dialogue in Washington with Gillard, wrote that Gillard's speech "could have been given by the Howard Government." Last week, in a speech to the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) national conference, Gillard defended the Government's workplace relations reforms and splashed cold water on union demands for further changes. Although she was heckled by some of the attendees and publicly chided by union leaders, two former leaders of the ACTU defended Gillard's in the press and her public stance against "union radicalism" is likely to be popular with the Australian public.

6. (C/NF) The ALP Right in Gillard's home state of Victoria are not convinced that she is a transformed moderate. Some Victorian right faction members tell us they are looking for a Gillard alternative - although they admit there is no one at present. Beyond Victoria, Gillard has earned the high regard of the powerful right faction within the New South Wales ALP. ALP state secretary Matt Thistlethwaite, a key right faction powerbroker, told us June 3 that Gillard's remarkable message discipline and shrewd management of key portfolios has earned her the respect of virtually all NSW ALP members. We heard a similar message from NSW labor union contacts, who told ConGen Sydney over lunch May 20 that Gillard appears to be Rudd's heir apparent. Thistlethwaite said the NSW right faction would probably challenge Gillard if they had someone of her "caliber," but he admitted they did not. Ambitious young MPs and former Union leaders Bill Shorten and Greg Combet are routinely mentioned as possible future prime ministers, but Thistlethwaite said that neither one is in any real position to challenge Gillard. More focused on the next election, party powerbrokers have not had any serious conversations about a Rudd successor, according to Thistlethwaite.

PRO-ISRAEL

7. (C/NF) Gillard has thrown off the baggage of being from what one analyst called the "notoriously anti-Israel faction" of the ALP. As Acting Prime Minister in late December 2008, Gillard was responsible for negotiating the Government's position on Israel's incursion into Gaza. Left-wing ALP MPs, a group to which Gillard used to belong, wanted her to take a harder line against Israel. Instead, she said Hamas had broken the ceasefire first by attacking Israel - a stance welcomed by Israel's supporters in Australia. MP Michael Danby, one of two Jewish members of Parliament and a strong supporter of Israel, told us that after the Gaza statement he had a new appreciation of Gillard's leadership within the ALP (ref B). Israeli Ambassador Yuval Rotem told us that Gillard has gone out of her way to build a relationship with Israel and that she asked him to arrange an early opportunity to visit. He will accompany Gillard and a delegation of Australian officials (including newly-appointed Minister Mark Arbib and Liberal Party heavyweights former Treasurer Peter Costello and Chris Pyne, Manager of Opposition Business in the House) to a meeting of the Australia-Israel Leadership Forum later this month.

LABOR REFORM PASSES

8. (C/NF) On March 20, the ALP's reform of Australia's Q8. (C/NF) On March 20, the ALP's reform of Australia's workplace relations laws passed (ref C). Gillard consulted broadly with business and the unions in drafting the legislation so that when the new law was finally introduced in Parliament, there was little left for either side to criticize. When independent senators in Parliament tried to soften a pro-labor provision in the legislation, Gillard stood her ground, and forced them to back down. Her tenacity in defense of workers' rights did not go unnoticed. Right-wing ALP MP Richard Marles, a former official with the ACTU, told us recently that Gillard "hasn't put a foot wrong" since becoming Deputy Prime Minister.

9. (C/NF) Gillard also managed to win the admiration of big business in the workplace relations consultation process. Katie Lahey, CEO of the Business Council of Australia (an umbrella organization representing Australia's 100 largest firms) told Charge in March that Gillard was well respected by executives thanks to remarkable outreach and a "genuine" willingness to listen. While making her rounds with executives in the lead-up to the workplace relations law, Lahey said Gillard made you feel "as if there were nobody else in the room." Executives unsurprisingly found items in the law with which they disagreed, but broadly say that they were adequately consulted.

THE EDUCATION REVOLUTION

10. (SBU) In his election campaign, Rudd promised an "education revolution," to improve education and boost productivity and international competitiveness. Despite the opposition of the teachers' unions and elements within the ALP Left, Gillard has supported a voucher system for vocational education and performance pay for teachers. She has also invited New York Education Chancellor Joel Klein to Australia. The Rudd Government's second big economic stimulus package, passed in February, provided money for infrastructure upgrades for every school, public and private, in Australia. While this funding may improve educational outcomes, the political benefit for ALP politicians will be immediate: in the next twelve months, each school will have a ceremony celebrating the investment, presided over by the local ALP politician.

THE FRONT RUNNER

11. (C/NF) COMMENT: All the ALP MPs we have spoken to have enormous respect for Gillard. However, as one ALP Right MP told us, choosing a leader from the Left would be a massive cultural change for the ALP. Don Farrell, the right-wing union powerbroker from South Australia told us Gillard is "campaigning for the leadership" and at this point is the front-runner to succeed Rudd, conceding that the Right did not yet have an alternative. Agriculture Minister Tony Burke, one of the early NSW Right backers of the Rudd-Gillard team, confided that Gillard is the clear front runner to succeed Rudd and in the end, the ALP caucus will follow the opinion polls if she is the one the public wants. Two keenly anticipated books on Gillard are expected to be released within the next 12 months (one of them authored by the wife of Beazley's former Chief of Staff). At present, the question of a successor to Rudd is probably two elections away. Several Rudd confidantes have told us that Rudd appreciates Gillard and sees her as a possible PM, but that he wants to avoid anointing her to head off a possible leadership challenge when his poll numbers inevitably sag. The PM's brother Greg told us in April that Rudd wants to ensure that there are viable alternatives to Gillard within the Labor Party to forestall a challenge. Mark Arbib once told us a similar story, though he stressed that Rudd appreciates Gillard's strengths. However, another Rudd advisor told us that while the PM respects Gillard, his reluctance to share power will eventually lead to a falling out, while Gillard will not want to acquiesce in creating potential rivals. In the meantime, Gillard has proven her value to the Prime Minister and we expect her to remain the most important member of the Rudd Government, after the Prime Minister himself. CLUNE

80743
10/5/2006 7:28
06CANBERRA1574
Embassy Canberra
CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN

VZCZCXRO0361PP RUEHPBDE RUEHBY #1574/01 2780728ZNY CCCCC ZZHP 050728Z OCT 06FM AMEMBASSY CANBERRATO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5872INFO RUEHPB/AMEMBASSY PORT MORESBY PRIORITY 1652RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON PRIORITY 4760RUEHBN/AMCONSUL MELBOURNE PRIORITY 3191RUEHBAD/AMCONSUL PERTH PRIORITY 1742RUEHDN/AMCONSUL SYDNEY PRIORITY 1166RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITYRHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CANBERRA 001574 SIPDIS NOFORN SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/04/2016 TAGS: PGOV, ELAB, ECON, AS

SUBJECT: INTEREST RATES MORE IMPORTANT POLITICALLY THAN LABOR LAW CHANGES

Classified By: Political Counselor James F. Cole, REASONS 1.4 (b) and ( d).

SUMMARY

1. (C/NF) Interest rates will be a key political issue for the 2007 federal elections, according to a number of observers Embassy poloffs met with during a visit to Sydney. The consensus was that changes to the industrial relations laws will be at most a contributing factor. So far, the impact of the labor law changes on workers has been minimal given the strong economy and low unemployment. According to these observers, most Australian voters, thinking about their finances when they vote next year, will likely support the Coalition but they will not want the Government to continue controlling the Senate, as it does now. New South Wales (NSW) Labor Party Secretary Mark Arbib (Protect) noted that left-of-center parties have stressed a "national vision" for the future but security concerns have helped right-wing governments since 9/11.

INTEREST RATES BIGGER ELECTION ISSUE THAN INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS REFORM

2. (C/NF) During a trip to Sydney September 28-29, Embassy poloffs met with Garry Brack (Protect), Chief Executive of Employers First, Mark Lennon (Protect), Assistant Secretary of the Labor Council of New South Wales, Dr. John Buchanan (Protect), Director of the Australian Centre for Industrial Relations Research and Training at the University of Sydney, and Mark Arbib (Protect), General Secretary of the New South Wales Labor Party.

3. (C/NF) Mark Lennon, deputy director for the labor-union umbrella organization in NSW, said that while the changes to the industrial relations laws were a key issue for organized labor, the voters would be focused on the pocketbook when they voted next year — and the key issue for them was interest rates. Given the large mortgages needed to buy the expensive real estate in Sydney, and the fact that most loans had adjustable interest rates, a rise in rates affected most voters' disposable income. Many voters were chary of Coalition Senate control, Lennon also maintained. With a healthy economy and stable interest rates they would keep the Government in power in the House but were less likely to vote for Coalition senators.

POST-9/11 SECURITY CONCERNS HAVE HELPED RIGHT WING PARTIES

4. (C/NF) Arbib echoed Lennon's sentiments on interest rates, noting that during the 2004 election campaign, PM Howard's standing in the polls always increased when he focused on interest rates, and conversely, decreased when he changed the subject. Not only does the strong economy help the Coalition, Arbib said, but post-9/11 security concerns were another factor. Left-of-center governments need to articulate a vision for the future, and unless Australia invests in its future it will only be a "quarry for the Chinese and a tourist destination for the Japanese." However, Arbib continued, the immediate issues for every voter are the economy and security, and the Howard Government currently holds the advantage on both. It will be a tough struggle for the Labor Party (ALP) to win the federal elections in 2007, Arbib admitted, but the ALP has a stronger team of young leaders coming up through the political system and he was confident for the future.

5. (C/NF) Arbib said Kim Beazley, because he was the opposite of the volatile Mark Latham, was the right man to lead the ALP at the present time. Arbib noted that the March 2007 state elections in NSW would be tough for the ALP. They had been in power for 12 years and were having some problems but the Opposition leader was inexperienced and not yet ready to challenge for the leadership. Coalition control of the Federal Government and ALP control of the states and territories was accentuated by the fact that the best Coalition political operatives gravitated toward Canberra, where they could get better jobs working at the national level. The best jobs for the good ALP politicians and staffers were in the state governments, which the ALP run.

6. (BIO NOTE: Young, dynamic and friendly, Arbib is reputed to be the leader of the right wing of the ALP (traditionally centered in NSW) and the one who chose Beazley to be the ALP CANBERRA 00001574 002 OF 002 leader after Latham. He also told us that he, unlike Beazley, supported Iraq as well as the war on terrorism in general.)

WITH A STRONG ECONOMY, WAGES INCREASE DESPITE NEW LABOR LAWS

7. (C/NF) Employer representative Brack explained that under the old awards system of industrial relations, an "award" issued by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission in response to a labor dispute increased compensation and benefits for a particular industry. That award would then provide the benchmark that would increase wages and benefits in other industries throughout the economy. This made it impossible for businesses to control labor costs and compete internationally, Brack said.

8. (C/NF) While the reforms instituted by the Howard Government in 1996 and amended in 2005 have provided more job-market flexibility and ended the steady increases in wages and benefits, the reforms have had little impact, Brack pointed out. With a growing economy and essentially full employment, the tight job market is continuing to push salaries higher. Employers are most concerned with keeping their skilled employees. In addition, Brack noted, many employees are covered by awards or state compensation laws that pre-dated the 2005 workplace law and have not yet expired.

9. (C/NF) Dr. Buchanan, whose research institute has done a number of studies on the new workplace relations laws, said that strikes were much harder to mount under the new laws and the unions had lost bargaining power. Skilled employees would be less affected by the changes than the 20 percent of workers at the bottom, who would lose many of their protections. Under the old awards system, this 20 percent was paid relatively well, forcing employers to use fewer workers more efficiently. Buchanan noted that New Zealand and the states of Victoria and Western Australia had undertaken similar reforms that dismantled industry-wide guarantees in favor of individual agreements and a few statutory minimum conditions. The result has been the growth of low-paying jobs and greater wage inequality, especially for women, young people and low-skilled employees.

10. (C/NF) The new industrial relations laws — designed to give employers the ability to hire a more flexible workforce to compete internationally — may be partially responsible for the fact that unemployment is at the lowest level in 30 years (4.9 percent). As Buchanan noted, under the old system employers had to pay their less-skilled workers relatively well, so they hired fewer. His fear — and perhaps a fear of many Australians — is that employers may now be able to create a class of so-called Walmart employees in Australia.

COMMENT

11. (C/NF) The economy and security appear to remain the issues over which the elections will be fought next year. The observers we spoke with stressed that PM Howard is a master politician who will lay claim to the country's current prosperity and keep interest rates lower than a Labor government would be able to do. He will also be a formidable campaigner in the fight to convince the electorate which party can best deliver on national security. OWENS

Monday, 20 December 2010

An evergreen word on editors


A hatip to Clarrie Rivers for this glimpse into our collective newspaper past.......

From the last Australian Newspaper History Group newsletter of 2010:

60.4.7 A TOAST TO THE EDITOR Grafton Argus, 28 May 1875 (from the Papers): ―At a printer's festival at Boston, a short time since, the following capital toast was drunk: ‗The editor—the man who is expected to know everything, tell all he knows and guess the rest; to make known his good character, establish the reputation of his neighbours, and elect all candidates to office, to blow up everybody, and reform the world; to live for the benefit of others, and have the epitaph on his tombstone, ―Here he lies at last; in short, he is a locomotive runner on the track of public notoriety; his lever is his pen; whenever he explodes it is caused by non-payment of subscriptions.'

Some issues of the Grafton Argus and Clarence River General Advertiser (1874-1920) can be found in print and on microfiche and the National Library of Australia.

GetUp! loses all credibility


I’ve had a lot of time for GetUp! Action for Australia in the past but this organisation is beginning to stretch its credibility too thin these days.
Get an load of this from the website:

Save Wooli

Right now the Clarence Valley Council is considering adopting a policy of "planned retreat" for village of Wooli and its unique environment. This abandonment is their only response to the increased threat from coastal erosion caused by climate change.
Urge them to reject it and protect Wooli, by signing this Right now the Clarence Valley Council is considering adopting a policy of "planned retreat" for village of Wooli and its unique petition below.

I believe that if Council approves the recently released Wooli Coastal Plan, no action will be taken to defend the Wooli Community and environment from the threat of coastal erosion caused by climate change and Council will adopt a policy of planned abandonment of the village. I ask that Clarence Valley Council reject this plan.

No mention of the fact that Wooli is not the only place on the Clarence Coast or in the river delta suffering the early effects of climate change and relentless erosive wave patterns.
Not a word about the CSIRO predicting higher and stronger tides taking away coastal and estuary foreshore, making the aquifer saline and raising the water table.
That this will often be occurring in urban areas built on reclaimed marshland and in natural flood storage areas.
Absolutely dumb on Commonwealth Government predictions of ‘worst case’ sea level rises and storm surges which will see quite a few houses in Yamba inundated on a regular basis or lost completely. That coastal erosion on Yamba Hill and at Broom’s Head is a fact of life, as well as sections of Palmers Island now so unstable that no-one can safely live there.
Silent as the grave when it comes to Clarence Coast landowners (including those at Wooli) knowing the risks for well over a decade and putting their heads in the sand while buying seafront or riverfront property anyway.
Last but not least, no mention of how a local government with so much vulnerable shoreline and a small rate base is going to manage to pay millions of dollars decade in and decade out in a vain effort to hold the ocean back from a small village built on a sand spit between a tidal river and the Pacific Ocean.
GetUp! needs to grow up.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Australian journalism continues to attract blinkered conservatives into its ranks


The Daily Examiner, 14 December 2010, Opinion,
snapshot of opening paragraph

One regional reporter from the Andrew Bolt School of Journalism obviously has problems with the concept of universal health care as practised in Australia through the 'free' public hospital-community health system, Medicare rebates and subsidized medicines.

Apparently the 17th Century British notion of there being deserving and undeserving poor still has supporters loitering in dark and dusty corners of the fourth estate.

This particular journalist's attitude to taxpayer funded health services taken to its 'logical' conclusion would see proof of innocence required to be shown when presenting at the local hospital's accident and emergency department.

Given that cardio-vascular disease (according to the Heart Foundation the most expensive disease) is impacted by a wide range of environmental and lifestyle choices, his attitude would see around three million Australians across all socio-economic groups locked out of subsidized health care - and that's only one of many disease groups.

What Son-of-Bolt also forgets is that even the poor pay taxes in this country, if not always through personal income tax then always through the national consumption tax and indirect taxation.

However, what elicits a big grin is that part of his taxes already go towards supporting people who are sick through no fault of their own, so he has little to complain about in reality.

McDonald's Yamba - only open days and the littering of surrounding streets begins


Maud up the Street wants to know if she has the first 'official' pic of branded litter from the newly opened McDonald's hamburger joint in Yamba.
Maud reckons on the third day of Maccas opening its door she followed a trail of tossed litter down one of the streets leading straight to this store.

Hot on the heels of Maud's pic came this one from a Yamba resident who picked it up in Admiralty Park - at least half a kilometre away from Macca's new outlet.

Clarencegirl sent me evidence of this bit of branded litter picked up from the vacant lot opposite McDonald's fast food outlet and she tells me that she has heard that clusters of Macca's litter are now turning up in front yards on the outskirts of Yamba.
Well done, Ronald McDonald - you're living up to your lousy and very messy reputation!
And please write a reminder note in block letters on your Neanderthal foreheads, all those Clarence Valley shire councillors who voted to impose this architectural and social eyesore on a very reluctant Yamba community.

UPDATE:
This cluster of branded litter ran in a trail from outside McDonald's in Treelands Drive, Yamba and on through to Telopea Steet at about 10.30 am on Sunday 19 December 2010 according to the Yamba resident who picked it up.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Question: Can you put a name to this face?

My money says the average Joe and Josephine Blow living in NSW cannot put a name to this character. In fact, when I undertook a quick check of the good folk in my neighbourhood not a single soul knew who this bloke is.
Okay, the poll that was undertaken didn't have the status of Roy Morgan Research, but nonetheless its result says a lot about how NSW been  governed for the last decade and a half.
This fellow has been haunting the corridors in Macquarie Street since, officially, September 1991.
Sad, but true!
This bloke has carried more clout than he deserves. He's figured in the behind the scenes appointments of premiers, cabinet ministers and sundries of other appointments.
Okay, so who is this power broker?
Answer: Click here

Finally! ICAC publicly states something everyone already knows - Kristina Keneally 'wrong'


In The Australian on 14 December 2010:

NSW Premier Kristina Keneally was wrong to water down independent planning controls introduced by her main rival, Frank Sartor.

The state's corruption watchdog, the Independent Commission Against Corruption, yesterday called for the powers of the independent Planning Assessment Commission to be widened, along the lines originally projected by Mr Sartor when he was planning minister between 2005 and 2008.

ICAC media release on 13 December 2010 concerning its report on the exercise of discretion under provisions of two NSW planning acts: EXERCISE O) CISE OF

Monday 13 December 2010

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) recommends that the NSW Minister for Planning refer private sector applications under Part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, which exceed development standards by more than 25%, to an independent quasi-judicial body for determination.

The Commission recommends that this role be assumed by the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC). In view of the important functions the PAC would assume, the Commission makes recommendations to strengthen its independence and to ensure that it is composed of appropriate persons, on a full-time basis but with a limited tenure.

The Commission's report, The exercise of discretion under Part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 and the State Environmental Planning Policy (Major Development) 2005, released today, makes altogether 20 recommendations to more effectively manage and mitigate potential corruption risks in the Part 3A process.

Commencing in 2005, Part 3A consolidates the different assessment and approval regimes for "major" projects in NSW determined by the Minister for Planning. The State Environmental Planning Policy (Major Development) 2005 (the MD SEPP) identifies several classes of Part 3A projects including significant private developments (for example, residential flats and commercial developments), and public sector infrastructure projects (for example, desalination plants and pipelines).

The ICAC recognises that it is appropriate that in many of these classes the Part 3A discretion should continue to be vested in the Minister. Nevertheless, in other situations there is a risk that perception may arise of corrupt influences playing a part in the Part 3A decision-making process. The key issue is the adequacy of safeguards when such Part 3A discretions are exercised. The need for adequacy of safeguards applies to elected or unelected officials at every level of government.

"The Part 3A system is characterised by a lack of published, objective criteria," the report says. "There are also various elements of Part 3A that are discretionary, particularly as regards residential and commercial development, which are prohibited or exceed existing development standards. The existence of a wide discretion to approve projects that are contrary to local plans and do not necessarily conform to state strategic plans has the potential to deliver sizable windfall gains to particular applicants. This creates a corruption risk and a community perception of a lack of appropriate boundaries."

While there are no established examples of the corrupt use or manipulation of discretion under Part 3A there is, nonetheless, considerable discretion built into Part 3A. Similar kinds of discretion have been the subject of several Commission investigations and investigations in other jurisdictions and beyond.

Under the current system, the Minister has the discretion to declare a project to be a Part 3A project by Ministerial Order. It is the loose criteria and the broad discretion that potentially give rise to perceptions of undue influence. The risk of this occurring is heightened by the Minister not being bound by the provisions of local environmental plans (and SEPPs generally, in the case of critical infrastructure projects).

To limit discretion and improve safeguards, the ICAC recommends that the NSW Government amend the EP&A Act to limit the application of Part 3A to projects that are permissible under existing planning instruments. The Commission also recommends that the PAC perform a gateway role, by way of independent scrutiny, in reviewing proposals to call in private sector projects via specific Ministerial Order.

The Commission and the NSW Department of Planning established a joint task force this year to examine whether there were corruption risks attached to Part 3A and to develop measures to address any of the identified risks. The Commission acknowledges the valuable assistance provided by the Department in participating in the task force.

However, the report has been prepared in its entirety by the Commission, and consequently its recommendations are those of the ICAC.

Full Report

Gillard finally honours her own words


Onya , gurl!

THE federal government has bowed to union and community sector anger and signed back on to support equal pay for women.

A letter by Workplace Minister Chris Evans has changed a government submission to the equal pay test case being heard by Fair Work Australia.

A dispute erupted in the final sitting week of Parliament as unions and the Australian Council of Social Services accused the government of abandoning a deal to support the case covering 153,000, mostly women, community-sector workers.

The commonwealth provides half the sector's funding, and its original submission had said any pay rise awarded by the tribunal would lead to cuts to other government services, because it needed to bring the budget back to surplus.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard took personal offence at the ensuing backlash and ordered the problem be fixed.

{The Age on 14th December 2010}


Friday, 17 December 2010

Wikileaks starts to fill Gillard's inbox


First Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard received this letter taking her to task over the matter of Australian citizen Julian Assange and then the Walkley Foundation weighed in with this:

13 December 2010

The Hon Julia Gillard MP
Prime Minister
Parliament House
CANBERRA ACT 2600

Dear Prime Minister,

STATEMENT FROM AUSTRALIAN NEWSPAPER EDITORS, TELEVISION AND RADIO DIRECTORS AND ONLINE MEDIA EDITORS

The leaking of 250,000 confidential American diplomatic cables is the most astonishing leak of official information in recent history, and its full implications are yet to emerge. But some things are clear. In essence, WikiLeaks, an organisation that aims to expose official secrets, is doing what the media have always done: bringing to light material that governments would prefer to keep secret.

In this case, WikiLeaks, founded by Australian Julian Assange, worked with five major newspapers around the world, which published and analysed the embassy cables. Diplomatic correspondence relating to Australia has begun to be published here.

The volume of the leaks is unprecedented, yet the leaking and publication of diplomatic correspondence is not new. We, as editors and news directors of major media organisations, believe the reaction of the US and Australian governments to date has been deeply troubling. We will strongly resist any attempts to make the publication of these or similar documents illegal. Any such action would impact not only on WikiLeaks, but every media organisation in the world that aims to inform the public about decisions made on their behalf. WikiLeaks, just four years old, is part of the media and deserves our support.

Already, the chairman of the US Senate homeland security committee, Joe Lieberman, is suggesting The New York Times should face investigation for publishing some of the documents. The newspaper told its readers that it had ‘‘taken care to exclude, in its articles and in supplementary material, in print and online, information that would endanger confidential informants or compromise national security.’’ Such an approach is responsible — we do not support the publication of material that threatens national security or anything which would put individual lives in danger. Those judgements are never easy, but there has been no evidence to date that the WikiLeaks material has done either.

There is no evidence, either, that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have broken any Australian law. The Australian government is investigating whether Mr Assange has committed an offence, and the Prime Minister has condemned WikiLeaks’ actions as ‘‘illegal’’. So far, it has been able to point to no Australian law that has been breached.

To prosecute a media organisation for publishing a leak would be unprecedented in the US, breaching the First Amendment protecting a free press. In Australia, it would seriously curtail Australian media organisations reporting on subjects the government decides are against its interests.

WikiLeaks has no doubt made errors. But many of its revelations have been significant. It has given citizens an insight into US thinking about some of the most complex foreign policy issues of our age, including North Korea, Iran and China.

It is the media’s duty to responsibly report such material if it comes into their possession. To aggressively attempt to shut WikiLeaks down, to threaten to prosecute those who publish official leaks, and to pressure companies to cease doing commercial business with WikiLeaks, is a serious threat to democracy, which relies on a free and fearless press.

Yours faithfully

Clinton Maynard, news director, 2UE
David Penberthy, editor-in-chief, news.com.au
Eric Beecher, chairman, Crikey, Smart Company, Business Spectator, The Eureka Report
Gay Alcorn, editor, The Sunday Age
Garry Bailey, editor, The Mercury (Hobart)
Garry Linnell, editor, The Daily Telegraph Ian Ferguson, director of news and programs, Sky News Australia/New Zealand
Jim Carroll, network director of news and public affairs, Ten Network
Julian Ricci, editor, Northern Territory News
Kate Torney, director of news, ABC
Mark Calvert, director of news and current affairs, Nine Network
Melvin Mansell, editor, The Advertiser (Adelaide)
Megan Lloyd, editor, Sunday Mail (Adelaide)
Michael Crutcher, editor, The Courier Mail,
Mike van Niekerk, editor in chief, Fairfax online
Paul Cutler, news director, SBS
Paul Ramadge, editor-in-chief, The Age
Peter Fray, editor-in-chief, The Sydney Morning Herald
Peter Meakin, director of news and public affairs, Seven Network
Rick Feneley, editor, The Sun-Herald
Rob Curtain, news director, 3AW
Rod Quinn, editor, The Canberra Times
Sam Weir, editor, The Sunday Times
Scott Thompson, The Sunday Mail (Queensland)
Simon Pristel, editor, Herald SunTory Maguire, editor, The Punch
Walkley Advisory Board
Gay Alcorn
Mike Carlton
Helen Dalley
John Donegan
Peter Meakin
Laurie Oakes
Jeni O'Dowd
Alan Kennedy
Malcolm Schmidtke
Fenella Souter

The full letter sent to Prime Minister Julia Gillard can be viewed here.

You can also read statements made earlier this month by the Media, Arts and Entertainment Alliance (MEAA) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) concerning WikiLeaks here.