Sunday, 31 July 2016

Young Libs foul their political nest again


A well-connected young Liberal has set up companies that sell diploma courses and harvest job seekers' data for the scandal-plagued taxpayer-funded vocational education sector.
The Melbourne Grammar graduate, Jake Foster, previously owned a business which was accused of targeting vulnerable students and selling them courses at Australia's largest vocational education network…..
The company responsible for selling job seekers' data, Spot Distributors, is run by 23-year-old Victorian Young Liberal Jake Foster and, until May, was also owned by his best friend and Scotch College alumnus Paul Mitchell.
Mr Mitchell sits on Victorian Liberal Party President Michael Kroger's powerful state administrative committee.
Until last week, job search website jobify.com.au stated in its privacy policy that it was owned by Spot Distributors. The website used information provided voluntarily by job seekers which it then sold to external education brokers. These brokers then used the data to sell diploma courses to would-be students through taxpayer-funded VET FEE-HELP loans.
The practice, known as "lead generation", has sprung up in the wake of the federal government's ban on cold-calling potential students. When Fairfax Media visited the Jobify site several times in July the site contained no contact numbers for employers and had no job links that worked.
A spokesman said the site was undergoing maintenance to ensure compliance with the strictest government requirements. It has since added a "resume writing" portal to its webpage.
"We are satisfied that Jobify meets those requirements and makes it abundantly clear to users that they will experience job & education opportunities as a result of using the site," the spokesman said.
Following Fairfax Media's inquiries, the ownership of the site was changed to LeadOne, a company wholly owned by Mr Foster, who has been photographed by the side of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's recently installed Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, Kelly O'Dwyer.
A spokesman for Mr Foster and Mr Mitchell said that Spot Distributors had no relationship with the website, and that it had been mistakenly entered as its owner in the privacy policy.
Mr Mitchell said he had never heard of the website until Fairfax Media contacted him. His lawyers said in a letter: "Mr Mitchell has never owned or worked on Jobify as published."…..
Mr Mitchell's co-founding colleague at Monash University's respected 180 Degrees Consulting group (which runs volunteer and work experience programs), Mr Foster, recently set up another job seeker site, Findtherightjob.com.au.
All five "job search," "read more" and "find a job" links on Mr Foster's new site lead to a request for personal data which it then on sells to education brokers.
Mr Foster also owned an education broker business called Go Careers that sells diploma courses on behalf of colleges.
The company was investigated by the Department of Education after concerns were raised by a former employee that it was targeting vulnerable people to sign up to diplomas.
Documents obtained by Fairfax Media show Go Careers call centre operators how to obtain a would-be student's tax file number through their Centrelink profile.
A spokesman for Mr Foster said the company did not target vulnerable students and denied any wrongdoing. He said Go Careers had not traded since February…..
Read the rest of the article here.
Note that the details of this web address registration were altered on 28 July 2016

Is Josh Frydenberg going to be the second worst environment minister Australia has had so far this century?


Less than  a year after being sworn in as Australian Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia, former Deutsche Bank director and current Liberal MP for Kooyong Josh Mr. Coal Frydenberg is back post-federal election as Minister for the Environment and Energy

If the former environment minister Greg Hunt was considered by many to be a very bad fit for his portfolio, then Frydenberg might possibly be as poor a choice.

His views are well known and his voting record available for scrutiny……

Crikey.com.au, 28 July 2016:

Environment and Energy minister Josh Frydenberg is claiming to be a convert to the cause of renewables but the grim truth is that this government has no interest in meaningful climate action.

Alarmed at the criticism of his appointment as combined energy and environment minister, Josh Frydenberg has launched a media campaign to overhaul his image as that of the man who recently insisted there was a “strong moral case” for burning more coal and starting economically unviable new coal mines like Adani’s Carmichael project (not to mention his loathing of environmental groups).

In the last 48 hours, Frydenberg has spoken at a Clean Energy Council summit, given interviews to Fairfax and Lateline, as well as enjoying several articles in today’s Australian (naturally spinning his comments about the role of wind power in South Australia’s power supply situation in a manner complementary to its own, profoundly dishonest campaign against renewable energy — Peter Martin is the latest to point out the complete lack of substance to it)…..

The Australian, 28 July 2016:

The energy crises in South Australia and Tasmania, which massively inflated electricity ­prices and hobbled industry, were a “wake-up call” about problems created by solar and wind generation, new Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg says.

As the first minister to hold both the energy and environment portfolios, Mr Frydenberg has warned of the need to shift from fossil fuels to renewables responsibly and affordably, as he signals a reinvigorated assault on Labor’s plan to expand renewable energy…..

Mr Frydenberg said the South Australian energy crisis was exacer­bated by the “intermittency of renewables”.

But he also pointed the finger at a scheduled upgrade of an interconnector at Heywood in southwest Victoria, high gas prices­ fuelled by state moratoria on coal-seam gas exploration and increased demand due to cold weather.

Australian Mining, 28 September 2016:

“Australia and Western Australia in particular have been great beneficiaries of the decade-long super-cycle which saw record prices and record demand for our commodities,” Frydenberg said.
“Clearly with the slowdown of China we’re moving back towards normalised, cyclical patterns.
“That being said, resources and energy are absolutely central to Australia’s economic growth and prosperity today and into the future.”

House of Representatives, Hansard, 8 September 2015:

JOSH FRYDENBERG (Kooyong, Liberal Party, Assistant Treasurer) - And Greg Hunt, as environment minister, has done a brilliant job in cutting red tape and green tape, which has seen nearly $1 trillion worth of projects receive their environmental approval—and since we came to government we have halved the approval time.

House of Representatives, Hansard, 22 October 2014:

JOSH FRYDENBERG (Kooyong, Liberal Party, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister) - The third suite of reforms is around making Australia a more attractive place to invest. It is here that the one-stop shops, where the Minister for Environment has so successfully led the charge, are going to lead to more than $420 million of annual compliance savings by streamlining approval processes between state and federal governments. The Business Council of Australia documented one case where a company wanted to make a $1 billion investment in the resource sector in Australia and sought an environmental approval. It took that company more than two years, cost them more than $20 million, required 4,000 meetings and required a 12,000-page report. And when the approval came back, it had 1,500 conditions attached—300 at the federal level, 1,200 at the state level—and 8,000 sub conditions. Now I ask you: which company can go through that process and expect to want to invest again in Australia? 

House of Representatives, Hansard, 4 December 2014:

JOSH FRYDENBERG (Kooyong, Liberal Party) - What about the environment? The Minister for the Environment has got his $2.5 billion Direct Action Plan through the Senate. He has got his Green Army proposal through the Senate. We have a good position on the Renewable Energy Target, which we believe should be a 20 per cent target. And of course he has abolished the carbon tax. That is a proud record when it comes to the environment.

According to They Vote For You in the federal parliament Josh Frydenberg has supported:

Unconventional gas mining by supporting the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Bilateral Agreement Implementation) Bill 2014
Unrestrained fossil fuel use by voting against increased investment in renewable energy and, against both a carbon price on greenhouse gas emissions and a mineral resources rent tax
Unsustainable forest logging by voting against the Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill 2011
Unsustainable water use by voting against increased protection of the nation’s fresh water assets
Silencing local voices by voting to restrict the classes of persons who can seek a judicial review of decisions made under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act)
Unsustainable commercial fishing by voting against a bill which would establish an independent expert panel to conduct an assessment into the potential environmental, social and economic impacts of a declared commercial fishing activity and to prohibit the declared commercial fishing activity while the assessment is undertaken.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Be shark smart on the NSW North Coast


Echo NetDaily, 28 July 2016:

Surfers and swimmers are being urged to be extra vigilant following numerous shark detections along north coast beaches this week.

The listening station at Evans Head buoy, off Main Beach, has pinged 15 times since Sunday, with alerts associated with tagged great whites. Sharks have also been detected at Sharpes Beach near Ballina, where two surfers were knocked off their boards this week, Clarkes Beach at Byron Bay, and also at Shelley Beach where a third surfer had a close encounter this week.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries has asked surfers and other ocean users to download the Shark Smart app from the Apple App Store or Google Play, or follow the @SharkSmart Twitter page for alerts.

Remember also that any day you enter estuary or ocean water in the early morning or from late afternoon onwards means that you may be sharing the water with large marine animals such as sharks foraging for food.

Which NSW coastal town has "world-class surf, more beaches than you can shake a stick at, friendly, easygoing locals and over 300 days of sunshine a year"?




Aerial photograph found at www.visitnsw.com

Yamba, situated where the Clarence River meets the sea, received some well deserved media attention this week.

It is now a year round go to destination which helps produce tourism statistics like this for the NSW North Coast:

NSW destination preference: regional and Sydney, 2015 vs 2016
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), April 2014-March 2015 (n=15,913) and April 2015-March 2016 (n=15,074). Base: Australians 14+

Travellers who’d like to holiday on the NSW North Coast are also a high-value group (27.9% of them spent $200+ per night on their last holiday); just ahead of those with a preference for Sydney Surrounds – North (27.2%). The Murray Riverina (23.3%) is the least likely of the new Destination Networks to be on the radar of big-spending holiday-goers. [Roy Morgan Research, July 2016, Destination NSW: A Regional Perspective]



News.com.au, 24 July 2016:

YAMBA, NSW

With world-class surf, more beaches than you can shake a stick at, friendly, easygoing locals and over 300 days of sunshine a year, Yamba has understandably been a longtime favourite for surfers in-the-know. However, since Australian Traveller Magazine named it “Australia’s best tourist town” back in 2009, word has quickly started to spread and the former-fishing village is now truly coming into its own.

Yes, it’s still populated by surfboard carrying, wetsuit clad beach bums but amid the salty surfers, the number of both visitors — and city slickers relocating — is increasingly annually and with this increase of stressed urbanites flocking to Yamba for a sea change, a burgeoning food scene has been born.

You can see this in action at Irons and Craig, a cafe where fresh produce rules and everything is made on site, from the bread to the custom-blended coffee.

In contrast to the jam-packed beaches of Byron, Yamba’s 11 pristine stretches of white sand, five of which are close to the town centre, are positively Robinson Crusoe-like and with 16 great surf spots, an empty break is virtually guaranteed.

But for serious surf-hounds, the nearby beachside enclave of Angourie — just 5km down the road — is bona fide surfing Mecca. A National Surfing Reserve — the second site in Australia to be recognised — it remains a fixture on the international surfing map.

Friday, 29 July 2016

In awe of the strength of first peoples protecting land


Sometimes two sentences hold a wealth of meaning.....


Post on the Facebook page No Yamba Mega Port announcing that the corporation which manages the two Native Titles over the Clarence River on behalf of the Yaegl People will not support Australian Infrastructure Development's scheme to industrialize the high environmental and cultural value Clarence River estuary.

Shop at Woolworths on the NSW North Coast? You need to read this



Trolley collection services procurement by Woolworths Limited,  media release date June 2016: 

In June 2014 we commenced an Inquiry into Woolworths’ procurement of trolley collection services.

For nearly a decade before this, we'd been investigating allegations of serious non-compliance with workplace laws involving businesses providing trolley collection services to Woolworths Limited (Woolworths).

In response to a perceived lack of improvement in compliance and disturbing allegations of violence towards workers at some Woolworths' sites, we started an Inquiry into their procurement of trolley collection services. It aimed to comprehensively identify and address the levels and drivers of non-compliance with Australian workplace laws by businesses involved in Woolworths' labour supply chains.

We examined around 130 Woolworths' supermarket sites across Australia and found indications of some form of non-compliance at 79% of them. The findings of this report indicate an entrenched culture of non-compliance in the Woolworths trolley collection supply chain.

At the time of publishing, as a result of the Inquiry, we've taken enforcement action against a number of businesses (and their Directors) involved in various Woolworths' labour supply chains, including:
commencing legal action against 2 businesses and their Directors, one of which we believe provided us with false and misleading records and the other for allegedly underpaying over $25 000 in wages
issuing 9 letters of caution for various Award contraventions, failing to adequately keep records, and misclassifying employment as an independent contracting arrangement.

We are also considering future legal proceedings against a number of other businesses providing labour to Woolworths for similar alleged contraventions.

Download the full report on our Inquiry into trolley collection services procurement by Woolworths Limited (PDF 1.1MB).

EXCERPTS

Examining 130 (or 13.5%) of Woolworths’ supermarket sites across Australia , the Inquiry found:

n more than 3 in every 4 (79%) of sites visited had indications of some form of non-compliance with workplace laws
n almost 1 in every 2 (49%) of sites visited presented serious issues, that is multiple indicators of non-compliance
n deficient governance arrangements contributing to a lack of Award knowledge and substandard record keeping
n false, inaccurate or misleading records
n failure to issue pay slips to workers
n workers being paid rates as low as $10 an hour
n cash payments which disguised the true identities of workers and actual amounts paid to workers
n manipulation of the identity card system implemented by Woolworths
n workers vulnerable to exploitation and often complicit in acts of non-compliance
n complex labour supply chains with networks of corporate structures and intermediaries to facilitate cash payments, recruitment of vulnerable workers and production of false records.

These characteristics are indicative of an entrenched culture of non-compliance in the Woolworths trolley collection supply chain......

We examined correspondence and the Trolley Collection Service Agreement from 2011 relating to 17 NSW and ACT supermarket sites. By dividing the agreed price by the weekly labour hours required to deliver the service, we found the cost per labour hour was below minimum pay rates at 15 of the 17 sites.

The casual cruelty of the Turnbull Government can leave one speechless


@bamboozled3 tweeted this snapshot on 24 July 2016 from Sue Robinson's Facebook page entry of 21 July:


The Australian Health Minister is reported as stating that we are now working through her situation in a bid to address her concerns.

A statement which does not deny that Ms. Robinson was refused this diagnostic test on the basis that she had no money to pay upfront.
News.com.au reported on 25 July 2015:
On Monday afternoon, Ms Robinson posted an update to say thank you for the support and revealed Ms Ley had made contact.
“It looks as if there might be some action on it, and that is a direct result of your response,” she wrote.
“As a result of the number of ‘shares’ and responses, the office of the Federal Health minister, Sussan Ley posted with contact details asking me to call.
“I did and was put through to a young man called Alex. We established two things. Alex assures me that the guidelines for bone scans haven’t changed since the election (I didn’t think they had, but I thought they might have since the last budget).
“He says there should have been no recent changes at all, and if I was eligible, for example, last year, I should still be eligible as I am still on the meds that compromise my bone density.
“However, according to the Medicare website I was shown this weekend my meds are on the list of those for which a bone scan is recommended, but not one for which it is reimbursed.
“There doesn’t seem to be any justification for this and it does specifically exclude cancer patients because the meds concerned are for cancer.
“I also asked Alex why are there guidelines at all? Surely if a cancer specialist regards such a test as necessary for a patient, that should be enough? After all, every case is different and the referring doctors are the only ones who can really know what is required in each case. Alex said that was a good question, but didn’t answer it, though he did tell me that these exclusions are worked out by a medical services advisory committee.
“We agreed that he would investigate further and I am sending him a link to the Medicare website so he may check the guidelines for himself.
“I also have a little more information on the charging system being used for these tests. I called other local practices who do such scans here and asked about bulk billing. They all had the same reply ... It’s complicated. It seems they can’t tell if you are eligible until you go in and then fill in a form.
“It is your answers in this form, and not the referral, which determine if you are eligible, so they say. They can’t tell you before you arrive whether or not you will be asked to pay. But if you are, the charges vary from practice to practice.
“For those of you who posted saying you are in the same boat, here are the costs you might have to pay if you are excluded from bulk billing. PRP will charge a $60 fee, Erina Radiology charges $85. Medical Imaging at Erina charges $50 for pensioners and $100 for the employed, but also states that they do whatever they can to bulk bill you. This practice was also recommended by one of my Facebook friends Maryellen Golden who said she had been bulk billed for a bone scan there herself. (Thank you Maryellen)
“I guess this isn’t unaffordable (unless you are on a limited income like a pension), and as long as you know it, you can save up. But I can’t help but wonder why it should be costed at all. I’m hoping this will be treated by the government as an unfortunate oversight that will be corrected.
And if it is, it will be your overwhelming response that brought it to their attention. Thank you again.”
For all low-income patients there are other pitfalls awaiting the unwary no matter what the diagnosis.


What it does not state is that the Medicare treats a patient’s claim involving multiple services differently from a claim involving a single health item and therefore the dollar amount a patient is reimbursed can be much lower.

As much as $65 lower in the instance of which I am aware, leaving the pensioner $125 out-of-pocket in total.

One of the more bizarre positions that the federal government takes is that the patient (or presumably the patient's estate if they left one) is responsible for the cost of the death certificate issued by an attending doctor - Medicare specifically includes this certificate in items not eligible for a rebate.

"Although Medicare benefits are not payable for the issue of a death certificate, an attendance on a patient at which it is determined that life is extinct can be claimed under the appropriate attendance item. The outcome of the attendance may be that a death certificate is issued, however, Medicare benefits are only payable for the attendance component of the service."

Medicare Benefits Schedules (Complete MBS and MBS by Category) operating from 1 July 2016 can be found here.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Another blow for Australian Infrastructure Developments: ACCC Chair reveals port privatisations not in the nation's best interests


Australian Infrastructure Developments Pty Ltd and its shadowy backers face more than a Lower Clarence community determined to fight its scheme to industrialise Port of Yamba situated in the high environmental value Clarence River estuary.

Now it has been revealed that its desire to extensively expand and privatise this small domestic port will in all likelihood increase freight costs for the Murray-Darling Basin farmers, graziers, agri-businesses and mining corporations that are supposed to be its future customers.

Financial Review, 26 July 2016:
The head of the competition regulator has called out governments for blatantly structuring asset sales to maximise profits at the expense of consumers and businesses.
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims said he had been a strong advocate of privatisation for 30 years because he believed it enhanced economic efficiency but he now believed "people in the street" who oppose privatisation because it raises prices had it right based on recent port sales in NSW. 
He said he was now "almost at the point of opposing privatisation" because state and federal governments were becoming increasingly blatant about structuring sales to maximise proceeds at the expense of competition.
"I am getting more exasperated. I just think governments are more explicitly now privatising to maximise the proceeds - including the Commonwealth," he said. 
"They are explicitly saying the reason they don't want to do this or this is that it'll damage the proceeds they are getting. They're not even playing the rhetorical game anymore. 
"I see it getting worse. I think a sharp upper cut is needed in this area. That's why I am saying, 'let's just stop the privatisations'. It is increasing prices - let's just call it out." …..
Mr Sims said ports privatisation was the best example of the approach that had turned him off privatisation as a policy. 
The ports of Botany and Kembla had been privatised together to limit competition, a big debate was under way in Victoria about making sure the Port of Hastings would be a competitor to a privatised Port of Melbourne in future, and "the same battle" was being waged over the Port of Fremantle, where  the WA government wants to give the buyer a right of first refusal over a future outer harbour port. 
The ACCC chairman last month criticised the way Port Botany was privatised, saying price monitoring of unregulated monopolies was ineffective. But this is the first time he has gone so far as the call a halt to sales of public assets. 
Mr Sims said he was less concerned about the NSW government's power poles and wires privatisations because the state has an independent pricing regulator. The NSW government has applied to the Australian Energy Markets Commission to draw out until 2024 an annual price hike of up to $520 per household that was scheduled take effect from July 2017 to avoid a "price shock" for consumers. 
Mr Sims said he was also concerned that monopoly ports were being privatised without any pricing regulation, leading to "lovely headlines in the Financial Review saying 'gosh what successful sales, look at the multiples they achieved'."
"Of course they bloody well did. The owners have factored in very large price rises because there's no regulation of how they set the prices of a monopoly. How dopey is that?" he said.  
'It's damaging our cost structure'
"I think it's a serious issue facing Australia. I think it's damaging our cost structure considerably. 
"And when you meet people in the street and they say, 'I don't like privatisation because it boosts the prices', and you dismiss them, no no, they're right. Recent examples suggest they're right." 

U.S. Politics 2016: A cry from the heart


GOPLifer, 22 July 2016:
Chairman Cuzzone:
We come together in political parties to magnify our influence. An organized representative institution can give weight to our will in ways we could not accomplish on our own. Working with others gives us power, but at the cost of constant, calculated compromise. No two people will agree on everything. There is no moral purity in politics.
If compromise is the key to healthy politics, how does one respond when compromise descends into complicity? To preserve a sense of our personal moral accountability we must each define boundaries. For those boundaries to have meaning we must have the courage to protect them, even when the cost is high.
Almost thirty years ago as a teenager in Texas, I attended my first county Republican convention. As a college student I met a young Rick Perry, fresh from his conversion to the GOP, as he was launching his first campaign for statewide office. Through Associated Republicans of Texas I contributed and volunteered for business-friendly Republican state and local candidates.
Here in DuPage County I’ve been a precinct committeeman since 2006. Door to door I’ve canvased my precinct in support of our candidates. Trudging through snow, using a drill to break the frozen ground, I posted signs for candidates on whom I pinned my hopes for better government. Among Illinois Republicans I found an organization that seemed to embody my hopes for the party nationally. Pragmatic, sensible, and focused on solid government, it seemed like a GOP Jurassic Park, where the sensible, reliable Republicans of old still roamed the landscape.
At the national level, the delusions necessary to sustain our Cold War coalition were becoming dangerous long before Donald Trump arrived. From tax policy to climate change, we have found ourselves less at odds with philosophical rivals than with the fundamentals of math, science and objective reality.
The Iraq War, the financial meltdown, the utter failure of supply-side theory, climate denial, and our strange pursuit of theocratic legislation have all been troubling. Yet it seemed that America’s party of commerce, trade, and pragmatism might still have time to sober up. Remaining engaged in the party implied a contribution to that renaissance, an investment in hope. Donald Trump has put an end to that hope.
From his fairy-tale wall to his schoolyard bullying and his flirtation with violent racists, Donald Trump offers America a singular narrative – a tale of cowards. Fearful people, convinced of our inadequacy, trembling before a world alight with imaginary threats, crave a demagogue. Neither party has ever elevated to this level a more toxic figure, one that calls forth the darkest elements of our national character.
With three decades invested in the Republican Party, there is a powerful temptation to shrug and soldier on. Despite the bold rhetoric, we all know Trump will lose. Why throw away a great personal investment over one bad nominee? Trump is not merely a poor candidate, but an indictment of our character. Preserving a party is not a morally defensible goal if that party has lost its legitimacy.
Watching Ronald Reagan as a boy, I recall how bold it was for him to declare ‘morning again’ in America. In a country menaced by Communism and burdened by a struggling economy, the audacity of Reagan’s optimism inspired a generation.
Fast-forward to our present leadership and the nature of our dilemma is clear. I watched Paul Ryan speak at Donald Trump’s convention the way a young child watches his father march off to prison. Thousands of Republican figures that loathe Donald Trump, understand the danger he represents, and privately hope he loses, are publicly declaring their support for him. In Illinois our local and state GOP organizations, faced with a choice, have decided on complicity.
Our leaders’ compromise preserves their personal capital at our collective cost. Their refusal to dissent robs all Republicans of moral cover. Evasion and cowardice has prevailed over conscience. We are now, and shall indefinitely remain, the Party of Donald Trump.
I will not contribute my name, my work, or my character to an utterly indefensible cause. No sensible adult demands moral purity from a political party, but conscience is meaningless without constraints. A party willing to lend its collective capital to Donald Trump has entered a compromise beyond any credible threshold of legitimacy. There is no redemption in being one of the “good Nazis.”
I hereby resign my position as a York Township Republican committeeman. My thirty-year tenure as a Republican is over.
Sincerely,
Chris Ladd

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Fatal Extraction: how Australian mining companies exploit Africa



Australia is a giant in African mining, but its vast, sometimes deadly footprint has never been examined – until now….

Number of Australian-listed mining companies active in Africa:
more than 150* 
Market capitalization:
about $133 billion*
One of the earliest recorded mentions of an Australian mine worker in Africa:
1902
Number of countries in Africa where Australian mining companies are active:
33*
Number of licenses:
about 1500*
Country with the most licences held by Australian-listed companies:
Tanzania (about 360)*
Number of fatalities linked to Australian-listed mining companies in Africa (2004-2015):
more than 380
Country with the most fatalities during that time:
South Africa (more than 240)
Median minimum mining wage in South Africa:
about $5500
Average starting salaries for Australian mine workers:
about $60,000
Number of Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) filings consulted:
more than 1000
Number of kilometers traveled by reporters in the Fatal Extraction team:
about 33,000
Number of reporters, researchers, and editors in the Fatal Extraction team:
30
*Pertains to mining companies listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) that have mining licences in Africa as of December 31, 2014. Read more about ICIJ's data methodology for Fatal Extraction. Contributors to this story: CĂ©cile Schilis-Gallego and Will Fitzgibbon
FATAL EXTRACTION: AUSTRALIAN MINING'S DAMAGING PUSH INTO AFRICA  - more here.

Australia’s Wild West – slide presentation.

The Productivity Commission states what those with even a modicum of intelligence knew instinctively


Apparently the Australian Government is going to learn the hard way that modern free-trade agreements rarely provide low manufacturing-high primary production & natural resource extraction economies such as ours with the anticipated level of additional income from international trade.

The Guardian, 25 July 2016:

A key economic policy adviser to the federal government has said the Trans-Pacific Partnership has provisions of “questionable benefit” – including an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause allowing foreign corporations to sue the Australian government if they think the government has introduced or changed laws that hurt their commercial interests.
The Productivity Commission made the comment in its annual trade and assistance review, released on Monday. The review quantifies the level of assistance governments give to Australian industry and this year criticises regional adjustment programs that have followed the exit of the carmakers, and also the Turnbull government’s big defence procurement spend rolled out in the countdown to the recent federal election.
On the TPP the commission says it is uncertain whether the US will sign the controversial pact before the presidential election in November 2016. While noting that, the commission says the TPP contains provisions of questionable benefit. “These include term of copyright and the investor state dispute settlement elements.”
The commissioner, Paul Lindwall, warned the success in defending a recent landmark ISDS case relating to tobacco plain packaging entailed reported legal costs of about $50m.
The tobacco giant Philip Morris used an ISDS provision in the Hong Kong-Australia bilateral investment treaty, signed in 1993, in an effort to sue the Australian government over the plain packaging laws implemented by the Gillard government in 2012. The case dragged on for years before an international tribunal ruled in Australia’s favour, saying Philip Morris Asia’s claim was an abuse of process.
“As it was resolved on a technicality, and costs are apparently yet to be recovered, this success should not be taken as an indication that ISDS is essentially harmless,” Lindwall said Monday…..

Australian Productivity Commission Trade & Assistance Review 2014-15 here.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 January 2016:

Australia stands to gain almost nothing from the mega trade deal sealed with 11 other nations including United States, Japan, and Singapore, the first comprehensive economic analysis finds.
Prepared by staff from the World Bank, the study says the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership would boost Australia's economy by just 0.7 per cent by the year 2030.
The annual boost to growth would be less than one half of one 10th of 1 per cent…..

World Bank graphs: Trans-Pacific Partnership

According to The Age economics editor Peter Martin, the three North Asia free-trade agreements (with China, Japan and the Republic of Korea) combined are only expected to increase total Australian exports by 0.5 per cent and local employment by less than one-half of one-tenth of 1 per cent by 2035. The agreements will boost imports into Australia from these countries by est. 2.5 per cent, sending Australia’s trade balance backwards.

NOTE: At the dissolution of the Senate and the House of Representatives on Monday, 9 May 2016 the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties ceased to exist.  Any inquiries that were not completed have lapsed and submissions cannot be received.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

NT Attorney-General Johan (John) Wessel Elferink's incompetence and possible negligence exposed


Sometime between 8.30 pm on 25 July 2016 and the following morning the Hon Johan (John) Wessel Elferink MLA (pictured left) was removed as the Northern Territory Minister for Correctional Services and Minister for Justice.

However, according to the Dept. of the Chief Minister (2.20pm 26.07.16) to the best of its knowledge he remains NT Attorney-General. 

Elferink also remains listed on NT Government main website as Minister for Children and Families, Minister for Health, Minister for Disability Services and Minister for Mental Health Services.

Here is how this serious issue is being reported in the mainstream media…….

Crikey.com.au, 26 July 2016:

The ABC’s Four Corners program has produced another swift response from government, with Malcolm Turnbull already promising a royal commission into allegations of abuse of children in Northern Territory juvenile detention. But despite protests from authorities that they could not have known what was going on, the abuse was well documented almost a year ago.

In last night’s graphic broadcast, journalist Caro Meldrum-Hanna detailed the use of tear gas on six boys held in the Behavioural Management Unit of the Don Dale Youth Detention centre outside of Darwin in August 2014, as well as so-called spit hood head coverings and strapping children to chairs in footage reminiscent of the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay…

The Guardian, 26 July 2016:
Malcolm Turnbull has announced a royal commission following the airing of shocking footage showing the treatment of children at the old Don Dale detention facility in Berrimah, outside Darwin.
The prime minister told ABC radio that like all Australians he was “deeply shocked ... and appalled” at the graphic footage of abuse at the centre, shown by the Four Corners program on Monday.
Four Corners showed shocking vision of instances of apparent abuse of teenage detainees and examined long running issues and instances of mistreatment in the Northern Territory youth justice system. CCTV footage showed the restraint and spit-hooding of one youth, as well as another being stripped and physically held down by guards on more than one occasion.
Turnbull said there was “no question” about the mistreatment of young people as recently as 2014.
He said the Don Dale centre had to be examined specifically but the royal commission would also consider “whether there is a culture that spreads across the detention system in the Northern Territory, whether it was specific to that centre”.
“The important thing is to get to the bottom of what happened at Don Dale, and there may be other matters connected to that to be looked into.”
Asked whether the royal commission would consider the Northern Territory justice system generally, Turnbull said inquiries needed a “clear focus so you get the answers to the specific problem”.
The deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, played down the prospect of a broader inquiry, noting “the wider you make it, the longer it takes”.
“We want this to get moving as quickly as possible, to get to a conclusion as quickly as possible. We don’t want this issue to be investigated for years.”
Asked what Nigel Scullion – a Northern Territory senator and Indigenous affairs minister since September 2013 – knew about the mistreatment, Joyce replied “if Nigel Scullion had known about this he would have acted”.
“The issue we had is that we didn’t know about this.”
Turnbull said he had consulted the Northern Territory chief minister, Adam Giles, federal attorney general George Brandis, Scullion and human rights commission president Gillian Triggs, who all agreed the government needed to move swiftly.
He noted the Don Dale centre had been “controversial” in the past and the subject of previous inquiries.
“We will get to the bottom of what happened here: we want to know how this came about, what lessons can be learned from it, why there were inquiries that did not turn up this evidence,” he said.
“We need to expose the cultural problems, the administrative problems that allowed this type of mistreatment to occur,” Turnbull said.
“We need to understand how it was that there were inquiries into Don Dale, as a place where there had been allegations of abuse – there were inquiries, but did not produce the evidence that we’ve seen last night.”
Turnbull said children in detention should be treated humanely, but did not call for Don Dale to be immediately shut down – the centre was moved to the adult jail at Berrimah following the events illustrated on Four Corners. He said the royal commission, to be conducted jointly with the Northern Territory government, would be established and would report as soon as possible.
Patrick Dodson, Labor’s shadow assistant minister for Indigenous affairs, called on the government to take a broader look at the justice system and detention, not just the Don Dale centre.
He said the Northern Territory’s attorney general, John Elferink, should immediately be stood aside until the inquiry took place…..
News Hub, 26 July 2016:
At a press conference today NT Chief Minister Adam Giles announced he had taken over the portfolios of Corrections and Justice from John Elferink, the now former minister responsible for young detainees in the Northern Territory, reports Australian media.
"Can I start by saying that anybody who saw that footage on television last night on Four Corners would undoubtedly describe it as horrific footage. I sat and watched the footage and recognised horror through my eyes," Mr Giles said.
Mr Giles said the footage that aired on ABC's Four Corners had been withheld from him, Mr Elferink and other officials in what he called a "culture of cover-up within the corrections system."
"I think there's been a culture of cover up going on for many-a-long year. The footage we saw last night going back to 2010 - and I predict this has gone on for a very long time."
That said Mr Giles sympathises with the Far North Australian Territory's desire to rid the community of youth crime.
"They've had a gutful of cars getting smashed up, houses getting broken into, people being assaulted. There's no doubt. And the majority of the community is saying let's lock these kids up," he said.

ABC News, 26 July 2016:

The man formerly in charge of the NT's juvenile justice system has a complicated history, which includes making citizens arrests and public altercations.

John Elferink was today sacked as Northern Territory minister for corrections after featuring in the Four Corners report which aired on Monday night, defending the actions of guards at the Don Dale detention centre near Darwin.

"When kids arm themselves with broken glass, when kids arm themselves with metal bars, then reasonable force has to be brought to bear upon them, to subdue them," Mr Elferink said during the program…..

ABC News, 26 July 2016:

The NT Government should not be allowed to play any part in the royal commission into the mistreatment of young offenders at Territory juvenile detention facilities, former chief justice of the Family Court of Australia, Alastair Nicholson, says…..


Mr Turnbull said the royal commission would be held in conjunction with the NT Government but Justice Nicholson said the Territory Government was part of the problem.

"The fact that it's in conjunction with the Northern Territory Government troubles me, because the Northern Territory Government is part of the problem," he said.

"I think that will act as a brake on the freedom of the commission to inquire into what it ought to be inquiring into.

ABC Four Corners program, Australia's Shame, 25 July 2016 can be viewed here.


UPDATE

Chief Minister Adam Giles has now taken over as NT Minister for Correctional Services and Minister for Justice.

This is him on his feet in parliament less than six years ago - forgetting that exclusion from society is the punishment meted out by the courts when sending people to gaol or juveniles to detention and that the correctional system is not supposed to inflict additional punishment by way of harsh treatment or abuse of human rights.

Northern Territory Parliament, Hansard, 19 October 2010:

The recidivism rate is at all-time highs in Australia. The prison system is not teaching anyone anything. People are not afraid to go to gaol. If one of us in this room was deprived of our liberties and placed in a prison system, I am sure we would not like to be there. However, for the majority of the people who go to gaol it is like going on a holiday. Going to gaol is like going to a resort. Going to gaol is like having a reprieve from society as you know it. To have the clean bed, food, meals, $25 a week, Coca-Cola and chip vending machines - why would you not want to be there? More than half the people there do not have this in their normal lives. It encourages people.

I understand there are rules which guide the prisons in Australia and the United Nations, and how we use basic human rights in the treatment of prisoners and so forth. I understand that. What I do not understand is how we are soft, flaccid, and incapable of punishing prisoners in our Corrections system. The soft and flaccid approach of the treatment of prisoners in the Northern Territory is having a detrimental effect on building the social fabric in our towns and, in particular, Alice Springs…..

I would love to be the Corrections minister. It is not the portfolio I really aspire to but, if I was the prisons minister, I would build a big concrete hole and put all the bad criminals in there: ‘Right, you are in the hole, you are not coming out. Start learning about it’. I might break every United Nations’ convention on the rights of the prisoner but, ‘Get in the hole’. The member for Nelson spoke about if you do the wrong thing, you do not go to a course, or you cannot play pool. I am sure every taxpayer in the Northern Territory would like to have a pool table, or be unhappy to know prisoners get pool tables and are paid to do menial tasks.

New Matilda, 28 July 2016:

The man who will lead the Royal Commission into the abuse of children in juvenile detention in the Northern Territory needs no introduction. At least not to Aboriginal people. Chris Graham explains.

Brian Martin, the former NT Supreme Court Chief Justice, achieved infamy among Aboriginal communities in April 2010 when he described five white youths who bashed an Aboriginal man to death in a racially charged drunken rampage as “of otherwise good character”.

The youths – Scott Doody, Timothy Hird, Anton Kloeden, Joshua Spears and Glen Swain – spent the night getting drunk at the local casino, before driving up and down the dry bed of the Todd River, where homeless Aboriginal people sleep.

They abused campers, fired a replica pistol at them, and ran over at least one swag with their vehicle.

Eventually, the boys stopped and kicked to death Kwementyaye Ryder, aged 33, after he threw a bottle at their car as they drove at him.

The killing remains infamous in Alice Springs to this day, in part for the racial motivation behind the attack…..

But the killing is most infamous for the amount of time the five young men ending up serving.

Chief Justice Martin sentenced one of the men to as little as 12 months. The longest time served was four years.

One of Justice Martin’s justifications for the light sentences was that the youths would be caused ‘additional hardship’ in prison, given the overwhelming majority of inmates are Aboriginal.

Following is a story I wrote for the ABC’s Drum site in 2010, while staying in Alice Springs for several months. It should give New Matilda readers some insight to how Brian Martin’s stewardship of the Royal Commission is likely to be greeted by black Territorians.