Thursday 25 December 2014

******Have a Merry Festive Season & A Happy New Year******

The blog will be on holidays between 25 - 31 December 2014
We looking forward to seeing you all again in 2015

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Santa's sleigh journey to Australia tonight

Notice issued by Airservices to all airlines operating in airspace over Australia on the night of Wednesday 24 December 2014 with flight details for SLEIGH RIDER 1:

This year Santa will be coming in from New Zealand and going first to Tasmania, flying up to Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory, then onto New South Wales and taking his sleigh further up into Queensland, before turning down again to South Australia and then going across to West Australia before finally going to the Northern Territory and then leaving Australia for Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.

All boys and girls need to be in bed once it gets dark outside.

Give 'em a good fright for Christmas

Despite the Martin Place siege having no apparent links to ISIL or to terrorism generally, Rupert and Tony are doing their best to usher in Christmas with a scary tale or two…….

There are people who would do us harm and can do us harm 
[Prime Minister Tony Abbott during his latest Christmas news conference]

Something to think about when disposing of all that festive season packaging

The estimated amount of plastic in the world's ocean represented by Blue Whales, the largest creature in the sea reaching up to 100 feet (30 meters) long and weighing over 200 tons (181 metric tons).
2150bluewhales From Grist 10 December 2014

IN LIMBO: NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption reports on Operation Credo & Operation Spicer investigations

To misquote a well known saying; the mills of justice grind slowly. So it is likely that voters in New South Wales will cast their ballots in the 28 March 2015 state election without knowing the Commission's recommendations regarding those politicians, political staffers and businessmen identified as having behaved in an allegedly corrupt manner.

These three media releases and one newspaper article encapsulate the legal difficulties facing current and possibly future corruption investigations by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption.

ICAC Operation Hale public inquiry
Friday 5 December 2014

Today's majority decision of the NSW Court of Appeal with respect to the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC)'s Operation Hale public inquiry fundamentally affects the scope of the Commission's powers to conduct investigations into corrupt conduct.
It is critical to the exercise of the Commission's powers generally that the construction of section 8 of the ICAC Act is settled.
Accordingly, the ICAC will seek leave to appeal to the High Court of Australia.
The Commission will be making no further comment at this stage.
Media contact: ICAC Manager Communications & Media, Nicole Thomas, 02 8281 5799 / 0417 467 801

Statement regarding Operations Credo and Spicer
Friday 5 December 2014

The majority decision in Cunneen v ICAC [2014] NSWCA 421 fundamentally alters the basis of the Commission's powers with respect to significant parts of Operations Credo and Spicer.
 The Commission is seeking special leave in the High Court of Australia as a matter of urgency.
 Until the proceedings are resolved, the Commission will not complete the reports in Operations Credo and Spicer.
 The Commission will be making no further comment at this stage.

Media contact: ICAC Manager Communications & Media, Nicole Thomas, 02 8281 5799 / 0417 467 801

Law Courts Building, Queen's Square, Sydney

AT 2:15 PM


Matt Grey
Deputy Registrar

The Sydney Morning Herald 12 December 2014:

The High Court is set to have the final say about whether the Independent Commission Against Corruption can investigate Crown prosecutor Margaret Cunneen over allegations she perverted the course of justice.

Chief Justice Robert French on Friday referred the commission's application for special leave to appeal a ruling shutting down its investigation into Ms Cunneen, SC, to the full court of the High Court, which will hear the appeal in March.

Tuesday 23 December 2014

How much did Prime Minister Abbott's travel itinerary cost taxpayers in the first half of 2014?

Looks good doesn’t it? Nada costs for Tony’s domestic air flights and no plane charters according to the Summary of Parliamentary Expenditure for the first half of 2014.

Except that the gentleman in question often costs Australian taxpayers $1,000 plus for domestic flights in his VIP special purpose aircraft – and that’s by splitting the nominal (rather than actual) flight cost between him and every member of his entourage.

Then there are the ghost flights when an empty VIP special purpose aircraft has to pick up the Prime Minister, Ministers, MPs or the Governor-General away from Canberra or for an empty aircraft to return to its Canberra base.

These empty plane costs appear typical:

$14,520 Canberra to Perth
$12,540 Kununarra to Canberra
$12,540 Canberra to Tindal
$12,210 Darwin to Canberra
$11,220 Tindal to Canberra
$11,220 Pearce to Canberra
$6,270 Maryborough to Canberra
$5,610 Canberra to Maryborough
$4,950 Canberra to Adelaide
$4,290 Adelaide to Canberra
$2.640 Melbourne to Canberra
$1,980 Canberra to Sydney
$1,980 Sydney to Canberra

So when Abbott flies from Canberra to Sydney (with members of his personal staff in the 2013-14 end of year parliamentary break) for a total of $1,350 - it will cost taxpayers an additional $2,310 to fly the aircraft and crew back to Canberra.

Rather obligingly the Royal Australian Air Force makes its records public:

Abbott Government's Clean Energy Future Plan expected to increase Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by 49-57% before 2021

This is what Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told The Guardian on 13 November 2014 when questioned about the Coalition Government’s Direct Action Plan and Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF):

“We are actually cutting our emissions and as a result of the Direct Action policy, which passed through our parliament in the last couple of weeks, I am absolutely confident that we will deliver on our target of a 5% cut by 2020. This is what we want – we want real action and that’s exactly what the world will get from Australia.”

This is Climate Action Tracker’s assessment of the Direct Action Plan on 11 December 2014:

In a world first for climate policy, the Australian Government repealed core elements of Clean Energy Future Plan, effectively abolishing the carbon pricing mechanism, sought to reduce the Australian renewable target, and block other clean energy and climate policy measures in Australia. The carbon pricing mechanism introduced had been working effectively, with emissions from the electricity and other covered sectors reducing by about 7% per annum.

Up until the time of repeal, the implemented climate policy was effective and was projected to have been sufficient to meet Australia’s unconditional Copenhagen pledge for a 5% reduction from 2000 levels by 2020. Our new, post-repeal assessment shows, however, that this target is no longer in reach and the currently proposed new legislation will result in emissions increasing by 49-57% above 1990 levels. Set against Australia’s pledge base year of 2000, the repeal of the climate legislation by Australia will likely lead to an increase of about 12-18% above year 2000 base level emissions, rather than the 5% reduction pledged….

Figure 1 - Historic emissions, Copenhagen pledge, Kyoto commitments, and current emission trends in Australia
Click on image to enlarge

Full Climate Action Tracker assessment here.

Something to think about as the fortunate among us tuck into festive season dinners and open presents

The Guardian 11 December 2014:

For all the slogans and military operations, over 54,000 people have boarded boats across the Indian Ocean this year, with around 20,000 in just the two months of October and November. As much as Morrison may gloat, the boats haven’t really stopped.

The point you won’t see on any media release or hear at a doorstop press conference is this: even if people haven’t drowned on the way to Australia, they’ve still drowned. Because people fleeing countries in the region are still getting on boats……

According to the UNHCR report on Irregular Maritime Movements in South-East Asia, over 50,000 people set sail just from the Bay of Bengal area in January-November 2014. The smugglers operating in the region move people who are trafficked as well as those paying for passage outside of legal migration channels. The latter includes people such as ethnic Rohingya who do not have any nationality (and therefore no official travel documentation) and have a long history of persecution and discrimination by the Burmese government.

The UNHCR estimates that around 21,000 people have departed from the Bangladesh-Burmese maritime border in the two months of October and November 2014. About 10% were women, and around one-third of arrivals interviewed by UNHCR in Thailand and Malaysia were minors. The numbers for October 2014 are a marked increase (37%) from the year before. 

And not all the deaths at sea are merely from drowning, according to the report:
“One in every three interviewees said at least one other passenger on their boat died en route; one in every 10 said 10 or more people died on board. Deaths were attributed to severe beatings by the crew, lack of food and water, illness, and heat.”

Globally, around 350,000 people have risked it all by taking a boat this year. On 10-11 December 2014, UNHCR is hosting a meeting looking specifically at protection at sea. The non-governmental organisations taking part have recommended, among other things, that to implement effective protection and ensure safety at sea, it is vital to “address ‘route causes’ and ‘root causes’ of forced and dangerous migration”. 

UNHCR notes that these reasons for irregular movement include: conflict and war, protracted refugee situations, statelessness, the absence or inadequacy of protection systems, family separation, poverty and economic inequality.

What is notably absent from all the recommendations to “stop the boats” from these experts is deterrence, which in Morrison’s parlance is also known as “taking the sugar off the table”. This was of course the honourable minister’s reasoning last month for reducing the number of refugees Australia would resettle from Indonesia and banning those who registered with UNHCR in Indonesia after 1 July 2014 from ever getting to Australia.

Sweet though that poison may be (and poisonous is certainly how one can characterise the way Australia treats those who come across the sea), no refugee is paying a people smuggler for any sort of benefit other than getting the hell out of the hell they were in. 
At the opening of the UNHCR meeting yesterday, the High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said, “You can’t stop a person who is fleeing for their life by deterrence, without escalating the dangers even more”…..

Monday 22 December 2014

Arthur Sinodinos: I shall return

Just when I thought it was safe to exhale along came this last paragraph from Senator Arthur Sinodinosmedia release announcing his resignation as Assistant Treasurer, a position he stepped aside from in  March 2011 due to allegations (see here,  here and here) made during NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption investigations:

I very much look forward to returning to the Ministry in the not too distant future and in the meantime being a strong advocate for the Abbott government and the people of New South Wales.

Clarence Valley Council calls for NSW Government to revoke all coal seam gas exploration licences in the Clarence Valley

From Clarence Valley Council ordinary monthly meeting minutes of 9 December 2014:

How do we dislike thee? Let us count the ways

From polls, to punters, to political cartoonists and purveyors of fine condiments.......

Ipsos Australia reporting on its Fairfax poll, 8 December 2014:

The national poll of 1,401 respondents, interviewed from Thursday 4 to Saturday 6 December 2014, shows Labor with 52% of the two-party preferred vote (up 1 since November), ahead of the Coalition on 48% (down 1 since November), based on 2013 election preferences. This indicates a 5.5% swing against the Abbott Government since the September 2013 Federal election.
The two-party stated preference vote shows Labor on 53% (unchanged since November), leading the Coalition on 47% (also unchanged since November).
First preference votes put the Coalition on 40% (down 2 since November) and Labor on 37% (unchanged since November). The Greens continue to lead the minor parties with 12% (unchanged since November). The Palmer United Party is on 2% (down 1 since November), and others are on 9% (up 2 since November).
Five per cent of respondents are undecided. These are excluded from the two-party stated preference figures.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s approval rating is 38% (down 4 since November). His disapproval rating is 57% (up 8 since November). This gives a net approval of -19 (down 12 since November).
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s approval rating is 46% (up 3 since November). His disapproval rating is 41% (up 1 since November). This gives a net approval of +5 (up 2 since November).
Bill Shorten has moved ahead as the preferred Prime Minister, at 47%, an increase of 6 points since November. Two in five (39%) favour Tony Abbott as Prime Minister (a fall of 2 points since November).

The Australian 15 December 2014:

THE Abbott government ends its first full year in power well behind Labor, according to the latest Newspoll.
DESPITE the prime minister's so-called barnacle-clearing strategy to change unpopular policies, the survey shows the opposition has a two-party-preferred lead of 54 to 46 per cent.
The result is almost the reverse of the election result 15 months ago.
The nationwide poll of 1084 voters published in the Australian reveals primary support for the coalition up one point to 38 per cent in the past fortnight but Labor has gained two points to lift its primary vote to 39 per cent.
The Greens have dropped one point to 12 per cent while support for minor parties, independents and others has fallen two points to 11 per cent.
National support for the Palmer United Party is less than 1 per cent.

Essential Report 16 December 2014:

Sportsbet media release 8 December 2014:

Look away now Tony Abbott. Online bookmaker has released a shocking statistic on the back of the recent bad polls for the Prime Minister – over 99% of the money has been placed on the PM being challenged for his leadership.
The price was originally opened at $4.00 but has since been backed in repeatedly to now stand at $2.20 with $1.65 on offer that he can sit comfortably into the next election.
Labor meanwhile have firmed into $2.00 from $2.20 to win the next federal election with over 80% of the money placed on Bill Shorten’s party – the Coalition have now eased from $1.65 out to $1.73.
“Sydney has been bashed by storms the past week but there’s certainly a few gathering over Kirribilli House. If the money continues to pour in like it has, you can expect Labor and a challenge coming to be favourites in both markets pretty soon,’’’s Will Byrne said.

@TheNTNews Darwin Chilli Co."We are sorry that our Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, is an idiot":

Sunday 21 December 2014

The War On Workers: and so it begins again.....

The second front forms in the ongoing Liberal-Nationals ideological war against ordinary workers and their families.

I, Joseph Benedict Hockey, Treasurer, pursuant to Parts 2 and 3 of the Productivity Commission Act 1998, hereby request that the Productivity Commission undertake an inquiry into the workplace relations framework…..

The Productivity Commission will assess the performance of the workplace relations framework, including the Fair Work Act 2009, focussing on key social and economic indicators important to the wellbeing, productivity and competitiveness of Australia and its people. A key consideration will be the capacity for the workplace relations framework to adapt over the longer term to issues arising due to structural adjustments and changes in the global economy.

In particular, the review will assess the impact of the workplace relations framework on matters including:
unemployment, underemployment and job creation
fair and equitable pay and conditions for employees, including the maintenance of a relevant safety net small businesses productivity, competitiveness and business investment
the ability of business and the labour market to respond appropriately to changing economic conditions
patterns of engagement in the labour market
the ability for employers to flexibly manage and engage with their employees
barriers to bargaining
red tape and the compliance burden for employers
industrial conflict and days lost due to industrial action
appropriate scope for independent contracting.

Rather oddly, at present only one commissioner is listed as participating in this inquiry, Chairman Peter Harris. There is silence on who among the other eleven commissioners/
associate commissioners may also be participating.

There is also no opening or closing dates for submissions listed and no hearing dates decided as yet.

The Productivity Commission does invite organisations to register their interest here and people to make brief comment here.

One has to wonder why there was such a mad scramble to so scrappily start this process just before Christmas this year, when the reporting date is not expected before November 2015.

The reaction from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry was predictable - it sees the Fair Work Commission's current review of the Fair Work Act and this inquiry as providing the opportunity to fix “major flaws” such as too high penalty rates.

Co-incidentally, the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) Freedoms Inquiry released its first consultation document this month,Traditional Rights and Freedoms—Encroachments by Commonwealth Laws (IP 46). Part of that inquiry's terms of reference include laws relating to workplace relations.

Dear Incompetent........

Ever wondered how often the twitterverse calls Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott incompetent?

Wonder no more, the tweeted mesages of political 'love' run for pages - going as far back as 15 August 2010.

Here are a few recent examples:

Dear  @TonyAbbottMHR why don't you resign. I keep on asking since most people think you should, you liar. But your heart coal

Latest poll rates   as more  than Julia Gillard.  it too late to repair the damage?

.@TonyAbbottMHR the poll  in. Untrustworthy AND . Tell us something we didn't know. Now the whole country  waking up.

Why do we need News poll to tell us that  ? A dark day for you, Tones. #auspol

Half of Australians Think via @ShareThis #Auspol
.@Wersula Let's just be clear about this. Poll shows   the most  Prime Minister ..........EVER ! #auspol

In a Dilbert world, the more  you are, the higher you get promoted. Which explains why    PM. #auspol

, seen by the people to be  & untrustworthy,  a liability for his government #auspol…

  was an  & a liar as Opposition Leader@OverTheHill4 @ThePinkLaptop Now he  an  & a liar as PM

The polls confirming what twitter has been saying all year    and a serial liar surrounded by more incompetents

The most untrustworthy &  PM ever.    the problem with the federal govt, poll.… via@smh

@TonyAbbottMHR to radically change PPL just another about turn from this  PM how many back flips  that now I've lost count.

@Rowans_tweets @abc730 @leighsales  That he  still incapable () in delivering

Video: occams-lazer: Karl Stefanovic ruining our Prime Minister.   such an  idiot...

You want to see where   heading, just look at his past… - an  unprincipled weather vane bully
Not once have we seen #AbbRORT give a #npc like @billshortenmp  now. He  .…#auspol #abcnews24

@oldkhayyam @vincentwight They achieved one thing. They all learned what an  PM @TonyAbbottMHR .

Obama oration brilliant, off the cuff, no notes! @TonyAbbottMHR just proved to the rest of the world what an  fool he really !

  may be the most utterly embarrassing and  public figure I have EVER seen. And that  saying something. #auspol

. your stupid statement re 16 years away being of no concern sums up ALL that  wrong with your  govt #auspol #G20
Tony Abbott is a warmongering incompetent trying to hide a bad budget by inciting racism, religious persecution, hate & fear. #auspol