Saturday 28 February 2015

Headline of the Week

WAtoday 27 February 2015

New Australian Health Minister Sussan Ley demonstrates she has as big a tin ear as her prime minister

Readers of The Australian newspaper on 21 February 2015 could be forgiven for wondering who was going to find themselves on receiving end of her 'examination' - the medical profession or bulk-billed patients.

The minister will see you now: Sussan Ley. Picture: Nick Cubbin Source: News Corp Australia

Tony Abbott fails to understand the nature of violence against women according to campaigner

Excerpt from The Age article Tony Abbott fundamentally misunderstands the violence against women epidemic by Phil Cleary on 16 February 2014:

Political life might look profoundly different for Tony Abbott had he not stood smiling in front of those misogynist banners "Ditch the Witch" and "Julia – Bob Browns (sic) Bitch" during his push to become Australia's 28th prime minister. Imagine if he'd shown genuine leadership and courage and torn asunder the hatred of women that bristled in those banners. Instead, he and Bronwyn Bishop revelled in the attention while campaigners against the epidemic of violence wondered how he could not grasp the deeper significance of his complicity in the banners.
Had Abbott not lent his name to words that mimicked the tawdry courtroom depictions of murdered wives as bitches and witches, maybe his creation of an advisory panel on family violence would have looked like the actions of a genuine prime minister. Instead, in the absence of a documented passion for the anti-violence cause, his announcement of such a panel reeks of opportunism in the face of the opprobrium that flowed from his knighting of Prince Philip. Without as much as talking to the campaigners, the Prime Minister created a panel then offered not an original thought about the extent of the violence against women, its origins, or how we as a society might begin to deal with it.
Don't get me wrong. The former Victoria chief commissioner of police, Ken Lay, is a passionate and admired campaigner against the violence. And the symbolism of Rosie Batty's appointment, along with her experience with the institutions entrusted with the task of protecting women and children, will be invaluable.
But what's the point of an advisory panel if you're up to your neck in cuts to the funding of frontline services crucial to the safety of women? If only Abbott had committed funds to fortify and extend those services, rather than promise an unpopular, hugely expensive paid parental leave policy (now thankfully shelved). If only he'd promised to sweep away the platitudes and address the inconvenient truth that it is violence against women by men that is our problem, and that the murder of Luke Batty was an act of male revenge against a woman, as was Robert Farquharson driving his three sons into a dam in 2005 and Arthur Freeman throwing his 4-year-old daughter, Darcey, off the Westgate Bridge in 2009……
The sad truth is that we don't regard the life of a murdered wife as being as valuable as that of a child. When a child is murdered by their father, it is invariably described as an inexplicable act and the source of unimaginable pain, as if the loss of a woman to a man who claims to love her isn't equally as painful for her parents. Children are always innocent, whereas too often a murdered wife must run the gauntlet of guilt.
Faced with the opportunity to expose these contradictions and the hypocrisy, and to stare down the attitudes that have fostered the killing of women, Tony Abbott has failed to deliver the appropriate leadership. After 25 years of campaigning, I'm not interested – nor are the campaigners I speak with – in politicians or commentators who camouflage the origins of the violence, disregard the lessons of the campaign, or won't say that the problem is men. Rather than inspiring me, Abbott's decision to create an advisory panel on family violence left me believing he didn't understand the nature of the violence stalking modern women. It is just one more reason his leadership of the country is under threat.
We've come a long way since the days when violence against women was regarded as secret men's business. So far have we come that it is now politically acceptable to select the mother of a boy killed by his father as Australian of the Year. Unfortunately, like so many times in his recent political career, Tony Abbott did not seize the moment. How different it might have looked had he said he would not and could not entertain those who blame the Family Court, or mothers, for the violence of a vengeful father. If only he'd stated that it is "un-Australian" to kill your wife. If only he'd posed for a photo with the parents or siblings of women murdered by an estranged man, especially those devastated by the misogynist provocation law or the failed defensive homicide law in Victoria.
Like so many campaigners, I long for the day when the murder of 60 women a year by intimate partners, estranged or current, produces the same sorrow and outrage from a prime minister and his opposition counterpart as does the killing of a child – and inspires a condolence motion in Parliament of the kind moved for the victims in the Martin Place siege. For that day will truly mark the beginning of the end for the wife killers and bashers.

Friday 27 February 2015

MUUUM! He's doing that thing with the hair again!

Tony Abbott's changing hairline is not just a reflection of male vanity but may also be a barometer for his level of personal insecurity.

This is Tony Abbott in I don't give a damn mode:

This is Tony Abbott putting his best foot forward during a bad week in Canberra. The tonsorial comb over was on both sides of his part on 26 February 2015 and the 'hair product' he admits to occasionally using appears to have darkened his bald patch again:

Australia’s international standing sinks to a new low under Prime Minister Tony Abbott

The United Nations reacts.

International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (ICC) letter to Prime Minister Tony Abbott concerning his government's treatment of the President of the Australian Human Right Commission, Prof. Gillian Triggs.

This letter was copied to the United Nations Commissioner of Human Rights.

On 26 February 2015 the ICC Chairperson spoke to ABC News Radio about his letter to Prime Minister Abbott and expressed his concerns about the federal government's treatment of the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission. 

The next ICC Bureau Meeting will take place on 11 March 2015 at the United Nations Palais de Nations in Geneva and, I suspect that the Australian Government will be discussed at some point.

Rolf Harris finally relieved of his Australian honours

Almost four months after losing his application to appeal twelve sexual assault convictions, Rolf Harris loses his Australian hounours:

In Abbott's Australia it's all about protecting those who 'have' and knocking the 'have nots' into the gutter

The Daily Telegraph 22 February 2015:

A SECRET plan to kick millionaires off the aged pension was shelved by the Abbott Government’s budget razor gang in favour of slashing the indexation of payments for every pensioner in Australia.
The Sunday Telegraph can reveal that cabinet’s budget razor gang was asked to consider reforms to slash pension payments to wealthy seniors last year by changing the taper rate.
In another stunning leak from the nation’s most powerful cabinet committee, senior ministers have confirmed they agonised that the Prime Minister would be accused of kicking seniors off the pension and breaking a clear election promise not to cut pensions.
Instead, Treasury proposed a change to the indexation arrangements for all pensioners _ meaning the rate of increase would effectively be slowed _ from 2017….
The indexation change was announced in the May budget. Welfare groups and Labor argue it will cut pensions by $80 a week within 10 years. According to the Parliamentary Budget Office, this amounts to a $23 billion cut to the cost of the age pension by 2023.
For the first time, Liberal sources have revealed the indexation cut was not the preferred option of former Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews.
Mr Andrews had instead proposed a targeted cut that would only hurt wealthy seniors.
His preferred solution was to change the taper rate to withdraw pension payments faster from wealthy seniors with investment properties and investment income. The family home would have remained exempt from the pensions asset test.
Over time, this would have helped slow the growth of the large numbers of asset-rich Australians who claim the age pension.
This proposal would have reversed the 2006 decision by the Howard Government which brought more higher income seniors into Australia’s aged pension system by easing the taper rates….
The Audit Commission report also suggested a similar reform to the taper rate, suggesting it be increased to withdraw benefits at the rate for 75 per cent the dollar after pensioners reached an income threshold. Currently, the rate is 50 cents in the dollar.

SuperGuide 22 September 2014:

The UPPER asset thresholds for the Age Pension assets test increased again on 20 September 2014, which means more Australians may now be eligible for a PART Age Pension

By way of example, this means Abbott & Co decided that a single person over 65 years of age with no dependents, owning a $1 million+ home on up to 2 hectares of land, who has $770,000 in other assets producing an income of $900 per fortnight, will still receive pension and energy supplements with a combined worth of over $2,000 per annum – while a single person over 65 years of age with no dependents, owning no property, having no other assets, will see the value of the aged pension he/she receives reduced by an est. $416 per annum in 2017 (increasing to est. $4,160 per annum by 2025) due to the Abbott Government changes to pension indexation.

Yes, in Abbott’s Australia it’s all about protecting those who have and knocking the have nots into the gutter.

Thursday 26 February 2015

In October 2014 the Abbott Government received a draft copy of the Forgotten Children Report for comment before publication and then the public attacks on the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission began in earnest

In Senate Estimates on 24 February 2014 evidence (beginning at 09:06) before the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee clearly stated that a draft of The Forgotten Children Report was sent to the Abbott Government on 3 October 2014 for comment prior to preparation of the final report and its publication by the Australian Human Rights Commission:

Prof. Triggs: It is normal process, in fact acquired process, that we provide a draft of the report to the Department of Immigration and to the Attorney. We provided that in early October. The normal process is that we give the department and the Attorney's office an opportunity to read the draft that we have worked on. They then respond with any comments that they might have and we then adjust the draft to take account of those comments and we produce a final report. That is then printed and given to both the Attorney and the minister for immigration, and we did that on 11 November. In effect, at least three to four weeks before that, both ministers had access to the draft, but not, of course, until 11 November did they have the concluded conversion that had taken into account the concerns expressed by the department of immigration.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS: You mentioned that early October is when the draft was first provided. Can you take on notice the precise date for me?
Prof. Triggs: I will take on notice the exact date.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS: If it can be provided during the course of the morning, that would be useful. Let's move on to some—
Prof. Triggs: Can I answer that? We in fact do have the data. It was on 3 October 2014 that we provided the preliminary findings to the department of immigration.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So preliminary findings versus draft report or is it the same thing?
Prof. Triggs: The preliminary findings are designed to give the department and the Attorney's office an opportunity to comment on that draft. They did not receive the final printed version until 11 November. There was well over a month—about five weeks—before the final version was in their hands in printed form.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Apart from providing the first draft or, as you have said, the preliminary findings—I think we are talking about the same thing—
Prof. Triggs: Yes [my red bolding]

The public attacks on the integrity and impartiality of the President of the Human Rights Commission, Prof. Gillian Triggs, began after that date.

On 11 November 2014 the Abbott Government received the final version of The Forgotten Children Report and, Prof. Triggs began to be monitored by government according to this report in The Guardian on 18 February 2015:

The shadow attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, told Guardian Australia he had complained to Brandis after the attorney general instructed his staff member be present when Dreyfus met Triggs late last year, not long after the commission delivered to government its final report on children in detention. The meeting was not about the report.
Triggs had informed Brandis that Dreyfus had asked to meet her as a “usual courtesy”. When Brandis’s deputy chief of staff, Josh Faulks, turned up at the commission’s Sydney office at the appointed time for the meeting, both Dreyfus and Triggs asked him to leave. Faulks refused, saying he was acting on the instructions of the attorney. The meeting proceeded with Faulks watching.
“Independent statutory agencies ought to be free to consult with anyone in Australia, including the opposition, without being supervised or overseen by a ministerial adviser,” Dreyfus told Guardian Australia.
“It is appropriate for ministerial advisers to be present at security briefings provided to the opposition, or when the opposition is receiving a briefing from a government department, but it is not appropriate for ministerial advisers to oversee meetings with an independent statutory agency.”
While it is demanding that staffers sit in on meetings between Triggs and the opposition, the government is refusing to meet her. Guardian Australia understands the prime minister, Tony Abbott, has refused requests for meetings, and Brandis has been unable to find time in recent months.

On 20 November 2014 Senate Estimates Nationals Whip Senator O'Sullivan openly questioned (beginning at 12:16) Prof. Triggs on the matter of her independence and conduct and later went on to harry her at some length before complaining about a lack of consistency in her answers to his questions despite often allowing her little or no time to answer. Ending with this has been the untidiest passage of evidence that I have seen presented to any inquiry I have sat on—admittedly I have only been here for nine or 10 months.

Mainstream media reported on this estimates hearing, with The Australian on 22 November 2014 presenting what was essentially the Abbott Government’s perspective:

THE future of Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs is under a cloud after a disastrous appearance before a Senate committee, during which she contradicted her evidence about the political considerations of delaying an inquiry into children in detention. Under questioning, Professor Triggs revealed she had decided an inquiry was necessary early last year but did not act until after the federal election because she feared it would be “highly ­politicised” and “very destructive”.
And after denying she raised the matter with Labor before the election, she later admitted discussing it with two former immigration ministers, Chris Bowen and Tony Burke. It is understood the Abbott government and the minister who oversees the ­commission, Attorney-General George Brandis, have lost faith in Professor Triggs.
Her position appears untenable. She is less than halfway through a five-year term and under the commission’s act can only be dismissed for “mis­behaviour” or serious breaches of standards. She has promised to release a “detailed chronology of events”…..

On 15 December 2014 the Abbott Government announced a 30 per cent funding cut to the Commission over three years. 

Chris Moraitis, Secretary of the Attorney-General's Department (a position he has held since September 2014) confirmed in Senate Estimates (beginning at 09:06that on 3 February 2015 the Attorney-General had offered Prof. Triggs another position which would entail her resigning as President of the Human Rights Commission.

Mr Moraitis: ….I have authority from the Attorney to mention what his instructions were. They were as follows: unfortunately, the Attorney does not have confidence in Professor Triggs in her present role as commission president. Nevertheless, he retains significant goodwill towards Professor Triggs and has high regard for her legal skills. In that respect, the government would be prepared to consider positively a senior legal role for her, which I specifically mentioned—a specific role, which I am well aware of. Those were the terms in which I conveyed my message to Professor Triggs.
When I saw Professor Triggs on 3 February, I went straight to the point, as Professor Triggs has made clear. I said, 'As you recall, you had asked me to seek the Attorney's views about your standing in the commission and I am here for that person, to be able to give you the courtesy in person to tell you what his views are.' I relayed those views. I never said—I have never sought her resignation. I said that the Attorney, unfortunately, had lost confidence in her as chairman. However, he had high regard for her skills and had significant goodwill towards her. That was my understanding of the discussion and that was my recollection. Thank you…..
Senator WONG: We will come back. There is obviously a lot to ask. In the conversation with the Attorney-General, you say he indicated that he had lost confidence in Ms Triggs as the President of the Human Rights Commission?
Mr Moraitis : That is correct.
Senator WONG: At any point in that discussion, was the possibility of her resigning from the position raised?
Mr Moraitis : I do not recall. My recollection was—
Senator WONG: Sorry, you do not recall—
Mr Moraitis : I do not recall that being said.
Senator WONG: You do not recall?
Mr Moraitis : No. I was asked to convey the view that he had lost confidence in Professor Triggs.
Senator WONG: No. I will come in detail to the actual conversation with Professor Triggs. I am only at this point asking you questions about the telephone call with the Attorney-General which prompted you to set up a meeting with Professor Triggs, where she asserts that the conversation occurred. Can we go back to this?
Mr Moraitis : Yes.
Senator WONG: At any point in the discussion with the Attorney, on 2 February, did you understand that the government was seeking Professor Triggs's resignation?
Mr Moraitis : My conclusion was that that would be one option, yes, given that they lost confidence—the view was that the Attorney did not have confidence.
Senator WONG: So it was a live prospect, for you—an option—that the resignation would be sought?
Mr Moraitis : My instructions were to convey what his views were about the president, which were that he had lost confidence in the president.
Senator WONG: Were his views also that she should resign?
Mr Moraitis : I do not recall him saying that expressly.
Senator WONG: Did you understand that he wanted her to resign?
Mr Moraitis : That was an option I understood from that discussion.
Senator WONG: So it was clearly an option from that discussion that the Attorney wanted her to resign?
Mr Moraitis : That was my take as a possibility….
Senator WONG: So let's talk about the second telephone call. When was that? Was it the day before the meeting?
Mr Moraitis : As I said, that was Monday, 2 February.
Senator WONG: And the Attorney phoned you?
Mr Moraitis : Correct.
Senator WONG: Where did you say you were when you took the call?
Mr Moraitis : I did not say. If I recall, I was in my office.
Senator WONG: Was anyone else present?
Mr Moraitis : Not that I recall.
Senator WONG: Did you take notes of that telephone call?
Mr Moraitis : I took some notes, yes.
Senator WONG: Where are those notes?
Mr Moraitis : I cannot find them, I am sorry. I had them on a notepad.
Senator WONG: Have you looked for them?
Mr Moraitis : Yes, I have. I can assure you of that.
Senator WONG: How long did the call last, approximately?
Mr Moraitis : About a minute or so.
Senator WONG: And in that minute what did the Attorney convey?
Mr Moraitis : What I said in this morning's statement.
Senator WONG: Could you repeat it for me.
Mr Moraitis : That the Attorney had lost confidence—did not have confidence—in Professor Triggs as chairperson of the commission. He nevertheless retained significant goodwill towards her and had high regard for her legal skills. He wished me to point out that the government was prepared to consider a specific senior role, which was mentioned to me and which I conveyed, for Professor Triggs. That was my recollection.
Senator WONG: So the Attorney had lost confidence in her; there was significant goodwill towards her; he had a high regard—was that the phrase?
Mr Moraitis : For her legal skills, yes.
Senator WONG: And he wanted you to indicate a specific role—you used that phrase.
Mr Moraitis : Yes.
Senator WONG: What was the role?
Mr Moraitis : I would like to tell you what the role is, but I have been told that actually it is quite sensitive, involving other matters that I would rather not go into in public.
Senator WONG: Is that a public interest immunity claim?
Mr Moraitis : The general issue is subject to deliberation.
Senator WONG: Did you tell Professor Triggs what the role was?
Mr Moraitis : Yes. Professor Triggs was aware of the role before I even mentioned it to her.
Senator WONG: So there was a specific senior role that the Attorney mentioned to you—
Mr Moraitis : Correct.
Senator WONG: that the government would consider giving to Professor Triggs.
Mr Moraitis : A senior role, given her legal skills and the respect for her legal skills.
Senator WONG: If she resigned?
Mr Moraitis : No, it was not put in those words.
Senator WONG: What were the words?
Mr Moraitis : I did not use the word 'resign'.
Senator WONG: No, all right. I am asking you: what were the words?
Mr Moraitis : I said what I said in my statement and what I just said now. There were essentially three points that I was asked to make. One was that the Attorney had lost confidence in Professor Triggs as chairperson. He retained significant goodwill towards her and had high regard for her legal skills. In that respect, he was asking me to formally put on the table or mention that there would be a senior legal role, a specific senior role, that her skills could be used for.
Senator WONG: I again press my question: what was the role?
CHAIR: You have answered, Mr Moraitis. You do not need to keep answering.
Senator Brandis: I would be very eager to tell you, Senator Wong, but Mr Reid's counsel—Mr Reid, as you know, is from the Office of International Law—to me and to the secretary is that it would not be helpful for Australia's interests if this were to be debated in a public forum.
Senator WONG: I am not debating it; I just want to know—
Senator Brandis interjecting—
Senator WONG: I had not finished. I just want to know what was offered to her.
Senator Brandis: Is this to me or to Mr Moraitis?
Senator WONG: To any of you.
CHAIR: Mr Moraitis has already answered the question, so he does not have to keep answering the same question.
Senator WONG: If there is a claim of public interest immunity, which actually has not technically been made, I would ask that it be referred to the Senate and I will move on.
Mr Moraitis : I have asked Mr Reid whether I can mention the specific role.
Senator WONG: He is not the judge; the Senate is the judge, actually.
Mr Moraitis : Very well, thank you….
Senator WONG: How did you come to the conclusion that you have given evidence about that resignation was an option?
Mr Moraitis : That was my take on the options available from that discussion.
Senator WONG: Did you understand that the role would only be available if resignation took place?
Mr Moraitis : Well, my understanding was that you cannot have two roles in this sort of situation.

The government chose not to table and release the final version of The Forgotten Children Report until 11 February 2015.

Immediately after that the attack rhetoric rose in volume and intensity.

Prime Minister Abbott on 12 February: It would be a lot easier to respect the Human Rights Commission if it did not engage in what are transparent stitch-ups like the one that was released the other day. I say to the Human Rights Commission: if you are concerned about real human rights, real human decency, real compassion for people, you should be writing congratulatory letters to the former Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, who has stopped the boats, who has saved lives and who has got children out of detention.
"Where was the Human Rights Commission during the life of the former government when hundreds of people were drowning at sea?"
"This is a blatantly partisan politicised exercise.
"The Human Rights Commission should be ashamed of itself."

National Party MP George Christensen on 13 February: A day after The Forgotten Children report was released a chorus of Coalition backbenchers ratcheted up criticism of ­Professor Triggs, expressing a loss of confidence in her and ­questioning her impartiality. Senior government figures ­remain deeply dissatisfied with Professor Triggs.
Coalition MP George Christensen, who chairs a committee which is weighing up whether to investigate “systemic bias’’ at the HRC, called for her to step down.
“I have more confidence in getting impartial advice from Green Left Weekly than from ­Gillian Triggs,’’ Mr Christensen told The Australian.
“She has effectively sidelined herself and the HRC from having any credibility with the Abbott government. If she wants to do the right thing by the commission and have their views listened to by the government again, she needs to tender her resignation.’’

Prime Minister Abbott on 24 February: “It is true that the government has lost confidence in the president of the Human Rights Commission” “
"It's absolutely crystal clear, this inquiry by the President of the Human Rights Commission is a political stitch up. It's a political stitch up and it will be called out by members of this government.

Attorney-General on 24 February: "I felt that the political impartiality of the Human Rights Commission had been fatally compromised",…
"I had reached the conclusion, sadly, that Professor Triggs should consider her position."
"I would be glad for Professor Triggs to be of service to the Australian government but I am afraid that the reputation of the commission will not survive the reputation of political partisanship, which I am sorry to say Professor Triggs [has].

By 24 February 2015 Senator O’Sullivan was also back again in Senate Estimates covering the same old ground with Prof. Triggs ad nauseam (beginning at 09:06) and in doing so confused a brief state of the system report with the Human Rights Commission inquiry report while at the same time confusing Prof. Triggs generally.

On 24 February the Chair of Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee Senate Estimates hearing, LNP Senator Ian MacDonald, who is a fierce critic of the report stated:

It may have changed in the final report, I do not know—as I have indicated, I have not bothered to read the report because I think it is partisan. This is why.

Besides a blind rage that the content of The Forgotten Children Report was not confined solely to the actions of the former Labor federal government, could it be that this unprecedented attack on the Australia Human Rights Commission is an attempt to discredit this report in the eyes of the United Nations which has already expressed concerns about how asylum seekers are treated by this country.

To be continued……..

So you think you're hard done by because Abbott & Co told you so?

The top 20 per cent of people have five times more income than the bottom 20 per cent, and hold 71 times more wealth. Perhaps the gap between those with the most and those with the least is most starkly highlighted by the fact that the richest seven individuals in Australia hold more wealth than 1.73 million households in the bottom 20 per cent. [The Australia Institute, Income and wealth inequality in Australia, Policy Brief No. 64, July 2014]

This year sees tax rates and tax reform debated in the media once more, with Prime Minister Abbott reiterating that his is a government that believes in lowering taxes and Treasurer Hockey repeating that Australian workers pay almost half their earnings to government as tax.

If the Australian Taxation Office Individual income tax rates for Australian residents is correct this would only come close to happening if your personal taxable income is many millions of dollars per year.

At half a million in taxable income annually, tax payable by an individual worker without family (including the Medicare and Temporary Budget Repair levies) would only reach an est. 42.05% and, in fact would be less than that once any Australian Tax Office (ATO) refund is deducted.

For many workers their personal income tax might look something like this.

Estimated individual tax payable in 2014-15

Income of $18,200 – pay no income tax as this amount is the upper limit of the tax free threshold applicable to all individual taxpayers before taxable income can be calculated

Taxable income of $37,000 – pay $3,610 income tax (before any ATO tax refund)

Taxable income $80,000 – pay $17,332 income tax (before any ATO tax refund)

Taxable income $180,000 – pay $54,547 income tax^ (before any ATO tax refund)

Taxable income $250,000* – pay $86,047 income tax^# (before any ATO tax refund)

Taxable income $500,000* – pay $198,547 income tax^#  (before any ATO tax refund)

* taxable income in highest individual tax rate after the first $180,000 of taxable income
^ does not include the 2% Medicare Levy surcharge applicable at this level of taxable income
# individual taxpayers with a taxable income of more than $180,000 per year will have additional tax withheld by their employer (2% Temporary Budget Repair Levyfrom 1 July 2014 to 1 July 2017
+ the majority of all tax refunds range between $1 and $1,999, the second largest refund band is between $2,000 and $3,999, with the highest refund band being $10,000 dollars or more
NB. All figures based on Australian Tax Office Individual income tax rates for Australian residents 2014-15 and Taxation Statistics 2011-12 (refunds)

Right-wing attacks on the ABC continue. This time Gerard Henderson's tilt at Media Watch & Professor Chapman backfires spectacularly

Weighed under by budget cuts and loss of an international platform the Australian Broadcasting Commission, everybody's Aunty, must wonder when Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott's flying monkeys will cease their attacks on its integrity.

Fortunately some of those who become collateral damage in the war on public broadcasting bite back publicly, as did Simon Fenton Chapman AO BA(Hons) (UNSW), PhD (USyd), FASSA, HonFFPH (UK).

Professor Chapman in Crikey on 23 February 2015:

Over the weekend and this morning, The Australian's Gerard Henderson and Simon King spent a lot of ink explaining to readers that I have "as much authority to discuss health affairs as I [Henderson] do. Namely, Zip."
Their readers needed to be told this because last week Media Watch tipped a very rancorous bucket over The Australian's reportage of a "study" from Victoria by acoustic engineer Steven Cooper that involved just three households of altogether six long-time complainants about the local wind farm. There was no control group. Here and here are critiques of the many manifest inadequacies of his report.
I was one of four people quoted by Media Watch in the program, and this got our Gerard very excited. He wrote to the program:
"Media Watch's decision to associate Professor Chapman with the words 'expert' and 'scientific' gave a clear impression that he is qualified to assess scientific research. However, Paul Barry neglected to advise Media Watch viewers that Simon Chapman had no scientific or engineering or medical qualifications. He has a BA (Hons) from the University of New South Wales and a Ph.D. from Sydney University. Dr Chapman's Ph.D. is in Sociology. In other words, Simon Chapman has no qualifications to assess the research of the acoustic engineer Steven Cooper … Media Watch misled its viewers last Monday by implying that Professor Simon Chapman is an 'expert' who is 'scientifically' qualified to assess the heath effect on humans of wind farms. The fact is that Simon Chapman has no formal qualifications in science or medicine or engineering."
This morning Simon King went one better with his discovery that ""He does not have a PhD in Medicine". In fact, I do have a PhD in medicine. Here's a list of 14 of us who graduated in 1986 with … wait for it … a "PhD in medicine", as King could have read if he'd checked my CV (line 1, page 3) or asked me.
I did my PhD in the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine (that M word again). The duffers on the Order of Australia committee also seem to know that I contribute to health and medical research. My citation reads "for distinguished service to medical research as an academic and author".
King and Henderson appear to know nothing about the nature of contemporary expertise and how nearly all complex problems in health and medicine today involve researchers from different disciplines working together. In my school in the faculty of medicine there are staff who are biostatisticians, historians, psychologists, ethicists, economists, epidemiologists, and social scientists. Only some — probably a minority — have undergraduate degrees in medicine. Henderson's primitive understanding of expertise begins and ends with the possession of an undergraduate degree…..
Steven Cooper, whose CV has no mention of any PhD or undergraduate degree in medicine, until recently referred to himself as "Dr Cooper" on his home page. I look forward to The Australian covering this…..
Read the rest of the article here.

Wednesday 25 February 2015

Santos' Gladstone LNG expansion proposal involves significant scientific uncertainties according to Federal Government's Independent Expert Scientific Committee

The industrialisation of rural and regional landscapes continue with Santos planning more than 6,000 water hungry gas wells operating for an estimated 30 years across 10,676 square kilometres in Queensland.

The Abbott Government has been in possession of the Independent Expert Scientific Committee’s final report on the Gas Fields Development Project since December 2014, sometime after which it was made publicly available on the Committee’s website.

ABC News 19 February 2015:

Top experts are warning of significant scientific uncertainties arising from a massive coal seam gas expansion proposal in Queensland.
The ABC has obtained a report from the Federal Government's Independent Expert Scientific Committee, which flags a concerning lack of information in project documents and says more work needs to be done on Santos's Gladstone LNG expansion proposal.
The proposed expansion covers 10,676 square kilometres and has the potential to include more than 6,000 gas wells across central Queensland.
"The scale, the early stage and the geographic extent of the proposed project development, together with other significant coal seam gas projects in the region, creates considerable scientific uncertainty about impacts on surface water and groundwater and associated ecosystems," the IESC report said.
According to the report, the potential impacts include:
* Reduced water supply to Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems, including Great Artesian Basin discharge and watercourse springs and endangered ecological communities.
* Changes to groundwater and surface water quality due to direct project activities and management of co-produced water.
* Cumulative impacts of Surat and Bowen basin activities (particularly coal seam gas and coal mining) on groundwater pressures and lag-time effects on water.
The IESC also warned the hydroecological information (including ecological water requirements of systems) was "inadequate" for understanding potential local ecological impacts.
"Methods applied are appropriate to understand regional impacts, particularly cumulative water drawdown," the Committee said.
"However, the methods used are not sufficient for understanding local-scale impacts, particularly to ecological assets.
"Recognising the considerable information provided in the project assessment documentation, the IESC is concerned that relevant data and information from investigations and monitoring from the [Gladstone LNG] Project and Joint Industry Programmes have not been incorporated in the project assessment documentation for [this latest] development."

There is also the matter of weather during cyclone season......

This is the Santos facility at Curtis Island, Gladstone QLD:

Then there is the matter of weather conditions during cyclone season.....

On 19 February 2015 7News reported:

Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) spokesman Patrick Quirk said ships would be moved away from Gladstone Harbour this morning as a precaution. "We have about 11 ships in the port and 23 ships at anchor and they'll be asked to clear the area," he said. "We have some LNG tankers also in the area and they'll go to sea to weather the storm."

The Financial Review on 20 February 2015:
Ports in Mackay and Gladstone had been shut down in preparation for the cyclone. Gas company Santos said all of its staff on its GLNG liquefied natural gas project had been moved off Curtis Island, near Gladstone, with workers moved into cyclone-proof accommodation. Bechtel, which has built the three gas processing plants on Curtis Island, said the projects would remain closed until the weather improved.

The truth about Tony Abbott's war on terror? Part Two

Alan Moir political cartoon

From time to time snippets of truth concerning Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s expensive war on terror appear in the media. 

This is another example....... 21 February 2015:

TONY Abbott suggested a unilateral invasion of Iraq, with 3500 Australian ground troops to confront the Islamic State terrorist group.

Flanked by his chief of staff, Peta Credlin, in a meeting in Canberra on November 25, the Prime Minister said the move would help halt the surge of Islamic State in northern Iraq.

After receiving no resistance from Ms Credlin or his other staff in the room, Mr Abbott then raised the idea with Australia’s leading military planners. The military officials were stunned, telling Mr Abbott that sending 3500 Australian soldiers without any US or NATO cover would be disastrous for the Australians.

They argued that even the US was not prepared to put ground troops into Iraq and it would make Australia the only Western country with troops on the ground…..

The Iraq idea was not the first time Mr Abbott had suggested a military intervention by Australia’s armed forces. The Australian reported in August that in the week following the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine by Russian-backed militia, Mr Abbott suggested sending 1000 Australian soldiers to secure the site of the crash….

Australia’s leading military planners also argued against that proposal, telling Mr Abbott there were serious problems with the plan: Australian soldiers would not be able to speak either Ukrainian or Russian, and the Australian troops would have difficulty distinguishing between Ukrainians and Russian militia.

The truth about Tony Abbott's war on terror? Part One

Note: Mr. Abbott has since denied  that he had raised the idea of Australia unilaterally intervening in Iraq. This denial appears to hinge on whether he had made a 'formal' request for advice on this matter - presumably as opposed to any informal discussion. However, since Mr. Abbott is a self-admitted purveyor of untruths it will be up to the reader to decide if he denial is believeable.