Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Palaszczuk tells Rockhampton, ‘Stanwell is not for sale’ under Labor

Media Release

Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk has pledged that Stanwell would not be sold by Labor if she becomes Premier after the next election.
Meeting with Stanwell workers today near Rockhampton today, Ms Palaszczuk said only Labor would ensure Queensland’s electricity network is not sold off.
“Campbell Newman promised he wouldn’t sell off Queenslanders electricity assets, yet now he is,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“Here in Central Queensland, that means Stanwell Power Station and the Ergon depots are on the chopping block under the LNP."
“That’s over 700 Stanwell workers and 4300 Ergon workers who face uncertainty, including around 400 in this region alone."
“Then there’s the impact Campbell Newman’s asset sales will have on electricity prices. Already we’ve seen record price increases under this Government. What will happen when the whole network’s sold off?"
“My commitment to the people of Queensland, especially those in this region that rely on the state’s electricity assets for employment, is that only Labor will protect these assets from privatisation.”
Member for Rockhampton Bill Byrne said he welcomed the Opposition Leader’s commitment to the people of central Queensland.
“Only Annastacia Palaszczuk and Labor are committed to standing up for electricity workers and standing up for every household and business that pays an electricity bill."
“The Government’s using its usual ‘weasel-words’, suggesting a long-term lease isn’t a sale. That’s just more spin from the LNP."
“Once the private sector gets its hands on these assets, they’re gone forever."
“These assets return about $2 billion in profits to the taxpayer. That’s roughly the same as coal royalties. I don’t think Queenslanders would agree that giving away our coal royalties is a good idea, even if you do get a short-term sugar hit for them."

“Labor is very clear on this issue. The choice at the next election will be an LNP Government that believes in more asset sales, or a Labor Government that believes in more jobs.”

WWF Living Planet Report shows Australia's ecological footprint improving but world living beyond its means

Extract from ABC News

Australia's environmental ranking has improved in the past few years according to an analysis of the world's largest ecological footprints.
But the WWF's biennial Living Planet Report warned that the world was struggling to sustain the demands of modern society.
Launched at the United Nations in Geneva, the report ranked 152 nations' ecological footprints and warned the world was living beyond its means.
It found Australia had the 13th largest ecological footprint per person in the world, mostly because of carbon emissions and the amount of land required for crops and grazing.
Australia's ecological footprint was ranked the seventh largest in 2012.

Do you know more about this story? Email investigations@abc.net.au

The report found global wildlife populations had fallen by more than half in just 40 years, according to the Living Planet Index.
The index was maintained by the Zoological Society of London and tracked more than 10,000 vertebrate species populations from 1970 onwards.
"The scale of biodiversity loss and damage to the ecosystems essential for our well-being is alarming and a direct consequence of the way we produce and consume," WWF Australia chief executive Dermot O'Gorman said.

Ecological footprints per capita

  1. Kuwait
  2. Qatar
  3. United Arab Emirates
  4. Denmark
  5. Belgium
  6. Trinidad and Tobago
  7. Singapore
  8. USA
  9. Bahrain
  10. Sweden
  11. Canada
  12. Netherlands
  13. Australia
  14. Ireland
  15. Finland

The report said if the rest of the world lived like Australians, we would need 3.6 Earths to sustain our total demands on nature.
High-income countries had a per-capita ecological footprint on average five times that of low-income countries.
But while low-income countries had the smallest footprint, they generally tended to suffer the greatest ecosystem losses.
The report provided some positive news for water quality on the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland.
It found that pioneering farming practices on the Queensland coast helped achieve a 15 per cent reduction in pesticide pollution and 13 per cent reduction in fertiliser pollution on the reef.
"Investment in innovative farming practices on the Queensland coast has seen significant reductions in pesticide and fertiliser pollution on the reef over the past five years," Mr O'Gorman said.

"The good news is that Australians are pioneering innovative production methods that are good for businesses, communities and the environment and which show the way forward for a growing world population."

Six-month wait for dole would breach human rights, bipartisan parliamentary committee finds

Extract from ABC News

A bipartisan parliamentary report has found the Federal Government will breach its international obligations if it goes ahead with its budget proposal to force young jobseekers to wait six months for unemployment benefits.
The tough welfare measure is due to be debated in Parliament this week and the Government is negotiating with crossbench senators to get the bill passed.
Family First senator Bob Day has encouraged Senate colleagues to push for a compromise option of a one-month waiting period rather than six.
But the report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights said "the committee considers that the measure is incompatible with the right to social security and the right to an adequate standard of living".
Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) chief executive Cassandra Goldie said the committee's unanimous findings were damning and should convince senators to reject the bill.
"If we are to be serious, standing on the global stage saying Australia respects human rights, then this is the acid test," Dr Goldie said.
"Will the Government respect the findings of its own human rights committee?
"The committee is there for a purpose. It has reported to Parliament, and we believe it is the obligations now of Parliament to respond and respect those findings."
The committee was put in place by the previous Labor government but its findings are not binding on the Government.
"There's quite clearly a moral obligation, and internationally, it is a legal obligation," Dr Goldie said.
"The Government is involved in the UN Security Council, it is an important member of the United Nations systems, and these are serious international legal obligations that it is obliged to meet.
"These are not discretionary obligations that the Government can pick and choose from. They are founded in important international human rights obligations."

Social Services Minister defends tough welfare measures

ACOSS said the committee's findings backed up criticism from community and welfare groups about the impact of the tough welfare measures on jobseekers under the age of 30.
Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews told the Human Rights Committee that the budget measure was aimed at increasing the numbers of young people in work if they were able to do so.
"This measure seeks to address youth unemployment by encouraging young people to accept jobs rather than relying on income support at risk of becoming disengaged, both socially and economically," Mr Andrews told the committee.
He said jobseekers would get help to look for work and exemptions would be available to some people.
But the committee found the Minister's response did not address its fundamental concerns about the effect of the waiting period.
"The response does not provide any further information as to how young people are to sustain themselves during a six-month period without social security," the report said.
"The committee noted in its original assessment that information regarding the likely impact of the measure on individuals and their families, and how individuals subject to the measure will retain access to adequate shelter and food, is necessary in order to assess the human rights compatibility of this measure."
The committee is chaired by Liberal senator Dean Smith and includes four other Government members, four Labor representatives and one from the Greens.

It found another budget proposal, to lift the age of eligibility for the Newstart allowance from 22 to 25, was also in breach of Australia's international obligations because it was incompatible with the rights to equality and non-discrimination on the basis of age.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Labor's Kate Jones to run for preselection in Campbell Newman's Brisbane seat of Ashgrove

Extract from ABC News

Former Queensland MP Kate Jones will nominate for preselection in Premier Campbell Newman's Brisbane seat of Ashgrove ahead of the next state election.
Ms Jones held the seat from 2006 to 2012, when she lost it to Mr Newman.
There had been ongoing speculation that Ms Jones would return to politics and contest the seat.
Earlier this month, the ALP's Queensland branch registered the domain name katejones.com.au.
This morning a senior Labor Party source confirmed Ms Jones would nominate for preselection.
Mr Newman holds Ashgrove with a 5.7 per cent margin but recent polls indicated a significant swing against the Premier.

A spokesman for Mr Newman said he was focusing on delivering solutions to the issues that matter to Queenslanders while Labor is recycling candidates.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Summary of Labour News March 30, 1895.


The World of Labour.

SHEARING will not commence at Charlotte Plains until the end of next month. Exact date not knows. - J. D.

SQUATTER Jimmy Tyson has sent a circular to all his stations notifying that the wages of constant hands must be reduced to 15s. per week.

THE Metropolitan Board of Works, Melbourne, have decided by 17 to 15, “That a minimum rate of wage be paid in connection with all contracts let by this board.”

A GREAT coal miners strike has taken place in Belgium. The police, as per usual, took sides with the colliery owners, and fired upon the miners, killing many of them.

THE Provincial Council at Liege, Belgium, insists in all public contracts on a maximum length of the working day being maintained and a minimum wage paid to workmen, who must also be insured against accidents at the employers' cost.

IN the Swiss canton of rural Bale domestic servants and workmen can sue for wages in a law court without any cost. In Queensland, on the contrary, in wage suits the law is so costly that workmen time after time prefer to suffer injustice in preference to being fleeced.

IN consequence of the broken promises and wholesale reduction in miners' wages by the colliery proprietors in the Newcastle district of N.S.W., non-unionists are being made unionists, ans there is every probability of a most bitter and desperate strike in the near future.

THERE complimentary tickets to the farewell banquet to Lord Hopetoun were sent to the Melbourne Trades Hall Council. The members of the Council thought that, whilst there were so many unemployed, the present was not a time for banqueting, and politely returned the tickets. Quite right!

THREE hundred workmen have gone on strike at Hudson Bros. works, Clyde, near Sydney. The firm kept reducing and reducing wages until the men could not stand it any longer. Nowadays cordial relations between the employer and the workmen means the peaceful acceptance by the latter of lower wages, never mind where it stops.

Two of the most violently aggressive of the shearers' leaders have been elected to office this year. Mr. Arthur Rae has been elected president of the Australian Workers' Union, and Mr. Revolutionary Toomey is one of the vice-presidents.” - The Australian Pastoralists' Review. Good iron, Toomey. Go ahead, Rae. We want a few more of your sort.

JOHN Davis, homeless. destitute, and suffering from disease, asked a Brisbane policeman to find him lodgings or arrest him. The policeman refused, whereupon Davis deliberately broke a street lamp. For this he was run in and sentenced to fourteen days' hard labour.
Dimes and dollars, dollars and dimes,
An empty pocket's the worst of crimes.
THERE is a boot factory in Brisbane where the machinery that kicks up an awful row is nicely oiled and cleaned and well looked after. The men and boys employed in the same factory are paid wages that scarcely keep them in decency, and if any of them hums a tune or whistles the haughty boss comes along and shouts “out you go.” Machines are looked after better than men in this establishment.

LABOUR Member Browne, who has been suffering from an old wound in his leg, under went a successful operation on Tuesday last. He is now confined to his bed, where under doctor's orders he is expected to remain a month or six weeks. Mr. Browne is staying at Miss Patterson's, Inglewood House, Gray street, South Brisbane, where he will be glad to receive an occasional visit from friends during his retirement.

THE gripemen in the employ of the Melbourne Tramway Company are sufferers from locomoterataxia in consequence of the intense vibration of the cars on which they ride. After five or six years, at about 35s. per week, they have to face a lifetime of misery and inability to do hard work for a living. Is it unreasonable to expect that men thus incapacitated should be able to claim pensions from the company?

A MEETING of representatives of the master bakers and flour dealers was held at the Traders' Association, George-street, on Saturday last, to consider the grievance between D. Webster and Ainsworth and Son, bakers. A resolution was agreed to that the price of bread on the North side of Brisbane should be 21/2 per loaf, cash; South side to please themselves. Owing to certain master bakers being unable to agree, bread is now selling in South Brisbane at 2d. per loaf, and in one instance at 11/2d.

A short debate took place at the last Municipal Council meeting concerning the nucleus of the Art Gallery. The Government required that the council should find room, a caretaker, and insure the pictures while in their possession for a probable period of three months. This Alderman M'Master strongly opposed, and told the council that “if they placed reliance on the statements made by the Government they were depending on a broken reed.” M'Master is a supporter of the Government, and he ought to know.

IN reply to a question asked in the British House of Commons the president of the Board of Trade stated the Government were awaiting an invitation to intervene in the great boot trade strike now taking place in England, and would readily mediate between the masters and the workmen. The members of Australian governments, when a strike is on, bring out the gatlings and pass coercion laws in order to grind down the working classes to the will of the Fat Man they represent.
What a contrast!

A DEPUTATION of Sydney journeymen bakers recently waited on Premier Reid regarding sweating on some Government bread contracts. The N.S.W. Premier assured his interviewers of his sympathy. He was thoroughly in favour of Government work being done under standard conditions.
Sweating on Government contracts was an outrage. If the Government couldn't pay a fair and honest rate for its business, it had better shut up. He recognised that there were difficulties, but a stern effort must be made to carry the principle into effect. However, the next contracts wouldn't be let for 12 months yet. “And I rely on you to keep me up to the mark,” he said, “Be here two months ahead, so that I may be able to give effect to your wishes.”

ON the 12th March a meeting of 500 unemployed took place at Carlton (Melb.) to consider their position. A deputation was appointed consisting of Messre. Hancock, Maloney, Prendergast, and Sangster, M.M.L.A., to urge the Government to start reproductive works in order to find employment for those willing to work. The Premier, Mr. Turner, in reply said, sympathising with the unemployed, that he would do all in his power to find employment, yet he could not go so far as to make the Government responsible for it. The question arises; Is it not the duty of the Government, the administrators of society, to look after the welfare of all, the more so when private enterprise is at a deadlock? When the latter fails surely it is the duty of any Government to step in and provide work for the workless. So long as this is not recognised how can a country prosper.?  

Climate summit: Humanity has never faced a greater challenge, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon says

Extract from ABC News

The head of the United Nations has warned that humanity has never faced a greater challenge than climate change as world leaders gathered in New York a high-level climate summit.
In his opening address to the UN talks, secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon warned the dreams of humanity hung in the balance.
"To ride this storm we need all hands on deck," he said.
"The human environmental and financial cost of climate change is fast becoming unbearable."
US president Barack Obama said despite the present threats of terrorism, instability and disease, climate change would "define the contours of the century more dramatically than any other" issue.
"This challenge demands our ambition. Our children deserve such ambition," he said.
"Today I call on all countries to join us - not next year or the year after that but right now - because no nation can meet this global threat alone."
The meeting is designed to speed up negotiations for a new global climate agreement to replace the Kyoto protocol and avoid catastrophic climate change.
It is the largest leaders' climate meeting since the 2009 Copenhagen summit, which was largely seen as a failure because it did not result in a binding agreement to reduce emissions.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop went through the direct action policy that the Australian Government is employing at the moment.
She said Australia was balancing economic growth with climate change.
"In taking action at home, we are recognising Australia is responsible for around 1.5 per cent of global emissions and that all countries need to act, especially the world's biggest emitters," she said at the summit.
"Australia will consider its post-2020 target as part of the review we will conduct in 2015 on Australia's international targets and settings.
Ms Bishop said Australia was not a large emitter and said it was up to the major industrial economies to do their bit.
"This review will consider the comparable actions of others including the major economies and Australia's trading partners," she said.
"We are striking the responsible balance of safeguarding economic growth while taking action on climate change."
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who is due to arrive in New York for the leaders' meeting later today, chose not to attend the climate summit.
He was not alone – the leaders of India, Canada, Russia and China did not attend either.

UK to fight 'perverse fossil fuel subsidies'

UK prime minister David Cameron said governments needed to give businesses certainty to invest in low-carbon technologies.
"That means fighting against the economically and environmentally perverse fossil fuel subsidies which distort markets and rip off taxpayers," he said.
"We've said no to any new coal without carbon capture and storage [technology attached].

Country commitments

  • Barbados: 29 per cent of electricity will be green by 2029
  • Denmark: Aims to be fossil fuel free by 2050
  • Georgia: Aiming to be carbon neutral by 2050
  • Ireland: Reduce greenhouse gases by 80 per cent by 2050
  • Mexico: More than one third of electricity-generating capacity
  • Ethiopia: Zero net emissions by 2025
  • France: One billion USD to the green climate fund over the next few years
  • Iceland: Commitment to become an entirely fossil free economy
  • Korea: Next year it will become the first Asian country with a national carbon trading scheme
  • Chile: 45 per cent of energy to be green by 2025
  • Finland: Phasing out coal in power stations by 2025
  • Monaco: Goal to reduce carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050
  • Costa Rica: 100 per cent of energy to be green
  • Indonesia: Will cut emissions by 26 per cent by 2020 and says that will rise to 40 per cent with international help
  • Brunei: 63 per cent reduction in energy consumption by 2035
  • EU: Committed to cutting emissions by 80 to 95 per cent by 2050
  • UK: On track to cut emissions by 80 per cent by 2050
  • China: Reiterated commitment to cut carbon intensity by 40 to 45 per cent of 2005 levels by 2020, committed $US6 million to advance South-South cooperation on climate change

Source: United Nations Twitter @Climate2014Live
"I'll be pushing European Union leaders to come to Paris with an offer to cut emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030.
"[The UK is] on track to cut emissions by 80 per cent by 2050."
However, tackling the global impact of climate change can only be met if big emitters vow to take responsibility.
The United States is the world's biggest economy and the second biggest emitter, and Mr Obama stressed the importance of taking the lead on climate change.
"We recognise our role in creating this problem – we recognise our responsibly to combat it," he said.
"None of this is without controversy. In each of our countries, there are interests that will be resistant to action, and in each country there is a suspicion that if we act and other countries don't that we will be at an economic disadvantage.
"But we have to lead."
Mr Obama said every country would need to pull its weight.
"We can only succeed combating climate change if we are joined in the effort by every nation. Nobody gets a pass," he said.
"There does not have to be a conflict in a sound environment and strong economic growth – over the past eight years we have reduced total carbon pollution by more than any nation on Earth. But we have to do more."
China, the world's largest emitter, reiterated its goal to cut carbon intensity by 40 to 45 per cent of 2005 levels by 2020.
"China is ready to work with other countries, shoulder responsibilities and build a better future for mankind," Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli said.
"We will announce post-2020 actions on climate change as soon as we can to markedly reduce carbon intensity, increase the share of non-fossil fuels and raise the forest stock.
"As a major developing country, China will make an even greater effort to address climate change and take on international responsibilities that are commensurate with our national conditions and actual capabilities."

Scientists and celebrities have their say

The message from scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was clear.           
Its chair, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, said time was running out.
"How on Earth can we leave our children with a world like this?" he said.
"I'm not sure if I could stand before you if the threats of climate change had no solutions, but they do.
"We already have the means to build a better, more sustainable world.
"The solutions are many and allow for continued economic development."
He maintained that renewable energy was a real option.
"Half of the world's new electricity generating capacity in 2012 came from renewables," he said.
Hollywood celebrity Leonardo DiCaprio made an impassioned call to the leaders in the room.
"I pretend for a living - but you do not," he said.
"The people have made their voices heard [at Sunday's climate marches].
"The momentum will not stop, but now is your turn. The time to address humanity's greatest challenge is now."

Roadmap to a new global climate agreement

The next formal round of talks between nations will be in Peru later this year at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Countries will present their plans for emission reductions by March next year and negotiations will continue with the view of having a binding commitment agreed to in Paris next year.
All countries are determined to avoid a repeat of the 2009 Copenhagen climate talks.
Economist Nick Stern, a former adviser to the British government on climate change, said he did not believe there would be a repeat of Copenhagen.
"The learning that's been done in the meantime about technology, about ways of doing this, has been very strong and the wish to collaborate has grown stronger," Lord Stern told the ABC on Tuesday.
But the chairman of the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics questioned if the overall scale of commitment would be enough.
"That's my biggest worry," he said.

Do you know more about this story? Email investigations@abc.net.au

Renewable energy target rallies held across Australia

Extract from The Guardian

Protesters gather in 30 locations calling for the 20% target to be retained at events organised by renewable energy lobby groups
  • Australian Associated Press
RET protest
Renewable energy activists rally outside the Perth office of the foreign minister, Julie Bishop, on Friday. Photograph: Rebecca Le May/AAP
Rallies have been held across Australia calling on the federal government to uphold a commitment to renewable energy.
At some 30 locations around the nation on Friday, peaceful protesters waved placards and made speeches outside the offices of Coalition MPs and senators.
“Tasmania is a renewable energy paradise,” climate action spokesman Phil Harrington called from the back of a ute outside the Hobart office of Liberal senator Eric Abetz.
The leader of the government in the upper house wasn’t inside his office to hear speeches, which outlined the billions of dollars worth of investment Tasmania is set to reap from renewable energy projects including wind farms.
A similar scene backing the renewable energy target (RET) was on show in Perth outside the office of deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop, where protesters were addressed by state MP for Perth, Alannah MacTiernan.
MacTiernan said it was embarrassing countries all over the world were supporting market mechanisms to combat climate change, but Australia was backing down.
“Where is this concept that we’re out here on our own?” she asked the crowd. “We have lost our price on carbon but we will bring that back.
“But what we still have here is the renewable energy target and we must make sure that we keep this credible target.”
The government is considering a report by businessman Dick Warburton, which questions the target of 20% of electricity generation from renewable sources by 2020. A formal response is expected within days.
Labor senator Lisa Singh backed the protests and said her home state of Tasmania would be among the hardest hit if the RET were scrapped.
“The chaos and uncertainty created by [the government] is stopping any investment or expansion in the renewables sector which is so important for economic development,” she said.
Several groups including the Clean Energy Council, Australian Solar Council, Solar Energy Industries Association and the Australian Wind Alliance were behind Friday’s rally movement.

‘Team idiot’: Bill Shorten accuses George Christensen and Cory Bernardi

Extract from The Guardian

Opposition leader responds to Christensen’s ‘eco-terrorists’ comments and Bernardi’s co-sponsoring of bill to amend 18C
George Christensen
George Christensen suggested the region’s biggest terrorist threat comes from ‘extreme greens’. Photograph: Daryl Wright/AAP
The opposition leader, Bill Shorten, has accused a north Queensland MP of being a member of “team idiot” for suggesting the region’s biggest terrorist threat comes from “extreme greens”.
The Liberal National party member for Dawson, George Christensen, said “eco-terrorists” who campaigned against the expansion of the Abbot Point coal terminal lied about “toxic sludge” and “deliberately took the Great Barrier Reef hostage and used it as a weapon to try and coerce government”.
Christensen made the comments in a speech to parliament on Wednesday, amid heightened tensions over national security issues and the threat posed by disaffected Australians attracted to the ideology of the Islamic State (Isis) militant group.
Shorten responded to the speech by calling on all members of parliament to play a constructive role at this time. He also criticised the Liberal senator Cory Bernardi for co-sponsoring a private bill to water down protections in the Racial Discrimination Act.
“The government’s used the term ‘team Australia’ a lot,” Shorten said on Thursday.
“I’m worried about the emergence of ‘team idiot’. Bernardi, Christensen … I don’t know what book they’re reading from but it’s not any book I want to pick up.
“I’ve got no time for high-handed extreme green tactics but let’s face it: this week our focus has been on national security and terrorism. I think they’re very unwise words from this chap; I don’t know if he’s just a headline hunter. I just caution that Australia’s got serious issues to deal with in the parliament and we don’t need an outbreak of ‘team idiot’.”
The Australian Marine Conservation Society called on Tony Abbott to discipline Christensen for the “appalling” comments, describing them as “deeply disturbing and totally unacceptable at any time, but more so given Australia’s heightened security environment”.
“The prime minister has been urging all Australians to remain calm in the face of increased terrorism threats,” said the society’s reef campaign director, Felicity Wishart.
“He needs to ensure his own MPs do not contribute to an environment of fear and aggression.”
In his speech, Christensen said: “The greatest terrorism threat in north Queensland, it is sad to say, comes from the extreme green movement. When I say ‘extreme greens’, I am not talking about ordinary community groups and individuals who genuinely care about and work to improve the environment or locals who have genuine concerns about local impacts of certain projects. What I am talking about are large, well funded, well organised eco-terrorists who use fear and blackmail to coerce government and the public into adopting their extreme political and ideological viewpoints.”
Christensen said eco-terrorists “would destroy our economy, our jobs and our way of life”.
They had “butchered the international tourism market for our greatest tourism attraction, not for the reef but for political ideology” and “threatened to kill off thousands more jobs in the resource industry”, he said.
“Today I put extreme greens on notice: north Queensland will not bow down to those eco-terrorists; north Queenslanders will defend their jobs and lifestyles and call out the gutless green grubs for the terrorists that they really are.”

Spy agencies to get stronger powers, but what exactly will they be?

Extract from The Guardian

Attorney general George Brandis denies laws will restrict freedom and says normal checks and balances will apply

Aiso surveillance laws
The attorney general will not set a limit on the number of computers and devices covered by a single surveillance warrant. Photograph: Lukas Coch /AAP
The attorney general, George Brandis, said it was the most significant reform of Australia’s spy agencies’ powers since the 1970s, but what did we learn during the Senate debate this week?
The first national security legislation amendment bill, which increases powers for digital access and criminalises the disclosure of special intelligence operations, sailed through the upper house with the support of the major parties.
Here we summarise the government’s answers to some of the key questions and criticisms raised in two days of committee stage consideration in the Senate.

Is there a limit to the number of electronic devices that can be covered by a single access warrant?
The bill enables the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (Asio) to obtain intelligence from numerous computers, including a computer network, under a single access warrant.
Brandis said there was “no arbitrary, or artificial, limit on the number of devices”.
Crossbench senators and many stakeholders raised their concern that, in the absence of a clear definition of a computer network, a single warrant could be used to access a wide range of computers, given the internet is a network of networks.
The Greens proposed an amendment that would impose a limit of 20 for the number of devices able to be used, or accessed, under a single warrant.
Brandis said such an amendment “would impose an arbitrary, artificial and wholly unworkable limitation that would frustrate the ability of Asio to perform its statutory functions”.
“The idea of saying today, in September 2014, that we know that in years to come there will never be a necessity for Asio to have any more than a finite number of computer access warrants in operation is of course an absurdity,” he said.
“In the majority of cases, it is unlikely to be known in advance of a warrant being issued which parts of a computer network will contain data relevant to the security matter in respect of which a warrant is issued. With the variety and number of devices now commonly used, as well as the increasing use of computer networks and remote storage, it is highly probable that data may be stored on a number of devices.”
Brandis said the minister could approve warrants, subject to conditions that might limit access, depending on operational circumstances. He said that “any computer access must be for the purpose of collecting intelligence relevant to a particular security matter and not to some general or abstract notion of security”.

Will the public be told how many devices have been accessed?
No. Several crossbench senators moved an amendment to ensure the inspector general of intelligence and security must report annually on the total number of devices accessed.
The government rejected the proposition. “Reporting publicly on the total number of devices accessed under warrants would not be appropriate as it may reveal sensitive information about Asio’s capability,” Brandis said.

What exceptions apply to the offences of disclosure of information about special intelligence operations?
Media groups and crossbench senators raised serious concerns about the creation a new offence of the unauthorised disclosure of information relating to a “special intelligence operation”, which will be punishable by a five-year jail term.
These operations are a new category of covert activity in which officers are granted immunity from criminal or civil liability as long as the conduct does not involve causing death or serious injury, torture, sexual offences or significant damage to property.
The legislation includes a second, aggravated category of this offence that carries a 10-year jail term for disclosures that would either endanger the health and safety of any person, or prejudice the effective conduct of an operation.
Brandis has emphasised that spy agency insiders will be able to use official channels to raise concerns about alleged misconduct in the course of special intelligence operations.
“Consistent with the committee’s recommendation, new exceptions will be included for persons who disclose information for the purpose of seeking legal advice, or to the inspector general of intelligence and security [Igis], or his or her staff. A further exception will apply to the Igis, and his or her staff, for communications within the office of the Igis to create absolute certainty that the offences do not apply in those circumstances.”

Should there be an amendment requiring a court to take into account ‘public interest’ in disclosure when sentencing someone for publication?
Brandis rejected a proposed amendment to that effect “because it is entirely unnecessary”. He referred to existing criminal sentencing principles. The attorney general said it would be inconceivable for a sentencing judge not to take into account a defence lawyer’s arguments about whether public interest should mitigate a sentence.

Would the Guardian and ABC story revealing Australia’s attempt to spy on Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono have been illegal if that wire-tapping had been declared a special intelligence operation?
Brandis would not comment. “I am not going to indulge Senator [Scott] Ludlam by answering hypothetical cases, or cases of historical interest – or, indeed, addressing cases or issues that may come before the courts. The legislation is before you, senator. You have made your position clear. You are entitled to the view that you take. Really, that is all I have to say to you.”

How will journalists know whether what they plan to report may, or may not, be related to a special intelligence operation?
Brandis said the disclosure offence required the prosecution to prove that the person who disclosed the information was reckless as whether it related to a special intelligence operation.
“The prosecution must establish, to that standard of proof, that the person knew of a substantial risk that the information related to a special intelligence operation,” he said.
“It must then establish that the person, nonetheless and unjustifiably in the circumstances, took the risk of making the disclosure.”

Will a special intelligence operation be able to be declared retrospectively?
Brandis responded with a simple “no”.

Will there be a sunset clause on the special intelligence operation provisions?
No. Brandis rejected a call to put a 10-year expiry date on the new law related to special intelligence operations, despite agreeing to similar sorts of sunset clauses in the yet-to-be-debated foreign fighters bill.
“But this regime is by no means a temporary regime,” Brandis said. “We do not foresee that the augmentation of Asio’s powers by these provisions is something that is going to expire.”

Has the bill had insufficient parliamentary scrutiny?
Brandis said the genesis of the bill was an extensive report by the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security, published last year during the life of the previous parliament. “That criticism could not be more misconceived,” he said.
“The bill was first introduced by me on 16 July. It has been in the public domain and the subject of much public discussion since that time. It has been back to the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security since then, which has reviewed it and, as I said in my second closing speech, it has been the subject of 17 recommendations by that committee, all of which have been accepted by the government.”

Why is the position of the independent national security legislation monitor still vacant?
The term of Bret Walker, SC, in this oversight role expired five months ago. The government planned to abolish the monitor position as a cost-saving measure but scrapped the plan in early August, when it announced a raft of national security legislation.
Brandis said the government was still considering who Walker’s successor would be.
“The role of the independent national security legislation monitor is to oversee the operation of legislation and to advise government on the suitability of that legislation in the light of the manner in which it operates,” he said.
“This legislation, obviously, is legislation yet to be enacted; therefore, the need for the particular contribution of the independent national security legislation monitor has not arisen. But I can assure Senator Ludlam that when Mr Walker’s replacement is named, that man or woman will be a person who will be in a good position to advise future governments on the efficacy of this legislation.”

Is the bill an excessive constraint on freedom?
Brandis said the powers provided by the bill were “a proportionate, a judicious and a limited response to the threats we face”.
“Freedom is not a given,” the attorney general said. “A free society is not the usual experience of mankind. Freedom must be secured, and particularly at a time when those who would destroy our freedoms are active, blatant and among us.
“It is all the more important that our freedoms be secured by those with the capacity and the necessary powers to keep us safe.”

The acid test: Australian journalists must ask what agenda they serve

Extract from The Guardian

At the end of a week of much media hysteria about terrorism, the Senate passed arguably the most significant restraints on press freedom in this country outside of wartime
Fatal shooting
Police and forensic officers investigate the scene of a fatal shooting of a teenager at Endeavour Hills police station in Melbourne. Photograph: Julian Smith/AAP
It’s been a big week for the Australian media. We’ve published a picture supposedly of a terrorism suspect that was actually, not. We’ve presented front page stories full of unsourced and misleading or just plain wrong information about a horrific confrontation between a messed up, radicalised, dangerous Melbourne teenager and counter-terrorism police.
At the same time, as the ABC broadcaster Mark Colvin noted on Friday, the Australian Senate passed arguably the most significant restraints on press freedom in this country outside of wartime. Those measures are on their way to becoming law.
Given that parliament seems to be on a path to deliver a bigger surveillance state and less means for whistleblowers to expose its abuses or for journalists to scrutinise it, a bit of push back from the community might have been expected. This is, after all, a pretty important principle: public interest disclosure and press freedom.
Yet nobody, apart from the industry, the Greens and a couple of crossbench parliamentarians stood up for press freedom. The freedom warriors of the Coalition, and the accountability merchants of the ALP, waved the restrictions through without a backward glance. The community as a whole declined to be outraged.
The absence of cavil is a significant rebuke, given it would be obvious to most that the current environment invites more truth telling, not more secrecy.
So let’s stand still for a moment and put these two events together – our appalling collective performance this week, and the profound lack of public support for our institutional role.
I don’t think we can avoid the reality that these two eventualities are connected. There’s a harsh truth sitting before journalists and their employers this weekend, and it’s this: people don’t support us when we very much need our community mandate because, too often, we fail our readers and viewers and listeners. We often hurl some very hard truths at others, in fact we pride ourselves on it. It’s about time we joined a couple of dots in order to hurl a few back at ourselves.
This week we produced headlines, like the Courier Mail did on Wednesday with “Police Kill Abbott Jihadi” complete with front page illustrations suggesting to the reader that the prime minister had survived some sort of direct attack. (Police have been saying for days they have no evidence of a specific threat to Abbott, who was, of course, in a different city, in a building surrounded by armed police, before leaving for New York.) Reckless, and misleading.
In multi-ethnic Sydney, at a time of heightened security risks, huge stakes and community tensions, the Daily Telegraph screamed “Jihad Joey” at its readers on Thursday. A front page story reported that the “death cult disciple” Abdul Numan Haider had been “tracking” the prime minister before his “frenzied knife attack”.
It’s still not entirely clear if that actually happened, or what “tracking the prime minister” might actually mean in a connected age where we are all invited to #askTony on Twitter or like Tony on Facebook; where any of us can Google “where is Tony Abbott” and pull up a string of references. Noting this fact is not a bleeding heart exoneration of a radicalised kid troubling enough to be the subject of police interest, and out of control enough to stab two police officers – it’s just a simple statement of the obvious.
A number of reports this week had more in common with a graphic novel or a Marvel comic than anything that actually rang true in the real world. Compounding the beat-ups and the breathlessness, we’ve seen the return of “men of Middle Eastern appearance” doing nefarious things. It should be pointed out that some of the things they were claimed to be “doing” have later been retracted.
“It is understood” was also ubiquitous. We all periodically have to use anonymous sources, and sometimes that process brings us closer to enlightenment than to obfuscation. But we all know that something being “understood” is quite different from it being “known.” And so it came to pass. Some things that were “understood” on front pages were later more complex than they seemed. But the myths, once stated, are difficult to retract.
So the sum of the week was mistakes, sensationalism, stereotyping and the amplification of various “understandings” supplied by Lord knows who. Most reporting came from inside the tent of officialdom, projecting thunderously out. Right now, the times require prompt evacuation. We need to step outside the tent in order to have a good hard look in.
Any objective look at the week would present a report card that said: running too fast, filing too much, revealing too little. I’m certainly not putting myself above it. I’m not positioning myself as better and possessed by more clarity and steadiness and insight and truth-telling powers than anyone else. Truth is I’m flat out keeping my feet and my wits most days too. All of us are a heartbeat away from a career ending stuff-up – that’s the business.
But what I am saying is: wake the hell up. I have never been more resolved, in 18 years of practising journalism, of the absolute importance of our function in a democracy. I have never been more sure that the opportunity cost associated with doing this job is, actually, worth it.
I believe we matter. I know I’m not alone in that belief. Yet we act as though we don’t matter, and facts don’t matter, and truth doesn’t matter. Call this Dispatch this particular weekend a love letter to my profession, and an outpouring of grief at its failings.
In Australia right now, there is a complex story to be told. It’s a story with a geopolitical dimension and a local one. This story involves real people. How we choose to frame and tell the story has real consequences for real people – for neighbours living alongside neighbours, for the police and intelligence agencies working around the clock to keep communities safe, and for the politicians who must lead at this moment and make critical decisions about community interest and national interest.
The story we are telling right now is not just a bunch of disconnected fragments to feed the beast and flog a few newspapers. The real story here is whether or not Australia can come through a specific challenge to the fundamental notion of ourselves as a united, vibrant diverse community which has largely avoided ethnic and religious violence: whether we will affirm these characteristics or fall into disputation and rancour.
So as well as playing cops and robbers, we might have to start interrogating other valid lines of inquiry. A couple of thoughts. Have we done enough as a society to invest in our cohesion and mutual understanding? Is our ridiculously paranoid and hostile disposition to unauthorised boat arrivals sending a broader negative message to non-Anglo communities about our true feelings about ethnic diversity?
Are police doing their job out in the suburbs in our cities in an even-handed way? Is national politics helping or harming the current conditions? Are the legal changes being proposed in Canberra justified given the threats – or is this just cynical over-reach? Will going to war in Iraq make us safer, or make the domestic climate more dangerous?
We are, actually, capable of telling this story. It’s a story which demands the best Australian journalism can provide. But we need to take a moment to be clear about what the responsibility of telling it actually requires.
It requires us to seek truth, whether the truth is ugly and discomfiting or whether it is reassuring and soothing. It requires us to ask questions – a lot of questions – of very powerful people, without fear or favour.
It requires us to take the time to get things right rather than assuming in cavalier fashion that an error in the internet age is never wrong for long. And it involves taking steps to ensure we don’t inflame the tinderbox: truth is not inflammatory, but dog whistling and ethnic stereotyping certainly are.
To put it simply, this story requires what great journalism always requires: that no agenda is served other than the interests of the readers. If we are asking the state to be accountable and not abuse its power and position, then best we hold ourselves to the same standard.
If we meet this basic test, then perhaps we’ll be worth defending.

Cambodia refugee deal: UNHCR, Amnesty International condemn refugee resettlement arrangement

Extract from ABC News

International human rights organisations have rounded on the Federal Government's deal to resettle refugees on Nauru in Cambodia.
Protesters clashed with riot police outside the Australian embassy in Phnom Penh as Immigration Minister Scott Morrison yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding which would allow refugees in detention on Nauru to settle Cambodia.
The agreement stipulates refugees will only be sent on a voluntary basis, with the number of refugees accepted to be determined by Cambodia, whose interior minister said the government only wanted to take four or five refugees to begin with.
The Australian Government has made a $40 million aid down payment and will also pay for associated costs for housing and educating refugees who go there. Mr Morrison said he does not know the total cost of the arrangement.
In a statement, Mr Morrison welcomed the signing of the deal, saying "those found to be in genuine need of protection will now have the opportunity and support to re-establish their lives free from persecution".

Cambodia: Fact File

  • Cambodia has a population of around 15 million
  • More than 96 per cent of them speak Khmer
  • It is a democracy under a constitutional monarchy. King Norodom Sihamoni currently reigns, while Hun Sen is prime minister
  • Suffered civil war under the Khmer Rouge, who sent 1.7 million Cambodians to their deaths in the 'Killing Fields'
  • 20 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line
  • The country remains one of the poorest in Asia
  • 37 per cent of children under the age of 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition
  • More than half of the population is less than 25 years old
  • More than half of the government's money comes from international aid

"As a party to the Refugees Convention, Cambodia, while making countless efforts to develop the country after the civil war, is demonstrating its ability and willingness to contribute positively to this humanitarian issue," he said.
But Amnesty International called it "a new low in Australia's deplorable and inhumane treatment of asylum seekers".
"In January the Australian Government condemned Cambodia's human rights record at a UN human rights hearing, but will now relocate vulnerable refugees, possibly including children, to the country," spokesman Rupert Abbott said.
In a statement released after the deal was the signed, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said it was "deeply concerned" by the precedent the deal sets.
"This is a worrying departure from international norms," commissioner Antonio Guterres said.
"We are seeing record forced displacement globally, with 87 per cent of refugees now being hosted in developing countries. It's crucial that countries do not shift their refugee responsibilities elsewhere.
"International responsibility sharing is the basis on which the whole global refugee system works. I hope that the Australian Government will reconsider its approach."
The UNHCR reiterated its stance that asylum seekers should "benefit from the protection" of the state in which they arrive.

"Refugees are persons who are fleeing persecution or the life-threatening effects of armed conflict," Mr Guterres said.
"They are entitled to better treatment than being shipped from one country to the next."
Mr Morrison responded to criticism from the UN agency in May saying the Government was keeping the UNHCR updated on the progress of negotiations and that discussions to that point had been "positive".
President of Cambodia's Centre for Human Rights, Virak Ou, said the newly-inked deal was "shameful" and "illegal".
"The Australian Government has an obligation to protect refugees and sending them Cambodia's way is not how a responsible country protects refugees," he said.
"The Cambodian school system is rife with corruption ... the access to education here is quite bad. So I don't know what the Australian Government is thinking nor what they expect from this deal."
Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy warned "very little" of money exchanged under the deal will filter down to the refugees.
"It will be pocketed by corrupt government officials," he said.
"I think it is not right on the part of Cambodia to accept this deal, because refugees are not like any ordinary goods that can be exported from one country and imported by another country. They are human beings."

Open Letter to the Islamic Community

Sep 26, 2014
Bill Shorten and Michelle Rowland have written an open-letter to the Islamic community following concerning reports about Australia’s Islamic community being assaulted, vilified, and being wrongly stigmatised for the crimes of ISIL. 
In such difficult times, Labor will continue to speak out against ill-informed and dangerous views and stand up for tolerance and multiculturalism. Read their letter here:

To whom it may concern,
We have been very distressed by recent reports about the Australian Islamic community being wrongly blamed for the crimes of ISIL, including assaults and other forms of vilification.
Labor stands shoulder to shoulder with Australia’s Islamic community and, now more than ever, we are committed to tolerance, social cohesion, mutual respect and multiculturalism.
Labor will continue to work with you to stop misinformation, bigotry and prejudice directed at the Australian Islamic community.
Regrettably, some in our community, including a very few elected representatives, have made comments which have the potential to damage community harmony and inflame tensions. Labor strongly opposes these ill-informed and dangerous views and we will continue to speak out against them.
We know that the twisted ideology of ISIL bears no relation to a faith of peace, love and tolerance which is followed by millions around the world – and we will continue to make this point.
ISIL has no right to use the name of Islam.
We will work with you to help stop ISIL spreading division, radicalising disaffected and vulnerable young people. We will not allow them to nurture intolerance and create a world where people fear the unknown and resent differences.
The Islamic story in Australia has a rich history and grows stronger each year. Australia’s Muslim community continues to do our nation a great service by fostering enduring cultural and religious harmony, and making a substantial contribution to our national prosperity.
This reflects modern Australian multiculturalism: a story of cultural enrichment, social cohesion and economic growth and it is a story that the Labor Party is committed to and will always defend.

We are keen to engage with you and your organisation, to listen to you about how we can further these goals together. Please contact Ms Rowland’s office on 02 6277 4833 orMichelle.Rowland.MP@aph.gov.au if you would like to make such arrangements. We look forward to hearing from you.
Finally, on the upcoming occasion of Eid Ul Adha, we wish you, your family and your community a heartfelt Eid Mubarak.

Yours sincerely,
Bill Shorten
Leader of the Opposition
Michelle Rowland
Shadow Minister for Citizenship and Multiculturalism

Bill Shorten, Doorstop: Canberra – Tony Abbott’s broken promise on submarines; Push to weaken the Racial Discrimination Act;



SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s broken promise on submarines; Push to weaken the Racial Discrimination Act; National Security; Cory Bernardi’s comments; Temporary Protection Visas; NAPLAN; Senate; George Christensen’s comments; George Brandis.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: I’ve just had an opportunity to talk to Australia’s shipbuilding workers, their representatives. It is a disgrace that the Abbott Government is so cynical that they think they can get away with lying to the Australian people before the election about building ships and submarines in Australia. Then after the election just totally changing the whole deal and misleading Australians. We should be building our submarines in Australia in the future.
I also just want to make a couple of brief comments about the unhelpful intervention by number one Liberal Senate candidate and representative, Senator Cory Bernardi in South Australia. We know these are difficult and challenging times for Australians at the moment with national security and domestic terror, but Australia’s had challenging times before and we’ll have challenging times again. What the Australian people expect from their elected representatives is calmness, is wisdom, is sensible guidance for the future.
Senator Bernardi re-opening a proposition to water down protections against hate speech in Australia at this time is dramatically unhelpful to maintaining calm. We know that we can’t defeat terrorism by military action alone. That terrorism wins when hatred and tolerance spread their wings. We cannot at this time be talking about watering down protections against hate speech when what we’re trying to do is defeat the hateful ideology that we see in domestic terrorism and the international events in northern Iraq and Syria.
So I call upon the Abbott Government to ask Senator Bernardi who’s a Liberal, he’s not a member of the crossbench, he’s not an individual independent senator, to withdraw their support for watering down laws which currently protect all Australians against hate speech. Happy to take any questions people have.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, would you back Cory Bernardi’s other point that the Burqa should be banned from Parliament House?

SHORTEN: No, this is a red herring debate. We know and every reasonable Australian knows that there is a very few, a very few misguided Australians for reasons we can’t fully understand, brought up in this marvellous country, who’ve been attracted to an extreme and fanatical ideology. There’s no honour in crime and violence. There’s no dignity in inflicting death here. But on the other hand, if we want to starve extremists of oxygen, we don’t, this country doesn’t have time to play cheap, rabble-rousing games. What we need now from the mainstream political parties of Australia is moderation, not extremism, is tolerance, not intolerance, is compassion, not just trying to divide this community further.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible question]

SHORTEN: Yes, the Prime Minister should pull Cory Bernardi into line, whether or not he does it privately or publicly, I really don’t care. What I want them to do though is to disassociate, this is the Government of Australia. The Government of Australia needs to disassociate itself from the actions of a senior member of its Senate team. They need to disassociate themselves. Whether or not they ring up privately and say, you know, yank Cory off the stage and say you’re not doing this mate, or whether or not they do it publicly, for me it’s the result that counts. We need unity in Australia at the moment. We don’t need people who should know better fuelling and fanning flames of intolerance.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the Prime Minister in New York has said that the air strikes that the US has done in tandem with Middle Eastern countries in Syria are justified by collective self-defence and he’s left the door open for us to consider our involvement. Do you still believe there should be no Australian involvement in air strikes in Syria? Or are you open to developing as the situation changes?

SHORTEN: Well first of all, in all my discussions with the Prime Minister, and I again put on record as he has done with me, I put on record my appreciation for his cooperation and forthright nature of our individual discussions and I think, I will come to your question but I think this point should be made anyway. Australians should be reassured that no matter what disagreements Tony Abbott and I have about the Budget or other matters in Australia, he and I have been working very well together about exchanging information and working towards the best interests of the nation. Going to your specific question about Syria, the Government have said to me that there is no case for military intervention in Syria, and they haven’t told me anything to the contrary.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, if the Government signs some kind of deal with Japan or Germany on submarines is there anything you could do if you won power? Would you unravel such a deal and go back to committing 12 subs in Adelaide?

SHORTEN: If I could just go to the basis of that question Tory to begin with: part of our concern is that the Government doesn’t seem interested in letting the Germans tender or indeed our home-grown Australian Submarine Corporation tender. I think you raise a very relevant point at the outset of this whole discussion, which is why on earth is the Government not getting the people who currently build the submarines to submit costings? Why on earth, if the Germans have got a submarine which may be viable for our uses here, are they not asking them to submit propositions? Going to the further issue which is I think about contracts – this would be a 40-year commitment. The contracts would be in many different phases. Labor will respect any contracts which are signed, but let’s not kid ourselves that there is no, this Government does not have a single-page contract for 12 submarines, for $30 billion and that’s the end of the matter.
We’ll of course honour any contracts that they enter into but I get the impression that a lot of homework hasn’t been done about this whole Japanese sub proposition. And I mean I think the question has to be asked of the Federal Government: why did they stand up last year, I remember at least one date, May the 8th,  David Johnston the Defence Minister, then opposition minister who said they would build the submarines here. Tony Abbott has also said they’d build the submarines here. How on earth have we got to such a low level in this country that a Prime Minister of Australia can say and do anything in Opposition and then tries to pretend that he never said those things when he gets into Government. It’s not good enough for jobs, it’s not good enough for our technology, it’s not good enough for the future of our submarines in Australia.

JOURNALIST: On temporary protection visas and the announcement today, do you think that the proposal will see many people get permanent residency?

SHORTEN: I’d be interested to know what Scott Morrison said in answer to that question. As he, I think he said no-one will get permanent residency. What worries me is that the government’s just come up with keeping 30,000 people in limbo, just prolonging the uncertainty of what happens to them. Labor in principle doesn’t support keeping tens of thousands of refugees in limbo, and that’s what these TPVs do. We’re always interested in what is the pathway to citizenship; now I don’t know if Morrison’s conned Palmer or if Palmer has conned Morrison or there’s a meeting of the minds. I don’t know. We’ll wait and see the detail. But for us, Labor’s got a principled position, how on earth can this country have 30,000-plus people stuck in limbo and that’s what Morrison’s telling us this deal will continue to do.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, a new report has showed moving NAPLAN on-line is feasible and beneficial for students. Does the Opposition support that?

SHORTEN: We’ll have to see the detail of that report. In terms of NAPLAN, we do believe that NAPLAN was a good idea. We’re pleased that the Government seems to be moving away from its traditional opposition to it. But we’ll consider this matter in this report in due time.

JOURNALIST: You have got an AFP officer 30 metres behind you carrying an assault rifle, do you think that’s going to be a permanent feature of security at Parliament House now?

SHORTEN: First of all, it’s a good opportunity – and I thank you for your question – to talk about the AFP. The AFP don’t always get some of the attention and credit that their state police colleagues get. But there are thousands of AFP officers both here and overseas who do a remarkable job in difficult circumstances. So I am a big supporter of the AFP. I had the privilege of talking to the wounded officer’s family yesterday. They’ve been, well the AFP have certainly been supporting their wounded officer, just as VicPol has been supporting their Victorian police officer. In terms of the security arrangements of Parliament, we will just go on the best advice of the experts, and that’s as it should be.

JOURNALIST: Your Senator Joe Bullock, who is incidentally just over there on the phone, has said that he plans to support legislation banning Medicare-funded abortions based on gender selection. Are you comfortable with that?

SHORTEN: It’s a conscience vote, we know that, and I think it’s important that MPs get a chance, all the Senators gets a chance, to have their say in the Senate –

JOURNALIST: You expect there will be a vote?

SHORTEN: I might ask my colleague, Senator Conroy, who is our Deputy Leader in the Senate, to update people on this more.

SENATOR STEPHEN CONROY, SHADOW MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Look, there’s a debate around a number of issues that are very relevant there, but it’s a conscience vote, it’s always been a conscience vote and so we have people who have very strong views on both sides of this argument. So this is normal, it happens all the time in the Senate on issues involving life, so there’s no angst between Senators even in the same parties. Everyone respects –

JOURNALIST: Do you expect there’ll be a vote?

CONROY: I’m not sure, I haven’t seen the speakers list. I would anticipate that there’ll be a lot of interest and a lot of people wanting to speak on this issue, but how long they speak for, how many are speaking, that’s just a matter for the Senate and the Senators’ consciences.

JOURNALIST: Is this a debate that’s warranted in the 21st century?
CONROY: Well people have strong views on this and what the Labor Party have done and I think the Liberals have the same position is that we respect the conscience vote on these issues that the fundamental issues that the ALP’s National Executive has ruled on and so people are entitled to raise this. There are people in the community who have strong views on this and people in the Parliament who represent those views and that’s as it should be.
JOURNALIST: How will you vote Senator Conroy, if there’s one?
CONROY: I haven’t had a chance to consider the issue yet. I’ve always supported the right for there to be abortions on Medicare, so I myself wouldn’t be supporting any attempt to ban that. But I respect the right of my colleagues and good friends who have a different position on this.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, George Christensen has likened [inaudible] Far North Queensland to terrorists that are trying to protect the Great Barrier Reef, what do you think about his comments?
SHORTEN: I think the Government’s used the term ‘Team Australia’ a lot. I’m worried about emergence of ‘Team Idiot’. Bernardi, Christensen, people who are just, I don’t know what book they’re reading from but it’s not any book that I’d want to pick up. I’ve got no time for high handed extreme green tactics, but let’s face it, this week our focus has been on national security and terrorism,  I think they’re very unwise words from this chap. I don’t know if he’s just a headline hunter but I just caution that Australia’s got serious issues to deal with in this Parliament and we don’t need an outbreak of ‘Team Idiot’.
JOURNALIST: On that point, George Brands said yesterday that Australia’s facing a more immediate threat than possibly during the Cold War, do you think that’s, that’s true or helpful that comment?
SHORTEN: I’m not sure that the Cold War immediately is an easy comparison to make to the current conflict based on extreme sectarianism. What I would just say in closing is what people expect from their Parliamentarians is that we help guide them sensibly through complex times. Intolerance is not defeated by being more intolerant. Hatred is not defeated by being more hateful. I would just encourage, it doesn’t matter if you’re Liberal, Labor, Green, whatever, crossbencher; just if your comments not value adding about where this community needs to go perhaps you should go into a room on your own and say it to the mirror and spare the rest of us your thought bubbles. Thanks.