Saturday, 29 November 2014

ABC cuts: leaked efficiency review shows no way savings could be made without impacting on programming, Greens say

Extract from ABC News


The Greens say a leaked review into efficiency at the ABC and SBS shows there is no way that cuts of the scale imposed by the Government could have been made without having an impact on programming.
Greens communications spokesman Scott Ludlam has obtained a leaked copy of parts of the draft efficiency review of SBS and the ABC written by Peter Lewis, who spent many years as chief financial officer of Seven West media.
The review has formed the basis for some of the cuts being made by the ABC and SBS in response to Federal Government budget measures.
Until now, the document the Government commissioned has been kept secret apart from an executive summary.

Lewis efficiency review recommends:

  • The ABC and SBS share premises in Sydney and Melbourne
  • Removing ABC state and territory directors in every capital city
  • The two broadcasters stop paying for their services to be rebroadcast on Foxtel
  • Sell off outside broadcast vans and its Melbourne news helicopter
  • The ABC sell off property at Lanceley Place in Sydney

Senator Ludlam said it should be publicly released before a Senate estimates hearing on Monday into the ABC cuts.
"At the very least have the courtesy to give senators the material in time for budget estimates hearings on Monday," he said.
He said it showed the efficiencies the Government wants cannot be found without making cuts to programs and content.
"You go through what we've seen of the report and it's very, very clear that there's no way, really, that mangement could have made cuts of the size that government is imposing on it without impacts on programming. I mean, that's now crystal clear," Senator Ludlam said.
"It should really put that whole myth to rest the idea that it could all be done in the back office.

Key points:

  • Federal Government cutting $254 million over five years from the ABC budget
  • More than 400 ABC staff - close to 10 per cent - could lose their jobs
  • Adelaide TV production studios to close
  • State-based 7.30 programs on Friday to be scrapped and replaced with national 7.30 program
  • Lateline moved to a new timeslot on ABC News 24
  • Foreign bureaux will be restructured to create "multiplatform hubs" in London, Washington, Jakarta and Beijing
  • The Auckland bureau will close down and a new Beirut post will be opened
  • Regional radio posts in Wagin, Morwell, Gladstone, Port Augusta and Nowra to close
  • ABC Local, Radio National and ABC Classic FM programming changed, with programs including Bush Telegraph scrapped
  • State-based local sports coverage scrapped
  • New regional division and ABC Digital Network, to begin in mid-2015, and a $20 million digital investment fund

"These are efficiencies that the ABC's been kind of combing through and trying to achieve for years, it's not that there were 400 people sitting around around the country doing nothing waiting to be shown the door.
"I think the figures finally contradict the Minister's idea that this could be done without impacting programming so I hope he stops saying that."
Senator Ludlum opposes some of the ideas in the review - including one to impose a charge for using the ABC's catch-up service iView.
"That the ABC should try and monetise its online presence either through paywalling - forcing people to pay to see some of the content - or to start taking advertising is a line that I think we shouldn't cross," he said.
"To apply commercial imperatives to a public broadcaster is precisely the wrong way to go."
But he concedes that it costs the broadcasters to distribute the programs over the internet.
"Whereas obviously the additional cost to the ABC of someone turning on a radio somewhere out there in the world is zero, so I guess that's the thinking that's driving it, but of course the ABC was not intended as a profit generating business and in fact anything that the ABC and SBS can do to make their content more widely accessible to people we should encourage," he said.

Promise check: No cuts to the ABC

Ludlum questions cuts to local radio stations

One of the most controversial ABC cuts is to close five small radio stations and scale back the Newcastle office. Senator Ludlam said the draft review does not find there are efficiencies to be made in local radio.
"The report is quite black and white actually in that it says there are no new efficiencies to be gained and my reading of that I suppose, without having access to the full document, is that there is not much that people can do in existing regional broadcast bureaus to make themselves more efficient," he said.
"They have been cut to the bone already but that is not to say that if you did not start knocking them over entirely and closing them down that you could save a little bit of money.
"If you are looking at pure commercial efficiencies then these are the kind of hard decisions I guess that have had to be made."
Senator Ludlam said some parts of the efficiency review were sensible.

"Things that the ABC was doing anyway - which gives rise to the question as to whether some of these savings are there or whether actually the Government has been double counting stuff that the ABC has already been doing," he said.
He said the huge problem was that the ABC was no longer using money gained by making itself more efficient to reinvest in new services like digital content.
"By ripping that much money and that many people - just the raw cost of having all that expertise forced out the door - is that you effectively risk bringing that innovation and that transition process to a halt and that's one of the things that is scariest," he said.
One of the suggested savings was that the ABC and SBS could save millions a year by no longer paying Foxtel to broadcast their content on pay TV.
ABC managing director Mark Scott said the organisation was looking at making that change and Senator Ludlam said it should be considered.
"I was very surprised to see that the ABC is paying Foxtel so much and kind of wondered briefly why Foxtel wasn't paying the ABC to rebroadcast an extraordinary array of content over its services," Senator Ludlum said.

Mr Scott will appear before a Senate estimates committee on Monday where he will be grilled about the changes being made to cover the $254 million being cut from the broadcaster's budget.

Book review: Geographic History of Queensland


Books for the People.

Meston's “Geographic History of Queensland.”

Some books organic. You feel that if you were to divide them in two they would bleed. Other books are a mechanical conglomeration of inorganic elements. If divided into a hundred parts each part would remain intact and unimpaired. The “Geographic History of Queensland” belongs to the latter category. This work is neither a history nor a geography. It is neither a text book nor a book of reference. In some respects it is everything; in other respects it is nothing. It is everything inasmuch as it contains an enormous number of facts relating to Queensland; it is nothing inasmuch as the facts are presented without any sense of proportion, and without any attempt to organise them into a living and organic whole. Professor Clifford once defined science as organised knowledge. If the definition is a correct one, Mr. Meston's book is one of the most unscientific ever published.

* * *

But despite its unscientific character the book is in many respects a valuable one. It contains a large amount of information which perhaps nobody could have collected but Archibald Meston. Who but Archibald Meston would place on deathless record the fact that an aboriginal threw a cricket ball at Clermont 146 yards on the 2nd day of January 1872?

* * *

With loving care Mr. Meston has collected thousands of curious facts which but for him might have remained forever in the silent depths of oblivion. He is more an antiquarian than a scientist or a historian. He is the Captain Grose of Queensland. One might almost say of him what Burns said of Grose:

Of Eve's first fire he has a cinder,
Auld Tubal Cain's fire-school and fender,
That which distinguished the gender
O' Balasm's are;
The broomstick of the Witch of Endor
Weel shod wi' brass.

Mr. Meston has the defects of his qualities, but in his own special line he stands supreme.

* * *

The book is a strange mixture of dry facts and eloquence. Sometimes we have pages of dry scientific nomenclature without any attempt to explain them to the general reader, and sometimes we have pages of the most flowery eloquence ever written by the pen of man. After a page or two, dealing in a jaunty manner with the Pscphoto pulcherriaus, the Pilla strepitaus, the Aquila audax and other things we come upon a passage like the following;
Eternity is throned there on these dark rocks among the wild whirlwind of waters, and speaks to you in solemn tones of the Past and the present and the Evermore.” Now I humbly confess that that passage is too much for me. I cannot represent, in imagination, Eternity (with a capital E) throned on dark rock's or on rocks of any kind. I cannot imagine Eternity speaking in solemn tones of the Past, the Present and the Evermore – all with capital letters, by the way. Eternity and Evermore are synonymous terms. If, therefore, Eternity is in the habit of talking about the Evermore, Eternity is exceedingly egotistic and ought to be ashamed of itself. In his description of Queensland scenery Mr. Meston is frequently sublimes. But be evidently forgets that there is only a step from the sublime to the ridiculous, and he sometimes takes the step.

* * *

In spite, however, of its undoubted defects, the book has much to recommend it. It is a perfect mine of information. No doubt, as the author admits, the information is “largely scattered, like gold in an alluvial field.” But it is there, and it exists in larger quantity than in any other book on the subject. The history of Queensland has yet has yet to be written; indeed it has yet to be made. But the future historians of the young nation will owe a debt of gratitude the brilliant, and in some respects unique, author of the Geographic History of Queensland.

* * *

The following passage is a fair sample of Mr. Meston's eloquence at its best:


Human voice or pen can give but a faint idea of the abysmal gloom of that tremendous solitude. We were surrounded by a world of clouds, even the rocks within a hundred yards above and below us but faintly seen like tombstones in the morning mists. Never before did I experience the same sensations. Rising over all was man's sense of his own unspeakable insignificance. It seemed as if I had been suddenly ushered, like Ulysses, into the realms of death,

Where side by side along the dreary coast,
Advanced Achilles' and Petroclus' ghost.

In fancy the spectral clouds assumed the shape of some Tiresias rising from the awful shades. The lighter mists were driven by the winds swiftly along dismal avenues of enormous vapours, moving slowly onward, black as night and silent as the voiceless graves. Imagination pictured the solemn phantoms of departed ages stalking gloomily along through colonnades of majestic clouds. The pale kingdoms marshalled their mournful ghosts. Once only, and for a few brief seconds, did we behold the dark form of Wooroonooran, through a wind divided chasm of rolling clouds, apparently far above us, a vast black shape revealing itself, and disappearing again in the realms of gloom. And once only did the clouds lift like a mighty curtain from the mountains to the north, displaying gigantic shadows resting in the umbrage of the peaks, and myriad columns of snow-white vapours shooting upwards from the ravines below, as if we stood over the abode of Lucifer, and in the nether depths.

All hell unclosed
Its mounded oceans of tempestuous fire.

And then the sunlight came with all the varied glories of the dawn, and clouds became “red, yellow, or ethereally pale,” and radiant rainbows spanned with their curving splendours the many-hued abyss; and for a few moments we stood the centre of a hundred sunsets, lost in the magnificence of all the splendid shapes and colours of the wondrous God-created dome which over arches this mysterious earth.”

* * *

The book is well printed, well-bound, contains upwards of 200 pages, and is to be sold at 3s. 6d. All who are interested in the geoeds of Queensland, in its geological formations, its geographical divisions, its plants and animals; in the strange manner and customs of its aborigines; in the origin and development of the pastoral industry; in in the discovery and extension of our goldfields; and indeed in everything that a patriotic Queenslander ought to know, will find the Geographical History of Queensland a veritable encyclopaedia.


Brisbane storm: Archives Fine Books forced to dump $10,000 worth of rare stock

Extract from ABC News


A rare book store in the Brisbane CBD is being forced to throw out thousands of books damaged by water in Thursday's storm.
Many of the second-hand collectables are still readable, but the proprietors of Archives Fine Books have decided they cannot take the risk that mould will spread through the rest of its shelves.
The bookstore said at least $10,000 worth of books would have to be given away or destroyed.
Staff member Sam Colwell was in the store when the storm hit.
"There was just water pouring through the roof in five places I could see, but about 25 puddles," she said.
The immediate concern was for a collection of books worth $1,000 each that were in the path of the rain at the front of the store.
"Customers kindly offered to help get stock off the shelves," she said.
"We saved the $1,000 books; some of the $100 books copped rain but most were salvaged.
"About 20 first editions were trashed."
Ms Colwell and other staff will now spend days pulling books off the bottom row of 25 shelves that will have to be thrown away before they become mouldy.
She said the task was "really horrible".
"I love this job. Books are a dying trade and many people come here because there's nowhere else to go."
She said store owners Hamish Alcorn and Dawn Albinger were "very upset" by having to throw books away, as the store was a labour of love for them.

"Hamish and Dawn are the loveliest bosses. A lot of care is put into everything," Ms Colwell said.

Former Queensland Liberal MP Chris Davis voices corruption concerns

Extract from The Guardian

One-time assistant health minister compares government’s approach to that of a doctor who stops examining patients to deny the existence of an illness
Brisbane protest
Anti corruption protesters gather outside the Senate Inquiry into the Queensland government in Brisbane on Friday 21 November. Photograph: Dan Peled/AAP
A former insider in the Queensland government has likened its attitude to the risk of corruption to a doctor who stops performing colonoscopies and says bowel cancer is no problem.
Dr Chris Davis quit politics this year after taking a private stand against the government’s increased secrecy on donations and contentious change to the state’s corruption watchdog.
Davis told the federal Senate inquiry into the Newman government on Friday he supported a new national anti-corruption body such as the Independent Commission Against Corruption (Icac) in New South Wales.
The former assistant health minister gave a medical analogy for the changes in Queensland that prompted his offer to resign from cabinet in protest and his eventual sacking by the premier.
“A fortysomething male who comes to a general practitioner says: ‘I was asked to come and see you because down in NSW, my brother had some abdominal symptoms and he was referred to a colonoscopy,” Davis said.
“They found some malignant polyps and they took them out.
“This brother has had the same symptoms as his brother in NSW along with other risk factors in addition to his genes, such as high fat intake.
“But the Queensland doctor says: ‘No, my son, don’t worry at all – we don’t have this problem of malignant polyps in Qld at all … we stopped doing colonoscopies.”
Davis said his own polling had revealed deep concerns within his electorate about changes to the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) and the government’s raising of the donations threshold from $1,000 to $12,400.
The latter took secret donations from an “entirely reasonable” amount to a level that “can certainly be seen to buy a significant amount of influence”, he said.
Davis said he was “not personally excited about the value” of the government’s practice of publishing ministerial diaries because “the reality of the world is that most business is done in a multitude of ways”.
He said transparency on donations was more critical “if we’re actually removing the risk factors for any potential third-party intrusion” into a government representing its constituency.
Davis said some colleagues really felt the CCC was not independent enough to act in a way that Icac does.
The Newman government cut the CCC’s resources – especially its research function, which is now dictated by the attorney general – and redirected its orientation away from official misconduct to investigating organised crime.
Another witness on Friday, independent MP and former police officer Peter Wellington, raised concerns about the chilling effect on whistleblowers of the CCC removing opportunities for anonymous complaints.
A police investigation remains open into claims the acting CCC chairman, Ken Levy, lied to a parliamentary committee about his contact with the premier’s press office before going public in support of its controversial bikie laws.
Wellington said the bikie laws were the most topical example of the way the Newman government used urgency to evade scrutiny, passing the bulk of the laws in one night last year at 2.30am without providing full drafts to MPs.
He said progress in a large number of criminal investigations of outlaw motorcycle club members was a result of $20m in funding and renewed focus by police.
The same results could have been achieved without the extreme elements of the government’s bikie laws which breached several of Australia’s international pacts on human rights, Wellington said.
He cited prolonged solitary confinement in prison prior to conviction, inequality before laws that gave bikies up to an extra 25 years in jail, as well as anti-association laws that punished people who had not committed crimes.
A Rebels bikie club member, Tony Jardine, attended the hearing along with a former clubmate, Michael Smith, who spoke briefly with Senator Matthew Canavan outside about the effect of the laws on his family.
Smith said he risked arrest by going in public with his two sons, one a current and the other a former member.
Smith’s sons are members of the Yandina Five, who face jail under anti-association laws for meeting their families at the Yandina pub on the Sunshine Coast.
Smith told Canavan how both spent time in solitary confinement before having their refusal of bail overturned in the supreme court.


SUBJECT/S: Labor Government; Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget; Tony Abbott’s broken promises; Economy; Immigration; Higher education; Superannuation; G20; Mini-Budget; Shipbuilding in Australia; ADF pay; Mining Tax.

LAURIE WILSON: Thank you very much, Mr Shorten, time now for our usual round of questions. There’s a very long list of questions today, I doubt we’ll get through all of them. But I would appeal to my media members to keep their questions to a single question and keep them short if they could, please. And the first question today is from Mark Kenny.

JOURNALIST: Mark Kenny, Mr Shorten from Fairfax Media. I wonder, you’ve been quite frank about the Government’s failings, I wonder if I can invite you to be frank about your own party’s failings. If you could outline the main policy reasons why your party was tossed out in 2013 and yesterday, given that you finished on the question of trust, yesterday I believe you withdrew an interjection where you said you will see our cuts when we’re in government. Is that an accurate reflection of what you said and what do you mean by that?

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION, BILL SHORTEN: Taking your second part first, I didn’t say it, so that’s why I insisted the Government stop saying that. In terms of the debate yesterday, though , and the Government’s tactics. We know yesterday, as I said in my speech, as a metaphor for this Government, you know, we all know, Australians know that this is a Government uncomfortable in the skin of a government, much preferring the uniform of Opposition. They would much rather talk about us than talk about their vision for the nation. Tony Abbott would be better advised to focus on the future of Australia than play politics all the time. We know this is what he does so I expect the Government to attack Labor, I just wish the Government would do its day job. I do not believe after a year and a quarter that the Abbott Government has made the translation from Opposition to Government. The G20 was an unqualified failure when it should have been an unqualified success. What on earth was the Prime Minister and his minders thinking giving that eight minute excruciating Little Australia rant? Imagine telling the Prime Minister of Turkey that you’ve got problems with a GP Tax, when they’ve got 2 million refugees. Imagine telling China the challenge, or Germany that we want to actually increase the cost of going to university when they’re desperate to make sure that people, be in developed or developing economies, go there. This is a Government who is most comfortable in Opposition.

We didn’t ask Tony Abbott before the last election to make all the statements he did, but he did. He did because he wanted to win the votes of Australians. But there is indeed a trust question in this country. The question of Tony Abbott’s trust and what he did before the election, like no other politician in the contemporary era, he put himself on a pedestal, he tried to crucify Julia Gillard and he said that with Tony Abbott what you see is what you’ll get. He said famously before the last election when he was asked will you use the Budget upon coming into power as an excuse not to keep your promises? He said, I’m not that sort of bloke. And then yesterday he just assumes that the nation suffers political amnesia and that he can say that black is white and white is black. So when it comes to the questions of trust, what Australian people want and what I’m determined that Labor does, is that they want to see people engaged with the ideas of Australia and navigating a plan to the future. His Budget, his Budget is lost in space. His foreign policy reactive, lost in space. These are the challenges for the Government and if the Government seek to attack Labor for being a fierce opposition that is their prerogative but Australians elected this Government to keep its promises and to work on the future. The attack on higher education is not a future-focus policy. Not accepting or wanting to work with the multilateral institutions that a rise in China is seeking to put out in our region, that is not the future. It is not the future for productivity and workplaces to slam a GP Tax discouraging people from going to the doctor. So if they want to have a debate we will give it to them on their policies and a plan for the future.

JOURNALIST: What about your own policies as I asked you earlier?

SHORTEN: Well certainly before the next election we will advance the case and what I have said today is that we are sufficiently ambitious for this nation. We are sufficiently ambitious for Australian democracy that we will submit a platform which is not just ‘we are not them’. It is not just a list of Tony Abbott’s lies, compendious as it is. We will submit a view that at the next election a post grad science student will look for the Labor how to vote card because we’ve got the best science policies. Mum and Dad who’ve educated their kids through 13 years of school will know that at least with Labor there’s a reasonable chance that their kids can go to uni and not have a lifetime of debt. We want people who are worried about the care of people with disabilities, their family members, the midnight anxiety of the 80-year-old parents wondering who will love their children like they have, their adult children, at least they know when they go to the polling booth, whenever the next election is, they will know what Labor stands for. But it will also be the case in small business, it will be the case in our foreign policy, it will be the case in innovation. We’re ambitious for this country and we want to have an election based on the best ideas.

JOURNALIST: David Speers from Sky News. Mr Shorten, in the vision that you’ve outlined for Australia’s future I don’t think you mentioned the debt that we all share as a nation. I’m just interested in the priority you give that in paying it off and whether you will be honest about how long that’s going to take and whether you’re prepared to take longer than the Coalition to pay it off. And just to repeat Mark’s question about the policy problems Labor had at the last election, are you willing to acknowledge what policy mistakes there were?

SHORTEN: Good, sorry, I should have addressed that, sorry, Mark, thanks. Just going to that point, there’s no doubt that, and we’ve taken responsibility for various matters over the last year and a quarter. But we missed an opportunity in 2009 with the collapse of Copenhagen and in hindsight, and I’m not saying I had this view at the time but in hindsight, and hindsight’s an invaluable tool, we’ve all used it. Is that we should have pushed for a double dissolution. And there is no doubt that Tony Abbott ran a very effective campaign against the high-fixed price on carbon that we put in that term. So yeah, I get that we need to rebuild trust. We embrace our responsibility and that’s why in the Opposition that we’re leading and we are pushing for Australia, you will see us put forward positive propositions before the next election. And then you asked, what was the second part of your question?

JOURNALIST: About debt and priorities?

SHORTEN: There’s no doubt the Budget faces pressures. Chris Bowen, who is here today, has made that point, we all have. Commodity prices are down and we’ve seen, though, with the Budget the current Budget that they’ve put, they have torpedoed confidence, no-one who deals with the high street of Australia thinks that business confidence is there, so there’s external factors. But there’s also the dilemmas in the Budget caused by this current Government. First of all they’ve got the wrong priorities. What they’ve done, and you can talk to people, high street traders across Australia. But two or three weeks before the election when the Government brains trust decided to cleverly, they were dragged kicking and screaming to drop their Commission of Audit, they deliberately held off after the South Australian and Western Australia elections, they didn’t provide that same courtesy to the Victorian Liberals I might add with the Petrol Tax. But they held off on the Commission if Audit but really from when they started leaking that, through to leaks in the Budget, confidence has just flat lined. It has flat lined. So I think they’ve got to take some responsibility for what they’ve done there. We’ve seen our wages growth shrink, so I think the challenge in the medium term is to make sure that our revenues match our expenditures, but what I also recognise is that the policy prescription to ensure we deal with the issues that you raise is not to make the income, the bottom half of income earners in this Australia do the heavy lifting. We need to go for a productivity agenda which involves making our people smarter. It’s the creation of wealth rather than an argument about who should get what. It’s the creation of wealth, it’s the building of opportunity for small business. It’s support for the many women who are starting their small businesses. That’s the game in town. It is having a search or a reach for higher ground, that is how we deal with the issues that you refer to today.

JOURNALIST: Sophie Morris from the Saturday Paper. Mr Shorten you’ve spoken a lot about fairness and I want to ask you about Labor’s approach to fairness to people who come here seeking asylum. Immigration Minister Scott Morrison is pursuing various bits of legislation to reintroduce temporary protection visas, make it easier to cancel citizenship, to revoke citizenship and cancel visas. Do you see merit in these proposals or do you think that he’s gone too far?

SHORTEN: Well, when we talk about fairness and we talk about immigration, we talk about refugees, let me put down some markers which the Labor that I lead believes in. First of all, we believe unreservedly that immigration has been a benefit for Australia. We believe that it’s contributed, continues to contribute from great citizens to broadening the diversity of our community, to entrepreneurs, to a deepening of Australian culture. Now we recognise that our immigrants come by various means. Family reunion, skilled migration and refugees. We do not seek to demonise refugees, but we do also believe that we need to discourage the people smugglers’ model and I think that Labor, and I don’t think, I believe, that Labor’s push for regional resettlement has been the cornerstone upon which the people smugglers’ model has been broken. In terms of this Government and what they’re doing in terms of their temporary visas, we need to look at the detail carefully. I don’t particularly trust this Government about treating people fairly. On the other hand, we will do what we’ve always done. We will weigh up the interests of the nation and the interests of individuals and we will review the legislation, and we will debate it as it is presented to the Parliament.

JOURNALIST: Paul Osborne from Australian Associated Press. Thank you very much for your speech. Just wanting to pursue the question of your budget philosophy. In Government, what areas would Labor quarantine from cuts or efficiency dividends, and I’m thinking of things like defence, pensions and so on, and would you deliver a surplus earlier than Mr Hockey plans?

SHORTEN: I think a lot of this is a hypothetical because we need to see what Joe Hockey’s going to do. I note that he’s trying to leave his mini-budget until the last possible moment in the year. I think that the Government’s got some numbers to front up to the Australian people and present to us. There’s no doubt in my mind that they’ve worsened the deficit since they came into power. You know, it’s been 445 days for those of you who haven’t been keeping count, since the Government got elected and at some point in that time there going to have to stop being able to blame the rest of the world or blame their predecessors and start dealing with the issues. In terms of how we present our economic policies for the next election, as much as I’d like to win the good will of the people here, at the Press Club today, these are still early days for us. But when we talk about priorities and part of your question went to priorities, the Government needs to dump its Rolls-Royce paid parental leave scheme. They’ve got to stop going soft on multinational tax evaders. I think they need to hand back some of the superannuation tax breaks they’re give to the very wealthy, who simply don’t need the assistance of the taxpayer to move from $2 million to $2.5 million in savings. I do also think that if the Government has troubles with its Budget, which it does, they should stop paying polluters to pollute and introduce a market-based system.

JOURNALIST: David Crowe from The Australian. Thanks for your speech, Mr Shorten. There was a startling fact in your speech which was that by 2050 there will be 2.5 workers only for every person who is over 65. The trend has got to put more pressure on the pension system, it’s got to make pensions a bigger share of government outlays than they already are. Do you see that as a problem that needs to be addressed? Are you saying that a Labor Government would do anything to stop that increase?

SHORTEN: There’s a number of levers which governments who think – I mean your question is dangerously conflicting with the Abbott doctrine of not just today but thinking about the far distant future 16 years’ time. I think you’re asking me to think 36 years in advance, don’t ask the Prime Minister. In terms of how we deal with that, the most successful nations with participation rates are ones who have the highest education, the highest rates of education. You look at some of the Nordic countries, you look at nations with high participation rates their people are well trained, that allows people to work older in life. The second thing is, of course, the Government likes to talk about people working longer, but have they ever tried to change the workers’ comp laws in States so the workers’ comp will cover employees over 65 years of age? This is a Government who is long on the thought bubble and short on the detail. But one of the key changes which this Government’s dragged us back and, you know, I call upon that journal of record, The Australian, the join me in this issue. It’s the reduction in superannuation, it’s the freezing of superannuation at 9.5 per cent. What a backward, backward, backward decision. You know, they said that there’s 3.5 million Australians who earn less than $37,000 a year. Currently the Government’s reinstituted a system where they’re putting more tax on their compulsory savings than they pay on the income they earn. Labor got rid of that but there’s sort of the F Troop of this Government, the barnacle removing brigade, decided to remove a beneficial tax treatment which will allow people who earn less than $37,000 a year to save super. So what we have now, this Government has introduced an involuntary arbitrage where if you are compelled to save and you earn less than $37,000 , you pay more tax on your savings than you do on your pay-as-you-go income. Ridiculous. Only the Conservatives could have dreamt that up. So the other issue though is by freezing super at 9.5 per cent and not taking it through to 12 per cent as they promised before the election, of course, they’ve so traduced our expectations of keeping  promises, that’s just one on the list, that’s under the letter S, you know. What they should do is allow superannuation to go up in the increments we proposed so we have a larger pool of savings. The beauty of superannuation is this; the more that we encourage people to save for themselves the less of a drain it will be on the pension. I think the other thing they need to do is work on how they treat women equally because the more that you can encourage women to work, the more money that people will amass in their time at work, so the less they’ll have to rely on the savings. So I look with great interest at what the Government’s going to do on the question of child care. They’ve spent a lot of time working on the first 9 months of a child’s life, what are they doing on child care? These are all challenges, they’re long-term levers and of course there’s higher education generally.

JOURNALIST: Laura Tingle from Financial Review Mr Shorten. You’ve talked in the speech today about the fact that the economy’s not doing very well at the moment and you’ve had a particular focus on higher education. So what I wanted to ask you was, we’re expecting the mid-year review of the Budget out as you mentioned next month. What’s the appropriate fiscal policy for - or the appropriate economic policy for that statement? Should the Government just let the expected deterioration in the Budget go because things are a bit weak or should they be trying to offset it? And on higher education, would you be looking to unwind any changes that the Government does get through on its higher education reforms?

SHORTEN: Let me deal with your second question first. There’s a big hypothetical in that. If the Government gets their changes through. At this stage there is no prospect of that. We believe the best thing we can do for our universities is defeat these rotten changes and we start again in the process. So we are not contemplating failure on our defence of higher education. As Laurie generously said at the start, you know, Labor’s certainly got its act together this year. We have been fierce this year. I’m discovering as Opposition Leader it’s a thin line between being too strong or too weak and some of you helped me navigate that line imperfectly. But what I do get is that when it comes to higher education this Government has got a snowflake’s chance in that hot place where bad people go to get through the doubling of the bond rate. If they want to get through a 20 per cent cut to universities that will be the greatest act of vandalism we’ve seen a political party do to higher-ed. Now I wonder if one of the barnacles that the Government’s going to remove is higher-ed. I hope for the sake of the hundreds of thousands of year 11 and year 12 kids who went to open days this year that is one of the barnacles that the barnacle-removing Government are going to take off the hull of their higher education policies.

There was the first part of your question about how Treasurer Hockey should handle it. Well the first thing is he should just go down to Bunnings, not Bunnings, go to Kmart or Target, buy himself a white tea towel, put it on a wooden broom and wave surrender on his silly changes. The GP Tax, silly, silly, silly. Who on earth – I mean I just assumed it was a new government and they just, either – actually, they’re a new government who’s never really liked Medicare and then what they’ve done is they’ve said well we’re going to somehow find ways to discourage bulk billing. They should drop their changes to Medicare full stop. Then while they’re at it, if they don’t do it before their mini-budget, they should drop the higher education changes. I think that need to revisit what they do about breaking their promise to pensioners around Australia. I think they should tidy up the defence pay deal while they’re there. This Government needs to work on policies which, as I’ve outlined, they should also drop their paid parental leave scheme for millionaires. I think there’s opportunities for them to re-invigorate their auditing of multinational organisations and in terms of tax, profit shifting. I think they need to reconsider the tax break they’ve given to a few thousand of our wealthiest citizens who have multi-million dollar superannuation accounts. I think they do need to revisit Direct Action. One, Direct Action won’t achieve the targets they say they will without the expenditure of billions of dollars more money and two, there are far cheaper alternatives to achieve the same environmental outcome. So I think in terms of general approach, we’ve been willing to work in the past on means testing, the baby bonus means testing, the PHI rebate. But what they need to understand is that if they want to create value in the Australian economy they need to invest in people. If they drop the Medicare, I still think they need to question what they do with research, getting rid of 900 CSIRO scientists is just shocking. So I think they need to – the reality is they got into Government without doing much homework except a very narrow right-wing ideology. And now a year and a quarter in, or 445 days in, they’re adrift.


SHORTEN: Sorry, I’m happy to talk to you again later.

JOURNALIST: Nick Pedley from ABC News. Mr Shorten you described Mr Abbott’s opening speech to G20 leaders as weird, excruciating and cringe worthy. You had a celebrated speech at Adelaide ship yards which could be described as, well, celebrated. You made pledges at that speech that the submarines and the ships would be built there. Do you stand by those pledges even if the Government enters into contracts before the next election?

SHORTEN: Well, I also described Tony Abbott’s speech as a missed opportunity for Australia. I also said about Tony Abbott’s speech that he didn’t see Obama going or Xi coming. I also said that his much hyped up shirtfront with Putin turned into a kola photo opportunity. So I do think that Tony Abbott missed the biggest peace time foreign policy opportunity that we’re going to get in the foreseeable future. Yes and I did cringe and I think that a lot of ordinary Australians cringed. When he complained about the, you know, difficultly – he gave a negative character reference about the Australian people. We invite the leaders of the world here and he says ‘I’m have trouble convincing Australians’. You’re not having trouble convincing Australians, they just don’t like your ideas. So I don’t think he was in order at all to give a negative reference about the Australian people.

Then we get to submarine corporation and talking about pledges. Let me remind you of a pledge that you didn’t go to in your question. May 8th 2013, David Johnston the beleaguered, is he still the Defence Minister? Anyway, the beleaguered Defence Minister, he promised the 12 submarines would be built in South Australia. He promised it. He promised it. And then yesterday he made that dreadful comment, that the ASC, you know, you wouldn’t trust them to build a canoe. Well if he really believed that, if we want to talk about authenticity of pledges, does that mean that the Australian Government should now ask all the submarines built in that time, because he’s tried to back track ineffectually after who knows who in the Prime Minister’s office has said you better get up, you know, and try and mop up the stain of what you said. Then he said, ‘I wasn’t talking about today, I was talking about previously, historically.’ Well the Collins class submariners are our deadliest form of defence. They are crewed by system of our most trained submariners and representatives of the Roya Australian Navy. I’ve had the privilege to be on them. And what I know is that if he thinks that these are nothing better than canoes, because they were built in the time when he was still describing as canoes. If he has any conviction about what he said, because his subsequent statement has buried him as much as much as his first statement, they should recall these submarines right now. They should not put submariners in harm’s way if they think that the ASC has built bad submarines.

They are providing $500 million a year to the ASC to upgrade our military hardware. The ASC is in alliance building the AWD, three AWD destroyers. If they really think that they’re that bad they should stop right now. This is a Government addicted to politics. As for what I said, and in the implication of what you said, I do think that they should build the submarines in Australia. This idea that somehow this Government’s going to do a contract for 40 years for X billion dollars, this Government’s not down that path so the question you raise about contracts is a moot point. It’s a hypothetical. This Government with its C-1,000 future submarine program has for 15 months literally been at sea. Their Land 400, the replacement of our armoured vehicles, hopeless, just all over the place.

And you want to look at the Defence pay while we’re talking about pledges? The Opposition, now Government, when they were in Opposition, criticised Labor when there were three years of 3 per cent pay rises. Stewart Robert, I don’t know, he’s the Assistant Minister, I think. He attacked Labor when in Opposition said ‘shameful’ that Labor would only give 3 per cent for Defence per year. This mob are giving 1.5 per cent, 1.5 per cent. Not even keeping up with real wages. And as for the Defence Minister, didn’t he famously say in October the 22nd that he didn’t attend the National Security Council because he didn’t think he had anything to add? So when we talk about pledges, this Government who loves wrapping themselves in the flag of patriotism, they love a parade, they love a photo-op with the military and that’s okay, that’s fair enough. But when it comes to the real things, long-term decisions, not trashing the reputation of Australia’s manufacturing, sorting out the matter of pay which they’ve already Budgeted for, this is a most ineffectual government and a most ineffectual Defence Minister.

JOURNALIST: Tim Lester, from the Seven Network Mr Shorten. You say that Tony Abbott’s broken promise’s debase our democracy, you of course also were in a Government that lost office partly on the back of an infamous broken promise with regards to carbon. What has this taught you, how has it informed you about the promises, of the way you will make promises in the next two years, not whether you’ll keep them, but your approach to what you’ll promise on and how many you’ll make. And is it even possible for a leader like you these days to under promise and over deliver?

SHORTEN: Yes, that is exactly the strategy, under promise and over deliver. Tim, that will be our strategy.

JOURNALIST: You can do that?

SHORTEN: Yes, I can answer questions quickly too.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Andrew Probyn from the West Australian and you can be more expansive in answering mine. I note that you’ve suggested that the 2016 election will be a character contest, but I imagine the economies going to be heart and soul of that election too. You’ve suggested that there might be, or you’ve said there should be on changes on superannuation, can you tell us what other changes aside for millionaires? And on the mining tax you’ve said that you want to bring that back, how would you do that given that iron ore in now under 70 bucks which is pretty close to breakeven?

SHORTEN: Well you raise and number of points and in reference to your sort of first humorous reference about being expansive to yours and Tim’s question, I’m not going to announce our election policies today. But we understand that the process of forming our policies is important. One of the things I’ve found instructive about the passing of Gough Whitlam is not necessary even what happened to them in 74’ and 75’ but in Opposition the way that he worked on his polices and indeed having a clear plan upon getting to government how they implement them. So I do believe, in all seriousness, that you don’t have to make a promise on everything and I’m sure that there’s a lot of political rule books being rewritten after the debacle of Tony Abbott’s SBS interview on the night before the election. But we do have to make sure that we anchor our policies in listening to the Australian electorate. We do have to make sure that we do it by expand the ranks of the Labor Party to include groups and segments and voices that haven’t traditionally been heard. My shadow ministers are working on policies as we speak; we’ve got a process working in with our National Conference in July of next year.

So in all seriousness, both Andrew and Tim, we are interested in the best, broadest, anchored views, talking to people before we make the promises, listening to the Australian community. That’s what will win respect. I notice for instance that one of the big debates, to use a live example and I’m quite impressed by, is the Victorian election. Tony Abbott’s interested to give $1.5 billion to East-West Link without a business case, whereas Daniel Andrews has said that through the privatisation of the ports they’ll build 50 level crossings. Now these 50 level crossings, some of you have raised in Victoria, Melbourne’s a flat city. It is a ripper of a policy, it’s costed, it’s paid for and it goes towards improving productivity, the utility of both our roads and public transport. Public transport in cities is a topic that the Federal Government has an aversion to. So I think that’s a good example of what to do.

In terms of mining tax, we’ve made it clear that there were mistakes and, this perhaps even goes to a couple of the earlier questions too, it’s another example, where the scale of our aspiration, of my predecessor ‘s aspirations outstripped the level of detail and of course we saw the resulting hue and cry about that. So in terms of a mining tax, we would not do anything before we speak with states and mining companies and furthermore when we look at these issues you’re quite right, with commodity prices where they are it’s just not an issue on the table. But thank you very much for your question.


Jenny Macklin MP.

Shadow Minister for Families and Payments
 Shadow Minister for Disability Reform

If Tony Abbott is serious about ‘clearing the decks’ before Christmas, as reports today have suggested, he shouldn’t bother watering down his signature paid parental leave scheme.
He should scrap it entirely.

This $20 billion ‘barnacle’ of a policy is beyond salvation.

Tony Abbott has already watered down his signature policy once this year, reducing the payment cap from $75,000 to $50,000.

But Tony Abbott’s signature policy is a dud. Economists, business, unions, women’s groups and just about every member of the Coalition party room know it.

For years, Tony Abbott has tied himself to his unfair and extravagant scheme, but it’s time Tony Abbott woke up to the fact that Australians don’t want his $20 billion cash splash.

Australia can’t afford Tony Abbott’s paid parental leave scheme.

Labor believes in a fair and affordable Paid Parental Leave scheme, because that is what we delivered.

But Tony Abbott’s scheme will see $50,000 paid to millionaires to have a baby, while he tries to rip money away from pensioners and families and drive up the cost of living with his GP tax and petrol tax.

Tony Abbott’s scheme is neither fair, nor affordable.

Tony Abbott’s signature paid parental leave scheme belongs on the scrap pile of history, alongside his other big ‘barnacle’: the Budget.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Bronwyn Bishop suspends 18 MPs from Question Time, breaks Federation-era record





27 November 2014



SENATOR PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE: If I can start with Kate Lundy who has announced overnight she doesn’t intend to nominate again for the Senate. Kate is one of the women who was in the Senate when I first came to Parliament and she’s been an outstanding Senator. She is an outstanding representative for the ACT. She has been a Labor Minister, front bencher and someone it has been a pleasure to serve with. We wish her well and we certainly hope that she goes on to have a very fulfilling second career, as she described it. So best wishes Kate, and thank you for everything you have done for the cause of Labor and in service to the people of the ACT.

On to less pleasant matters, yesterday the Senate censured the Defence Minister. The last Cabinet Minister to be censured by the Senate was Amanda Vanstone in 2005.
Censures are rarely moved and rarely supported. But the Senate chose to do that, and we did so for very sound reasons. This is a Minister who quite clearly has demonstrated an attitude, a temperament and an approach which isn’t consistent with a standing that Australians expect of a Cabinet Minister but most particularly the Minister for Defence. This is a very senior portfolio.

His comments about the Australian Submarine Corporation are not just a slap in the face for those workers; they compromised perceptions about Australia’s naval capability, which was an incredibly irresponsible thing to do. But most importantly what those comments did was compromise the integrity of the largest procurement the Commonwealth will make, that is the Future Submarine Project. What this Minister did to cover up a broken promise, a promise that the Government intends to break, was to put the boot into the principal Australian shipbuilding yard because the Government doesn’t want to build the subs here in Australia. They promised it, they want to break that promise and how they want to deal with it is by putting the boot into the Australian Submarine Corporation.

It is not only dishonourable, it compromises the largest procurement project that the Commonwealth will enter into. And that is why the Senate overwhelmingly voted to censure the Defence Minister. And our message is this: if the Defence Minister doesn’t resign, the Prime Minister should sack him. The Prime Minister should sack him. This is a test of the Prime Minister’s leadership and he should sack the Defence Minister, neither the Senate or the Australian people have any confidence in this Minister.

JOURNALIST: The Australian Defence Association says wasting a day yesterday was disgraceful, it also suggested the Minister was expressing long held frustrations that go back to your time in Government and the Submarine Corporation’s handling of various contracts. Isn’t that a reasonable thing?

WONG: Ministers are accountable to the Australian people through the Parliament and the Parliament should ensure the Minister is held accountable. This Defence Minister was held accountable by the Senate in the most serious of ways and I think that was a proper exercise of the Senate’s role and I think the fact that we had so many crossbenchers voting in support of the censure demonstrates the widespread feeling amongst Senators, which can I say I think is reflective of the community. I think if you talk to the workers, if you talk to the industry, and I invite you to look at some of the comments from the defence industry, you will see that this Minister has really undermined confidence in an important industry in Australia, an industry important not only for jobs but for confidence in our capability.

JOURNALIST: Do you have complete confidence in the Submarine Corporation?

WONG: I have confidence in the ASC. I was their shareholder Minister. We worked very hard to improve submarine availability times. And despite this Minister and this Government’s attempt to sink the boot into the ASC, to justify a broken promise, to knock out an Australian business from having the opportunity to build submarines here in Australia. What we know is in fact submarine availability has exceeded Navy targets both in this financial year and in the previous financial year. That’s a bit of good news that the Defence Minister doesn’t want to talk about.

JOURNALIST: You said that the comments damaged the perception of capacity. Did they have the potential to actually damage capacity itself in any way?

WONG: I hope not, and I have faith in the management and the workers at the Australian Submarine Corporation. And as Andrew Daniels said I think on Tuesday, he said ‘we only give them the best.’ These are the people we trust to keep Australian submariners safe and they do a great job, and as he said they give them the best.

JOURNALIST: Senator is Labor… [inaudible]

WONG: I think everybody was probably raising their eyebrows at Tony Abbott calling anybody a vandal after the way he behaved in opposition. Now we’re staying for what’s fair. Now I’d just remind everybody, in this Parliament we’ve supported or bills through the Senate are close to 140. What we are refusing to pass is legislation which puts in place unfairness, which is contrary to the promises Mr Abbott made before the election and which Australians don’t want. I think that standing up against a GP Tax, standing up against $100,000 degrees, these are things which Australians expect Labor to do and we will do because they are not consistent with the sort of Australia we all want.

JOURNALIST: Eric Abetz is adamant that the GP co-payment remains policy. What would your reaction be to any kind of regulation of that?

WONG: I think from the chaos that has been reported in the papers about the Government’s position on the GP Tax, one thing remains clear: they are absolutely determined to ensure Australian families have to pay more to take their children to the doctor. That’s one thing you can say: this Government is absolutely determined that Australians pay more to go to the doctor and they’re prepared to do that in a mean and tricky way just like they did the fuel tax, just like they did the financial advice reforms, try and bypass proper debate and sneak it through by regulation. I think Australians expect more from this Government and Australians certainly did not vote for a Government that would impose higher costs on going to a doctor.

JOURNALIST: How long do you give David Johnston if you believe his position is not tenable…

WONG: As I said, if he doesn’t resign the Prime Minister should sack him.

JOURNALIST: Just on Kate Lundy, do you think she has any questions to answer over her handling… [inaudible]

WONG: Look no I don’t, and I think what I look at and what I think the community looks at is long, dedicated and outstanding service to the people of the ACT and of course her contribution to the cause of Labor. I said last night she’s a courageous Labor woman and I thank her for her service.

Thank you.



Media Release

Political propaganda under the guise of government advertising will be banned under a future Labor Government, Shadow Attorney General Yvette D’Ath said today.
Ms D’Ath said the Strong Advertising Restrictions (Safeguarding Taxpayers’ Funds) Bill 2014, introduced into Queensland Parliament by the Labor Opposition today, would put an end to politically motivated advertisements like those currently being charged to the taxpayer by the LNP.
Ms D’Ath said while current “guidelines” prohibited political advertising within six months of a scheduled election, the Newman Government had refused to adhere to its own rules.
“The LNP aren’t sticking to their own rules when it comes to advertising,” Ms D’Ath said.
“The people of Queensland shouldn’t have to suffer the waste of millions of dollars on political advertising."
“If we had an open and trustworthy Government, millions of taxpayer funds would not be being spent on political advertising campaigns.
“They’re using public money for spin – to try to sell public assets, change pay and conditions of nurses and mislead Queensland patients about hospital waiting lists."
“This legislation is required because the Newman Government is using taxpayers’ money for shameless political advertising.”
Ms D’Ath said the Bill would actually enforce the restrictions in the current code of conduct and introduce a bi-partisan committee to assess proposed advertising campaigns.
Key elements of Labor’s legislation include:
• Adopting the language of the Current Code and legislating to uphold those standards
• Appointing a five-person independent committee – the ‘Advertising Review Committee’ – to approve advertising before taxpayer funds are spent
• Ensuring committee members have bipartisan approval and have experience in law, consumer protection, public finance, public administration or media/communications
• Includes strict requirements for the period six months prior to an election (with exceptions for legitimate advertising such as preparation for natural disasters or road safety).
• The legislation also imposes penalties for Chief Executive Officers and Ministers if advertising proceeds without proper approval.
“The Newman Government is wasting tens of millions of taxpayer money on blatantly politically advertising,” Ms D’Ath said.
“This Bill will help to actually hold the LNP to their own commitments.”


Media Release

The threat of further job cuts hangs over all Queensland Government employees after Premier Campbell Newman failed to guarantee their job security in parliament today.
Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk said that when the Premier was asked if he would again promise no more job cuts, he failed to do so.
“Before the 2012 election, Campbell Newman promised government workers had nothing to fear from an LNP Government,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“We know that he broke that promise and 24,000 Queensland Government workers lost their jobs under the LNP."
“Today, the LNP is even refusing to guarantee job security for Queensland Government workers."
“Surely axing 24,000 jobs for Queenslanders was enough. How many further job cuts could there possibly be?"
“Sources within government are telling the Opposition that work is already under way to prepare for more job cuts if the Newman Government is re-elected."
“The LNP cut too far, too hard, and too fast and has smothered our state and regional economies with its mass sackings and service cuts."
“The frightening thing is that there is clearly more to come and that won’t only hurt workers, it will also hurt families.”
Ms Palaszczuk said the LNP’s only plan for Queensland was asset sales.
“Asset sales are nothing but a recipe for more job losses and higher electricity prices,” she said.
“When unemployment is already at an 11-year high, more asset sales are bad news for Queenslanders, especially government workers and people looking for a job."
“Only Labor has listened and won’t sell Queensland’s assets.”

Coalition's GP co-payment strategy foundering on the rocks of confusion

The government briefed the press gallery it was shelving the co-payment, but then the health minister Peter Dutton suggested it could be imposed via regulation. Photograph: Mike Bowers/Guardian Australia.
A brief history of political barnacle cleaning shows how comprehensively the Abbott government is botching it.
John Howard popularised the “cleaning the barnacles” metaphor to explain abandoning or shelving policies that were becoming a political liability. In the lead-up to the 2007 election, for example, the term was applied to his decisions to abandon legislation paving the way for an Australian nuclear industry and securing the return of prisoner David Hicks.
But barnacle cleaning only works if the difficult issue is neutered. It works best if the media can be persuaded to present a government’s acceptance of parliamentary or public opinion defeat as some kind of victory for strategic realpolitik and listening to the electorate.
The Abbott government appeared to be successfully executing this manoeuvre. It briefed the press gallery it was shelving the $7 GP co-payment (which it effectively already had, having long given up on attempts to persuade the implacably opposed Senate crossbench to pass it) and that it was “going back to the drawing board”.
But then the leader of the government in the Senate, Eric Abetz, insisted the government was, in fact, standing by the policy, the treasurer Joe Hockey said “our policy stands” and the health minister, Peter Dutton, suggested the government could try to impose it via regulation.
The government could indeed regulate to reduce the fee paid to doctors by $5 per visit – as its co-payment policy envisages – effectively trying to force doctors to implement a policy the parliament has rejected (and 66% of the electorate disapproves of, according to an October Essential poll).
But that regulation could also be disallowed. (All regulations can be disallowed if they are “legislative in character”, which this would surely be). The only advantage for the government is that to pass legislation it needs 39 votes, whereas to survive a disallowance motion it needs 38 – because a tied vote fails. Given the public statements of the eight Senate crossbenchers, it seems unlikely the government would manage 38.

It seems especially unlikely after one of the government’s own senators, Ian MacDonald, indicated he could cross the floor and vote against any attempt to sneak the change through via regulation (at the same time blasting his own government for ramming through the reintroduction of fuel tax indexation in that way).
And in any event, the government is making it absolutely clear that it continues to believe the co-payment is correct and essential policy.
The approving “barnacle cleaning” headlines have been replaced by “confusion reigns”. And with different ministers apparently saying different things, it really is confusing.
“Barnacle cleaning” is a sound bite intended to convey the impression of a satisfying exercise that leaves the ship of state clean and unencumbered to sail into smoother political waters.
This confusion just adds to the government’s mounting political disarray - it cops all the flack for sticking with the unpopular policy and continuing to try to implement it, with none of the policy benefits it claims it would achieve. It angers the doctors and the Senate and the public. It angers everyone concerned about the impact of the policy on the health of all those groups in society who can’t afford to pay.
It looks like a worst-of-all-worlds strategy, similar to the Rudd government’s hopelessly confused attempts to “shelve” its defeated emissions trading scheme for at least three years, while continuing to say it would be implemented eventually, and without any idea what policy would replace it.
Presciently, Tony Abbott told his party room on Tuesday (in the same speech in which he promised to clean the barnacles) that the government’s “historical mission is to show that the chaos of the Rudd/Gillard years is not the new normal.”
The Australian Medical Association president, Brian Owler, told Guardian Australia on Thursday, “We just need to know who is running health policy in this country and what it is … right now it looks like a total mess.”

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Big four banks under pressure to rule out funding Queensland coal projects

Extract from The Guardian 

Environmental groups accuse government of leaning on banks to back mines despite being signatories to Equator Principles.

Australia’s largest banks are coming under pressure from environmental groups not to fund huge coal projects in central Queensland, amid accusations the government is encouraging financial institutions to back the new mines.
The Australian Conservation Foundation has called on the ‘big four’ banks – ANZ, Westpac, Commonwealth Bank and NAB – to rule out financial support for nine proposed mines in the coal-rich Galilee Basin region of Queensland.
Financial backing for the mines, which will produce a combined 350m tonnes of coal a year at capacity, is inconsistent with the banks’ international environmental obligations, ACF claims.
The big four banks are all signatories to the Equator Principles, a set of guidelines on environmental and social risk management adopted by financial institutions in 34 countries.
The Galilee Basin mines should not secure funding under these principles, ACF says, because they will result in severe local and global environmental damage.
The nine mines will emit at least 700m tonnes of greenhouse gases once operational and will degrade land, use a huge amount of water and risk damage to the Great Barrier Reef due to shipped exports, an ACF analysis claims.
“If all projects planned for the Galilee Basin go ahead, the pollution from burning the coal would be more than Australia’s entire annual greenhouse gas pollution,” said Victoria McKenzie-McHarg, a campaigner at ACF.
“If a bank can be a signatory to a ‘gold standard’ in environmental risk management and still fund these sort of projects, it calls into question the bank’s environmental credentials – and the credibility of the Equator Principles.”
Australian banks have been pressured to join international banks that have baulked at the opening up of the Galilee Basin. Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and HSBC have ruled out financing the expansion of the Abbot Point port, which is part of a project run by Indian firm Adani that will see the creation of the enormous Carmichael mine.
Although the banks have distanced themselves from the project, the Queensland government has been keen to actively help the Galilee Basin mines go ahead, citing the creation of 28,000 jobs in the state.
The state government has already committed an unspecified amount of taxpayer money, thought to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, to take a short-term stake in a 388km rail line that would freight coal extracted from Carmichael to the Abbot Point port.
According to a report in the Australian newspaper, officials within the federal government have made calls to the major banks to assure them that the expansion of Abbot Point will not pose a risk to the Great Barrier Reef.
Environmentalists have accused both state and federal governments of showing preferential treatment towards the big miners, claiming that banks are now under pressure to fund the new mines.
Felicity Wishart, the Great Barrier Reef campaign director for Australian Marine Conservation Society, said “It is extremely concerning that ports like Abbot Point, with so much risk and presenting so much potential damage, are being fast-tracked and given special treatment by our governments.
“Now there are reports the Australian [federal] government is leaning on Australian banks to invest in this development that is financially questionable and environmentally disastrous. This is unacceptable and must stop.”
However, the mining industry has said that government interventions, such as the rail line assistance and the federal government’s free trade deal with China, will greatly boost the Queensland economy.
Michael Roche, chief executive of the Queensland Resources Council, said the financial help for the Adani project is “‘a combination of hard-headed commercial investment and a visionary approach to securing long-term benefits for the state.
“The end game is the creation of tens of thousands of jobs and a new wave of economic activity when the state needs it most.”
The Australian Bankers’ Association, the representative body for the banking industry, was contacted for comment.