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Friday, 15 January


Commonwealth Ombudsman Annual Report 2014-2015 with a sidedish of Shorter Commonwealth Ombudsman North Coast Voices

Wading through annual reports can be a bit of a chore so I give you some highlights from the Commonwealth Ombudsman Annual Report 2014-2015 with a Shorter Ombudsman cheat sheet for those unable to find time to read the full document:

Department of Human Services & Centrelink

In 2014–15 we received 8116 complaints about DHS programs. This represents a 21.5% increase against the 6682 complaints we received in 2013–14, largely as a result of the 26.5% increase in the number of Centrelink complaints. Complaints about the Centrelink program made up 77.4% of complaints about DHS, followed by 18.1% about the Child Support program. Of the remaining complaints, most were about Medicare and the early release of superannuation benefits programs…..
In 2013–14 DHS paid out $159.2 billion to customers in respect of programs across the Australian Government and ‘touched the lives of around 99 per cent of Australians’ through the delivery of payments and services.1 It is inevitable that errors and delays will occur in an operation of this scale. However, the potential for these errors to impact on the lives of a significant number….


OH, WHAT A FEELING!: vandalising a beach just for the fun of it North Coast Voices

It happens on the NSW North Coast in holiday periods. Dragging the weekly shopping out to the car you suddenly notice the number of big, sleek, brutal looking four-wheel drive vehicles with well-known brand names and number plates which indicate they might be holidaymakers.

Every year somewhere along the coastline the drivers of these vehicles prove the relationship between images from car advertisements like this…..

Image from Toyota “Top to Bottom” ad campaign

And stories like this….


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Thursday, 14 January


Shadowproof interview on Disaster Capitalism Antony Loewenstein

Late last year I was interviewed by US website Shadowproof about my book, Disaster Capitalism. It was a live conversation with any number of subscribers tuning in from across the world:


So what was it related to? Catallaxy Files

Picked up on Instapundit where the story read:

PRECAUTIONARY MEASURE “NOT RELATED TO TERRORISM” IN SIDNEY, AUSTRALIA: Sydney Opera House evacuated and Manly ferry cancelled during police operation.

So they can’t spell Sydney in America. This, however, is what they were referring to:

The Sydney Opera House precinct reopened to the public Thursday afternoon after a police operation caused staff and tourists to be evacuated from the landmark.

Police simultaneously conducted an operation across the harbour in Manly as a “precautionary measure” following information on social media.

“Following information on social media, police conducted an operation in the vicinity of the Opera House and Manly as a precautionary measure,” police said.

It is understood the operation, which began just after lunchtime and was over by mid-afternoon, was not related to terrorism.

Well, that’s a relief.


Why 'CO2 is Good' for climate science denial groups funded by Exxon and Kochs Independent Australia

Why 'CO2 is Good' for climate science denial groups funded by Exxon and KochsA new study confirms that Exxon and the Koch brothers bribed organisations to parrot their climate denial propaganda campaign that CO2 was good for the planet. Graham Readfearn reports. read now...


Uber for Labour (not Labor) Catallaxy Files

Under the warm and fuzzy thematic of “innovation”, the Turnbull Government has let it be known that risk is good, entrepreneurship is good and agility (whatever that may be) is good.  These virtues are good everywhere except Canberra that is.

Canberra notwithstanding, let’s not get too excited here.  The Government’s rhetoric seems to suggest that innovation, agility and entrepreneurship is a means to foster economic growth and to increase productivity.  Sadly through, the dull hand of over regulation will continue to limit the opportunities and benefits of innovation and entrepreneurship in Australia.  For example, many opportunities will be closed off given labour market productivity opportunities are broadly coded out of the system.  This is a major reason why, many of the new business opportunities promoted by the Government will be labour-lite.  That is they don’t and won’t employ many people, particularly low skilled labour.

Governments are increasingly welcoming new “innovative” business models like Uber, but are vehemently reluctant to create opportunities through regulatory equivalence to other parts of the market.

In the case of Uber, unlike taxi drivers, Uber drivers work the hours they want to work and don’t have their hours determined by regulators.  Uber also has a very interesting approach to price discovery via its surge pricing model.  And this is where it gets interesting.

In periods when demand exceeds supply, regulated taxi drivers are forced to keep charging the regulated price leaving, doing nothing to better meet supply or reduce demand.

Uber on the other hand has (claims to have) sophisticated algorithms that can adjust the price of taxi travel when demand exceeds supply.  A price variation, usually an increase in price can attract more supply (additional drivers) and shake out demand.  This allows the market to clear, or at least near clear.

Consider if the Uber model was extended to the labour ma...


Secret report! Independent Australia

Secret report!In which IA exclusively reveals the contents of Dyson Heydon's Trade Union Royal Commission Secret Report... read now...


Lambie slams Liberals for racist slur and demands greater scrutiny of money from non-democratic China Senator Jacqui Lambie - PUTTING TASMANIA FIRST

Independent Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie has called on Liberal leaders Premier Will Hodgman and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to discipline Tasmanian state Liberal Minister Rene Hidding, who inferred yesterday there were racist undertones in her stance against the sale of Van Diemens Land (VDL) Company to a Chinese company.

“Yesterday during the debate surrounding the sale of VDL, we saw the same kind of sly, dishonest, cheap political shots that were leveled at opponents, (including myself) of the China Free Trade Agreement.

“These low personal criticisms from Liberal politicians are simply designed to shut down debate and limit public scrutiny of investment from China, which a ABC Four Corners report found is very different and dangerous from investment from democratic countries like Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and America,” Senator Lambie said.

“Liberal politicians especially, are quick to use the race card and personal attacks in these debates, in order to cover up what the ABC Four Corners report found, namely that:

There are hidden dangers in doing business with China: endemic corruption; a lack of transparency in both business and the legal system, and questions about where the money is coming from and whether ill-gotten gains are being laundered.

“Liberal Politicians like Tasmanian MP Rene Hidding don’t want a critical public debate and investigation of foreign investment money that is linked to China and the Chinese communist government for a couple of important reasons:

“Firstly, the Aus...


Environment department’s comments back whistleblower’s claims on CSG approval Independent Australia

Environment department’s comments back whistleblower’s claims on CSG approvalA recent Right to Information response shows that the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management backs up Simone Marsh's evidence that insufficient information was provided prior to approval of CSG projects. Brian Feeney reports. read now...


Obama thanks Iran for spitting in his eye Catallaxy Files


This is pretty well where things have washed up: Iran Releases Sailors After U.S. Promises ‘Not to Repeat Such Mistakes’. There is also this, Iran’s Humiliation of Barack Obama is Now Complete. Meanwhile, perhaps out of embarrassment, this is so far down the page on Drudge that for all practical purposes they might as well have left it out.

Iran says seizure of boats lesson to ‘troublemakers’ in Congress…
Warns Missiles Locked on US Aircraft Carrier…
Releases Humiliating Images of Sailors in Captivity…
Sanctions Seen Lifted by Monday as Nuke Deal Implemented…
TRUMP: Why isn’t Iran releasing other Americans?

It’s that first one that is the truly interesting link. This is the entire story:

Iran’s army chief said on Wednesday the seizure of two U.S. navy boats and their 10 sailors should be a lesson to members the U.S. Congress trying to impose new sanctions on Tehran.

“This incident in the Persian Gulf, which probably will not be the American forces’ last mistake in the region, should be a lesson to troublemakers in the U.S. Congress,&#822...


But will Kevin Donnelly and the Xians ever address their women and gay problem? loon pond

Every so often, a bit of gob-smacking cheek&sgy;iness comes along that results in a sharp intake of breath, along with a gush of awe and admiration ...

For sheer chutzpah, it doesn't get much better than an angry old man, shouting at clouds and Islamics, at work at a Catholic university, complaining of Islamic attitudes to women ... with nary a mention of the Catholic church's past and present proud history in the area ...

Talk about a mote in the eye and all the other folkloric tales of pot and kettle and people in glass houses with too many stones and the owl telling the sparrow it has a big head and ... oh just Greg Hunt them all here, so we can get on with the man shouting at Islamic clouds ...

Stop right there.

"So unique?!"

Usage Note: Unique may be the foremost example of an absolute term—a term th...


Commercialisation and the casualness of going to war Independent Australia

Commercialisation and the casualness of going to warJohn Menadue calls for an end to the commercialisation of Gallipoli and Anzac, to put the drums and bugles away, and to stop and think about what we are doing. read now...


The weirdness that was the Abbott Government continues in the Turnbull Government North Coast Voices

New Zealand offers to take 150 asylum seekers off Australia’s hands each year from 2014-15. 

The Abbott & Turnbull Governments could have saved anywhere between $35M and $60M a year on the back of this offer, but what did these two coalition federal governments do?

They said “No!”.

The Guardian, 11 January 2016:

In a deal brokered between prime ministers Key and Julia Gillard in 2013, New Zealand agreed to accept 150 refugees from Australia’s offshore processing centres each year from 2014-15.

The quota remains in New Zealand’s forward planning...

Wednesday, 13 January


An attack on our democracy No Right Turn

That's the only way to describe the Reserve Bank of New Zealand's new policy of charging for all OIA requests:

Journalists who make requests for official information from government agencies are used to lengthy delays and lots of blacked-out pages.

Hefty invoices, like the $651 estimate received by Fairfax business journalist Richard Meadows this week for an Official Information Act (OIA) request to the Reserve Bank, are much rarer.

Meadows was informed by the Reserve Bank that charging media for requests was now its "standard policy", rather than a one-off.

This is part of a wider problem. Back in December outgoing chief Ombudsman Beverley Wakem effectively recommended that agencies make wider use of charges, and especially, that they should charge media agencies and Members of Parliament, despite the clear public interest and democratic value of their requests. And the Ministry of Justice is reportedly following along with a review of the current charging regime. The expectation is that charging is going to become a lot more common - or, to put it another way, public information is going to become a lot less available, and Ministers and public servants a lot less accountable. Good for them, but bad for our democracy.

But its not just bad for our democracy. As Jacinda Ardern points out, this is our information, and departments should be making it available to us. Instead, they'll be using charges to deter requests and keep it secret.

In anticipation of these changes, I've just OIA's every core government department seeking information for the last financial year on their total number of requests, the number of times they have demanded and been paid...


Jews and Arabs kiss in protest at Israel's banning of best-seller Independent Australia

Jews and Arabs kiss in protest at Israel's banning of best-sellerWhen the Israeli Ministry of Education banned the novel, Borderline – the story of a love affair between an Israeli and a Palestinian – both Jews and Arabs protested. The book became a best-seller and a video of Jews and Arabs kissing went viral. Professor Juan Cole reports. read now...

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