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Saturday, 05 March


Fire on contentious Iluka development application site North Coast Voices

This instance brings to mind certain Lower Clarence Valley fires (and other attempts at illegal land clearing over the last twenty years) which have sprung up on subdivision lands containing either koala habitat or tree/plant biodiversity considered worth p...


Say cheese! North Coast Voices

Green tree frogs image by Michael Snedic, Australian wildlife and nature photographer, whose galleries can be found at


Quotes of the Week North Coast Voices

Ms Furness assisting the Royal Commission: And human beings talk among themselves about their colleagues, don't they, Cardinal?
Cardinal-Prefect George Pell: Human beings in different categories have very different approaches to these matters. We work within a framework of Christian moral teaching. {Loud burst of laughter from people in Rome interview room} Pardon?
Ms.Furness: And what does that mean –
Cardinal Pell: Wo...

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Friday, 04 March


Will the Turnbull Government finally move against Abbott's boy? North Coast Voices

It has been over-long in coming and, probably wouldn’t be contemplated now by the political mates' club if this wasn’t a federal election year, but it finally looks as though another Tony Abbott appointee is about to leave the stage.

The Australian, 26 February 2016:

Fair Work Commission vice-president Michael Lawler could face unprecedented action to ­remove him from office within weeks after taking almost a year of sick leave on full pay of $435,000 a year.

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said yesterday that she had received an independent report on February 15 into a complaint against Mr Lawler.

The report, written by barrister and former Federal Court judge Peter Heerey followed a four-month investigation.

The report deadline was ­extended by t...


Lawler: A dead body and a resignation Independent Australia

Lawler: A dead body and a resignationPeter Wicks discusses the resignation of Fair Work Commission vice president Michael Lawler, amidst the discovery of a dead body in his home, on the eve of the deadline to respond to parliament on his conduct.  read now...


A photo montage of unintelligible yelling, trending to the weirder than weird ... loon pond

Speaking of unintelligible yelling, as the pond likes to do occasionally, will the man in the tent please come out?

Great snap, and now does he have anything to say?

He endorses the Turnbull government?

Why shucks pardner, that's right generous of you, purdy darn manly, mighty fine, jim dandy re...


Turnbull, innovation and Chinese characters Independent Australia

Turnbull, innovation and Chinese charactersThree months on from Malcolm Turnbull's talk of innovation, Nicholas Aitken asks whether the decline in Australian exports is being adequately addressed, particularly in relation to Chinese tourism. read now...


No freedom of religion in Russia No Right Turn

Being able to state your religious beliefs and pointlessly argue about them with other people is something we take for granted in New Zealand. But apparently, you can't do that in Russia:

A man in southern Russia faces a potential jail sentence after he was charged with insulting the feelings of religious believers over an internet exchange in which he wrote that “there is no God”.

Viktor Krasnov, 38, who appeared in court Wednesday, is being prosecuted under a controversial 2013 law that was introduced after punk art group Pussy Riots was jailed for a performance in Moscow’s main cathedral, his lawyer Andrei Sabinin told AFP.

The charges – which carry a maximum one-year jail sentence – centre on an internet exchange that Krasnov was involved in in 2014 on a humorous local website in his hometown of Stavropol.

“If I say that the collection of Jewish fairytales entitled the Bible is complete bullshit, that is that. At least for me,” Krasnov wrote, adding later “there is no God!”

One of the young people involved in the dispute with Krasnov then lodged a complaint against him accusing him of “offending the sentiments of Orthodox believers”.

As if prosecution wasn't enough, they tried to claim he was insane first (Russia having inherited the Soviet approach of politically abusing psychiatry). Because obviously, anyone who doesn't subscribe to legally enforced religious views must be mad. But if members of the dominant religion find the expression of dissent "offensive", it says more about their intolerance than anything else.

But before we feel too superior, remember: New Zealand still has a law against "blasphemous libel", which specifi...


Our racist police No Right Turn

Last year Police Commissioner Mike Bush admitted the police were racist against Maori. Turns out that Maori aren't the only victims of our police force's racism:

New Zealand's African minorities - many welcomed here as refugees - claim the police are targeting them unfairly and sometimes in a racist manner.

Young Africans have told AUT researcher Dr Camille Nakhid that police have stopped them on the streets or in cars for no apparent reason except their colour, beaten them, called them "n*****s", told them to "go back to your country" and even told them to go back to Mt Roskill when they visited the North Shore.

One young man said: "If they see you as a black man with a white woman in the car ... they pull the girls aside and ask, 'Are you OK?'"

Which goes well beyond the "unconscious" racism the police admit to. When you're calling people "niggers" and viewing inter-racial relationships as possible kidnappings, its not "unconscious", its explicit bigotry. And it has absolutely no place in our police force. If police officers can't refrain from acting like the National Front, then they should be fired.


Parents don’t have to consent Catallaxy Files

This morning the Australian newspaper is reporting:

Vulnerable teenagers as young as 14, including some who had ­suicidal thoughts, were secretly interviewed without parental knowledge about their gender and sexuality by a university ­research team with links to the Safe Schools program.

The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and ­Society, run out of La Trobe Univer­sity, went to significant lengths to ensure its interviews with underage participants took place without parental consent when researching its report, From Blues to Rainbows.

The report funded by beyond blue can be accessed here.

Firstly, this report would not have been possible if it were not for beyondblue recognising the need for this research and providing the funding to undertake it.

Okay – but this part of the Australian report is wrong:

While the project was ­approved by La Trobe University’s ethics committee, the methodology appears to go against the National Health and Medical ­Research Council’s guidelines pertaining to the ethical conduct of research involving minors, which recommends that parental consent be obtained when dealing with “children and young people”.

No – the the National Health and Medical ­Research Council’s ethics rules state at pages 51 – 52:

A review body may also approve research to which only the young person...


Almost as bad as the hockey stick Catallaxy Files

The Post-Implementation Review of Plain Packaging has a dodgy trend line graph.


So smoking prevalence data has been summarised from Roy Morgan Survey data, graphed and two trend lines inserted into the graph. The way the two trend lines have been inserted make it appear as if there is a break in the data just as the plain packaging legislation was implemented in Australia.

But if you look closely at the blue trend line it is a bit dodgy – there are few observations above that line after about 2011. To my mind that suggests it isn’t the best trend line that could have been estimated – rather it is a random line that has been inserted into the data and labelled a “trend line”.

Unfortunately I don’t have access to the underlying data so I can’t test my suspicions relating to the trend line and the very dodgy econometrics that we have discussed before.

But I can do an approximation – using the Get Data Digitiser I was able to capture the underlyig data from the graph – but only at a very high level meaning that I have a lot more x-axis points than the original. The screen shot shows what was captured. If anyone has better capture software and can provide more accurate data I’d be very grateful to receive it.

Get data replication

Of course looking at the PIR graph is it easy to observe where plain packaging was introduced – not only is there a great big red line showing us the introduction, there is a nice spike...


Cardinal Pell: Cut from a different cloth Independent Australia

Cardinal Pell: Cut from a different clothThe lack of accountability in Cardinal Pell's evidence before the Royal Commission is more indicative of a politician than a priest, writes Alex McKean. read now...


In which Pell crosses to the other side of the road No Place For Sheep

He Qi: The Good Samaritan   Over the last few days of his questioning at the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse, Cardinal George Pell demonstrated the opposite of what his saviour, Jesus Christ, taught about helping those in need. Pell has proved himself to be about as far from the Good Samaritan as it […]


When leakers leak, expect the fearsome squid, courtesy of the bromancer and Rowe, to take nattering negativity to new levels ... loon pond

Oh dear, Chairman, please, bring Mitt into line. The indignity being attacked by a wet lettuce leaf.

The entire world would be mad not to unify behind a proto-neo-fascist.

Who else could make the trains run on time, except for the founder of Trump University ...

Besides, what would the likes of Colbert do for comedy items?

Meanwhile, today's missives offer many op...


The UN on trial: debate at the London School of Economics Antony Loewenstein

Last week in London I was an expert witness at the London School of Economics during a fascinating event putting the UN on trial. 70 years old and always controversial, prosecution and defence lawyers tried the UN and asked both a jury and large audience if the UN should continue. A number of witnesses spoke on their experiences about the UN and I principally discussed my reporting and insights from Haiti, Afghanistan, South Sudan and beyond. My comments begin at 46:28:


Quality control Press gallery reform

Australia has a two-party system, where the Labor Party and an established Coalition of parties contend to form government. Each of these parties (the Liberals in particular as the lead party in the Coalition) have a responsibility to choose candidates worthy of the responsibilities of government. It's easy to pick out examples where you don't like an MP and use that as an example of systematic failure, but the Coalition as the incumbent government have work to do in vetting candidates and drawing a line under unacceptable behaviour.

A need for intervention

Mal Brough helped the Coalition get rid of Peter Slipper, thus helping to hasten the end of the last Labor government. After all that effort it might have seemed unfair to exclude him from preselection for Fisher in 2013, but revolutions eat their own and the LNP should have waited until police processes had been exhausted. The reasons why he has chosen not to recontest in 2016 are the same as those for which a functioning party should have vetted him out of contention.

Looking at the LNP cohort in Federal Parliament, none of them are much chop. There are 22 LNP Members of the House of Reps (Queensland has 30 overall) and six Senators (of 12). Only Karen Andrews has a future. Six - Warren Truss, Bruce Scott, Warren Entsch, Teresa Gambaro, Ian Macfarlane, and now Brough — are waiting out their time. Stuart Robert will probably be a shadow minister next time the Coalition go back into Opposition. Brandis and Ciobo are floundering out of their depth. Dutton will probably lose his seat in a swing big enough to carry Labor into office, especially if he devotes too much time on punishing little injured children. Canavan is another culture warrior low on ammunition. Jane Prentice would make a perfectly nice Minister but the dolts will barge ahead of her.

The LNP have done a lousy job in talent selection, but then again they probably don't have much choice. Now that the central...


National Indigenous Times to be revived North Coast Voices

Australian Newspaper History Group, Newsletter, No 86, February 2016:

86.1.9 Revival of National Indigenous Times to be attempted

Aboriginal businessman Wayne Bergmann has taken control of the collapsed National Indigenous Times, with the aim of transforming it into a newspaper that celebrates indigenous achievement in business, politics and sport. A company majority-owned by Bergmann has bought the paper from liquidators and is expected to relaunch it within weeks. Veteran Perth journalist Tony Barrass will become the editor of the publication, which will be resurrected online before a decision is made whether to resume in print. The old Times had enraged some aboriginal le...


Australian Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights still not happy with the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Public Interest Advocates and Other Matters) North Coast Voices

Excerpts from Australian Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, Human rights scrutiny report, 25 February 2016:

2.33 Accessing telecommunications data relating to a journalist, or their employer, where the purpose is to identify a journalist's source, together with the journalist information warrant and PIA scheme, engages and may limit multiple rights, including:

* right to an effective remedy;
* right to a fair hearing;
* right to privacy; and
* right to freedom of expression.

2.35 The committee considered that the journalist information warrant and PIA schemes seek to better promote the protection of privacy and the right to freedom of expression by prescribing a warrant process for accessing journalists' information, but that the regulation may lack sufficie...

Thursday, 03 March


On and off the table Press gallery reform

I beg your pardon
I never promised you a rose garden
Along with the sunshine
There's gotta be a little rain some time ...

- Lynn Anderson (I never promised you a) Rose garden
About a year ago I wrote a thing on on the prospect of Malcolm Turnbull becoming Prime Minister. With my record of crap prognostications, nobody is more surprised at how well it stands up.

By contrast, experienced press gallery journalists are expressing befuddlement and bewilderment (but not bemusement) that Turnbull hasn't been as organised or as moderate as they had been led to believe. The whole idea of being in the press gallery, and taking up space there for a while, is that you can see the players and the plays up close. It isn't fair to say that nothing should surprise such people, but it is fair to note how regularly press gallery journalists express shock and outrage at things they should be able to foresee and explain.

Australia should have a broad-ranging debate about tax. It should be more than a narrow technocratic argument by economists or lawyers or tax boffins. It shouldn't be "pragmatic" speculation by (discredited) political insiders on what might be achievable given available time and resources. A broad-ranging debate must include questions about what we are paying for when we fund the government (and who we mean by "we"), and what trade-offs exist in raising money this way and not that.

We've had debates before. The sound and fury rarely translates to action, which discourages both public participation and careful coverage.

Malcolm Turnbull can't conduct wide-ranging debates. To be fair to him, conducting and concluding a public debat...


Thanks to Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Washington, Paine, Franklin et al Catallaxy Files

My people were very concerned about absolute power. After the seventh king, Tarquinius Superbus, was deposed in 509 BC, we Romans became very concerned about vesting too much power in one person. Power tends to corrupt, as Lord Acton was inspired to remark.

So we divided the executive amongst two consuls, each serving one year. In extremis a dictator – like me – could be appointed for six months or less to deal with a threat to the Republic.

In due course our Constitution became a little cumbersome (although it remains in the oldest extant Republic – San Marino) and various civil wars led to a pseudo-dictatorship with a title such as princeps civitatis  (first citizen) or Pater Patriae (father of the country). When we had great Emperors like Augustus, Trajan, Marcus Aurelius, Hadrian, Vespasian, Antoninus Pius etc Rome did well. At other times under the likes of Caligula, Nero etc Rome suffered.

Our problem was to constrain an autocracy.

Then the founding fathers of the United States, building a new Rome, decided to establish a republic and fetter the chief executive. A strict division between the executive, legislature and judiciary was established, and between the US and its (now) 50 states.

When we think of a Trump presidency, thank God for the founding fathers. They will limit the damage that lunatic will inflict upon a great country.


An open letter to the Prime Minister Catallaxy Files

Yesterday morning an open letter to prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has delivered to each and every MP in Canberra.

The text of the open letter is here.

The author of the letter sets out a whole range of questions that need to be addressed. There are several, however, that I thought particularly noteworthy.

Did Sports Minister Sussan Ley, who is a member of the 12-man executive committee of WADA, fail to declare a major conflict of interest when ASADA chief executive Ben McDevitt gave up to $US100,000 of Australian taxpayers’ money to WADA to appeal the not guilty verdict of the AFL tribunal? It is incomprehensible that Ley allowed an official who reports to her to give taxpayers’ money to her foreign based organisation so that she could prosecute Australian citizens who have already been found not guilty in the Australian system. The fact that you saw no wrong in this is cause for great concern and pessimism.

I have been able to establish that Ley is on the WADA board and that ASADA provided $100,000 to WADA to conduct its appeal.

It is simply astonishing that Ley did not instruct her subordinate the exhaust domestic legal remedies before him giving US$100,000 of taxpayer funds to an organisation where she sits on the board! My Canberra sources have tried to explain this away by suggesting that Ley is simply the Australian government appointee and that she derives no benefit from being on the WADA board. No – I am not buying that.

Then there is this:

62. How did ASADA chief executive Ben McDevitt accept an offer from WADA of a free return airfare to Canada without making a single diary note or by sending an SMS or an email?
63. Did McD...


Know thine enemy Catallaxy Files

There is now a battle for the soul of conservatism, whether our Western way of life can be maintained, or whether we are going to be swamped by ideologues and profiteers at the cost of how we have lived. I keep using the image of progressive internationalists as the enemy, you know, the one-world, open-borders, the-nation-as-a-bus-depot sort of people. and it is a shared vision of both sides of politics, the Democrats more openly, with the Republicans the ones who shout, whatever you do, don’t throw us into the briar patch. Which is why we find How the GOP Insiders Plan to Steal the Nod from Trump.

Despite a growing string of victories in the Republican primaries, the DC-Wall Street cabal that has dominated the GOP since 1988 has no intention of letting the billionaire real estate mogul be nominated. None other than Karl Rove has insisted the stop-Trump effort is not too late and can succeed.

A new superPAC has dumped $10 million dollars into blistering negative TV ads against Trump in the last three days. The Koch brothers and their associates deny funding the effort but they denials are questionable at best. The New York Times reported Sunday that the Rubio and Kasich campaigns are now openly planning on a ‘brokered convention” to stop Trump in the back rooms in Cleveland. The New York Daily News reported that Barbara Bush has vowed revenge against Trump for ending the “low energy” campaign of her son Jeb, the anointed one and that the Bush clan is all-in in the effort to stop Trump. The News reported that Jeb may transfer the $25 to $30 million in SuperPAC funds he has left to an anti-Trump effort.

Trump thus no...

IndyWatch Aussie Politics Feed Archiver

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