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Wednesday, 09 March


What Nationals MP for Page Kevin Hogan did not tell the Grafton Chamber of Commerce's February breakfast meeting when he was asked about foreign ownership of land and overseas workers North Coast Voices

This was the incumbent Nationals MP for Page Kevin Hogan as reported in The Daily Examiner on 22 February 2016:

A member of the chamber executive, Mark Butler, asked Mr Hogan what the government was doing to combat countries like China buying up large tracts of Australian land and the prospect of those owners employing Australian workers……

Mr Hogan said the government, led by the Nationals, was fighting foreign ownership.

This included setting a minimum property sale of $15 million before the sale was brought to the Foreign Investment Review Board.

Mr Hogan said the limit in 2013 had been $250 million.

"Even then I think that's ($15 million) too high, but at least it's cumulative so, if they buy an $8 million and a $7 million property, they appear on the board's radar," he said.



Are we witnessing the beginning of the end for the global coal industry? North Coast Voices

While the Australian Coalition Government keep its head deeply buried in the sand on climate change policy and the future of fossil fuels the world has quietly begun to by-pass coal, one of this country’s biggest exports.

Senate Bill 1547 (ELIMINATION OF COAL FROM ELECTRICITY SUPPLY) passed the Oregon House of Representatives on a 39-20 bipartisan vote on 16 February 2016 and re-passed the Senate on 2 March 2016:

Requires each electric company providing electricity to retail...

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Tuesday, 08 March


Surly public servant gets smacked by Senator-elect James Paterson Catallaxy Files

Via Andrew Bolt:

JON FAINE: Over the weekend there was a big Liberal Party powwow and they had to decide who was going to replace a retiring Senator. At the next federal election, Michael Ronaldson will stand down as a Senator on the number one spot on the ticket for Victoria and his place will be taken by a man who has helped us out and filled in on The Wrap from time to time. Hailing from the breeding school of Liberal politicians, the IPA – the Institute of Public Affairs – deputy executive director James Paterson leapfrogs his boss John Roskam to the number one spot on the Senate ticket for the Liberal Party. James, good morning to you.
JAMES PATERSON: Good morning Jon, pleasure to be with you.
JON FAINE: What’s wrong with Johnny Roskam? There he is, he’s been your boss, he’s Tim Wilson’s boss, so many IPA people going into politics and he’s still there at the IPA.
JAMES PATERSON: Jon, as you know, John Roskam is one of the great intellectuals in Australian public life today.
JON FAINE: Sorry, say that again.
JAMES PATERSON: John Roskam is one of the great public intellectuals in public life in Australia today, and he has an enormous contribution to make to intellectual life or political life if he chooses.
JON FAINE: A public intellectual? I’ve heard him called many things, but that’s the first time I’ve heard that one.
JAMES PATERSON: Well Jon, what else do you call someone who runs Australia’s biggest think tank, who publishes a weekly column, who has written books and chapters in books, and who delivers lectures and guest speeches? That is the very definition of a public intellectual. In America they review their public intellectuals, and I think we should do the same in Australia because we don’t have as many.
JON FAINE: Congratulations to you, is where I sh...


'Simply extraordinary' Daddy Cool guitarist Ross Hannaford plays last gig Independent Australia

'Simply extraordinary' Daddy Cool guitarist Ross Hannaford plays last gigRoss Hannaford, widely regarded as one of Australia's finest rock guitarists, has died after a battle with cancer. He was 65. read now...


The “war on drugs” in Guinea-Bissau translated into French Antony Loewenstein

Late last year I visited Guinea-Bissau in West Africa to investigate the country’s role as a key drug smuggling hub between South America and Europe. I published a number of stories about it including in Foreign Policy.

Leading French website Ulyces is committed to translating investigative stories from across the world and bringing back the tradition of financially supported journalism. They’ve translated my Foreign Policy story (with more to come) and I’m happy that French speakers can now read my work around the globe. Here’s a taste (more here):

Nous nous trouvons à Bissau, capitale de la Guinée-Bissau. Les quartiers généraux de la police judiciaire, l’agence du gouvernement chargée de mener la guerre contre les drogues dans le pays, sont situés dans une rue poussiéreuse, au beau milieu de cette capitale d’Afrique de l’Ouest étonnamment silencieuse. À l’intérieur se trouve l’unique laboratoire d’analyse des drogues du pays, un ajout récent dû à l’augmentation du financement de l’Union européenne, qui vise à endiguer le flot de narcotiques qui traversent en permanence les frontières du petit État africain.


The same ruined road: Why we’re better than the Peta Credlin rumours Independent Australia

The same ruined road: Why we’re better than the Peta Credlin rumoursThe blame attributed to Peta Credlin for the downfall of former PM Tony Abbott is yet another sign of the deep sexism running through our society. read now...


Nikki Savva and journalistic ethics Catallaxy Files

I still recall my amazement when Peter Costello chose Nikki Savva as his media advisor. She was the ideological twin sister of Michelle Grattan, Michelle at The Age, and Nikki at the Herald Sun. Media advisor was, I suppose, different from actual policy but nonetheless, she was every inch a know-nothing leftist. It is why I have never paid attention to a single thing she writes and am always surprised to see her as a supposed spokesperson for the right side of the political divide. Everything she has written about Abbott might as well have been written by the ALP media team. And now she has written a book about Abbott’s years as PM and the role that Peta Credlin played, without bothering to talk to either! This is how Credlin has replied to Nikki this morning: Niki Savva’s Road to Ruin: politics is now unsourced gossip.

I always thought a dignified ­silence was the best way to deal with Niki Savva’s attacks. They were personal, invariably founded on unsourced gossip and rarely made any attempt at balance.

I have always just got on with the job. I felt my 16 years of service to four Howard cabinet ministers and time in opposition, including as deputy chief of staff to Malcolm Turnbull, said more about my ­record than any bile from Savva but she was never interested in the facts.

Then, like now, she hasn’t ever wanted to speak with me — including in preparation for her book. Her colleagues in the Canberra press gallery would often ask me what I had done to warrant her attacks. People were often taken aback when I responded that I barely knew her.

It is one of the golden rules of journalistic ethics to provide a right of reply to anyone you’re going to criticise. In the end, journalists are supposed to weigh up the contributions and seek their own tr...


Matildas make it to Rio! Independent Australia

Matildas make it to Rio!This week's sport features the Diamonds, Jason Day and David Pocock, as well as some great news about the Matildas. read now...


Britain is still covering up its role in rendition and torture No Right Turn

First Britain denied any role in the US policy of rendition and torture. Then it said there may have been some inadvertent mistakes. Then it held an inquiry to "draw a line" under the allegations, only to have it collapse due to an utter lack of credibility. And no wonder. Because while they were doing that, they were suppressing key evidence:

Key documents that could shed light on allegations of UK collusion in torture and rendition are being suppressed by the British government. The newly uncovered files include confidential exchanges between former PM Tony Blair and former president George Bush about treatment of detainees at Guantanamo. Possibly most significant are five other documents, communications between the former UK foreign secretary, Jack Straw, and former US secretary of state, Colin Powell, expressing interest and concern about the welfare and legal status of UK detainees at Guantanamo.

While the documents may relate to casual expressions of care for the welfare of UK citizens, former detainees have alleged that British officials have either been present at, or submitted questions for, “extreme” interrogation by US officials. The US government has been required to make public a large number of files which relate to British involvement in the treatment of prisoners in the years following the 9/11 bombings.

Litigation continues across multiple US departments over the possible release of mainly intelligence-derived documentation. But 12 documents found in the US State Department’s search, not derived from intelligence, were also withheld. These relate to interventions by British politicians and officials over the treatment of detainees and interrogation techniques. In court papers, the State Department reported: “After reviewing the d...


More of the usual, Bolters, Pellists, and with a bonus Donnelly ... loon pond

The pond notes that Michaelia Cash disgraced herself last night ...

Yes, it's time for the the pond to look at the reptiles looking at the ABC, given that the pond never watches the show in question ...

Shocking stuff, and it will be noted by those aghast at the witch hunt going down ...

Talk of a lack of empathy is treason for the howling mob ready to jump on anyone who speaks a work against the Pellists.

Apparently the parrot was on hand to explain how dingoes and child molestation were much of a muchness ...

Indeed, indeed, and who can recall what we might have been doing in 1988 in a London toilet? Suddenly marriage seems like the conse...


One ocean sanctuary is not enough No Right Turn

Today the government introduced legislation to establish the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary, banning mining and fishing in the entire EEZ around the Kermadec Islands. Its a good move, and one that fulfils the promise to protect the area that it made last year. At the same time, it highlights the government's glaring refusal to do anything else to protect our oceans.

The government is currently consulting on a new Marine Protected Areas Act, which will update our marine protection legislation and replace it with a coherent whole. Its a generally good move, but there's a hole: these marine protected areas will only exist within the territorial sea, the 12-mile strip of water around the coast. The government considered including the EEZ, but decided last June to exclude it, allegedly under pressure from the drilling industry. Their current spin-line is that its all too difficult to protect areas within the EEZ. And yet, right now, they're pushing a law which does just that. Which suggests that the problem isn't that its too hard, but that National simply doesn't want to do it.

The purpose of the Marine Protected Areas Act would be to ensure a representative network of protected areas. But a network which does not include our deep oceans, or only protects our sub-tropical ones, cannot possibly be considered "representative". One ocean sanctuary is not enough - we need the law to protect a greater range of our oceans, to ensure a...


Density with intensity: Changing negative gearing will revive dead suburbs Independent Australia

Density with intensity: Changing negative gearing will revive dead suburbsWhile curbing negative gearing may ease house prices in the short term, in time suburbs will be revitalised by putting people back into empty houses. read now...


Another Caterist Tuesday, and this time it's fine bien pensant bollocks about Bullock ... loon pond

As usual, it would be remiss of the pond not to admire the Caterists parading in their finery this Tuesday ...

There are few enough pleasures left in life, and this surely is a special treat, at least for those fascinated by the banality of weevils...

Ah yes, it's been only a matter of days since we last had an exegesis explaining how a failure to tolerate the intolerant would be a sign of intolerance ...

Now pandering to trendy causes is a spiffing start - who gives a flying fuck at the mind-boggling notion that gays might be human - but will bien pensant score a mention?

Now the pond has always thought of Joe as a fuckwit of the first water, not least for his pre-election apology which you can read in full at the ABC here (but not watch the expired video ...)


Australia sends gay refugees to persecution No Right Turn

One of the reasons people flee shithole countries like Iran is because they are gay and face persecution. If they make it New Zealand, we recognise them as refugees and resettle them. If OTOH they go to Australia, the government sends them to Nauru - where they face further persecution and abuse:

Two gay refugees who fell in love at the Nauru detention camp say they are virtually prisoners in their home: holed up in fear for their lives after being bashed and verbally abused in a nation where homosexuality is illegal.

As Sydney prepares for Saturday night's Mardi Gras parade - an event that showcases Australia as a global model of acceptance of gay and lesbian people - the federal government is refusing to rescue the two young Iranian men it sent to a country where they could be jailed for their sexual orientation, according to lawyers.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has so far refused to help the refugees, who say they have been repeatedly beaten, had rocks thrown at them and been called "human rubbish". His department says refugees at Nauru can accept resettlement in Cambodia.

Pretty obviously, "you can go somewhere else" is not meeting Australia's obligations under the Refugee Convention. And neither is sending them to Nauru in the first place. Sending a refugee to another country where they face further persecution is explicitly outlawed by the ban on refoulement. But its been clear for a while that Australia no longer cares about its legal obligations, let alone its moral ones. Shouldn't there be some consequences for that?

As for the specific case, these two men very clearly have a well-founded fear of persecution - from Iran, from Nauru, and from Australia. We should grant them refugee sta...


John Stone in the AFR Catallaxy Files

The current economic and political climate is depressing.  I am too depressed to write, so all that is left to do is read.  So this morning I read (former Treasury Secretary) John Stone in the AFR.

Malcolm Turnbull refuses at the same fiscal fences as Tony Abbott

I commend all to read too.


Labour wins on zero-hours contracts No Right Turn

Last year, a popular campaign by unions targeting employers forced the government to act on zero-hours contracts. But rather than outlaw them, they did what they usually do: tried to spin their way out of the problem while doing nothing. That strategy fell apart for them last week, when their support partners withdrew support. But the government needed to pass the law, and now, Labour has forced amendments to ensure that zero-hours contracts are eliminated:

Changes will be debated in Parliament today – but a deal done between National and Labour is expected to see most parties, unions and employers happy with the changes.

A Labour amendment will mean that people will only be told they have to be available for work if they are given set hours.

Previously, that "availability clause" would be in their contract even if no set hours were provided.

Mr Lees-Galloway told ONE News: "This switches this bill around from something that entrenches zero hour contracts to a bill that will eliminate zero hour contracts."

Its a defeat for National, and a defeat for PR as policy. But most importantly, its a win for those workers stuck on zero hours, who will now have to be given some certainty (and to the extent that they're not, will no longer be prevented from getting it from a better employer).

Of course, National could have done this from the beginning if they wanted to. The fact that they didn't speaks volumes about their real attitude to these exploitative, one-sided contracts.


A blind bit of difference No Right Turn

Last year, in an effort to meet its artificial and arbitrary budget surplus target, National removed the $1,000 KiwiSaver kickstart payment. At the time, Prime Minister John Key said that the removal "will not make a blind bit of difference to the number of people who join KiwiSaver".

He was wrong:

The number of people signing up to KiwiSaver has slowed significantly since the removal of the $1000 kick-start, bucking a statement from Prime Minister John Key that the change would "not make a blind bit of difference to the number of people who join."

Analysis by the Herald shows the average number of people signing up to KiwiSaver per month was 15,029 in the year to June 2015 and 16,976 in the year to June 2014.

But since finance minister Bill English scrapped the kick-start incentive in last year's May Budget sign-ups have fallen to an average of 8996 per month with the lowest sign-up level, in October, below 8000.

The change has also made a dent in the number of children in KiwiSaver with nearly 10,000 fewer under-18s now in the scheme.

But this wasn't just a mistake - Key was advised that this would happen. He did it anyway, and tried to lie about its effects. People should be asking whether that's really how they want their Prime Minister to behave.


Gay liberation, refugees and the hypocrisy of Turnbull and Shorten Independent Australia

Gay liberation, refugees and the hypocrisy of Turnbull and ShortenMalcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten both turned up at the Sydney Mardi Gras apparently to promote equality — yet they both continue to treat refugees as inferior beings. read now...


Or why it's dangerous to play with reptiles Peta ... loon pond

The front page said it all, really ...

And naturally the follow-up in the digital revolving splash of doom was equally hard-hitting ...

Oops, wouldn't you know it, the pond snapped the wrong panel on the wheel of doom ...

There, that's better.

Now on this day of days, the pond is of course deeply concerned at the treatment of women in politics ...

After all ...


Federal Election 2016: Malcolm Bligh Turnbull's faux outrage North Coast Voices

This was Coalition Prime Minister Malcolm Bligh Turnbull frothing at the mouth in March 2016:

Now at the time writs were issued for the 2013 federal election there were 34 Liberal/Nationals senators, 31 Labor senators, 9 Greens senators and 1 independent.

After that election there were 33 Liberal/Nationals senators, 25 Labor senators, 10 Greens senators, 1 independent senators and 7 minor party senators.



Australian Federal Election 2016: Malcolm Bligh Turnbull's mother of all wars on the poor North Coast Voices

If there was any doubt left that Prime Minster Malcolm Bligh Turnbull, who has been a millionaire for the last thirty-three years, is that classic form of well-heeled Liberal Party politician who believes that being poor and/or poorly educated is the personal fault of all individuals in those situations, then this report in New Matilda on 5 March 2016 should lay those doubts to rest:

Unemployed and underemployed Australians can be issued with on-the-spot fines by privately owned job agencies under a tough new Government proposal, writes Owen Bennett.
Later this month the Turnbull Government will be asking the Senate to support one of the most devastating attacks launched against poor and vulnerable Australians in recent memory.

The Bill – entitled Social Security Legislation Amendment (Further Strengthening Job Seeker Compliance) Bill 2015 – proposes to give privately run job agencies unprecedented new powers to financially penalise unemployed and underemployed Australians. If passed, the fines will come into effect on July 1 this year.


Monday, 07 March


2010 again Press gallery reform

The 2010 election, and the parliamentary term that followed it, is seen as a freaky time in Australian politics. Minor scandals (e.g. Gillard's bathroom, Thomson's pants, Slipper's diary, Kelly's solvency) assumed seismic importance. Neither Labor nor the Coalition held a majority in their own right. Neither of them, nor the press gallery, were comfortable with this situation becoming the new normal. But it did for a while, and it will again.

Living on the edge

Every government facing re-election suffers a loss in seats. Sometimes that loss is so great it removes a government after a single term; this happened in Victoria in 2014 and in Queensland the following year, but that hasn't happened federally since 1931.

The Turnbull government might be defeated at this year's election, but it probably won't. Economist Stephen Koukoulas reckons the government will win 78 seats (in a 150-seat House, 76 is required for the barest of governing majorities). Given my record of prognostications, all I'll say is that guess is as good as any.

When the 2010 election returned neither a majority for the incumbent Labor government, nor one for the Coalition, the press gallery were pretty dirty on us voters. We had let them down by producing an ambiguous result (see the archives on this blog, or of the traditional media if they still have them up). Julia Gillard negotiated with independent MPs to cobble together a working majority for the incumbent government rather than hold another election.

The press gallery love election campaigns, and they love unambiguous mandates for major parties coming from them; stripped of the pre-fabricated narratives and cliches that traditional media needs to cover politics, they regarded Gillard's arrangement as illegitimate.

In her Earle Page...


STUDY: Global warming set to further increase inequality Independent Australia

STUDY: Global warming set to further increase inequalityAs temperatures rise with climate change, the Earth’s natural capital will change too − but there may be few winners, even among the wealthy. read now...


Non tax evaders political geometry

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