Month: December 2014

All three lied.

Howard ignored official advice on Iraq’s weapons and chose war
by Margaret Swieringa>>> Former prime minister John Howard’s justification on why we went to war against Iraq in 2003 obfuscates some issues. I was the secretary to the federal parliamentary intelligence committee from 2002 until 2007. It was then called the ASIO, ASIS and Defence Signals Directorate committee – which drafted the report Intelligence on Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction. Howard refers to this committee in his speech justifying our involvement in the war.

The reason there was so much argument about the existence of such weapons before the war in Iraq 10 years ago was that to go to war on any other pretext would have been a breach of international law. As Howard said at the time: ”I couldn’t justify on its own a military invasion of Iraq to change the regime. I’ve never advocated that. Central to the threat is Iraq’s possession of chemical and biological weapons and its pursuit of nuclear capability.”

So the question is what the government knew or was told about that capability and whether the government ”lied” about the danger that Iraq posed. At the time, Howard and his ministers asserted that the threat to the world from Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction was both great and immediate.

On February 4, 2003, he said Saddam Hussein had an ”arsenal” and a ”stockpile” and the ”illegal importation of proscribed goods ha[s] increased dramatically in the past few years”. ”Iraq had a massive program for developing offensive biological weapons – one of the largest and most advanced in the world.”

On March 18, 2003, foreign minister Alexander Downer told the House of Representatives: ”The strategy of containment [UN sanctions] simply has not worked and now poses an unacceptable risk.”

In his speeches at the time, Howard said: ”Iraq has a usable chemical and biological weapons capability which has included recent production of chemical and biological agents; Iraq continues to work on developing nuclear weapons. All key aspects – research and development, production and weaponisation – of Iraq’s offensive biological weapons program are active and most elements are larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf War in 1991.”

None of the government’s arguments were supported by the intelligence presented to it by its own agencies. None of these arguments were true.

Howard this week quoted the findings of the parliamentary inquiry, but his quotation is selective to the point of being misleading.

What was the nature of the intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction provided to the government? The parliamentary inquiry reported on the intelligence in detail. It gathered information from the Defence Intelligence Organisation and the Office of National Assessment. It said:

1. The scale of threat from Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction was less than it had been a decade earlier.

2. Under sanctions that prevailed at the time, Iraq’s military capability remained limited and the country’s infrastructure was still in decline.

3. The nuclear program was unlikely to be far advanced. Iraq was unlikely to have obtained fissile material.

4. Iraq had no ballistic missiles that could reach the US. Most if not all of the few SCUDS that were hidden away were likely to be in poor condition.

5. There was no known chemical weapons production.

6. There was no specific evidence of resumed biological weapons production.

7. There was no known biological weapons testing or evaluation since 1991.

8. There was no known Iraq offensive research since 1991.

9. Iraq did not have nuclear weapons.

10. There was no evidence that chemical weapon warheads for Al Samoud or other ballistic missiles had been developed.

11. No intelligence had accurately pointed to the location of weapons of mass destruction.

There were minor qualifications to this somewhat emphatic picture.

It found there was a limited stockpile of chemical weapon agents, possibly stored in dual-use or industrial facilities. Although there was no evidence that it had done so, Iraq had the capacity to restart its chemical weapons program in weeks and to manufacture in months.

The committee concluded the ”case made by the government was that Iraq possessed WMD in large quantities and posed a grave and unacceptable threat to the region and the world, particularly as there was a danger that Iraq’s WMD might be passed to terrorist organisations.

”This is not the picture that emerges from an examination of all the assessments provided to the committee by Australia’s two analytical agencies.”

Howard would claim, no doubt, that he took his views from overseas dossiers. But all that intelligence was considered by Australian agencies when forming their views.

They knew, too, of the disputes and arguments within British and US agencies. Moreover, Australian agencies as well as the British and US intelligence agencies also knew the so-called ”surge of new intelligence” after September 2002 relied almost exclusively on one or two unreliable and self-serving individuals.

They knew that Saddam ‘s son-in-law, Hussein Kamel Hassan al-Majid, who had defected in 1995, had told Western agencies the nuclear program in Iraq had failed, chemical and biological programs had been dismantled and weapons destroyed.

There are none so blind as those who will not see.

Margaret Swieringa is a retired public servant.
#howardbushblaircrimes #hate4sale #rememberwom #auspol
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Financial discrepancies emerge in fundraising body linked to Tony Abbott

Tony Abbott

The Warringah Club may have failed to declare gifts in kind in pre-election audit, finds Australian Electoral Commission

A political fundraising body linked to Tony Abbott was found to have financial discrepancies in the lead-up to the 2013 federal election and may have failed to declare gifts in kind, a critical report by the Australian Electoral Commission has found.

The Warringah Club – now known as the Sydney Small Business Club – is an associated entity linked to the Liberal party and the prime minister’s political fundraising. It has received thousands of dollars from the New South Wales Liberal party, as well as sent thousands to the party.

But the AEC raised concerns about the accounting practices of the entity in a compliance audit in February 2013 for the entity’s accounts year ending 2011, documents obtained by Guardian Australia under freedom of information laws show.

The audit identified problems with its accounting that led to an overstatement of both receipts and payments by $10,909. While clerical error was the reason given, the AEC report said the entity had provided no indication of how the error occurred.

“The discrepancies outlined in the report above are of some concern given the otherwise apparent professional approach to the record keeping undertaken by the financial controller of the Warringah Club,” the report said.

“While unspecified clerical error was quoted as the reason for the discrepancies, the inability of the financial controller to account for the error, particularly as he is a practising accountant, raises concerns about the approach to compiling the return in meeting the requirements of the [Commonwealth Electoral Act].”

Guardian Australia contacted accountant Peter Polgar, who is listed as the financial controller of the entity, but he did not respond to questions.
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The audit also raised concerns about the possibility the entity may not have disclosed gifts in kind in the form of unpaid staff work.

The entity told the AEC “no paid staff are employed at all”. The AEC report said the “response implies, therefore, that whilst no paid services were made by the entity’s staff, some unpaid services may have been provided”.

“If this has been the case or is likely to be in the future, the value of the unpaid services provided by staff should be accounted for and reported as a gift.”

The entity was also late in providing key documents relating to gifts in kind, financial statements and loans, and did not provide working papers to support the figures reported in its returns, and the audit recommended the company remedy the discrepancies identified.

The prime minister’s office did not comment on the AEC audit.

The Warringah Club has previously come to public attention through its fundraising activities and political funding disclosures.

In April 2014 the NSW Liberal party also declared late a four-year-old $25,000 donation from the body. The declaration was among a tranche of amendments made declaring previously unreported donations over a span of years from different companies.

In 2010 the NSW electoral authority also found that the Warringah Club had broken NSW disclosure laws by failing to make required declarations.

Greens senator Lee Rhiannon has called for changes to federal electoral funding laws to improve transparency and reporting requirements.

“The inconsistencies and the discrepancies that the AEC has uncovered is a continuation of the problems with Warringah Club,” she said.

“It further underlines why we need uniform consistent electoral laws across the county. When it comes to associated entities they need to be required to have a more rigorous and transparent reporting regime.”

2014, the year that was: Politics + Society In 1996, John Howard offered this aspiration for Australians: I would like to see them comfortable and relaxed about their history; I would like to see them comfortable and relaxed about the present and…

John Watson

Editor at The Conversation

In 1996, John Howard offered this aspiration for Australians:

I would like to see them comfortable and relaxed about their history; I would like to see them comfortable and relaxed about the present and I’d also like to see them comfortable and relaxed about the future.

Howard’s Coalition successor, Tony Abbott, assumed the prime ministership in 2013 with a characteristically pithier undertaking: “a government of no surprises and no excuses”. This year brought us none of the above.

Whether by chance or design, Australia returned in 2014 to Howard-era preoccupations: asylum seekers, terrorism, juggling relations with superpowers and allies old and new, budget cuts, national identity, trust in government and the role of the media. Our troops are back at war, too. We are blessed, however, by comparison with other nations.

Thais lost the government they elected to a coup for the 19th time. Hong Kong is cleaning up after protests that remind us that China, for all its progress on other fronts, suffers the same democracy deficit that was laid bare in Tiananmen Square 25 years ago. The United Kingdom escaped an existential crisis when Scots voted not to break away after all.

Across Asia, fledgling democracies struggled to bury old repressive ways. In a hopeful sign, Indonesia elected a president drawn from outside the old political elite. India put on the biggest democratic show on earth, despite concerns about the victor, Narendra Modhi. And American voters added to Barack Obama’s difficulties by giving his Republican opponents control of Congress.

Australians certainly aren’t making life comfortable for their leaders. Opinion polls and the “polls that count” paint a picture of voters disillusioned even with democracy itself.

The federal Coalition enjoys the lower house majority that its predecessor lacked. Its problems lie in the Senate. After a re-vote in Western Australia, micro-party senators put on something of a political circus, with Jacqui Lambie leading the way and Clive Palmer doing his bit from the House.

State elections have put the Abbott government on notice. While Tasmania evicted a 16-year-old ALP government, Labor defied the odds in South Australia, then ousted a one-term government in Victoria for the first time since 1955.

Challenges to the old order

The major political parties and media institutions face many similar challenges. The Coalition and Labor’s failure to embrace opportunities for innovation in public participation and representation mirror the print giants’ struggle to renew fragmenting and ageing audiences.

Old loyalties and habits have been swept away. Issues of political dysfunction and public information, participation and trust are becoming pressing. This is why The Conversation has devoted series to reforming political parties, the Federation, federal-state relations, the state of Australia and public broadcasting.

Vested interests and Big Data-driven party branding threaten to squeeze out the vitality, vision and conviction that give voters reason to believe. The response to Gough Whitlam’s death may have been more a mark of what Australians feel is missing from their politics than nostalgia for his government.

The mixing of money and power by party machines that resist public scrutiny and input makes for an unhealthy brew. ICAC lifted the lid on corruption that crosses party lines in New South Wales. In Victoria, the toothless IBAC is an issue in the debate on integrity in government. And in Queensland, the Newman government seemed intent on rolling back the years to pre-Fitzgerald Inquiry days.

The need for scrutiny to ensure accountable government is obvious. Yet Australian media operate under more constraints than ever. Security laws that target whistleblowers and journalists, online surveillance and data mining all distort the balance between the powers of the state and the rights of citizens.

Moves away from open government exacerbate the imbalance. Operation Sovereign Borders took the political desire to control information to absurd lengths with its secrecy about operations to “stop the boats”. A deal to resettle refugees in Cambodia and violent death, abuse and mental trauma in offshore detention centres illustrate how the politics of asylum seekers still takes us to morally and legally dubious places.

Gough Whitlam passed away in October 2014 at the age of 98. AAP/Paul Miller

Old fears, new wars

Only terrorism inspires more disproportionately fearful responses. And we saw terror hit central Sydney when self-proclaimed cleric Man Haron Monis held 17 people hostage in a cafe for 16 hours in late December. Two people and Monis died.

Multicultural Australia has been tested since the emergence of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq attracted Australian and other westerners to the conflict. The tenor of the debate may have contributed to a groundswell of resistance to changes to the Racial Discrimination Act. Two moments of poor judgement – George Brandis’s assertion of a “right to be a bigot” and a short-lived parliamentary “burqa ban” – didn’t help. Age-old debates on freedom of expression gained new life.

Conflicts in Europe and the Middle East – including Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and Gaza – undeniably make the world a more dangerous place. This was brought home to Australians by the downing of flight MH17.

A century after the war to end all wars – the subject of another series – humanity still succumbs to the animal instincts and fears that conflict arouses. Even as more abuses and excesses of the “War on Terror” are exposed, Australia reprises its knee-jerk responses to 9/11. Once it was Reds under the beds; today it’s foreign fighters in our midst.

Salafist extremism and Islamophobia are both polarising forces. In this context, Abbott’s call to “Team Australia” divided as much as it united.

The rise of Islamic State in parts of Iraq and Syria drew foreign military forces back into the region. EPA

Australia redeemed itself as chair of the UN Security Council. The government’s star performer, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, even shrugged off the embarrassment of aid cuts being the single biggest budget saving.

Abbott attracted mixed reviews as host of the G20 leaders’ summit. He did better in ongoing global trade deals (the subject of another series). Abbott wrapped up agreements with South Korea, Japan and China in quick succession.

Institutional challenges

Religious institutions still have much work to do to recover from the Royal Commission’s exposure of the sexual abuse of children – and the cover-ups. The Catholic Church, in particular, might benefit from the soul-searching approach of Pope Francis.

The scandals in sport roll on too. NRL club Cronulla accepted suspensions for doping. In the AFL, the legal battle between ASADA and Essendon drags on.

The Socceroos gave us hope but lost their way in a World Cup that, as our extensive coverage explained, deserved its “world game” billing. Late in the year, the death of cricketer Phillip Hughes put the “triumphs and tragedies” of sport in perspective.

Phillip Hughes’ death on the cricket pitch put Australia’s love of sport into perspective. AAP/Dan Peled

What next?

Ideas about politics and society are naturally and properly contested in a democracy like ours. How we govern ourselves in the 21st century is up for debate. We must take stock of our resources and priorities, and be open to alternatives.

These big-picture debates may fail as media clickbait but are important in every other way. The Conversation is dedicated to covering such issues properly.

Treasurer Joe Hockey’s first budget sought to redefine the role of government. That is why the directions taken by the budget and the path-breaking Commission of Audit – both the subjects of extensive coverage – have been more than usually contentious.

Work and welfare policies, for instance, can make or break the budget and individuals too – especially when the odds are against the jobless.

When simple recipes for life fail us, philosophy offers deep stores of wisdom. Articles on philosophy, thought, decision-making and love invariably engaged readers – even when the moral dilemmas were those of the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Most enduring political and social solutions require us first to test prevailing beliefs and assumptions, to thrash out our differences before we can make progress. This is a perennial test of national maturity. No such challenge is bigger than reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians starting with proper recognition of our first peoples: this has eluded us since 1788.

Two of our most successful series in 2014, on class and youth in Australia, asked provocative questions about how we see ourselves and our future, and how to make it better. And that sums up our journalistic mission.

As we head into 2015, we look forward to engaging a growing global community of readers in The Conversation.

Pressures on coal show no signs of ending

When world leaders assembled at the G20 Summit in Brisbane last month, the corporation selected by the Australian government to address the G20 and spearhead its “thought leadership forum” was none other than United States coal producer Peabody Energy.

Exhorting governments to address poverty with coal and other fossil fuels, Peabody’s executives had a sure meeting of minds with Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who had made his controversial “coal is our future” comments days earlier.

Less telegraphed in this sphere of “thought leadership” are the impending costs of an industry in decline, and what these costs mean for this country.

Take Peabody itself for instance. In four years, the equity market value of this coal producer – with its huge mines in the NSW Hunter Valley – has fallen from $US17 billion to $US2 billion ($2.46 billion).

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On that equity value, Peabody is carrying $US5.5 billion in net debt. While the pension scheme for its management is 90 per cent funded, its retired workers’ pension liabilities of $US735 million are zero funded.

Then there is mine remediation. For Peabody, there are $US713 million in company assessed remediation liabilities against which surety bonds of $568 million are held to cover overall clean-up costs as at December 2013.

Peabody appears better covered than others on this front, though. Throughout Australia, there are tens of thousands of abandoned mine sites left for taxpayers to clean up on a multitude of old companies’ behalf. Some, such as the  Mount Morgan goldmine in Queensland, have already cost taxpayers $50 million as toxic sludge contaminated rivers and killed fish 50 kilometres downstream.

The Queensland Auditor-General has put the cost of cleaning up the state’s 15,000 abandoned mines at $1 billion. However,  financial analyst Tim Buckley, of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, says the eventual figure could be 10 times higher.

That is just Queensland. Collectively, the other legacy costs in the wake of the biggest resources boom in history and its slather of top-of-cycle acquisitions will surely run into the dozens of billions.

Much will depend on whether the sharp decline in coal prices is structural rather than cyclical. The government and the coal fraternity say it is cyclical, that demand will rebound. There is a good deal of hope factored into this view, hope that  appears to also be the basis for the government to provide taxpayer subsidies to back the giant Galilee coal project in Queensland.

Figures out of China last week showed thermal coal consumption fell 2.1 per cent year on year in 2014. Demand for electricity, however, still rose 3.9 per cent, an unassailable indicator that coal is losing significant market share in the battle against cleaner forms of energy. That 6 per cent loss in market share in China alone in one year can be viewed against the 10 per cent growth every year for the first 10 years of this century.

Unfortunately, most of the profits of this boom found their way overseas. The clean-up will be funded at home.

Yet companies such as Peabody Energy continue to fork out dividends for their shareholders while their liabilities are increasingly at risk. This company, as of yesterday, had an Altman Z-Score (global measure of financial distress) of 0.76. It is in distress zone (anything less than 1.81), implying possible bankruptcy in the next two years.

Peabody is in better shape, though, than the Indian coal producers. A research report by IEEFA’s Tim Buckley suggests all three big players in Australia – Adani, GVK and Lanco Infratech (owner of Griffin Coal in WA) – are showing Z-Scores suggesting a real risk of distress.

As described here three months ago, http://www.smh.com.au/business/mining-and-resources/wise-investment-or-fossil-fools-queensland-backs-coal-as-g20-moves-the-game-on-20141117-11odkq.html  GVK’s net debts stand at 10 times its market cap.

Its Galilee colleague Adani Mining P/L is an Adani subsidiary with $1 billion in debt, negative shareholders funds, zero revenue and high cash burn with many billions still to spend. It is no wonder the Indians have their arms outstretched for taxpayer subsidies. Unless the coal price bounces substantially, this is not a viable project without state support.
http://www.smh.com.au/business/adanis-galilee-basin-project-not-commercially-viable-20140905-10cyc3.html#ixzz3N9vSfwSZ

As for the third company, the central subject of Buckley’s report, Lanco Infratech is already a year into a corporate debt restructuring with its many banks.

“The imminent of Lanco Infratech’s Griffin Coal business points to an increasingly urgent need for federal and state government planning to prepare for the economic and social impacts of the structural decline in coal.”

The government of WA is in a bind. It needs Griffin’s thermal coal to fire its grid. While taxpayers are likely to be tapped to prop up yet another distressed mining company, the sheer survival of the mine will render mine remediation a minor issue for future generations to worry about.

“IEEFA notes the absence of any material environmental remediation bond protection at Griffin Coal. West Australian taxpayers could well end up with yet another significant unfunded mine remediation liability”.

The Indian power and infrastructure companies were last to the party. All three bought into Australian coalmining projects in 2011 – the very peak of the boom. All were already excessively leveraged. All three paid big prices with borrowed money. Since then the seaborne price of thermal coal has more than halved.

For its part, Griffin Coal is operating negative cash-flow and struggling even to pay the interest on its $600 million to $800 million in acquisition-related debts. Lanco paid way over the top for Griffin. Rival Chinese group Yancoal acquired the Premier coal asset for $300 million, just after Wesfarmers had spent $90 million on its upgrade. Lanco in contrast paid $750 million for a slightly smaller business that was loss making and in need of capital expenditure.

It paid 2.5 times the price Yancoal paid. Yet Yancoal recently picked up a $240 million subsidy from the WA government. Meanwhile, in Queensland the government is pondering a suite of taxpayer assistance for the Galilee partners: equity funding for the railway, water, dredge and spoil removal and/or a holiday on coal royalties.

Coal is a mature industry and should hardly be a candidate for big taxpayer handouts, especially since it is already a recipient of state largesse in many forms. Governments, however, will come under intense lobbying pressure – especially the threat of job losses – to shield mining companies from tumbling commodity prices.

What is required to protect future generations in this country is a concerted plan to deal with the fallout. There isn’t one. NSW for one does not even properly report remediation liabilities. Eventually, these may be in the tens of billions of dollars so an audit of all environmental liabilities is in order before – should the mining sector fail to regain its former glories – the country is left with a slew of insolvent mining companies and even more thousands of toxic holes in the ground.

Economists are refuting the three big picture claims made by the government:

Tony Abbott achieves the impossible: unity among economists<br />
Economists are refuting the three big picture claims made by the government: 1) We have a budget emergency 2) We have a debt crisis and 3) The carbon tax was ruining the economy #notfittogovern #LNPSociopaths #greenlabor #auspol #votebairdlast<br />
There’s a joke about economists: if you ask five economists the same question you’ll get six different answers. Granted, it's not a very good joke, but it’s a fair call. Ours is a complex field, and a growing number of economists are acknowledging that the theory sitting behind mainstream economics is mostly rubbish. As a result, it’s very difficult to find consensus on real world events.</p>
<p>But that's where Abbott and Hockey have achieved what many thought impossible: a true consensus. Unfortunately for the coalition government, the consensus is entirely against them. The Abbott government’s agenda has been driven by three major claims, all of them economic in nature. Let’s see how economists view these three themes:</p>
<p>1) There is a budget emergency<br />
Number of economists who agree: zero</p>
<p>2) The federal government has a debt crisis<br />
Number of economists who agree: zero</p>
<p>3) Carbon pricing is an economic wrecking ball<br />
Number of economists who agree: zero</p>
<p>The above represents a very slight exaggeration. You can find people with some economics qualifications who agree with the government but, without exception, they either work for the Coalition or for some entity with ideological motives (like the IPA or News Corp).</p>
<p>While most would agree that there are serious structural problems with the budget, none would call it an emergency. Chris Richardson, economist and partner at Deloitte Access Economics, said:</p>
<p>We don’t need a surplus tomorrow, we don’t even necessarily need it in five years’ time. I’m more than happy with us getting back to sustainable fiscal finances over the long term. The politics would tend to suggest moving earlier rather than later but on the economics there’s no rush.</p>
<p>Saul Eslake, chief economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said that to call the Australian debt situation a crisis was “to abuse the English language.”</p>
<p>Similarly, Nobel prize winning US economist Joseph Stiglitz used terms such as “absurd”, “crazy” and “a crime” to describe some of Hockey’s budget measures, and dismissed the perceived debt and deficit problems, noting that any Australian who worries about debt “must be out of their mind.” Richard Holden, professor of economics at the Australian School of Business, put it this way: “First, Australia does not have a debt crisis. Or, to put it another way, Australia does not have a debt crisis.”</p>
<p>It doesn't stop here. The Age recently conducted its annual economics survey of 25 prominent economists. They select economists from a broad range of backgrounds across the spectrum of economics and their views vary widely on almost all issues. None of them agreed with the government on any of the above three topics.</p>
<p>This unique consensus among economists makes it clear that the entire government agenda is based on false premises. How has this exposure affected the Coalition's agenda or their messaging? Not at all. Not one bit. Not one iota. Let’s be clear about this. We know they’re not being honest about their real motives for policy. They know we know, too. They don’t care.</p>
<p>As I’ve explained previously, the Abbott and Hockey budget, if fully implemented, would have taken us a long way towards the free market social and economic model of the US, and away from the social democracy model of much of Europe. But the question remains as to why they would do this. Who benefits from a US style free market system where government minimises its involvement?</p>
<p>The answer of course is the wealthy and those who already wield power. The greatest beneficiaries of Abbott and Hockey’s policies are their largest financial backers, including the financial industry, the mining and energy industries, gambling interests and real estate companies.</p>
<p>For all the talk about this being the most ideologically driven government in living memory, the reality is something much simpler and more familiar. This government is simply delivering to big money what big money wants.</p>
<p>One of the clearest examples of this is the winding back of the Labor government’s Future of Financial Advice (FoFA) reforms. We know that many financial advisors have been preying on their clients. They make use of clients’ lack of understanding of complex investing and other financial options to direct them to financial products that are not in their interest, but rather in the interests of the advisor. This has been costing consumers huge sums of money, which primarily flow into the hands of the banks.</p>
<p>Labor’s reforms were aimed at making such conflicts of interest for advisors illegal in order to address this complex problem. The Coalition have wound back Labor’s changes and have provided not one defensible reason for doing so. Compliance costs and red tape have actually increased, so that cannot be used as the excuse. Meanwhile, we allow the banks to continue to profit from ripping off their customers.</p>
<p>The same is at play when you examine climate policy. You can't find an independent economist who thinks the government’s "direct action" plan for tackling climate change is more efficient or effective than a carbon tax or trading scheme. Who likes direct action? The polluters of course. Instead of paying to pollute, they get paid not to pollute. Here's the real con: one argument we are given is that the carbon tax was too big a burden on consumers. Who's going to pay the polluters to reduce pollution? The government. Where do they get the money? From all of us. Consumers pay anyway.</p>
<p>The clarity of these examples reveals the sad reality of this government. They are not ideologues, they are just puppets dancing to the tune of those pulling their strings.<br />
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/23/tony-abbott-achieves-the-impossible-unity-among-economists<br />
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Tony Abbott achieves the impossible: unity among economists
Economists are refuting the three big picture claims made by the government: 1) We have a budget emergency 2) We have a debt crisis and 3) The carbon tax was ruining the economy ‪#‎notfittogovern‬ ‪#‎LNPSociopaths‬ ‪#‎greenlabor‬ ‪#‎auspol‬ ‪#‎votebairdlast‬
There’s a joke about economists: if you ask five economists the same question you’ll get six different answers. Granted, it’s not a very good joke, but it’s a fair call. Ours is a complex field, and a growing number of economists are acknowledging that the theory sitting behind mainstream economics is mostly rubbish. As a result, it’s very difficult to find consensus on real world events.

But that’s where Abbott and Hockey have achieved what many thought impossible: a true consensus. Unfortunately for the coalition government, the consensus is entirely against them. The Abbott government’s agenda has been driven by three major claims, all of them economic in nature. Let’s see how economists view these three themes:

1) There is a budget emergency
Number of economists who agree: zero

2) The federal government has a debt crisis
Number of economists who agree: zero

3) Carbon pricing is an economic wrecking ball
Number of economists who agree: zero

The above represents a very slight exaggeration. You can find people with some economics qualifications who agree with the government but, without exception, they either work for the Coalition or for some entity with ideological motives (like the IPA or News Corp).

While most would agree that there are serious structural problems with the budget, none would call it an emergency. Chris Richardson, economist and partner at Deloitte Access Economics, said:

We don’t need a surplus tomorrow, we don’t even necessarily need it in five years’ time. I’m more than happy with us getting back to sustainable fiscal finances over the long term. The politics would tend to suggest moving earlier rather than later but on the economics there’s no rush.

Saul Eslake, chief economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said that to call the Australian debt situation a crisis was “to abuse the English language.”

Similarly, Nobel prize winning US economist Joseph Stiglitz used terms such as “absurd”, “crazy” and “a crime” to describe some of Hockey’s budget measures, and dismissed the perceived debt and deficit problems, noting that any Australian who worries about debt “must be out of their mind.” Richard Holden, professor of economics at the Australian School of Business, put it this way: “First, Australia does not have a debt crisis. Or, to put it another way, Australia does not have a debt crisis.”

It doesn’t stop here. The Age recently conducted its annual economics survey of 25 prominent economists. They select economists from a broad range of backgrounds across the spectrum of economics and their views vary widely on almost all issues. None of them agreed with the government on any of the above three topics.

This unique consensus among economists makes it clear that the entire government agenda is based on false premises. How has this exposure affected the Coalition’s agenda or their messaging? Not at all. Not one bit. Not one iota. Let’s be clear about this. We know they’re not being honest about their real motives for policy. They know we know, too. They don’t care.

As I’ve explained previously, the Abbott and Hockey budget, if fully implemented, would have taken us a long way towards the free market social and economic model of the US, and away from the social democracy model of much of Europe. But the question remains as to why they would do this. Who benefits from a US style free market system where government minimises its involvement?

The answer of course is the wealthy and those who already wield power. The greatest beneficiaries of Abbott and Hockey’s policies are their largest financial backers, including the financial industry, the mining and energy industries, gambling interests and real estate companies.

For all the talk about this being the most ideologically driven government in living memory, the reality is something much simpler and more familiar. This government is simply delivering to big money what big money wants.

One of the clearest examples of this is the winding back of the Labor government’s Future of Financial Advice (FoFA) reforms. We know that many financial advisors have been preying on their clients. They make use of clients’ lack of understanding of complex investing and other financial options to direct them to financial products that are not in their interest, but rather in the interests of the advisor. This has been costing consumers huge sums of money, which primarily flow into the hands of the banks.

Labor’s reforms were aimed at making such conflicts of interest for advisors illegal in order to address this complex problem. The Coalition have wound back Labor’s changes and have provided not one defensible reason for doing so. Compliance costs and red tape have actually increased, so that cannot be used as the excuse. Meanwhile, we allow the banks to continue to profit from ripping off their customers.

The same is at play when you examine climate policy. You can’t find an independent economist who thinks the government’s “direct action” plan for tackling climate change is more efficient or effective than a carbon tax or trading scheme. Who likes direct action? The polluters of course. Instead of paying to pollute, they get paid not to pollute. Here’s the real con: one argument we are given is that the carbon tax was too big a burden on consumers. Who’s going to pay the polluters to reduce pollution? The government. Where do they get the money? From all of us. Consumers pay anyway.

The clarity of these examples reveals the sad reality of this government. They are not ideologues, they are just puppets dancing to the tune of those pulling their strings.
http://www.theguardian.com/…/tony-abbott-achieves-the-impos…
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Obama Destroys Country Again This Year: According to Rupert Murdoch the Anglo universe is heading for destruction and needs saving by GOP- USA, LNP- AUS & the Conservatives- UK ,& T

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BLUE MOUNTAIN BEACH, CRETONIA (CT&P) – Fox News is reporting that America has once again been completely and utterly destroyed by President Barack Obama. This marks the 6th time during his presidency that he has managed to lay waste to the North American land mass known as the United States.

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White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest confirmed that America had been destroyed again at a press conference held early this morning in the Rose Garden.

“We’re proud that we managed to annihilate this once beautiful country and leave it in ruins yet again this year,” said Earnest, as he tuned one of the many special edition White House violins.

“President Obama was quite pleased that this year we got the job done early so he could take a much-needed vacation and recharge his batteries for the next round of obliteration scheduled to begin on January 1st. You know it takes a lot of energy to usurp power and then destroy all that is good about a nation.”

However, not everyone is convinced that Armageddon is just around the corner.

“The economy is in the best shape it has been in for a decade, unemployment is down, gas is under $2.00 per gallon, millions of poor people are now covered by health insurance, and there’s progress on the gay marriage front,” said New York Times Editor Dean Baqet, “but for some reason those cretins over at Fox insist that the country is on the brink of an apocalypse. I think it’s mainly because the President continues to be black even after six years in office.”

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Indeed, Fox News continues to report ad nauseam that Obamacare, the Benghazi non-conspiracy, immigration policy, sex crazed predatory homosexuals, civil rights protestors, warming relations with Cuba, and just about every other fucking thing you could imagine has left the country a smoking wreck reminiscent of post WW II Europe.

However, one group of Americans seems to be blissfully unaware that we are all doomed.

“Our customers are happy and optimistic as hell,” said Joseph Clayton, President and CEO of DISH Network. “It’s absolutely amazing what a week free of propaganda and misinformation will do for people.”

Fall in greenhouse emissions due to economy not carbon tax, Coalition says: Increase in gasses is good for the economy according to Mathias Corman

Smoke bellows from a chimney stack at a steelworks at Port Kembla, south of Sydney.

Mathias Cormann says below-trend growth was responsible for the 1.4% drop in emissions during the second year of carbon pricing

A drop in greenhouse gas emissions in the year to June was due to faltering economic growth rather than the now-defunct carbon pricing system, according to federal finance minister Mathias Cormann.

The second, and final, 12 months of the carbon price saw Australia’s emissions fall by 1.4%, figures released by the Department of Environment last week show. This was the largest drop in a decade of government emissions measurements.

But Cormann said this reduction was due to wider economic factors, rather than the carbon price, which was scrapped by the Coalition in July.

“Emissions were falling before the carbon tax came into effect and we were meeting our Kyoto targets well before the carbon tax came into effect,” the finance minister said.

“Over the past two years the economy has grown below trend, and below-trend growth means that emissions will be lower than they otherwise would have been.”
Mathias Cormann talks at a press conference Mathias Cormann: ‘Emissions were falling before the carbon tax came into effect’ Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

Cormann stressed that the government’s alternative climate policy, its Direct Action plan, would achieve Australia’s minimum goal of a 5% reduction in emissions by 2020, despite analysis by the Climate Change Authority, the UN and independent observers suggesting otherwise.

“The truth is that our Direct Action policy, which was legislated by the parliament, will ensure we achieve our emissions reductions targets for the future,” he said.

Carbon pricing was introduced by Julia Gillard’s Labor government in 2012. Emissions fell by 0.8% in the first year of the system, with the larger drop occurring in its last 12 months.
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The latest greenhouse gas inventory showed emissions from the electricity sector, the industry most affected by carbon pricing, fell 4% in the year to June.

Electricity emissions account for a third of Australia’s emissions output, which stood at 542.6m tonnes in the year to June, down from 550.2m tonnes in the previous 12 months.

Emissions from transport dropped 0.4% in the year to June, with gases released by the agriculture industry decreasing by 2.6%. Industrial processes emitted 1.3% less greenhouse gas during the year, although fugitive emissions, such as those from mining, rose 5.1%.

Environmental groups and the Greens have said the figures show the carbon price was working and that Australia’s emissions will now rise due to doubts over the efficacy of Direct Action.

The Coalition has maintained, however, that the carbon price placed a huge cost upon the economy and household power bills and that a range of factors, such as falling electricity demand and energy efficiency programs, have helped push down emissions.

Separating the impact of the carbon price can be difficult due to the various factors influencing Australia’s emissions. An Australian National University study from earlier this year found that 17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide was removed from Australia’s energy sector as a result of the policy.

Murdoch prepares Bishop for Libspill

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Abbott must be having a horrible Christmas break. He can’t have missed that his old buddy, his mentor Rupert has completely dropped him and in doing so, has given permission for his newspapers to admit that PM Abbott is a dud. They’re still not yet ready to admit he’s always been a dud and that they were stupid to support him in the first place (as if they’ll ever be ready for this sort of atonement), but they’re willing to go as far as actually reporting his poll numbers, which speak for themselves, and saying that if only he could get his ‘message’ right, their neoliberal Tea-Party agenda would be gratefully accepted by the electorate instead of wholeheartedly rejected. It’s fascinating to watch an entire news organisation finally coming round to the fact that the public knows better than they do whether someone is a good PM or not. I thought the whole definition of ‘news’ was telling us all something we didn’t know, and being first to the story? Abbott’s incompetence is old news, and News Ltd coming to this realisation last is really the only thing you need to know about the incompetence of News Ltd. ‘Oh Abbott’s polls are bad!’ they all cry in unison! ‘We totally didn’t see that coming!’.

So what are News Ltd going to do now that their favourite son has spectacularly failed? If you’ve been paying attention to the number of puff pieces being written at News Ltd about their chosen successor, Julie Bishop, you will see that a Libspill is clearly being planned.

As soon as I realised that Julie Bishop was being put forward as the most likely replacement for Abbott, I realised just how screwed the Abbott government is. Because if Bishop is deemed as the ‘best performer’, it shows just how badly the rest of them have performed. Think about it for a second. What exactly has Bishop done which is so high performing? Perhaps if the definition of high performing is ‘not stuffing up as badly as the rest of the Abbott ministry and being protected by News Ltd so even if you did stuff up the public never heard about it’, then Bishop has been high performing. But all I’ve seen is very basic no-more-competent-than-you’d-expect-of-an-average-politician-statements from her in response to international tragedies, such as disease, terrorism and plane crashes, and of course I’ve seen her slashing the Foreign Aid budget, making Australia the stingiest rich country in the world, bar none. I can see that News Ltd are clearly happy about this, but as I’ve said previously, News Ltd’s opinion and the general public’s opinion do not match and are increasingly at complete odds so News Ltd being happy about something more than likely works against Bishop in the long term.

But even more interesting than the claim that Bishop is ‘high performing’, is News Ltd’s strategy of backing a female Prime Minister, after systematically mauling our first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, with a sexist, low-life, scum-filled campaign of hateful lies and misinformation. Just to remind you all, Julia Gillard was the most successful Prime Minister this country has ever had. You won’t ever see any such analysis done in News Ltd papers, but this Guardian article has run the figures showing Gillard as the winner. So keeping this in mind, and keeping News Ltd’s vile anti-Gilllard campaign in mind, how are News Ltd going to position Bishop, a female, unmarried, childless ex-South Australian lawyer as PM material, when they so blatantly positioned Gillard as unfit, whilst appealing to the scum who read their newspapers, who were only too happy to agree? They built the anti-female-leader narrative, so how are they going to tear it down in support for Bishop?

So far, I have seen three strategies at work.

The first is to dress Julie Bishop up in her favourite ridiculously expensive clothes, to do a bit of airbrushing and to photograph her looking relaxed and feminine as if she doesn’t have a care in the world (or an office, or a desk, or, for that matter, a job. Notice how male politicians are never photographed posing as if they’re in a fashion magazine?). It’s also worth noting at this point that when Gillard posed for a Women’s Weekly photo shoot in 2007, Bishop was reported as saying:

“I don’t think it’s necessary to get dressed up in designer clothing and borrow clothing and make-up to grace the cover of magazines… You’re not a celebrity, you’re an elected representative, you’re a member of parliament. You’re not Hollywood and I think that when people overstep that line they miss the whole point of that public role.”

Clearly Bishop thinks she is Hollywood and is a celebrity and that’s the end of that.

The second strategy to ready Bishop for the position as Australia’s second female Prime Minister is for her to paint herself as not a feminist, and not as having benefited from feminism to get where she is. It was all her, apparently. And women who think they need feminism to get ahead need to stop complaining and get on with it, apparently. I feel that Bishop claiming she’s got where she is without the help of the feminist movement is akin to the captain of a football team being presented with the Grand Final cup and saying ‘thanks so much for all the applause. Clearly I played really well and that’s why the team won. I don’t know what all those other guys on my team were doing, but without my individual effort, the Grand Final cup would not be mine today’. Feminists have every right to be offended by Bishop’s suggestion that their hard fought battles are just a campaign of whinging. And of course they have every reason to laugh at Bishop, who is one of two women in Abbott’s cabinet, after being the only one for the first year, presumably because all the other Liberal women of merit were too busy complaining instead of being merit selected in a cabinet that is full of un-merit-worthy men. You’ve got to laugh so you don’t cry!

Finally, the last strategy to prepare Bishop for a leadership challenge is for News Ltd to claim that she is nothing like Gillard, and so should never be compared. Please look away now if you don’t feel like being angry for at least the next month over the following statement that was made in this Courier Mail Julie Bishop-fan-mail-puff-piece. Or do what I do and try to turn your anger into productive rage:

‘Dignified yet determined, Ms Bishop has succeeded where Julia Gillard failed, by showing that women can perform at the highest levels of political office without either hiding behind their gender or sacrificing their femininity. A passionate advocate of women, Ms Bishop believes in merit-based promotion, and her own hard work is now reaping rewards, both on the international stage and in domestic polls. And the damage done by Ms Gillard to the public perception of women in leadership roles is slowly being healed as voters regain confidence that a female politician can deliver’.

So this is the campaign and it’s well underway. There’s no sign yet as to how News Ltd will deal with Bishop’s embarrassing past of plagiarism, or her seedy career as a lawyer fighting against asbestos victims, and apparently once asking ‘why workers should be entitled to jump court queues just because they were dying’. But we will watch and see as News Ltd comes up with new techniques of dishonesty to repel any criticism of their new-found-favourite candidate. And of course, it will be fascinating to see how such a leadership spill could possibly be orchestrated without use of the words ‘blood’ and ‘stab’ littered throughout the reportage. No doubt that’s the last piece of the puzzle that needs to be worked out before we wake up to find Abbott gone, and PM anti-feminist-pro-Armani-asbestos-Julie in his place.

Bankstown man latest Aussie jihadist killed with IS in Syria

Ahmad Mohammed Al Ghazzawi, the Bankstown man believed killed in Syria last week. Picture

Ahmad Mohammed Al Ghazzawi, the Bankstown man believed killed in Syria last week. Picture: Facebook Source: Facebook

The Middle East: Gone as we know it

The tumultuous 2014 has brought major changes to the Middle East.

The Middle East has drastically changed in the past few years and 2014 alone has etched these changes even deeper into the fabric of the region. The effects of the Arab uprisings linger on as toppled dictators and crumbling civil-military regimes leave behind an expansive political void.

Borders are blurred, non-state actors are on the rise, and regional powers are changing and shifting their tactics. As we look back at 2014, the Middle East seems inevitably and irreversibly changed.

The Islamic State

The most radical reaction to the turmoil in the region was the rise of the Islamic State in Syria and the Levant (ISIL). For years the world stood silent as Shia death squads massacred Sunnis in Iraq and Bashar al-Assad’s forces killed over a hundred thousand in Syria. Little was said or done when Sunnis were tortured and humiliated in Abu Ghraib.

It should not come as a surprise that a decade of severe violence bore more violence in 2014. ISIL has proposed radically different solutions – brutal, destructive and outside the scope of the global political order, morals and norms. It is perhaps ISIL’s unforgiving, violent nature that appeals to disenchanted Muslim youth who, having lived through the trauma of violence, see no other opportunity to change their reality.

Inside Story – CIA torture: Who knew what?

ISIL has redrawn the map of the Middle East carving out huge chunks of Syria and Iraq and threatening other neighbouring states. Syria and Iraq will simply never be, even remotely, the same. These changes should not be solely attributed to the advent of ISIL; they are rooted in circumstances that came about prior to the Arab Spring and are more related to the aftermath of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

ISIL’s conquest of large swathes of territory has also accelerated and empowered Kurdish secessionism. Iraqi Kurdistan has, more than ever, started acting as a separate state within Iraq. It is unlikely that in the future the Kurds would willingly step back from their independence gains for the sake of Iraq’s unity.

Despite rearmament of the Iraqi army, coordinated offensives by Kurdish forces, and US-led air strikes, the militant group is not going to retreat or disappear. ISIL’s continuous destructive presence solidifies changes to the political map of the Middle East and makes it almost impossible for Iraq and Syria to reclaim their borders.

Decay of the nation state

The past year has accelerated the decline of the modern nation state in the Middle East. Decline in legitimacy still persists where states were formed on an illegitimate basis and were artificially imposed on the masses. Outdated methods of governance are no longer viable in the light of the expectations and popular aspirations which the Arab Spring ushered in. The lack of legitimacy is making it difficult for political regimes to govern their own people.

Many states in the Middle East are still failing miserably to properly manage their economies and improve the standards of living for their citizens. In 2014 the trend of deteriorating social and economic conditions continued. While in the past, the nation state had a comparatively smaller population to provide for with stronger social cohesiveness and social security networks, today they face a divided, impoverished and demanding population which is proving more difficult to control.

Another threat to the nation state is the fact that the ideological draw of the very idea of a unified nation has eroded. Today Middle Eastern states are in danger of fragmentation and disintegration in the face of growing ethnic and religious divides. The nation as a primary identity has given in to ethnic, tribal and religious loyalties, as people seek security and protection from sub-nation groups. This is increasingly the case in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Lebanon and to a lesser extent in Egypt.

Regional power politics

A major shift in Middle East politics can be seen among its regional powers, namely with the emerging new leverage of Iran and changes in Turkey’s policies.

What will it take to defeat ISIL?

Iran has not only managed to enter into a dialogue and negotiations over its nuclear issue with the West, but has also become closer to Western powers. Iran and the West have engaged in more symbolic gestures of mutual acceptance and improving relations, going as far as the US secretary of state and Iranian minister of foreign affairs having an official meeting.

Iran has managed to utilise its improving relations with the West and translate this development to its advantage in the region, with hardly any resistance.

Iran has de facto influence on Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and lately Yemen. One cannot ignore Iranian MP Ali Zakani’s comments: “Three Arab capitals have today ended up in the hands of Iran and belong to the Islamic Iranian revolution”; he added that Sanaa has become the fourth. Furthermore, Iran has initiated rapprochement with Hamas after the fallout in 2011 over Syria.

Turkey has also positioned itself within the region very differently from previous years. Turkey is seeking to revive itself in a fashion more in line with its historical roots, lifting the hijab ban in educational institutions, seeking to revive the Ottoman language, and emphasising religious symbolism in domestic and international politics.

In 2014 Turkey continued to distance itself from Israel, and unwaveringly criticised it, while being supportive of the Palestinian cause. It has continued to be a strong supporter of the Arab Spring, which has antagonised some of its Arab neighbours. Although Ankara was traditionally close to the Assad regime, today it has become one of its enemies, supporting the Syrian opposition. Most importantly, Turkey has gone from being a staunch advocate of secularism to a country which Islamists in the region look up to and seek help from.

Looking back at 2014, it is increasingly clear that the changes that started with the Arab uprisings four years ago have persisted and produced lasting changes in the region. With collapsing nation states, the increasingly more powerful ISIL, blurred national borders, and transforming regional powers, the Middle East is simply gone as we know it.

Mustafa Salama is a political analyst, consultant and writer. He has extensive experience and an academic background in Middle East Affairs.

Foreign Owned & not a large employer-Mining: Subsidised and not Taxed.

“Australia – Beautiful One Day, Wasteland The Next” No doubt we will be inundated with Liberal Trolls and Mining stooges, so we urge you to take a drive up the Hunter Valley one weekend and see for yourself the devastation that Mining has had on our once pristine Valley. Better still, take a joy flight and send us some pics.
But, never fear, they said they would rehabilitate once the mining was complete. Yeah, right!
Foreign ownership of Australia’s mining production in 2010
In 2010, about 83% of mine production in Australia was attributable to foreign owners. The three biggest miners in Australia (BHP, Rio and Xstrata) all have significant foreign ownership(76%, 83% and 100% respectively). These are the three companies that negotiated the MineralResources Rent Tax (MRRT) with the Gillard government in its first month of office.
Other iconic “big Aussies” have significant foreign ownership, such as Fortescue at 40%. The next tier of large coal and copper producers, include players such as Gloucester Coal (coal, 63% foreign owned) and Banpu (coal, 100% foreign owned).
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Regaining goodwill

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  • December 25, 2014
  • Written by:
  • Joe Hockey said “We are going to give economic reform a red hot go in 2015.”He went on to say “The taxation discussion with the Australian people next year will not be about increasing the revenue take for the Commonwealth, it needs to be how we can have a taxation system that makes us a more efficient and productive nation, and is fairer for all Australians.”

    If we want to make revenue collection fairer, and we want to cut wasteful spending, then I have a few suggestions of where to start.

    Corporate tax avoidance

    Tackling corporate tax avoidance is an urgent priority; Australia does not have a spending problem, it has a revenue problem and it must be fixed.

    Up to $80 billion was foregone by the taxman between 2004 and 2013.

    Superannuation tax concessions

    Superannuation tax concessions will cost the budget around $35 billion in 2013-14 projected to rise at a staggering 12 per cent annually to be $50.7 billion in 2016-17.

    Capital Gains Tax and Negative gearing

    Generous government tax breaks for property investors see them benefit from a 50% discount on capital gains tax (at a cost to the government’s budget of $4.4 billion per year) and negative gearing (costing $2.4 billion a year).

    Fossil fuel subsidies

    The Government will spend almost $14 billion in the next four years on fossil fuel subsidies to the big mining corporations.

    Fighter jets

    Tony Abbott said Australia will acquire another 58 Joint Strike Fighters at a cost of around $90 million per plane; $24 billion has been budgeted to purchase and operate the aircraft until 2024.

    Submarines

    A decision to spend more than $20 billion on up to 10 Japanese submarines will be announced before the end of the year (maybe?)

    Offshore detention

    The Commission of Audit’s report shows that in the past four years, the Australian government has increased spending on the detention and processing of asylum seekers who arrive by boat by 129 per cent each year. Costs have skyrocketed from $118.4 million in 2009–10 to $3.3 billion in 2013–14.

    This is the fastest growing government program and projected costs over the forward estimates amount to more than $10 billion.

    (It costs $400,000 a year to hold an asylum seeker in offshore detention, $239,000 to hold them in detention in Australia, and less than $100,000 for an asylum seeker to live in community detention.  In contrast, it is around $40,000 for an asylum seeker to live in the community on a bridging visa while their claim is processed.)

    Transfield

    The Abbott government has given Transfield Services a $1.22 billion government contract to run immigration detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island.

    (Tony Shepherd, who was the chairman of Transfield until he resigned in October to Head the Commission of Audit, left with more than 200,000 Transfield shares, allocated to his family superannuation fund, on top of his final salary of $380,000.  Shares in Transfield soared 20.8 per cent on the news, lifting the company’s market capitalisation by about $80 million. He now heads the WestConnex Delivery Authority where money from the East-West link may be redirected)

    Employment Service Providers

    The Coalition Government has released its exposure draft of the purchasing arrangements for a new employment services model – a $5.1 billion investment over three years from July 1, 2015 – which includes the new Work for the Dole scheme.

    Emissions Reduction Fund

    Under the ERF the government will spend $2.55 billion to purchase emissions reductions through auctions.

    Public Service redundancies

    The federal government is on track to fork out $1 billion in redundancy payouts to public servants even before entitlements such as leave are paid.

    School chaplains

    School chaplaincy will be continued for another five years at a cost of $245.3 million. Under the program, 3700 schools are eligible for up to $72,000 funding to employ chaplains.

    Marriage guidance vouchers

    NEWLYWEDS across Australia will be given a $200 voucher for marriage counselling from July 1, as part of a $20 million trial to strengthen relationships and avoid family breakdowns.

    Tim Wilson

    TONY Abbott’s hand-picked human rights adviser has been given a $56,000 expenses package to top up his six-figure salary.  Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson now has a total salary of $389,000 plus vehicle and telephone expenses following a recent decision by the Remuneration Tribunal.

    Hope that gets you started Joe, or whoever is now doing the budget.  (Cormann?  Frydenberg?  Thawley?  Credlin?  Rinehart?)

    PS  In light of the above potential savings, you may want to read my plan to get half a million people employed at a cost of $8.8 billion

    PPS  In South Africa, Boxing Day was renamed Day of Goodwill in 1994.  May you use it to contemplate wisely.

Jerry’s Guide To Isolated Cabin Living

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Excerpted from “Post Metrosexual Lifestyles For Males In The 21st Century,” Curmudgeon Magazine, May 2014

If you are male over fifty years of age who has taken a beat down by bent cops, ex wives, or just society in general, and you’re ready to make a change, moving to a remote, isolated cabin in the woods could be just the thing to recharge your batteries and get you ready for the 4th Quarter of life. Living alone in a wooded mountainous setting offers all kinds of advantages for men who enjoy their own company and are disgusted by what they see going on around the planet. We at Curmudgeon would like to offer you some tips for this creepy and bizarre lifestyle so that you won’t make some of the same mistakes made by other reclusive freaks, such as Howard Hughes, J. D. Salinger, or Ted Kaczynski, better known as the “Unabomber.”

CHOOSE YOUR CABIN CAREFULLY

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MAKE SURE YOUR CABIN HAS AT LEAST ONE FUNCTIONAL SATELLITE DISH

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BUILD A LIBRARY OF UPLIFTING BOOKS

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BUY SEVERAL DOZEN AREA RUGS AND STORE THEM IN A CLOSET

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STOCKPILE ENOUGH WEAPONS AND AMMUNITION TO OUTFIT A BRIGADE OF ISIS TERRORISTS

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HANG BIZARRE AND OFFENSIVE WORKS OF ART ON YOUR WALLS TO INTIMIDATE UNWANTED GUESTS

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CLEAN DISHES AND UTENSILS AT LEAST ONCE PER QUARTER

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BUY A PET MONKEY

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SUPPORT FRACKING IN YOUR AREA

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PLACE A BUST OF HITLER IN YOUR ENTRYWAY

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THREATEN ANY LAW ENFORCEMENT PERSONNEL THAT HAPPEN TO VISIT YOUR CABIN

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CHAIN VICIOUS DOGS TO TREES AT STRATEGIC POINTS IN THE WOODS AROUND YOUR CABIN

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BE SURE TO TAKE UP A HOBBY

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BE CAUTIOUS WHEN PURCHASING SUPPLIES IN TOWN

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BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY, TUNE TO FOX NEWS EVERY CHANCE YOU GET

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We at the Times-Picayune hope that this excerpt from Curmudgeon has been useful to you as you set out to start a new life in the untamed wilderness. Always remember that living alone and cut off from all human contact can be a rewarding experience that will help you achieve the oddball lifestyle you have always dreamed of. We wish you the best of luck and hope that you are in good physical condition as you can forget about ever dialing 911 again for the rest of your miserable life.

Australia complicit in torture too.

http://www.democracynow.org/2014/12/23/ex_bush_official_us_tortured_prisoners

Australia complicit in torture too…..Australian officials at risk of trial by the International Criminal Court (ICC): Australian citizen Mamdouh Habib won a confidential settlement with the Australian government after presenting credible evidence of ASIO complicity in his torture.

ASIO oversight ineffective – Australia’s captive regulators described as paper tigers: The Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS).

Now is the time to contest the rightful bounds of authority and punish those responsible for egregious violations of our laws. Ensure the mechanisms of separating and sharing power are not pulped into meaninglessness: It is time for a federal ICAC and standing royal commission into ASIO/Australian intelligence community that looks at the role of all our agencies and IGIS in these abuses.

Ian Barker, QC a prominent Australian lawyer proclaimed his frustration with the abuses of ASIO, and by corollary, the lack of credible oversight, commented:

“Any defence lawyer having anything to do with a case involving ASIO will know that its agents habitually act outside their powers and routinely abuse them, always in secret. It is rare indeed for their conduct to be exposed.”

IGIS is the oversight body mandated to expose ASIO abuses. The public relies on it for protection, justice and enforcement of the law against ASIO abuses. But it consistently fails to do so. Evidently, it can’t see any of it, can’t find it, doesn’t ask about it and doesn’t report it.

http://mininganalyst.net/…/australias-captive…/
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FBI (and ASIO) targets Wall Street analyst (and girlfriend) after publishing report that touched on the killing of indigenous protestors at the US listed Freeport McMoran Grasberg mine in West Papua, Indonesia.

What is little known and not reported is the role the FBI played during this time to lower the profile of Freeport’s controversial Grasberg operation and silence discussion that included targeting Wall Street analysts.

The use of FBI power in this way is all the more disturbing given the agency’s dual role in helping to identify and interview eyewitnesses to the alleged Freeport human rights abuses on location in West Papua in 1995. (Alleged human rights abuses were never proven in relation to Freeport in U.S. courts.)

The brutality seemed to be spiralling out of control with seven indigenous protestors shot and killed in and around the Grasberg mine in a short period around Christmas day 1994. Some of the protestors were reportedly killed at point blank range, inside steel shipping containers on Freeport property. For a sensitive topic it received unusually wide publicity and the US State Department had taken the unusual step of launching a formal investigation.

Freeport’s public relations machine went into overdrive. It paid for a full page ad in the New York Times, made an infomercial, threatened to sue journalists and academics covering the matter and withdraw university funding.
http://mininganalyst.net/…/the-fbi-and-asio-stole-my…/

Pipe jobs go to foreign labour

Pipe jobs go to foreign labour

Skilled Group workers involved in laying the billion-dollar 889km subsea pipeline linking the Ichthys gas-condensate field off the Kimberley with Darwin are facing a bleak Christmas amid heightened concerns they will lose their jobs to overseas labour.

Skilled, which has supplied about 600 workers to Italian contractor Saipem to work on pipelaying vessels, has told the largely Perth-based fly-in, fly-out crew a shift was under way to employ more foreign workers while rosters had also changed, from a three-week on, three-week off routine to four-and-four.

It is understood about 90 Skilled workers have been told they will not be retained for the second stage of the Ichthys job, to be carried out on the Castorone, a 330m long hi-tech vessel capable of laying pipe in deep waters.

There had been expectations by the Skilled workers they would be retained for the entire pipeline job. However, Saipem’s push for foreign workers and a new roster and productivity target are expected to see at least 200 foreign workers employed.

Skilled refused to comment.

A shift to foreign labour is likely to also be a blow for Skilled.

The labour hire company has sent letters to workers declaring “Saipem has explored the option of bringing international crews to complete the Castorone scope of the work, which would replace Australian crew on the vessel”.

Skilled added that Saipem’s push was “legal under current immigration guidelines (but following) constructive dialogue between all parties, a proposed agreement has been reached which would see Australian crew employed in as many roles as possible on board the Castorone”.

Critics claim Skilled’s trade-off with Saipem has sparked a family unfriendly new roster and higher productivity targets that are designed to force out local workers.

Federal Member for Perth Alannah MacTiernan, who has unsuccessfully campaigned against changes to the Commonwealth’s 457 visa scheme that removed the need to test the local employment market first, said the Skilled issue validated her long-held concerns. “These workers who are being replaced are highly skilled and are now facing unemployment,” she said.

Inpex, which runs the $US34 billion ($42 billion) Ichthys LNG development, said Castorone staffing was a matter for the contractor and its employees. “Inpex has been working with Saipem to maximise the number of Australian workers employed on this project,” a spokeswoman said.

A Christmas Miracle

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BLUE MOUNTAIN BEACH, CRETONIA (CT&P) – In what many are calling a Christmas miracle, Charlton Heston appeared out of nowhere this morning on the beaches of northwest Florida. Heston was on horseback and was accompanied by a scantily clad mute female who many believe was Mary Magdalene or possibly even the Virgin Mary.

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For hours Heston galloped up and down the beaches berating the native population for re-electing the ancient Aztec snake god Rick Scott as their governor.

“Damn you! God damn you all to hell!” screamed Heston.

For many decades Heston has been an icon of the right and a huge supporter of the NRA. However, Heston’s support of marriage equality and his objections to oppressive new voter ID laws has recently put him at odds with the GOP leadership in Florida. Heston pumped a great deal of cash and effort into Charlie Crist’s campaign and was apparently frustrated that the citizens of Florida have once again chosen a “false idol” to worship for four more years.

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“You idiots,” yelled Heston, “what is it about snake gods and golden calves that turns you people on so much?”

Heston then jumped off his horse and made a huge display of tearing up his Florida voter ID card and throwing it on the sands of “World’s Most Beautiful Beaches.”

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“The Lord Our God will kick your ass for this travesty!” said Heston. He then turned, parted the Gulf of Mexico, jumped back on his horse and rode off.

Most pundits believe that Heston’s temper tantrum will have little effect on Florida politics, and the state will remain a “Forbidden Zone” for many years to come. Political pundit Barry Edwards told Wolf Blitzer on CNN that “This whole region is like a vast wasteland of intelligence. It’s gonna take one hell of a lot more than a Christmas miracle to fix this God-forsaken state. We might as well lift off and nuke the entire site from orbit-it’s the only way to be sure.”

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