A nation cries again

December 20th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The deaths of eight children – the youngest just 18 months old, the oldest 15 – in their Cairns home yesterday have shocked the Australian nation still reeling from the deadly Sydney siege.

The 34-year-old mother of at least seven of the children was in a stable condition in hospital last night with multiple stab wounds.

Police said they had no formal suspects. They would be interviewing anyone who might have had contact with the family recently. “Everybody who’s had any involvement at all in the past two or three days is a person of interest,” said the Cairns regional crime co-ordinator, Detective Inspector Bruno Asnicar.

The injured woman’s cousin, Lisa Thaiday, said another sibling, a 20-year-old man, arrived home to find his brothers and sisters dead in the Murray St house in the Housing Commission suburb of Manoora.

He was now being comforted by other family members.

At times, it seems there is no limit to the depravity of man. So very very sad.

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Hostages in Sydney

December 15th, 2014 at 12:45 pm by David Farrar

News.com.au reports:

AN ARMED man is holding several people hostage at a cafe in Martin Place in Sydney.

There are hostages standing with their hands up at the windows in the popular Lindt chocolate shop, which has two or three entrances. There is also a black and white flag being held up in a window. It is believed to be the Black Standard, a jihadist flag.

Terrifying for the hostages, and also for everyone in Sydney. Hopefully the situation will be resolved with no hostages killed. If it is a terrorist attack, which seems the case, it is a grim reminder how close to home it is all getting.

UPDATE: The flag says:

There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of God’

It seems it is a jihadist flag, not an ISIS flag. The distinction may seem small, but I’d say less likely that the hostages will be publicly killed. Let’s hope.

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Australia to vote on constitutional recognition for Aborigines

December 13th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

It’s more important to get constitutional recognition for Aborigines right than to rush it through, Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott said yesterday.

Abbott has nominated May 27, 2017, as his preferred date for the long-awaited referendum – the 50th anniversary of the celebrated 1967 referendum on indigenous rights.

However, he warned that if the referendum to recognise indigenous people in the constitution failed it could set back the cause of reconciliation by decades.

“We’ve got to get it right,” he said yesterday.

“It’s more important to get it right than to rush it.”

The Prime Minister says no one wanted the first Australians to finally feel like first-class citizens more than he does – but he said it was better to take it slowly and ensure it succeeded.

“We shouldn’t be unambitious and we shouldn’t be over-ambitious. That’s the balance we have to get right here.”

Constitutional change must satisfy a majority of people in a majority of states.

If Abbott succeeds, he will be doing so against history. Only eight out of 44 referenda have passed in Australian history, and the last one to pass was in 1977. Eight since then have all failed. Seven failed to get a majority and one got an overall majority but not a majority in a majority of states.

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A nuclear power debate in Australia

December 3rd, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has said Australia needs to consider nuclear power in the future, and unlike NZ this has led to a rational discussion rather than hysteria!

The SMH reports:

Calls for fresh talks about nuclear power have had a warmer response than expected, with economists and even a Labor MP taking up Julie Bishop’s offer for a “sensible debate” about all potential energy sources.

The foreign minister, who will depart for Lima, Peru, for fresh United Nations climate talks in days, said it is an “obvious conclusion” that to bring down emissions Australia had to embrace nuclear energy.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt said on Sunday that although nuclear power was not Coalition policy, he was supportive of a debate but any shift would require bipartisan support.

Economist Ross Garnaut told Fairfax Media that Ms Bishop’s suggestion that Australia should look at all sources of low emissions energy on their merits was a welcome one because avoiding dangerous climate change would require contributions from many sources.

“To arbitrarily limit the sources of low-emissions energy that we are prepared to consider may be to increase the cost of avoiding dangerous climate change and therefore to reduce the chances of our meeting the objectives that have been agreed by the international community,” he said. …

The Labor MP Alannah MacTiernan said she’d been anti-uranium mining until her “conversion” in 2010.  She said while she didn’t think nuclear would ever be necessary in Australia, she was keen to see uranium mining expand in her home state of Western Australia.

“Nuclear has nowhere near the risks of spewing coal into the atmosphere,” she said. 

Good to see Australia starting to have a discussion on this. If you are worried about climate change, you should not dismiss nuclear power as an alternative to coal.

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My favourite Australian Human Rights Commissioner

October 4th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Age reports:

New national security laws, which could see journalists jailed for up to 10 years, are likely to restrict the legitimate scrutiny of Australia’s security agencies, according to human rights commissioner Tim Wilson.

“The law is too broad,” Tim Wilson, who was appointed to the Human Rights Commission by Attorney-General George Brandis last year, said.

“There is the potential for botched operations to go unreported when ASIO really needs to be held accountable.

“Security operations should not be reported on if lives are at risk or if they are current operations. The media would usually approach this in a cautious and considered manner.”

Mr Wilson, a former policy analyst at the libertarian Institute of Public Affairs, is known as the “freedom commissioner” because of his commitment to civil and political rights such as freedom of expression.

I’d like to see a similar appointment to our Human Rights Commission – a Commissioner with a focus on the right to freedom of expression – even when that freedom offends people.

Wilson is also in the news again, criticising again the Government hat appointed him on the issue of the burqa:

AUSTRALIAN Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson has rejected calls to ban the burka, saying the move is not consistent with a tolerant society.

But Mr Wilson does believe it is legitimate to ask people to remove head wear and clothing if required at security screening to establish their identity.

“There’s no basis to ban the burka. To ban the burka is inconsistent with religious tolerance and liberal values,” Mr Wilson told The Australian.

It is indeed. Again good that Australia has a consistent voice for liberal values.

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New Australian spy powers

September 28th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Australia’s spy agency could soon have the power to monitor the entire Australian internet after new anti-terrorism laws passed the Senate on Thursday night.

Australian spies will soon have the power to monitor the entire Australian internet with just one warrant, and journalists and whistleblowers will face up to 10 years’ jail for disclosing classified information.

The government’s first tranche of tougher anti-terrorism bills, which will beef up the powers of the domestic spy agency ASIO, passed the Senate by 44 votes to 12 last night with bipartisan support from Labor. …

The new bill also allows ASIO to seek just one warrant to access a limitless number of computers on a computer network when attempting to monitor a target, which lawyers, rights groups, academics and Australian media organisations have condemned.

They said this would effectively allow the entire internet to be monitored, as it is a “network of networks” and the bill does not specifically define what a computer network is.

ASIO will also be able to copy, delete, or modify the data held on any of the computers it has a warrant to monitor.

The bill also allows ASIO to disrupt target computers, and use innocent third-party computers not targeted in order to access a target computer.

On Wednesday afternoon, Senator Brandis confirmed that, under the legislation, ASIO would be able to use just one warrant to access numerous devices on a network.

The warrant would be issued by the director-general of ASIO or his deputy.

“There is no arbitrary or artificial limit on the number of devices,” Senator Brandis told the Senate. …

A third bill enabling the collection of internet and phone metadata for a period of up to two years for warrantless access by law-enforcement and spy agencies will be introduced later this year.

These changes in Australia show how benign the law is in NZ, by comparison. Some differences:

  • Mass surveillance allowed in Australia, but not in NZ (confirmed does not happen by the IGIS and Provacy Commissioner)
  • Law changes rushed through Parliament in a few days, as opposed to NZ which had a public submission process
  • Warrants can be issued by ASIO themselves with no need for warrant to be signed by a Minister and a judicial officer
  • Metadata collection and storing to be legalised in Australia, but not legal in NZ

So the NZ law is relatively narrow, and has checks and balances built in. The Australian law is not.

After concerns were raised by Labor and Senator Leyonhjelm, the government agreed to amend the legislation to specifically rule out ASIO using torture.

Well that’s something!

“The internet poses one of the greatest threats to our existence,” Palmer United Party Senator Glen Lazarus said, speaking out against Senator Ludlam’s amendment.

Oh dear.I’m glad I am in NZ.

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More concern in Australia

September 20th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Daily Telegraph reports:

ARMED Australian Federal Police officers will take back command and control of Parliament House in Canberra after fresh revelations suspected terrorists were planning a potential attack on the nation’s capital and the country’s highest office.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott this morning confirmed the Daily Telegraph report that intelligence agencies had picked up “chatter” involving a potential random attack on Parliament House, with fears among national security and intelligence agencies that the Prime Minister and other senior government officials were prime targets.

The “chatter” about Parliament House had been intercepted and they now held fears the building had already been “scoped out” for pre-planning of a “Mumbai” style attack involving automatic weapons.

The chatter, intercepted by spy, police and counterterrorism agencies, ­revealing talk about access to Parliament House was confirmed by two senior intelligence officials. It is believed the chatter also involved possible reprisal attacks against ASIO.

In response, senior security sources have identified the most vulnerable entry point to parliament was the entrance to the ministerial wing, which could be infiltrated by “taking out” two unarmed parliamentary security officers who represent the only sentry point to prevent instant access to the PM’s own courtyard.

From there a potential terrorist would have a direct line of sight into the PM’s office, they confirmed.

It is understood several armed AFP officers have been redeployed to Parliament House. Over the next few days their numbers will be dramatically increased to secure the building, which under current arrangements is among the least secure official buildings in the country.

This is a pity. We want people to be able to visit Parliaments as bastions of democracy, and not see them as armed fortifications.

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The Australian National Terrorism Public Alert System

September 15th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Australia has four levels of alerts. They are:

  • low—terrorist attack is not expected
  • medium—terrorist attack could occur
  • high—terrorist attack is likely
  • extreme—terrorist attack is imminent or has occurred.

The alert level was changed last week to high for the first time since it started in 2003. The level is set on the recommendation of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization. It would not be set to high on a whim.

Some people think we live in a country with no security threats. They are wrong. The fact New Zealand citizens have been fighting alongside radical extremists in Syria is a deep cause for concern.

Also a reader e-mails:

There’s a lot of complaining going on about GCSB at the moment on the eve on the Internet Party function tonight.

My daughter is 7yo and attends a Jewish school in Melbourne.  As you may know, the Australian Terror threat index was increased to High last week.  This is due, in part, to intelligence gathering.  As such, our children and teachers are put through lockdown simulations in case there is an attack such as we have seen in France and Belgium.

I am totally comfortable, if not glad, that NZ is subscribing to an international task force that can alert and prevent such atrocities.  There is no easy answer.

My view on GCSB powers are the same as during the GCSB Bill, which is that we should have two separate entities – one for communications interceptions and foreign intelligence gathering – and another entity for cyber-security. They are both legitimate functions of government, but having both functions in the one entity does mean that there can be a concern that powers for one function (cyber-security) could be used for another (communications interception) so a rational reform would be to split GCSB into two entities.

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The Australian Citizenship Test

August 29th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Australia has a 20 question citizenship test, which you have to pass (at least 75% needed) to gain citizenship. I think NZ should do the same. It is a good way of ensuring new citizens understand the country they are joining.

News.com.au has published a practice test, which is copied below:

SECTION ONE: AUSTRALIA AND ITS PEOPLE

1. What do we remember on Anzac Day?

a. The landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps at Gallipoli, Turkey

b. The arrival of the first free settlers from Great Britain

c. The landing of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove

2. What are the colours of the Australian Aboriginal flag?

a. Black, red and yellow

b. Green, white and black

c. Blue, white and green

3. Which official symbol of Australia identifies Commonwealth property?

a. The national anthem

b. Australia’s national flower

c. Commonwealth Coat of Arms

SECTION TWO: AUSTRALIA’S DEMOCRATIC BELIEFS, RIGHTS AND LIBERTIES

4. Which of these statements about Australia’s system of government is correct?

a. The Queen of Australia chooses people to form the Australian Parliament

b. The government is elected by the people

c. The Prime Minister chooses our Members of Parliament

5. Which of these is an example of freedom of speech?

a. People can peacefully protest against government decisions

b. Men and women are treated equally in a court of law

c. Australians are free to not follow a religion

6. Which of these statements about government in Australia is correct?

a. The government does not allow some religions

b. Government in Australia is secular

c. Religious laws are passed by parliament

7. Which of these is an example of equality in Australia?

a. Everyone follows the same religion

b. Men and women have the same rights

c. Everyone belongs to the same political party

8. Which of these is a responsibility of Australian citizens aged 18 years or over?

a. To attend local council meetings

b. To vote in elections

c. To have a current Australian passport

9. Which of these is a responsibility of Australian citizens aged 18 years or over?

a. To do local community service

b. To carry a passport at all times

c. To serve on a jury if called to do so

10. Which of these statements about passports is correct?

a. Australian citizens can apply for an Australian passport

b. Permanent residents can hold an Australian passport

c. Australian citizens need a passport and visa to return to Australia

SECTION THREE: GOVERNMENT AND THE LAW IN AUSTRALIA 

11. Which of these statements about voting in Australian elections is correct?

a. People are free and safe to vote for any candidate

b. Voting is by a show of hands

c. People must write their name on their vote

12. What happened in Australia on 1 January 1901?

a. The Australian Constitution was changed by a referendum

b. The Australian Constitution came into effect

c. The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps was formed

13. What is the name of the legal document that sets out the rules for the government of Australia?

a. The Australian Federation

b. The Australian Commonwealth

c. The Australian Constitution

14. What is a referendum?

a. A vote to change the government

b. A vote to change the Australian Constitution

c. A vote to change the Prime Minister

15. Which arm of government has the power to interpret and apply laws?

a. Legislative

b. Executive

c. Judicial

16. Which of these is a role of the Governor-General?

a. The appointment of state premiers

b. The signing of Bills passed by the Australian Parliament

c. The appointment of the Head of State

17. Which of these statements about state governments is correct?

a. All states have the same constitution

b. Each state has its own constitution

c. The states have no constitution

18. What is the name given to the party or coalition of parties with the second largest number of members in the House of Representatives?

a. The Government

b. The Opposition

c. The Senate

19. What is the name of a proposal to make a law in parliament?

a. Royal Assent

b. Bill

c. Debate

20. Who maintains peace and order in Australia?

a. Public servants

b. Police

c. Lawyers

I got 19 out of 20 correct. Did not know the colours of the Aboriginal flag.

Many of the questions could be used in NZ also.

The answers are over the break.

(more…)

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Australian Senator wants a rich well-hung Senator

July 23rd, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Any complaints about our MPs look trivial in comparison to some of the loons in Australia.

TVNZ reports:

An Australian politician has raised eyebrows after revealing her two requirements in a partner.

Palmer United Senator Jacqui Lambie told Tasmania’s Heart 107.3’s radio station she has only two requirements in a man, they must be wealthy and well-endowed.

“They must have heaps of cash and they’ve got to have a package between their legs, let’s be honest,” Ms Lambie said.

“I don’t need them to speak, they don’t even need to speak.”

Ms Lambie, a 43-year-old mother of two, was then introduced to a 22-year-old listener named Jamie, who called into the radio show to express his interest in dating her.

“Do you have plenty of cash?” asked Ms Lambie.

“I’m just a bit concerned that at 22 years of age and living in Tasmania you might not be quite there yet?”

Jamie then assured her he does have plenty of cash.

Ms Lambie then asked: “Are you well-hung?”

Jamie assured her he is & “like a donkey”.

The pair have agreed to go on a date.

Funnily enough Senator Lambie opposes gay marriage on the grounds it compromises Australiam morals.

(more…)

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Australian views

June 6th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Some very interesting data in the annual poll by the Lowy Institute on views held by Australians. Some extracts:

  • 31% say best friend in Asia is China, 28% Japan, 12% Singapore. I wonder how Kiwis would answer that question?
  • 65% say acceptable for Australia to spy on China, and 51% say on New Zealand.
  • The biggest critical threats to Australia’s vital interests are terrorism 65%, nuclear proliferation 64%, Iran’s nuclear programme 53%, cyber attacks 51%, asylum seekers 48%, climate change 46%
  • 71% support the Government turning back boats, when safe to do so. 59% support off shore processing. 42% support an outright ban on asylum seekers coming by boat being allowed to settle in Australia
  • Given a polar choice, 53% would choose a good democracy and 42% a strong economy if it is one but not the other.
  • 52% say alliance with US is very important and 78% say very or fairly important
  • On a warmth scale from 0 to 100, NZ is country Australians feel most warm about at 84 degrees. North Korea is bottom at 29 degrees. Obviously Gareth Morgan needs to do a tour of Australia extolling how great they are. Canada is 81, US 71, France 71, Japan 67, China 60.
  • Only 22% say Australia should be its current population of 23 million, or less. 42% say target should be 30 million, and 34% say 40 million or more.
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The Australian Budget

May 14th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Australian Budget yesterday was a great example of what happens when previous Governments don’t get spending under control and the deficit gets so large.

As we are about to hit surplus. Australia has a $30 billion deficit.

Some of the Government Budget decisions include:

  • The government will axe 16,500 jobs over three years, by cutting 230 bureaucratic programs and 70 government agencies.
  • A temporary tax increase on those earning over $180,000
  • A cut in tertiary education subsidies by 20%
  • A lower repayment threshold and higher interest rate on student loans
  • Increase in pension age to 70
  • A part charge for seeing a GP

 

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Maybe Australia needs some welfare reform also

May 12th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Adelaide Advertiser reports:

The Advertiser revealed on Thursday that there are a whopping 7313 Australians who receive the disabled pension but don’t live in Australia.

Many of them live in holiday destinations such as Bali and Thailand, where the $813 dollars they receive from the taxpayer every fortnight goes much further in the form of rupiah or baht.

More than 1200 of them are in Greece, nursing the kind of injuries which are so permanently debilitating that they apparently prevent them from ever re-entering the workforce, yet not from jumping on a 30-hour economy class flight to Europe and a ferry ride to the island of their choice.

Almost 1000 of them are over the ditch in New Zealand, just a stone’s throw from the country which is kindly subsidising their existence. …

The purse for this largesse is sizeable, coming in at $99.9 million a year. And at a time when the nation has been put on notice that the age of entitlement is over, it is a stellar example of how witless governments are when it comes to reining in unjustifiable drains on revenue, yet so adept at creating new streams of revenue by launching another assault on the people who are actually working.

The way it works now is an insult to people with genuine and permanent disabilities, exploding as it has from 500,000 to 800,000 recipients in less than two decades, its annual bill careening towards $15 billion.

The rule of thumb for government should be to provide generous support for those who genuinely cannot work.

It should also involve the ruthless denial of assistance to those who simply choose not to work, and who hide behind confected conditions to opt out of a contributive life, even heading overseas to bludge in a more agreeable climate where the beers are cheaper.

A good summary those last two paragraphs.

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The Australian fiscal crisis

May 2nd, 2014 at 9:13 am by David Farrar

Australia gives us a good picture of what NZ might be facing if we had continued with massing increases in spending, as proposed by Labour.

Australia, like NZ once did, faces a structural or permanent deficit. Turning it around will not be a quick thing. An Audit Commission has just identified 86 ways to reduce spending by $70 billion a year – which would get the Government back into surplus by 2023.

The recommendations are large, and many will not be politically palatable. They include:

  • End of universal health care and a $15 charge for doctors visits
  • Cutting 15,000 public service jobs and selling state-owned assets
  • Slower rollout of the NDIS and raising the pension age to 70, while including the family home in means testing for the aged pension.
  • Abolish seven Commonwealth agencies, merge 35 and privatise nine
  • Reject paid parental leave in favour of focusing on child care
  • Strip the dole from young unemployed people who don’t move to areas with jobs and freeze the minimum wage for 10 years

As I said, some quite unpalatable. But both the Government and the Opposition will have to produce their own policies on how to get back into surplus.

Meanwhile in NZ, we will hopefully have a Budget in three weeks showing a return to surplus next year.

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A bottle of Grange ends O’Farrell’s premiership

April 16th, 2014 at 2:15 pm by Jadis

Well the Duke and Duchess are touching down in Australia amidst a political storm.  Barry O’Farrell, Premier of New South Wales has just resigned. O’Farrell’s statement to media says:

“I’ve been advised overnight that this morning at ICAC a thank you note from me in relation to the bottle of wine will be presented. I still can’t recall the receipt of a gift of a bottle of 1959 Grange, I can’t explain what happened to that bottle of wine. But I do accept that there is a thank you note signed by me and as someone who believes in accountability, in responsibility, I accept the consequences of my actions.

“The evidence I gave to the independent commission against corruption yesterday was evidence to the best of my knowledge. I believe it to be truthful and as I said yesterday it’s important that citizens deal with police, deal with the courts and deal with watchdogs like ICAC in a truthful fashion.

“In no way did I seek to mislead, wilfully or otherwise, the Independent Commission Against Corruption. But this has clearly been a significant memory fail on my part, albeit within weeks of coming to office, but I accept the  consequences of my actions. And that is that as soon as I can organise a meeting of the parliamentary Liberal party for next week I will be resigning the position and enabling a new Liberal leader to be elected, someone who will then become the Premier of NSW.

“Whilst I’m sure you have questions, I don’t think this is the time for those questions to be dealt with. There will be other occasions for those questions to be dealt with. But what’s important here is that again I’m seeking to support  the process of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, a body that I’ve always supported throughout my career. I’ve accepted that I’ve had a massive memory fail, I still can’t explain either the arrival of a gift that I have no recollection of or its absence, which I certainly still can’t fathom.   “But I accept the consequences. In an orderly way, a new leader will be elected to take on the position of Premier of NSW.”

So it was the bottle (wherever it may be) and his own thank you note that did it.

o'farrell note

Now the fun part.  Who will be the next Premier?  My pick is Mike Baird.

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Japan loses

March 31st, 2014 at 11:00 pm by David Farrar

Australia (with support from New Zealand) has won against Japan in the International Court of Justice with a 12-4 ruling that Japan’s whaling programme is not scientific research and it has stated that Japan should not issue any further permits.

The decisions of the ICJ are final and can not be appealed. Of course a state could refuse to implement them, but the reputational loss would be massive.

Japan may halt their whaling programme entirely, or try and create a new “scientific” programme in the future. It has been suggested in the past that they wanted to end it anyway, but didn’t want to be seen giving into the quasi-terrorism of Sea Shepherd. So hopefully they will accept the court ruling, abandon the pretense that the whaling was for scientific purposes and cease operations. That would be a good thing.

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Two state elections this weekend

March 12th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Two state elections this weekend in Australia – South Australia and Tasmania.

If Labor lose office in both elections then they will be out of power in every state and at the federal level. Their one hold out will be the Australian Capital Territory.

In South Australia they currently have 26 out of 44 seats.  The latest TPP poll has the Coalition 8% ahead which could see Labor lose as many as 11 seats.

In Tasmania the Liberals are on 47%, Labor 24% and Greens 18%. The current projections are Labor to go from 10 to six seats, Liberals from 10 to 14, Greens from five to four and Palmer from zero to one.

Tasmania will be especially interesting as Labor have been in power for so long there, but the Labor-Greens coalition Government became massively unpopular with voters and the backlash looks like it will be significant.

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A royal commission into union corruption in Australia

February 12th, 2014 at 6:38 am by David Farrar

News.com.au reports:

THE GOVERNMENT today announced a well-funded royal commission which will spend at least 12 months probing trade union secrets and corruption in the building industry going back a quarter of a century.

The inquiry into building industry and union criminal practices will be a sword cutting both ways, the Government said today in a warning to both trade unions and employers.

The powerful royal commission by former High Court judge John Dyson Heydon will highlight dodgy deals which Attorney-General George Brandis today said were “widespread, systemic and ingrained across a range of institutions”.

Findings would be passed on to police for possible prosecutions.

Employment Minister Eric Abetz said: “This is a sword that will cut both ways and we are determined to ensure that the rule of law exists in our construction sector.”

This is well overdue. Almost every week there has been a story detailing more corrupt activity in certain Australian unions, with prosecutions occurring in some high profile cases. The problem seems systemic, not just about a few isolated individuals.

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The flip side of protectionism

February 5th, 2014 at 6:31 am by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins at Stuff reports:

Spurred on by an aggressive Buy Australia campaign, the big Australian supermarkets are systematically stripping their shelves of New Zealand-produced goods sold under their ‘‘house brand’’ labels, in a move that threatens hundreds of millions  of dollars worth of exports.

Now hands up all those who have been saying that we should have a Buy NZ campaign, and that the NZ Government should only deal with NZ companies?

Protectionism is bad for New Zealand. Consumers pay more, and exporters get shut out.

Key will raise the issue in his meeting with Abbott in Sydney this week and it is understood the Government has received advice the move could be in breach of the decades-old Closer Economic Relations agreement with Australia.

One option would be for the Government to lodge a formal objection but sources say the situation is complicated by the fact that CER is a government-to-government agreement, and it is not ‘‘straight forward’’ whether supermarkets are captured by that process.

With respect, I think it is straight forward. Private supermarkets are not captured. CER is an agreement between Governments.

Labour’s economic development spokesman Shane Jones said  it was ‘‘essential’’ Key raise the plight of New Zealand food producers who were being ‘‘monstered’’ by the Australian supermarkets, who controlled 80 per cent of the market.

‘‘They are victimising Kiwi businesses and have created a culture of fear and menace. I have been told New Zealand food producers were warned not to complain about their poor treatment publicly or they would be blacklisted.’’

Is this the same Labour Party that has spent five years insisting that the New Zealand Government should discriminate against Australian businesses, and only let NZ companies win tenders? Isn’t it hypocrisy to complain when Australian businesses do exactly what they advocate?

My consistent view is that quality and price, rather than country of origin, are what you should decide things on. Only if the quality and price are identical or at least similar, should you then take into account country of origin.

But Woolworths Australia is a private company. If they think their customers want to pay more for inferior Australian food, then they can decide to use Australian suppliers only. I think it is a bad business decision, but it is their decision to make.

Where there could be an issue under CER is if the Australian Government is encouraging such protectionism. But I’ve not seen any details in this story that states they are.

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NZ vs Australia economy

February 3rd, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

News Ltd economics reporter Jessica Irvine writes:

Our sporting teams may be locked in bitter rivalry: Wallabies vs. All Blacks; Diamonds vs. Silver Ferns.

But in the battle for economic supremacy, New Zealand is set to reign supreme.

While the Australian economy dominated over the past two decades, the tables are turning.

Australia survived the GFC with our two decade unbroken growth record intact, while New Zealand plunged into a year and a half long recession, before a deadly earthquake levelled its second biggest city of Christchurch in 2011.

But things have turned a corner for the New Zealand economy, says Saul Eslake, the chief economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

“The situation has now changed. As we move into 2014 the New Zealand economy does so gathering momentum whereas the Australian economy is clearly limping and will continue to do so,” Eslake explains.

And the migration patterns are changing.

Could the flood of New Zealanders to our shores be about to reverse?

Better jobs prospects at home are already reducing migration flows to Australia, says Eslake.

“I think that is already evident in NZ’s own migration patterns, which show net emigration having fallen quite significantly.”

New Zealand’s economy expanded 3.5 per cent over the year to last September, outpacing growth in the Australian economy of just 2.3 per cent.

As a result, getting a job in Australia is getting harder while getting a job in New Zealand is getting easier.

New Zealand’s jobless rate dropped sharply from 7.2 per cent to 6.2 per cent, while Australia’s climbed from 5.4 per cent to 5.8 per cent.

Hopefully our rate will drop below 6%.

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Guest Post: Blake Crayton-Brown on Liberal Democratic Party Senator-elect David Leyonhjelm

October 9th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

David Leyonhjelm has been elected to the Australian Senate representing the libertarian leaning Liberal Democratic Party. Blake Crayton-Brown has interviewed him and written a profile of him:

Having received over 9.5% of the Senate vote in New South Wales, the Liberal Democratic Party’s David Leyonhjelm has won election to the Australian Senate, with his six year term to begin next July. The 61-year-old agribusiness consultant and former vet has at different times in his life been a member of both the Labor and Liberal parties and doesn’t hesitate in identifying himself as a libertarian. I spoke recently to David and he was candid about his expectations of the new Parliament and the difficulties he has faced getting the party’s message out.

With the balance of power in the Senate swinging from The Greens to a disparate group of minor parties (including three Senators from the Palmer United Party), David recognises that he and his fellow crossbenchers will have a significant degree of leverage. Although he feels that the Liberals ‘are still in denial’ about needing his vote, he imagines that the Coalition will want to keep as much of the crossbench on side as possible. He won’t rule out wandering off and supporting Labor and The Greens from time to time, arguing that as one person, the best way for him to make a difference is by leveraging the fact that the Government needs his vote.

David is optimistic about being able to work constructively with his fellow crossbenchers and has already spoken with SA independent Nick Xenophon. He hopes that the crossbench can be reasonably pragmatic so that even if they have to take small steps back at times, they’ll ‘take big steps forward’. Unlike many libertarians I’ve encountered in New Zealand and Australia, he clearly understands the need to pick his battles, understands practical politics and has himself vowed to be practical.

Having seen the difficulties faced by the Act Party following its confidence and supply agreement with National in New Zealand, David wants to avoid the LDP getting into a position where it is limited in its ability to criticise the Government. Vowing to ‘well and truly’ vote against any ‘egregious statist sins’ the Coalition Government may entertain, the LDP is seeking to make it clear that ‘the Government is the Government and that we’re the Liberal Democrats and they’re not the same thing’. Despite wanting to make such a distinction, David feels there is ‘a degree of sympathy’ within the Liberal Party for the LDP’s small government position and thinks they may even be able to set the agenda at times, not unlike the Act Party taking the lead on charter schools.

The LDP advocates for what it terms ‘free immigration agreements’ such as the arrangement between Australia and New Zealand – David explaining that he doesn’t believe that such agreements should have to conform to a ‘cookie cutter formula’ and sees no reason why New Zealanders in Australia shouldn’t be eligible to entitlements that Australians can receive in New Zealand. Although he doesn’t want to see people bleeding in the streets and is in favour of some emergency assistance being available, David’s general principle would see non-citizens ineligible for welfare unless under a free immigration agreement with reciprocal arrangements.

Describing himself as ‘kind of a home grown first principles libertarian’ he says he has resented being told what to do his whole life and that ‘as my wife will attest, the best way to get me to do the opposite is to tell me I have to do something’. Having failed to register for national service, he says he would have been subject to automatic call-up if the Government hadn’t changed in 1972. David says it was ‘just reprehensible that people could be dragged off against their will into the military, even without the fact that they might then get sent off to Vietnam and shot’. It was such a ‘loathsome’ example of government compulsion that he considers it the first real influence on his political philosophy. Although citing John Stuart Mill and more recently, Milton Freidman as influences, it’s evident that it is his own experiences that have most significantly shaped his outlook. David pointed out that he remembers when abortion was illegal and when people he knew had to battle abortion laws to have choice. He’s frustrated that smoking marijuana is still illegal when ‘we all did it when we were youngsters’ and that police are still ‘running around the place pretending that they’re doing something useful for society by arresting people with marijuana in their possession’. It’s absurd he says.

I asked him about the media coverage he and the LDP had received around the election and whether he was concerned about gaining a reputation as ‘the gun-slinging Senator’ given that a significant amount of coverage focused on the firearms policies. David explained that a week or so before the election, the Liberal Party in NSW panicked, thinking the LDP would ‘steal the seat off their guy Arthur Sinodinos’ who was ranked third on the Coalition ticket. He says that the Coalition decided they needed to head off the LDP’s vote, ‘so they went to the media, friendly sources in the media and said we’d like you to do something about this party with the word Liberal in its name’. He says The Daily Telegraph then published photos of him and the party president advocating firearm change laws with the intention of discouraging people from voting for them by accident because they were first on the ticket. David says that after the election, ‘the media was all over me like a rash’ with their agenda already set by the newspaper ‘which said we’re basically gun nuts’. Despite trying to interest the press in the LDP’s policies on low tax, reduced expenditure and fiscal responsibility, what appeared most in the news were invariably his answers to the questions on guns. Although David is a fierce advocate for reform to firearms laws, he equally doesn’t want the LDP to be known only as the party that supports more liberal gun laws.

In an unpredictable looking Senate crossbench, the LDP’s first ever elected federal member looks set to be both a blessing and a curse for the Abbott Government. Having sworn not to vote for measures that will increase taxation or reduce freedom, David has drawn a line in the sand ahead of his dealings with the Coalition. Provided he sticks to his principles and doesn’t gain a reputation as ‘the Senator for guns’, David Leyonhjelm could well be the first homegrown figurehead for a libertarian renaissance in Australia. It no longer seems one can write off the Liberal Democratic Party.

I think it is great Australia has a libertarian Senator (after July 2014). Would be good to have more libertarian-leaning MPs in the New Zealand Parliament.

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Coalition looks set to win three more seats

September 14th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The ABC is now forecasting that the Coalition will win 92 seats, up from 89 on election night. Labor is down to 54. That is barely above the worst predictions under Gillard.

Shorten and Labo are standing for the Labor leadership. There is a rumour that Rudd thinks the next election is unwinnable, and he will stay on so he can try for the leadership again after 2016! It is ironic that Shorten, the former ACTU boss, is placed in the right faction of Labor. Could you imagine a trade union boss in NZ being seen to be on teh right of a Labour caucus? :-)

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The Australian Senate

September 9th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The AFR reports:

The ABC’s Antony Green is forecasting a Senate with 33 Liberal/National seats, 25 Labor, 10 Greens, one Democratic Labour Party and seven “others”.

The counting in the Senate can take up to four weeks but at the moment those “others” are Democratic Liberal Party in NSW, Palmer United Party in Queensland and Tasmania, Independent Nick Xenophon and a Family First candidate in South Australia, Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party in Victoria and Australian Sports Party in Western Australia.

So, even though the Liberals haven’t gained control of the Senate, they will have a conservative right-leaning cross bench who will support his aim of getting rid of the carbon and mining tax.

What a mess. They will be able to pass laws, but imagine the trade offs. The motoring party and the sports party! Their Senate STV voting system is pretty fucked. The number of first preference votes for the Australian Sports Party in WA was 225 out of a million!

You need 39 votes to pass the Senate, so they need six out of seven independents. Would be worse if they needed all seven as each one could hold out for the maximum pork.

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Under new management

September 8th, 2013 at 6:24 am by David Farrar

Tony Abbott declared last night that Australia is now under new management and open for business. The Coalition have won with one of the largest margins in recent times – yet no a total bloodbath.

The latest ABC projection is Coalition 89 (+10), Labor 51 (-10), Greens 1 (nc), Independents 2 (-2). That is just below the 1996 result for Howard where they got 94 seats.

By state it was like this:

  • ACT – Labor 2 (nc)
  • NSW – Libs 21 (+5), Nats 7 (+3), Labor 18 (-6), Independents 0 (-2)
  • NT – Country Libs 1 (nc), Labor 1 (nc)
  • Queensland – LNP 21 (nc), Labor 7 (-1), Palmer 1 (+1), Katter 1 (+1)
  • South Australia Libs 6 (+1), Lab 5 (-1)
  • Tasmania Libs 3 (+3), Labor 1 (-3), Ind 1 (nc)
  • Victoria Libs 15 (+3), Nats 2 (nc), Labor 19 (-3), Greens 1 (nc)
  • WA – Libs 12 (+1), Nats 0 (-1), Labor 3 (nc)

Still a dozen seats in play so these may change.

The primary vote has been Coalition 45.3% (+1.6%), Labor 33.8% (-4.1%), Greens 8.4% (-3.3%), Palmer United 5.6% (+5.6%), Family First 1.3% (-0.9%), Katter 1.0% (+0.7%).

Kevin Rudd’s concession speech was terrible. Long, rambling, resembling a victory speech, all about him and disgracefully not once did he mention Julia Gillard. He talked as if he had been Prime Minister for the last three years. He retained his seat but announced he will not contest the Labor Party leadership. More than one person quipped how they had heard him say that before! But finally it looks like he is gone. I’d say Bill Shorten is the likely new leader, but time will tell.

Time will also tell how Tony Abbott will do. A prediction that one day Abbott will be PM in 2007 would have seen you laughed out of the room. He has run a disciplined campaign and team over the last four or so years. However it was very much a rejection of Labor than an endorsement of Abbott. They have a large enough majority that I’d expect they’ll serve at least two terms.

The tight preferencing between minor parties appears to have delivered them a lot of Senate seats, so that will be a major challenge for the Abbott Government.

Also Clive Palmer has got elected to the House. He appears to be stark raving mad, so that also adds an unpredictable factor.

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2013 Australian election thread

September 7th, 2013 at 7:14 pm by David Farrar

The exit polls to date show there will clearly be a change of Government. Roy Morgan currently has it as:

  • Coalition 42.5%
  • ALP 33.5%
  • Greens 11.5%
  • Palmer 5.0%

On a TPP basis they have Coalition 52% to 48%. That would see the Coalition with 83 seats to 60. If Palmer preferences go more strongly towards the Coalition then they say it is 53.5% to 46.5% and 88 seats to 59.

The Sky News/Newspoll exit poll has it 53% to 47% for the Coalition TPP and projects Coalition 97 seats (+25), Labor 51 seats (-21), Greens 0 (-1) and Independents 2 (-3). Their primary vote is Coalition 45%, Labor 36%, Greens 8%.

These are just exit polls. Actual results should start around 8 pm. It is possible that Labor could lose every seat in Queensland including Rudd’s. His seat is being tagged too close to call on the exit poll. Do remember that exit polls can of course be wrong if they are taken in unrepresentative polling booths. Also seat projections are based on linear swings, and normally there is considerable variability from one seat to another in how much they swing. So don’t jump to any conclusions before we actually get some results in.

I’ll try to update this post when there is significant news, but will mainly be tweeting.

UPDATE: And it’s all over. Sky News now has it Coalition 76 and Labor 46. Abbott is now PM-Elect!

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