CIS says Australia has given up

May 25th, 2015 at 12:15 pm by David Farrar

The Centre for Independent Studies looks at the Australian Budget and isn’t impressed:

In Budget 2015, the government has waved the white flag on attempts to reduce the size of the state. It has given in to the vested interests calling for your tax dollars.

The budget is littered with references to the fairness of paying more tax, and hands out government largesse to the middle class. It is little wonder that government spending is at almost record high levels. Excluding the 2009-10 budget at the height of the GFC, government spending as a percentage of GDP is at its highest level since the recession in the early nineties. Net debt will exceed $300 billion inside two years and gross debt will now peak at nearly $600 billion — and that’s if we are lucky.

The government’s so-called credible path to surplus is built on artificial assumptions of a return of economic good times and rising tax revenue through bracket creep. Spending remains far above the level of the Howard government. It is even above the level of the Gillard / Rudd governments. It is disappointing that those in charge no longer believe in the benefits of small government.

In NZ spending as a % of GDP is dropping. It peaked around 35% and is now around 30%. I think 25% would be a good level to end up at.

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Australian Treasurer on NZ economy

May 11th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey writes:

APPARENTLY preparations are under way across the ditch for a Kiwi ­national “parity party” to ­celebrate when the New Zealand dollar reaches the same value as the Australian dollar.

Now we don’t need a national day of mourning over here, but we do need to look at how New Zealand has been able to put in place structural reforms that will promote ­future growth in their economy.

New Zealand has been busy making the difficult decisions for their future. As a result they have falling unemployment, rising living standards and a Budget that is coming into surplus.

And near zero inflation.

In contrast, Australia has a ­Budget that is still operating on the presumption of a never-ending ­mining boom.

Previous governments locked in spending that didn’t consider that there might be a fall in revenue from declining mining investment and much lower global commodity ­prices.

As a result of falling revenue and ever-increasing expenditure, we are currently spending $100 million a day more than we collect.

NZ took decisions to reduce the deficits, and head back to surplus. If Australia continues to borrow $100 million a day, then the interest on their debt will make it even harder to balance the books one day.

With that money we could build 40 kilometres of new road, or two brand new high schools, every day and in a week, you would get a brand new major teaching hospital. Instead, we are borrowing this money just to pay our day-to-day bills.

The opportunity cost of not getting spending under control.

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Australian deficit projected to hit $45 billion

May 4th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Adelaide Now reports:

AUSTRALIA is facing deficits “as far as the eye can see’’ and next week’s Federal Budget is likely to be $41 billion in the red, respected economic forecasters have predicted.

The 2015-16 budget is likely to include a $41.3 billion deficit — a $14 billion deterioration since the December update, according to a report by Deloitte Access Economics to be released on Monday. The underlying cash deficit would be $45.3 billion.

And because of the Senate, the Government can’t get through policy changes to reduce the deficit. It may be a very long time until Australia gets back into surplus.

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The great Australian experiment

April 28th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

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It is hard to think of a bigger proven disaster, than that of the Australian Labor Party’s boats policy. People will recall how John Howard’s hardline on asylum seekers arriving by boat with hated by the liberal left in Australia. They demanded an end to it, and when Labor won in 2007, they scrapped it.

You can see above what happened. The scrapping of Howard’s policy saw an exponential growth of people trying to arrive by boat. Not a 100% increase or even 1,000% increase but a 10,000% increase. Before they did a u-turn in 2013, the number had grown from around 10 people a month to 4,000.

But that was not the worst impact of Labor’s policy. It was the death toll. Their policy change may have been well intentioned, but it incentivised desperate people to pay thousands of dollars to people smugglers to try and get them into Australia onto unsafe boats. The so called humane policy turned out to be a lethal policy.

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When say two or three civilians die in an overseas war zone, some are quick to say the Government is responsible for their deaths. Well what do you can it when a Government policy led to almost 1,200 human beings being killed. And not a quick death, but probably an awful panic stricken event as their boats sink in the middle of an ocean, and they slowly drown or freeze.

Sometimes correlation is not causation, but in this case it clearly is. Note that since the change of Government, there has not been a single drowning at sea, and the level of asylum seekers arriving by boats has fallen by a massive 99%.

Greg Sheridan in The Australian noted:

While Australia will still be one of the most generous societies in the world to refugees, they will arrive in an orderly and lawful manner and be chosen by Australian authorities.

Australia has the highest refugee quota per capita in the world.

The Abbott government will neither confirm nor deny the numbers, but in the past four weeks some five boats have been turned around or towed back towards Indonesia.

Operational secrecy has been central to the success so far.

Operationally, turning boats back is even more effective than transferring people to Manus or Nauru.

The arrival of people in Manus and Nauru often still triggers final payment for the people-smugglers, who continue to tell their customers that people housed on those islands will eventually get to Australia.

Failed illegal arrivals who return to Indonesia, on the other hand, demand their money back and tell everyone they know that the mission was a flop. Even if the boat is sound and the crew competent, they are met by the Australian navy and kept out of Australia.

And so the people smugglers are out of work, and you don’t get hundreds drowning out at sea.

Meanwhile, Australia continues to have, per capita, the largest permanent refugee resettlement program in the world. But these refugees are not self-selected nor chosen by illegal people-smugglers – they are all genuine refugees, and none of them drowns on the way here.

Exactly.

It is a salient reminder that good intentions are not enough. Bad policy can lead to people dying. Promoting biofuels for example led to mass starvations as third world nations changed their land from food production to biofuels. And taking a soft approach on boat arrivals led to an exponential increase in boats, and hundreds drowning at sea.

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Stanley

April 16th, 2015 at 4:19 pm by David Farrar

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This is one of the views from the top of The Nut in Stanley. We only popped in there to grab a bite on the way to Smithton, but were very glad we did. They have a chairlift up to the top of The Nut, which is basically a flat mountain. You can then do a two km loop around the top, getting great views in every direction.

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A very tranquil area.

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Can just see some of Stanley below. It is a small 500 population tourist town – a few souvenir shops and cafes.

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The lobster at the Stanley Hotel attracted us in. Very reasonably priced, and very nice for lunch.

 

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Cataract Gorge

April 15th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

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A must visit if if the north of Tasmania is Cataract Gorge at Launceston.

It was created around 1899 as a Victorian garden. There are two cafes, a like, outdoor swimming pool, large grass area, and lots of trails and lookouts.

Also a chairlift to take you from one side to the other.

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A view from the far side at the top of the Inclinator.

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There’s around 20 peacocks all around the main cafe. They literally walk around the tables, hoping for food.

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And in one of the playgrounds, you can see wallabies.

They have walks ranging from 5 minutes to 90 minutes to various dams and bridges. Liked it so much, we went there twice.

 

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Mole Creek Caves

April 14th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

If you’re in Tasmania, the Mole Creek Caves are worth checking out. There are three different caves you can tour – we did two of them.

The Underground Rivers cave has a huge amount of stalagmites (might reach the roof) and stalactites (hangs tight off the roof).  Some narrow passages as you head in and down.

The Great Cathedral cave has you climb over 60 metres to a huge cavern known as the Great Cathedral.  More colours in this one.

They both have the same entrance, with a large amount of glow worms.

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Trowunna Wildlife Park

April 13th, 2015 at 4:05 pm by David Farrar

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Popped into Trowunna Wildlife Park last week. It’s near Mole Creek, up in the North Western area of Tasmania, where we were mainly staying.

A cute Tasmanian Devil having a laze.

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Not so cute when they are feeding!

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A quoll, sort of a cousin of the devil.

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A determined bird.

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These are Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagles. They’re huge. They can kill prey several times their own weight.

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Sorry, we had no food for him!

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Or for him!

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The kangaroos and wallabies are in the main park area, and you can pat them.

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An Echidna. A type of an eater.

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Quite a few birds there.

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A wombat.

It’s a fairly small compact park, but as you can see a reasonable variety of species native to Tasmania. Well worth a visit.

 

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Port Arthur and Tasman

April 8th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

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Spending a few days in Tasmania visiting some of my GF’s family, who have moved here. We had a couple of days in Hobart so decided to drive south to the Tasman Peninsula and Port Arthur.

This beach is where the dogline was at Eaglehawk Neck – the only connection to the mainland and 30 metres wide. They had 13 vicious dogs here who would catch escaped prisoners.

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A blowhole at the Tasman Peninsula.

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Some great formations made over the centuries by the elements.

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And great views of the peninsula.

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Then we got to Port Arthur, where you go out by boat, giving you this view of the old prison.

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Many will remember the mass shooting by Martin Bryant in 1996. He killed 35 and wounded 25 more. He may be insane but he picked his area well, in that there would be very few places in Australia with so many people in one place, yet scores of miles from the Police.

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It is a beautiful and now tranquil area, despite its history.

Thousands of prisoners were kept here, ranging from actual criminals, to political prisoners to paupers to the insane.

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Today there are no prisoners, but lots of birds.

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A lovely view from up at the Commandant’s House.

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It takes around three to four hours to get around all the buildings, grounds and houses.

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The prison areas are just part of what is there. They have many old houses from the convict and post-convict eras where the doctor or priest etc would live.

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Remains of an old church.

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The Gardens.

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And the fountain at the centre of the gardens.

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Tryout out the shackles for size.

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And driving home, I loved these road signs of the Tasmanian Devils. And you do actually see a few at night.

 

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Parity in sight?

April 7th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

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The NZ dollar got to 99.8 vs the Australian dollar yesterday. Parity may not be far off. Even in the days before we floated the dollar, we were not at parity. The Reserve Bank data goes back to 1973 when we almost made parity. Since 1993 we’ve been at least 75 cents but never over 95 cents until recent months.

As I’m currently in Australia, it’s great basically not having to convert prices.

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Coalition re-elected in NSW

March 29th, 2015 at 4:16 pm by David Farrar

As expected, an easy win for the Coalition in NSW. Labor picked up some seats after their defeat last time, but didn’t really come close. The Greens are starting to gain traction, winning several seats.

It looks like Coalition 53, Labor 32, Greens 4 and two Independents So they can pass things 53-38 which is comfortable.

 

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Let Russell become an Aussie!

March 27th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Crowe, 50, was born in Welington, but his family moved to Australia in 1968 when he was four. He first raised the issue in 2013, claiming that “apparently I fall between the cracks”.

Those cracks are a section of immigration law that demand that he must have been resident in Australia on February 26, 2001 (he wasn’t) or have spent 12 months here in the preceding two years (due to filming and promotional commitments for Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind, he hadn’t). 

I call on all patriotic NZers to support Russell in his quest to become an Aussie, even if it needs a law change.

However, the Department of Immigration has told Fairfax it has no record of either Mr Crowe’s applications or its alleged rejections.

“According to Departmental records, Mr Crowe has not submitted an application for a permanent visa or for Australian citizenship,” the department said in a written response to questions.

“Should Mr Crowe apply for and be granted a permanent visa, there are a variety of options that he may use to meet the eligibility requirements, including the residence requirements.” 

It would help if he actually applied, but again I think he deserves a special dispensation to be made Australian, even without an application.

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Abbott on terrorism

February 25th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has flagged a tougher stance on hate preaching and warned Australian citizenships could be revoked as he spelled out the worsening terrorist threat to the nation.

The Prime Minister outlined a number of steps to tackle terrorism in a speech at the Australian Federal Police headquarters in Canberra.

“The terrorist threat is rising at home and abroad and it’s becoming harder to combat,” Abbott said.

To date, 110 Australians have travelled overseas to join Isis (Islamic State), with 30 returning and at least 20 dead.

However, Abbott said there were at least 140 Isis supporters in Australia and the country faced a real risk of Australians returning as “hardened jihadists” intent on radicalising others.

Since September when the national terrorist threat level was lifted to “high” – meaning a terrorist attack is likely – 20 people have been arrested and charged.

Spy agency ASIO has more than 400 “high priority” counter-terrorism investigations under way – more than double the number a year ago.

Under changes to be brought in this year, returning foreign fighters will be prosecuted or monitored under control orders and could lose their citizenship and welfare benefits.

“Australians who take up arms with terrorist groups, especially while Australian military personnel are engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq, have sided against their country and should be treated accordingly,” Abbott said.

A national counter-terrorism co-ordinator will be appointed and the states will be included in the national strategy.

Abbott named the group Hizb ut-Tahrir as being among the organisations that will be targeted for “blatantly spreading discord and division”.

“The Government will be taking action against hate preachers,” he said.

 

I’m not sure the problem is Australians going to fight for the Islamic State. The problem is them returning!

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How NZ PMs have left office

February 9th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Antony Green of ABC blogged an interesting list of how each Australian Pm has left office. 11 have been defeated at an election, six defeated in Parliament, six deposed by their party, three retired, three died in office three were temporary and one sacked by a Governor-General.

I thought I would do the same for New Zealand Prime Ministers. I’ve only done those from Seddon onwards. The list is:

Defeated at Election (11)

  • Gordon Coates
  • George Forbes
  • Peter Fraser
  • Keith Holyoake (1)
  • Walter Nash
  • Jack Marshall
  • Bill Rowling
  • Robert Muldoon
  • Mike Moore
  • Jenny Shipley
  • Helen Clark

Died (4)

  • Richard Seddon
  • William Massey
  • Michael Joseph Savage
  • Norman Kirk

Deposed by Party (4)

  • Keith Holyoake (2) (effectively)
  • David Lange (effectively)
  • Geoffrey Palmer
  • Jim Bolger

Some may dispute if Holoyoake and Lange were deposed. I go for form over substance. They both wanted to carry on but had lost confidence, even if no formal vote.

Defeated in Parliament (2)

  • Joseph Ward (1) (effectively)
  • Thomas Mackenzie

One could dispute Ward but he resigned as he was facing a confidence motion, and his successor lost a confidence vote months later.

Resigned for ill health (2)

  • Joseph Ward (2)
  • Sidney Holland

Temporary (2)

  • William Hall-Jones
  • Francis Bell

Still in office (1)

  • John Key
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Australian Quotes of 2014

December 21st, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Tim Blair presents some of his favourite quotes from 2014:

  • “This country is going to cook and people are going to die.” – Greens senator Scott Ludlam.
  • “The next time a woman dies at the hands of a violent partner and we read with trembling hearts that she could not get any legal help to stop that partner, we will be able to sheet the cause of death to Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey.” – Fairfax’s Jenna Price.
  • “China’s shift towards capitalism creates inequality and anger.” – The ABC’s unique analysis of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
  • “Thats my boy!” – Australian jihadist Khaled Sharrouf rejoices over a photograph of his young son holding the head of a dead Syrian soldier.
  • “Our best defence is of course our cultured reason. Our tolerance. Our audacious confidence in the fundamental goodness of others.” – The ABC’s Jonathan Green solves terrorism.
  • “In NZ we are very worried about a potential influx of Australians, you know, escaping heat waves and lack of water and infectious diseases.” – University of Otago climate scientist Simon Hales.
  • “It demonises people.” – Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson would prefer that we do not refer to terrorists as terrorists.
  • “Do you want death or do you want coal?” – Greens leader Christine Milne.

It’s a pity we don’t record the stupidest quotes here. Here’s a good one from the UK:

Prof Lorraine Gamman, director of the University of the Arts London’s Design Against Crime Research Centre, said cracking down on graffiti stifled creativity and denied young people an important form of expression.

Barf.

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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.

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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.

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