Saturday, 13 February 2010

Will the cover-up catch Garrett?

POLITICS AND ECONOMICS


Insulation

Garrett holds on to safety report – Embattled Environment Minister Peter Garrett has refused to immediately release a safety risk assessment on the government's insulation rebate program, prepared by lawyers from Minter Ellison early last year – Melbourne Age

Four deaths. 86 fires. Just what will it take, Mr Garrett? - Minister Peter Garrett yesterday insisted his job was safe, despite a soaring tally of disasters from his ceiling insulation program increasing demands for his dismissal – Sydney Daily Telegraph

Joyce avoids laying blame – Barnaby Joyce has given some comfort to Peter Garrett by saying the Environment Minister is ''not personally responsible in any way, shape or form'' for the four deaths associated with the government's ceiling insulation program – Melbourne Age

Roof insulation blamed for 20 house fires in WA - Dodgy roof insulation has caused 20 house fires in WA since the Federal Government began its troubled cash for batts scheme, new figures show. Details of the spate of fires were confirmed as Environment Minister Peter Garrett continued to reject calls to resign – The West Australian

'The only guidance we were given was to get a ruler' – Lorne McCulloch has a low opinion of the federal government's $2.45 billion home insulation scheme. Mr McCulloch may have a better idea than most. As well as fitting insulation, he worked as a government auditor checking installations at more than 100 properties across the state. But the 42-year-old says the inspection process is seriously flawed, with auditors not told what types of insulation are allowed and given just five hours' training – Sydney Morning Herald

Garrett's roofing fire admission – Peter Garrett has admitted his troubled $2.5 billion insulation program has been linked to 86 house fires around the nation as the opposition stepped up calls for him to resign over his handling of the scheme – The Australian

Peter Garrett facing claims imports of roof insulation were 'reeking' of formaldehyde - A Melbourne insulation industry leader, Warrick Batt, said last night he'd raised concerns about formaldehyde in a meeting with the Environment Minister – Melbourne Herald Sun

A sad litany of shocking questions - Three months after an electric shock killed Rueben Barnes in the roof cavity of the steel-framed house, his family -- along with the families of three other victims -- are demanding answers. Why have untrained workers been allowed to do such a potentially dangerous job? Why were metal staples -- implicated in the deaths of two workers -- not banned until November, nine months after the scheme started? And why has foil been banned from the rebate scheme only after hundreds of homes have been rendered potential death traps, despite repeated warnings from the electrical industry and even state government agencies about the risk of electrocution from poorly installed products? – The Australian

Political life

A fateful decision changed it all for Tony Abbott and the Coalition – Dennis Shanahan reveals the moment when Tony Abbott decided to run for the leadership of his party – The Australian

Rudd neglects Qld: Abbott – Tony Abbott has accused Kevin Rudd of forsaking Queensland and leaving it "choking on its own traffic" by failing to properly fund infrastructure – Brisbane Courier Mail

Economic matters

Spend, mend, and defend - Labor's stimulus package has been its proudest boast, yet it is now being used to hammer the government- Sydney Morning Herald

Racism

Victoria in a state of denial - The Foreign Minister has had to step in to help mend the rift with IndiaThe Australian

The politics of violence – Last week, when Amandeep and his brother went to their local pizza shop in St Albans for a takeaway, at about 9pm on Friday, they were confronted by a group of young men carrying bottles of beer and swearing. Drunk men menacing and abusing Indians after dark: a common scene in the western suburbs of a multicultural city once proudly referred to as Marvellous Melbourne – Melbourne Age

Censorship

Porn fans attack website to protest against censorship – A wave of cyber attacks by people protesting against internet censorship shut down the Federal Parliament website for the three days and flooded parliamentary staff with abusive and pornographic spam emails.

Health and hospitals

Doctors shut operating theatres due to leaky roof – Surgeons and anaesthetists at the ailing Hornsby Hospital will shut the operating theatres to all but life-saving cases on rainy days after a senior nurse slipped in a puddle from a leaking roof and shattered her arm last week – Sydney Morning Herald

Crackdown on quacks – Charlatan healers who exploit vulnerable sick people by selling fake balms and rituals will face stiff penalties under new national laws – Melbourne Age

One overworked GP to every 1390 people in rural South Australia - GPS in all but two of the state's health regions are caring for more than 1000 people each and the Riverland, Limestone Coast and Barossa Valley have the highest patient-to-doctor ratios in South AustraliaAdelaide Advertiser

Education

Building bridges for at-risk students hits troubled waters - Many of the 23 high schools that run Hands On Learning programs - in which tradesmen and support staff undertake building projects with their most challenging students - say they lack the money to run it effectively and fear students will drop out – Melbourne Age

Poor readers made to catch bugs – Primary school children with poor reading skills are making bug-catchers in a summer school program run in Queensland with federal government money allocated to improve literacy skills – The Australian

Teacher union slams Julia Gillard's talkfest a waste of time – Julia Gillard's meeting with principals last November, which cost more than $300,000, was a waste of money according to a teachers' union and the Opposition. But the Education Minister said it was a chance to speak to people at the coalface and has pledged to hold more such events – Melbourne Herald Sun

Conventions

Keneally breaks convention and lets accused MP retain position – The Premier, Kristina Keneally, has refused to follow the convention of making frontbenchers stand aside should they come under investigation for corruption or criminal conduct. Under fire for implying that a whistleblower who made allegations against the parliamentary secretary Karyn Paluzzano was ''vexatious'', Ms Keneally denied she had pre-empted the findings of an Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry into the claims – Sydney Morning Herald

Elections

Labor begs forgiveness in Tasmanian election – Labor, facing an uphill battle to win a fourth term in Tasmania, has called an election on March 20, relying on voters to forgive years of scandal for good economic management – Sydney Morning Herald

Tasmanian election an early test of national mood – Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett yesterday fired the starter gun on a state election campaign that promises to be a tight and bruising contest -- and an early barometer of the political mood ahead of the federal poll – The Australian

Tasmania facing hung parliament – Tasmanians have been given five weeks to decide which is riskier: changing to an untested Liberal team that has been a decade out of office or voting for another four years of scandal-scarred Labor – The Australian

Labor starts dirt campaign – The Labor Party has already taken off its gloves in the fledgling Tasmanian election campaign, launching a nasty "spoiler" website. The website is solely aimed at discrediting the Liberal Opposition – Hobart Mercury

$130m pledge for LGH – Premier David Bartlett's first major election spend yesterday was $130 million for the Launceston General HospitalHobart Mercury

$13m plunder of 'pork' fund – The State Government has sucked at least $13 million out of a special fund set aside for preserving historic buildings. Excessive plundering of the $22 million Urban Renewal and Heritage Fund [URHF] by government ministers has raised accusations from the Liberals and Greens that it is being used as a blatant election "slush" fund – Hobart Mercury

When the apprentice takes on the master - Liberal David Clarke is under fire from his own protégé – Sydney Morning Herald

Brumby, Baillieu clash over state's crime level – Premier John Brumby has accused Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu of trashing Victoria's reputation after the Opposition Leader released crime figures showing a dramatic jump in street violence during Labor's 10 years in office – Melbourne Age

Liberal Party get election funds boost – Business is beating a path to the Liberal Party's door, filling the Coalition's empty coffers with much-needed donations to fight Kevin Rudd at the election – Melbourne Herald Sun

Industrial relations

Test for new laws after Qantas fires female staff – Qantas has been accused of sex discrimination after sacking 14 female aircraft cleaners and replacing them with male baggage handlers in a restructure that saw no women offered retraining in jobs traditionally done by men – Sydney Morning Herald

Aboriginal affairs

A community with its own intervention - A group of Aborigines who felt pushed around and walked away from a settlement in central Australia's red desert country will build anew – Sydney Morning Herald

`Watering down' the intervention - Now, as another sweeping change to the welfare regime in the NT is before parliament, a sharp division has emerged between the government - which wants to do away with blanket measures and more closely target vulnerable families for income management - and the opposition, which sees such a move as a "watering down" of the intervention – The Australian

Income card failing to prevent `humbug' in Tiwi Islands – Income-quarantining was supposed to stop young Aboriginal people hassling their elders for money, but on the Tiwi Islands, just north of Darwin, residents say there is still "too much humbug" – The Australian

Rudd invited to see wild rivers for himself – Entrepreneur Peter Holmes a Court has offered to take Kevin Rudd on a guided tour of Cape York to end the bitter standoff over Queensland's Wild Rivers legislation – The Australian

Law and order

Handballs but few free kicks for a key player – David Jones, who as Victoria's Special Investigations Monitor kept watch over the Office of Police Integrity, believes the Government should allow his successor in the position, retired County Court judge Leslie Ross, to investigative all complaints made about the OPI instead of just those tied to its coercive hearings and other process-related matters. Such a change would also mean that Mr Brouwer, as State Ombudsman, would no longer oversee his old agency – Melbourne Age

Adelaide property raided after scam targets federal MPs – Federal Police raided an Adelaide property yesterday as part of a covert investigation into a money scam that is using the names of senior Rudd Government ministers as guarantors – Adelaide Advertiser


Gay surrogacy

Surrogacy low on gays' priorities: Lawrence Springborg – Lawrence Springborg says same-sex surrogacy rights are not a priority issue for the gay community as he declared his "closest friends" were homosexuals. A day after Premier Anna Bligh labelled some LNP MPs "rednecks" for their opposition to gay surrogacy, the Liberal Nationals deputy leader lashed out at what he described as "unfortunate stereotypes" in politics – Brisbane Courier Mail

Opinions

Small targets and no bold vision – Miranda Devine in the Sydney Morning Herald says The people of NSW are rightly angry at being saddled for 15 years with an increasingly shambolic state government which, despite the likeable new face of the Premier, Kristina Keneally, still manages to stuff up even the most basic of tasks.

The birthday bank keeps inflation at bay – Ross Gittins in the Sydney Morning Herald writes of the Reserve Bank’s 50th birthday and concludes that the good management of the Reserve deserves much of the credit for inflation has staying low since the early '90s and the official unemployment rate down finally being down to about 5 per cent.

For tough reforms, Rudd must crash through or crash – Peter Hartcher in the Sydney Morning Herald asks if Rudd afford to stake his government on climate change? He can't afford not to. If he walks away from this fight, he will have no credibility on the big health reform he is planning or on any other reform. Like a NSW Labor premier, he will be a prime minister without purpose, merely clinging to power for its own sake.

Many gaps remain in indigenous policy - The apology two years ago was a good start, but much work is still needed writes Mick Dodson in the Melbourne Age

Blind eye turned to historic gem's fate – Greg Barns in the Melbourne Age laments the planned destruction of the National Estate-registered Equity Trustees Building built in 1931

Tasmanian poll: leap of faith may be too much to ask - The Liberals require a miraculous six-seat gain to clinch a majority in the House of Assembly. Polls suggest Labor faces an equally Herculean effort to hang on to at least 13 of its current 14 seats. More likely, the victor on March 20 will govern in minority – The Australian

Rudd, Abbott under scrutiny as Tasmania prepares to vote – Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott will take more than a passing interest in what happens in next month's Tasmanian election. There will also be a great deal of interest in how involved each federal leader gets in the local campaign, which will also be a sign of whether they are seen by their Tasmanian parties as an asset or liability among voters – Peter van Onselen in The Australian

Green policy bites Labor – Paul Kelly writes in The Australian that the greening of the Rudd government has entered a new phase, when "feel good" virtue turns into defective policy, shifty politics, chronic administrative failures and marketing overkill that now sees Environment Minister, Peter Garrett fighting for his political life.

Big government: where Rudd and Abbott see eye to eye - Tony Abbott's ascendancy has brought a combative new political polarisation but on one crucial question, the role of government, both sides converge argues George Megalogenis in The Australian. Each leader is offering voters a version of greater federal government intervention in the economy during recovery.

How the rich-poor chasm sank Copenhagen summit – The foundation of the framework convention signed at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 was the premise that greenhouse gas reductions would be based on countries' "common but differentiated" responsibilities. In itself it sounds unremarkable: a recognition that countries able to do more should do more. But it has been interpreted by developing countries to mean they should not be forced to do anything – Lenore Taylor in The Australian

Banks must apply brakes to meet lower financial speed limit – writes Michael Stutchbury in The Australian

Garrett for chopMelbourne Herald Sun editorial says the embattled Environment Minister is likely to become a millstone around Mr Rudd's neck as he fights to keep Labor ahead of a resurgent Opposition.

Peter Garrett must accept the blame – The buck stops with Peter Garrett says the Sydney Daily Telegraph. So Peter Garrett must go. He is not directly responsible for the fires or any deaths, but he is responsible - at the least - for implementing a scheme that did not anticipate the possibility of such outcomes.

Spin king Rudd has us baffled – Laurie Oakes in the Melbourne Herald Sun remembers how Kim Beazley was tossed out as Labor leader and replaced by Kevin Rudd back in 2006 mainly because he was said to be a lousy communicator who couldn't get a clear message across to the punters. Now, as Beazley takes up his diplomatic consolation prize in Washington, Rudd is being bagged for his tedious, wordy manner of speaking. He admits his shortcomings as a communicator contribute to the Government's problems, and promises to do better.

BUSINESS

Global iron ore price revolution – The global iron ore pricing system is headed for the biggest shake-up in its 40-year history after Brazil's Vale, the world's biggest iron ore miner, backed BHP Billiton's quest to kill off the annual price-setting process. If successful, the switch to spot prices could help double Australia's export revenue from its current level of $34 billion and dramatically increase investment in the resources industry – The Australian

Boom in resources bolsters Leighton – Australia’s largest mining and building contractor, Leighton Holdings, remains confident that a resurgence in activity in the resources sector will continue after reporting a better-than-expected half-year profit – Sydney Morning Herald

Crisis-hit investors shun style for stability - After a gruelling financial crisis, and there are signs the market has (temporarily) switched towards being a ''weighing machine'' - gauging the true value of stocks over the longer term – Melbourne Age

ENVIRONMENT

New review of climate science – A British University's research on human activity and global warming is to be reassessed by a panel of independent scientists in a dramatic admission that the emails scandal has tarnished climate science – Melbourne Age

Crisis of climate-change confidence - Sceptics are undermining the credibility of fundamental scientific institutions and their research, writes Marian Wilkinson in the Sydney Morning Herald

Green funding blows a fuse – Australia is facing a renewable energy investment "strike", with projects worth billions of dollars on hold and workers being sacked because of a flaw in the policy that was supposed to drive the switch to large-scale clean power – The Australian

MEDIA

Networks jostle as TV rights season kicks off – Football season is upon us and David Gallop says he is "champing at the bit". But the National Rugby League chief executive is not talking about the 2010 season, which kicks off at Skilled Park on the Gold Coast tonight. He is referring to another, equally tough, competition characterised by as much ego, bluster and antagonism as the action on the field -- the multi-million-dollar television broadcast rights negotiations – The Australian

LIFE

Real estate

Stressed out: waiting for the bubble to burst – A report produced by the Sydney consultants Fujitsu predicts that by the end of this year some 637,000 Australian households will be under some form of mortgage stress – Sydney Morning Herald

Price bubble expands our $1 million suburbs – Thousands of home owners will be turned into millionaires if Melbourne's property price boom continues. Dozens of suburbs will hit the magic number - some within months - if prices continue on their upward trend, Real Estate Institute of Victoria research reveals – Melbourne Herald Sun

Southeast Queensland house prices a 'time bomb' - The cost of housing in the southeast is predicted to soar over the next decade as a result of high migration rates and government moves to restrict urban sprawl. Gold Coast-based property analyst Colleen Coyne said the two housing pressures were on a collision course that would send property prices skywards – Brisbane Courier Mail

Betting

Danny Nikolic caught in betting probe – A famous Australian racing family is at the centre of unrelated stewards' probes in two states over betting irregularities. It is believed Betfair integrity officers noted unusual betting patterns in certain accounts and notified stewards in Melbourne and QueenslandThe Australian

Child care

Grandmother told she's too old to care for grandchildren – A grand mother is fighting for the care of her two grandchildren after the Department of Child Safety told her she is too old at 68 to look after them. As the Federal Government pushes the case for older workers to stay in the workforce longer, Marlene Baker, who lives west of Brisbane, is restricted to once-a-month weekend visits with her grandchildren who live 100km away in foster care – Brisbane Courier Mail
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