Thursday, 18 March 2010

Media wrap - Stimulus projects still making bad news for the Government

POLITICS AND ECONOMICS

Stimulus projects

School BER costs double quoted price – The cost of projects under the federal government's $16.2 billion school infrastructure program more than doubles from initial estimates by the time builders start work. A breakdown of costs for individual projects in NSW, the only government or school sector to provide the information, shows initial estimates for school buildings do not include the associated construction costs, and reveals the extent of fees and charges paid to managing contractors and builders – The Australian

$270K spent on `lined tin shed' - A NSW public school's $270,000 grant under Building the Education Revolution program was used to pay for a "lined tin shed" that arrived on a truck from Sydney with cracks along the walls and veranda supports on the wrong side – The Australian

Inspector shocked in roof – An electric shock to a Canberra insulation inspector has left the Rudd government reeling and Tony Abbott calling for every home that took part in the insulation scheme to be inspected for potential fire and electrocution hazards – The Australian

Elections

Fury over anonymous ALP calls – The Greens and the Liberal Party have called for a review of Tasmania's electoral laws after the Labor Party made 20,000 legal "robocalls" alleging the Greens wanted to legalise heroin without mentioning they were authorised by the ALP – The Australian

Bartlett hangs up smear calls – Premier David Bartlett has ordered his strategists to scrap a second round of "robocalls" to Tasmanian homes. The automated anti-Greens calls have caused a deep split in Labor ranks about the wisdom, benefit and ethics of the invasive campaign – Hobart Mercury

Nationals target sitting Libs – The Nationals have begun campaigning for this year's federal election by targeting sitting Liberal MPs with television advertisements in rural and regional Western AustraliaThe Australian

Both sides finalise marginal candidates – Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott would have long been anxious about Queensland's marginal seats. But they might be sweating much earlier than election night, given the candidates their respective parties have chosen in the Sunshine StateThe Australian

Phillips blames Rann `affair' for son's charges – The Michelle Chantelois saga has come back to haunt Mike Rann yet again with her estranged husband linking the Premier to criminal charges laid against their eldest son. Accompanied by his father, Rick Phillips, Anton Michael Phillips-Chantelois, 18, appeared in Adelaide Magistrates Court yesterday on charges of aggravated assault and carrying an offensive weapon – The Australian

Pledge to abolish tax on trainees – Mike Rann has pledged to abolish payroll tax for apprentices at a cost of $104 million, as he spruiked Labor's re-election platform of jobs growth in the final days of the state campaign – The Australian

Libs to can film festival – The South Australian Liberal Party has pledged to dismantle the state's most successful arts initiative of recent years, the Adelaide Film Festival, if it is elected to office on Saturday – The Australian

Rann's friendship with PM 'benefits state' – South Australian Premier Mike Rann, in a fight for his political life, has warned voters they will get less from Canberra if they elect a Liberal government on Saturday – Melbourne Age

Daughter of candidate Laury Bais says he should put family first – A Family First candidate broke down in tears when shown a picture of a daughter he has not seen in a decade - a daughter who claims he deserted her. Laury Bais, candidate for the seat of Adelaide, says he has tried in vain to contact his eldest daughter Jessica, 20. But she labelled him a "deadbeat dad" after he walked out on her mother and three sisters on Christmas Day, 1999 – Adelaide Advertiser

Youth vote neglected by both partiesAdelaide Advertiser

Unfazed teen LNP candidate Wyatt Roy says he's just like solo sailor Jessica Watson – A gung-ho Wyatt Roy has compared himself to teen solo sailor Jessica Watson as interest grows over his bid to become Australia's youngest federal MP. The 19-year-old, who has been selected to become the LNP candidate for the southern Sunshine Coast seat of Longman, said yesterday his experience since gaining pre-selection was similar to that faced by the 16-year-old Queensland adventurer – Brisbane Courier Mail

Political parties

Unionist Kevin Harkins 'fixed up fees for workers' – Three days from the Tasmanian election, Labor has been hit by claims a senior unionist paid for workers' ALP memberships. An electrical worker yesterday told The Australian his ALP membership fees and those of many of his workmates were "fixed up" by Kevin Harkins, assistant secretary of the Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union – The Australian

Foreign affairs

Bar on consular aid at Stern Hu trial – The Department of Foreign Affairs has appealed against a Chinese decision to bar consular access to a key part of the trial of Stern Hu and three other Rio Tinto iron ore executives, which will begin next Monday – The Australian

Hu trial to be secretive – Stern Hu and his three Rio Tinto colleagues have been listed for a secretive trial in a Shanghai court on Monday. Australian officials have been told they will be barred from parts of the proceedings, prompting a retort from the Australian government. But there are growing signs that China's President Hu Jintao wants the case resolved quickly, as China grapples with a host of larger foreign policy controversies – Melbourne Age

Political life

Liberal MP's travel probed – Federal Liberal MP Michael Johnson took four overseas trips at the end of last year, with most of the expenses covered by a not-for-profit group that has allegedly received commissions he earned for introducing foreign and Australian business leaders – The Australian

Liberal MP Michael Johnson in offshore bank accounts probe – Michael Johnson's future as a Federal Liberal MP hangs in the balance as senior party officials question the use of his offshore bank accounts and transactions from his campaign funds – Brisbane Courier Mail

Old hands calming novice Labor MPs – Old hands within the Rudd government have begun calming the nerves of skittish first-term backbenchers worried about the ongoing slide in Kevin Rudd's popularity. Senior Labor sources confirmed yesterday some inexperienced backbenchers were beginning to question their re-election prospects after polls showing a drop in Labor's support, even though the government was still in a strong position – The Australian

Peter Costello sledge gives ALP free kick at Tony Abbott – Labor  has seized on criticism by former treasurer Peter Costello of Tony Abbott's proposed paid parental leave scheme as vindication of its rejection of the $2.7 billion plan. And the Opposition Leader has refused to comment on Mr Costello's criticism, saying his only quarrel is with Kevin Rudd – The Australian

Keep your nose out, Liberals tell Costello – Peter Costello’s attack on Tony Abbott's parental leave policy has been universally condemned by his former colleagues who suggested the former treasurer had given up his chance to lead the party and should therefore butt out – Sydney Morning Herald

Whistleblowing

Whistleblowers get protection in federal legislation – The federal government has accelerated its push for a more open system of government by introducing the first federal law protecting public servants who reveal maladministration. It plans to reverse decades of government secrecy by protecting public servants who reveal serious wrongdoing to the media – The Australian

Praise for plan but `states must be brought in line' for it to work – The federal government's plan for a powerful new law to protect public service whistleblowers has triggered calls for the states to match the commonwealth's approach – The Australian

Protection would have saved Kessing from flawed prosecution – Chris Merritt in The Australian writes that after a long period of uncertainty, Joe Ludwig's plan for whistleblower reform has restored confidence in the government's credentials in two core areas: public sector reform and free speech.

Economic matters

Clarion call for salvaging economy - Australians face the risk of falling living standards for the next decade as the country has fallen into a reform malaise, according to one of the country's leading economic authorities, Professor Ross Garnaut – Sydney Morning Herald

Landmark tax review flags slashing number of welfare payments from 30 to 12  Parents with young children would receive higher payments, but lose them when the children reach school age, a landmark tax review proposes - Melbourne Herald Sun

Immigration

Navy's warning sparked fatal fire on asylum boat, Coroner finds – A navy warning notice issued to the master of asylum-seeker vessel SIEV 36 was "clearly inappropriate" and sparked a series of events that led to the deaths of five Afghan asylum-seekers in an explosion off the northwest coast last April, the Northern Territory Coroner has found – The Australian

Boat blast report triggers call to revoke visas – The opposition has seized on a coroner's findings to accuse the government of acting irresponsibly by giving visas to Afghan refugees blamed for a deadly boat blast last year – Sydney Morning Herald

Industrial relations

Union leaders escalate assault on Julia Gillard – The Rudd government and unions have clashed over Labor's support for employer attempts to overturn a Fair Work Australia ruling that business fears will significantly weaken restrictions on unions entering workplaces. ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence said the stand taken by Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard was wrong, while union officials labelled her position "a joke" – The Australian

Bosses say ACTU pay push will put jobs at risk – The ACTU's push for a pay rise of $27 a week for the nation's lowest-paid workers has been criticised as unaffordable by employers and too little by Victorian unions, which wanted a minimum $40-a-week increase – The Australian

Aboriginal affairs

Northern Territory housing program 'back on track' – A Rudd government program aimed at delivering 750 new houses to Northern Territory indigenous communities by 2013 has produced only two new houses in nearly two years. But the report of an independent review released yesterday found initial difficulties in the scheme had been overcome and predicted it would hit full production this year and meet its long-term targets – The Australian

Health and hospitals

Severely ill left waiting for surgery – More than 30 seriously ill patients waited for at least a month for surgery at the Royal Melbourne Hospital last year, the first time in a decade that a Victorian hospital recorded a failure to meet targets for people needing urgent care – Melbourne Age

Development

Huge land bank puts squeeze on buyers – Private developers and the state government's property agency are sitting on a multibillion-dollar land bank, adding to Victoria's housing affordability crisis – Melbourne Age

Rack 'em and stack 'em: a silly solution to population growth - Lining roads with multi-storey flats flies in the face of clever planning – Melbourne Age

Broadband

Fresh blow to Rudd's broadband plan – The federal government's faltering plans for its $43 billion broadband network have been dealt a fresh blow, with the Greens now threatening to oppose legislation to force the split of Telstra into two – Melbourne Age

Apologies

Former High Court Michael Kirby predicts public apology to homosexuals – Former High Court judge Michael Kirby can see the day when a "big parliamentary apology" is made to gay people. It would be similar to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's apology to Aboriginal people – Melbourne Herald Sun

Political lurks and perks

Taxpayers fork out $50,000 for plane for Tony Abbott when Kevin Rudd in jet on tarmac next to it - It was a case of, "My plane is bigger than yours" on Monday night when Opposition Leader Tony Abbott turned up at Canberra's Fairbairn RAAF base expecting to hitch a ride to Brisbane with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd – Sydney Daily Telegraph

Opinions

There's scope, and hope, for closer ties with Israel – Greg Sheridan in The Australian  says the United States is developing a very bad tendency to constantly flatter its enemies in the fantastical hope of engaging and converting them, while abusing its friends, to show its even-handedness. Canberra has no need to go down that same road.

Raise the GST, and cut personal and company tax to support growth - Katie Lahey, chief executive of the Business Council of Australia, says the BCA will continue to argue that first-best tax reform involves a switch in the tax mix to reduce personal income and company taxes and make greater use of the GST – The Australian

Welcome to endless poverty – Gary Johns in The Australian writes that the welcome to country ceremony is part of a mindset that locks Aborigines out of the world in which they desperately need to engage.

Rates are going to be higher than we're used to – writes Michael Stutchbury in The Australian that Governor Glenn Stevens is heavily influenced by the notion set out by late 18th century and early 19th century Swedish economist Knut Wicksell that the economy's natural interest rate is set by the rate of return on investing in physical capital.

Four horsemen of apocalypse to the rescue – Demographer Bernard Salt in The Australian notes that UN demographers fearlessly extend high-growth assumptions to the end of the 23rd century when the world population reaches 36 billion. In this scenario, it's fair to say the Australian continent is most likely commandeered. But this outlook is unlikely to eventuate because so great will be the global pressure on resources that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse will intervene -- war, pestilence, famine and death -- to bring humanity back into line.

Abbott's sledging of Rudd cuts through finer points of debate – Miranda Devine in the Sydney Morning Herald writes that with … antagonism from the "doctors' wives" set and criticism yesterday from Peter Costello for being fiscally impure (like Howard), it seems Abbott is on track to win over the people he really needs to have on side if he is to do well at the next election - the middle class mortgage belt, aka "working families". This is the tried and true track well worn by John Howard over four successive victories, and overgrown with weeds until Abbott's ascension.

Is Rudd's rudeness the tip of the iceberg? – asks Bella Counihan in the Sydney Morning Herald. It seems the more we peek behind the curtain the less we like Kevin Rudd.

A country that can't handle its grog needs intervention - The battle with the bottle is not restricted to Australia's outback writes Howard Goldenberg, a GP whose work in remote Aboriginal communities is described in his recent book, Raft – Melbourne Age

BUSINESS

China to challenge BHP-Rio Pilbara mergerChina  has taken the advice of former Australian competition tsar Allan Fels that it has the right to investigate and challenge the $US116 billion ($126bn) merger between Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton's Pilbara iron ore operations – The Australian

Mining windfall handed to union boss - A former union boss, John Maitland, has amassed a $9.8 million stake in a controversial coalmining project, after the state government granted an exploration permit through a deal which has been slammed as a favour to union mates – Sydney Morning Herald

ENVIRONMENT

Waste sale money will have to be put aside to clean up landfills - The state government's plan to use the money from the sale of its waste services arm, WSN, to reduce borrowings or fund services has been blocked. The Coalition demanded the proceeds be set aside in a trust to meet any liabilities from cleaning up landfills. The government agreed yesterday, paving the way for the sale legislation to pass through Parliament – Sydney Morning Herald

Butterflies offer climate warning – Scientists have shown for the first time that man-made climate change is the direct cause of changes to the life cycle of a native Australian animal species – Sydney Morning Herald

MEDIA

NRL CEOs slam Channel Nine over favouritism – Chief executives from clubs including Penrith, Canberra and Cronulla have launched a scathing attack on the NRL broadcast arrangements that continually deny their clubs free-to-air coverage on Channel Nine – Sydney Daily Telegraph

LIFE

Racism

Victorian police watchdog shelved racist complaints – More than 20 complaints of racism by Victorian police, including allegations of criminal behaviour, were made to the Office of Police Integrity by lawyers acting for young African Australians between 2006 and 2009 – The Australian

Religion

Australian bishops lead crossing to Rome – Four bishops, 40 priests and thousands of parishioners from the Traditional Anglican Communion will petition the Vatican by Easter to be received into the Catholic Church. Archbishop John Hepworth of Adelaide, primate of the TAC, said 26 parishes in Western Australia, Tasmania, NSW, Victoria, far north Queensland and South Australia hoped to be united with Rome by the end of the year – The Australian

Smokers

Breath of fresh air for Bondi latte lovers - Waverley Council has voted to ban smoking in outdoor cafes and restaurants from July. It also voted on Tuesday to ban smoking within 10 metres of playgrounds, parks and reserves – Sydney Morning Herald

Drinkers

Australian beer a Pacific problem – Rising alcohol abuse in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific islands, partly spurred by Australian beer, has prompted calls for alcohol companies to contribute more to counter the problem. A survey commissioned by the Australian National Council on Drugs found there has been a dramatic increase in alcohol-related violence and other drug problems in Pacific countries – Sydney Morning Herald
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