Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Media wrap - The insulation problem spreads to a second Labor minister


POLITICS AND ECONOMICS

Security

Rudd's new terror trap - Australia will target people from 10 countries for stringent new visa checks in a push to prevent terrorists getting through the security net. Visa applicants from countries identified as high-risk will soon have to submit to fingerprinting and facial imaging, known as biometric checking – Melbourne Age

Homegrown terrorist threat is on the rise – Homegrown terrorists pose an increasing threat to Australia's security, the Rudd Government's strategic blueprint to protect the nation warns – Brisbane Courier Mail

Insulation

Hundreds of insulation jobs to go - The once booming insulation industry was collapsing yesterday, with hundreds of jobs axed and thousands more expected to go amid warnings the sector could freeze for a year – Melbourne Age

Garrett's 'electrocution denial': Abbott – Peter Garrett could have prevented the deaths of young men installing insulation and is in ''electrocution denial'', Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has alleged – Melbourne Age

I knew nothing, says embattled Garrett – Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett was kept in the dark by his department about warnings it received that the home insulation scheme should be delayed for three months because of "extreme risks" – The Australian

Peter Garrett orders mass inspection of batts – Environment Minister Peter Garrett has ordered the inspection of about 160,000 homes with batts to check for serious safety risks -- a $47 million hit for taxpayers that brings to $60m the cost of checking the government's troubled insulation program – The Australian

Debacle puts decent men out of workThe Australian reports on insulation companies putting people off.

Batt Man Peter Garrett's ministerial sidekick outed as Mark Arbib – A second minister has been drawn into the Federal Government's insulation debacle with Mark Arbib - a close associate of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd - linked to planning for the scheme – Sydney Daily Telegraph

Arbib adds to Garrett's nightmare - A second Rudd Government Minister has admitted being made aware of the riskiness of the axed $2.45 billion home insulation program before it even started. But Employment Participation Minister Mark Arbib, who was appointed last year to oversee the economic stimulus program, yesterday insisted those warnings were not about the threats to properties and lives – The West Australian


Elections

Split vote could hand Independents power – Internal polling by both major parties shows the state election campaign is balanced on a knife edge, with the possibility of independent Bob Such holding the balance of power. Liberals are trying to hose down talk of victory in a bid to retain underdog status – Adelaide Advertiser

Cool heads needed to win seats in SA State Election – With the SA State Election race rapidly tightening, a handful of swing seats will determine who forms government after the March 20 state election – Adelaide Advertiser

Premier has real fight on his hands – February 5, 2010, marks the opinion poll Labor and Mike Rann did, and did not, want. On one hand, Labor would much prefer the polls to be close during an election campaign so they can exhort supporters to work harder in the key marginal electorates. Labor strategists do not want to go into an election so far ahead in the polls that their supporters become ambivalent and swinging voters decide it is possible to give the Rann Government a kick up the backside without risking a change in government. What Mr Rann will not like about The Advertiser poll is the result that his approval rating is now being matched by that of his political opponent Isobel Redmond – Adelaide Advertiser

Polly Waffle ad anger – Two ingredients too often missing from politics in Tasmania are youth and humour. But the recent advertising campaign by aspiring young Lyons Labor candidate Bec White showed she possesses both such rare traits in spades – Hobart Mercury

Betfair's winning deal - Betting agency Betfair cannot say whether it will remain in Tasmania if Labor is not re-elected  Labor emerged as the odds-on favourite with the betting agency Betfair, which has been promised significant tax cuts if the Government is re-elected next month. In the betting stakes Labor also remains odds-on favourite to win the state election. – Hobart Mercury

Money poured into lakeLake Dulverton at Oatlands will be given a new lease on life. With Labor yesterday pledging to pour almost a quarter of a million dollars into its restoration – Hobart Mercury

Governing style

Frustration over reform Rudd-lock – Kevin Rudd has been accused of running a "government in paralysis" as reports on expected reforms remain in limbo, frustrating those who have worked on them.  The Federal Government has commissioned an estimated 180 reviews, but is yet to act on many, including reports on health, sports funding, business changes and taxation – Melbourne Herald Sun

Economic matters

Buswell needs Budget top-up - Treasurer Troy Buswell is expected to ask State Parliament to authorise hundreds of millions of dollars in extra borrowing when it sits today for the first time this year – The West Australian

Political life

Fitzgibbon warned Beijing firm on Liu fraud probe – Former defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon warned senior executives of a Beijing corporation pursuing his Chinese-born benefactor over an alleged $6 million fraud that their action could harm relations with Australia. The federal Labor MP met executives from the state-owned Beijing Heng Tong Trust and Investment company on first-class trips to China in 2002 and 2005 that were paid for by businesswoman Helen Liu – Melbourne Age

Greek tragedy of 'erratic' PM – Malcolm Fraser on John Gorton

Vendetta claims top ALP scalp Matt Thistlethwaite - Minister Kevin Rudd's NSW campaign boss and state ALP secretary Matt Thistlethwaite has quit after a six-month campaign by union officials to oust him. But in what is expected to start a new war within NSW Labor before a federal election, Mr Thistleth waite will be parachuted into the Senate ahead of former Bob Carr staffer Graeme Wedderburn and a host of others – Sydney Daily Telegraph

A friendly Chinese lunch, some nice words, and then Labor boss is sacked - On the first day of the Year of the Tiger, Mr Thistlethwaite shared salt and pepper squid, shredded beef and garlic prawns with right-wing union leaders - and sealed a deal to give him a Senate seat at the next election to get him out of his present job. Senior Labor sources said the general secretary had been ''executed'' – Sydney Morning Herald

Bligh Government applies gag in Parliament 'more than in Joh era' – Anna Bligh's administration has been accused of gagging politicians in Parliament at a rate far greater than the much-maligned Bjelke-Petersen era – Brisbane Courier Mail

Chalkies pass buck - MLA's fault son 'no brainiac' – A politician yesterday denied he was blaming teachers for his son struggling at school. The CLP's Peter Chandler told Parliament: "As a parent, I did question how in the world does a student get to Year 9 with the ability of a Year 5 without teachers letting you know." – Northern Territory News

Health and hospitals

Private insurance rebate battle looms amid waste claims – Kevin Rudd has moved to create his second double-dissolution trigger, reintroducing the private health insurance rebate bill into a hostile Senate, as the government was forced to fend off allegations of chaos and waste in the Health Department – The Australian

Mixed response to McGorry's appeal for more funding – Patrick McGorry's call for more funding for adolescent mental health services has received mixed reviews from others in the sector, who mostly say more money should be directed towards prevention – Melbourne Age

Dosed up on donations and addicted to drug company money – Patient support groups and doctors are receiving millions of dollars a year from pharmaceutical companies under a grant system that is raising questions about their independence – Sydney Daily Telegraph

Cuts bleed Bellingen hospital: doctors - Doctors and residents have dubbed a string of administrative decisions over the past few years ''death by a thousand cuts'' and are fearful the North Coast Area Heath Service has gradually run down services at the 34-bed Bellingen River District Hospital with a view to closing it. Doctors will meet the State Health Minister, Carmel Tebbutt, tomorrow to demand a halt to cuts which have affected emergency, day surgery, maternity and acute care services – Sydney Morning Herald

Education

Gillard to top up fund for college closures to $8m – The Rudd government has promised to chip in $5 million to the fund that reimburses course fees to international students in the event of college collapses – Melbourne Age

Aboriginal affairs

Macklin oversees town camps' facelift – The $100 million program to turn Alice Springs's derelict town camps into a regular part of Australia began yesterday with the arrival of builders to be followed later this week by the delivery of wheelie bins – The Australian

Industrial relations

Big miners want more flexibility – Resource sector employers have urged Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott to immediately release policies supporting major changes to the nation's workplace laws, warning that the status quo would entrench third-party interference at the expense of productivity – The Australian

Company caves in to union demands – Unions representing about 2000 workers at Woodside's $12 billion Pluto LNG project in the Pilbara say they have secured a guarantee from the project's main contractor that could kill any talk of further wildcat strikes – The Australian

Racism

State Government spends $250,000 for Indian journalists to be flown to Australia - The Department of Foreign Affairs, through its international media visits budget, is paying flight and five-star accommodation bills of $10,000 for each of 25 Indian reporters from the subcontinent to take tours of Australia, focusing on Melbourne – Melbourne Herald Sun

Defence

There's no room for pilot error in $2 billion navy chopper deal – The Rudd Government's National Security Committee of Cabinet is today due to make one of the biggest and most important military purchasing decisions of its first term in power. At stake is a $2 billion contract to supply the navy with about 25 ship-borne helicopters whose primary role will be anti-submarine warfare (ASW) – Sydney Daily Telegraph

Local government

No love lost in titanic tennis struggle - Eastern suburbs activists lobbed on the city to give the council a serve. Paul Bibby writes in the Sydney Morning Herald on a row that brought John Laws out of retirement.

Opinions

Labor's loose cannons allow friendships to turn frosty - How has it come to this? Australia has strained relationships with, in modern parlance, two of its ''besties'' in Asia, India and Japan. Both are democracies with independent judiciaries. Both are important trading partners. Both are friends that share common security interests. The answer turns on Labor's view that it has to make some concessions to the minority Left faction within the ALP and to the Greens – Gerard Henderson in the Sydney Morning Herald

Nothing to declare after PM's foreign affairs – Malcolm Colless in The Australian notes that since his election Rudd has lost no opportunity to strut the world stage to display his credentials in global diplomacy. But as with his endless promises of grand reform on the home front, it is hard to see constructive results flowing from this and a bang for the taxpayers' buck – The Australian

It's time for Kevin Rudd to kick goals and pay heed to Barack Obama's style – Phillip Hudson in the Melbourne Herald Sun writes that it will be crucial for Rudd and his team to get the right images and message from the Obama visit.

Debt-laden West faces lean years – writes Tim Colebatch in the Melbourne Age. The global financial crisis has split the world's economic powers into two groups, facing very different prospects. The rich countries, by and large, have become poorer and face a troubled future. The poor countries, by and large, have become richer and face a bright future.

Victoria suffers from too many watchdogs, not too few – writes Stuart Kells in the Melbourne Age. In Victoria the problem is duplication - different bodies have similar powers to oversee the same organisations. Our oversight system reflects fashions that have swept through public administration in decades past. As each trend has arrived, a new element has been bolted on.

Bad likely to get worse for minister – Peter Garrett's political future, tenuous as it is, has entered a new phase that is even more politically fraught for him and the Rudd government than the past 10 months, which culminated in the collapse of his flawed and dangerously rushed $2.45 billion roofing insulation scheme says Dennis Shanahan in  The Australian

It'll be tough riding the next wave – Michael Stutchbury in The Australian says Australians enjoyed a relatively painless global crisis, insulated by government borrowing, interest rate relief and Chinese demand. But now comes our tough resources boom.

Rann a poll model for PM – SA’s Mike Rann has long been seen as a role model for the way Rudd has approached his leadership: attendant to the politics of spin while also prepared to take a lead hand as part of an intervening government – Peter van Onselen in The Australian

Tony Abbott's made a world of change in 80 days - As Abbott and Julie Bishop notch up their first 80 days as the new Opposition leadership team, the odds that they can pull off an election win are shortening. As unlikely as it seemed only two months ago, they may get there in time – Ross Fitzgerald in the Sydney Daily Telegraph

Like a pink batt out of hell, Garrett absorbs the heat – Miranda Devine in the Sydney Morning Herald writs that the opposition wants his scalp. But Garrett is the government's human pink batt, insulating Rudd and his cabinet from the heat. For no other reason he's hanging on.

Outdated political thuggery embarrasses Malaysia  - The case against Anwar is a joke. It exposes the Najib government as desperate and underhanded. It makes Malaysia a subject of international ridicule. While under Mahathir this form of legal manipulation might have been smart autocracy, in today's world it just looks like Malaysia is playing around with its national future – Peter Hartcher in the Sydney Morning Herald

BUSINESS

Stokes makes big score close to home - The media and mining magnate has engineered a billion-dollar scrip buy-out of his WesTrac mining services assets in a merger with his listed media assets, Seven Network – Melbourne Age

Stokes plots revolution at Seven with WesTrac merger – Kerry Stokes is betting that the $3 billion combination of his media and mining services interests gives him more firepower to pursue a wider range of deals, but the Seven Network executive chairman will first have to convince a wary market that the merger is in the best interests of all shareholders – The Australian

Port Lincoln Tuna Processors to stop producing John West cans – The nation's last tuna cannery, at Port Lincoln, will halt production because of cuts to the southern bluefin tuna quota and the high Australian dollar. At the end of May, Port Lincoln Tuna Processors will stop producing John West canned tuna products, which will instead be made in ThailandAdelaide Advertiser

Huge profit drop for Gunns – Timber company Gunns Ltd is on the cusp of a major shake-up after posting a 98 per cent drop in profits in the first half of the financial year. The company told the Australian Stock Exchange today that its half-yearly profit after tax had fallen to just $400,000 from $33.6 million at the same time last year – Hobart Mercury

ENVIRONMENT

Vote on ETS to be delayed until May – A vote on the government's emissions trading scheme is expected to be pushed back until May - with the government and opposition blaming each other for the delay – Melbourne Age

Improved warnings sought for river algae – Water officials were urged to improve communication of toxic algal blooms in the Murray River just two months ago, adding to concerns that inadequate warnings are in place for those using the river this week – Melbourne Age

Tree farm cancer 'link' - On national TV last night, St Helens doctor Alison Bleaney said toxicity tests she had helped fund indicated river "scum" or foam from plantations in the Georges River catchment might be causing inexplicable cancer clusters and health problems – Hobart Mercury

MEDIA

Stokes hits back at rebate claim – Seven Network boss Kerry Stokes has delivered a rebuke to Tony Abbott over his description of TV licence fee rebates as a bribe – Melbourne Age

LIFE

Events

Keep Tiger out of our woods, say Nationals – The philandering ways of Tiger Woods should disqualify the champion golfer from receiving taxpayer dollars to play in Victoria, says Nationals leader Peter Ryan – Melbourne Age

The arts

Home is where the art is – Kate Blanchett in the Melbourne Age writes that ee know that countries with strong cultural identities demonstrate greater social cohesion and on and on and on. We must remember the arts do more than just that. We process experience and make experience available and understandable. We change people's lives, at the risk of our own. We change countries, governments, history, gravity and after gravity, culture is the thing that holds humanity in place, in an otherwise constantly shifting and, let's face it, tiny outcrop in the middle of an infinity of nowhere.

Poverty

Nobel winner wants business to cut poverty – Having received the 2006 Nobel peace prize for doling out millions of dollars in tiny loans to the poor, Muhammad Yunus is promoting another big idea - and again, strangely for a banker, the word ''profit'' is not the main feature – Melbourne Age

Students

Funding cut to overly political student body – A Sydney university is believed to be the first in the country to cut back and control funding to its student council for playing too much politics. On the eve of orientation week, the University of Western Sydney suspended ordinary funding arrangements after complaints that the student body, called the Hive, was "too political", according to Hive president Jacob Carswell-Doherty – The Australian

Nudity

Nude sunbathers say the law is an ass - Little Congwong has been an unofficial haven for naturists for 50 years. However, complaints from locals saw police raid the beach on Sunday and threaten nude bathers with fines. Yesterday, the sun lovers were defiant, returning to the beach despite warning signs and the police raid – Sydney Daily Telegraph

Bullying

Schools leaving students at the mercy of psychological bullyingQueensland schools are failing to properly deal with the two worst kinds of bullying and often don't even check how their existing anti-bullying measures are working, the Government's own expert has warned – Brisbane Courier Mail

Population

Civic leaders want accurate forecasts to manage population growthSoutheast Queensland's civic leaders have backed the region's current population plan, but all agree that it needs fine-tuning. The leaders, speaking at last night's public forum on the state's development, said the accuracy of future projections were crucial – Brisbane Courier Mail
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