Sunday, 24 February 2013

Animal welfare - a growing political issue

From the SMH website:
Greens call for more scrutiny of abattoirs to protect animals:
"Abattoirs and knackeries in NSW would have to video the stunning and slaughtering of all animals, and keep the recordings for at least three months, under laws being proposed by the Greens. On Wednesday, the same day a western Sydney abattoir and one of its former employees face animal cruelty allegations in court, the Greens MP Cate Faehrmann plans to introduce amendments to the Food Act that would make it mandatory for all slaughterhouses to make visual and audio recordings of their operations. Failure to do so could result in a six-month custodial sentence. The concept is not new. A handful of Australian abattoirs already use CCTV voluntarily, the RSPCA says."

'via Blog this'

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Another promise down the gurgler - no Canberra pokies trial of pre-commitment by players

They just keep coming and every failure to deliver reinforces Prime Minister Julia Gillard's biggest negzative - she doesn't keep her promises.
From the SMH website:
Pokies ACT precommitment trial sunk:
"An ACT trial of precommitment technology for poker machines is dead and has been an expensive "thought bubble", the federal opposition says. The Canberra pokies trial appears sunk after Canberra clubs on Thursday voted against participating in the trial until after the federal election. Clubs ACT boss Jeff House said 23 of the organisation's members unanimously agreed not to start the trial until after the September 14 poll date. The coalition, which doesn't support mandatory precommitment measures for pokies, is likely to dump the trial if it wins government."

'via Blog this'

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The Indian BA bus driver and now the USA BA filing clerk

It was nigh on 50 years go that I ventured to India as a young Arts graduate and became acquainted with the worth of my hard earned degree. I had barely been in the country before I came across the reality of the BA bus driver. Having the tertiary qualification, I was told, was a pre-requisite for steering an omnibus through the streets of New Delhi.
What strange people, I thought back then. All those years of eduction to get such a humble earn.
In the years since I have become less superior. An Arts degree from an Australian university these days probably would not guarantee you a bus driver interview. And in the United States, I read tonight, it takes a B.A. to find a job as a file clerk.
Reports The New York Times:
The college degree is becoming the new high school diploma: the new minimum requirement, albeit an expensive one, for getting even the lowest-level job.This prerequisite applies to everyone, including the receptionist, paralegals, administrative assistants and file clerks. Even the office “runner” — the in-house courier who, for $10 an hour, ferries documents back and forth between the courthouse and the office — went to a four-year school. Consider the 45-person law firm of Busch, Slipakoff & Schuh here in Atlanta, a place that has seen tremendous growth in the college-educated population. Like other employers across the country, the firm hires only people with a bachelor’s degree, even for jobs that do not require college-level skills.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Don't take a Green for granted

So there are those in the Labor party who think it is good bye to bad rubbish now that the Greens have declared their agreement with the government is effectively over. Well those political Labor geniuses are in for a shock. For from now until the dissolution of parliament the Greens have every incentive to show just how necessary their support has been to good government. Sure they will continue to support supply bills and oppose no-confidence motions but they are smart enough to defeat any other legislation for which there is a half a good reason to do so.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Nick Xenophon’s two nights in economy class - oh, the poor fellow

There was a note of sympathy for Nick Xenophon in the way the website reported the Senator's deportation from Malaysia. Quite apart from sitting around in an airport terminal for most of the day the poor fellow "was forced to sleep on a plane in economy class for two nights."
A politician's lot surely is a hard one.

Get scared when finance ministers play don’t frighten the horses.

Forgive me for being cynical but history has taught me to be scared when the world’s financial ministers think it necessary to proclaim that something or other is not a problem. Hence I have an increased, rather than decreased, apprehension this morning about an outbreak of “beggar thy neighbour” exchange rate policies. For the G20 finance ministers in a communique issued after their meeting in Moscow declared last night that members would refrain from devaluing their currencies to gain economic advantage, amid fears of a new "currency war".
Writing in London’s Sunday Telegraph, Liam Halligan commented:

The very fact, though, that Japan’s recent yen-weakening antics escaped official censure means that efforts to competitively depreciate currencies – in Japan, the US, the UK and the eurozone too – are now more likely to continue than ever.
The yen has dropped from 80 to almost 94 against the dollar in the last two months, a fall that other countries are eyeing jealously. Yet to urge the ECB to follow suit and debase the currency by printing more money, as most eurozone members now advocate, strikes me as a counsel of despair. The “strong euro” is anyway a red herring. On a real effective exchange rate basis, the single currency was 5.4pc weaker on average during 2012 than it was the previous year. Still, it’s a lot easier for Western politicians to blame “foreigners” for our commercial failings and woeful economic performance than it is to explain and then implement the kind of structural reforms needed to boost productivity and genuine economic competitiveness.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

A certain pseuds corner winner from the Sydney Morning Herald

I am indebted to that wonderful Cut and Paste section of The Australian this morning for drawing my attention to this item from Thursday's Sydney Morning Herald.
It is an item that would certainly hold its own with the very best that London's Private Eye has ever published in its Pseuds Corner.

Former French minister Rachida Dati says: Wear lipstick and you lose credibility - Telegraph

Former French minister Rachida Dati says: Wear lipstick and you lose credibility - Telegraph: "Rachida Dati, the former minister who has her eyes on being mayor of Paris, says she is nothing like her pin-up image"

'via Blog this'

Gillard drifts back to even money to remain Labor leader

The first weeks of this current parliamentary session have frightened the punters when it comes to Julia Gillard. She started the year rated an 80% chance of remaining the Labor Leader until the election. On Betfair this afternoon she was back out to $2 - a 50% chance.

Church Used Cemetery Money to Pay Sex Abuse Settlement

From my afternoon's reading, just a little bit more on religion.
"Pressed to come up with hundreds of millions of dollars to settle clergy sex abuse lawsuits, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony turned to one group of Catholics whose faith could not be shaken: the dead," the Los Angeles Times reports.

"Under his leadership in 2007, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles quietly appropriated $115 million from a cemetery maintenance fund and used it to help pay a landmark settlement with molestation victims."

"The church did not inform relatives of the deceased that it had taken the money, which amounted to 88% of the fund. Families of those buried in church-owned cemeteries and interred in its mausoleums have contributed to a dedicated account for the perpetual care of graves, crypts and grounds since the 1890s."

Church Used Cemetery Money to Pay Sex Abuse Settlement:

'via Blog this'

What religion has contributed to the world this month

From the Malaysia Today website.
What religion has contributed to the world this month - Episode 3 (January/February 2013):

'via Blog this'

Carbon pricing and the problem of mixed political messages

The most important action taken in Australia to reduce carbon emissions is not the federal government's carbon tax with its very modest impact on electricity prices. The real curbs on energy use caused by market mechanisms have come from the prices forced upward by state government authorities investing in distribution infrastructure - more poles and wires. 
That reality is not something the federal Labor government wants to talk about. Instead it has taken the anomalous position of boasting about its carbon tax being a good thing while any other increases that similarly discourage energy use are bad. I really is a case of confusing mixed messages. 
In the United States the administration of Barack Obama has ruled out a carbon tax (he would not be able to get such legislation through the Congress even if he wanted to) but at least he is at last talking about the carbon use problem in a coherent fashion.
He mentioned the need for action on climate change in his recent inaugural address - failure to act "would betray our children and future generations" - and in his State of the Union speech he promised to take executive action if Congress failed to pass any kind of meaningful climate bill.
So far the President has not spelled out what form that executive action would take but restricting emissions from existing coal fired power plants is possible under an existing Clean Air Act. But he did make the case for such regulations during a recent Google+ hangout:
The truth is if you produce power using old power plants, you’re going to be emitting more carbon — but to upgrade those plants, energy’s going to be a little bit more expensive, at least on the front end. At the core, we have to do something that’s really difficult for any society to do, and that is to take actions now where the benefits are coming down the road, or at least we’re avoiding big problems down the road.”

A role for the ombudsman in checking on lobbyists?

It is every bit as big a problem in Australia as in the EU!

BBC News - EU Commission probed by ombudsman over lobbyists:
The European Ombudsman has begun investigating the European Commission's links with lobbyists amid concern about alleged conflicts of interest.
The Commission, which drafts EU laws, has been accused of allowing officials to take up consultancy jobs without a sufficient "cooling off" period.
The ombudsman - the EU's main transparency watchdog - has asked to see Commission files on cases where outside interests may have won favours.
'via Blog this'

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Zygier 'close to spilling on Israel' - A staggering Fairfax report

The damage to Australia-Israel relations will be even worse than I thought in my earlier piece.
From the Sydney Morning Herald website"
Zygier 'close to spilling on Israel':
"AUSTRALIAN secuarity officials suspect that Ben Zygier, the spy who died in a secret Israeli prison cell in 2010, may have been about to disclose information about Israeli intelligence operations, including the use of fraudulent Australian passports, either to the Australian government or to the media before he was arrested. "[Zygier] may well have been about to blow the whistle, but he never got the chance," an Australian security official with knowledge of the case told Fairfax Media yesterday. Sources in Canberra are insistent that the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) was not informed by its Israeli counterparts of the precise nature of the espionage allegations against Mr Zygier. However, it is understood that the former Melbourne law graduate had been in contact with Australian intelligence."

'via Blog this'

Putting it on the record -I've backed the Coalition with my own hard earned

You  can find the details here.
The political speculator's diary: All over red rover - backing the Coalition: 'via Blog this'
At least I'm prepared to let readers judge my own record at predicting political matters

Australia-Israel relations turning for the worse

Jerusalem, The Jerusalem Post reported this morning, is not anticipating that what it calls "the incident" involving the death of 34-year-old Ben Zygier "will create any diplomatic tension with Canberra". No diplomatic tension maybe, but a significant undermining of a broader Australian political support for Israel there certainly will be.
A weakening in an almost unconditional support by Australian governments of all complexions for Israel since that country's foundation has been noticeable since an investigation found Israeli authorities used Australian passports in an assassination plot in 2010. 
In evidence to a Senate committee in June that year, then Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade head Dennis Richardson defended the Government's decision to expel an Israeli diplomat over the use of forged Australian passports. As well as using forged Australian passports, Israel also misused an Australian passport in 2004, Mr Richardson told the committee, saying the country's actions required a firm response.

"This did not require a slap on the wrist. This required a firm statement by Australia about our sovereignty."If we weren't prepared to take firm action against this background, what price do you put on sovereignty?"
Mr Richardson said Israel blatantly breached an agreement with Australian authorities.
"In 2006 an agreement was entered into between an Australian agency and an Israeli agency about how things would be conducted."Against that background earlier this year, Israel again misused Australian passports in the most flagrant and blatant of ways."We are entitled to have our own national interest, and unfortunately in this case a firm friend, a very good friend, did not abide by the principles of friendship."
The case of Mr Zygier and the reason for his imprisonment under an assumed name in a high security Israeli jail are still shrouded in secrecy but it appears that his possession of Australian citizenship was a reason for his involvement with Israel's security service. And it is clear that any agreement "between an Australian agency and an Israeli agency about how things would be conducted" was completely outside the use of normal diplomatic channels.
This was not a matter of diplomats exchanging information that could be passed on to politicians but of one lot of spooks telling secrets to another lot of spooks with the public of both countries definitely to be kept in ignorance.
The ABC's Foreign Correspondent program, to its great credit, has broken the silence.
That program's disclosures will reinforce the growing sentiment within the Australian Labor Party that believes Australia should no longer slavishly support Israel in forums like the United Nations that saw Prime Minister Julia Gillard rebuffed recently by her colleagues.

Just when we thought things were getting better.

A couple of stories from the BBC today suggest that the aftermath of that global financial crisis are not yet ov er.
Which will be grim news for Wayne Swan

French and German economies contracted at end of 2012
"The German and French economies both contracted in the final three months of 2012, official figures have shown. Germany - the eurozone's largest economy - saw its gross domestic product (GDP) shrink by 0.6% as exports declined. That was the deepest contraction since the first three months of 2009 - the height of the financial crisis. The French economy shrank by 0.3% in the fourth quarter. Both numbers were worse than forecast."

Japanese economy contracts for third straight quarter
"Japan's economy contracted for the third straight quarter in the three months to end of December, underlining the challenges the new government faces in reviving growth.
The economy shrank 0.1% compared with the previous three months. Most analysts had forecast growth of 0.1%. That is equivalent to an annualised dip of 0.4% in gross domestic product. Japan's growth has been hurt by a drop in exports to key markets as well as subdued domestic consumption.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

A real sporting case for a crime commission

Perhaps this would be an appropriate place for the Australian Crime Commission to start throwing its weight around!
Boxing official slams SBW fight:
"WBA Oceania representative Brad Vocale has lashed out at the organisers of Sonny Bill Williams' so-called title fight, saying they have "defrauded" the Australian public. The legitimacy of what was purported to be a WBA international heavyweight title fight between the former All Black star and South African veteran Francois Botha was thrown into extreme doubt on Friday night."

'via Blog this'

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Some good news from China

China trade, loan surge boosts economy, inflation lurks | Reuters: "China's exports and imports surged and new lending soared in January as the first hard data of the year signaled not only a solid recovery in domestic and overseas demand, but also the risk that inflationary pressures are building. Exports grew 25 percent from a year earlier versus a forecast of 17 percent in a Reuters poll. Imports surged 28.8 percent to comfortably beat a consensus call of 23.3 percent and the resulting $29.2 billion trade surplus topped a market expectation of $22 billion. New lending by China's banks in January beat expectations at 1.07 trillion yuan ($172 billion) and more than doubled from December. Total social financing - a broad measure of liquidity in the economy - leapt to 2.54 trillion yuan, well ahead of December's 1.63 trillion yuan."

'via Blog this'

Labor's new problem: Government agencies on trial over drugs in sport

The drugs in sport story is veering off into dangerous territory for the federal Labor Government. Comments by the veteran and well respected rugby league coach Wayne Bennett in The Australian this morning illustrate why.

Rugby league and Australian football have been identified as the sports with the most prevalent drug issues, despite both codes conducting hundreds of drug tests — both urine and blood — each year.
‘‘Part of my beef with this is that if we’ve got the drug problem we have, what’s the drug agency been doing?’’ Bennett asked.
‘‘We pay them a lot of money to come into our sport and we’ve made a l ot of compromises for them to come into our sport.
‘‘Now they’re telling us we’ve got a problem. I can’t detect — I’ve got no means to do that. We employ them to do that.’’
The Australian Sports Drug Agency needs to take some action against those that the Australian  Crimes Commission believes are guilty and to take that action quickly. Otherwise the backlash against the two government bodies, already evident in the tabloids and on talk radio, will grow into criticism of the government itself.