Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Singalong as Tones makes Malcolm "do things I don't want to do" in the great power debate

Yeah yeah yeah yeah

He makes me do things I don't want to do
He makes me say things I don't want to say
& even though I want to break away
I can't (stop saying I adore him
I can't stop doing things for him)

The irrelevance of opinion polls a long time out from an election

While updating my table of The Australian's Newspoll results today (you will find the collection HERE) it struck me once again just how irrelevant poll results are a long time out from an election.
The table below compares Labor's two party vote 15 months after an election (like the one this week) with Labor's actual vote at the following election.

Labor on Newspoll 15 months after an election Labor vote at next election Difference in percentage points
55 49.3 5.7
43 46.5 3.5
58 50.1 7.9
48 52.7 4.7
49 47.2 1.8

The Australian's Newspoll from 2016 election to present

Date ALP Coalition Green OneNat Other 2 Pty ALP 2 Pty LNP
15/10/2017 36 37 10 9 8 54 46
24/09/2017 36 38 9 8 9 54 46
3/09/17 38 37 9 8 8 53 47
21/08/17 38 35 9 9 9 54 46
4/08/17 36 36 11 8 9 53 47
24/07/17 37 35 9 9 9 53 47
10/07/17 36 35 10 11 8 53 47
19/06/17 37 36 9 11 7 53 47
30/05/17 36 36 10 9 9 53 47
16/05/17 36 36 10 9 9 53 47
24/04/17 35 36 9 10 10 52 48
3/04/17 36 36 10 9 9 53 47
20/03/17 35 37 9 10 9 52 48
27/02/17 37 34 10 10 9 55 45
6/02/17 36 35 10 8 11 54 46
6/12/16 36 39 10 5 10 52 48
20/11/16 38 38 10 4 10 53 47
5/11/16 38 39 10 4 9 53 47
25/10/16 37 39 10 5 9 52 48
10/10/16 36 39 10 5 9 52 48
27/09/18 37 38 10 - 15 52 48
12/09/16 36 41 9 - 14 50 50
30/08/16 36 41 9 - 14 50 50
2/07/16 34.7 42 10.2 1.3 11.8 49.6 50.4

How long does the typical political party last? And links to other interesting news and views

The typical political party only lasts 43 years - Quartz
The following chart shows the number of parties that have placed in the top two in terms of seats since 1950. Only the 21 countries for which the database has data going back to 1950 are included. The United Kingdom, New Zealand, Germany, and Australia are notable for their stability.
How long do parties usually last? To calculate this number, we used a statistical technique called survival analysis (pdf). It is a method for estimating a person or organization’s typical lifespan when some of the people or organizations that are part of an analysis are still in existence. We found that the median major political party lasts around 43 years, and one third of parties don’t even last 20 years.
Why Spy Now? The Psychology of Leaking and Espionage in the Digital Age - CIA
Don't turn doctors into killers - Eureka Street

Jockeying for cash: North Korea allows racetrack gambling as sanctions bite - Reuetrs

Austria's Great Millennial Hope Walks a Fine Line - Sebastian Kurz hasn't so much copied as temporarily defanged the far right - Bloomberg

The spread of populism in Western countries - Vox

Monday, 16 October 2017

Will Tony be drafted and be top of the pops again? A singalong as we consider if Tony Abbott will make a comeback

Explained: How Liberal leadership spills work - ABC News
Here ... is a guide to how a spill could work.
Any member may move a motion to spill leadership position(s)
When the party meets in the party room, any member can move the motion to spill the leadership position.
He or she would rise, with or without prior indication to the leadership group, seek the call and move a motion to spill.
The motion would normally specify whether the spill was of leader, deputy leader or both.
A seconder would be called for, but is not technically required if the leader chooses to let the discussion proceed.
The leader invites speakers 'for' and 'against' the motion
An exhaustive discussion and debate will follow.
Members will indicate, usually to the leader or deputy leader, their desire to speak.
Speakers will often be called in alternating order; a "for" followed by an "against".
In the past, members have spoken, offered commentary, but neither declared themselves "for" nor "against".
All who want to speak may. Normal time limit for contributions is a "bell" at three minutes.
The leader assesses general will or mood of the party room
Even if every member has not yet spoken, but it is becoming obvious that there are many more "against" the spill motion than "for" it, the leader may exercise the right to call that the motion clearly will not succeed, and that debate should end and there is no spill.
There is no show of hands, rather the mood is gauged by listening to the speeches.
Alternatively, once all members have spoken, the spill may proceed.
Nominations are called
Candidates will stand and nominate themselves.
Whips will conduct a call of the roll, to get the exact number of members in the party room. That number of ballot papers will be prepared and distributed for a secret ballot.
Each member will write the name of the candidate they vote for on the ballot and place in a box.
Whips count ballots, rank the candidates in order of votes received and advise the result to the party room.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Giving Thomas the Tank Engine some female friends and links to other news and views

Thomas the Tank Engine gets two female trains as show is overhauled for a new generation - London Daily Telegraph

Bannon: 'It's A Season Of War Against The GOP Establishment' - NPR

Harvey Weinstein was protected for decades by the cowardice of the press - The Guardian

‘Mind-boggling’: Daniel Barenboim on Jacqueline du Pré – and speaking out - Financial Times
Christopher Nupen’s short film The Trout endures as an important, and charming, group portrait of talented young musicians on the cusp of greatness. It follows Barenboim and du Pré, together with Itzhak Perlman, Zubin Mehta and Pinchas Zukerman, during their rehearsals and live performance of Schubert’s Trout Quintet as part of the festival of South Bank Summer Music (of which Barenboim was artistic director) in 1969.

Balance of power: Shift toward renewable energy appears to be picking up steam - The Japan Times

Global policymakers grapple with half-baked recovery short of wage growth - Reuters

In both football and politics, Corbyn has a surprising weakness – loyalty - New Statesman
He might have been a rebel in parliament but he is a loyalist when it comes to his team.
Corbyn’s support for Wenger has an emotional element, too: the two men have known each other for a long time, and they discuss not only football but politics and philosophy. It might seem counter-intuitive, given his long record of voting against official Labour policy, but Corbyn puts a great premium on personal loyalty. That’s why he will not use his enhanced internal clout to conduct a wide-ranging reshuffle, even if Theresa May refreshes her team, as seems likely. Corbyn feels a sense of obligation to those MPs who stuck with him even during his most difficult period as leader. 
 Coerced sterilization lawsuit filed - Canadian National Post 
In July, the Saskatoon Regional Health Authority released an external review conducted after several women came forward saying they had been pressured into having tubal ligations in the hours before or after giving birth. The reviewers were contacted by 16 Indigenous women with experiences of coerced sterilization, who said they felt “powerless, ignored and coerced into obscurely explained tubal ligation procedures,” the statement of claim says, referring to the report entitled “Tubal Ligation in the Saskatoon Health Region: The Lived Experience of Aboriginal Women.”

Some interesting links to news and views with a moron edition of the political singalong

Paul Krugman's Friday night music: moron edition
Since what prompted Rex Tillerson was, reportedly, Trump’s desire for a tenfold increase in America’s already civilization-destroying nuclear arsenal, the obvious:

Which bank could give Australians a better bang for their buck? The RBA - Nicholas Gruen in The Guardian

The thoughts of Chairman Xi - Xi Jinping is tightening his grip on power. How did one man come to embody China's destiny? - BBC News

“I Hate Everyone in the White House!” - Trump seethes as advisers fear the president is “unraveling.” - Vanity Fair

Silicon Valley’s Religious Drive - New Republic
The engineer Anthony Levandowski has reportedly founded a religion led by bots, the latest manifestation of the tech world's spiritual underpinnings.
The First Anglo-Afghan War shows us how the same pattern follows whenever Afghanistan is invaded - Dawn

Triumph of the Shill - The political theory of Trumpism - n+1

Is This How The Trump Administration Might Save Coal? - NPR

Say Goodbye to the China Bid The flow of Chinese money into assets around the world is coming to an end - Wall Street Journal

Paris Mayor Plans To Eliminate All Non-Electric Cars By 2030 - NPR

Why the Harvey Weinstein story became such a major news event - Think Progress

Miss Russia Thanks Putin for Lack of Weinstein-Style Harassment in Russia - The Moscow Times

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Peta Credlin, the Grace Jones of Australian politics, turns on Laura Jayes for talking "piss and wind"

Grace Jones knows how to deal with lesser people
And so does Peta Credlin as she gives a verdict on her Sky News colleague Laura Jayes

Eminem calls out President Trump in today's political singalong plus other news and views

Eminem wasn’t just calling out President Trump. He was talking to his fans - Think Progress
Tuesday night during the BET Hip Hop Awards, Eminem essentially initiated a rap battle with President Trump. He also, as he put it, “drew a line in the sand” for anyone who loves his music: You can’t be a Trump supporter and an Eminem fan.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Presidential obstruction of justice: The case of Donald J. Trump - and other news and views for the day

Presidential obstruction of justice: The case of Donald J. Trump - Brookings Institution
The public record contains substantial evidence that President Trump attempted to impede the investigations of Michael Flynn and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, including by firing FBI Director James Comey.
The fact that the president has lawful authority to take a particular course of action does not immunize him if he takes that action with the unlawful intent of obstructing a proceeding for an improper purpose. 
While the matter is not free from doubt, it is our view that neither the Constitution nor any other federal law grants the president immunity from prosecution. 
How Russia Harvested American Rage to Reshape U.S. Politics - New York Times

Wicked gambling firms exploit the weakest - The Times, London

Has Tony Abbott jumped the goat? Singalong politically to appease the volcano gods - Politicalowl

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Has Tony Abbott jumped the goat? Singalong politically to appease the volcano gods

Well that's a story worth singing along with.

Fancy some other political singalongs? Click HERE

Socialism is back and would Kim Jong-un rather be obliterated then give in? News and views links from the Owl

Socialism with a spine: the only 21st century alternative - John Quiggin in The Guardian
Socialism is back, much to the chagrin of those who declared it dead and buried at the “end of history” in the 1990s. ... The soft neoliberalism represented by Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and Paul Keating has exhausted its appeal, and not just in the English-speaking world. Throughout Europe, new movements of the left have emerged to challenge or displace social democratic parties discredited by the austerity politics of the last decade. ... The idea of a socialist economy with unconditional access to basic incomes and greatly expanded provision of free services might seem utopian. But in the aftermath of neoliberal failure, utopian vision is what is needed. To re-engage people with democratic politics, we need to move beyond culture wars and arguments over marginal adjustments to tax rates and budget allocations, necessary as these may be in the short term.

The Madness of Donald Trump - The pressures of the presidency have pushed Trump to the edge, but is he crazy enough to be removed from office? - Rolling Stone

The North Korean Cult - Project Syndicate
It is possible that North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, and perhaps even some subjects of his despotic rule, would rather be obliterated than give in. It would not be the first time that a quasi-religious movement turned suicidal.
Almost 40% of LDP candidates back U.S. military action against North Korea, survey finds - Japan Times

Monday, 9 October 2017

The political logic of bickering and other news and views for the day

Polarize and Conquer - The New York Times
Bickering with people who are in the news has a political logic: It deepens the country’s polarization ... The main objective of hating is to incense your critics so that they hate you back even more. Insults tend to provoke more extreme postures.
Cash, T-Shirts and Gallons of Booze: How Liberian Candidates Woo Voters - The New York Times

Why the NBN is a fiscal debacle - The Australian

Denmark jumps on 'burqa ban' bandwagon - Deutsche Wells

Why Bitcoin’s Bubble Matters - If there’s a price crash in the cryptocurrency, it could hit the tech sector—and more - Wall Street Journal

The mainstreaming of right-wing extremism - Washington Post

Tory nuts cause mayhem as Prime Minister's leadership is dead - London Daily Mirror

Sunday, 8 October 2017

The naughty Murdoch News Group and links to other news and views for today

Murdoch’s News Group admits benefiting from hacking of army officer's emails - The Guardian

This is a dramatic new revelation in the saga of criminality in Murdoch’s media empire - Labour Press
Tom Watson, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport,commenting on News Group’s admission of computer hacking, said:
“This is a dramatic new revelation in the saga of criminality in Murdoch’s media empire. Despite being asked about the use of private detectives by the News of the World at a parliamentary committee in 2011 it’s taken a five year civil case for the company to admit to further illegal behaviour.

“We can now add computer hacking to the long list of criminal activities undertaken by Murdoch’s operatives. We know from experience of phone hacking that there won’t just be a single victim. So my question to Rupert Murdoch and his subordinates is this: Who else was hacked?
Trump explains why he’s different than Harvey Weinstein - Think Progress

How Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump, Jr., Avoided a Criminal Indictment - The New Yorker

How Russia’s Facebook ads inflamed America’s social tensions - Think Progress
Fake Russian accounts didn't just push Trump or batter Clinton — they preyed on deeply-rooted cultural tensions between Americans
Inside North Korea, and Feeling the Drums of War - Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times

As U.S. Retreats From World Organizations, China Steps in to Fill the Void - Foreign Policy
Beijing is trying to repurpose abandoned international agencies like UNESCO to serve its strategic interests — such as controlling the internet.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Melbourne the innovator - a report from the Brookings Institution and other news and views

Innovation districts down under: A postcard from Melbourne, Australia - Brookings Institution
I recently returned from a fascinating week-long visit to Melbourne, Australia, where I spent time with key representatives from the state of Victoria, the University of Melbourne, the city of Melbourne, and other key stakeholders to learn how Melbourne is advancing innovation districts. Frankly, I was surprised by the level of work underway: there are multiple innovation districts (or innovation precincts, as they are often called there) in various phases of development, which cumulatively has the potential to create a broader innovation ecosystem—or innovation spine—across the city.
In short, Melbourne is a city to watch. ...
Yet the biggest takeaway from Melbourne was their ambition to develop innovation precincts in multiple areas across the city. ...
To conclude, while Melbourne is at the initial stages of developing a cluster innovation districts, their work-in-progress offers a glimpse of what could be new models of innovation-led development for other to learn from—from the “superfloor” level to the “innovation spine.” We look forward to learning more from Melbourne in the months and years to come.
Kezelman saga timely reminder for McClennan royal commission - Gerard Henderson in The Australian

Speaking Freely, Retiring Sen. Corker Warns GOP He Could Oppose Tax Plan - NPT

Justice Department issues new ‘religious freedom’ memo that invites anti-LGBTQ discrimination - Think Progress

Swedish model gets rape threats after ad shows her unshaved legs The Guardian

A radical feast: why we need Michelin’s culinary elitism - Financial Times

A Former ICC Chief's Dubious Links Luis Moreno Ocampo hunted the world's worst war criminals and brought them to trial at the International Criminal Court. But internal documents show that he allowed himself to be exploited by a Libyan to protect him from investigation and that he took money from the billionaire. - Spiegel

How Tillerson Is Trying to Save the Iran Deal From His Boss - New York

What Jagmeet Singh’s historic NDP leadership win means for Canada - The Conversation

Our Time Has Come - How India is Making Its Place in the World - Council of Foreign Relations

Trump supporters eager to ‘drain the swamp’ help fill Republican Party coffers - Washington Post

How to remove a Conservative leader - New Statesman

Friday, 6 October 2017

Of gherkins, abortions and granola - some news and views suggestions for today

Dutch Regulator Warns Banks and Insurers to Factor in Climate Change - Bloomberg

Can white supremacy be legislated under Trump? - Brookings

The price of paid news may not stay high - Financial Times - Google could soon bundle information like a cable television company

The Gherkin Story: For Explaining Exchange Rate Risk - Conversable Economist

Is it now okay to discriminate against people who oppose abortion? Globe and Mail

Indonesia strengthens navy, air force in face of China expansion - Nikkei Asian Review

FDA Says 'Love' Isn't An Ingredient In Granola NPR

Solving the Korean crisis with game theory - Roger Myerson

How experts can regain our trust - ‘They can learn from Trump, who communicates in stories and images rather than numbers and jargon’ - Financial Times

James Murdoch faces potential investor backlash at Sky AGM - Shareholder activist groups push for vote against his re-election as chairman - Financial Times

Is Nonviolence—or Fighting Back—the Answer to Far-Right Thuggery? As Trump incites violence, the left needs a counter-strategy. - The Nation

Nick Xenophon's had rambling fever all along - a political singalong for today

Thursday, 5 October 2017

When it comes to gender equality Australia is in the middle of the OECD pack

A new OECD report "The pursuit of gender equality - An uphill battle" shows Australia is a mid-range performer among OECD countries across most gender equality outcomes. A comparison of countries shows young women in Australia have made significant gains in educational attainment, and now make up 58.7% of all graduates from undergraduate degree programmes – a share slightly above the OECD average. Despite this strong educational performance, women are less likely than men to engage in paid work and continue to earn less. The median full-time working woman in Australia earns 87 cents to every man's dollar, relative to an OECD average of 85.7 cents to the dollar.

The report finds that many factors contribute to the gender wage gap, including women's higher likelihood of interrupting their careers for childrearing and employer discrimination. Another key contributor to the wage gap is job segregation by gender. Although Australian women are more likely than men to go to university, women are much less likely to study (and later work in) the lucrative science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Related to this, there is also highly gendered segregation in job sector: only 8.7% of women in Australia work in industry, compared to 30.9% of men. Across countries, including Australia, women are much more highly concentrated in service jobs, which tend to pay less than more technical roles.

In summarising that Gender equality in Australia has room for improvement the report concludes:
Achieving gender equality in Australia will require a multifaceted approach. Women's disproportionate responsibility to provide unpaid caregiving presents a major barrier to women's labour force advancement across sectors, and Australia must recommit to gender equality in caregiving and promoting both parents' labour force participation. This requires strengthening policies that make it easier for both mothers and fathers to work, including longer paid parental leave, good-quality childcare, tax incentives, and out-of-school hours care. Australia has initiated some novel campaigns to break down gender stereotypes, but more work is needed. 

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Belief in heaven and hell, angels and demons - religion is not dead in Australia yet

A troubling sign for those "It's alright to vote No" people in this week's Essential Poll. While 53% of people who attend church at least once a month are against same sex marriage, those who never attend are 71% in favour. And the never-goers are a growing group. According to the 2016 official Australian Bureau of Statistics Census there are now more people saying they have no religion than there are Catholics - 30% no religion to 23% Catholics and 52% for Christians overall. Sometimes Christian attenders split 58% saying allow same sex marriage to 34% saying no.

When it comes to religion in Australia things have changed considerably over the last 50 years. Back in 1966 only 0.8% of people answered the Census question that they had no religion. And even among the Christian faithful the Essential poll suggests that all is not as it once was. Asked "How much trust do you have in the following institutions and organisations?", respondents had most trust in the Federal police (71%), State police (67%), the High Court (61%), the ABC (52%) and the Reserve Bank (49%). They had least trust in political parties (17%), business groups (27%), trade unions (27%) and religious organisations (28%).

Still, the pollsters tell us that religion has not lost all its influence. Consider these Essential findings:

A bold new way for Australia's High Court chief and other news and views of the day

Robert French first joined the High Court as Chief Justice. His successor, Susan Kiefel, assumes the office after having spent the best part of a decade already on the Court. Her record shows her to be, like French, a judge who is consistently in the majority. ... Kiefel assumes the office of Chief Justice at a time when she has consistently achieved an extraordinarily low rate of dissent on par with that of the former Chief Justice. There is no doubt that she is a key part of the majority that almost always determines the outcome of matters before the Court. In remarks delivered early in her new position, the new Chief Justice made clear her commitment to the continuance of the ‘collegiate approach’ to judicial decision-making that was so evident on the High Court under her predecessor. ... In the case of Kiefel, she became Chief Justice having already driven a significant change of direction on the Court. Arguably, her most important intellectual contribution to date relates to the use of proportionality in the balancing of rights and interests in constitutional contexts. It appears that her interest in and development of the subject has led the Court to embark upon a major reassessment of its use in the context of the implied freedom of political communication. McCloy v New South Wales, 68 a joint judgment comprising French CJ, Kiefel, Bell and Keane JJ, opens by setting down an elaborate reformulation of the proportionality test, heavily influenced by German jurisprudence. This structured approach represents a bold, new method of addressing such questions in Australian law, and may have a wider impact on how the Court balances rights and interests in other contexts 
Oprah is dropping hints again she might run for president - Macleans

Monday, 2 October 2017

Julie Bishop's critics don't understand - "Girls just want to have fun" so join our political singalong

The critics on the web are being quite harsh on Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Her defence for attending the AFL grand final at taxpayer expense - that it is an international event - has not convinced the great unwashed. The Owl thinks it is all very unfair. Cyndi Lauper explains all.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Reports that Alan Jones to sing "Love Changes Everything" at NRL grand final

The National Rugby League has apparently been so delighted with the response to its decision to have Mickelmore sing Same Love before Sunday's grand final that radio shock jock Alan Jones might be approached to fill the half time entertainment spot with this rendition of Love Changes Everything:

NRL officials believe that Jones would bring political balance to the proceedings and blunt the criticism being levelled by Tony Abbott and others that rugby league has taken sides on the marriage equality question.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Tony Abbott's on the warpath - Send in the army is his cry as we singalong

Tony Abbott's on the war path. Send in the army is his cry according to this report on the news.com.au website
TONY Abbott has been ordered by senior colleagues to cool it after he seemed to suggest the Army could invade the states which don’t expand natural gas production.

The former Prime Minister has said his successor Malcolm Turnbull could invoke “defence powers”, telling Fairfax Media the Commonwealth could then take management of resources from states.
His drastic response to warnings of a possible gas shortage next year was an implied criticism of Mr Turnbull’s deal with three major gas suppliers yesterday to ensure potential exports would be used to protect the domestic market from gas scarcities.
And it was immediately laughed off by senior colleagues of Mr Abbott.
“No we’re not interested in a khaki solution,” Treasurer Scott Morrison said curtly today.
And a senior Government source said the move would be illegal.
“The Defence Powers are a wartime provision. There is no way the High Court would allow it to be used like that,” said the source.
The defence powers allow the Commonwealth to impose domestic new controls during wartime, such as rationing and price fixing.
They have never been seen as a means to control the market or other governments during peace time.

Clearly it's time for another political singalong.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Is Tony Abbott the Joker of Australian politics?

Tony Abbott and trust

Abbott's disruption is raising the question: where will it end?

File 20170920 16403 1lwa2gd

Tony Abbott has reportedly threatened to cross the floor if there is any attempt to legislate a clean energy target.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Even in today’s often bizarre political environment, Tuesday night’s encounter between Tony Abbott, Peta Credlin and Alan Jones on Sky News was surreal.

Credlin, Abbott’s former chief-of-staff, now works for Sky, where she more often than not is a sharp critic of the Turnbull government. Jones, a highly opinionated voice on 2GB who has a weekly Sky program, spruiks for the former prime minister’s return to the leadership. Abbott is running a jihad against renewables, increasing the pressure on Malcolm Turnbull as the government struggles to bring together an energy policy.

It was a cosy threesome, and the off-air chit-chat would have been gold.

Among the on-air gems was Credlin asking Abbott whether he trusted Turnbull, because “you know and I know what happened in 2009”. What they both knew, according to Credlin, was that Turnbull ordered one line to be taken in negotiations over an emissions trading scheme while “telling the partyroom something completely different”.

Credlin wondered: “Do you trust the prime minister is going to do the right thing or is he going to sign you up to a clean energy target without proper debate?”

Abbott said the important thing was that the decision would have to go through the partyroom where there are “extremely serious reservations about this clean energy target”.

Abbott has poked and prodded at Turnbull on a range of fronts for two years, steadily raising the heat in recent months.

Now his disruption has reached a new level – so much so that one wonders how it can go on without coming to a blow up.

Constantly out in the public arena, Abbott currently is upping the ante over energy policy, and campaigning hard for a No vote in the same-sex marriage postal ballot.

On the latter Turnbull, a strong Yes advocate but leading a government split on the question, is in the hands of those who chose to vote in the voluntary “survey”. On the former, he’s ultimately in the partyroom’s hands. On both issues, these are uncomfortable and risky places to be.

Abbott’s onslaught against renewables is more than just disgruntlement from a man deposed. It’s a well-honed attack. Just like the one he and others mounted against Turnbull in 2009 over carbon pricing, which triggered Turnbull’s fall as leader and Abbott’s (unexpected) ascension.

Liberals still don’t think Abbott could recapture the prime ministership. But his power to harm an embattled Turnbull is enormous.

He is working on fertile ground in the energy area. A sizeable section of the Coalition is deeply antipathetic to renewables.

The Nationals’ federal conference recently called for the renewables’ subsidies to be phased out.

Turnbull initially seemed enthusiastic about Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s clean energy target, although he always made it clear a policy based on it must include clean coal.

But he has stepped further and further towards playing up the role of coal, to the point of his face-off with AGL over its determination to close its Liddell power station.

In his comments, Abbott notes Turnbull’s greater emphasis on coal, saying – with a touch of condescension – that he thinks Turnbull has “got the message” which is to his “credit”.

But Abbott has put the bar as high as possible. It’s not just a matter of allowing coal into the clean energy target – a target mustn’t be countenanced. “It would be unconscionable – I underline that word – unconscionable for a government that was originally elected promising to abolish the carbon tax and to end Labor’s climate obsessions to go further down this renewable path.”

In that one sentence Abbott seeks to own energy policy, both past and future.

The Australian on Wednesday reported that Abbott has threatened to cross the floor if there is any attempt to legislate a clean energy target, and would likely be followed by others. He wrote in an opinion piece for the paper that “the Liberal and National backbench might need to save the government from itself”.

He is inciting the followers to constrain their leader before or, at the extreme, after the decisions on energy policy are made. Usually, the decision-making flows downward, from the prime minister and the cabinet to a backbench that is consulted but basically told what will be done.

It’s nearly impossible for Turnbull and ministers to handle the rampaging backbencher. They try to dodge and weave. “I don’t think a former prime minister is going to move to put a Labor government into power,” Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said on Wednesday.

It’s counterproductive for them to get into a slanging match with Abbott, not least because the policy formulation still seems to be in shifting sands and also because they don’t want to agitate an already touchy backbench.

If Turnbull and the government embrace a clen energy target the danger is that Abbott might indeed be able to foment a revolt which, depending on the outcome, could be humiliating, or a lot worse, for Turnbull.

To the extent that Turnbull is forced to gesture to the Abbott line in the decisions made, Abbott will claim the credit.

The ConversationBut the more Abbott’s anti-renewables position can get traction, the worse the policy problem for the government. Turnbull may ensure coal has some prominence in the long-term policy mix but if the government were perceived to be turning against renewables, a growing industry would be set back, causing further investment chaos.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

A few words from Barrie Cassidy on the wisdom of attacking AGL

Thursday, 14 September 2017

The old boy is back and he's cross - a little song as Howard slams Turnbull

The politically correct with no sense of humour and some political news and views

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Are Sir Lynton Crosby and Mark Textor to blame? And some other suggested political reads for the day

  • In London's Financial Times Senior Tories play blame game over general election disaster has the Australian duo of Sir Lynton Crosby and Mark Textor on centre stage.  
  • As there are increasing calls for Australia to take in Rohingya refugees there s a cautionary snippet, again in the FT, saying that the Indian government believes Rohingya Muslims are "a potential security threat" after the emergence last year of a trained and well funded group of Rohingya militants led by Saudi-based émigrés.
  • And an election update from Russia provided by Reuters, At a Russian polling station, phantom voters cast ballots for the 'Tsar'. "At polling station no. 333 in the Russian city of Vladikavkaz, Reuters reporters only counted 256 voters casting their ballots in a regional election on Sunday. People were voting across Russia in what is seen as a dress rehearsal for next year’s presidential vote. Kremlin candidates for regional parliaments and governorships performed strongly nationwide.When the official results for polling station no. 333 were declared, the turnout was first given as 1,331 before being revised up to 1,867 on Tuesday.... - with 73 percent of the votes going to United Russia, the party of President Vladimir Putin."
  • Carmakers face electric reality as combustion engine outlook dims FRANKFURT (Reuters) - European car bosses are beginning to address the realities of mass vehicle electrification, and its consequences for jobs and profit, their minds focused by government pledges to outlaw the combustion engine.
  • A note on the ethics of the pharmaceutical industry - Drug maker ducks patent law by pretending its drugs belong to Mohawk tribe
  • Trump review leans toward proposing mini-nuke - Politico reports that the Trump administration is considering proposing smaller, more tactical nuclear weapons that would cause less damage than traditional thermonuclear bombs — a move that would give military commanders more options but could also make the use of atomic arms more likely.
  • China-born New Zealand MP probed by spy agency

Michelle Grattan on the Government and AGL

Treating AGL with public contempt seems hardly the way to get the best outcome

File 20170912 19534 vz4e8d

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg accused AGL of wanting to have its cake and eat it too.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

If anyone thinks the government isn’t behaving in a extraordinary manner in its onslaught against AGL over the future of the Liddell power station, just consider what the Coalition would say if a Labor government acted like this.

It would go beserk.

After hauling in AGL chief executive Andy Vesey on Monday, the government took its roughing up of the company to new levels on Tuesday.

Malcolm Turnbull accused AGL of not knowing what alternative it has to closing Liddell, despite the company previously flagging a plan.

Barnaby Joyce suggested its reluctance to sell Liddell was a case of “shorting the market”.

Following the report from the Australian Energy Market Operator of an expected electricity shortfall over coming years, the government is pressing AGL to keep the coal-fired Liddell station going for at least five years beyond its scheduled 2022 closure, or to sell it.

At Monday’s meeting with Turnbull and ministers, Vesey said the company would come back within 90 days with an alternative plan.

Vesey did agree, obviously reluctantly, to take the government’s options to its board. But that night he told the ABC’s Lateline: “I think that we are committed to finding the best solution for the market. We believe that we can deliver that without having to consider the extension or sell the plant. And that is what we are going to work on.”

Turnbull on Tuesday said the company had not articulated an alternative so the government did not know what it was. “And frankly, I don’t think they do either, by the way. If they had a plan, they’d be able to put it on the table now.”

Yet Vesey’s post-meeting statement had noted AGL had “previously advised the market that replacement of capacity will likely be provided by a mix of load shaping and firming from gas peaking plant, demand response, pumped hydro and batteries”. The company had canvassed the plan in its August report to the ASX.

Joyce didn’t mince words when he addressed Tuesday’s Coalition partyroom meeting. “AGL’s refusal to sell Liddell shows they are shorting the market. They will probably make more money out of having one operating coal-fired power station than two,” he said. AGL also has the Bayswater power station in New South Wales, which is near Liddell (as well as Loy Yang in Victoria).

Asked later on Sky about his comment, Joyce was reluctant to be so explicit. “I could never affirm to that otherwise I’d be off to court,” he said. “What I can say is this question has not been reasonably answered: why? Why pull a power plant to pieces if there are people out there who want to buy it?” He said he knew of two entities interested in buying Liddell.

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg accused the company of wanting to have its cake and eat it too – promote its exit from coal while staying in coal for decades to come. He and Joel Fitzgibbon, in whose Hunter electorate Liddell is situated, had a very public face-off in the press gallery corridor.

In Question Time, Turnbull accused Fitzgibbon and another Labor MP of being collaborators with and apologists for Vesey and AGL.

The bashing of AGL – accompanied of course by a blame game against past Labor policies for high energy prices – sounded desperate.

If the government were serious about trying to persuade AGL to sell Liddell, wouldn’t some lower-key negotiation be the better way to go?

And if AGL, which has given years of notice of the close of Liddell, believes the shortfall can effectively be dealt with by other ways, surely it is premature to be so dismissive of what it is saying?

Treating the company and its chief executive with public contempt seems hardly the way to get the best outcome.

But the government is heavily driven by a combination of policy paralysis, electoral fear, and perception of a political opportunity.

An Essential poll published on Tuesday shows it has an uphill battle in front of it to persuade voters it is on top of the energy challenge. When people were asked which party they thought would be more likely to deliver lower energy prices, 28% said a Labor government, compared with 19% who said a Coalition government, while 35% believed there would be no difference.

The government is riven by division over the path ahead for its long-term policy, with those who give coal a high priority recently gaining increasing sway, and hauling Turnbull in their direction.

Meanwhile the government is trying to escape the odium of soaring power prices. Apart from hanging them on Labor, one way is to exploit the fact that, like the banks, power companies are villains in the public mind. So the government is painting the one in its immediate sights as grasping and gouging for profits.

But there is no guarantee the approach will succeed and it could backfire. What if, as appears most likely at the moment, AGL decides to resist the thuggery and persist with its plan? The government can’t force the company to bend to its wishes. In those circumstances, it would have to hope the AGL plan was sound or find other sources of supply.

Meanwhile the messages the government is sending are likely to raise concerns in business generally. Its conduct is going beyond its demonstrated willingness, on a range of fronts, to intervene in a very active way on energy.

The ConversationIt is unedifying bullying, in which some might even see echoes of Malcolm Turnbull’s former corporate days.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Only one minor election example but a pox on all your parties

Just over the border from Canberra they went to the polls on Saturday to elect the Queanbeyan Palerang council. I don't want to make too much of the result but there is one little warning to the three major parties. Labor, Liberal and Green parties managed just under 30% of the vote between them.

Party % share
Labor 13.55
Liberal 9.13
Green 6.45
Other 70.87

Comparison with earlier council polls in this section of NSW (that's part of the federal electorate of Eden Monaro) are made difficult by a recent amalgamation of the Queanbeyan and Palerang Councils. Back in 2012 the Labor vote in Queanbeyan was 18.3% and 15.7% in Palerang. The Liberals did not have a ticket in either election back then but the Green voter in Queanbeyan was 5.4%

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Memories of a bygone era when at question time members asked questions and ministers tried to answer them

As I muddle along looking back at my 50 or so years in Canberra I had occasion today to look at an old House of Representatives Hansard. What a contrast it provided to the circus I watch these days where no one asks for or gets information. You will see what I mean in the proceedings of 1 September 1966. The Acting Prime Minister, John McEwen, got more questions than other ministers but he by no means dominated proceedings and government members were not confined to asking Dorothy Dixers. Nor did Opposition Leader Arthur Calwell and his deputy Gough Whitlam prevent their colleagues from having a say.



– I preface a question to the Minister for Primary Industry by drawing attention to a reply given recently by the Minister in which he said that he was anxious to conserve fishing resources in waters adjacent to Australia. When is action likely to be taken to extend Australia’s fishing zone from three miles to twelve miles7 When the zone is extended what means will be used to protect it, bearing in mind Australia’s extensive coastline?
Minister for Primary Industry · FISHER, QUEENSLAND · CP
– We are continually conferring with the responsible Ministers in Western Australia and other States on this matter. As the honorable member has asked a question with legal implications I will refer it to the Attorney-General for a reply.
page 657



– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question. After discussions last June with the Director-General and other senior officers of the Department of Civil Aviation, kindly arranged by the Minister, I wrote to the honorable gentleman requesting an examination of the possibility of insulating those homes, schools and other buildings that are most seriously affected by aircraft noise. I referred also to the possible establishment of a fund to meet claims for damages arising from the effects of vibration caused by low flying aircraft. T referred to similar action taken by the United Kingdom Government. I now ask the Minister whether the inquiries which he promised to make overseas have been completed and whether he is in a position to give a decision in this matter.
Minister for Civil Aviation · DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND · LP
– The honorable member has written to me on a number of occasions about this matter as it affects Essendon airport. I arranged for the honorable member to discuss the matter with officers of my Department. At the moment, I have no information that I could provide which would be more up to date than the information I provided in my last letter. However, considerable inquiries have been made overseas in relation to the problem in
Sydney and Melbourne. I assure the honorable member that very careful consideration is being given to his suggestion. I should refer to another point which I have mentioned previously in the House. A conference is to be held next month in the United Kingdom on the subject of noise associated with airports. Australia will be represented at the conference. From that conference we hope to obtain a lot of information that will be of value in assessing the position at Australian airports. Secondly, the situation at Essendon will be greatly improved when the new Melbourne airport at Tullamarine is opened. At Tullamarine wo have been fortunate in obtaining sufficient land around the airport to provide a buffer. The diversion of a large amount of traffic from Essendon to the new airport will relieve the situation at Essendon.
page 658



– My question is addressed to the Minister for Territories. Will he tell the House whether the Government has intervened, or intends to intervene, in the present wage dispute between Aboriginal station hands and pastoralists in the Northern Territory? As the dispute has its origin in a decision of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to delay the granting of full award rates to these people, will the Minister take the initiative and immediately call a conference, if he has not already done so, so that a just settlement can be worked out between the parties?
Minister for Territories · MCPHERSON, QUEENSLAND · CP
– The honorable member for the Northern Territory is referring to the recent hearing of an industrial case concerning the cattle industry award in the Northern Territory. The award will now embrace Aboriginal employees. The judgment of the Commission was delivered some time ago - I think in June. The Commission decided that Aboriginal stockmen were to be paid full award wages by December 1968 and suggested that, in the interim, the parties should try to agree on a method of phasing in that would enable the employers to adjust to the increased wages they must pay and the employees to become accustomed to handling the extra money. Negotiations are proceeding between the employers, my Department and the union, but so far no agreement has been reached. I do not see that any intervention in the negotiations is necessary at present.
page 658



– I direct my question to the Minister for National Development. By way of explanation, may I say that the official reports give the cost of peak hour electric power sold in bulk by the Snowy Mountains Authority to New South Wales and Victoria as an average of .93d. per unit and that the forecast future average cost is Id. I ask the Minister: Would not a large nuclear reactor, constructed in the Cooma area as part of the Snowy scheme and linked to a system of pumped storage, enable additional peak hour power to be sold to New South Wales and Victoria at a price less than that quoted above and still show a profit after meeting all charges for interest and depreciation? Would not such a plan implemented over five years provide useful employment in the Cooma area for some part of both design and construction staffs of the Snowy Mountains Authority?
Minister for National Development · FARRER, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP
– The decision as to where any nuclear power station is to be placed, or indeed even whether there is to be a nuclear power station, in New South Wales is entirely a matter for the Electricity Commission of New South Wales. Nevertheless, the proposal put by the honorable member is most interesting and I will see that it is fully investigated. The honorable member will realise that pumped storage is planned for Tumut 3. The water is to be caught in a small dam below the main dam and pumped back with off peak power to enable the production of larger quantities of peak power. During my recent trip overseas, I was agreeably surprised to learn that the cost of nuclear power is coming down, particularly where it is used for large units. 1 understand that authorities in the United States have already under construction or are committed to construct an amount of nuclear power equivalent to three times the entire power at present generated in Australia. Even the Tennessee Valley Authority, which is probably the biggest water authority in the world, has now planned to put a large nuclear power station in the middle of its area.
page 659



– I address my question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. In view of the fact that Australia is paying S70 million a year to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, could not some effort be made to persuade the European section of the community in the Territory that Australian cars and other goods are at least the equal of cars and goods from other countries? Are not Australian table wines, for instance, among the world’s best and are they not good enough for officials in the Territory who, after all, enjoy our bounty?
Minister for Trade and Industry · MURRAY, VICTORIA · CP
– I can understand the reasonableness of the proposition inherent in the question. I point out, however, that the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is a Trust Territory held under trust from the United Nations. It would be contrary to the terms of the trust on which we hold the Territory to attempt to establish some form of preference for Australia in the administration of the Territory.
Mr Clyde Cameron:
– That does not apply to Papua, does it?
– I would not like to think that we treated Papua differently from New Guinea.
page 659



– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry, relates to the payment of the bounty on nitrogenous fertilisers which came into operation on 17th August. I ask: What is the position of resellers who, on 17th August, had stocks of this fertiliser on hand? As an instance, I refer to dried fruits packing houses with stocks of this fertiliser which will be sold to primary producers who should receive the benefit of the bounty.
– Many distributors normally distributing to various producers, as well as the dried fruits organisations that the honorable member has mentioned, had stocks of the fertiliser on hand. The administration of the relevant legislation, when it is passed by the Parliament, will be undertaken by the Department of Customs and Excise, but officers of my Department will work with customs officials in trying to sort out the situation. The Department of Customs and Excise has invited all holders of stocks to advise that Department so that it may make a complete assessment of the position. I think that it would be necessary to cover the stocks held by distributors as well as those held by manufacturers.
page 659



– I would like to ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a question that relates to the opinions expressed recently by the Prime Minister, and confirmed by the Minister for Territories in this House last night, concerning the recessionary problem with which the motor vehicle manufacturing industry, as a large scale user of labour, finds itself confronted. The Prime Minister and the Minister for Territories, in voicing their sympathy, pointed out that the present situation is necessary because of over expansion in the industry. I ask: If the Government seriously wished to cut back this over expansion, why did it not act earlier and prevent the present situation, with its harshly punitive effects, from arising in thu industry? Why has the Government in fact encouraged further investment recently by announcing a 10 per cent, tariff supercharge applicable to numerous imports of motor vehicles? Finally, is not the real reason for the present situation in the industry the Government’s desire to apply the crunch to private investment in order to make possible public expenditure on the scale proposed?
– The whole history of the Government’s fostering of the automobile manufacturing industry in Australia is based on support for the industry and promotion of its strength throughout. I am sure that the honorable member knows of the proposals which the Government brought forward a couple of years ago and which were designed to induce as many manufacturers as possible to produce at least 95 per cent, of the components of each vehicle in Australia as distinct from the previous practice of importing very substantial proportions of each vehicle. Even in respect of a vehicle whose volume of production here does not warrant so large a proportion of Australian content, an inducement is offered to encourage the manufacturers to produce more than 50 per cent, of the components of the vehicle in Australia. despite the low throughput. The recent imposition of an additional 10 per cent, duty on vehicles imported wholly built up is the outcome of a Tariff Board recommendation made after a thorough investigation of the industry. The additional duty clearly is designed to foster the production of vehicles wholly built in Australia and to protect them against competition by vehicles the manufacture of which provides employment in other countries and which are brought into this country wholly built up.
page 660



– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. Can the honorable gentleman give the House any information as to the composition and equipment of the Vietcong forces against which elements of the Australian task force fought so successfully near Baria?
Mr Uren:
– Mr. Speaker. 1 rise to order. This question is on the notice paper.
– What is the number?
– Order! The honorable member has raised a point of order. He should be fully equipped to indicate the number of the particular question.
Mr Uren:
– I refer to Questions Nos. 1962 and 2027.
– Order! I point out to to the honorable member for Parkes that the information he now seeks can be obtained as a result of the questions which appear on the notice paper. The honorable member who placed the questions on the notice paper did so in the full exercise of his rights, which must be preserved.
- Mr. Speaker, I asked the Minister not only about equipment but also about the composition of the forces.
– Order! I call the honorable member for Bonython.
page 660



– My question to the Minister for the Army refers to the question which I asked him on Tuesday of this week. Is it a fact that an inter-departmental committee has recommended to the Government the establishment of a special committee to be set up within the Army to screen regular sol diers and conscripts who want to stand for election to the Parliament at the forthcoming general election? If this is correct, will the Minister explain his reply to my previous question? In any case, what justification can exist for screening candidates for Parliament, whether they are servicemen or civilians, and why the distinction between servicemen and civilians?
Mr Malcolm Fraser:
– The reply that I gave the honorable member previously was correct and I have nothing to add to it at this point of time.
page 660



– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question regarding satellite communication stations. Can the Minister tell the House what progress has been made in Australia in the building of satellite communication stations and the associated equipment which will enable Australian telephone subscribers to make calls direct through the international telephone network? Is Australian progress in this sphere developing at the same rate as progress in other countries?
Postmaster-General · PETRIE, QUEENSLAND · LP
– I believe that most honorable members would be interested in this subject. More time than should be given at question time would be required to deal with this subject adequately. When the House resumes I shall, having prepared a statement, ask the House for permission to make a statement about this matter.
page 660



– -Is it possible for the Attorney-General to furnish a statement showing the names of the companies in which the Australian Mutual Provident Society has purchased debentures and the value of the investments in each of these companies?
Attorney-General · BRUCE, VICTORIA · LP
– I shall make inquiries to ascertain what information can be provided. It occurs to me at the first hearing of the question that it might be a matter which is within the control of the State authorities. However, I shall make inquiries and see what information can be provided.
page 661



– I direct my question to the Minister for Social Services who is do doubt well aware that through the courtesy of his Department certain types of pensioners receive reduced television and radio licence fees. I ask: In view of the clause whereby those in receipt of a certain rate of income automatically miss out on such reduction, will he ensure that the upper limit today is increased so that as a result of the proposed increases in the base rate pension these people will not miss out on the reduced rates?
Mr Barnard:
– Particularly war widows.
– This should also include war widows.
Minister for Social Services · NEW ENGLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP
– I can assure the honorable member that I will examine the problem he has raised. These licence fee concessions are to help pensioners who for various reasons are unable to pay the full amount of the fee. Consequently, any extension of pension benefits is normally intended to cover not only the pensions themselves but also the ancillary benefits. I will look into the substance of the honorable member’s question and I can assure him it will receive sympathetic consideration.
page 661



– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I refer to the reported serious shortage of police personnel, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria, and I ask whether the Minister has received any request from the police authorities in those States to exempt 20-year old police employees from call up for national service.
Minister for Labour and National Service · WENTWORTH, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP
– ]f there were to be any representations at all they would hardly come from the police associations themselves. T presume that those bodies would raise the matter with their State Governments.
Mr Calwell:
– He said “ police authorities “.
Mr James:
– Administrations.
– Well, it does not matter in any case, because that would make it even more likely that the representations would come from the State authorities themselves.
Mr Calwell:
– Has the Minister had any requests?
– I have not received any such requests and I should point out that a basic principle of the national service scheme is that everyone in Australia who is liable for service shall be treated on precisely the same footing, whatever his circumstances and occupation.
page 661



– I would like to address a question to you, Mr. Speaker. Are you aware that the notice paper contains up to 40 questions placed there on the one day by some honorable members opposite? Will you consider the desirability of action to limit the number and wide reference of questions placed on the notice paper, so that question time may not be deliberately obstructed?
– I point out to the honorable member for Evans that it is the right of any honorable member to place a question on the notice paper, and I hope that the last thing a presiding officer will do will be to interfere with the rights of honorable members. As a hint to the honorable member I may say that there is a Standing Order about this matter.
page 661



– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question. The honorable member will have noticed an announcement by the British Postmaster-General four weeks ago that the Post Office in Britain is to become a public corporation, the members of which will be appointed by and responsible to a Minister. As the Australian Post Office is closely related in its history and organisation to the British Post Office and is now the largest enterprise in the southern hemisphere, has the honorable gentleman considered, or is he considering, whether it would now be appropriate to adopt this kind of structure, which the Commonwealth has most successfully adopted in respect of airlines, shipping, banking and insurance?
– I have followed with some interest changes which have taken place in the British Post Office over the last two or three years. The first of these changes was a determination to cause the British Post Office to look after its own finances to a greater extent than it had in the past; that is, to release to some degree from Treasury control the supply of funds. To this end it was determined that there should be a profit rate of about 8 per cent, earned by the British Post Office, first for the payment of interest on the total assets which are used by the Post Office; secondly, to cover supplementary depreciation - that is depreciation over and above normal rates having regard to the cost of replacement of assets - and thirdly, to provide a sum of money which could be used for capital purposes.
I do not know that this has been successful other than in the Post Office providing some of its own capital resources, ft is still substantially dependent on the British Treasury. On the latest proposal of the British PostmasterGeneral for the Post Office to cease to be a department of state and become a corporation, the statement of Mr. Short in the British Parliament was itself very short, lt was a brief statement which did not give a great deal of information. It indicated that the Nationalised Industries Committee was investigating the situation and that it would produce as a result of this investigation a White Paper, probably at the end of this year or early next year, and that the change would take place in about three years’ time. He did say that the Parliament could not expect the Post Office to be tied to its apron strings indefinitely.
I do not quite know what this expression means - for instance, whether it means that members of Parliament will not have the right to ask questions about the activities of the Post Office. Certainly he indicated that no longer would the British Post Office employees be civil servants, but he added that that was a matter he would have to work out. I am not satisfied at the moment that there is sufficient evidence on which I could make a judgment about whether this would be an appropriate move in Australia, but I believe that we should study what happens in the British Post Office, and if we believe we can achieve some good result from following the example then perhaps we should do so. However, this will be a matter for submission to the Government and for the Government’s determination later.
page 662



– I address a question to the Acting Prime Minister. Although we are increasing our aid to South East Asian countries and other countries through the Colombo Plan, would it be possible for Australia to accept responsibility for a specific major project in this area? I have in mind the rehabilitation and, if need be, the rebuilding of the shipping port at Djarkata.
– I suppose all such things are possible, but it is a matter of fitting within the total programme of our obligations whatever is thought desirable in a number of countries. I note the suggestion of the honorable member.
page 662



– I address a question to the Minister for Social Services and ask: Is it correct that his Department refuses to recognise as dependants children born out of wedlock to widowed pensioners? ls this not a severe punishment for indiscretion? Will he consider recognising such children as pensioner dependants in cases where efforts to have the father maintain the child have failed?
– I do not quite follow the honorable member’s question, because my Department does not fail to recognise the dependants of widow pensioners in the circumstances to which I understand the honorable member refers. In fact any person who has the care, custody and control of a child or children within Australia is entitled to receive child endowment. This applies whether or not, for example, a person is a naturalised Australian. It applies to a migrant who comes to this country and it applies to children who are in institutions. Each of the organisations and individuals concerned is entitled to child endowment. If the honorable member is talking about the child allowance which is supplemental to the pension, then in these circumstances also the children of widows are normally granted the additional 15s. a week. I will look into the circumstances of the honorable member’s question but I do not think the difficulty he sees as existing really exists.
page 663



– Does the PostmasterGeneral know that in certain districts of Victoria where it has become necessary for farmers to bring their telephone lines up to the required standard owing to the introduction of State Electricity Commission services, the Postmaster-General’s Department is asking as much as $700 a mile to do the work said to be necessary? Is this charge in accord with Post Office policy? Is it Government policy? Will the PostmasterGeneral investigate this matter with a view to giving some practical interpretation of the oft heard call for decentralisation?
– I cannot be certain of the amount of $700 a mile mentioned by the honorable member but I do know that the Post Office has certain requirements relating to the provision by individuals of telephone lines beyond a certain point. That is to say, the Post Office does not accept responsibility for the unlimited outlay of money for the provision of private telephones. Let me illustrate this by mentioning one area where a telephone was demanded and it was discovered that the cost of installation would be between £6,000 and £7,000. whereas the revenue received from this service would be between £15 and £20 a year. In that instance the Post Office was not prepared to accept the responsibility for the outlay of the amount involved.
The Post Office has the right to determine the limit of the expenditure it will incur in relation to individual lines. Beyond that point the responsibility rests with the persons concerned. If there is an improvement in the service - this happens when a service is changed from a manual to an automatic exchange with subscriber trunk dialling - it is necessary generally for an uplift in the standard of the privately erected section of the line. The responsibility for meeting the cost involved beyond the point to which the Post Office takes its installation rests with the private individual.
page 663



– I preface my question to the Acting Prime Minister by saying that before leaving Australia on Monday night last the Prime Minister said that Australia was likely to be engaged in many more wars in Asia in the next few years. When does the Government intend to issue a detailed statement showing where and when these wars are to be fought? How many hundreds of thousands of Australian youths are to be conscripted to serve in these Asian wars?
– I am not familiar with what the Prime Minister said and I do not necessarily accept the honorable member’s version as the correct one although I am not challenging it. What I say now is that one would be bold indeed if he were to assume that we had reached the point in time at which we would never again be involved in something relating to the security and defence of our country. So far as this Government is concerned, the security of Australia is our first consideration.
page 663



– Has the Minister for the Army any information which indicates that North Vietnamese regular forces are operating in the vicinity of the Australian task force?
Mr Malcolm Fraser:
– Only recently, some information was released in Saigon, I think through American sources, which indicated that about one half the people operating against the Australian task force element a few days ago-
Mr Uren:
– Mr. Speaker, I raise a point of order. This information was sought by me in a question on the notice paper. That question has not yet been answered. Now the Minister is providing the information in reply to a question by an honorable member on the Government side.
– Order! There is no substance in the point raised by the honorable member. The Minister may answer the question in any way he likes. May I add that I think the question has been rather skilfully framed. The honorable member will resume his seat.
Mr Uren:
– Why is the Government so dishonest.
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
Mr Uren:
– It is not even a question on notice and he has a prepared answer there.
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat, or he will be dealt with. He will control himself.
Mr Bryant:
– Mr. Speaker, on the point of order-
– Order! There is no point of order.
Mr Bryant:
– Have you ruled-
– Order! There is no ruling. The honorable member is out of order. He will resume his seat.
Mr Malcolm Fraser:
– Information has recently been released from Saigon that about half the forces operating against elements of our Task Force in the major battle that took place a few days ago, were comprised of North Vietnamese regular troops. It has also been released from Saigon that the total forces operating against our troops in that conflict numbered approximately 1,500. Most of the weapons that were left behind when the Vietcong and North Vietnamese troops retreated at the end of the conflict were made in Communist China.
page 664



– I. would like to ask the Acting Prime Minister a question. Has the right honorable gentleman had time to have a look at the notice paper-
Mr McEwen:
– No.
– Perhaps I can help the right honorable gentleman. If he will have a look at questions Nos. 796 and 797 on the notice paper he will see that both were asked by me on 10th November 1964. They were directed to the Minister for Territories. They have not yet been answered. I would like the right honorable gentleman to state whether he will have a talk with his Minister who, I think, has been rather neglectful of his duties to the Parliament and also direspectful-
– Order!
– If the Minister is overworked, will the Acting Prime Minister consider apportioning part of his duties to some other Minister?
– We have never had the advantage of a better Minister for Territories than we have at present. This is widely recognised and I am completely content to leave him deal with his own business.
page 664



– I address a question to the Treasurer. I refer to question No. 1823 on the notice paper in my name. It has been there since 13th May and deals with friendly society dispensaries. Knowing the Minister not to be inflexible or rigid in his attitude, may I ask the right honorable gentleman whether a helpful and early answer to the points raised can be supplied?
– I will see that an early answer is given to the honorable gentleman’s question.
page 664



Minister for Defence · PATERSON, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP
– I think it will bc appreciated that before answering a question of this kind some inquiries in Vietnam are necessary. These are under way. An answer to the honorable gentleman’s question will be given as fully as possible as quickly as possible.
page 664



– I address a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Are operations under the Poultry Industry Assistance Act proceeding satisfactorily? Why are certain amendments to this Act and the Poultry Industry Levy Collection Act necessary? Does the poultry industry generally support these amendments?
– After questions are concluded today I intend to present the first annual report on the operations of the Poultry Industry Act which will reveal a very satisfactory year for the whole industry. Indeed, the industry had hoped to receive an average return of 3s. 3d. a dozen throughout Australia, but finished with a return of almost 3s. lOd. a dozen and so is very happy. But some small amendments are necessary. I have indicated the reasons ibr (hem in the second reading speech of the Bill that has been presented, and the amendments will be discussed when the debate on the legislation is resumed. Experience of the operation of the Act shows that we need to correct these anomalies.
page 665


– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister a question without any reference to politics or anything of that sort. Will he assist honorable members who have put questions on notice - and some of them have been on the notice paper a very long time - by having them supplied with answers as soon as possible? It may be possible to prepare and provide these answers during the week or so that the House is in recess. I think it is important that some of these questions should be answered. I am not accusing anybody of refusing to answer questions or of hiding anything, but some questions have been unanswered for far too long.
– I shall ask Ministers to examine questions on the notice paper to see how expeditiously they can be answered, but in saying that may I observe that from my own experience over the years many questions are put on the notice paper which require an extravagant and a costly amount of research by departments to obtain the material on which to base answers. I think that honorable members, who are legitimately entitled to ask questions, might bear in mind the drain on the resources of departments in conducting this research.