I seem to Blog a lot about the unfairness of city legislated laws on rural people. I have to wonder when will our political leaders give more than just lip service to the need for amendments to many of the city legislated laws?
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Finance Minister Mathias Cormann is not backing away from his description of Opposition Leader Bill Shorten as an “economic girly man”, accusing Labor of “confected outrage” over the issue.
Actor and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger used the “girly man” line on numerous occasions but most famously at the 2004 Republican National Convention when he blasted pessimists on the US economy as girly men.
Schwarzenegger was attacked by feminist groups and gay rights campaigners after his comments in 2004.
Senator Cormann claimed “Economic girly men has come to adopt its own meaning. It is not in any way intended as a reflection on girls, it is entirely intended as a reflection on Bill Shorten.”
Interviewed on Sky News on Sunday, Labor frontbencher Penny Wong said Senator Cormann’s language was not appropriate for a political leader.
“I just think, if we use ‘girl’ as an insult, what are we telling our sons and our daughters about being a girl? You are saying it is somehow less competent, weak, whatever, whatever the imputation. I just don’t think that is sensible. Imagine if we used any racial term in the way it was used? I think we would all be outraged for the same reasons.”
Also on Sky News, Education Minister Christopher Pyne declined to defend the language of his cabinet colleague.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/finance-minister-mathias-cormann-defends-girly-man-comment-20141019-118ek2.html
Australia’s national security laws are ushering in a reign of terror
Only a handful of politicians have resisted Australia’s Brave New World of national security laws
By: David Leyonhjelm
Published: theguardian.com, Saturday 18 October 2014 10.00 AEST
On the night of 25 September 2014, attorney general George Brandis was taking Australia into a reign of terror. There were only a handful of witnesses, even though there were seats for hundreds and cameras covering every angle.
He was shepherding into law a bill that gives our spies and their friends a licence to injure, to embed malware into computers, to break into the houses of people suspected of nothing, and to arm and train rebel groups to overthrow governments in foreign countries.
A bill to jail anyone who reports on past corruption and misconduct in our spy agency. A bill so fuelled by paranoia that it seeks to jail spies who dare to use a photocopier without an explanation.
Three exasperated senators stood in opposition to the bill at one end of the tennis-court-sized chamber. A trio not used to standing together – senator Xenophon, senator Ludlum and me. A trio armed with too few votes, and whose weapons of reason were useless in the absence of open ears and minds.
At the other end of the chamber were the closed ears and minds of Brandis and his Labor counterpart in the senate, senator Jacinta Collins.
The chamber was otherwise almost empty, save for a few clerks and staffers.
The Palmer United Party (PUP) senators had just left the chamber, after successfully amending the bill to add their personal draconian touch. They proposed a tenfold increase in the penalty for disclosing the identity of a spy. The government and opposition, not wanting to seem soft, backed the PUP thought bubble despite expert groups and security agencies seeing such a change as unwarranted.
The PUP senators then joined Coalition and Labor backbenchers for dinner in the parliamentary dining room. The backbenchers needn’t hear the arguments against the bill. They would vote for the bill because their leaders told them to do so. It could have been to reintroduce the death penalty; their vote would still be yes.
The media were missing from the galleries - despite this being one of the most important moments for press freedom in Australia’s history – because the attorney-general had sprung a surprise sitting on everyone and the journalists had gone home.
So our unlikely trio soldiered on in the near empty chamber. Each of us attempted the mildest of amendments to inch Australia back from the attorney-general’s Brave New World.
We attempted to limit our spies to hacking 20 computers per warrant. To limit hacking to whatever was necessary to carry out an authorised operation. To remove the offence of disclosing intelligence information in instances where no one is endangered and no operation is prejudiced. To remove the offence in instances where disclosure is in the public interest, such as disclosures of Asio corruption and misconduct. To require judges to consider the public interest when sentencing someone for disclosing intelligence information. To ensure the law only stays on the books until 2025.
We even attempted to amend what seems like a clear drafting error: that the attorney-general commits an offence when he discloses general information about past intelligence operations.
In spite of an earlier commitment to consider our amendments, the attorney-general summarily dismissed them all.
So attention then turned to Labor’s position.
Senator Collins listened carefully to our amendments and responded that they were “minimalist” and “may indeed warrant further consideration”. She then went on to say that Labor would not be supporting any of the cross-benchers amendments.
It was a jaw-dropping, George Costanza inspired, do-the-opposite moment. Had anyone been in the chamber, there would have been gasps of disbelief. Collins went on to explain that Labor would vote the government’s bill into law, but would consider fixing up the law at a later stage.
Now while I am new in this job, I can count. Labor can’t fix up the law once it has been passed in the Senate. They don’t have the numbers in the House of Representatives.
The bill is now the law. And finally, too late, no less a Labor figure than Anthony Albanese refers to it as draconian.
September 25 was a bad day for freedom in Australia.
By: David Leyonhjelm
Published: theguardian.com, Saturday 18 October 2014 10.00 AEST
“We are making spending sustainable, delivering record infrastructure investment, creating new jobs and bringing the budget back to surplus over the medium term.”
- Joe Hockey explaining a $30.5 billion increase in the budget deficit.
During the last election you told us there was a “budget emergency” after Wayne Swan’s final budget in May last year put the deficit at $18 billion. I was somewhat incredulous at your claim that you could do better but then I was assuming you were talking about reducing the debt, not increasing it by 269% to $48.5 billion.
I’m not sure you’ve quite grasped the concept of economics yet but I’ve always thought you were supposed to reduce debt. Still, the only way I know how to nearly triple debt within a year is by going to Uni, so clearly I’m no Treasury expert. At least we’re on track to actually having that budget emergency you keep going on about.
Another thing you repeatedly said during the election was that the buck stops with you. So I’m delighted to hear that you’re accepting full responsibility - for the job of blaming it all on Labor. I realise you’ve been telling us the ALP are incompetent for some time now, but I’d never realised they were incompetent enough to lose another $30.5 billion without even being in government for the last 13 months.
So at what point in time are you actually responsible for the department you’re already collecting $400,000 a year plus perks to run? Can you let us know when that will be? Maybe you could ask someone who actually is a Treasury expert to work it out for you; I know maths isn’t your strong suit.
Anyway I’m sure it’s got nothing to do with you giving the RBA $8.8 billion dollars they didn’t want or need, or the 96 proposed changes to tax and superannuation you dumped, or the additional $571 million you spent on Immigration detention (plus millions more disguised as defence and customs spending), or your decision to scrap carbon pricing and the MRRT, or the $2.55 billion you’ve allocated for Abbott’s unworkable ‘Direct Action’ plan, or the $5.5 billion for his largely unexplained Paid Parental Leave scam, err scheme, or the cost of unplanned redundancies for the 16,500 public servants you’ve sacked.
It can’t possibly be the $82 billion that will be given to the mining and fossil fuel industries over the next four years to fund the Fuel Tax Credit subsidy, or the $6.9 billion cost of you refusing to change Accelerated Depreciation laws that allow these companies to claim their equipment lasts half the time it actually does, or the $100 million you’ve given them for the new ‘Exploration Development Incentive’. The deficit doesn’t yet include the $500 million a year you’ve optimistically predicted it will cost us to go back to Iraq for the third time since 1990 and join in another open-ended military campaign with no obvious strategy or goal, so it can’t be that.
You’ve halted ATO investigations into tax scams and avoidance schemes by individuals and corporations including your mate Rupert Murdoch. You continue to ignore the fact that a third of Australia’s richest companies pay less than 10 cents in the dollar in corporate tax, 84% pay less than 30 cents in the dollar and nearly two thirds of them declare subsidiaries in tax havens. Meanwhile $80 billion in health and education funding has gone up in smoke under your watch, with the promise of more cuts to come, and you’ve still managed to piss away another $30.5 billion!
In the last five years business profits in Australia have continued to grow while the proportion of tax revenue from business has shrunk from 23% to 19%. Wage growth has slowed in that time while the proportion of tax revenue from individuals has risen from 37% to 39%. Is this the heavy lifting you were talking about? Or were you referring to the job Australia has of carrying an inept clown as Treasurer for at least another two years? Here’s a savings tip for you: If the only thing you’re capable of doing is blaming everything on Labor and the poor then why not go back to doing it in opposition? I’ll even do the maths for you; it’ll be $30.5 billion cheaper.
Original Posting from Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1502415819977255/permalink/1548525888699581/
Europe April 2010
Taken at Europe - France, Italy, Amsterdam..
Back in 2010. My Daughter (Sarah) was invited to go on an all expenses paid European trip by two of her (more than generous..) high school Teachers (Ben and Taryn). This put me in a “Damned if I do, Damned if I don’t.” position. After meeting Ben and Taryn and receiving a higher than “glowing” recommendation by both Sarah and Daniel (my Son). I (with some misgivings.. ) allowed Sarah to go off on her European adventure.
Zoom in on Image
Ben wasn't very "well" during the trip over seas. You can see the swelling in his face is you look at the above images of the "trip". The following image is of Ben and Taryn (in better times..)
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Seems Ben and Taryn have now "hit the wall" financially while trying to deal with Bens ongoing medical costs..
If you can help.. Or would like to pass the URL on..
The New South Wales police have used sophisticated hacking software to monitor the phones and computers of Australians, according to documents published by WikiLeaks.
In a new cache published on Monday NSW police are listed as a client of Gamma International, a German company that develops powerful spyware to remotely monitor computer use.
The documents show that NSW police have used several of the company’s spy programs for a number of investigations at a cost of more than $2m.
The software – known as FinSpy (or FinFisher) – allows widespread access to computer records, including extracting files from hard drives, grabbing images of computer screens, full Skype monitoring, logging keystrokes and monitoring email and chat communications.
“When FinSpy (FinFisher) is installed on a computer system it can be remotely controlled and accessed as soon as it is connected to the internet/network, no matter where in the world the target system is based,” earlier documentation published by WikiLeaks said.
In NSW the police can apply for a special type of covert search warrant that would allow police to monitor computers remotely. The warrants are obtained from an “eligible judge” of the supreme court who is able to grant warrants.
The computer access possible under the program is extensive. In one communication with the software developers, a NSW police officer writes that there are risks that sensitive information – such as privileged communication with a lawyer – could be caught by the program.
Due to law restrictions on how certain information obtained … is it possible to implement a categorisation feature that can show categories for certain information ? For instance. A key logger captures information which is between a lawyer and a known criminal which is not an offense in itself.
“The captured information needs to be able to be identified as legal privilege and not used in any further intelligence capability as it is considered private. There are other categories that may come up so it would be useful if the categories could be implemented at the user level rather than hard coded by Gamma.”
NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge said the WikiLeaks revelations were deeply concerning.
“Information that should be privileged, including communications with a lawyer or information that’s well beyond the scope of the warrant, is almost certainly being captured by this warrant. It looks as if the police don’t have systems to exclude it, and it’s deeply troubling.”
He also said the documents highlighted the need for a public interest monitor in NSW to ensure there was sufficient scrutiny over the warrant process.
“There’s obviously a significant flaw in a system which has no public scrutiny of it and nobody there testing the case, with the evidence only put forward by the police. It’s not the role of the judge to test the evidence, so the hearings just have one side of the argument put forward.
“We should have a public interest monitor that appears in these proceedings to do just that – to be there as an independent third party testing the police evidence, and that’s an office we’ve been calling for [for] some time now.”
Despite the substantial costs associated with the program, there appear to be no online tender records of Gamma International or any of its subsidiaries holding contracts with the NSW police.
A spokesman for NSW police said: “Given this technology relates to operational capability, it’s not appropriate to comment.”
WikiLeaks - FinSpy Brochure: https://wikileaks.org/spyfiles/files/0/299_GAMMA-201110-FinFisher_Product_Portfolio-en.pdf
IP’s to Block: http://sokosensei.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/updated-list-of-ips-that-you-should-block/
John Howard has questioned the Coalition’s decision to launch two royal commissions in its first year in government, saying that the process shouldn’t be used for “narrow targeted political purposes”.
A royal commission into the home insulation scheme has already concluded, while another royal commission, into unions, is underway.
Howard told the Australian: “I’m uneasy about the idea of having royal commissions or inquiries into essentially a political decision on which the public has already delivered a verdict.
“I don’t think you should ever begin to go down the American path of using the law for narrow targeted political purposes. I think the special prosecutions in the US are appalling.”
Four young men died during work provided by the home insulation scheme in 2009 and 2010. The previous Labor government introduced the scheme as a way to stimulate the economy during the global financial crisis.
The home insulation royal commission cost about $25m and followed several previous coronial and Senate inquiries into the matter. The commission questioned former prime minister Kevin Rudd about the scheme’s roll-out, with the subsequent report finding that the program was seriously flawed.
“I am uneasy about those approaches,” Howard said. “I have to say I’m not happy about that but that’s a decision the government makes and, after all, the former government was tipped out on the strength of, among other things, the failure of the home insulation scheme. There has been coronial investigations.”
Howard is the latest former prime minister to question how the Coalition is handling the royal commission process. Earlier this year, Malcolm Fraser and Bob Hawke expressed concern that the government would break a long-standing convention of cabinet confidentiality by handing certain documents over to the home insulation royal commission.
Last week, Julia Gillard, yet another previous prime minister, gave evidence at the royal commission into trade union governance and corruption. Gillard was questioned at length about regularly repeated allegations that she used money from a union slush fund to make renovations to her home in the 1990s.
Labor has accused the government of using the royal commissions as part of an ideological witch-hunt against the previous administration. Mark Dreyfus, the shadow attorney general, told Guardian Australia that Howard’s view on the use of royal commissions is telling.
“Establishing legal inquiries for political purposes is an abuse of power,” he said. “Royal commissions serve our community well – the child abuse royal commission is a good example of that. But we have had two inquiries set up for primarily political purposes.
“The union commission is very much a pursuit of a political vendetta. My concern about the home insulation royal commission is that millions of dollars was spent investigating something that has already been investigated eight times.
“I’ve been appalled by both. When you have a former prime minister criticising this kind of abuse of power, it would surely make the Abbott government think again before using a royal commission for political purposes.”
Dreyfus insisted that he had no intention of pursuing a similar strategy if Labor won the next election and he became attorney general again.
“I’ve received a lot of mail that says Labor should use royal commissions in this way,” he said. “I would hope no future Labor government would do so.”
Article: Oliver Milman
Photograph: Sergio Dionisio/Getty Images
Publisher: The Guardian
Emails show Tony Abbott’s chief of staff, Peta Credlin, proposed to use question time to showcase claims by Brickworks chief executive Lindsay Partridge. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
BY NEIL CHENOWETH (The Australian Financial Review)
Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s chief of staff, Peta Credlin, has been revealed as the mystery Liberal Party figure involved in an email exchange Liberal Party lawyers sought to have suppressed by the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
In the emails, dated March 1, 2011, Ms Credlin proposes to use question time to showcase claims by Brickworks chief executive Lindsay Partridge, after Liberal NSW fundraiser Paul Nicolaou described Mr Partridge to her as “a very good supporter of the party”.
The emails show Mr Abbott’s office working with Mr Partridge and Brickworks for Mr Abbott’s campaign against the carbon tax, at a time when senior federal Liberals would have been aware Brickworks, a prohibited donor, had channelled funds to the NSW Liberals through the Free Enterprise Foundation.
Ms Credlin’s husband, Brian Loughnane, the federal director of the Liberal Party, was copied in on emails on July 30 2010 about a $50,000 donation to the NSW branch by Brickworks which was subsequently paid via the Free Enterprise Foundation, together with $100,000 to the federal party, for the federal election.
Counsel assisting ICAC Geoffrey Watson, SC, said on Thursday “we’ve been threatened” with a Supreme Court action to suppress the emails after concerns were raised by Robert Newlinds, SC, the counsel for former assistant treasurer Arthur Sinodinos. “I think it’s not coming from Senator Sinodinos, it was coming from the Liberal Party,” Mr Watson said.
“I just don’t want this to get out,” Mr Newlinds said, in asking for a suppression order not only on the page but also the legal argument about the order.
The emails had been published on the ICAC website on Thursday morning before they were withdrawn three hours later.
The suppression order was lifted by commissioner Megan Latham after the lawyers for the House of Representative Speaker Bronwyn Bishop said they would not claim privilege over the documents.
NSW LIBERALS’ BIGGEST BACKER ICAC has already heard Brickworks was the NSW Liberal Party’s largest backer in the March 2011 state election, despite its work as a property developer making it a prohibited donor for NSW.
Liberals state finance director Simon McInnes has confirmed donations were made to the Free Enterprise Foundation in Canberra before being forwarded to the federal party with instructions they be forwarded to the NSW division, though he insisted they were used for the federal campaign.
The suppressed emails begin shortly after 2.52pm on March 1, 2011, when Mr Partridge forwarded to Mr Nicolaou an internal Brickworks email. The email, headed “Bunya estate off to a good start” included a Daily Telegraph article about the need to free up land for housing in western Sydney.
“Paul. This is what I was talking about,” Mr Partridge wrote. “I have written a price I will send you when I return. Best. Lindsay.”
Mr Nicolaou testified on Friday he was not aware Brickworks had a property development division (the division earned $29 million in fiscal 2011).
Four minutes later, Mr Partridge emailed Mr Nicolaou again: “Tell Tony to stick to his guns on no carbon tax. We want certainty that there is no new tax. Thanks Lindsay.”
At 9.29 that night, Mr Nicolaou forwarded Mr Partridge’s second email to the federal opposition leader’s chief of staff: “Dear Peta, please note below from Lindsay Partridge the MD of Brickworks the largest producer of bricks in Australia and a very good supporter of the party.”
Four minutes later Ms Credlin replied: “Paul, Lindsay provides a great line for Question Time. Do you have a number that I might be able to contact him on … it would be ideal for tomorrow cheers Peta.
A series of comments about Brickworks followed, in parliament and in press conferences by high-profile Liberals.
At 9.37pm, three minutes after Ms Credlin’s email, Mr Nicolaou replied with a phone number, copying to Mr Partridge: “Lindsay would be only too happy to help … Feel free to call him.”
In fact, Mr Partridge was in Europe on a business trip and did not reply until 1.15am Sydney time: “Paul/Peta. This is amazing I am in France and talking to a manager of a large roof tile maker … Under a carbon tax regime many products including cement production will move offshore. The others the price will just go up.”
With the difficulties of the time difference, the following day in question time Mr Abbott instead raised the case of a Canberra businessman “John Fragopoulos, who runs FishCo in Belconnen and who is already paying $3,000 a month for electricity to keep his small business going”.
Brickworks surfaced in parliament on March 24 in a speech by the Liberals’ shadow assistant treasurer, Mathias Cormann. “I was drawn to an article today which was published by AAP where Mr Partridge, Australia’s largest brick and tile maker, said the federal government’s carbon price proposals will add about 10 per cent to the cost of housing across Australia – 10 per cent,” Senator Cormann said.
Senator Cormann told The Australian Financial Review on Monday: “My comments in Parliament were based entirely on information which was in the public domain at that time and which supported the public policy arguments against the carbon tax we were pursuing at the time, namely that the carbon tax would push up the cost of living and the cost of doing business.
“I was not aware of any contact during that period between Brickworks and the then office of the Leader of the Opposition, which is not unusual, and to the best of my recollection have not myself had any contact with Brickworks either.”
On May 2 2011, Mr Abbott was at a factory in Melbourne for a press conference: “It’s good to be here at Austral Bricks [the subsidiary of Brickworks] … The company estimates that if a carbon tax comes in … that will add about 10 per cent to the cost of manufacturing bricks here in this country.”
On July 5, Nationals Senator Williams told the Senate: “Several of [Brickworks’] sites will become unsustainable and result in the loss of many jobs.”
And on September 14 Mr Abbott told parliament the carbon tax would provide “$2 million a year additional cost” for Austral Bricks.
The federal Liberal party would have been conscious of how Brickworks donations were channelled in 2010 through the Free Enterprise Foundation because of disputes over which branch would end up with the funds.
‘THE MONEY DIDN’T END UP THERE AT ALL’ Several emails about the Brickworks donations were copied to Senator Sinodinos and to Brian Loughnane, in July 2010.
“Via the diversionary organization [sic] there is $50K going to NSW,” Mr Partridge emailed Nicolaou on July 29 2010. He told ICAC he was referring to the Free Enterprise Foundation as the diversionary organisation.
While the July 29 exchange was not copied to federal officials, they were copied in on on July 30 when Mr Nicolaou emailed Michael Yabsley, the federal treasurer of the Liberal Party, about $50,000 that developer Harry Triguboff was donating via the Free Enterprise Foundation to be split between the state and federal parties for the federal campaign. This wasn’t the only money going into the Free Enterprise Foundation.
“In addition, I spoke to Lindsay Partridge from Brickworks last night and he is arranging for $100K to be EFT’d into the Federal Division bank account today with a further $150k to be distributed equally to NSW, Qld & WA for their respective federal campaigns,” Mr Nicolaou wrote, copying the email to Senator Sinodinos and and Brian Loughnane.
Mr Yabsley replied an hour later, also copied to Sinodinos and Loughnane, “The Brickworks donation is subject to discussions but certainly the reference to the contribution to NSW is correct.”
Mr Partridge wasn’t happy: “Giving money to the Liberal Party was like giving a hot chip to a bunch of seagulls, the seagull that’s got the chip in his mouth doesn’t necessarily get to eat it,” he told ICAC last week.
Mr Partridge said he had been “quite annoyed”, because he had intended to give $50,000 to the state Liberal branches in Western Australia, Queensland and NSW, and $100,000 to the federal division.
Brickworks’ property arm had rezoning applications looming in the three states.
“But the money didn’t end up there at all,” Mr Partridge said. Instead $100,000 was paid directly to the federal party, with $150,000 going to the Free Enterprise Foundation, with $50,000 of this going the NSW party, with the federal party holding on to the rest.
This appears to have been an allocation decided by federal officials after discussions.
Brickworks donated another $130,000 to NSW Liberals plus $50,000 coming from its associated company, Washington H. Soul Pattinson, in November-December 2010, with no reference to the federal campaign.
Mr McInnes and Mr Nicolaou have said they believed it was legal for money from prohibited donors to be channelled to the FEF and then back to the state party, but they had never sought legal advice on this.
On July 23, Colin Gracie of the Liberals’ federal secretariat emailed Mr McInnes: “Brian Loughnane has agreed that for the time being, the Fed Sec will operate on the policy set out in the attachment. In effect, there is no benefit for a NSW donor to donate via the Fed Sec, unless they are a property developer.”
Mr McInnes emailed state director Mark Neeham on August 7, 2010: “There have been $95,000 of donations made via the Free Enterprise Foundation that will be directed to the federal division with instruction from them to pay to us.”
Mr McInnes confirmed at ICAC the federal division was part of the scheme for funds to go through the Free Enterprise Foundation to the federal party then be forwarded back to the state party. But he said that the state used the money for federal campaigns.
Mr Partridge appeared to have high expectations of the level of access Brickworks’ donation bought him.
When invited to dinner with Mr Abbott in July 2010 (which was later cancelled), he wrote, “Will I get a photo with Tony like I got from John Howard[?] I will be wanting to talk about all my employees on AWAs [Australian Workplace Agreements] who are now stuck and don’t want to be unionised.”
On March 15, 2011, two weeks after the Credlin emails, Mr Partridge wrote to Mr Nicolaou: “A couple of people have said to me we should get rid of the cartoon ad, as it is infantile and is demeaning to the Liberals. If you could pass the comment on. Ta. Lindsay.”
Mr Nicolaou promptly forwarded this email to state director Mark Neeham: “Dear Mark, please note our biggest supporters’ comments below.”
NPR covered the anniversary of the Burning of Washington last week, reenacting the event as though it were happening live.