UK: Glenn Mulcaire Loses Disclosure Battle

BBC [4/7/12]:

Private investigator Glenn Mulcaire has lost his legal battle to conceal the identity of journalists who instructed him to hack into mobile phone messages.

Mulcaire, who worked for the News of the World, was jailed in January 2007 for unlawfully intercepting voicemail messages received by royal aides.

He appealed against giving names in proceedings brought by Nicola Phillips, assistant to publicist Max Clifford.

Five judges unanimously dismissed his appeal to the Supreme Court.

Mulcaire will now have to reveal the name to a "confidentiality club" made up of the lawyers and litigants in the civil phone hacking case.

He had said the appeal was made to protect his "legitimate legal interests" and that his lawyers had advised him he should not be forced by court orders to give "potentially incriminating answers" to questions asked in a civil case.

Ms Phillips's lawyer said the ruling was a "significant milestone" and would affect others who had sued News of the World publisher News Group Newspapers after claiming phones were hacked.

Mark Lewis said he expected Mr Mulcaire to serve a statement to his team within three weeks. ...

UK: Police Arrest Three More In Corrupt Payments Investigation

Telegraph [4/7/12]:

Officers from the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Elveden arrested a 46-year-old prison officer at his home in south east London, a 50-year-old woman in Kent and a 37-year-old man at his home in Morden, Surrey between 6am and 8am today.

It takes to 37 the number of people who have been detained in connection with the investigation that was set up and is running in conjunction with the inquiry into the phone hacking scandal at the News of the World.

In a statement Scotland Yard explained all three had been arrested on suspicion of corruption, suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery and suspicion of conspiracy to cause misconduct in a public office.

A spokesman for Scotland Yard said the latest arrests followed extensive inquiries carried out by officers from Operation Elveden.

The spokesman added: "Today's arrests relate to suspected payments to a public official and are not about seeking journalists to reveal confidential sources in relation to information that has been obtained legitimately."

CPSU - Saving Jobs In DHS: Media Release [4/7/12]

The CPSU campaign to address chronic understaffing in Centrelink achieved another win late last week with DHS renewing another 222 call centre contracts - that's 669 jobs saved in total.

This fantastic win comes thanks to the hard work of CPSU delegates and members across the country. As well as providing work for the non-ongoing staff, the win will help reduce presure on workloads and ensure customers get better service.

The decision confirms the feedback from our members in Centrelink - that staffing in the agency is inadequate and must be urgently addressed to be able to provide essential services to the Australian public.

How did we do it?

CPSU delegates from Centrelink call centres have been meeting regularly after hours to share their stories and co-ordinate campaign activities. With the support of their delegates, members have been getting active in their workplaces right across the country. Members have:

Held workplace meetings to discuss the issues
Written to DHS management collectively
Approached local members of parliament to raise issues and gain their support
Arranged visits from MPs to Centrelink call centres to meet with delegates and members
Allowed MPs to gain first hand experience on Centrelink phone lines with CPSU delegates.

What next?

While the CPSU welcomes the latest announcement from DHS, it is clear that members in Centrelink need a permanent solution to chronic understaffing.

Our Permanent jobs = permanent solutions campaign is continuing to build pressure on DHS management to increase the number of permanent positions in call centres. To get involved in the campaign, talk to your CPSU delegate or organiser.

http://www.facebook.com/BrisbaneSovereignEmbassyMusgravePark

New Screen Queensland Board Announced

Minister for Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts Media Release [4/7/12]:

Arts Minister Ros Bates today announced new appointments to the Board of Screen Queensland.

Ms Bates said the new look team will bring much needed industry management skills to the enterprise.

“The new team will be headed by television producer and media consultant Geoffrey Cooper,” Ms Bates said.

“He has more than 20 years’ experience in staff and change management and I am pleased to welcome him to the role of Chair.”

Mr Cooper is joined by new appointees Michael Hawkins, Gold Coast Councillor Jan Grew, Professor Stuart Cunningham, Peter Baston, Kaye Martin, Kathy MacDermott, John Miller and Des Power.

“Together, these new members have invaluable experience across a broad range of industries and will bring a wide range of expertise to the table,” she said.

“The new Board will focus firmly on our film and TV industry, aiming to extend the reach of film festivals to the regions and to create a vibrant screen culture around the state.

“The Board will also set a new standard in terms of transparency, corporate governance and making sure taxpayers get value for money.”

Summary of Screen Queensland Board members:

Geoffrey Cooper (Chair) is a Television Producer and Media Consultant who has built his 20 year career in Queensland. He has worked for several free-to-air networks producing thousands of hours of award-winning television.

Mr Michael Hawkins is a company director and Executive Director, of the National Association of Cinema Operators Australasia.

Gold Coast Councillor Jan Grew is Chair of the GCCC Economic Development and Tourism Committee. She also holds a Masters of Film and TV Degree and has served on many Boards including Gold Coast Film Fantastic.

Professor Stuart Cunningham is a Distinguished Professor, QUT, and Director of the Australian Council Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation. He has served as a Commissioner of the Australian Film Commission.

Peter Baston is a barrister and consultant with decades of legal experience in the fields of sports and entertainment.

Kathy McDermott is Executive Director of the Queensland Division of the Property Council of Australia and has a 27-year career in property and media, including 11 years as bureau chief for the Australian Financial Review.

John Miller has extensive experience as an executive producer of current affairs for the Seven Network, and as writer, producer and presenter of documentaries.

Des Power AM is an award-winning filmmaker, former journalist and foreign correspondent, and chair of a number of prominent boards in the film and events industries in Australia.

Kaye Martin is a respected member of the financial community with many years’ experience in asset management.

UN Food Standards Body Sets New Regulations To Help Improve Consumer Health: Media Release [4/7/12]

The United Nations food standards body has agreed on new regulations, including the maximum level of melamine in liquid milk formula for babies, as part of its efforts to help protect the health of consumers, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today.

Other measures adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission – jointly run by WHO and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) – include new food safety standards on seafood, melons, dried figs and food labelling, WHO added in a news release.

The Commission sets international food safety and quality standards to promote safer and more nutritious food for consumers worldwide, with Codex standards serving, in many cases, as a basis for national legislation, and providing food safety benchmarks for international food trade.

The 49-year-old body is meeting in Rome, Italy, this week with more than 600 delegates in attendance, representing 184 countries plus the European Union.

According to WHO, melamine can be lethal at high concentrations and has been used illegally to increase apparent protein content in food products, including infant formula and milk powder. Milk tainted with melamine has caused death and illness in infants.

Two years ago, the Commission adopted a maximum melamine level of one milligram (mg) per kilogramme (kg) and 2.5 mg/kg in other foods and animal feed. The Commission has now set a maximum limit of 0.15 mg/kg for melamine in liquid infant milk.

Melamine is used to make dishware and kitchenware, among other industrial applications, WHO said. It added that the new limit will help governments protect consumers by determining if detected levels of melamine result from unavoidable melamine contamination that does not cause health problems or from deliberate adulteration.

In regard to aflatoxins, a group of mycotoxins produced by molds, which are toxic and known to be carcinogenic, the Commission agreed on a safe maximum limit of 10 micrograms/kg for dried figs, together with details on how test sampling should be conducted. The toxic substances can be found in a variety of products such as dried fruits, nuts, spices and cereals at high levels if the produce is not stored properly, WHO said.

The Commission recommended that pre-cut melons should be wrapped or packaged and refrigerated as soon as possible and distributed at temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius or less. Cooling and cold-storing was recommended as soon as possible after harvest, while knife blades used for cutting or peeling should be disinfected on a regular basis.

The Commission's action in his regard was due to an emerging public health issue related to the increased popularity of pre-cut melon slices. “Exposed pulp of the fruit can become a breeding ground for bacteria. This has been linked to life-threatening salmonella and listeria outbreaks, WHO said in the news release.

The Commission also dealt with the issue of food hygiene in seafood, particularly for molluscs, such as mussels and oysters, which have become “a major food safety concern,” with the adoption of a set of preventive hygiene measures aimed at controling food-borne viruses.

“Viruses are generally more resistant than bacteria and those transmitted by the faecal-oral route can persist for months in bivalve molluscs, soil, water and sediments,” WHO noted. “They can survive freezing, refrigeration, UV radiation and disinfection but are sensitive to heat.”

In the area of mandatory nutrition labelling, the Commission recommended that food manufacturers across the world label nutritional content on their products to ensure that consumers are better informed.

WHO said that the Commission's recommendation is in line with the health agency's Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health and is a “major step forward in promoting healthy eating worldwide.”

Medicine Manufacturer Denies Contributing To Cattle Bloat

ABC, PM [4/7/12]:

MARK COLVIN: A Federal Government regulator says it's possible a veterinary medicine may have contributed to the deaths of several cattle in New South Wales. One property manager in the state says 16 cattle died after being treated with the bloat capsules. Others have also raised concerns.

The manufacturer denies its product is to blame.

Rural and regional reporter Sally Sara reports.

SALLY SARA: This story began in the cattle yards at Mt Beni in western New South Wales. It's raised questions about a commonly used treatment for cattle.

On September 20 last year, property manager Steuart Strange treated 95 calves to prevent them getting a condition called bloat, or a build up of gas in the stomach. Mr Strange says some of the animals became sick after taking the bloat capsules.

STEUART STRANGE: And then approximately a week later, we had three dead in the paddock and things went downhill rapidly from there.

SALLY SARA: Mr Strange says the large capsules, which are about the size of a sausage, got stuck in the throats of some of the cattle.

STEUART STRANGE: And you knew they were thirsty, and that they couldn't drink, they couldn't swallow. It's hard to put into words the stress that the animals were under and it was very hard to watch it.

SALLY SARA: PM has obtained certificates of examination by two vets, called in by the chemical manufacturer Elanco. Dr Ralph Kuhn visited the property on the 29th of September and examined the three cattle that had died. He found more in trouble.

CERTIFICATE OF EXAMINATION (voiceover): Of great concern was that when observing the rest of the mob, there appeared to be another 10 to 15 animals that are similarly affected. They had lost a large amount of weight, were attempting to drink from pools of water, salivating in some instances and some had visible swellings in the region of the cranial oesophagus. These animals are also destined to die; in my opinion should be humanely euthanized.

SALLY SARA: The manufacturer, Elanco Animal Health, declined the offer of an interview, but released a statement to PM. It says its Rumensin capsules are safe and have been fully approved and registered. The company doesn't believe its product 'is at fault for the death' of the cattle at Mt Beni.

The label on the capsules warns the product can be harmful to some other animals and should only be used on cattle over 200 kilograms.

ELANCO STATEMENT (voiceover): Dogs and horses must not be allowed to access the capsule, since ingestion of the Rumensin core may be fatal in these species.

SALLY SARA: Property Manager Steuart Strange says he followed the instructions and reported his concerns about the capsules to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA). It delivered this response in February.

AUSTRALIAN PESTICIDES AND VETERINARY MEDICINES AUTHORITY RESPONSE (voiceover): The APVMA is of the opinion that there was possibly a causal relationship between the use of the products detailed in your report and the development of the clinical signs in the cattle (choking and death). The incident is classified as Possible. It is noted that there is not clear evidence that all animals were over the weight of 200 kilograms at the time of treatment.

SALLY SARA: Spokeswoman Susan Whitbread says the APVMA has received reports of problems with the bloat capsules from several other primary producers.

SUSAN WHITBREAD: At this point in time, we are still looking at whether there is sufficient data, sufficient pattern of adverse experiences, for us to see if there truly is a problem.

SALLY SARA: Steuart Strange says the APVMA didn't contact him to request any further information.

STEUART STRANGE: If they have a problem, they ask the manufacturer to self-examine the problem and report back to them.

SALLY SARA: West Australian Liberal Senator Chris Back says the APVMA mostly receives its data from the chemical companies that make the treatments, instead of carrying out its own independent tests.

CHRIS BACK: There should always be the capacity for an agency such as the APVMA to get their information from sources other than the proponent, or indeed other than those who are opposing.

SALLY SARA: The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority is funded by the industry it regulates, but Susan Whitbread says it's meeting its obligations.

SUSAN WHITBREAD: We must make our decisions according to our governing legislation otherwise, we can be challenged.

SALLY SARA: The manufacturer Elanco says it will continue discussions to resolve concerns about its product.

MARK COLVIN: Sally Sara.

Image: Julian Burnside QC

Over 18,500 People Accommodated Every Night By Homelessness Services: AIHW Media Release [4/7/12]

On average, 18,574 people were accommodated by specialist homelessness agencies on any given night from October to December 2011, according to the latest information on homelessness services released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

‘This includes people who were accommodated in crisis or emergency accommodation, as well as medium-term and long-term accommodation provided to people who were homeless or at risk of homelessness when they sought assistance,’ said AIHW spokesperson Geoff Neideck.

‘Overall, over 1,700,000 accommodation nights were provided to clients of specialist homelessness agencies in the December quarter 2011.’

The report, which presents information on all homelessness services from October to December 2011, shows that an estimated 98,742 clients were assisted by specialist homelessness agencies in the quarter.

The national rate of Australians accessing homelessness services in the December quarter was 44 in every 10,000 people.

Overall, 52% of clients helped by specialist homelessness agencies were categorised as homeless at the beginning of their support period. That is, they were living in a caravan, tent, car, emergency accommodation or an improvised dwelling, were living on the street, or were couch surfing.

The remaining 48% were ‘at risk of homelessness’ at the beginning of their support period. Around one-third (34%) of these ‘at risk’ clients had been homelessness in the previous year.

Over one-third of all support periods involved providing accommodation to clients. The average length of accommodation provided was 66 nights.

Similar to the September quarter 2011, 18% of clients were aged under 10 and just under half of all clients (48%) were aged under 25. Among those who received assistance, 59% were female and 41% were male.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people represented 21% of clients.

Most people (69%) presented alone to specialist homelessness agencies, with the remainder presenting in groups, such as families with children.

Domestic and family violence was the most common reason for seeking assistance (25%). It was also the most common reason reported by females (34%), while for male clients the most common reasons were financial difficulties and housing crisis (both reasons reported by 18% of male clients).

There were slightly fewer clients living without shelter, or in inadequate dwellings, at the end of support (11% of closed support periods, compared with 14% at the beginning of these support periods).

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Why The New Way Of Funding Hospitals Won't Work

The Conversation [4/7/12]:

Authors

Anthony Scott
Professorial Fellow & ARC Future Fellow, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Researc at University of Melbourne


Jongsay Yong
Associate Professor of Economics at University of Melbourne

The first of July saw the introduction of one of the most important health care reforms for Australia’s public hospitals: national activity-based funding (ABF). Hospitals will now be paid a fixed price (the national efficient price) for each episode of care, meaning ABF is essentially a fee-for-service payment model.

Treasuries and governments hope ABF will make hospitals more efficient. But key flaws in the design of the scheme may hamper these potential cost savings and result in an ineffective funding system.

Hospital profits

If a service provided at a hospital (such as a hip replacement) costs less than the fixed price paid under ABF, the hospital makes a profit for that service, and has incentives to expand that service. The set of relative prices across all types of operations and procedures will therefore influence a hospital’s incentives to invest in new services. The strongest incentives will be for services that deliver the greatest profits.

If the set of prices reflect costs and not the relative cost-effectiveness of these services, there is potential for a misallocation of resources. After all, the most profitable services don’t necessarily produce the greatest health gains for the population.

At a time when policy should be trying to keep people out of hospitals and provide incentives to sustain smaller hospitals in the longer term, ABF seems clearly out of step. Caps on volumes may help, but this is no difference from the status quo.

Hospital losses

The second problem is that hospitals with costs above the fixed price for each service will make a loss on that service. Hospitals can respond in a number of ways to improve efficiency, reduce waste and cut unnecessary costs, including undertaking more (cheaper) day surgery, changing the staffing mix of services, or reducing lengths of stay.

Of course, some of these measures may compromise quality of care. Reducing length of stay and employing enrolled nurses rather than registered nurses are just two examples of this.

Alternatively, a hospital may decide not to provide the service at all. From the hospitals’ perspective, this could be seen as efficient, but it will mean patients face reduced access. Decisions to disinvest in services will therefore be heavily influenced by costs and not necessarily on cost-effectiveness.

Hospitals could also engage in cream-skimming or patient dumping. In other words, they could transfer more complex patients to other hospitals wanting to increase their patient volume, or to other settings not covered by ABF. The ability for hospitals to cream-skim and dump patients depends on whether the set of prices adequately captures differences in the costs of treating complex cases.

No rewards for improving quality

The third problem with fee-for-service and ABF is it doesn’t reward improvements in quality of care or health outcomes. Neither did the old system, but ABF provides an opportunity to rectify this shortfall.
The Independent Hospital Pricing Authority (IHPA) considered schemes in other countries that do not pay hospitals for care where medical errors are made. Some countries also pay extra for services that are delivered according to “best practice” clinical guidelines.

Paying more for services that are cost-effective, and less for services that aren’t, seems to be a very useful purpose of such a funding scheme. But the IHPA has delayed what would be a relatively simple scheme that doesn’t pay for medical errors. Though an opportunity has been missed, it’s clearly an important proposal that requires further development research.

Ensuring quality of care

The new National Health Performance Authority will play a key role in monitoring public hospitals’ performance. The Authority will produce a report card for each hospital that shows its performance along a range of indicators. Though improvements in these indicators are not linked to funding or ABF, they will provide an important monitoring mechanism for those aspects of performance that can be measured and influenced through ABF.

Setting the efficient price

With payment schemes such as ABF, the devil is in the detail. Though there is much discussion of the role of the fixed national efficient price, in reality its influence will be muted by the remaining power of the states.

The national efficient price each hospital faces will be a combination of the Commonwealth’s share (40%) and the states' share of the price. States can choose to fund more than their 60% share, and can therefore still “bail out” hospitals facing deficits and influence funding for political reasons. But if hospital managers expect their deficit to be funded by the state, they will have little incentive to reduce costs or services to improve efficiency.

Giving states the discretion to fund deficits may mean the potential for ABF to improve efficiency will be lost. This is a major flaw in the design of the current and relates to the Commonwealth government’s failure to fund 100% of the price of hospital services. The blame game will live on as long as states continue to provide funding.

What happens next?

Since politicians rarely close hospitals, political imperatives are likely to override the imperatives for increased efficiency. And top-down policies to improve population health and reduce costs usually do no more than set the framework for behaviour change.

What really matters for patients’ health outcomes and costs of care are the decisions of health professionals within and outside of hospitals.

How ABF, along with other health reforms, translates into changed behaviours for health professionals and hospital managers will be the key to securing the efficiency gains hoped from activity-based funding. Yet the reform bodies remain silent about how this would occur.

News Corporation Is A Creepy And Weird Cult

Mark Wadsworth [2/7/12]:

"Scientologists brand Rupert Murdoch creepy and evil"

Prominent Scientologists have taken to Twitter to urge people to "watch" the News Corp/Sky TV demerger, even labelling Rupert Murdoch "creepy and evil". Leading members Tom Cruise and John Travolta tweeted: "Watch the News Corp story develop. Something creepy, maybe even evil, about that man."

Their warnings come as Vince Cable and other Lib Dems claimed that their every move has been tracked by a team of mystery men - who they believes have been sent to spy on them by the octagenarian. Leading Scientologist Tom Cruise also posted that Murdoch was "number one" in the "very weird cult".

The actors risk a media backlash as a number of newspapers and television channels are controlled by the cult. Cruise has previously starred in a number of films made by Murodch's 20th Century Fox, including Rain Man and Minority Report, but the most recent was the critical and commercial flop Knight and Day in 2010.

Cruise first tweeted yesterday morning: "News Corp back in news. Very weird cult, but big, big money involved with Rupert Murdoch number one in [hierarchy]. Refers to his workers as Children and calls his most senior director his Son". Cruise was quickly attacked for his comments with one user throwing the "creepy and evil" insult right back at the 49-year-old soon-to-be four times divorced heart throb.

However, Travolta refused to back down tweeting later: "Since Murdoch tweet hundreds of attacks. Expect they will increase and get worse and maybe threatening. Still stick to my story." After one user asked Travolta for his views on Mormonism, he replied: "Mormonism a mystery to me, but Mormons certainly not evil."

Refugee Group Renews Call For Full Inquiry Into Asylum Boat Sinking

Refugee Action Coalition [4/7/12]:

News today (Wednesday 4 July) that there has been another distress call from an asylum boat has brought fresh calls for a full inquiry into the sinking of the asylum boat on 21 June with the loss of around 90 lives.

“The stark contrast between the two incidents demands an inquiry,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“In this incident, although the boat is only 50 nautical miles south of Indonesia, an Australian navy vessel is expected to provide assistance within three hours of receiving a distress call. The boat that sank with the loss of 90 lives was about the same distance from Indonesia but it took a day and half before Australia rendered assistance.

“It seems even more obvious now that the delay in the response by Australian authorities has cost the lives of 90 asylum seekers.

“The Home Affairs Minister said of today’s incident that, ‘Whenever you have a call like that, you take it seriously’, but the call two weeks ago was not taken seriously.

“We need to know what instructions were given to the navy and other authorities that prevented them from acting to save lives two weeks ago. It is encouraging that HMAS Wollongong seems to have been positioned to provide timely assistance on this latest occasion, but this begs the question of why no such assistance was provided on 21 June.

“We also need to know whether today’s boat was given instruction to turn back to Indonesia as was the case with the boat on June 21. Are the people on the distressed boat going to be brought to Australia or is the HMAS Wollongong going to deliver the boat to Indonesia and the prospects of being indefinite detained there?

“Without a full inquiry into that tragic incident, there can be no confidence that there is now a properly resourced and co-ordinated rescue response plan in place.

“We would expect that such a rescue plan would be the primary concern of a government that says it is concerned about the safety of asylum seekers, but there is no sign that this was even raised at the talks between Prime Minister Gillard and Indonesian President Yudhoyono,” said Rintoul.

Are We A Cruel Sick Society Or Not?

To: Qld Department of Environment and Heritage Protection
Subject: Recent media report on SEQ wildlife being shot with bow and arrows

Dear Sir/Madam,

Yesterday [3/7/12] ABC Brisbane reported on their 6 pm radio news bulletin that there had been a recent spate of attacks on South East Queensland wildlife - including a curlew at Fig Tree Pocket and a wallaby on the Gold Coast.

It was reported that the RSPCA said a bow and arrow was used in the attacks - possibly inspired by the move 'Hunger Games'.

I understand that early last month the 'Courier-Mail' reported a similar story.

Queensland Police say these attacks not being investigated but have referred me to you for further information.

A couple of weeks ago we encountered a kangaroo in the Coombabah wetlands which was acting in a peculiar manner.

We contacted Wildcare and one of the carers came out to investigate. She explained that the kangaroo was suffering stress myopathy, and that they had seen an increasing number of cases of this disorder in the wetlands.

The kangaroo got away, but she could see it had an injury on its face which she suspected had triggered the myopathy.

Has there been a spate of such attacks on South East Queensland wildlife?

Regards,

Tweed Daily News [27/6/12]:

The "galah" - with apologies to the winged variety - who shot an adult female galah with an air rifle last week better not let his identity or whereabouts be known to Dr Michael Pyne and fellow staff at the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital.

Dr Pyne, the senior veterinarian at Currumbin, last week performed emergency surgery on the injured galah, which had been brought to the hospital by a Mudgeeraba resident who had found the injured bird.

"The galah was close to death so Dr Pyne had to operate immediately to save her life," said the hospital spokesperson, Nancy Ruscitti.

"He found a single pellet that had gone through both the left and right lungs and had lodged in her neck.

"She had only minimal lung capacity and was very close to dying."

Fortunately Dr Pyne and his aids were able to work their magic and save the bird's life.

"Georgie, as we have named her, is well on the way to full recovery," Ms Ruscitti said.

"Her lung capacity is just about normal again and we are hopeful of releasing her back into the wild next week."

Ms Ruscitti said that incidents like the shooting of Georgie "happens a lot" during school holiday periods when delinquent children and teenagers had more time on their hands to wreak havoc on wildlife.

Fragmenting Opposition To Resource Extraction

Where Else But Queensland? Well, No Actually, They Did It In WA Too

Surely every Queensland region is entitled to the same quality of health, education, community services and facilities?

Why are mining regions being held to ransom?

The Honourable Campbell Newman Media Release [4/7/12]:

Councils in regions impacted by resource developments will soon be able to seek funding for critical infrastructure projects with applications for the LNP Government’s ‘Royalties for the Regions’ program opening in September.

Premier Campbell Newman made the announcement today of the establishment of a ‘Royalties for the Regions’ framework - ticking off another First 100 Days Action Plan commitment.

Mr Newman said under the framework, councils applying for funding would be asked to work with their community, industry and other regional groups to prioritise projects that best meet their local area’s needs.

“Through Royalties for the Regions, the Queensland Government is giving back to the communities that support resource projects – reinvesting a share of royalties to help build new and improved community, road and floodplain security infrastructure,” he said.

“This is about supporting projects that increase liveability and offer a long term attractive lifestyle in resource regions for generations of Queenslanders to come.”

Mr Newman said the LNP Government’s ‘Royalties for the Regions’ framework was made up of three funding streams:

• Resource Community Building Fund - to deliver improved community infrastructure such as education and health facilities, community centres and sporting facilities ($170 million over four years)
• Roads to Resources – to enhance the safety, connectivity and capacity of roads servicing resource communities ($285 million over four years)
• Floodplain Security Scheme – to build levees, flood bypasses, flood mitigation dams, flood retention basins and other key projects to protect Queensland communities from flooding. ($40 million over four years, with $40 million funding to be sought from the Commonwealth and $20 million from local governments)

Mr Newman said applications for the first round of funding would be called in September this year, with $60 million available in 2012/13 and successful projects to be announced in early 2013.

“My Government is investing $495 million over four years through the Royalties for the Regions framework with the focus of the first round to be on critical or urgent infrastructure projects,” he said.

“The available funding will build over time to an ongoing commitment of $200 million a year. The program will also provide an alternative means for resource companies to contribute funds under their Social Impact Management Plans.

“This is about putting an end to years of Labor neglect and ensuring people in regional Queensland benefit from the income generated by their hard work and our resources.”

Councils eligible for ‘Royalties for the Regions’ funding are those with communities experiencing negative impacts from large scale developments and/or their role as service centres and hosts of major infrastructure projects linked to resource developments.

These include:

• Banana Shire Council
• Barcaldine Regional Council
• Central Highlands Regional Council
• Cloncurry Shire Council
• Gladstone Regional Council
• Isaac Regional Council
• Mackay Regional Council
• Maranoa Regional Council
• Mount Isa City Council
• Rockhampton Regional Council
• Toowoomba Regional Council
• Townsville City Council
• Western Downs Regional Council
• Whitsunday Regional Council

Assange 'The World Tomorrow': Episode 11: Anwar Ibrahim [VIDEO]

Anne Sewell, Digital Journal [3/7/12]:

In this final episode, Julian Assange talks to Anwar Ibrahim, the main opposition leader in Malaysia. Assange and Ibrahim share many similar experiences.

Anwar Ibraham has twice served prison terms for what he calls politically-motivated criminal cases. However, he keeps fighting for democracy in Malaysia, a country he brands less democratic than even Burma.

Former deputy prime minister of Malaysia and now leader of the opposition party in that country, Ibrahim says that by democracy, he means, “an independent judiciary, free media and an economic policy that can promote growth and the market economy.”

But he told Assange that the Malaysian people should understand what abuses all these "elements of freedom" may bring to their country.

He says, “Arab Spring – one area clambering for freedom. Then we have Occupy Wall Street… and the limitations, the unbridled greed and the gap between the very rich and very poor, the complicity between the big business groups and politics – these we need to avoid.”

He says in the interview, "You want to do something good, you must not be corrupt. The moment you say you are for democracy, you become a Western stooge. The moment you talk about macro-economy you become a Soros agent."

While today Ibrahim's opposition party is gaining more support from the people, before this he went through six years of solitary confinement in prison, resulting from two criminal cases. He was first arrested for supporting land farmers in the north of Malaysia and demanding better treatment for them from the government. This gave him two years in detention without trial.

He was released after Mahathir Mohamad became prime minister - whose reforms he supported - and he became his deputy. However, in 1998, Ibrahim had a fall out with Mohamad, and was imprisoned for six years "for corruption and sodomy." He was then released in 2004, mainly due to campaigning by his wife, and the thousands of people who protested in the streets in his support.

In 2008, Ibrahim tried to get elected to parliament - he maintains that this was a real challenge, because his opposition party was not given even a minute of air-time. However, he says, “We won 10 out of 11 parliamentary seats, and so I believe we are ripe for some sort of Malaysian Spring through the electoral process.”

Again, in 2008, he was accused again of sexual harassment, and he suffered abuse from the national media on a daily basis, but despite this, his party gained even more support from the people.

After winning his case in January 2012, the Malaysian elections were looming and Anwar was tipped to win, but now he has recently been charged with "unauthorized assembly." On Monday this week fresh charges were laid over his part in a mass rally for electoral reforms. If found guilty on these charges Ibrahim might be sentenced to up to two years in prison and a fine, which will mean that he could be disqualified from participating in elections.

The full interview can be viewed in the video above.

Tech's New Cutting Edge: Musical Bananas! [VIDEO]

PhD students from MIT's Media Lab have invented a way for simple objects to interact with your computer, tablet and mobile device. This new technology not only takes “gamification” to an entirely new level but also assists people suffering from muscular and neurological diseases through their daily routines. (Reuters - July 3, 2012)

Beautiful Labrador [3/7/12]

Full moon rising over the Broadwater

Bye Bye Baskin Robbins ... we won't miss you

Indonesian Lawyer Points Path For PM To Save Refugees’ Lives:

Greens Media Release [3/6/12]

Prime Minister Gillard should use her meetings today with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to reach agreement on resettling a thousand more refugees from Indonesia and putting $10 million more into the UNHCR's work in the country, to give refugees the hope they need in order not to get on boats, the Australian Greens said today.

"Here is an expert voice from Indonesia, someone working day in day out to help refugees in the country, agreeing with the Greens that the way to save lives is to care for people and give them safer pathways to a better life," Australian Greens Leader, Senator Christine Milne, said.

"As Febi Yonesta from Jakarta Legal Aid Institute told ABC Radio this morning, the never-ending wait, complete lack of human or social rights and desperation is what is driving people onto boats, regardless of the danger.

"He agrees that resettling more people from Indonesia will reduce the pressure to get on dangerous boats, as will increasing support for refugees in Indonesia through properly resourcing the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

"Prime Minister Gillard should use her talks with President Yudhoyono today to agree to put $10 million swiftly into the UNHCR in Indonesia, to resettle a thousand refugees from his country immediately, to increase cooperation with Indonesia so we can rescue people before they are in the water, and to urgently address corruption in Indonesian ports that allows more people smuggling to take place.

"I welcome The Prime Minister's commitment of four Hercules transport planes to help the search and rescue effort, but there is much more that could be done straight away to save the lives of refugees that doesn't involve trampling on their rights even more.

"History shows that punishing desperate people will not save lives. Let's focus on helping people fleeing persecution - that is what will save their lives."

Why Has The UN Accused Australia Of Failing Children? [VIDEO]

Essential Vision [3/7/12]:

Norman Gillespie says Australia broke its promise to the UN to take children out of detention centres.

Last month the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child gave its five yearly report card on Australia’s children and the findings were not good — especially regarding our treatment of asylum seeking children.

UNICEF Australia’s CEO Norman Gillespie tells 3Q that the UN’s recommendation seven years ago to release these children into the community has been ignored with over 400 children still in detention.

He hopes the recent announcement to appoint a National Children’s Commissioner will ensure Australian meets its obligations for children seeking asylum and all children who continue to fall through the gaps.

People Smuggler Myth Busters

Asylum Seeker Resource Centre [PDF]:

MYTH: People smuggling is a business model that needs to be smashed

FACT

People smuggling is not a ‘business model’ that needs to be ‘smashed’ but rather vulnerable people who need protection from persecution. While there is a legitimate need to address the behavior of people smugglers who exploit vulnerable people, a real solution would focus upon roviding adequate alternative pathways for asylum seekers to escape their conditions of persecution and destitution. Until such options exist people will always get on boats because they having nothing to lose when a likely death awaits then back home.

MYTH: Asylum seekers get on boats from Indonesia and Malaysia because of people smugglers

FACT

The vast majority of boat arrivals travel to Australia via Malaysia and Indonesia not because of people smugglers but because they have no genuine alternatives. Neither country has signed the Refugee Convention and asylum seekers face long periods without protection of their basic human rights. According to the Parliamentary Library, Australia resettled only 560 refugees from Indonesia during the period 2001 to February 2010 and only 490 refugees from Malaysia in 2010-11. The wait to be resettled from Indonesia for someone assessed as a refugee by the UNHCR could be up to 37 years. Amnesty International
records Malaysia as
hosting some 90,000 to 170,000 refugees and asylum-seekers so the wait here to be resettled in Australia could be up to 500+ years.

MYTH: Australia is being swamped by asylum seekers coming by boat

FACT

It’s important to put the issue of people smuggling in perspective. According to the UNHCR, in 2008, more than 51,000 asylum seekers crossed the Gulf of Aden making their way from Somalia to Yemen by boat. Also during 2008, more than 67,000 people travelled on boats tothe European coast, 38,000 of whom landed in Italy. This year, Italy received over 10,000 boat arrivals in just two months. In comparison, despite the increase in boat arrivals in November, arrivals in Australia are down from 6879 last year to 4184 this year as of December 16 th 2011. This accounts for just 0.009% of the 43.7 million refugees, asylum seekers and displaced people globally.

MYTH: The Australian Government policy is reducing people smuggling

FACT

The Australian government has in fact contributed to the creation of people smuggling by restricting the legal avenues for asylum seekers to find protection in Australia. As the world’s leading authority on international refugee law, Professor James Hathaway, explains: The whole people-smuggling problem is a false issue. We created the market for human smuggling. If asylum seekers could lawfully come to Australia and make a refugee claim without the need of sneaking in by boat, they would do it. But we make it illegal and create the market that smugglers thrive on.

MYTH: People smuggling is the key issue we need to focus on when it comes to dealing with refugees coming by boat to Australia

FACT

It is not people smuggling that is the issue we should be focusing on but Australia’s inadequate contribution to the international refugee problem. Australia’s refugee humanitarian intake – as a percentage of our total migration - is the lowest in 35 years. At the same time,the number of asylum seekers in need of resettlement is at record levels. Australia ranks 79th in the number of refugees in hosts per capita which is equal to just 0.21 percent of the global total. More than 80 percent of the world's refugees are in developing nations.

MYTH: People smugglers are ‘scum’ and the ‘Vilest form of human life’

FACT

People smugglers are not the ‘vilest form of human life’ but are in fact often victims themselves. As the Australian Federal Police have conceded, of the 493 individuals arrested in Australia on people-smuggling charges during 2009, 2010 and 2011, 483 were simply working as crew on boats leaving from Indonesian ports. Only 10 individuals were organisers. Almost all of these crew members are poor Indonesian fishermen – including many children - who have been mislead by people smuggling ringleaders. A recent report highlighted that a number of these children have been imprisoned by the Australian government on people smuggling charges for up to two years.

What has been the cost of protecting Australia from these poor fishermen? In 2009-10, the Government allocated $654 million ‘to fund a comprehensive, whole-of-government strategy to combat people smuggling and help address the problem of unauthorised arrivals’. In the 2010–11 budget, the Government increased this to $1.2 billion in order ‘to bolster Australia’s border security’. This is on top of the $772 million allocated in the 2010-11 budget for managing Australia’s detention centres. Clearly, the government’s attention and resources are being directed in the wrong place.

MYTH: Stopping the boats is the solution

FACT

The government should be focusing on increasing our refugee intake and working towards building the capacity of our regional neighbors to provide adequate protection for the large numbers of asylum seekers and refugees they host. It should also be working towards creating a regional cooperation framework that includes source, transit and host countries as a way to end the demand for people smuggling. A just framework would ensure the burden ofasylum seekers and refugees is distributed evenly across countries and according to capacity.

Lock The Gate Calls On O'Farrell Government To Rule Out Anderson As Land And Water Commissioner: Media Release [3/7/12]

Lock the Gate President Drew Hutton has called on the NSW Government to rule out former federal Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson from filling the recently announced NSW Land and Water Commissioner role.

Rumors have been circulating over the last few days that the O'Farrell Government has been considering the former Chairman of Eastern Star Gas who controlled exploration licences in the Gunnedah area and Pilliga Forest before selling to Santos in late 2011.

"According to NSW Nationals leader Andrew Stoner the commissioner is supposed to oversee the regulation of invasive exploration activity on Strategic Regional Land," Mr Hutton said.

However, as Chairman of Eastern Star Gas, Mr Anderson oversaw more than 20 environmental and safety incidents in the Pilliga Forest that has polluted creeks and killed trees."

See the report by Santos here.

Earlier this year Santos reported, following an internal investigation, 'an unacceptable culture in Eastern Star of accepting minor spills, failures in reporting and the possibility of unapproved land clearing on some sites.'

"To appoint John Anderson would be an acceptance by the O'Farrell Government of this unacceptable culture in the coal seam gas industry," Mr Hutton said.

"A political appointment such as this will only exacerbate community concerns about the intention of the O'Farrell Government to strengthen coal seam gas regulations in NSW. It is completely unacceptable.

"I have witnessed the appointment and operation of the Queensland Gas Commissioner. The NSW Government must ensure the person chosen is truly independent and has the confidence of the community.

"John Anderson is widely regarded to have run roughshod over the community and disregarded the potential impact of Easter Star Gas's production plans and pipelines on the important agricultural land of the Liverpool Plains and New England areas."

Government Welcomes Galilee Co-operation

Deputy Premier, Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning Media Release [3/7/12]:

The Newman Government has welcomed the announcement by Adani and QR National that they will work together on an integrated east-west rail proposal for the Galilee Basin.

Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning Jeff Seeney said this co-operative approach was exactly what the Government had sought, following extensive negotiations with all proponents of mine and rail developments in the region.

“By declaring two rail corridors for future mines in the Galilee Basin we hoped to facilitate this sort of progress,” Mr Seeney said.

“Adani and QR National’s decision to jointly evaluate an integrated rail project and accelerate work into the feasibility stage is good news for the companies and the state.

“We’re pleased to see such progress on future investment into the untapped Galilee coal resources.

“We agree with both companies that an integrated solution could provide an efficient and effective supply chain.”

Mr Seeney said the State Government would continue to work with all mining companies and rail proponents to progress development in the Galilee Basin which would be of great benefit to the region, the state and the nation.

Coal Curse: The Black Side Of The Subsidised Resources Boom

The Conversation [3/7/12]:

Stuart Rosewarne, Department of Political Economy at University of Sydney

Linda Connor, Professor of Anthropology at University of Sydney

Disclosure Statement

Stuart has not received funding from any source in the research and writing of this article, nor does he have any vested financial interest in the sectors analysed.

Linda Connor previously had funding from the ARC for two projects, "Climate Change, Place and Community: An Ethnographic Study of the Hunter Valley, NSW" and "Open Cuts to Land and Culture: Rural Community Engagement with Large Scale Industrial Development".

As we are so often reminded, Australia has abundant reserves of high quality coal. Mining magnates, industry lobbyists and politicians all talk up the value of coal for the Australian economy, with exports worth $44 billion in 2012. As delegates in Rio discuss the future for fossil fuel subsidies in a carbon constrained world, it’s time for Australia to ask itself the hard questions. What is the real cost of energy from coal? How should we weigh up the costs and the benefits of the resources boom in which coal exports play a major part?
The Reserve Bank has argued that, while the importance of the resources boom has provided a positive impetus for the Australian economy, our over-reliance on minerals is a “resource curse” that looms ominously over our economic future.

In a resource curse, high levels of investment and support for the resource sector undermine the viability of other industries that provide more enduring employment opportunities and are more ecologically sustainable. But Australia’s resource curse has an even blacker side, because it is based on an insidious myth about the real economic costs of coal.

Burning coal is the primary source of Australia’s apparently “cheap” energy. Paradoxically, while coal generates a lot of royalties for State governments and is the nation’s second largest export earner, the industry contributes only around 1.8 per cent to GDP. This is compared to other industries such as financial and insurance services (9.6%), retail and wholesale trade (8.6%), construction (7.7%) and health care and social services (6%). It is a relatively insignificant employer, even where mining is concentrated. In the Hunter it employs only 6% of the region’s workforce.

These economic positives: export and royalty income, energy supply, and a small contribution to GDP and employment, have to be weighed against some very high costs. These are usually invisible in the public debate about the coal resource.

The rise of coal would not have been possible without state and federal government backing. Coal royalties are definitely important for some state finances (for example, $1.17 billion in NSW in 2010-2011, although predicted not to grow because of declining world prices). But the extent of government financial support for the industry is noteworthy.

Direct subsidies include coal terminal leases and the provision of infrastructure to transport coal to electricity generators or to port loading facilities. Federal government funding for the Hunter Valley Corridor Capacity rail upgrade totals $855 million.

The whole mining industry receives a subsidy in the form of a tax rebate on the diesel that fuels the trucks and machinery. This $2 billion a year subsidy amounts to $87 annual contribution from every Australian.
Governments provide many high-energy users like miners with cheap electricity. For example, while household and small business electricity prices in NSW are rising at around 15% per year, wholesale prices paid by industry have not risen for 12 years. NSW residents subsidise the price of coal to power stations as well as pay higher electricity prices.

The previous Labor government undertook to supply coal from the NSW government-owned Cobbora mine to electricity generators at a third of the price that coal could sell for in export markets, in order to secure the viability of state generators prior to privatisation. As a result, the government (and the people of NSW) will forego $2.7 billion in revenue, based on current export prices, through to 2020.

Carbon tax compensation is kind to the coal industry. The Coal Sector Jobs Package ($1300 million over six years) can be used by coal owners to avoid closing “gassy mines” that leak high levels of methane gas.
Coal-fired electricity generators will be compensated from the Clean Energy Fund, and have access to $5.5 billion dedicated to assisting generators to restructure. In addition, the federal government is proposing to spend up to $1 billion to decommission some of the highest emission electricity generators.

We don’t just bear the cost of coal through the subsidies our taxes fund. There are other costs. The Newcastle-Hunter region provides a good example of the darkest side of the coal curse. Productive rural industries have thrived for two hundred years in the Hunter Valley, including viticulture, horse breeding and mixed farming. These industries, essential to food supply and a balanced, mixed and ecologically-sustainable economy are being displaced as mining extends its reach.

In the valley floor of the Upper Hunter, 64% (1280 sq km) of the land is taken up by mining leases, while 16% of the land (315 sq km) is open-cut mines. Although mining lobby groups such as the NSW Minerals Council claim “mining is a temporary use of land”, mined land is sterile and can never be used again for productive rural enterprises.

Waterways and land are blighted with saline discharge from mines, coal dust and power station fallout, damaging crops and stock as well as eradicating native species. Villages, farms and heritage properties have disappeared while punishing shift work schedules and a commuter workforce threaten the fabric of family life and community organisations.

The health costs of coal mining and burning are severe, leading some experts to brand coal “the new tobacco”. The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE, 2009) estimated the total healthcare bill in Australia from coal-fired power station pollution to be $2.6 billion a year.

On a global scale, coal is the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions and thus the main industrial source of climate change. The burning of coal for electricity has grown faster than any other source of greenhouse gas emissions, and accounts for more than half of world emissions from stationary sources.

Though the costs to Australian and global society are huge, with such generous government subsidies, it is not surprising that production of coal-fired power shows no signs of abating, and likewise the continued growth of coal mining and coal exports. The coal curse has descended on Australia, and without urgent action we can only look forward to a mounting burden of illness, environmental degradation, economic dislocation, social disintegration and a warming planet.

Boot Camps Are A Bad Alternative

Coalition Against Institutionalised Child Abuse:

Peter S. Canellos, Contributing Roporter, BOSTON GLOBE, April 30, 1989, PAGE: 29 SHERIFFS, LAWMAKERS EXPLORE ALTERNATIVES TO JAIL //acs-VT2000

At least one former supporter of boot camp has turned into a skeptic, however. Larry R. Meachum, who opened the first prisoner boot camp in the nation while serving as commissioner of corrections in Oklahoma, opposed such a proposal when it came up in Connecticut, where he now serves as corrections commissioner.
Meachum, a one-time acting corrections commissioner in Massachusetts, cited three potential pitfalls in the program, said Connecticut corrections spokesman William Flower.

- The"widening-net syndrome."Judges, seeing the boot camp as a positive alternative for jail inmates, will sentence to jail young delinquents who would otherwise be placed on probation, adding to the corrections population rather than reducing it.
- Limited effectiveness."That 'scared straight' philosophy doesn't work for everyone,"Flower said."Some of the street toughs like it. They like the violence of it."
- Brutality."It can lead to training instructors going into excess,"Flower said. Instructors have a hard time taming the street kids, he said, and respond, as in the military, by demanding more and more physical .

"He started the first one in the country in Oklahoma,"Flower said of Meachum."What he discovered is the support systems for the program have to be in place before you do a boot camp. It's not the simple solution that it appears to be. It's not the panacea that people think it is."

AMERICA'S FOREMOST EXPERT ON BOOT CAMPS SAYS THEY DO NOT REDUCE RECIDIVISM -- THEY FAIL GARY MARX, Chicago Tribune, Oct. 12, 1994, From: NewsHound@sjmercury.com HARD TIME: BOOT CAMPS FORCE OFFENDERS TO SHAPE UP? \\ acs-VT2000

''The simplistic view that military and physical training will work (in reducing recidivism) is wrong,"says Doris MacKenzie, a University of Maryland criminologist who is the nation's foremost expert on boot camps. ''Many boot camps Use punishment for punishment's sake. They try to make it look tough for the public, but they are not doing what really works."

BOOT CAMPS ARE NOT WORKING GARY MARX, Chicago Tribune, Oct. 12, 1994, From: NewsHound@sjmercury.com HARD TIME: BOOT CAMPS FORCE OFFENDERS TO SHAPE UP? \\ acs-VT2000

There's only one problem: boot camps aren't working, or at least not as well as politicians and other proponents said they would. Nationwide, more than one-third of all offenders who enter boot camps drop out before they graduate. And boot camp graduates do not have significantly lower recidivism rates than inmates with similar backgrounds who are put on probation or serve time in regular prisons, studies show.

PROSPECTS FAR DIMMER FOR BOOT CAMP GRADUATES
Sarah Glazer, Congressional Quarterly, March 13, 1994, in DALLAS MORNING NEWS ,"Is bootcamp structure, discipline enough to reform troubled youths?; Studies show the recidivism rate rises the longer its graduates stay on streets // js-VT2000

Prison boot camps lack a key aspect of military boot camps, says Dale Parent, a senior analyst at the Cambfidge, Mass., consulting firm Abt Associates who studied boot camps in 1989. After military training, he says, recruits graduate to several years of guaranteed employment, education, housing and opportunity for advancement. Prospects are far dimmer for prison boot camp graduates.

NO EVIDENCE THAT BOOT CAMPS WORK
STAFF WRITER March 4. 1994 PHOENIX GAZETTE, RETHINK THE BOOT CAMPS // js-VT2000
That's the same assessment made by Dennis Palumbo, professor of Justice studies at Afizona State University, who braced the criminal histories of 68 participants in the state's shock incarceration program, a similar prison diversion program designed for young adult offenders."It's good public relations, but there's no evidence whatsoever that these programs work,"he said in an interview earlier this year. Professor Palumbo said it is unrealistic to assume that three months of military style discipline can make up for a lifetime of dysfunctional behavior and family life.

PROBLEM KIDS STILL GET INTO TROUIBLE AFTER BOOT CAMP
MARY TOOTHMAN, The Tampa Tribune, January 17, 1996, Pg. 1, HEADLINE: Jury is out on boot camp; a family waits //acs-VT2000

But a new study has been released that casts doubt on whether boot camps work well in terms of keeping kids out of trouble. More than one of every three troubled teens sent to a boot camp, wilderness camp or residential-treatment program get in trouble again within a year of release, the study says.

BOOT CAMPS BETTER FOR WAR THAN REHABILITATION
MARLENE SOKOL December 19, 1993, St. Petersburg Times; Buying an unproven remedy // js-VT2000
But critics say the enthusiasm over boot camps seems to have overlooked basic questions such as whether an inner-city drug dealer can be reformed by a drill instructor demanding snappy salutes, shiny shoes and push-ups in the dirt. While most experts agree it's too early to evaluate, the more skeptical are questioning the entire strategy, saying such camps are well-suited to preparing young people for war, but not for teaching kids how to exist in a civilized society.

BOOT CAMPS REINFORCE NEGATIVE BEHAVIOR
Jill Ferrell October 14, 1994 DALLAS MORNING NEWS Boot camp not always good idea // js-VT2000
Studies have shown that military boot camps tend to lead to more aggressive behavior and more callous attitudes toward others. When kids get punished, the response reinforces their existing beliefs - namely, that force and control are what matters. That is precisely the kind of behavior we should be helping kids unlearn. The use of dehumanizing experiences - tearing down individuals and then trying to build them back up has no place in juvenile corrections In fact, the image of people as deserving of degrading or dehumanizing treatment is troubling, especially when the inmates involved are children and are disproportionately minorities.

BOOT CAMPS JUST DUMP INMATES BACK ONTO THE STREET WITHOUT A SOCIAL SUPPORT NETWORK
GARY MARX, Chicago Tribune, Oct. 12, 1994, From: NewsHound@sjmercury.com HARD TIME. BOOT CAMPS FORCE OFFENDERS TO SHAPE UP? \\ acs-VT2000
''In the military, when you finish boot camp you become a member of a pro social network,"explained Martin Horn, executive director of the New York State Division of Parole. ''You get a job, housing, food and health care. It gives you an identity. When you finish a prison boot camp, you go back to the streets."

BOOT CAMPS DO NOTHING TO HELP INMATES ADJUST AFTER THEY ARE RELEASED
GARY MARX, Chicago Tribune, Oct. 12, 1994, From: NewsHound@sjmercury.com HARD TIME: BOOT CAMPS FORCE OFFENDERS TO SHAPE UP? \\ acs-VT2000
Criminologists say boot camps put too much emphasis on military training and physical exercise rather than helping inmates improve their low educational-and job skills and kick drug and alcohol habits -- things experts say are critical for reducing criminal activity.

BOOT CAMPS ARE TOO SHORT - - -ONLY A FEW MONTHS - - - TO CHANGE CRIMINAL BEHAVIORS
GARY MARX; Chicago Tfibune, Oct; 12, 1994, From: newshound@sjmercury.com HARD TIME: BOOT CAMPS FORCE OFFENDERS TO SHAPE UR?. \\ acs-VT2000
Another strike against boot camps is that they only LAST for several months: Criminologists say it's tough for any program of limited duration to change CRIMINAL behavior that's developed over a lifetime -- something experts say differentiates military boot camps from prison boot camps.

BOOT CAMPS ARE LAST VEHICLE TO USE FOR REHABILITATING YOUTH
MARLENE SOKOL December 19, 1993, St. Petersburg Times Buying an unproven remedy // js-VT2000
Wood, a former Marine, says the goals of a military boot camp are completely at odds with those of a juvenile delinquency program. A boot camp weeds out candidates who cannot handle stress, teaches wartime skills and instills a sense of pride and loyalty for the group in which the candidate belongs, Wood wrote in the rehabilitation publication, Youth Today. Given such goals,"boot camps are the last vehicle one should choose for rehabilitating juvenile offenders."

Queensland: Risks Of Cancer Death Increase With Distance

For decades the Labor government made sure there were no public radiotherapy services available in regional Queensland.

The challenge for Newman and Springborg is whether they will provide public radiotherapy services in regional areas.

It would be interesting to find out how much public money is gifted to private hospitals in metropolitan areas in the form of subsidies for providing oncology/radiotherapy services.

It is possible that amount of money would equal what it would cost to provide universal cancer care services in regional areas.

Qld Cancer Council Media Release [19/9/11]:

New Cancer Council Queensland research has found mortality risks for people diagnosed with rectal cancer in Queensland increase on average by six per cent for every 100 km in distance a person lives from radiotherapy.

The research, published today in the Medical Journal of Australia, recommends an increase in travel and accommodation assistance for regional cancer patients.

CCQ’s CEO, Professor Jeff Dunn, has used the findings to repeat calls for Queensland Health to reform Queensland’s patient travel subsidy scheme.

"The evidence is clear – cancer patients who live further from radiotherapy facilities have higher mortality than those who live close by.

"The costs of travelling for treatment must be addressed by the Queensland Government in order to improve survival rates for regional Queenslanders.

"The Government has not increased the paltry $30 per night accommodation subsidy for the past 25 years and should be ashamed of its failure to act.

"At a time when regional Queenslanders are struggling to afford the costs of living, the Queensland Government needs to step up and take responsibility for regional health.

"This is a life or death matter and no rationale from Queensland Health can justify the unnecessary deaths of our friends and family members in the bush.

"I call on the Queensland Government to commit to doubling accommodation assistance for regional patients to $60 per night.

"We can no longer ignore this issue – the Government must act to save lives."

CCQ lead researcher and co-author of the MJA article, Associate Professor Peter Baade, said the study used Queensland Cancer Registry data and found an association between distance from radiotherapy facilities and survival outcomes of people diagnosed with rectal cancer.

"After adjusting for age, sex, and stage at diagnosis, rectal cancer patients who lived 100–199 km, 200–399 km and 400 km or more from a radiotherapy facility were 16 per cent, 30 per cent, and 25 per cent, respectively, more likely to die from rectal cancer than patients living within 50 km of such a facility.

"On average, there was a 6 per cent increase in mortality risk for each 100km increment in distance from the nearest radiotherapy facility.

"Our study shows that cancer patients who live relatively far from radiotherapy facilities have a shorter survival time.

"It is imperative that health services find ways to improve access when distance is a barrier.

"This includes realistic financial reimbursement for travel and accommodation costs incurred, and adequate outreach services to increase use of radiotherapy services when a facility is not located nearby."

Prof Dunn said each year more than 4,300 regional Queenslanders were diagnosed with cancer and more than 1,600 regional Queenslanders would die of the disease.

"Many of these deaths could be prevented by improving access to cancer services and simply increasing the accommodation subsidy rate.

"Our Atlas of Cancer in Queensland shows at least 9 per cent of regional cancer-related deaths could have been prevented in the ten years to 2007 if regional cancer survival rates were equal to the Queensland average.

"This means that more than 120 regional Queenslanders die of cancer each year because they live outside urban centres," he said.

The Cancer Council has released a proposal calling for an increase in financial assistance for regional patients, providing evidence that regional Queenslanders who require radiation treatment in urban treatment centres are burdened by considerable costs.

"Regional patients not only have to cope with the distress of a cancer diagnosis, but they also face financial distress associated with the costs of treatment, including income disruption, out of pocket medical expenses, accommodation and transport bills, and general expenses incurred while living away from home for significant periods.

"Evidence has found that the perception of significant out-of-pocket costs can contribute to sub-optimal treatment decisions and/or non-compliance with medical recommendations and that financial distress has a significant influence on patients’ decisions about treatment and recovery.

"International studies have found that patients who are faced with high out-of-pocket cancer-related expenditures may restrict their use of effective prescription medications, raising questions whether regional and low income patients might forgo potentially beneficial treatments owing to concerns over the high expense of these treatments.

"In Australia, there is growing evidence to suggest that financial concerns may cause some patients to entirely opt out of recommended treatments, contributing to the poorer survival outcomes for regional cancer patients."

A copy of the proposal is available on Cancer Council Queensland’s website.

Wi-Fi In Parks

Brisbane City Council:

Brisbane City Council is now offering free wireless internet (Wi-Fi) access within the surrounds of some of the city's most popular parks. Wi-Fi access is available in hotspot areas in 22 parks and public spaces across the city.

Wi-Fi access

The Wi-Fi service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Anyone can access it with a Wi-Fi enabled device.

Enabled devices include:

personal computers
video game consoles
mobile phones
MP3 players
personal digital assistants

To connect to the service, search your wireless networks, select 'CouncilWiFi', and read and accept the terms and conditions. No login is required.

Wi-Fi support

The supplier, EasyWeb Digital, will provide end-user support from 8am to 8pm seven days a week.

A hotline is available to assist users in the listed Wi-Fi-enabled parks and public spaces. The hotline number is 1300 780 115. Look for this number in hotspot areas.

Wi-Fi use

Hotspot areas are to be used in a fair and community-minded manner. Council may choose to limit downloads and connection times and use content filtering systems as part of this service. More information can be found in the terms and conditions.

Happy Birthday Julian Assange

True Aussie Hero And Journalist!

Jumping At Shadows by Bob Ellis [2/7/12]:

Now that assassination is official American policy it was not hard to imagine five minutes ago that Simon Sheikh had been poisoned and there would be more men and women of the Left so dealt with in the future.

Untune that string, and hark what discord follows, as Shakespeare’s Ulysses noted.

Diane Feinstein yesterday asked that Assange be charged with spying, an echo of Sarah Palin who wanted him shot like a moose and John McCain who wanted him lethally injected for treason. A film will open soon acclaiming the murder in a foreign city of Osama Bin Laden and his son and his friend and his friend’s wife for crimes unspecified and in court unproven. And every month or so a drone takes out a foreign politician, and sometimes his young family. And every week or so an Arab is killed by an Israeli for his politics. And it’s not too much to imagine Simon, a very effective political organiser and publicist, might have been so treated tonight.

Perish the thought. There are no conspiracies. Yasr Arafat was not poisoned; no way. A lone madman took out Bin Laden, another took out Indira Ghandhi, another Anwar Sadat, another Olof Palme. James Ashby was deeply affronted to receive his two thousandth saucy text message, one different from all the others and from the thousands of saucy text messages he himself sent out to friends and lovers. John Edwards and John Della Bosca and John Brogden and Mike Rann were not set up. No-one tried to kill Castro, never. Both Kennedy and Oswald were killed by lone madmen, in the same city, within two days. Some cities are big on lone madmen. There is no evil intent. None. Not ever. The CIA never plots to do people harm. They earn their billions by doing cryptic crosswords and playing Monopoly in Langley, and writing scenarios they never enact.

If Simon has a history of epilepsy, fine. If he ate a dodgy oyster tonight, okay.

But you wonder, you really do.

And Assange is right to be scared. Really scared.

Discuss.

The Supreme Court Ruling On Obama’s Health Care Overhaul

WSWS [30/6/12]:

When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was voted into law in March 2010, President Barack Obama hailed the measure as a vindication of the “American dream” and proof that “government of the people and by the people still works for the people.”

Thursday’s ruling by the US Supreme Court upholding key provisions of the law met with a similar response from the president, Democratic supporters of the bill and what passes for the liberal media in the US. The basic premise of their celebration of the high court decision was that the health care law is a genuine reform that will expand coverage for ordinary Americans and implement safeguards to guarantee quality care. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The law constitutes a sweeping attack on health care for tens of millions of working people. Its principal aim is not to provide universal health coverage—millions will remain uninsured under its provisions—but rather to reduce costs for corporations and the government, in large part by rationing care for all but the wealthy. The Supreme Court ruling upholding the law, moreover, is itself a deeply reactionary decision with far-reaching implications for the social and democratic rights of the American people.

The health care legislation was crafted to serve the interests of the private insurers, pharmaceutical firms and giant health care chains. They stand to profit handsomely from its provisions.

The centerpiece of the law, the so-called individual mandate, which was upheld by the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling, will require all but the very poorest individuals to obtain health insurance from private companies or pay a penalty. This will funnel tens of millions of new cash-paying customers to the private insurance companies.

Other features of the law include:

• $500 billion in cuts to the Medicare program for the elderly

• An Independent Payment Advisory Board to ration health care under Medicare

• Accountable Care Organizations tying payments for Medicare to cost-cutting

• A tax on so-called “Cadillac” health insurance plans held by unionized and other employees.

While individuals can be fined by up to 2 percent of their income if they do not have coverage, the fines for employers who fail to offer insurance to their employees are so low as to create an incentive for companies to drop their insurance programs. That will force workers to buy individual policies offering reduced coverage. One recent study showed that as many as 9 percent of businesses plan to drop coverage for their employees by 2014.

The fact that such a regressive measure is passed off as a progressive reform says a great deal about 21st century America, as does the Supreme Court ruling that upheld it. The decision—written by the right-wing chief justice, John Roberts, and endorsed by the four nominal liberals on the court—reflects the fact that the corporate establishment is heavily invested in the legislation.

Justice Roberts joined with the other right-wing justices to reject the Obama administration’s argument that the health care law, and its requirement that every person obtain health insurance, was constitutional on the basis of the government’s authority to regulate interstate commerce (according to the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution). Roberts instead based his ruling upholding the individual mandate on the government’s taxation powers, equating the penalty for those who do not purchase insurance to a tax.

The rejection of the Commerce Clause as the basis for federal social legislation is the culmination of an expanding right-wing attack on what had, ever since the New Deal of the 1930s, been regarded as a settled matter of constitutional jurisprudence. Congress had cited the Commerce Clause as the constitutional foundation for reforms such as the minimum wage, child labor laws and civil rights legislation, as well as regulations on the activities of corporations. The aim of all five right-wingers on the court, including Roberts, was to set a legal precedent weakening the power of Congress to legislate any social reforms or limitations on corporate profit-making.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg characterized Roberts’ “rigid reading” of the Commerce Clause as “stunningly retrogressive.” She noted that it harkened back to the early part of the last century, when the Supreme Court routinely overturned social reform legislation and laws regulating corporate activities.

The one provision of the health care law that was rejected by the court was a measure related to the expansion of Medicaid, the health care program for the poor jointly administered by the states and the federal government. The law sought to cover an estimated 11 million people by extending Medicaid coverage to all individuals under the age of 65 with incomes at 133 percent of the poverty level or less.

It empowered the federal government to withhold Medicaid funding from any state that refused to implement this expansion. Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling stripped that power from the federal government, making the expansion of Medicaid by the individual states, as a practical matter, optional.

What the Supreme Court and the ruling elite as a whole have in their sights is not only Medicaid, but the entire framework of social programs such as Social Security, Medicare and food stamps, as well as laws upholding democratic rights such as the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act.

Passage of the Obama health care legislation in 2010 ushered in a new stage in the assault on the working class. Austerity measures have been implemented across the country, with states implementing deep cuts to Medicaid and other social programs. In the midst of the worst jobs crisis since the Great Depression, the White House and Congress made a deal to reduce the duration of unemployment benefits.

The Affordable Care Act and the Supreme Court ruling upholding it underscore the incompatibility of private ownership of the means of production and production for profit with basic social needs such as health care. There is no possibility of achieving genuinely progressive social change within the framework of the capitalist economic and political system.

Universal, quality health care requires taking profit out of the provision of medical care and placing the health care system on socialist foundations. The insurance firms, pharmaceutical companies and health care chains must be nationalized and transformed into public utilities under the democratic control of the working people.

The Socialist Equality Party and its candidates in the 2012 elections, Jerry White for president and Phyllis Scherrer for vice president, are committed to the fight for high-quality, universal health care as a basic social right of the working class. Visit the Socialist Equality Party campaign website.

Kate Randall

Black History Month Forum on Indigenous Queensland and the Extractive Industries

On Monday 23rd July between 6 – 8pm ANTaR Qld would like to invite interested members of the public to a forum on Indigenous Qld and the Extractive Industries. Queensland has the second highest Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in Australia and over two hundred distinct first peoples nations. Queensland also has the fastest growing extractive industry in the country with a projected value of $60.4 billion pa by 2020. The relationship between the extractive industries and traditional owners is a worldwide issue and one being examined at the UN level. Join us as we explore the mining boom through the traditional custodial lens. Bleeding Heart Café 166 Ann Street Brisbane City. Please email office@antarqld.org.au to register your attendance.

Stolen Wages Twins Join Delegation For Meeting With Member For Townsville

Queensland Council of Unions [29/6/12]:

Aboriginal elders Paul and Arthur Ah Wang still want justice for their stolen wages.

Today, they will join other Indigenous leaders and Townsville Branch President of the Queensland Council of Unions (QCU) Les Moffitt for a meeting with Member for Townsville John Hathaway to continue their fight for what they are owed.

"We've sought this meeting with the new Member for Townsville to bring these Indigenous elders before him to share their side of the story," Mr Moffitt said.

"We believe Mr Hathaway is keen to build bridges with the local Indigenous community and hope to better familiarise him with some of the issues of most importance, like stolen wages."

From age 13, twins Paul and Arthur Ah Wang worked together on a pearling lugger off Mackay, free diving to collect pearl shell and doing deckhand duties.

Paul Ah Wang recalls that it was demanding and dangerous work.

"Sometimes the waves were as high as a lamp post," he said.

"If we misbehaved we were often send below deck to bed without dinner."

They are both victims of the Stolen Wages, but one has been paid and the other has not. Paul received just $3000 for his years of labour.

Arthur did not have sufficient documentary evidence for his application despite working alongside his brother – he has received nothing.

The Stolen Wages is a campaign conducted by the Qld Council of Unions to seek the full payment of the promised reparations of $55.4m for wages withheld from Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander workers for decades of the last century.

Department of Aboriginal and Torress Strait Islanders and Multicultural Affairs [History Of Stolen Wages And Savings In Queensland]

 

... Let us win over the opponents of love ...

Daniel Mathews [1/7/12]:

What I said at the rally for Julian Assange, 1 July 2012, outside the State Library of Victoria

Thank you all for coming here today.

Being a founding member of Wikileaks, though not involved for many years now, I want to say something about the background and history of Wikileaks and where we are today.

Some of you here today may be coming to a rally for the first time. Some of you, maybe for longer; some involved for a long time.

Much activism starts afresh. But it always comes in a context, it always has a history, even if we are unaware of it. And Wikileaks’ struggle for a more just, transparent and free world comes in a context of history. It lies squarely in a long tradition of peoples’ struggles to understand their world, to come to terms with their world as it is, to participate meaningfully in their own lives, to control their own lives and create a better world. As Milan Kundera said, “The struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”

How much have we forgotten?

We are standing right now in front of the State Library of Victoria — a wonderful institution. I was in there this morning. I recommend going in and picking up a book sometime! — well, not now, after the rally…

Today is a Sunday. And the library is open. But the very fact that the library is open today is not a given. That was a struggle. That was fought over. People went to jail for that. The trial of the anti-Sabbatarians — see if you can find that in a history book. It is buried, but it is known, and it is true.

The anti-Sabbatarians were fighting for the people’s right to knowledge, to have access to information about the world. Anyone working a full-time job can understand why libraries should be open Sunday. But it was not. Adherence to the holy day prevented people from reading and learning. And so the anti-Sabbatarians fought for their right to library access on a Sunday. At the trials of the anti-Sabbatarians they were denounced for all sorts of crimes — atheism! socialism! anarchism! My goodness. All sorts of ideas that one might come across if one reads a book!

But in the end they won, and as a result this glorious library is open today. It contains its own history, which we can learn.

Julian Assange has spent a lot of time in this library. And there is a direct historical line from those struggles — people’s struggles for reason, for science, for knowledge — to the struggles of Wikileaks today. In founding Wikileaks, we understood that people have to become aware of important facts about their world: “not just to interpret the world; the point is to change it”. And we have progressed from wanting to open the library on a Sunday, to wanting to open governments and corporations from time to time.

But the world today is so interconnected and swift-moving that struggles for information and knowledge are necessarily on a global scale. The stakes are far higher. Julian faces much worse than anti-Sabbatarians did. The need for popular support is greater than ever.

In a democracy, the people have a right to know what powerful institutions are up to. And when abuse of secrecy becomes too great, justice demands that information be liberated. For this, we need whistleblowers, journalists and intellectuals. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant, electric light the most efficient policeman.” But mainstream journalism has not done a good job in an age of increasing secrecy, crumbling revenues, and Rupert Murdoch. And Gina Rinehart! Academia too often wallows in obscurities, science too often absorbed in the service of power, and writers too often far from the truths that are stranger than fiction. And so it has fallen to heroic whistleblowers like Bradley Manning — if he did what he is accused of — to liberate information; and to groups like Wikileaks to fill the gaps — the intelligence agency of the people, and the publisher of last resort.

For that, for audacious, courageous actions shining sunlight into the darkest places, Wikileaks, and Julian Assange, deserve our support. But we should not be here just for passive support, we should also learn and actively work together ourselves.

In 2007, as Julian, I and others laid the foundations for Wikileaks, Julian wrote the following, expressing some of our hopes and motivations:

“Every time we witness an injustice and do not act, we train our character to be passive in its presence and thereby eventually lose all ability to defend ourselves and those we love. In a modern economy it is impossible to seal oneself off from injustice.

If we have brains or courage, then we are blessed and called on not to frit these qualities away, standing agape at the ideas of others, winning pissing contests, improving the efficiencies of the neocorporate state, or immersing ourselves in obscuranta, but rather to prove the vigor of our talents against the strongest opponents of love we can find.

If we can only live once, then let it be a daring adventure that draws on all our powers. Let it be with similar types whose hearts and heads we may be proud of. Let our grandchildren delight to find the start of our stories in their ears but the endings all around in their wandering eyes.”

As Julian wrote, who we are, what we see, all our social conditions, are a product of their own history. We are products of our history. Wikileaks has opened up that history. And when we can see that, when we can see how things came to be, we can ask what is really necessary and what we would like to change. We can then make our own history. Most of our social institutions are historically young. They can be remade, and perhaps they should be.

But Julian’s adventure has taken him, at this moment, to a critical juncture. Much rests upon the actions of the governments of Australia and Ecuador, and that in turn rests upon the political pressure that people can bring to bear on them.

So let us support Wikileaks, let us support Julian and his crucially important journalistic work. Let us demand the Australian government behave like any government should and protect its own citizens. Let us urge Rafael Correa and the people of Ecuador to make their own daring adventure, to take a position for justice, to take courage and stand firm – for hell hath no fury like a great power scorned. And let the people of Australia affirm their solidarity with the people of Ecuador in the cause of justice, freedom and transparency. Let us assure them that their courage will be contagious.

And to all of us: let us create our own daring exploits. Let us win over the opponents of love. In Australia there is no shortage of opponents of love. There is no love in extending the methods of 19th century colonialism against the indigenous peoples of the Northern Territory and rightful owners of this country. There is no love in turning away boats full of refugees in breach of the solemn duty of non-refoulement in international law. There is no love in the bombing of Afghanistan. There is no love in carbon emissions producing a 4-degree warmer world. There is no love in consumer capitalism. And of course there is no love in abandoning Julian Assange with specious talk of empty “consular assistance”.

There are many opponents of love. There is much to do. So let us express our support of Julian Assange, and let us follow his advice, and let each of us start our own story which begins with our own actions and ends in a world we can bequeath without shame to our children and their children after them.

Faces Of Vanity Fair

Daniel McKewen, Kelvin Grove Road [2/7/12]

Make Public Transport Free And People WILL Use It

Brisbane's Rebranded Cross River Ferry, Kangaroo Point [2/7/12]

Foxy Fence!

West End [2/7/12

PM Should Discuss With Indonesian President How To Offer Hope And Sanctuary To Refugees: Greens Media [2/7/12]

Prime Minister Gillard should tell the Indonesian President that Australia is prepared to work with his country to process urgently refugee claims to save lives of desperate men, women and children now, the Australian Greens said today.

"The government could help victims fleeing persecution now by immediately giving the UNHCR $10 million dollars to assess claims in Indonesia," Greens' immigration spokesperson, Sen. Sarah Hanson-Young, said.

"By helping the UNHCR and immediately resettling 1,000 people already there, refugees will know their pleas for protection are being taken seriously by Australia and there is no need to risk their lives on boats.

"The Greens are determined to care for and save refugees lives, and that's why we're suggesting to the government measures it can take today which don't need parliament's approval.

"People are drowning at sea fleeing persecution and they need safer pathways that give them options other than leaky boats.

"Our challenge is to have the courage to do the right thing, to offer hope and sanctuary in Australia to these victims of persecution, now.

"The ALP's off-shore processing scheme is not a commitment to save lives -- it is a plan to push desperate people anywhere else but here, which means more deaths at sea.

"Boosting funding for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Indonesia will ease the pressure on the two staff who are trying to cope with over 8,000 applications.

"Australian and Indonesian officials should also be discussing greater cooperation on search and rescue operations and sharing intelligence and resources.

"Indonesian officials have said they need Australia's help when mounting search and rescue operations. The Australian government has the chance this week to act."

WikiLeaks Joins The Dots

Asia Sentinal [11/3/11]:

Philip Dorling

When Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono won a surprise victory in Indonesia's 2004 presidential elections, the United States Embassy in Jakarta hailed it as "a remarkable triumph of a popular, articulate figure against a rival [incumbent president Megawati Sukarnoputri] with more power, money, and connections."

The former army general and security minister has gone on to win international accolades for strengthening governance, promoting economic reform, and his efforts to suppress the Islamic militant group Jemaah Islamiyah.

While visiting Jakarta last November, US President Barack Obama applauded Indonesia's democracy and "the leadership of my good friend President Yudhoyono."

However Yudhoyono's record may have to be reviewed after secret US embassy cables, leaked to WikiLeaks and provided to Fairfax Media, reveal allegations of corruption and abuse of power that extend all the way to the presidential palace.

According to the diplomatic cables, Yudhoyono, widely known by his initials SBY, personally intervened to influence prosecutors and judges to protect corrupt political figures and put pressure on his adversaries. He reportedly also used the Indonesian intelligence service to spy on rivals and, on at least one occasion, a senior minister in his own government.

Yudhoyono's former vice-president reportedly paid out millions of dollars to buy control of Indonesia's largest political party, while the President's wife and her family have allegedly moved to enrich themselves on the basis of their political connections.

The US embassy's political reporting, much of it classified "Secret/NoForn" – meaning for American eyes only — makes clear that the continuing influence of money politics, which extends, despite the President's public commitment to combating corruption, to Yudhoyono himself.

The US embassy cables reveal that one of Yudhoyono's early presidential actions was to personally intervene in the case of Taufik Kiemas, the husband of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri. Taufik reportedly used his continuing control of his wife's Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI-P) to broker protection from prosecution for what the US diplomats described as "legendary corruption during his wife's tenure."

Taufik has been publicly accused, though without charges being laid against him, of improper dealings in massive infrastructure projects heavily tainted with corruption. He is believed to have profited from deals relating to the US$2.3billion Jakarta Outer Ring Road project, the US$2.4 billion double-track railway project from Merak in West Java to Banyuwangi in East Java, the US$2.3billion trans-Kalimantan highway, and the US$1.7 billion trans-Papua highway.

In December 2004, the US embassy in Jakarta reported to Washington that one of its most valued political informants, senior presidential adviser TB Silalahi, had advised that Indonesia's Assistant Attorney-General, Hendarman Supandji, who was then leading the new government's anti-corruption campaign, had gathered "sufficient evidence of the corruption of former first gentleman Taufik Kiemas to warrant Taufik's arrest."

However, Silalahi, one of Yudhoyono's closest political confidants, told the US embassy that the president "had personally instructed Hendarman not to pursue a case against Taufik."

No legal proceedings were brought against the former "first gentleman," who remains an influential political figure and is now speaker of Indonesia's parliament, the People's Consultative Assembly.

While Yudhoyono protected Taufik from prosecution, his then vice-president, Jusuf Kalla, allegedly paid what the US embassy described as "enormous bribes" to win the chairmanship of Golkar, Indonesia's largest political party, during a December 2004 party congress, US diplomats observed firsthand.

"According to multiple sources close to the major candidates, Kalla's team offered district boards at least Rp200 million (over US$22,000) for their votes," the US embassy reported. "Provincial boards — which had the same voting right, but also could influence subordinate district boards — received Rp500 million or more. According to one contact with prior experience in such matters, board officials received down payments ...and would expect full payment from the winner, in cash, within hours of the vote."

US diplomats reported that, with 243 votes required to win a majority, the Golkar chairmanship would have cost more than US$6 million.

"One contact claimed that [then Indonesian House of Representatives chairman Agung Laksono] alone — not the wealthiest of Kalla's backers — had allocated (if not actually spent) Rp50 billion (more than US$5.5 million ) on the event." The US embassy cables further allege that Yudhoyono had then cabinet secretary Sudi Silalahi "intimidate" at least one judge in a 2006 court case arising from a fight for control of former president Abdurahman Wahid's National Awakening Party (PKB). According to the embassy's contacts, Sudi told the judge "if the court were to help [Wahid] it would be like helping to overthrow the government."

The intervention of "SBY's right-hand man" was not successful in a direct sense because, according to embassy sources with close ties to the PKB and lawyers involved in the case, Wahid's supporters paid the judges Rp3 billion in bribes for a verdict that awarded control of PKB to Wahid instead of a dissident faction. However, Yudhoyono's strategic objective was achieved as external pressure on Wahid's "precarious position" forced the PKB to reposition itself to support the administration.

Other US embassy reports indicate that Yudhoyono has used the Indonesian State Intelligence Agency (BIN) to spy on both his political allies and opponents.

The president reportedly also got BIN to spy on rival presidential candidates. This practice appears to have begun while Yudhoyono was serving as co-ordinating minister of political and security affairs in former president Megawati's government. He directed the intelligence service to report on former army commander and Golkar presidential candidate Wiranto. Subsequently, at a meeting of Yudhoyono's cabinet, BIN chief Syamsir characterised Wiranto as a "terrorist mastermind."

Through his own military contacts Wiranto learnt that he was the subject of "derogatory" BIN reports, but when he complained he was told by presidential adviser TB Silalahi that no such reports existed.

The leaked US embassy cables are ambiguous on the question of whether Yudhoyono has been personally engaged in corruption. However, US diplomats reported that at a 2006 meeting with the chairman of his own Democratic Party, Yudhoyono "bemoaned his own failure to date to establish himself in business matters," apparently feeling "he needed to ‘catch up' ... [and] wanted to ensure he left a sizeable legacy for his children."

In the course of investigating the President's private, political and business interests, American diplomats noted alleged links between Yudhoyono and Chinese-Indonesian businessmen, most notably Tomy Winata, an alleged underworld figure and member of the "Gang of Nine" or "Nine Dragons," a leading gambling syndicate.

In 2006, Agung Laksono, now Yudhoyono's Co-ordinating Minister for People's Welfare, told US embassy officers that TB Silalahi "functioned as a middleman, relaying funds from Winata to Yudhoyono, protecting the president from the potential liabilities that could arise if Yudhoyono were to deal with Tomy directly."

Tomy Winata reportedly also used prominent entrepreneur Muhammad Lutfi as a channel of funding to Yudhoyono. Yudhoyono appointed Lutfi chairman of Indonesia's Investment Co-ordinating Board.

Senior State Intelligence Agency official Yahya Asagaf also told the US embassy Tomy Winata was trying to cultivate influence by using a senior presidential aide as his channel to first lady Kristiani Herawati.

Yudhoyono's wife and relatives also feature prominently in the US embassy's political reporting, with American diplomats highlighting the efforts of the president's family "particularly first lady Kristiani Herawati ...to profit financially from its political position."

In June 2006, one presidential staff member told US embassy officers Kristiani's family members were "specifically targeting financial opportunities related to state-owned enterprises." The well-connected staffer portrayed the President as "witting of these efforts, which his closest operators (e.g. Sudi Silalahi) would advance, while Yudhoyono himself maintained sufficient distance that he could not be implicated."

Such is the first lady's behind-the-scenes influence that the US embassy described her as "a cabinet of one" and "the President's undisputed top adviser."

The embassy reported: "As presidential adviser TB Silalahi told [US political officers], members of the President's staff increasingly feel marginalised and powerless to provide counsel to the President."

Yahya Asagaf at the State Intelligence Agency privately declared the first lady's opinion to be "the only one that matters."

Significantly, the US embassy's contacts identified Kristiani as the primary influence behind Yudhoyono's decision to drop vice-president Kalla as his running mate in the 2009 presidential elections.

With Bank of Indonesia governor Boediono as his new vice-presidential running mate, Yudhoyono went on to an overwhelming victory. The president secured more than 60 per cent of the vote, defeating both former president Megawati, who had teamed up with former special forces commander Prabowo Subianto, and vice-president Kalla, who allied himself with Wiranto.

In January 2010 the US embassy observed: "Ten years of political and economic reform have made Indonesia democratic, stable, and increasingly confident about its leadership role in south-east Asia and the Muslim world. Indonesia has held successful, free and fair elections; has weathered the global financial crisis; and is tackling internal security threats."

However, America's diplomats also noted that a series of political scandals through late 2009 and into 2010 had seriously damaged Yudhoyono's political standing.

A protracted conflict between the Indonesian police and the national Corruption Eradication Commission had damaged the government's public anti-corruption credentials, while a parliamentary inquiry into the massive bailout of a major financial institution, Bank Century, called into question the Vice-President's performance as former central bank governor.

One prominent anti-corruption non-government organization privately told the US embassy that it had "credible" information that funds from Bank Century had been used for financing Yudhoyono's re-election campaign.

Former vice-president Kalla strongly criticized the bailout, alleging that the Bank of Indonesia under Boediono had been negligent in supervising Bank Century and arguing that the bank should have been closed as its failure was due to fraud perpetrated by major shareholders.

Against this background the US embassy reported that Yudhoyono was increasingly "paralyzed" as his political popularity rapidly diminished.

"Unwilling to risk alienating segments of the parliament, media, bureaucracy and civil society, Yudhoyono has slowed reforms. He is also unwilling to cross any constituencies ...Until he is satisfied that he has shored up his political position, Yudhoyono is unlikely to spend any political capital to move his reform agenda, or controversial aspects of US -Indonesia relations, forward."

Over the past 13 years Indonesian democracy has undoubtedly strengthened. The Suharto dictatorship has been replaced by a competitive political system characterized by robust debate and free media.

However, as the leaked US embassy's reports show, in what is only a glimpse of the inside workings of President Yudhoyono's tenure, some of the secretive and corrupt habits of the Suharto years still linger in Indonesian presidential politics.

Another version of this story appeared in The Age in Melbourne, Australia.

Start of two-week vigil against trial extension of NT intervention policy of income management in Bankstown

Image: @TawarRazaghi [2/7/12]

Serious Traffic Crash, Coulson: QPS Media [2/7/12]

Police are currently at the scene of a single vehicle truck on Boonah Beaudesert Road at Coulson.

Initial information suggests around 1.50pm the heavy vehicle has rolled approximately two kilometres east of the intersection with Gowan Road.

The male driver, and sole occupant, has sustained serious head injuries and will be transported by helicopter to the Princess Alexandra Hospital.

The Forensic Crash Unit is investigating.

The Boonah Beaudesert Road is currently closed in both directions. Motorists are asked to avoid the area.

Anyone with information which could assist police with their investigations should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.

Australia May Be A Murdochracy, But Rupert Is Only Part Of The Problem

By John Pilger

July 01, 2012 "The Guardian" -- Australia is the world's first Murdochracy. US citizen Rupert Murdoch controls 70% of the metropolitan press. He has monopolies in state capitals and provincial centres. The only national newspaper is his. He is a dominant force online and in pay TV and publishing. Known fearfully as "Rupert", he is the chief mate.

But Murdoch's dominance is not as it is often presented. Although he is now one of the west's accredited demons, thanks to his phone hackers, he is but part of a media system that will not change when his empire is broken up. The political extremism that is the concentration of the world's wealth in few hands and the accelerating impoverishment of the majority will ensure this. A Melbourne journalist, Paul Chadwick, one of the few to rebel against Murdoch, described this as "akin to a small group of generals who sit above the main institutions … a junta in all but name".

Consider the junta's rise. In the US, at the end of the second world war, 80% of newspapers were independently owned. By 1987, most were controlled by 15 corporations, of which six dominate today. Their ideological message is a mantra. They promote global and domestic economic piracy and the cult of "perpetual war".

This is currently served by a "liberal" president who pursues whistleblowers, dispatches drones and selects from his personal "kill list" every Tuesday.

In Britain, where the propaganda of big capital also dominates, the historic convergence of the two main political parties is rarely news. Tony Blair, a conspirator in the greatest crime of this century, is promoted as "a wasted talent". In these agendas, notably the promotion of war, the Murdoch press often plays a supporting role to the reputable BBC. The Leveson inquiry has shown not the slightest interest in this.

In Australia, there is the Order of Mates. A struggle for the mantle of chief mate is currently under way. From out of a vast Aladdin's cave of mineral wealth comes Gina Rinehart, said to be the richest woman in the world. The daughter of iron ore billionaire Lang Hancock, Rinehart and her fellow mining oligarchs all but got rid of Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd in 2010 when he proposed a modest tax on their huge profits. Rinehart believes Australia's media are basically communist, especially the Fairfax group, of which she has now acquired almost a fifth of the stock.

Fairfax publishes the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age, and this week announced it was cutting 1,900 jobs. The papers are to become tabloids. Such a "bloodbath", it is said, will deny Australia the last of its "independent press".

In fact, like the Murdoch press, both titles have long been the voice of deeply conservative colonial and bourgeois power in a country whose rapacious past, inequities and racism are routinely suppressed, along with any sustained critique of a glorified militarism that has made Australia, in effect, a US mercenary. "Give me tits, tots and pistol shots," declared the long gone Sydney newspaper proprietor Ezra Norton. Although Norton's guidelines remain intact today, the "independent" press prefers a set menu of "free market" journalism: personality politics and its skulduggery, shopping, private education, the vagaries of real estate and war patriotism. There are honourable exceptions, of course, but going against the media/political cronyism requires not only courage but a publisher.

As in Britain and the US, the most insidious power is public relations. Leading journalists travel to countries such as Israel on sponsored freebies. The day Fairfax announced it was sacking a fifth of its workforce, an executive of a PR firm whose accounts include McDonald's wrote: "I believe these evolutions will result in improved PR campaigns, with stories running across multiple platforms … Great news for our clients."

Described as "insensitive" and "harsh", her honesty touched upon the transformation of western societies by the "invisible" power of PR and lobbying. In 2002, Fairfax's director of organisational effectiveness, Mark Scott, said: "Smart, clever people are not the answer. What you want are people who can execute your strategy and Fairfax's strategy to create editorial to support maximising revenues from display advertising."

Rupert or Gina could not have put it better.

Paradise Point [1/7/12]

Southern arm of the Coomera River

Our world relies on the variety of species like this bottom dwelling stargazer

Some are deadly and some are unpretty, but if we destroy their world by dredging it for our big yachts, we are surely destroying our own world.

The Gold Coast Broadwater will look as pretty as this:

Brisbane River from West End [2/7/12]

 

This Is Our Planet [VIDEO]

... Time-lapse photography from the space station compiled by Tomislav Safundic. If anyone ever tries to tell you that man’s influence is too puny to affect our great planet, point them at this.

The world is littered with our lights, and much else besides. Watch the full HD version at Vimeo for the best effect. [Hot Topic NZ - 30/6/12]

 

Why Isn't Someone Criminally Or Legally Liable?

The Opposition have handed over the cabinet documents - why must hardworking Queenslanders always be made to feel they are criminals.

Queenslanders want to know if the companies and politicians responsible for this debacle will ever be held to account?

Where's Anna Bligh?

Where's Paul Lucas?

Where's Geoff Wilson?

Where are our journalists?

Remember, Brisbane City Council have just announced that they are buying the same computer system!

Minister for Health Media Release [1/7/12]:

The campaign to clean up the mess caused by Labor and its failed $1.25Bn health payroll system passes a milestone today, as tens of thousands of Queensland Health employees start to receive overpayment notification letters via Australia Post.

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg says 49,040 letters documenting overpayments worth $89.5 million have been posted and will begin arriving in letterboxes today. The mail-out follows the decision to end a moratorium on repayments imposed by the former Labor Government.

“From the total amount, $1.9 million has been waived,” the Minister said. “This includes cumulative amounts under $200 and debts owed by deceased individuals.”

The Minister thanked Queensland Health employees for their patience and co-operation in the process, which would be difficult and time-consuming. “This is money paid by taxpayers, which should be available for frontline services, that was misdirected because of this hopeless administrative debacle,” he said.

Notification letters will show each individual’s pay history as at 13 May 2012, including totals for amounts overpaid, amounts repaid and the balance outstanding. Waivers were taken into account in the preparation of letters. “Waived amounts have been excluded from the figures quoted in each letter,” Mr Springborg said.

Staff were not required to take action in response to the letters or the lifting of the moratorium. Case managers would work progressively to contact individuals, starting with those who owed the highest amounts. Employees aware of their overpayment, who would like to discuss its repayment, could contact the state-wide hotline on 1800 239 074 (7am-9pm, seven days).

The most affected health service districts were Metro North ($18.7 million owed by 10,158 individuals) and Metro South ($14.5 million owed by 8,142 individuals).

“Since the Government announced the lifting of the moratorium, the payroll hotline has received 540 calls,” the Minister said. “Of these, 227 (42%) indicated they would like to repay their overpayment.”

The payroll hotline has 36 staff, increasing to 38 during the notification process and reducing thereafter in line with call demand.

Notwithstanding the unnecessary stress and anxiety this will bring Queensland Health workers, the amount of money spent chasing these overpayments is probably equal to (if not more than) the money being recovered.

At least just write them off.

Queensland Health, Payroll System (Cont'd)

Queensland Parliament Hansard [7/6/12]:

Mrs OSTAPOVITCH [Stretton]: My question without notice is to the Minister for Health. Last sitting week the House was told of the search for legal advice which might enable action against parties on the botched Health payroll contract. Now we know the $1.2 billion cost of that contract, has the minister made progress in the search for the missing legal advice?

Mr SPRINGBORG: I thank the member for Stretton for her question. I think most Queenslanders would have been absolutely shocked and astounded yesterday with revelations that the Health payroll debacle, which was beset upon the people of Queensland and our hardworking Health workers by the failed former Labor government, was fast approaching the cost of $1¼ billion as a bare bones minimum price. Madam Speaker, you can only imagine people’s shock and horror with regard to that.

The question that many Queenslanders are asking today, as they have been asking in the past, is why isn’t someone legally or criminally liable for what is the greatest IT bungle in the history of government IT systems in Australia? Why isn’t someone responsible? Why isn’t the Leader of the Opposition coughing up with this information which she is responsible for giving the people of Queensland?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote to the Leader of the Opposition asking her in the spirit of openness and transparency to make the cabinet documents and the deliberations available. The Leader of the Opposition, the Labor leader, refused to do that. Further last week I asked the Leader of the Opposition, the Labor leader, to make available to the people of Queensland the legal advice which they have with regard to this program and who might be legally responsible. The Leader of the Opposition said, ‘If there’s any information you can’t get, I will give it to you.’ What I have discovered in the last week is this: there is some very interesting advice that we have not received to date and the Labor leader is able to make it available to us.

Madam Speaker, what do you think would be involved in the Mallesons damages options paper on the IBM payroll contract, which was prepared on 19 July and taken to the CBRC [Cabinet Budget Review Committee] on 22 July? What do you think would be in the Mallesons options paper on the IBM payroll system contract, which was prepared on 19 July and taken to the CBRC on 22 July? What do you think would be in the Mallesons, KBowe and J Swinson—

Honourable members interjected.

Madam SPEAKER: Order! There are too many interjections. I warn members on my left and right. I call the Minister for Health.

Mr SPRINGBORG:—memorandum on payroll access to contractors and materials upon termination for orderly disengagement and handover, taken to the CBRC on 22 July? Also, what about the crown law advice to CorpTech in a letter of 20 July on review of Mallesons’ previous advice taken to the CBRC on 14 and 26 August? The question is: what is the Leader of the Opposition hiding? The people of Queensland have a right to know who cooked up this little disaster and who can be held accountable for it.

(Time expired)

Serious Traffic Crash, Burleigh Waters: QPS Media [1/7/12]

A 54-year-old man has been transported to hospital after a serious traffic crash at Burleigh Waters this afternoon.

Around 3pm, the man was riding a bicycle on Bermuda Street when it collided with a vehicle.

The man is in a critical condition in the Gold Coast Hospital.

The driver of the vehicle, a 22-year-old man, was not injured.

Investigating into the incident are continuing.

Anyone with information which could assist police with their investigations should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.

Gold Coast Mothers Have More To Be Afraid Of Than Urban Myths

Mythbuster:

A young woman returns to her car after shopping. She locates her car in the mall parking lot, tosses her shopping bags into the back seat, but before she gets into her car she notices she's got a flat tire.

Luckily, she's a capable and practical young woman, so she doesn't spend any time being upset over the flat tire. Instead, she goes to her trunk, pulls out the necessary tools and begins to change the tire.

A very nicely dressed man in a business suit stops by her car soon after she starts changing her flat tire. He offers to help change the tire, and the woman accepts his assistance. The man sets his briefcase just inside her trunk in order to have both hands free for working. Together, working quickly, the two manage to change the flat tire in almost record time.

Once the car is in condition for driving, the man asked the woman for a ride to his car, which, he said was parked far away on the other side of the mall. At this, the woman became suspicious and uncomfortable. She thanked him for helping her change her tire but politely refused his request for a ride. He asked again - more insistently - and she declined again. At this, the man's face reddened and he spoke with still more insistence, asking for a ride to his car. Unnerved by the man's sudden change in demeanor, the young woman declined to answer at all now, and she walked quickly back into the mall.

She located security and reported the incident but when security followed her back out to her car in the lot, the man in the business suit - the Good Samaritan, prior to his request for a ride - was nowhere to be found. As the security authority glanced around the lot, the woman noticed that the newly-changed tire was flattened. A further look showed that the tire had been slashed. Now she would need to use the garage at the mall location and pay to have her tire fixed! She prepared to go for a walk back into the mall and locate a garage worker who could come and look at the damage and assess how soon and at what cost it would take to have her car in operational condition. When the woman went to swing her trunk closed - it had been left open the whole while - she spotted the stranger's briefcase and handed it over to the security guard.

Inside the expensive looking briefcase was nothing more than a rope and a butcher knife.

Rally For Julian Assange: State Library, Melbourne

M-Cetera's excellent photo essay [1/7/12]:

One of Victoria Police's 'Security & Organised Crime Unit' surveillance targets: @Asher_Wolf

"Rupert Murdoch" appears. Crowd boos loudly: @Asher_Wolf


The National Black Theatre [ABC, Message Stick]

The National Black Theatre in Redfern was set up by a small group of political activists in 1971 with Bob Maza at the helm. Its genesis was in street theatre performances alongside land rights marches, later developing into Black Theatre with its first formal production "Basically Black" at Nimrod Theatre in 1973.

The National Black Theatre movement formed at a very crucial time in Australian political history culminating with the establishment of a number of significant Aboriginal organisations.

 

... We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other's happiness, not by each other's misery. We don't want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone, and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men's souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical; our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.

...

'The Great Dictator' [1940]

Australia Is Not Incapable Of Producing Consistently Decent Journalism

You know - straight reporting - not opinion, comment, editorialising, spin, mean and nasty partisan talk back with a pre-determined outcome, persecution of minorities, combative bogus interviewing and/or structured, formatted audience participation programs.

It is increasingly apparent that major events and circumstances - which are covered by mainstream international news organisations - are consistently withheld or drowned in trivia and bread and circuses down under.

I attended a festival event recently where an audience member, who had just returned to Australia from Pakistan, was astonished at how much better the quality and media diversity was - in Pakistan.

This is not about being overwhelmed by the 24 hour news cycle or information overload - this is about journalists being paid to NOT do journalism.

When is the last time you read, heard or viewed a basic, informative report about your local council meeting?

Kathy Marks, Independent UK [30/6/12]:

The allegations against Peter Slipper, the Australian parliamentary Speaker, by a male employee were highly salacious, involving lascivious text messages, showers taken with the door open and a neck massage, which elicited moans of pleasure. They were also highly politically charged, since Mr Slipper had defected from the opposition and was helping to prop up Julia Gillard's minority government.

The Speaker denied the allegations, but stood aside while James Ashby's claims of sexual harassment were investigated. Two months on, a murky tale of political derring-do is emerging, with Mr Ashby accused of conspiring with senior opposition MPs and a journalist to undermine the Labor government and blacken Mr Slipper's reputation.

"Slippery Pete", as he is known in political circles, had long been unpopular in his own Liberal Party, and was also notorious for his lavish parliamentary expenses. But when he accepted Ms Gillard's offer to resign from the Liberals last November in exchange for the Speaker's job – thus increasing the government's majority to three – the dislike of his former conservative colleagues turned to loathing.

There was, therefore, much glee on the opposition benches when The Daily Telegraph, a Sydney tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch, broke the harassment story on its front page. It depicted Mr Ashby, 33, as the affronted victim of unwanted sexual advances.

Mr Ashby stayed in Mr Slipper's flat when he first moved to Canberra, and the story – by Steve Lewis, a parliamentary journalist – also claimed that the 62-year-old left the bathroom door open while showering. He also allegedly asked for a massage by his young employee.

This week a different picture of Mr Ashby emerged from documents filed with the Federal Court by the Speaker and the government, both of whom he is suing. They include sexually explicit text messages – not from Mr Slipper to Mr Ashby, but vice versa – and claims that the latter held secret meetings with senior Liberal figures weeks before he made his harassment complaint.

Most of the texts are unprintable, but in one of them Mr Ashby told his boss: "I'm going to smack *! Arhhhhhhh."

The documents also reveal that, two weeks before the allegations exploded into the media, Mr Lewis texted Mr Ashby, saying: "We will get him!!" Mr Ashby also allegedly sent extracts from Mr Slipper's private diary to Mr Lewis, and also to Mal Brough, a former federal minister seeking to be the Liberal candidate for the Speaker's Queensland seat at the next election.

Mr Brough has admitted meeting Mr Ashby three times before the complaint was lodged, and discussing the matter with him. Put all that together with revelations that Mr Ashby and a colleague in Mr Slipper's office, Karen Doane, approached Mr Brough for jobs – and that he tried to help Ms Doane – and the whole affair starts to look decidedly fishy. That is certainly what Mr Slipper and the government think. Their lawyers have accused Mr Ashby of orchestrating a "calculated, duplicitous and deceitful scheme" to besmirch the Speaker and assist the Liberals and Mr Brough.

Since the documents came to light, Anthony Albanese, leader of the House of Representatives, has done his best to implicate the opposition leader, Tony Abbott, claiming that the latter's MPs are "up to their necks" in a conspiracy. He has also charged Mr Lewis with trying to "sabotage" the government. The court papers reveal that Mr Ashby was flown to Sydney and put up in a hotel at the Telegraph's expense while Mr Lewis was preparing his story. He had told his employer he was taking sick leave.

A colourful figure, Mr Slipper relished the Speaker's role, reviving a long-abandoned tradition of entering parliament after proceeding formally through the building, dressed in a robe and white bow tie, escorted by a parliamentary attendant and the serjeant-at-arms bearing a golden mace.

Message trail: The Murdoch connection

"We will get him!"

Text allegedly sent by News Limited journalist Steve Lewis to Peter Slipper's aide, James Ashby, regarding Mr Slipper. Further messages include: "I will sort out payment".

News Limited is the Australian arm of Rupert Murdoch's media empire.

"… Pass the text message in hard copy only to Mark – let him move it forward. Backup phone, delete messages, put in safe and let it be. A smoking gun usually means someone has already been shot! Don't let it be you – please."

A document submitted to the Federal Court details this message sent from a person named as 'Tania' to Mr Ashby on 2 February, highlighting his association with Caloundra MP Mark McArdle, of the Liberal National Party, before allegations against Mr Slipper emerged.

"Mal did email me confirming he forwarded my CV… Great result"

Text allegedly sent by Karen Doane, a Slipper aide, to Mr Ashby, as the pair allegedly angled for new jobs with Liberal National Party through Mr Slipper's political rival Mal Brough. Ms Doane reportedly said she was considering bringing her own sexual harassment case against Mr Slipper.

"I have no respect for Mal Brough and never will."

Text allegedly sent by Mr Ashby to Mr Slipper on 26 February.

If Bernard Tomic's Behaviour At Last Week's Wimbledon Match Was So Terrible, Why Is The ABC Only Reporting It Today [1/7/12]?

This Guardian report from the 26th June says Tomic broke his racquet and was booed off court after being defeated by Goffin, but says nothing about the court damage the ABC have been banging on about this morning.

And doesn't the All England Club always have words to players when they engage in unsportsmanlike behaviour?

As well as relentlessly invading his (and his family's privacy) and creating beatups about "bad boy behaviour" and traffic offences, the Murdoch Press (especially on the Gold Coast - Tomic's home town) are unswervingly trite and negative about Tomic.

Are sportsmen and women not affected by this kind of media persecution?

Bernard Tomic [27/6/12]:

Bernard Tomic has lost in the first-round at Wimbledon to Belgian giantkiller David Goffin.

Australia’s top men’s hope crashed to a 3-6 6-3 6-4 6-4 defeat that will precipitate a rankings dip after Tomic last year became the youngest quarterfinalist at the All England Club since Boris Becker in 1986.

After taking the first set, Tomic was unable to cope with Goffin’s deceptive power and relentless retrieving on Wimbledon’s so-called graveyard court number two.

Despite his own lowly ranking of No.70 in the world, Goffin arrived in London with high hopes after bursting to prominence with an eye-catching run from qualifying to the last 16 at the French Open.

Showcasing his talents, the 21-year-old took the opening set off Roger Federer at Roland Garros before the Swiss maestro finally eliminated Goffin in four.

Tomic was favoured to have too many guns for Goffin on grass, but the Belgian barely missed and scrambled like a terrier to have Australia’s 20th seed under enormous pressure throughout.

Tomic conceded after that loss he was only 80 per cent fit entering Wimbledon after battling a virus post-French Open.

He was clearly struggling physically as he gasped for air and clutched his lower back early in the third set.

He bravely tried to stay in the match but was unable to convert either of two break-back chances in the third set as Goffin closed in on another big scalp.

The Belgian, whose power off the ground defies his lightweight 68kg frame, refused to yield and he claimed the decisive break in the third game of the fourth set and held firm to serve out the match after two and a half hours.

The Fundamental Question Of Economic Growth

A submerged "Uncle Sam" sign is seen on the wall of a flooded business along Highway 129 in Live Oak, Florida on Tuesday. The state has been experiencing severe flooding as the tropical storm "Debbie" drifts across the Gulf Coast, though it is expected to finish its run across Florida in about two days. [Spiegel Online - 27/6/12]

From 'Bigger or Better? Australia's population debate' by Professor Ian Lowe [UQ Press, 2012]:

... In some recent challenges to proposed developments seen by community activists as causing serious environmental damage, the government agencies charged with protecting the environment behaved as if their job was to ensure no environmental concern holds up a potentially profitable operation. No amount of money will bring back an extinct species, or restore a saline wheat field, or return the climate to a safe state if we exceed critical thresholds. Daly [Herman Daly, Economist] proposed three principles of environmental management: renewable resources should only be used at rates that allow regeneration, non-renewable resources should only be used at rates that allow the development of substitutes, and wastes should not be produced at rates that exceed the assimilative capacities of natural systems. Unless we obey those basic rules, he argued, we reduce the capacity of natural systems to supply our own needs. So the activities that breach those rules are undermining our own interests and should not be pursued, even if we take the extreme anthropocentric view that assumes human welfare is the only goal of development and we can ignore the needs of the 8 million or so other species that we share the planet with.

While there are arguments for and against specific policy instruments like carbon taxes or emissions trading schemes, Victor [Peter Victor, Economist] favours the simpler arrangement of a tax because governments have more experience in this sort or system. He argues governments are inexperienced in setting the conditions for market-based instruments, so they are likely to get it wrong and produce a structure that just allows some people to make lots of money without solving the problem.

In his final analysis, Victor concludes that managing without growth will not appeal to those who see economic growth as an end in itself, or who regard it as an essential to achieve other social or economic goals. Since there is mounting evidence that continuing economic growth is not increasing human happiness and is directly putting in peril the capacity of natural systems to provide the essentials for human civilisation, we should be prepared at least to examine alternatives. As he says:

...there are indeed feasible economic alternatives but getting to them will be beyond us unless we change how we think about our economy, society and environment, undertake some close reflection on what is important to ourselves and others, including other species, and develop a readiness to rethink and transform much of what we have come to take for granted.

This is the crucial point because politicians, in particular, are extremely reluctant to consider rethinking and transforming what has been taken for granted, usually preferring to muddle along and hope things will turn out for the better. We can no longer afford that sort of approach to our future. ...

Bright Future For Coal Seam Gas

From Issue 4, Quarter 4, 2009 'Locally Speaking', a newsletter for clients of Golder Associates in the Sydney region:

... Demand for cleaner burning fuels looks set to drive growth in the Coal Seam Gas (CSG) sector; this represents an excellent opportunity for New South Wales, where reserves of the gas are relatively abundant.

CSG produces 60% less greenhouse emissions than conventional coal-fired electricity. Gas supplies in Eastern Australia are already 30% CSG and as the federal government introduces its Emissions Trading Scheme, this figure should grow rapidly.

With infrastructure and technology surrounding ‘green fuels’, such as wind and solar, not yet able to meet demand, increased use of CSG has the potential to work as an immediate and effective form of carbon mitigation. ...

APPEA Releases Fracking Data

Tweed Daily News [29/6/12]:

Fracking - or fracture stimulation - has been used 144 times since January 2011, according to the peak body for the Australian gas industry.

The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association released quarterly data this week spanning January to March 2012, but showing its level of activity since the start of last year.

The data states the coal-seam gas industry now have 3403 gas wells across the state, of which 2177 will produce gas to sell. The remainder are described as "exploration/pilot/appraisal" wells, or test cases.

Since the start of 2012, the industry has done 33 "fracture stimulations" - better known as fracking - helping to build its total to 144.

The industry has produced 20,143ML of water from its extractions - one megalitre equated to one million litres.

The data stated there were no "formal disputes of access" from working with property owners to enter their land for the mining.

Of the 2742 who have signed land access agreements since the start of 2011, 180 were signed in the first four months of 2012.

APPEA Chief Operating Officer eastern region Rick Wilkinson a Brisbane conference this week gas extraction and farming can exist together.

"We are seeing extraordinary economic growth in Queensland where all stakeholders are binding together to support an industry that, in return, is providing so much benefit to regional areas," he said.

IT'S A GAS GAS GAS

Coal-seam gas peak body APPEA has released its quarterly Queensland statistics. From Jan 2011 to Mar 2012, the Queensland coal-seam gas industry:

developed 3403 active gas wells
Conducted fracture stimulations (fracking) 144 times.
Produced 20,143ML of water - 1ML = one million litres
Signed 2742 land access agreements
Employed 12,113 workers, both directly and as contractors.
Donated $70.1 million to communities.

Surfers Paradise [30/6/12]

Nevermind that the beach is disappearing ... it'll come back!

The ironically named Soul

The Gold Coast always surprises

Surfers Paradise Festival

Free public transport on the "Magic Bus"

Australian Street Entertainment Championships

This performer gives the crowd money!

Local band The Twine return to their busking roots

What festival goers think of their free copy of Rupert Murdoch's Gold Coast Bulletin

Hangover? Orchid Avenue

‘No Disrespect’: Assange to Remain at Ecuadorian Embassy

Statement by Julian Assange's lawyer outside Ecuadorian embassy, London

['Daily Motion' - VIDEO - 29/6/12]

consul@ecuador-au.org

embassy@ecuador-au.org

USA: Veterans For Peace Members Arrested Protesting Drones

David Swanson, The International News Magazine [30/6/12]:

Elliott Adams and Nate Lewis, two members of Veterans For Peace, were part of a larger group of 15 activists arrested Thursday at the gate to Hancock Airbase in Syracuse, N.Y., where they held large banners and signs protesting drones for three hours before they were arrested.

One banner showed images of children killed by U.S. drones in Afghanistan. Another showed a reaper drone and the grim reaper. Another quoted Martin Luther King Jr. "I have a dream" and Barack Obama "I have a drone." [Photos and videos: http://www.facebook.com/daniel.j.burns.9?sk=wall]

For some of the participants, this was not their first time protesting at Hancock. Adams was arrested last year as one of the "Hancock 38," and again this past April in a group of 33. Adams is Past President of Veterans for Peace and current Nonviolent Training Coordinator.

Adams told a judge in February:

"I am proud to accept the consequences of my acts and any jail time. I do not want any suspended sentence. If you give me one, also please let me know how I can violate it before I leave the courtroom."

The judge, however, gave Adams a suspended sentence and probation conditions.

Following the arrest of 33 in April, the prosecutor moved to dismiss all charges.

Adams says the latest action is aimed at upholding international law and getting the matter before a judge again. In the case of the Hancock 38, Adams says, "The judge had a hard time making a decision, and made the wrong one, and did not recognize international law. So, we're giving the court a chance to get it right."

In April activists held a publicly announced march and were preemptively arrested before reaching the base.

This week's protest took the base completely by surprise, as participants jumped out of cars and began demonstrating, with no march and no public announcement. It took hours before various law-enforcement operations, including state troopers and city police, could agree to make arrests.

Adams said they'd previously been told that protesting at the base gate would be a federal offense. They were not charged with a federal crime. A surprising number of people driving past, Adams said, offered support and held up peace signs. Even the arresting officers were sympathetic, he reported.

Activists read aloud on Thursday the following War Crimes Indictment:

To President Obama, to Secretary of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, to the full Military Chain of the Command, including Commander Colonel Greg Semmel, to all Service Members and civilian staff of Hancock Air Base, and to the local police and Sheriffs Department of the Town of De Witt, NY:

Each one of you, when you became a public servant, serving in a government position or when you joined the United States Armed Forces or police, you publicly promised to uphold the United States Constitution. We take this opportunity to call your attention to Article VI of the US Constitution, which states:

“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary not with standing.

This clause is known as the Supremacy Clause because it provides that the Constitution and laws of the U.S., including treaties made under authority of the U.S. shall be supreme law of the land.

The Supremacy Clause provides part of the Supreme Law of the Land.

One Treaty duly ratified by the U.S. is the United Nations Charter. It was ratified by a vote of 89 to 2 in the U.S. Senate, and signed by the President in 1945. It remains in effect today. As such, it is part of supreme law of the land.

The Preamble of the U.N. Charter states that its purpose is to “save future generation from the scourge of war” and it further states, “all nations shall refrain from the use of force against another nation.”

This Treaty applies both collectively and individually to all three branches of government, on all levels, U.S. federal, state and local governments, starting with the executive branch: the U.S. President and the executive staff; the judicial branch: all judges and staff members of the judiciary; the legislative branch: all
members of the U.S. Armed Forces and all departments of Law Enforcement and all civilian staff, who have sworn to uphold the Constitution, which includes Article VI.

Under the U.N. Charter and long established international laws, anyone--civilian, military, government officials, or judge- who knowingly participates in or supports illegal use of force against another nation or its people is committing a war crime.

Today you must recognize that when you promised to uphold the Constitution, you promised to obey Treaties and International Law – as part of the Supreme Law of the Land and furthermore, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice of the U.S., you are required to disobey any clearly unlawful order from a superior.

Based on all the above,

WE, THE PEOPLE, CHARGE THE UNITED STATES PRESIDENT, BARACK OBAMA AND THE FULL MILITARY CHAIN OF COMMAND TO COMMANDER COLONEL GREG SEMMEL, EVERY DRONE CREW, AND SERVICE MEMBERS AT HANCOCK AIR BASE, WITH CRIMES AGAINST PEACE & CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY, WITH VIOLATIONS OF PART OF THE SUPREME LAW OF THE LAND, EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLINGS, VIOLATION OF DUE PROCESS, WARS OF AGGRESSION, VIOLATION OF NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY, AND KILLING OF INNOCENT CIVILIANS.

We charge that the Air National Guard of the United States of America, headquartered at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, home of the 174th Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard, under the command of the 174th Fighter Wing Commander Colonel Greg Semmel, is maintaining and deploying the MQ-9 Reaper robotic aircraft, called drones.

These drones are being used not only in combat situations for the purpose of assassinations but also for killings far removed from combat zones without military defense, to assassinate individuals and groups far removed from military action.

Extra judicial killings, such as those the U.S. carries out by drones are intentional, premeditated, and deliberate use of lethal force to commit murder in violation of U.S. and International Law.

It is a matter of public record that the US has used drones in Afghanistan and in Iraq for targeted killings to target specific individuals which has nearly always resulted in the deaths of many others.

There is no legal basis for defining the scope of area where drones can or cannot be used, no legal criteria for deciding which people can be targeted for killing, no procedural safeguards to ensure the legality of the decision to kill and the accuracy of the assassinations.

In support of this indictment we cite the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, who has said that the use of drones creates “a highly problematic blurring and the law applicable to the use of inter-state force…. The result has been the displacement of clear legal standards with a vaguely defined license to kill, and the creation of a major accountability vacuum…. In terms of the legal framework, many of these practices violate straightforward applicable legal rules.”

See United Nations General Assembly Human Rights Council Study on Targeted Killings, 28, May 2010.
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/14session/A.HRC.14.24.Add6.pdf

The drone attacks either originating at Hancock or supported here are a deliberate illegal use of force against another nation, and as such are a felonious violation of Article VI of the US Constitution.
By giving material support to the drone program, you as individuals are violating the Constitution, dishonoring your oath, and committing war crimes.

We demand that you stop participating in any part of the operations of MQ-9 drones immediately, being accountable to the people of United States and Afghanistan.

As citizens of this nation, which maintains over 700 military bases around the globe, and the largest, most deadly military arsenal in the world, we believe these words of Martin Luther King still hold true, ”the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my own government”.

There is hope for a better world when WE, THE PEOPLE, hold our government accountable to the laws and treaties that govern the use of lethal force and war. To the extent that we ignore our laws and constitution and allow for the unchecked use of lethal force by our government, allowing the government to kill who ever it wants, where ever it wants, how ever it wants with no accountability, we make the world less safe for children everywhere.

We appeal to all United States citizens, military and civilian, and to all public officials, to do as required by the Nuremburg Principles I-VII, and by Conscience, to refuse to participate in these crimes, to denounce them, and to resist them nonviolently.

Signed by:

THE UPSTATE COALITION TO GROUND THE DRONES AND END THE WARS

Adams' statement, made in court at the trial of the Hancock 38 last November is available online:

http://warisacrime.org/content/elliott-adams-member-hancock-38-and-new-hancock-34-made-statement-trial-november-1-2011

As is his statement at the sentencing hearing:

http://warisacrime.org/content/elliott-adams-sentencing-statement-november-11-2011

Veterans For Peace was founded in 1985 and has approximately 5,000 members in 150 chapters located in every U.S. state and several countries. It is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization recognized as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) by the United Nations, and is the only national veterans' organization calling for the abolishment of war.

Going from infantry it's pretty hard because not too many people want you to go out and shoot people

ABC, AM [30/6/12]:

ELIZABETH JACKSON: From the frontline, to the unemployment queue.

Too often that's the grim reality for America's war heroes, returning from the battlefield at a time when there are already more job seekers than the economy can handle.

But now help is coming from an unexpected quarter: Australian mining companies.

North America correspondent, Jane Cowan, reports from a job fair with a difference in Detroit, Michigan.

JANE COWAN: When he got out of the army, Justin Schnepp thought the hard bit was over.

Little did he know.

JUSTIN SCHNEPP: It's pretty challenging. I find it very hard to entertain the thought of anything other than the military.

JANE COWAN: After six years and two tours in Iraq, the transition to the civilian workforce has been tough.

JUSTIN SCHNEPP: It has its days where you wonder what you're going to do the next day, 'cos I am unemployed right now.

JANE COWAN: He's not the only one. If the war was the frying pan, the US job market can feel like the fire.

As hard as it is for ordinary Americans to find work, unemployment's even worse amongst returning servicemen and women.

Thousands of war veterans converged on a hall in Detroit this week, attracted by the promise of more than 20,000 jobs offered by employers ranging from the big car companies like General Motors, to a local pizza place.

RETURNED MALE SOLDIER: Going from infantry it's pretty hard because not too many people want you to go out and shoot people

RETURNED FEMALE SOLDIER: It's been very difficult, but, however, today I hope I find a job.

JANE COWAN: John Garcia is with the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

JOHN GARCIA: Some of these young men and women have gone to Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the world that are doing three, four, five combat tours. They come back and there's a stigma I think of post traumatic stress syndrome, or combat fatigue. They don't understand the veteran.

JANE COWAN: A problem the US president, Barack Obama's, been trying to fix with incentives like tax cuts for businesses that hire ex military personnel.

BARACK OBAMA: Standing up for our veterans, this is not a Democratic responsibility, it's not a Republican responsibility, it's an American responsibility.

JANE COWAN: But while America's struggling with unemployment, Australia has the opposite problem; facing skills shortages, especially in the booming mining industry.

Colleen Lucas is here in Detroit, recruiting for Australian companies.

COLLEEN LUCAS: It's pretty much across the board; from central Queensland to Western Australia down to South Australia; there's projects going on all over the place really; in gas, coal, iron ore.

JANE COWAN: But Colleen Lucas is conscious giving jobs to foreigners can be sensitive territory.

COLLEEN LUCAS: Australia is looking for some skills that are in short supply at the moment to be able to get some projects off the ground. Some of them are just a little bit limited because of the particular people that are required to get projects up and running. And once they're up and running then there's heaps of job opportunities for lots of Australians.

In the meantime, American war veterans like Justin Schnepp are more than happy to help out.

JUSTIN SCHNEPP: Well I was in Germany for six years, so the thought of going to another country - I like that idea. You know, you get to see the world again. And I - it would be pretty interesting maybe to work in a mine - you know, see what it's all about; more hard work and I would do that.

JANE COWAN: With thousands more troops streaming home from the war winding down in Afghanistan, it's not exactly a long term fix.

But America will take what it can get.

This is Jane Cowan in Detroit for Saturday AM.

Now We Take Lasers Seriously

The Gold Coast has a problem with the spoilt brat children of tourists bringing their lasers on holiday and using them to bother locals.

Since moving to the Gold Coast, we've experienced lasers being shone into our unit about five times. Once or twice we've called the police and they say there's nothing they can do. One time police came and reprimanded the offender, but that was it.

Resort owners/managers aren't too enthusiastic about tackling the issue either.

The Queensland Police Helicopter regularly flies around and around Gold Coast suburbs in the middle of the night for no apparent reason - a very tempting target for a little deadshit.

QPS Media [30/6/12]:

A youth allegedly shone a laser at the police helicopter at Main Beach overnight.

Around 8pm the helicopter was patrolling over Macintosh Island when the laser was alleged shone at the aircraft, affecting all three crew.

The youth, a 15-year-old boy from Ashmore will be dealt with under the provisions of the Youth Justice Act 1992.

Anyone with information which could assist police with their investigations should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.

Serious Traffic Incident, Spring Hill: QPS Media [30/6/12]

A man is in a serious condition after being struck by a car on College Road at Spring Hill around 3.25am this morning.

A 19-year-old Kenmore man was transported to the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital with serious head injuries.

The Forensic Crash Unit is investigating.

There is no further information available at this time.

Anyone with information which could assist police with their investigations should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.

Serious Traffic Crash, Miami: QPS Media [30/6/12]

Police are investigating a traffic crash that has left a pedestrian seriously injured at Miami last night.

Initial investigations indicate that a man was struck by a mini-van on the Gold Coast Highway around 11.30pm.

The man, aged in his 40s, has been taken to the Gold Coast Hospital with life threatening injuries.

No one in the van was physically injured.

The Forensic Crash Unit is investigating.

Anyone with information which could assist police with their investigations should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.

Murdoch Abandons Ship

Neil Chenoweth, Australian Financial Reveiw [30/6/12]:

... News Publishing will then be given something like $1 billion cash, and told there will be no more.

A year of devastating reputational damage has made corporate governance the hot-button issue at News.
Both the UK newspaper hacking scandal and the US shopping inserts arm, which paid $650 million to settle computer-hacking and anti-competitive behaviour claims brought by competitors, have been quarantined off in the News Publishing spin-off.

As a result, all those corporate governance concerns are now focused on News Publishing where, along with the hacking scandal, there is also the legacy of newspaper featherbedding – the subsidy of hugely unprofitable newspapers in return for the influence they wield and the agendas they pursue.

It’s estimated that The Times, the New York Post and The Australian lose more than $200 million a year.
With operating income of $US4.2 billion last year, News could carry a few loss-makers. But in a listed publishing company earning perhaps $600 million net a year, such losses would rob 25 per cent of the earnings and knock perhaps $1 billion off the market value.

The Australian alone would lose more than $100 million over three years. That’s not sustainable.
How did Murdoch treat this? On Thursday night he singled out the New York Post, The Times and The Australian as flagships of the new company, along with The Wall Street Journal. In short, it would be business as usual, because Rupert Murdoch says it will be, because he owns 13.8 per cent of the stock and 39.7 per cent of the votes.

But Rupert is no longer Mr Newspapers. His last three newspaper deals – last year’s launch of a tablet publication, The Daily, buying Dow Jones in 2007 for $US5.7 billion (40 times future earnings) and selling Queensland Press to News in 2004 for $2.95

billion (15 times operating earnings) have cost News shareholders well over $3 billion.

All that was overlooked at Thursday night’s announcement because of the elephant in the room. News Publishing will have $5 billion in print assets – and a $4 billion pay TV investment. Did we not mention that?

After the $1.97 billion takeover of Consolidated Media Holdings, News Ltd in Australia will have $2 billion in newspapers and a $4 billion investment in Foxtel and Fox Sports. So News Publishing will have perhaps $9 billion worth of assets, of which almost half is its controlling 50 per cent of an $8 billion pay TV business.

After the spin-off there will be News Entertainment, which will be a television company. And News Publishing, which will be ... a television company. Last week News Ltd boss Kim Williams earnestly argued the natural synergy between newspapers and television, while on Thursday Carey and Murdoch diffidently suggested there was really little synergy at all.

The most bizarre part of this was that Murdoch and Carey didn’t even acknowledge it. They smuggled Foxtel into the publishing arm almost by sleight of hand. You can almost see them asking each other afterwards if they thought anyone had noticed.

Foxtel is the biggest asset in the publishing division, and the News announcement referred to it airily as “its other assets in Australia”.

Murdoch told analysts: “All the Australian assets will go into the split-off company. It’s just a lot simpler for the management. They are a long way away and they are managed together now – it’s just better to leave them alone.”

Australia has always had favoured status in News and, despite his protestations that newspapers must support themselves, Williams has just been given his own gum tree in the koala reserve.

News Publishing will inevitably be based in New York – handy for Murdoch to satisfy his need to dabble with newspapers. And where else could you run the Wall Street Journal? But 60 per cent of the publishing company will be in Australia under Williams’s control.

Whoever ends up as CEO of News Publishing, unless it is Williams, seems destined to end up fretting under continual interventions from Murdoch and his determination to protect his loss-makers, while being frozen out of running the bulk of the assets in Australia – and then having to sign off on the impenetrable Australian accounts.

Again, this is not so different from the way News Ltd operates today, but it’s no longer going to be part of a media colossus.

The whole scheme makes little sense unless there is a second leg to the strategy focused on Murdoch’s ambitions in Australia.

This could involve a bid for Lachlan’s Ten Network and a further spin-off of the Australian assets that the Murdoch family could more comfortably control without the fuss of offshore governance.

Much of the strategy seems to be predicated on the fact that, while government inquiries in the UK and the threat of them in the US have made it imperative to separate the US and UK newspapers from the growth assets, there has been no such scrutiny in Australia.

So while some reports have News closing up to two-thirds of its 146 Australian papers, The Australian and its new $30 million website will for now sail on serene, immune from serious accountability.

There’s another interpretation. Foxtel is the asset of last resort. News Publishing is the lifeboat cast adrift from News Corp, and Foxtel is the lifeboat on the lifeboat.

If things go pear-shaped, News Publishing could always sell it. The obvious buyer would be News Entertainment, though no doubt the shareholders would end up paying a little more than $4 billion. ...

WikiLeaks: Beat the Blockade CD

Press Release [28/6/12]:

WikiLeaks has released its first music CD, entitled "Beat the Blockade".

Since December 2010, WikiLeaks has been under an unlawful financial blockade by major Washington-linked US financial institutions. The WikiLeaks CD contains 12 cool and inspiring songs about the struggles of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, Bradley Manning and Anonymous. The songs were donated by a range of artists and make a creative, enjoyable way for people to "beat the blockade".

The US Department of Treasury has given donations to WikiLeaks a clean bill of health, but the blockade by Bank of America, VISA, MasterCard, PayPal and Western Union continues to prevent people from supporting the cause they believe in. WikiLeaks is currently fighting the blockade in lawsuits around the world. The blockade is entirely political and was erected without any legal or administrative process whatsoever.

The songs have been compiled into a downloadable CD. All proceeds from sales of the CD will go to WikiLeaks and the Bradley Manning Defense Fund.

There are two versions of the CD available: one priced at $11.99, and a "Supporter Version" priced at $24.99 for those who wish to really "Beat the Blockade".

The CDs are currently available through the following links:

WikiLeaks: Beat the Blockade
http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/wikileaksb...
WikiLeaks: Beat the Blockade (Supporter Version)
http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/wikileaksb...

The artists who have contributed their music to the CD are as follows:

1. "WikiLeaks and the Need for Free Speech" – Dan Bull
2. "B Manning" – Johan W Ekman
3. "Where There Are No Secrets" – Wrightson Tongue
4. "Song for Bradley Manning" – David Rovics
5. "WikiLeaks Anthem: We Want the Truth" – Isaac Sloan
6. "Datacrime 2011 (WikiMix)" – Cuban Boys
7. "WikiLeaks Tribute" – Jaffrey Rootzway
8. "The Ballad of Julian Assange" – Joonas Laine
9. "Shout It Out and Be Heard" – Sharon Z.
10. "Rise Above (WikiBeetz4WikiLeaks)" – Loves’ Destiny
11. "Bradley’s Song" – Erick Nova
12. "WikiLeaks Samba" – Sonic Disobedience

For more information on the unlawful banking blockade we are fighting please visit our banking blockade page.

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