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December 2015

Read in 148 Countries

'Tis The Season of Peace and Joy!

Yes, it's the season of Peace and joy again. I'm not so sure that many people in the middle east will see it that way again this year, and the world doesn't seem to have made any progress in many arena's. However all we can do is ask that the military puts down it's weapons for a couple of weeks, the politicians shut their mouths for a couple of weeks, and listen to the deafening silence. That, my friends is the sound of true peace.

I'm off for a couple of weeks, but before I go, I'd like to thank all of the people from the 148 Countries that constitute the Big Wall Bling family for coming back regularly. I love you all, and I'll be back early in the new year. In the meantime, have a very twisted Christmas.


2015 - A Very Twisted Christmas

18 December 2015
by Giles Parkinson

Australia’s right wing media declares new war on wind and solar

Having attacked the science of climate change and lost, Australia’s right wing media has responded to the Paris Agreement on climate action sealed last week by sharpening their pencils against another of their favourite targets – wind energy and solar power.

The Paris Agreement reached last Saturday went further than almost anyone hoped or expected, largely because of the plunging cost of renewable energy – solar in particular and wind energy as well – that has made the task of decarbonisation much simpler and cheaper than had been thought. [Read More...]

18 December 2015
by Neil Chenoweth

Tax Office bares all: the good, the bad and the ugly

How some companies cut billions off their tax bill

The historic release of individual tax data for 1539 of Australia's largest public companies on Thursday revealed the country's biggest and smallest taxpayers, providing surprises with the struggles of foreign-owned companies.

The release of tax paid by 554 large Australian public companies and 985 foreign-owned corporates provided the first direct public confirmation of cash tax payments by the country's largest taxpayers, headed by BHP Billiton, which paid $4.1 billion, Rio Tinto ($3.5 billion) and the four big banks, which paid a total $9.5 billion. [Read More...]

17 December 2015
by John Passant

MYEFO: Abbott's cuts repackaged

ON TUESDAY, the Treasurer Scott Morrison released the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO). It confirms that a budget deficit is here to stay for some time.

Every budget and every MYEFO, the prediction for getting into surplus is delayed and this MYEFO is no different. Under the Abbott and Turnbull Governments, the surplus prediction has moved from 2018-19 to 2019-20 and now, to 2020-21.

The May budget deficit prediction for this financial year has increased by $2.3 billion to an estimated $37.4 billion. One reason for this is the collapse in iron ore and other resource prices and hence, in tax, from mining companies. Another major factor is lower than predicted wage increases, which means tax bracket creep isn’t as great and so isn’t bringing in as much extra revenue [Read More...]

17 December 2015
by AFR

Tornado winds wreak havoc in Sydney

The storm sweeping over the Sydney CBD on December 16.

A tornado has left a trail of destruction in southern Sydney after hitting the region with winds of up to 213 kilometres an hour, leaving several people with minor injuries and many homes and businesses without roofs.

But a spokesman for the Insurance Council of Australia said the damage so far reported was not unusual for storms at this time of year and the ICA decided not to declare a "catastrophe" which would trigger an emergency response from insurers. He said insurers had received several hundred claims for a few million dollars worth of damage. [Read More...]

17 December 2015
by Lucille Keen

HSUs Kathy Jackson loses appeal over $1.4 million union scam

Kathy Jackson

Disgraced former union leader Kathy Jackson could now face criminal charges after losing her appeal against a civil judgement which found she had misused $1.4 million of members funds.

Federal Court Full bench Justices Christopher Jessup, John Griffiths and Richard White rejected the former national secretary of the Health Services Union's appeal of the decision by Justice Richard Tracey that found she had misused union funds and ordered her to repay $1.4 million to her former employer. [Read More...]

16 December 2015
by Joanna Mather

Petrol retailers fail to pass fall in crude oil price on to motorists

Petrol companies have been accused of gouging motorists after the consumer watchdog released evidence they are refusing to pass on the fall in crude oil prices.

The Australian Competition and Consumer's Commission's quarterly petrol price report shows that in September gross retail margins were at their highest level since it began monitoring in 2002. [Read More...]

16 December 2015
by Julia Medew

Turnbull government introduces 'co-payment by stealth', doctors say

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Health Minister Sussan Ley.

Many Australians will face a new "co-payment by stealth" for pathology and diagnostic imaging tests because the Turnbull government is slashing its health budget by more than $650 million, doctors say.

In a move that has infuriated the Australian Medical Association and pathologists, Health Minister Sussan Ley has scrapped incentive payments to encourage bulk billing of pathology services such as blood tests and diagnostics such as X-rays. [Read More...]

16 December 2015
by Judith Ireland

Welfare crackdown raises concerns

Cassandra Goldie has questioned whether there is an extra $2 billion to be found through the budget measures.

It's one of the headline savings measures in the mid-year budget update, tipped to generate more than $2 billion from the welfare payment system.

But it has some experts scratching their heads, wondering if the money will materialise and why the government isn't going after the big end of town. [Read More...]

15 December 2015
by Peter Martin

The truth about the budget will be ugly, but it's what we need

If Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison are wise they'll stop building unlikely Senate decisions into their forecasts and they will be honest about what is happening to revenue.

Expect the unvarnished truth on Tuesday, because there's little point in lying.

Usually the budget and the mid-year budget update are designed to make things look good. That's why this year's budget included largely fictional savings of $67 billion over 10 years held over from the previous budget on the ground that the Senate might one day pass them. [Read More...]

15 December 2015
by Mike.B

Blue NeoCon - Red NeoCon

Today in Australia we have a government that has lost its way, and an opposition that is ineffective in that role.

The acidic manner of Tony Abbott has been replaced with a more alkaline Malcolm Turnbull, and the deckchairs have been shuffled to give the impression of stability before the ship hits the iceberg, but the course hasn't changed. [Read More...]

15 December 2015

Woolies, Coles, Aldi caught up in child labour scandal

Female workers sort shrimp at a seafood market in Mahachai, Thailand.

Woolworths, Coles and Aldi are embroiled in a child labour scandal, with all three supermarket chains confirming they sell prawns or seafood supplied by a Thai company at the centre of the allegations.

Graphic evidence of forced labour, including child labour, has been uncovered at a prawn peeling factory owned by major seafood supplier Thai Union.

An investigation by Associated Press found hundreds of workers at the company's factories working under poor conditions with some workers, mainly from Myanmar, locked inside or otherwise unable to leave the factory. [Read More...]

14 December 2015
by Kaye Lee

How many seniors are venture capitalists?

Every poll shows that the majority of senior citizens vote for the Coalition but it is hard to understand why.

As one of its first moves in November 2013, the Coalition government sacked the Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing six months before they were to produce a report they had been working on for years to provide “a blueprint on all the legislative and policy and financial changes that need to be progressively made over the next 25 years to make sure we turn ageing into an asset rather than a liability.”

They then produced the budget from hell. [Read More...]

14 December 2015
by John Kelly

Our Government: Traitors to their own people

For the twelve months or so that I have been writing articles advocating the benefits that would come if our government implemented a Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) economic framework, I have been under the mistaken impression that MMT is a regime, or a doctrine that the government needs to adopt as an economic policy initiative.

For most of this time I have viewed MMT as the religion of the progressives in policy direction held back by the right wing neo-liberal conservatives who see MMT as a threat to western capitalism.

But recently, as Professor Bill Mitchell pointed out in one of his daily blogs, we are already living in an MMT monetary system. All the mechanics of a fiat currency system are already there to enable us to interact with MMT every day. [Read More...]

14 December 2015
by Bob Ellis

Turnbull, Shorten and the next election

I am convinced now that Shorten will win the next election.

Turnbull seems unable to to project the "bigness", the "stature" of a statesman. He seems more like a wily, self-mocking alderman, or a guest disc jockey on Drive Time over Christmas on provincial radio.

When it comes to climate change, he is trapped by the Abbottite, minimalist stance of "as little as possible, as late as possible". When it comes to tax reform, his slogan seems to be, like St Augustine’s, "Lord, make me righteous, but not yet." [Read More...]

14 December 2015
by Michaela McGuire

The law and Australian anti-Daesh fighter Ashley Dyball

Ashley Dyball, at left, also known as Mitchell Scott, poses for a photograph with Reece Harding, who had fought with Kurdish forces until his death midyear.

The decision not to charge ‘freedom fighter’ Ashley Dyball is part of a larger question about the right of Australian citizens to join YPG’s war against Daesh.

In May this year, Ashley Dyball posted to the Facebook page he maintains under the name Mitchell Scott photos of his travels. There’s a photo of Dyball drinking with a mate in a Netherlands pub, a photo of an obscenely large McDonald’s combo meal at Jordan’s Queen Alia International Airport, and a series of images of the 23-year-old former powerlifting champion posing stiffly in front of the Eiffel Tower. The next photo Dyball posts, less than three weeks later, is a shot of himself dressed in full military garb, smoking a cigarette with one hand and cradling a gun with the other. The caption reads: “No news is good news. Miss everyone from home hope your all well #YPG #FUCKTHEISLAMICSTATE.” [Read More...]

11 December 2015
by Wired

Bitcoin’s Creator Satoshi Nakamoto Is Probably This Unknown Australian Genius

EVEN AS HIS face towered 10 feet above the crowd at the Bitcoin Investor’s Conference in Las Vegas, Craig Steven Wright was, to most of the audience of crypto and finance geeks, a nobody.

The 44-year-old Australian, Skyping into the D Hotel ballroom’s screen, wore the bitcoin enthusiast’s equivalent of camouflage: a black blazer and a tieless, rumpled shirt, his brown hair neatly parted. His name hadn’t made the conference’s list of “featured speakers.” Even the panel’s moderator, a bitcoin blogger named Michele Seven, seemed concerned the audience wouldn’t know why he was there. Wright had hardly begun to introduce himself as a “former academic who does research that no one ever hears about,” when she interrupted him. [Read More...]

11 December 2015
by Bob Ellis

Seven Days

It will be noted by future historians that the Turnbull Adventure ended, or began to see its end, in the seven days from the 2nd to the 9th of December this year.

The 13 percent swing against the Liberals in North Sydney; the putting back on the table of the 15 percent GST by the yapping innumerate Morrison; the weird ‘rewarding losers’ announcement by Turnbull and Pyne of a way of making our businessmen more daring, after centuries of cowardice; the ‘yes/no’ answer by Brough to questions of his criminality; and, last night, the Paul Murray interview with the roused and charismatic Tony Abbott, who thinks a billion Muslims should try harder and a billion Catholics are doing fine: all these events put Malcolm in a hole it will be hard, or impossible, to wriggle out of. [Read More...]

11 December 2015
by Primrose Riordan

Wyatt Roy 'can't remember' if he played role in Ashby affair

Innovation Minister Wyatt Roy has questions to answer over what role he played in leaking Peter Slipper's diary, Labor say, after Mr Roy said he could not remember if he instructed Mr Slipper's staffer to make copies of it.

Mr Roy's comments to Sky News on Thursday saying he could not recall if he did tell Mr Slipper's staffer to get copies of the diary has resurrected the scandal that has so far put pressure on Special Minister of State Mal Brough to resign, and along with Ian Macfarlane's defection the the Nationals, cast as shadow over Malcolm Turnbull's political honeymoon. [Read More...]

11 December 2015
by Sue Mitchell

Woolworths accused of unconscionable conduct by ACCC

In a move that could crimp profits in the $90 billion food and liquor market, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission wants to stop major supermarket chains from demanding payments from suppliers beyond formal supply agreements.

The ACCC has accused Woolworths of unconscionable conduct by trying to force suppliers to plug a $50 million hole in its December-half 2014 profits by demanding more than $60 million in extra payments in the weeks before Christmas last year. [Read More...]

10 December 2015
by John Slater

Shorten's cynical tobacco tax grab

Bill Shorten plans to sell his hike on tobacco taxes that will see the price of a pack of cigarettes top $40 as a responsible revenue measure aimed at improving public health. In reality, it is a cynical cash grab from a group that already contributes more than it's fair share to the public purse.

The tobacco excise is well known to be amongst the most regressive forms of taxation. Almost a quarter of Australians earning in the bottom 20% are smokers. This rises to 30% in poor remote areas and 50% in regional Indigenous communities. A report commissioned by the Rudd government found that a 25% hike would see a smoker on the minimum wage with a 30-cigarette-a-day habit have their income diminished by 3.2%. That's the equivalent of more than doubling the Medicare levy. [Read More...]

10 December 2015
by Max Berry

Melbourne’s storm in a port is derailing freight

The deferment of a rail project entangled with the Victorian Government’s vexed plans to privatise the Port of Melbourne is keeping thousands of trucks on the road that could be replaced by a small number of trains, writes Max Berry.

OPENING AUSRAIL, the Australasian Railways Association’s annual talkfest in late November, Victorian Premier Dan Andrews listed a range of transport projects his government committed to in its first year in office: the removal of 50 level crossings, orders for 100 locally-built metropolitan trains, new trams and regional trains, the Metro rail tunnel, and the upgrading of the rail freight network in north-west Victoria. [Read More...]

10 December 2015
by Jade Manson

Reward is better than punishment: A Work for the Dole alternative

Despite its enormous cost, the Work for the Dole program simply doesn't produce the outcomes intended. Jade Manson suggests the "volunteer's bonus" — a far more positive alternative.

Despite the $5.1 billion over three years going towards the Work for the Dole program, increasing evidence shows that it does nothing to improve job outcomes. A recent study commissioned by the Federal Government found that Work for the Dole increased the likelihood that people would move off welfare by only 2% during the research period of December 2014 to March 2015 (Social Research Centre, 2015). This confirms what was already apparent — that Work for the Dole cannot decrease the unemployment rate, just as it cannot increase the number of available jobs. [Read More...]

09 December 2015
by James Massola

Leaked plans show huge increase to GST

Massive increases to the GST that would raise up to $45 billion annually will be on the table when Malcolm Turnbull and state premiers meet on Friday, according to a leaked document.

The Council of Australian Governments document, marked "for official use only" and titled "Reform of the Federation", reveals modelling prepared by the federal treasury at the request of the states in July, and will help frame the crunch tax meeting, which will be led by NSW Premier Mike Baird, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Mr Turnbull. [Read More...]

09 December 2015
by Phillip Coorey

Nationals plan Macfarlane cabinet return with leadership change

Ian Macfarlane(L) and Warren Truss

Former industry minister Ian Macfarlane's intended return to cabinet is being planned to coincide with Warren Truss stepping aside as Nationals leader for Barnaby Joyce early in 2016.

Mr Joyce will then insist Mr Macfarlane be promoted under a new Coalition agreement. [Read More...]

09 December 2015
by Neil Chenoweth

Orica ran $900m tax scheme to lift its share price

Mining services group Orica set up a $900 million tax-avoidance scheme to help inflate its share price, Justice Tony Pagone found in a judgment in the Federal Court in Melbourne on Monday.

Orica is facing a tax bill of almost $40 million, including interest and penalties, for the scheme, which operated from 2002 to 2006.

Orica Australia said the after-tax cost of the loss would be $36 million. [Read More...]

08 December 2015
by Jeff Sparrow

Black bans and blackmail

There’s something dodgy going on in the construction industry but it’s not trade unionism.

The arrests of CFMEU officials John Setka and Shaun Reardon feature on the front page of every newspaper – as, of course, was always intended.

The two men are public figures, and scarcely difficult to find. Yet police pulled Setka over in his car, arresting him in front of his infant children. They raided Shaun Reardon in his house near Geelong, driving him to Melbourne to be charged with blackmail. [Read More...]

08 December 2015
by Lachlan Barker

Dubai win for the Wallaroos

Wallaroos captain Shannon Parry holding the Dubai Sevens cup, flanked by team and coach

The relatively unsung Australian women’s rugby team won the Dubai Sevens world rugby tounament on the weekend, reports Lachlan Barker.
I suspect many will be unfamiliar with the Wallaroos in a sporting context.

Well, the Wallaroos are the Australian women’s rugby team and, over the weekend, they won the Dubai Sevens world rugby tournament. [Read More...]

08 December 2015
by Daniel Flitton

Japan whale hunt tensions to flare as Australia considers court action

Sea Shepherd is hoping to confront Japanese whalers to disrupt their hunt.

Australia is considering taking a high-stakes legal gamble by dragging Japan back to the international court in an attempt to halt the killing of whales.

The Turnbull government is also examining plans to send surveillance aircraft to monitor the Japanese whaling fleet, which set sail last week with plans to hunt up to 330 whales in the Southern Ocean in the coming weeks.

Sea Shepherd activists departed Williamstown docks in Melbourne on Monday with hopes of confronting the Japanese vessels and disrupting the hunt. [Read More...]

07 December 2015
by John Passant

Pensioners in poverty – Australia is the second worst in the OECD for paying its pensioners

More than one third of Australian pensioners live in relative poverty. The OECD average is 12 percent of pensioners. Of OECD countries only South Korea is worse. Let that sink in. Slovakia, Greece, Poland, Estonia, Slovenia and Turkey, for example, all treat their pensioners much better than the Australian government does. Instead of Australian Productivity Commission suggestions that pensioners reverse mortgage their homes or downsize, maybe we should tax the rich and abolish their superannuation and other tax concessions to pay for an increase in pensions in Australia to take all pensioners out of poverty. To read the whole OECD report click here. Pensions at a glance 2015. [Read More...]

07 December 2015
by RT

'Don't waste Australia': Aussie govt under fire over nuclear waste shipment, fears of global dump

A ship transporting reprocessed nuclear waste arrives at Port Kembla in New South Wales on December 5

Australia has received 25 tons of its own reprocessed nuclear waste that is still feared to contain plutonium. The waste will be housed at the Lucas Heights reactor until a new site is built, amid concerns the country may become a nuclear dumping ground. [Read More...]

06 December 2015
by Glenn Davies

Scouts prepare to remove the Queen & God

The review of the Scout Promise to remove the oath to the Queen is not only about making the Scouts more inclusive, but an understanding that Australia is changing. It acknowledges this nation seeking its own identity as part of being Australian.

IT LOOKS like it’s about to become more comfortable for Australian republicans to slip on a woggle.

Since the publication of Scouting for Boys in 1908, all Scouts and Guides around the world have taken a Scout (or Guide) Promise to live up to ideals of the movement. The Scout Promise has varied slightly over time and from country to country. [Read More...]

06 December 2015
by Adam Gartrell

Liberal Trent Zimmerman wins North Sydney byelection despite swing

Liberal Candidate Trent Zimmerman at Saint Aloysius College polling booth on Saturday.

Liberal Trent Zimmerman has won the North Sydney byelection, holding on to former treasurer Joe Hockey's seat despite a significant swing against the party.

With 57 per cent of the vote counted, Mr Zimmerman claimed victory at 9.30pm on Saturday. He attracted an estimated 47.6 per cent of the primary vote, fending off 12 other candidates. [Read More...]

06 December 2015
by Hafsa Kara-Mustapha

The Warsaw Pact is dead, so why is NATO still alive?

NATO soldiers participate in "Operation Hazel” military drill at the Adazi training field, Latvia

Unlike state armies that exist to protect the integrity of the nation, NATO has no defined purpose other than to continuously engage in conflict. This explains the organization’s desire for conflict , when diplomacy is the best answer.

Imagine a kitchen fully equipped with the latest cooking gadgets, stocked up with the freshest and best quality produce and staffed with the most highly trained chefs on the planet. Now imagine these passionate cooks, whose lives revolve around the art of gastronomy, are told that while they have to stay in that kitchen, they cannot cook... not unless there is a dinner party to cater for. [Read More...]

04 December 2015
by David Ramli

Telstra partly backflips on global roaming price hikes

CEO Andy Penn: "Good leadership means recognising when it is right to change decisions."

Telstra has taken less than a week to retract part of its unpopular plan to hike up the price of global roaming services in the lead-up to the holiday season.

On Monday Telstra faced the fury of its mobile users after greatly increasing the fees for most customers taking their phones and devices overseas. [Read More...]

04 December 2015
by Phillip Coorey

Nationals demand more power after Ian Macfarlane defects

Nationals coup: Macfarlane set to defect from Libs

The Nationals will demand a greater influence inside the federal government, including an extra minister, following the shock defection to its ranks of disgruntled former industry minister Ian Macfarlane and the possibility of another Liberal following suit.

In move which further soured a messy end to the parliamentary year for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and has inflamed tensions inside the Nationals over leadership and promotion, Mr Turnbull's good friend and former numbers man, Mr Macfarlane, jumped ship on Thursday. [Read More...]

03 December 2015
by Gabriela Motroc

Settlement reached for Saba Button, WA flu vaccine victim

The family of a severely disabled Perth girl has been awarded millions of dollars to meet her care needs after a flu vaccination left her quadriplegic and brain damaged.

The Federal Court approved in June last year a confidential settlement between Saba Button’s family, CSL, the vaccine manufacturer and the West Australian government. Saba Button suffered organ and brain damage after receiving the Fluvax shot when she was 11 months old five years ago. [Read More...]

03 December 2015
by Primrose Riordan

Bureau of Meteorology hit by major Chinese cyber attack: reports

James Turner said that a nation state cyber attack is almost impossible to defend against entirely as they are so well funded.

The Bureau of Meteorology's computer system, which reaches throughout the bureaucracy, has been hit with a major cyber attack, likely emanating from China according to a report from the ABC.

The bureau said it was building the nation's largest supercomputers in July, worth $77 million, taking the number they own up to eight. The ABC reported that the bureau's computer system was also linked to the Department of Defence. [Read More...]

03 December 2015
by Laura Tingle

Mal Brough affair shattering into myriad dangerous shards for Malcolm Turnbull

As so often happens with such political controversies, the problem for Malcolm Turnbull in the Brough affair is that it is rapidly shattering from one unpleasant political problem into a collection of equally dangerous shards.

Should Mal Brough stand down from his job as Special Minister of State while he is investigated by the Australian Federal Police? Of course he should. And for that matter, Wyatt Roy should probably do the same thing. [Read More...]

01 December 2015
by Dr. Philip Nitschke

Dr. Death Burns Medical Practitioner Certificate

Statement by Dr Nitschke

I have now had a month to consider the 26 conditions the Medical Board have imposed on my medical registration, and to survey the membership of Exit International.

Before commenting on several of the more onerous conditions and my planned response, I will make one general observation.

The conditions the Board has sought impose on me (and, by extension, impose on all doctors in Australia) amounts to a heavy handed and clumsy attempt to restrict the free flow of information on end of life choice between doctor and patient, and as such it violates fundamental principles of free speech. This is incompatible with the practice of modern medicine. [Read More...]

01 December 2015
by David Ramli

Telstra's early Christmas present to travellers – higher roaming rates

The biggest losers are travellers to the United Kingdom and United States.

Telstra has issued fresh price hikes for its mobile customers travelling overseas just in time for the Christmas holiday season.

Australia's biggest phone and internet provider offers International Travel Passes to customers going abroad. These come with phone call and download allowances that cover most of the world including the United Kingdom, Indonesia and the United States. [Read More...]

01 December 2015
by Sally Rose

Treasurer Scott Morrison says to forget about relying on the age pension

Association of Superannuation Funds boss Pauline Vamos wants at least a three-year lead time for major changes to super or pension policies.

Treasurer Scott Morrison has put ordinary Australian workers on notice that they should no longer expect to receive an age pension from the government when they retire.

Meanwhile, the very wealthy have been warned generous superannuation tax breaks are set to be reined in.

In a wide-ranging speech on Friday, Mr Morrison outlined the government's vision for an overhaul of the country's retirement income system designed to ease pressure on future federal budgets: by both reducing expenditure on welfare payments, and limiting the amount of revenue forgone through tax concessions. [Read More...]