February 2016 articles have moved to the Archives
Click here to see them

March 2016

Read in 151 Countries

31 March 2016
by Paul Karp

Greens propose ditching $5bn-a-year private health insurance rebate

Federal Greens leader, Richard Di Natale

Party leader, Richard Di Natale, calls rebate ‘a public policy disaster’ that has not eased pressure on public hospitals, and says the $5bn annual health insurance subsidy should be reinvested back into the public health system.

The Greens plan to ditch the private health insurance rebate and reinvest billions of dollars of savings into the public health system, leader Richard Di Natale has announced. [Read More...]

31 March 2016
by Jacob Greber

What won't this Government sell off?
You can read more about BlockChain HERE

Treasurer Scott Morrison opens door to ASX competitor, offshore buyers

Potential competitors to the ASX have been given the green light by the government to create alternative places to clear share trades.

Treasurer Scott Morrison also announced on Wednesday that the government would relax ownership restrictions on the ASX, increasing the stock market operator's scope to access foreign capital. [Read More...]

30 March 2016
by Atreyee Chowdhury

Xenophon gives it back after being compared to Donald Trump

Independent Senator for South Australia and leader of the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) political party, Nick Xenophon, has not taken kindly to being dubbed as Australia’s ‘Donald Trump.’

The comment that he is “Australia’s answer to Donald Trump” by Jamie Edward Briggs, Mayo’s representative to the parliament, gave rise to a war of words pointing to deeper political compulsions as elections are getting closer. [Read More...]

30 March 2016
by Jackson Stiles

Half a million phones set to become obsolete

It is time to bury your 2G device.

Affected consumers will have no choice but to upgrade their handset and SIM card.

Analysts have estimated the phones of at least half a million Australians will soon be made obsolete.

It has been known for some time that the major telcos will decommission their 2G networks from December 2016. For the first time, we have a clear picture of the impact. [Read More...]

30 March 2016
by Simon Evans

Is Decathlon the Aldi of Australia's $3.5b sporting goods market?

French sporting goods group Decathlon has been labelled a category killer

The Rebel sports retailing chain will open more stores where sport collides with theatre and technology as the $3.5 billion sporting goods sector in Australia faces the biggest shake-up in decades.

Rebel and its stablemate sporting goods chain Amart are facing one of the biggest competitive threats for years, with the imminent arrival of French category killer Decathlon. [Read More...]

29 March 2016
by Kaye Lee

Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the most corrupt of all?

When Malcolm Turnbull wrote to the Governor General requesting the urgent recalling of parliament he gave the following reason:

“The Government regards this legislation as of great importance for promoting jobs and growth, improving productivity and also promoting workplace safety through taking strong measures to deal with widespread and systematic criminality in the building and construction industry.”

The only problem is, as Dave Noonan, National Secretary of the CFMEU, pointed out in his debate with Innes Willox at the National Press Club this week, the ABCC is an industrial relations regulator that cannot deal with corruption or criminality. [Read More...]

29 March 2016
by Jacob Greber

Morrison refuses to let Labor veto top appointments

Treasurer Scott Morrison is refusing to consult with the opposition over a raft of top economic appointments in the lead-up to a likely election in July, including the promotion to governor of Reserve Bank of Australia deputy Philip Lowe, who has won Labor's backing.

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen on Monday demanded the government stop naming senior Treasury portfolio positions without consulting the opposition, because the government is now effectively on an election footing. [Read More...]

29 March 2016
by Phillip Coorey

Nick Xenophon begs Tony Abbott to campaign in SA

Nick Xenophon has implored Tony Abbott to campaign in marginal seats in South Australia, believing it will bolster the Independent Senator's chances of winning seats from the Liberal Party in his home state.

Senator Xenophon, who has formed a party, the Nick Xenophon Team, invited Mr Abbott to SA on Monday after the former prime minister said on the weekend he would campaign in Liberal marginal seats when invited to do so, independent of what Prime Minster Malcolm Turnbull was doing as part of the official election campaign. [Read More...]

27 March 2016

Turnbull's cunning double dissolution election ploy

The high risk of Malcolm Turnbull’s cunning re-election plan took scarcely 11 hours to manifest. On the night of the “shock”, “surprise”, “brilliant” and “decisive” announcement, a dumped prime minister made a spectacular appearance. There, live on Sky News, beamed in from London, was Tony Abbott. And he is only one of the potentially lethal factors with which the prime minister has to deal. The others are the length of the campaign and emboldened opponents proving adept at setting the agenda. [Read More...]

27 March 2016
by Martin McKenzie-Murray

Joseph Acquaro and the Calabrian Mafia

Mourners embrace and kiss before the the funeral for Joseph Acquaro at St Mary's Star of the Sea Catholic Church in Melbourne, Wednesday, March 23, 2016.

The murder of lawyer Joseph Acquaro might have opened another chapter in Melbourne’s gangland wars. But it’s also part of the longer story of the Calabrian Mafia’s seeming ability to avoid investigation and prosecution.

In June 2007, the giant freighter MV Monica berthed at Melbourne port. Its progress had been monitored by an Australian clan of senior Calabrian Mafia – known as the ‘Ndrangheta – who had conspired to stuff tonnes of ecstasy pills into one of its shipping containers. They were brazen and deliriously ambitious. At the time of the plot, colleagues were facing charges for a separate importation of ecstasy. This fact, apparently, wasn’t chastening. [Read More...]

26 March 2016
by David Wroe

French, German and Japanese submarine makers vie to impress Australia in underwater arms race

DCNS Shortfin Barracuda submarine.

After more than 30 years roaming quietly beneath the world's oceans, French nuclear attack submarine the Rubis is about a year away from a well-earned retirement.

Her missions are classified. But based on the type of operations these workhorses of the French navy have been doing in recent years, she might have patrolled the Caribbean Sea to stop drug smugglers, or if a merchant ship or oil rig were captured by pirates off Africa, French naval commandos might parachute into the sea from a plane to be picked up by the Rubis. [Read More...]

26 March 2016
by Kate McClymont

Liberal Party backers were approached to buy Senator Arthur Sinodinos a home

Sen. Arthur Sinodinos

The audacious plan originated in early 2013 after Senator Sinodinos relinquished a 5 per cent stake in Australian Water Holdings, a company that later became the focus of a landmark corruption inquiry.

It had earlier been revealed Senator Sinodinos' had a shareholding in a company that employed Eddie Obeid jnr, the son of controversial Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid.

At the time Senator Sinodonis said that although his shareholding was recorded on his parliamentary pecuniary interest declaration it was not publicly registered with the corporate regulator "because it was on a gentleman's agreement". [Read More...]

25 March 2016
by John Kelly

Beware the revival of Hockey’s 2014 budget

If the Coalition wins a double dissolution election in July and gains a joint sitting of the lower house and the senate, all the elements of that disastrous 2014 budget will be passed into law and inflicted onto the Australian economy.

The 2014 budget, in all its negative splendour, will be passed after all. There will be a Medicare co-payment, the retirement age will be lifted to 70. Families, senior citizens, education, health, universities, the unemployed, low income earners, pensioners and people with disabilities, will all suffer. [Read More...]

24 March 2016
by George Browning

Moving Australia’s embassy to Jerusalem is fanciful Senator Paterson

One of the rites of passage for incoming members of the Australian Federal parliament is to make a maiden speech. As these speeches are largely personal, they usually don’t rate much attention beyond the member’s family and friends. They are rarely the focus of any press attention. However Liberal Senator James Paterson’s maiden speech, delivered last week, was covered not only by the Australian media (SMH; The Guardian) but even as far away as Israel.

One of the reasons this speech gained so much press attention is that Senator Patterson used it to lavish the most effusive praise on Israel, to the point of calling for Australia to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. [Read More...]

24 March 2016
by Stephanie Peatling

Federal election 2016: MPs caught short over campaign costs

Senator Nick Xenophon says rules need to be tightened to stop politicians campaigning for their own re-election at the taxpayer's expense.

Politicians should be unable to claim travel and associated costs on the public purse once the writs for an election have been issued, independent senator Nick Xenophon has said. [Read More...]

24 March 2016
by Geoff Winestock

Liberals lose $4.4m for operating an illegal slush fund

The Liberal Party has been refused access to $4.4m in government campaign funding after the NSW electoral commission ruled it operated a huge, illegal slush fund during the 2011 state election campaign.

A dispute panel of the NSW Electoral Commission chaired by Keith Mason, a former NSW Appeals Court Judge, rejected a Liberal Party request on Wednesday for access to the cash arguing the NSW Division of the Liberal Party was still refusing to supply details of donors who made payments of $787,000 via the Free Enterprise Foundation. [Read More...]

24 March 2016
by RT


Australia's Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott

Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has joined the list of ex-politicians invited by President Petro Poroshenko to advise him on how to rule Ukraine as a member of the so-called ‘international advisory council'.
Abbott unexpectedly popped up in the Ukrainian capital on Monday.

Comprised mostly of foreigners, the Kiev-based council was officially established last December. Previously called the International Advisory Council on Reforms, it aims to “facilitate the implementation of reforms in Ukraine on the basis of the best international experience.” [Read More...]

23 March 2016
by Karl Quinn

John Cleese may sue Australian company behind 'utterly shameless' Fawlty Towers 'rip-off'

The cast of the original Fawlty Towers: (l to r) Andrew Sachs as Manuel; John CLeese as Basil, Prunella Scales as Sybil, and Connie Booth as Polly.

John Cleese is threatening to take legal action against an Australian theatre company over claims it has ripped off some of the former Monty Python man's most famous work.

The Faulty Towers Dining Experience is slated to run at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival from April 12 at the Aegean restaurant in Fitzroy, as it has in previous seasons of the festival. This version will be just one of nine iterations of the show that are being staged around the world by Interactive Theatre International, a company founded by New Zealander Alison Pollard-Mansergh in Brisbane in 1999. [Read More...]

23 March 2016
by John Pilger

A world war has begun. Break the silence

This U.S. Navy handout image shows Baker, the second of the two atomic bomb tests, in which a 63-kiloton warhead was exploded 90 feet under water as part of Operation Crossroads, conducted at Bikini Atoll in July 1946 to measure nuclear weapon effects on warships.

I have been filming in the Marshall Islands, which lie north of Australia, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Whenever I tell people where I have been, they ask, "Where is that?" If I offer a clue by referring to "Bikini", they say, "You mean the swimsuit." Few seem aware that the bikini swimsuit was named to celebrate the nuclear explosions that destroyed Bikini Island. Sixty-six nuclear devices were exploded by the United States in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958 – the equivalent of 1.6 Hiroshima bombs every day for twelve years.

Bikini is silent today, mutated and contaminated. Palm trees grow in a strange grid formation. Nothing moves. There are no birds. The headstones in the old cemetery are alive with radiation. My shoes registered "unsafe" on a Geiger counter.

Standing on the beach, I watched the emerald green of the Pacific fall away into a vast black hole. This was the crater left by the hydrogen bomb they called "Bravo". The explosion poisoned people and their environment for hundreds of miles, perhaps forever. [Read More...]

23 March 2016
by Dr. John Stokes

The unhealthy link between healthcare and profits

Dr John Stokes discusses the link between financial reward and systemic bullying in the health sector, the ramifications for patients and urgent need for reform.

I am a senior doctor nearing retirement with a career involving teaching, service development and clinical work.
A year ago, I opened my e-mail one night and was immediately dumbstruck. A complaint containing several untrue serious allegations about myself had been lodged with the regulation authority and furthermore I was given only 14 days to answer the allegations.

The “in good faith” vexatious complaint alleged I should lose my registration. Several months later, after investigation proved the allegations to be false, another letter notifying me of another vexatious complaint with more serious untrue allegations was received. These allegations were also found to be without foundation. [Read More...]

22 March 2016
by John Passant

The forthcoming Australian election and the ongoing attacks on unions and workers

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has outmanoeuvred the too clever by half Greens. He has got the Governor General to prorogue and recall the Parliament for 18 April to debate the anti-union Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC)Bill. Turnbull has also moved the Budget forward a week to 3 May, allowing time for a debate on its likely softly softly anti-worker content and passage of Supply Bills for him to call a double dissolution on or before 11 May, the last day he can do so under the Constitution.

If the Senate rejects the ABCC Bill, or fails to pass it, Turnbull will use that, and the previous rejection of the Bill some time ago, as the grounds for going to the Governor-General to call a double dissolution election on 2 July.

The government has made it clear that the crossbench Senators can avoid a double dissolution (and keep their bums on Senate seats for a few more years) by voting for the ABCC Bill. However the government already ahs a trigger for a double dissolution, the previously twice rejected Bill. Can Senators trust the snake oil salesman in charge? [Read More...]

22 March 2016
by David Donovan

Machiavellian Malcolm’s double D debacle

Turnbull's much anticipated double dissolution election threat is all about dispensing with Senate crossbenchers and nothing to do with union corruption.

So,the worst kept secret in Australian politics has just been confirmed. That is, Malcolm Turnbull wants to hold a double dissolution election on 2 July this year.

His mechanism is to recall Senate on 18 April, wait until they don't pass legislation to reestablish the Australian Building and Construction Commission — a kangaroo court designed, more or less, to stamp out the CFMEU, who would appear to be the Liberals' most detested foe these days. [Read More...]

22 March 2016
by Nicholas Stuart

The Big Picture Looks Grim For Australia

Since 2008 the economy's been going nowhere.

When I first became a foreign correspondent, I was an ingenue. Still wet behind the ears, I had absolutely no idea how to take the "mood" of a society. This left a massive hole in my reporting because I had no way of knowing what the average person on the street thought.

My friend, a far more experienced colleague, shook his head slowly. "Come on mate", he said, "you pay, and I'll show you how to find out what's going on". It seemed like a good deal, so I followed him out of the hotel, through the cold street, and into the nearest bar. Once ensconced with a couple of expensive drinks my mate turned to the barman. "Hey", he shouted, "what's going on?"

"Sorry, no speak English," he replied, looking away.

My friend pounced. He exclaimed, "Wow; amazing! This bloke's too terrified even to tell us what he's thinking... [Read More...]

21 March 2016
by Dominic White

Why Telstra Wants Out Of Foxtel

Departing Foxtel CEO Richard Freudenstein played a key role in the renewal of its blockbuster sports rights deals with ...

"Make it Yours", Foxtel's new advertising campaign will shout through the television set on Sunday night.

It's Foxtel's latest effort to persuade us we can get all of our entertainment needs met by subscribing to its cable and satellite service, as 2.7 million homes already do, paying as much as $135 a month for its plethora of HD channels and services. [Read More...]

21 March 2016
by u/k

Senator Richard Di Natale accuses Turnbull government of 'shambolic' behaviour

Pointing the finger: Greens leader Richard Di Natale.

Only days after teaming up with the Coalition on Senate voting reforms that have increased speculation of an early federal election, Greens leader Richard Di Natale has accused the government of being "shambolic" and divided in its handling of key policy issues.

Senator Di Natale said the Turnbull government would look like it was panicking if it called a double dissolution poll. [Read More...]

21 March 2016
by Mark Ludlow

Clive Palmer scuttles Queensland Nickel property sale

The forced sale of Clive Palmer's Central Queensland cattle property by administrators to help pay debts from his failed Townsville nickel refinery was aborted on Friday after the federal MP tried to enforce last-minute conditions on the sale.

The sprawling 6258-hectare Mamelon Station – which also has significant coal mining tenements – was bought by Mr Palmer's Queensland Nickel for $8.2 million in 2010, but was expected to fetch much less at an auction in Rockhampton on Friday.

However, only one hour before agents Colliers International started the auction, Mr Palmer's representatives told administrators they wanted to enforce new land-use agreements on the property. [Read More...]

20 March 2016
by Dr. Dwight Lundell

World Renowned Heart Surgeon Speaks Out On What Really Causes Heart Disease

We physicians with all our training, knowledge and authority often acquire a rather large ego that tends to make it difficult to admit we are wrong. So, here it is. I freely admit to being wrong.. As a heart surgeon with 25 years experience, having performed over 5,000 open-heart surgeries,today is my day to right the wrong with medical and scientific fact.

I trained for many years with other prominent physicians labelled “opinion makers.” Bombarded with scientific literature, continually attending education seminars, we opinion makers insisted heart disease resulted from the simple fact of elevated blood cholesterol.

The only accepted therapy was prescribing medications to lower cholesterol and a diet that severely restricted fat intake. The latter of course we insisted would lower cholesterol and heart disease. Deviations from these recommendations were considered heresy and could quite possibly result in malpractice.

It Is Not Working! [Read More...]

20 March 2016
by Bob Brown

Bob Brown's arrest in Lapoinya under new anti-protestor laws

Bob Brown, right, during his arrest in the Lapoinya forest.

Tree ferns grow in rare abundance in Tasmania’s Lapoinya forest. Their ornate fronds fan out metres above the ground, from slender trunks that have been growing for centuries.

The ferns’ Aboriginal name, Lapoinya, was adopted for the forest and for the district after European settlement more than a century ago. These ferns survived logging in the 1900s, when much of the rest of the forests – Lapoinya’s, Tasmania’s and Australia’s – were destroyed.

Maynes Creek, which flows through Lapoinya, is a vital nursery for Astacopsis gouldi, the world’s largest freshwater crayfish. Further down the river system, these giant crustaceans grow to 80 centimetres long and six kilograms in weight. Wildlife cameras have also captured endangered Tasmanian devils and spot-tailed quolls hunting in the forest at night.

However, in the past two months 49 hectares of the Lapoinya forest’s luxuriantly regrown ridges have been clear-felled – completely flattened. In the coming months, the logged areas will be incinerated to destroy any surviving native vegetation, so that the replacement plantation will not have to compete with resurgent native trees. This is where I was arrested in January, along with four others. Each of us faces a $10,000 fine or, should we put a foot back in the forest, four years in prison for protesting its destruction. [Read More...]

19 March 2016
by Tony Windsor

Tony Windsor: Why I am Running

Tony Windsor

When Australian of the Year David Morrison challenged Australians on the behavioural standards they will accept by saying “the standard you walk past is the standard you accept”, it hit a nerve. I had been thinking about a possible return to the political fray, and had hinted at it, but Morrison’s challenge pushed my consideration to another level.

Even though the context was very different, the message was similar. Was I prepared to sit back and allow life to go backwards in the electorate of New England, in regional Australia and in the nation generally without attempting to do something about it? [Read More...]

19 March 2016
by Paul Bongiorno

The Wreck of the Desperates

Treasurer Scott Morrison stalling on tax talk

Friends of Scott Morrison call him “ScoMo”. It’s a nickname he enjoys. On Monday, though, the opposition decided to dub the treasurer of the six-month-old Turnbull government “SloMo”. It was an effective taunt, aimed at his failure so far to produce a tax plan. By the end of the week, he was looking not just like a man in slow motion but a man crashing a train in slow motion. Among the debris was practically everything he’s argued for since taking the job. [Read More...]

19 March 2016
by Anne Summers

Beware the Ides of March

Senate reform voting deals may come back to haunt the government and Greens

The repercussions of the deals done to push through Senate voting reforms are yet to be felt.

It was in another Senate, oceans away and more than two thousand years ago that the brutal assassination of a political leader by his Senate colleagues occurred on the Ides of March.

What happened in the Australian Senate last Tuesday, March 15, was hardly of the same order but nor was it the inconsequential circus depicted by most commentators. Some very serious decisions were taken that daythat will have lasting significances for the two main plotters – the government and the Greens – which may well in the future have them rue their failure to ''beware the Ides of March''. [Read More...]

18 March 2016
by John Quiggin

Keeping the sea lanes open: a cost–benefit analysis

Costly benefits: US Navy personnel raise their national flag during a bilateral exercise with the Philippine Navy, as the dispute over the strategic waterways of the South China Sea intensified in June 2014.

One of the convictions that drives military policy in the developed world is a shared belief in the importance of keeping sea lanes open. For the authors of Australia’s white paper on defence, released to a generally favourable reaction earlier this month, freedom of the seas self-evidently justifies the expenditure of $150 billion or more on new submarines. The only real controversy arises from the second-order question of whether the task requires a rushed replacement of our existing fleet or a slower and more careful response. [Read More...]

18 March 2016
by Matthew Knott

All eyes are on the Senate right now but you're BANNED from seeing exactly what's going on

Photographs of major events in the Senate are banned.

Press gallery photographers are kept on a tight leash when it comes to documenting what happens in the Senate says snapper Andrew Meares.

The government is trying to pass sweeping Senate voting laws it says would make the electoral system fairer and more transparent. It has prompted extraordinary, farcical scenes as the government gagged debate on one of its own bills and the Greens sidestepped a debate on same-sex marriage.

Yet when the time finally comes to vote on the changes, you won't see a photo of this historic moment. Or plenty of others. [Read More...]

18 March 2016
by AAP

Morrison to cut company taxes: Personal income taxes to wait years

Salary earners will have to wait some years for an income tax cut after Treasurer Scott Morrison confirmed on Thursday that company tax cuts will be his priority in the federal budget.

After indicating on Tuesday that the government had ditched plans for the income tax cuts it has been pledging for several months, Mr Morrison told Parliament the best way to fund income tax cuts was through economic growth. And the best way to drive economic growth was by reducing the 30 per cent company tax rate.

"We understand the burdens faced by people who are paying higher and higher rates of income tax. We understand that and we understand the best way to deal with that … [is to] grow the economy so you can grow revenues to support those changes," he said. [Read More...]

17 March 2016
by Peter Hannam

Very poor': Environment office opposed miners using rehabilitation work as biodiversity offset

A hunter coal mine: the environment office argued against using mine rehabilitation as a biodiversity offset.

Coal firms won the right to claim the planting of grass or trees on old mine sites as conservation offsets for future woodland destruction despite strong opposition from environment department staff, new documents reveal.

The reports detail the 2013-14 internal debate between the Department of Trade & Industry and the Office of the Environment and Heritage (OEH) over a plan that broadened the scope of what miners could count as compensation for habitats wiped out by new mines.

OEH argued in one note, secured by the Nature Conservation Council (NCC) under freedom of information laws, that "there is no certainty that functioning ecosystems can be restored to their original value through rehabilitation" after a mine closed. [Read More...]

17 March 2016
by Chris Johnson

South Korea 'very much disappointed' with Australia over Defence contracts

South Korean army soldiers stand on their K-55 self-propelled howitzers during exercises near the North Korean border.

The Australian government has outraged South Korea by awarding a $1 billion plus Defence supply ships contract to a Spanish company, despite the Asian nation believing it would be the preferred partner.

A specially convened Senate estimates hearing on the Defence white paper will be conducted Thursday afternoon. The Blue House (Korea's White House) will be closely watching the proceedings.

Last week the Defence Capability and Acquisition Group notified the Korean embassy that Spanish Navantia had been selected as the preferred contractor for the SEA 1654 program for replenishment ships. [Read More...]

17 March 2016
by AAP

Anti-protest laws giving police greater powers pass NSW parliament

Protesters shut down parts of Macquarie Street outside NSW parliament to rally against the anti-protest laws on Tuesday.

Anti-coal seam gas protesters could be jailed for seven years under laws described as a ‘crackdown on democratic rights’

Trespassing anti-coal seam gas advocates face heavier fines and greater jail sentences with tough new anti-protest laws passing through NSW parliament.

With the support of the Shooters and Fishers party and Christian Democrat Fred Nile, the controversial legislation was passed 20-16 in the upper house on Wednesday after minor amendments to the original proposal. [Read More...]

16 March 2016
by Alan Mitchell

Why Malcolm Turnbull needs to spell out a reform agenda before the election

Scott Morrison says the government will not commit to a schedule of future tax cuts in the budget. At some stage the government will have to spell out a detailed reform program.

Ideally it should do it before the election.

The Treasurer told The Australian Financial Review Business Summit in Melbourne that it was unrealistic to expect that "every single one of those boxes" should be ticked in one budget.

However, that won't have fooled anyone in his audience, which includes some of the most influential custodians of the government's reputation as an economic manager. [Read More...]

15 March 2016
by Everald Compton

The Windsor knot

Tony Windsor has made a decision that will change the political culture of Australia and instigate a long era of minority governments.

He will challenge Barnaby Joyce for the Seat of New England in the 2016 Federal Election and he has a better than even chance of winning, as do lots of independents across the nation.

It is a contest that should have occurred in 2013 except for a disabling illness that hit Windsor at that time, but is now under control due to the right medication being found. At the same time, his daughter was diagnosed with cancer and he made the correct decision to spend quality time with her. The good news is that she has won the battle. [Read More...]

15 March 2016
by Julia Medew

Thousands at risk of unfairly losing welfare benefits because of "no jab no pay"

Research suggests 18 to 50 per cent of children who are listed as not fully vaccinated on the register, may in fact be fully vaccinated.

Thousands of Australians are at risk of having their welfare payments unfairly slashed because of inaccuracies in Australia's immunisation register, which is being used to process the Turnbull government's new "no jab, no pay" rules, health care workers say.

There are also fears that children are receiving unnecessary vaccinations, or doses at times when they shouldn't be because of errors in the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register (ACIR), and problems with how GPs and nurses upload information onto the database. [Read More...]

14 March 2016
by Max Chalmers

As Ruddock Lobbies For Human Rights Council Seat, A Child Refugee He Jailed Will Address UN

When 25-year-old Afghan born Australian Mohammad Ali Baqiri travels to Geneva next week, a deep irony will accompany his visit.

In an ironic twist, a young man will front the UN at a time in which the Minister responsible for imprisoning him lobbies the same organisation to give Australia a seat on the Human Rights Council. Max Chalmers reports.

In 2001, the asylum seeker boat ferrying Baqiri to Australia was set alight by a fellow passenger, sinking the vessel and forcing those aboard to be rescued. Pulled from the water, 10-year-old Baqiri was placed in immigration detention on Christmas Island before being transferred to Nauru, tens of thousands of kilometres from his family’s modest village home in Oruzgan province. The Immigration Minister at the time, tasked with overseeing the Howard government’s tough new anti-asylum seeker policies, was Philip Ruddock. [Read More...]

13 March 2016
by Bruce Haigh

Government negligence and Australia's water crisis

In a world heading for a major water crisis, CSIRO cuts to water science will guarantee Australia cannot manage its most valuable resource into the future.
Water is vital for a sustainable future, particularly in Australia. To survive – and therefore for all of us to survive – water needs all the care and compassion it can get. Not so in Australia.

The new and brash head of CSIRO, Larry Marshall, recently announced plans to get rid of scientists from the Land and Water division. Apparently, there has been a judgement that they do not have the capacity to make money for the organisation. [Read More...]

13 March 2016
by Lenore Taylor

So much about this Australian election is unknown; timing is the least of our worries

Malcolm Turnbull has Canberra in a fever to know his election plans.

Hundreds of thousands of students are swotting through their final years of high school right now, pondering what to do with their lives. But they have no idea what university courses are going to cost in the future or even whether they will still be offered under the Coalition’s yet-to-be-announced policy.

Universities are begging for policy certainty. The government has offered none – fuelling speculation that the Abbott government’s 20% spending cut and the resultant increase in the cost of degrees will remain when the policy is finally unveiled, maybe in the budget, or maybe during the election campaign. Labor has promised a net increase in funding, $2.5bn over the first four years and $13.8bn over the next decade. It says this means degrees should be cheaper. [Read More...]

12 March 2016
by Reuters

Spelling mistake prevented hackers taking $1bn in bank heist

hackers breached Bangladesh Bank’s systems and stole its credentials for payment transfers, two senior officials said.

A spelling mistake in an online bank transfer instruction helped prevent a nearly $1bn heist last month involving the Bangladesh central bank and the New York Fed, banking officials said.

Unknown hackers still managed to get away with about $80m, one of the largest known bank thefts in history. [Read More...]

12 March 2016
by Jemima Whyte

ANZ trader a professional gambler

Jason Pritchard was being bluffed. One of ANZ Banking Group's top bond traders was under pressure from Simon Deadman, ranked 52 in the world in professional poker, to fold his cards at the Aussie Millions Poker Championship at Melbourne's Crown Casino.

Unshaven and in a hoodie and tinted sunglasses to disguise any give-away "tells", Pritchard flipped his cards over: a king of diamonds and a ten of hearts. [Read More...]

11 March 2016
by Fleur Anderson

It's on Defence's head: FIRB chairman on Darwin Port

The top official for vetting foreign investment was so concerned the Port of Darwin would be leased to a Chinese company that he asked three times for the Department of Defence and intelligence agencies to consider the national security implications "at the highest possible level".

The Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) and the Department of Defence are under scrutiny over the Northern Territory's decision to lease the port to Landbridge, which has links to the People's Liberation Army, and was allowed to take place through a legal loophole that made it exempt from federal approval. [Read More...]

11 March 2016
by Ben Eltham

Behind The Glossy Posters, Turnbull’s Ideas Boom Looks More Like A Bust

The government is spending millions to promote an ‘Ideas Boom’ after cutting funding that could actually make it work. Without a focus on the public interest and research for its own sake, new ideas won’t amount to much more than corporate profits.

Bright yellow posters appeared all over the country this week. They are part of the government’s $28 million campaign to push its innovation policy.

“Welcome to the most exciting time in Australia’s history,” the television commercial proclaims. “Welcome to the ideas boom.” [Read More...]

11 March 2016
by Thom Mitchell

Bob Brown Is Taking “Shocking” Anti-Protest Laws To The High Court

Former Australian Greens leader Bob Brown has launched a High Court challenge to Tasmania’s anti-protest laws – labelled “shocking” by a United Nations official – arguing that they breach the right to freedom of political communication implied in the Australian Constitution.

The case will likely be watched closely by other states, including the NSW Government, which is seeking to introduce similar anti-protest laws, and the West Australian government, which passed new laws last year. [Read More...]

10 March 2016
by Fergus Hunter

Jeff Kennett attacks Malcolm Turnbull for 'self-interest' and lack of courage

Former Liberal Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett

Former Victorian Liberal premier Jeff Kennett has savaged Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's government for having a gutless approach to policy making and considering an early double-dissolution election, which he says is driven exclusively by self-interest.

Mr Kennett said that Mr Turnbull's stances on gay marriage and negative gearing expose his lack of courage and conviction and are a failure to take advantage of a mandate. [Read More...]

10 March 2016
by Heath Aston

Barnaby Joyce faces pincer-movement threat from Tony Windsor and state Green Jeremy Buckingham in New England

Tony Windsor is aiming for a comeback less than three years after he retired.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is facing a potentially dangerous, multi-pronged attack in his seat of New England, with the challenge of Tony Windsor to be augmented by a high-profile candidate representing the Greens.

Former independent MP Tony Windsor will attempt to reclaim his seat of New England from Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce. Fairfax's Heath Aston explains.

Mr Windsor is set to announce his intention to again contest New England at a press conference in Canberra on Thursday, less than three years after his retirement from politics. [Read More...]

10 March 2016
by John Pilger

Freeing Julian Assange: the last chapter

One of the epic miscarriages of justice of our time is unravelling. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention - the international tribunal that adjudicates and decides whether governments comply with their human rights obligations - has ruled that Julian Assange has been detained unlawfully by Britain and Sweden.

After five years of fighting to clear his name - having been smeared relentlessly yet charged with no crime - Assange is closer to justice and vindication, and perhaps freedom, than at any time since he was arrested and held in London under a European Extradition Warrant, itself now discredited by Parliament. [Read More...]

09 March 2016
by Max Atkinson

Gaming the system

The late Padraic P McGuiness, editor of Quadrant and scourge of the left - in a rare moment of magnanimity - once wrote a column conceding that 'process' reforms, those which ensure the integrity of government, were invariably the province of Greens and Independents, because major parties aiming to govern in their own right are loathe to accept constraints on the means used to win elections.

This was certainly true in Tasmania when Dr. Bob Brown, during his first term in the House of Assembly in 1983, and among his many private member's initiatives, pushed for freedom of information laws. In 1989, when the Greens won five seats in the House he became leader and signed the Accord with Labor agreeing to a more open parliamentary process, a legislative research service, parity in parliamentary staffing and a reform agenda which included equal opportunity and freedom of information. [Read More...]

09 March 2016
by Nicole Hasham

Blow to Australia's $55 million Cambodia deal as two more refugees quit

Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton with Sok Phal, director of the Cambodian Interior Ministry's immigration department last year.

A married Iranian couple who were once refugees at Nauru have left Cambodia and returned to their homeland despite the potential dangers, in a further sign Australia's $55 million deal with the south-east Asian nation has failed.

The office of Immigration Minister Peter Dutton confirmed the development on Tuesday, but said Nauru refugees were still encouraged to move to Cambodia. [Read More...]

09 March 2016
by Mark Abernethy

Austal shipbuilding methods winning contracts with US Navy

Littoral Combat Ship

Exports are often an unrecognised but critical element of the viability of many major local defence industry companies.

One of those is the Perth-based Austal, which has become a major supplier to the US Navy.

"Exporting was probably the key to this company's success," says the outgoing chief executive officer of Austal, Andrew Bellamy, who will be stepping down from the position soon.

The manufacturer of innovative aluminium ships operates from shipyards in WA, the Philippines and Alabama, the latter where has the third-largest shipyard in the United States. It builds – or is building – defence vessels for Australia, USA, Oman, Yemen, Malta, Kuwait, Trinidad and Tobago and Bermuda, and it supplied all 30 of Australia's border patrol vessels. [Read More...]

08 March 2016
by Agency

Matildas reach Rio after Olympic qualifying victory over North Korea DPR Korea 1-2 Australia

Michelle Heyman’s fine finish put the Matildas 1-0 up in their Olympic qualifier against North Korea in Osaka.

Needing just a point to secure passage to Rio and the 2016 Olympic Games, the Matildas did more than enough with a famous 2-1 victory over a sometimes overly-physical North Korea in Osaka.

Michelle Heyman’s well-taken first-half goal and a beautifully crafted Katrina Gorry strike sealed the win – Australia’s fourth in as many games in this qualifying tournament – and sent the Matildas to their first Olympics since Athens in 2004. [Read More...]

08 March 2016
by Mark Ludlow

Clive Palmer sacks administrators, resumes control of Queensland Nickel

An improving nickel price has allowed Clive Palmer to take back operational control of Queensland Nickel, with a fresh $23 million cash injection to keep the ailing refinery open.

While administrators held an urgent meeting with major creditors on Monday afternoon to discuss the Palaszczuk government's $10 million financial lifeline, Mr Palmer moved swiftly to sack FTI Consulting as the managers of the Yabulu refinery and set up a new company to take control. [Read More...]

07 March 2016
by AAP

Australia's Lucas Browne wins heavyweight boxing world title

Australia’s Lucas Browne recovered from being cut and knocked down in the sixth round to stop Ruslan Chagaev in the 10th.

Australia has its first world heavyweight boxing champion with Sydney’s Lucas Browne scoring a 10th-round stoppage of WBA regular champion Ruslan Chagaev in Grozny, Chechnya.

Sydneysider Browne showed enormous heart, coming back from a disastrous sixth round in which he was cut and knocked down by the southpaw from Uzbekistan in his second title defence. [Read More...]

07 March 2016
by Paul Daley

Murrumu: one man's mission to create a sovereign Indigenous country inside Australia

Murrumu Walubara Yidindji and his son, Thoyo, seven, who was enrolled in school using a Yidindji birth certificate.

In 2014 the former press gallery journalist officially ‘quit’ Australia to form his own nation in Queensland. Almost two years later he is the Yidindji foreign minister, and it’s clear he’s doing much more than making a symbolic point.

It’s not easy being a foreign affairs and trade minister when travelling overseas from the country most of us know as Australia is as complicated as it has become for Murrumu Walubara Yidindji.

Murrumu announced he was officially quitting this country in 2014 to live under the tribal law of his Yidindji people in north Queensland. When he did so, he surrendered the documentary chattels that accompany citizenship for most of us – a bank account, drivers’ licence, Medicare card, superannuation and a passport. [Read More...]

07 March 2016
by Joshua Robertson

From rags to riches to rags in 12 years: the extraordinary story of Nathan Tinkler

Nathan Tinkler watching the Newcastle Jets football team in New South Wales

The prickly Australian tycoon’s fortunes were closely tied to the massive boom – and now bust – in coal and commodities.

It is a safe bet there will never be another Nathan Tinkler. A former apprentice electrician, Tinkler went from living with his parents to becoming Australia’s youngest ever billionaire – and, last week, going bankrupt. His extraordinary rise and fall took just 12 years, and neatly sums up an unprecedented mining and commodities boom that has now imploded. [Read More...]

06 March 2016
by Kaye Lee

The next election is our chance for a people’s revolution

Last year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) produced a paper titled Causes and Consequences of Income Inequality : A Global Perspective.

They found that “increasing the income share of the poor and the middle class actually increases growth while a rising income share of the top 20 percent results in lower growth—that is, when the rich get richer, benefits do not trickle down.”

They identified weakening protection for labour as one of the common drivers of inequality and suggested that policy “should focus on raising the income share of the poor, and ensuring there is no hollowing out of the middle class. To tackle inequality policies should focus on raising human capital and skills and making tax systems more progressive.” [Read More...]

06 March 2016
by Adam Gartrell

Retiring federal politicians will get six-figure pensions for life

The majority of federal politicians who have announced their retirement this year will be paid annual pensions of at least $118,000 - and in some cases much more - adding more than $2 million to the annual bill.

Of the 22 MPs and senators who have already announced they will not re-contest the upcoming election, 16 are believed to be eligible for the controversial Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Scheme. [Read More...]

06 March 2016
by Paul Bongiorno

Tony Abbott's party room broadsides

Tony Abbott arrived at the Coalition party room this week with a carefully crafted attack on Malcolm Turnbull. Its barbs were coated in treacle so thick one cabinet minister described it as almost nauseating. Turnbull responded almost in kind. His response to the man he replaced because he was an economic dud was laced with irony bordering on sarcasm.

The official briefing – which is a standard part of these meetings, where the press gallery is given a background account of events – played down the significance of the exchange. “He wasn’t having a go directly at anybody,” the gallery was told. “He was being very inclusive. There was no shirt-fronting, no chest poking. [Read More...]

05 March 2016

Report: Russia's military intelligence chief killed in secret operation in Lebanon

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Syrian President Bashar Assad at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, October 20, 2015.

The Kremlin announced the death of Sergun on January 4, saying that he died in Moscow after a heart attack.

The Head of Russia's military intelligence service, Colonel-General Igor Sergun, was killed in January during a secret mission in the Lebanon's capital, Beirut, the Lebanese daily newspaper al-Akhbar reported Thursday. [Read More...]

05 March 2016
by David Balaban

The new era of cyber extortion

Online extortion is on the rise. In pursuit of new victims and markets, it is mutating in terms of characteristics and attack vectors. Moderncyber weapons include DDoS attacks, file encryption and device locking, all supported by social engineering and backed by the anonymity of Tor and Bitcoin.

Cyber extortionists first flung ransomware at individual users, via mass spamming campaigns. Then, they turned to targeting businesses and organizations, via specially crafted spear-phishing emails. [Read More...]

05 March 2016
by Owen Bennett

Turnbull Escalates War on the Poor

Unemployed and underemployed Australians can be issued with on-the-spot fines by privately owned job agencies under a tough new Government proposal.

This month the Turnbull Government will be asking the Senate to support one of the most devastating attacks launched against poor and vulnerable Australians in recent memory. The Bill – entitled Social Security Legislation Amendment (Further Strengthening Job Seeker Compliance) Bill 2015 – proposes to give privately run job agencies unprecedented new powers to financially penalize unemployed and underemployed Australians. If passed the fines will come into effect on 1 July 2016. [Read More...]

05 March 2016
by Steve Laing

Are we missing something here?

When it comes to people arriving in Australia by boat, for some reason (best known to Rupert Murdoch and members of the LNP), many Australians become utterly apoplectic.

In a highly convincing strategy, the LNP – with a little help from their friends in the media – have persuaded a significant number of Australians that without strong border protection, our country and all that its stands for will be overrun by foreigners only here for economic gain and/or to commit atrocities on the local population. Given that this is what occurred from 1788 onwards, I suspect one could argue that there is good evidence to go on. [Read More...]

04 March 2016
by Kate O'Callaghan

Risking it all – BP and the Great Australian Bight

This week a Senate inquiry was announced to investigate BP’s proposal to search for oil in the Great Australian Bight off South Australia.

The oil giant wants to drill four deep-water exploration wells in the ocean floor about 300 kilometres south west of Ceduna, believing the stocks to be of global significance.

Last November, BP’s first application was rejected by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environment Management Authority (NOPSEMA) for failing to meet environmental requirements. But NOPSEMA has given BP the opportunity to submit another application once it has worked on its environmental plan. [Read More...]

04 March 2016
by Desmond O'Grady

Cardinal George Pell is in the hot seat in Australia and the Vatican

The pressure is on Cardinal George Pell not only through the hearings of the Commission on sexual abuse of children but also in the Vatican.

When I recently observed to a Vatican employee that the hearing must embarrass the Vatican, the response was: "That's the understatement of the year." [Read More...]

04 March 2016
by Primrose Riordan

Barnaby Joyce calls for truce in Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull war

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has called for unity in wake of explosive tensions between Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott.

The comments come after Mr Turnbull announced the Defence Department and the Australian Federal Police will investigate the leak of sensitive national security documents published in newspapers on Wednesday along with quotes from Mr Abbott. [Read More...]

03 March 2016
by John Kelly

Turnbull, the Puppet P.M.

After observing Malcolm Turnbull for the past five months, nothing could be clearer to the shrewd onlooker. If his accession to the leadership was to signal something different, a new direction, a policy reversal of any kind, it would have happened by now.

He is a puppet leader controlled by the extreme right of the party, the real faceless men of Australian politics. [Read More...]

03 March 2016
by Gareth Hutchens

Today's pensioners are demanding too much from taxpayers

Editor: We are in a moment in time where 'baby boomers' have just reached or are reaching retirement age. Superannuation, which wasn't available to early 'baby boomers' will soon kick in to all residents, and the pressure will be off the welfare economy. Governments should take this into account.

Pensioners are demanding so much support from taxpayers that the generational "bargain" between retired and working Australians is becoming unbalanced, the Centre for Independent Studies says.

A new CIS report, called The Myths of the Generational Bargain, is warning an unrealistic expectation has been established in Australia that the real value of the pension should keep increasing over time [Read More...]

03 March 2016
by J.R.Nethercote

Double dissolution elections are a minefield

For the first time in nearly three decades the voters of Australia may be going to the polls in a double dissolution election, an election at which the entire memberships of both the Senate and the House of Representatives are contested.

The last, and only the sixth, occasion when voters were so drawn to the polls was on July 11, 1987. The Australia Card legislation was the sole bill relied upon by the Hawke government to call that election. [Read More...]

02 March 2016
by Fleur Anderson

A battle of aggressive complimenting

Tony Abbott could be talking to Malcolm Turnbull about tax reform or singing happy birthday to him in a pair of red budgie smugglers, and there will be a level of social awkwardness.

An outbreak of aggressive compliments between the former prime minister and the current one in the joint party room on Tuesday had backbenchers and ministers squirming in their seats as the awkwardness level hit extreme.. [Read More...]

02 March 2016
by Edmund Tadros

Essential poll puts Coalition, Labor at 50-50

An Essential poll published on Tuesday is the second survey in two weeks to show Coalition and Labor at 50 per cent each.

The drop in government support comes as the Coalition continues to wage an internal battle over tax reform with former prime minister Tony Abbott calling on Malcolm Turnbull to reject changes to negative gearing and instead cut spending to fund tax cuts. [Read More...]

02 March 2016
by Michael West

Card giant MasterCard lowers local tax bill

MasterCard lowers its local tax bills through deals with Singapore's government.

The wonderful thing about investigating multinational tax avoidance is that, despite the corporate spin and obfuscation, there is a hard number that you can always hang your hat on.

No matter the highfalutin excuses from slick PR types and the rhetoricians of the corporate tax lobby for why such paltry tax is paid; no matter the illimitable complexity of tax laws and financial engineering, this precious number displays how much tax has been paid to the Australian Tax Office each year – cash. [Read More...]

01 March 2016
by Anica Niepraschk

Nuclear Waste - 'Community consent' without community?

The federal government - once again - is looking for a place to dump its nuclear waste. All attempts over the last twenty years have failed – and so might this one, at least if the government is sticking to the promises it made in its new approach.

The process is to be voluntary and no dump is to be located anywhere without community consent. These are the words at least. 28 sites across Australia had been nominated by landowners last year and were reduced to a shortlist of six by the Department for Resources. [Read More...]

01 March 2016
by Zushan Hashmi

The cost of Australia’s uranium deal with India

Zushan Hashmi discusses the Turnbull Government's recent unrestricted nuclear deal with India and the diplomatic ramifications for the South Asia region.

THERE IS NO DOUBT that the civil nuclear deal recently signed by Australia and India, for the purpose of exporting uranium, has raised various important questions regarding the use of Australian uranium in India.

Despite these questions being asked, various government officials have reassured the international and domestic community that the deal will build on the bilateral relationship between the two nations, through economic and strategic means.

Yet, it is quite clear that there are various risks involved on Australia’s part, which in turn, can significantly hamper their geopolitical reputation and affect their bilateral relationships with other nations — potentially leading to instability in South Asia. [Read More...]

01 March 2016
by ANR

Windsor urged to challenge Joyce for seat of New England

Tony Windsor

Former Independent Federal MP Tony Windsor has been urged to run against current MP Barnaby Joyce for the seat of New England in the 2016 elections.

According to a petition published by farmer Rosemary Nankivell on Get Up!:

“Tony Windsor – former Independent member for New England – has said he’s considering running against Barnaby Joyce. I don’t just think it’s a good option. If we want to protect our farmlands, I think it’s our only option.

“I’ve seen a few election campaigns here in my time – but this year, it feels like the 2016 election counts for double. With Barnaby Joyce as Deputy Prime Minister, leader of a party funded by coal and gas industry — he’ll be making decisions for the whole country, not just for us”, said Ms Nankivell. [Read More...]