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October 2016

11 October 2016
by Bension Siebert

BP abandons plans to drill the Bight

BP has abandoned its $600 million plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight, the industrial giant announced this morning.

BP’s Managing Director for Exploration and Production in Australia, Claire Fitzpatrick, said in a statement this morning that the project did not align with BP’s “strategic goals”.

“We have looked long and hard at our exploration plans for the Great Australian Bight but, in the current external environment, we will only pursue frontier exploration opportunities if they are competitive and aligned to our strategic goals,” Fitzpatrick said. [Read More...]

11 October 2016
by David Tyler

Turnbull government provides a full card of diversions on its downward slide into extinction.

News emerges this week of another Coalition cover-up as a UN investigative report is leaked which exposes conditions on Manus and Nauru. Not only are asylum-seekers found to be in poor physical health, they also suffer extraordinary rates of mental disorder. The government has known this unofficially for months but has done nothing.

The United Nations refugee agency, UHCR will meet Immigration officials 11 October, to share the findings of its April and May investigations into the physical and mental suffering of those whom Australia has expediently locked up forever and forgotten on Manus and Nauru Islands. Informal briefings, provided months ago, were pointedly ignored by a government that, like its predecessor, “will not be lectured” by the UN. [Read More...]

11 October 2016
by Andrew Elder

Lawyers and the Liberal Party: What’s keeping Brandis in office?

Brandis' misuse of travel entitlements, "right to be bigots" speech and now the arcane dispute with the Solicitor-General. The answer to why he hasn't resigned may lie in the absence of a suitable replacement.

When Joe Hockey left Parliament, I ignorantly speculated Turnbull might seek out a leading Sydney lawyer to replace both him and accident-prone Attorney-General George Brandis. There are precedents for that in Liberal Party history.

Being out of the NSW Liberals' loop for 16 years now, I was unaware my Young Libs contemporary Trent Zimmerman had North Sydney in the bag.

There are precedents for my being wrong about prognostications, too. But being wrong about that has revealed a deeper truth — a divorce from conservative politics of a once-significant social and professional group. [Read More...]

10 October 2016
by Leon Moulden

Turnbull Government blames jobless for no jobs

Instead of creating jobs and programmes to assist Australia's young jobless, the Turnbull Government is blaming young people.
For anyone following the news lately it would be easy to think that Australia is being overrun by hordes of young Australians who are not in employment, education, or training — commonly referred to as "NEETs".

The tabloid press and radio shock jocks regularly complain, rant and augment the truth about NEETs — today’s "lazy" youth.

This visceral impulse within sections of Australian society to blame youth unemployment on young Australians instead of considering the impacts of a globalised economy on the job market, is unfortunately matched by the Turnbull Government’s eagerness to punish young unemployed Australians by further restricting their access to unemployment benefits. [Read More...]

10 October 2016
by Heath Aston

Turnbull government called on to explain where Australia's offshore gas wealth is going

The gas export hub at Barrow Island, of northern Western Australia.

It's a story of two resource-rich countries with two very different ways of harnessing the wealth they are blessed with.
By 2021 Australia will eclipse the Persian Gulf state of Qatar to become the world's biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas.

In that year, when both countries are forecast to pump and ship roughly 100 billion cubic metres of LNG each, Qatar's government will receive $26.6 billion in royalties from the multinational companies exploiting its offshore gasfields. [Read More...]

10 October 2016
by Heath Aston

Labor to torpedo same sex marriage plebiscite as new poll finds two-third want vote in Parliament

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and deputy Tanya Plibersek meet representatives of the LGBTI community in Sydney.

Labor is all but certain to kill off the Coalition's same sex marriage plebiscite, with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten claiming he has "struggled to find anyone who thinks it's a good idea" during weeks of consultation.

Having so far refused to reveal his hand, Mr Shorten will outline his final position on the plebiscite to the ALP caucus on Tuesday before the party adopts a formal stance – almost certainly for a free vote in Parliament as the only way forward. [Read More...]

10 October 2016
by Matthew Cranston

Chinese snap up the Earl of Stradbroke's Australian farmland

Chinese-backed company Harmony Beef and Cattle is buying the Earl of Stradbroke's grand rural property Mt Fyans in the Western District of Victoria for about $34 million.

It is the first purchase by Harmony Beef and Cattle – a company ultimately owned by the major Chinese group He Sheng – and reflects the growing Chinese investment in Australia's prime agricultural land. [Read More...]

07 October 2016
by Michael Koziol

George Brandis denies he misled Parliament, resists calls to resign

George Brandis

Attorney-General George Brandis has vehemently denied misleading Parliament and refused calls to resign amid an extraordinary and escalating brawl engulfing the country's top lawyers.

Senator Brandis insisted he consulted appropriately before ordering that all ministers, including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, obtain his written approval to seek legal advice from Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson.

In an explosive submission to a Senate inquiry, Mr Gleeson said he had not been consulted about the controversial change, and would have opposed it "in the strongest terms" if given the chance. [Read More...]

07 October 2016
by Ben Potter

Mystery Over SA Wind Failure

A big drop in output from six South Australian wind farms was a key event in the sequence leading to the state's blackout last week but the Australian Energy Market Operator assigns no reasons for the reduction in generation.

That left protagonists in the debate about whether wind power was the culprit - such as South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill - clutching at straws. A detailed report is a month away. [Read More...]

06 October 2016
by Adele Ferguson

This bank tribunal isn't a show trial, it's a farce

CBA chief executive Ian Narev batted away questions with ease.

Far from being a show trial, the eagerly anticipated parliamentary banking tribunal was called out as a "farce" by one of its participants.

Sadly, it was never going to be much else, given the limited amount of time made available to drill the big four bank bosses: an average of about 15 minutes for each politician.

The purpose of the tribunal was the Turnbull government's attempt to stave off the growing calls for a royal commission. [Read More...]

06 October 2016
by Eryk Bagshaw

An end to the country's largest get-rich-quick scheme

Vocational scheme shakeout: Education Minister Simon Birmingham.

The party is over for the cowboys, shonks and shysters who grew drunk on billions of dollars in taxpayer funding through the government's failed vocational education scheme.

The great equaliser of the Gillard government turned bipartisan disaster has cost the public at least $2.9 billion since 2012, while students in some of Australia's poorest communities have been saddled with debt they will never repay for courses they never needed. [Read More...]

05 October 2016
by David Tyler

The lights go out for the Turnbull government.

Greg Hunt begins the week in attack dog mode. Bill Shorten is “… a blinding hypocrite … a fraud, a charlatan … an absolute failure of leadership,” yaps the Industry and Innovation paragon. Killer Chihuahua Hunt, a former Environment Minister who famously puts coal above coral, is a climate guru, who simply made up the numbers for Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction pledge in Paris last year, a senate enquiry this week reveals. Why would a world’s best minister need to bother with modelling?

When PM Turnbull attacks states’ renewable energy targets in the wake of SA’s power failure he appears similarly unfettered by empiricism; equally keen to blame Labor states’ “aggressive” targets. [Read More...]

05 October 2016
by John Passant

SA blackout: The 'renewables and Labor did it' tale

The absurdity of the Turnbull Government's claims that the SA blackouts were caused by renewables.

The Turnbull Government rushed in where angels fear to tread and disingenuously blamed renewables for the blackout in South Australia.

They used the blackout as an opportunity to bad mouth renewables — in part doing so to defend their coal mining mates and their profits.

In the longer term, it is about trying to force the States and Territories to cut their current, and in the words of both Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Minister for Energy AND the Environment Josh Frydenberg, "unrealistic", renewable energy targets under the guise of a national renewables target. [Read More...]

05 October 2016
by Primrose Riordan

Tesla batteries kept the telly on for 73-year-old unaffected by SA blackout

Seventy-three-year-old Brian Gillespie from South Australia's Eden Valley did not even realise there was a state-wide blackout last week.

"I'm a bit of a news freak so I tend to watch the local news on Channel Seven or Nine, then I watch first quarter of an hour or 20 mins of the world news on SBS and in the meantime I'm recording The Project," he said. [Read More...]

04 October 2016
by Richard Ackland

Now we're flogging off the land registry. This is not good news for homeowners

‘The sale of the state land registry to a private operator has not been on the public radar, which is odd because what is at stake is the high level of title security that is currently guaranteed.’

The land registry is crucial to the protection of people’s most precious possession. Its privatisation could make expensive title insurance a necessity

The lengths and depths to which governments will go to flog off precious public silverware knows no bounds. The extraordinary sale of the country’s largest land titles registry is the latest piece of critical infrastructure to be thrown open to private control. [Read More...]

04 October 2016
by Stephen Koukoulas

Credit downgrade assured if Coalition keeps hiding from its debt and deficit disaster

Scott Morrison and Mathias Cormann buried the final budget outcome, which shows the Coalition spending at an alarming rate

The treasurer, Scott Morrison, and the finance minister, Mathias Cormann, “took out the garbage” last Friday afternoon, dumping the final budget outcome for 2015-16 on the Treasury website under the cover of the football grand finals, a long weekend and the start of school holidays around much of the country.

Morrison and Cormann came close to breaching the Charter of Budget Honesty, which requires the release of each budget outcome for the prior financial year by 30 September each year. They made it with a few hours to spare. [Read More...]

04 October 2016
by Primrose Riordan

Julie Bishop calls on Philippines' Rodrigo Duterte to maintain US alliance

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has urged Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to maintain the country's links to the United States and end his government's extrajudicial killings after he compared himself to Hitler and threatened to kill "millions".

In his latest outburst against the US, Mr Duterte vowed to review a bi-lateral agreement which gives American troops access to Philippine military bases. The comments came after he said his navy would not be joining further US patrols through contested areas of the South China Sea. [Read More...]

03 October 2016
by Paul Weaver

Australia's Ricciardo Wins Malaysian Grand Prix

Furious Lewis Hamilton demands answers from Mercedes after Malaysian GP

Daniel Ricciardo celebrates his victory on the podium after the Malaysia Grand Prix at Sepang, his first win of the season.

Lewis Hamilton’s world championship hopes went up in flames at the Sepang International Circuit on Sunday. The world champion was closing in on a well-deserved victory after totally dominating the weekend in Kuala Lumpur – and the win would have seen him regain his lead in the race for the Formula One title.

But then fire burst out of the back of his Mercedes on the 41st of the 56 laps and he had to retire. “No! No! No!” he screamed in frustration as he pulled off the track. Then he held his head in his hands. On the pit-wall Toto Wolff, the team’s head of motor sport, did exactly the same thing. [Read More...]

03 October 2016
by Matthew Knott

More than 150 private schools over-funded by hundreds of millions of dollars each year

Loreto Kirribilli, an elite Catholic girls school, received 283 per cent of its funding entitlement.

More than 150 private schools are being over-funded by hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars each year at the expense of other needy students, according to a new analysis that details the distortions and inequities in Australia's school funding system.

The analysis reveals some wealthy schools are over-funded by $7 million a year while many schools in both the public and private sectors remain significantly underfunded.

Federal and state governments would have more than $215 million extra a year to distribute to needy schools if they stopped funding others above what they are are entitled to under the Gonski formula, the analysis shows. Schools deemed to be over-funded by the federal government receive more than $1 billion a year in taxpayer funding. [Read More...]

03 October 2016
by John Kehoe

US pressure on Malcolm Turnbull over WIPO's Francis Gurry

Francis Gurry

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was issued a letter on his visit to Washington two weeks ago from US Congressman Christopher Smith demanding the government stop defending the "bad acts" of Australia's most senior United Nations diplomat and protect whistleblowers who reported allegations against him.

Francis Gurry, the director general of the Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organisation, has been probed by UN investigators and US congressional committees over three issues.

The government has stood by Dr Gurry, who heads the influential UN agency that rules on thousands of international patent and trademark applications, employs about 1300 people and has a budget of almost $1 billion. [Read More...]

01 October 2016

AFL Grand Final Day

Sydney Swans v Western Bulldogs

01 October 2016
by Paul Bongiorno

Plebiscite politics

The same-sex marriage plebiscite is the political fix that is destroying the Turnbull government. A huge claim, but consider this: just as John Howard’s stubborn refusal to say “sorry” to the Stolen Generations of Indigenous children defined his late career loss of touch, so too is this farce defining Malcolm Turnbull.

As an issue it is not the whole story behind this week’s shock Newspoll result that saw Labor take a clear lead in the two-party preferred, 52 to 48. But it is as sure an indication as any that the barely re-elected government has not been impressing voters since its return to power. More damaging is the downward spiral that is Turnbull’s approval [Read More...]

01 October 2016
by Kate Middleton

Political power struggle after SA’s statewide blackout

SA Storm over Adelaide

As wild storms lashed the state on Wednesday, social media proved some managed to maintain a sense of humour in the darkness.

“Congratulations South Australia!” one Instagrammer posted in a map meme. “The first state to reach zero emissions.”

Were there other factors in South Australia that turned a horrendous storm into a wider catastrophe? And could it happen elsewhere?
But governments – and a few others beside – are demanding to know: Why did an entire state lose power in one storm-ravaged afternoon? [Read More...]