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Monthly Archives: July 2019

Supporters scramble to spin Labor’s gains

SUPPORTERS of the Prime Minister, the Opposition Leader and the people who most covet their jobs were all claiming vindication yesterday after two major national opinion polls that showed Labor closing the gap on the Coalition.
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Both the Herald/Nielsen poll and Newspoll showed Labor clawing back ground against the Coalition, while Julia Gillard’s personal ratings were rising and Tony Abbott’s falling.

As Mr Abbott’s senior shadow ministers rushed to defend him as a good person being vilified, Liberals confided they were relieved that the gap had narrowed because hubris had begun to settle in and the party needed a wake-up call.

”It doesn’t hurt that he’s had a bit of a belt under the ears … We’re taking too much for granted,” a senior party source said of Mr Abbott.

The Herald poll showed that while the Coalition would still win if an election were held today, Mr Abbott’s personal standing was at a record low and twice as many voters preferred Malcolm Turnbull as leader. The Newspoll showed Labor has pulled even with the Coalition and the two-party preferred vote was 50-50.

The Deputy Opposition Leader, Julie Bishop, was Mr Abbott’s main defender yesterday. She said the polls were always going to tighten up and she attributed the plunge in Mr Abbott’s fortunes to the damaging allegations last week that he physically intimidated a female student at university 35 years ago, saying this was part of a broader strategy by Labor to demonise Mr Abbott.

Ms Bishop and the manager of opposition business, Christopher Pyne, argued Mr Abbott was misunderstood. Both pointed out how he had spent Saturday with his local fire brigade, helping with back burning, while on Sunday he helped a blind man run a full marathon.

The government was not getting carried away but several MPs and ministers said there was a softening of hostility towards the government, largely because the carbon tax had not proved to be the monster the opposition claimed it would be.

”This is a campaign that has hit a brick wall of reality,” the senior minister Anthony Albanese said.

While Labor was improving under Ms Gillard, the Herald poll showed the government’s primary vote would jump 10 percentage points to 44 per cent if Mr Rudd were leader.

Supporters of Ms Gillard said these numbers would evaporate quickly if there were a change of leader and they said the steady improvement should keep the Rudd camp at bay.

”It may not [keep him quiet] but it deflates his tyres,” one said.

But a Rudd supporter took a different view: ”We might win with her; we will win with him.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Changing nature of a bushwalk in 2070

GOING for a bushwalk in the year 2070 will be an almost unrecognisable experience.
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”It will look different, it will sound different, it will probably even smell different,” said Michael Dunlop, a senior CSIRO researcher, who helped produce the first comprehensive national report into the effects of climate change on biodiversity.

An increasing ”sameness” would characterise the landscape, as rainforest became dry forest, woodland became scrubland, and scrub bled into open grassland, Dr Dunlop said.

As a result, many of the ecological patterns that have become familiar would erode away, the report found.

Sophisticated climate and data measurement models were deployed to isolate 23 types of ecological environment around the continent, then track how they are likely to respond to rising temperatures. The models point to rapid change. By 2030, a transformation of many natural environments will be well under way, and by 2070, they will be obvious.

As well as experiencing higher temperatures, many habitats will be drier and prone to more frequent fires, said the report, The Implications of Climate Change for Biodiversity Conservation and the National Reserve System. Some animal and plant species might benefit from the changes, but the models predicted that by about 2070, the net effect on biodiversity would be a decidedly negative one.

The report said climate change was overlaid on existing environmental problems, such as encroaching development on wilderness areas and battles over water resources, and magnified their effects on stressed plants and animals. The researchers hope their study, which took three years to complete, will start a conversation about the meaning of ”conservation”.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Whistleblowers retrenched

TWO of three CSIRO employees who blew the whistle on alleged ”criminal or civil breaches of the law” by the scientific organisation were later made redundant, it has been revealed.
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But the officials who were the subject of the complaints remain employed, the CSIRO has confirmed.

The details have emerged after a group of former CSIRO employees began a campaign for a change in culture, alleging mismanagement and bullying were rife.

Last Thursday, a parliamentary inquiry examining workplace bullying in Commonwealth agencies published the group’s submission. It claims the group is aware of 60 cases of top-flight scientists and other officials who were bullied or otherwise forced out.

This list has names on it such as Maarten Stapper, a soil scientist allegedly pushed out because of his criticism of genetically modified crops, globally recognised oceanographer Trevor McDougall, and award-winning entomologist Sylwester Chyb, who has begun litigation against the CSIRO for misleading conduct and unlawful termination. The CSIRO has declined to respond to the allegations, but the group says some of those forced out had tried to report misconduct or maladministration. Among the group’s recommendations is improved protection for whistleblowers.

”Current whistleblower legislation does not adequately protect from persecution those making public interest declarations,” the document says.

”This is particularly true in circumstances in which it is hard to identify a direct link between a whistleblower complaint and subsequent, seemingly unrelated, adverse action against the employee in his or her workplace.”

The organisation is also grappling with a spike in the damages it has had to pay as a result of occupational health and safety claims made to the Commonwealth OH&S regulator and insurer, Comcare. The increased cost of the claims has meant that the premiums Comcare charges the CSIRO have nearly tripled, from $1.9 million in 2011-12 to $4.9 million this financial year.

At a budget estimates hearing in May, Tasmanian senator David Bushby asked the CSIRO about its handling of whistleblower complaints and those who made them. In answers provided last month, it confirmed two complaints were lodged in 2010 and one in 2008, all of which made serious allegations about unlawful activity.

But while the CSIRO did not retrench any of those against whom allegations were made, it did retrench two complainants.

”One CSIRO employee, who had lodged a whistleblower complaint on March 10, 2008, was made redundant on August 23, 2010, as there was an insufficient volume of … work to sustain the position,” it said.

”A second employee, who lodged a whistleblower complaint on February 23, 2010, was made redundant on September 4, 2011, as CSIRO no longer required the job be performed by anyone because of changes in operational requirements.”

CSIRO spokesman Huw Morgan declined to give details of the allegations made by the whistleblowers, saying it might help reveal their identity.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Food-labelling bill puts Greens in hot water

THE major parties have lashed the Greens for rushing in a bill to change country of origin food-labelling rules, without consulting them or properly analysing the impact on the food processing sector.
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The Greens yesterday introduced legislation to Parliament that would define country of origin labelling to better reflect where raw produce originated.

At present, if more than half of the packaging costs are incurred in Australia and goods have been substantially processed here, regardless of where the basic produce is from, the item can be labelled ”made in”.

The bill is based on a 2011 review of Australia and New Zealand’s food-labelling standards.

The Greens say it will help people who want to buy Australian products, and local farmers. AUSVEG, which represents 9000 vegetable and potato growers, and consumer group Choice have welcomed the bill. Choice, however, warned the Greens Australians still wanted to know where products were made.

The federal government says it is already working with state governments to respond to the review’s recommendations.

A spokeswoman for Industry and Innovation Minister Greg Combet said the Greens ignored that the Commonwealth could not unilaterally change food-labelling laws and codes.

”The Greens have rushed in with private member’s legislation that involved little analysis of the impact on the food processing sector,” she said. ”Country of origin labelling rules need to give consumers accurate and useful information without imposing unnecessary costs on the food-processing sector, which could ultimately hurt food producers and consumers.”

Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce, who co-sponsored a similar bill with the Greens and Senator Nick Xenophon in 2009, said while the Greens’ idea had merit, the party was going about it the wrong way.

Senator Joyce said the Coalition was working towards a position and warned such tactics by the Greens could set the issue back by making it a partisan matter.

”This is typical Greens, they never negotiate with anybody, they just rush in,” Senator Joyce said. ”Any fool can bring in a bill, but it actually takes authenticity to do the work to gather the numbers so you can achieve an outcome. To the best of my knowledge they have not contacted anybody.”

Greens leader Senator Christine Milne said given the issue had been on the agenda for several years, and that the government had still not responded to the review presented in January 2011, ”it is hard to see how anyone is rushing into anything”.

“This bill builds on years of public work, has been developed in consultation with a range of stakeholders and, as is standard practice, we hope to see it referred to a Senate inquiry. I look forward to Labor and the Nationals engaging in good-faith discussions about how it might be improved,” she said.

Coles merchandise director John Durkan said the company would be happy to see more stringent labels to help shoppers make informed choices.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Hate-mongering rioters wield religion to express deep-seated resentment

IT’S all so predictable. Someone sets out to provoke Muslims with perhaps the most amateurish, inept and unconvincing piece of footage ever published – Innocence of Muslims – and are duly obliged with a massive over-reaction.
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Just as with the Danish cartoon scandals of 2006, the extremists sought to prove Islam is a religion of peace by killing a few Christians and burning churches, so they prove religious maturity by rioting.

The richest irony is that no one would have noticed this ham-fisted message of hate without the worldwide exposure given by those wanting to silence it. What has brought shame on Islam has been the ugliness of a few Muslims.

It’s new and disturbing to see this in Australia, though. The rage is not really about the obviously silly film but wider resentments. The rioters ache to be provoked, to express their rage and humiliation. In chat rooms and social media they are alert for every slight.

In Australia, as Muslims integrate into mainstream society they learn to take the rough with the smooth – Christians and secularists are both used to vitriolic contempt from the far fringes of the other side – but there is no such impetus in Middle Eastern countries where the violence is really dangerous.

Nor is it all about religion, which is a convenient catch-all to express resentments – the context is far broader. The post-war pan-Arab movement was secular, but grew out of the same colonial humiliation; its failure and other historical developments, such as the Iranian Revolution that overthrew the Shah in Iran in 1979, have led to religion replacing nationalism.

In Australia, the majority of ordinary Muslims sigh and take a deep breath. They feel they shouldn’t have to disown this fringe again, but they must, and Muslim leaders and organisations have. And by extension people of all faiths get implicated. For example, The Age yesterday ran a letter with a call to categorise Christianity, Islam and Judaism ”terrorist organisations”. It’s time for everyone to take a deep breath and respond to what is actually happening, not their prejudices.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.