Sunday 31 July 2011

Soccer | World Cup qualifiers

Fabio Capello warns England against World Cup qualifiers complacency

• Group H: England, Ukraine, Montenegro, Poland, Moldova, San Marino
• Group A: Scotland, Wales, Croatia, Serbia, Belgium, Macedonia
• Group F: Northern Ireland, Portugal, Russia, Israel, Azerbaijan, Luxembourg
• Group C: Republic of Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Austria, Faroe Islands, Kazakhstan
Fabio Capello at the World Cup draw
England head coach Fabio Capello at the draw for the 2014 World Cup, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photograph: Nelson Almeida/AFP/Getty Images
Fabio Capello has warned England to "play every game like a final", following a World Cup qualifying draw in Rio de Janeiro that placed them in Group H with Montenegro, Poland, Ukraine, Moldova and San Marino.

The head coach, who will not be in charge as he departs his post after Euro 2012 campaign, said: "You have to be really, really focused and play every game like a final. England need to be careful, this will not be easy.

Obviously we know Montenegro [from England's European Championship qualifying group], Ukraine we played in qualification for the World Cup in South Africa. Poland are improving, because they are one of the hosts of the next European Championship. I don't know Moldova, but San Marino will be easy again."

October's meeting with Montenegro in Podgorica could decide who tops the Euro 2012 qualifying group, as the nations are separated only by goal difference. Capello believes a win there could prove crucial ahead of the World Cup campaign. "Yes, this will be very important for the future, for the next games we play against them," he said. Regarding the pivotal away trips, Capello added: "In Ukraine the stadium will be OK, in Poland things will be OK, Moldova I do not know, but Montenegro we know."

The Italian also believes enough new potential is developing to safeguard England's future. "It will be interesting to watch some of the players next season," Capello said. "I have spoken with some of the young players at Manchester United and Liverpool and with [Kieran] Gibbs, who will be in the first XI [of Arsenal] always. There is a chance that some of these players will be very important for the World Cup."

Rio Ferdinand, who was due to be England's captain at the South Africa World Cup last summer before he was injured, tweeted: "England WC [World Cup] qualifying group is similar to most qualifying campaigns, some tricky away games but have to be looking to qualify top."

Sir Trevor Brooking, the Football Association's director of football, also thought that England should reach the finals. He said: "We can't complain at the draw. We could have had a lot worse. I [think] we will qualify."

After England's hopes had been given a boost when they avoided being drawn with France, who were seeded in the second band of nations, the bookmakers immediately installed the 1966 World Cup winners as the favourites to secure an automatic berth. England are currently 2-5 to win Group H with Poland 5-1, Ukraine 6-1, Montenegro 12-1, 25-1 for Moldova and 5000-1 for San Marino.

Poland are familiar foes. Sir Alf Ramsey's side famously failed to reach the 1974 World Cup in West Germany after Jan Tomaszewski made several crucial saves at Wembley to prevent England achieving the required victory. But they also met at Mexico 86, when Gary Lineker scored a hat-trick in a 3-0 group win.

In all, England have won 10 of the meetings between the nations, drawing six, and losing only one, and qualified for the finals of the 1990, 1998 and 2006 World Cups, and the European Championships of 1992 and 2000 after facing the Poles. Aside from Ramsey's 1974 failure, only Graham Taylor's 1994 World Cup qualifying campaign has not ended in success.

Of the home nations, Scotland and Wales are in Group A, one of the more difficult divisions that includes Croatia, Serbia, Belgium and Macedonia, while Northern Ireland also face a tough challenge, being paired with Portugal, Russia, Israel Azerbaijan and Luxembourg in Group F.

Wales may feel they have the opportunity to gain revenge following a notorious incident in qualifying for the 1978 World Cup. In a home Wales match staged at Anfield, Joe Jordan appeared to handle the ball when jumping for a header, yet the referee awarded Scotland a penalty that Don Masson converted before Kenny Dalglish's goal to extinguish Wales's hopes.
Asked about meeting Wales, Stewart Regan, the Scottish Football Association chief executive, said: "They're all juicy fixtures. But yes, the home nations always provide extra interest."

Wales's manager, Gary Speed, said: "We have a chance of qualifying. We will have to be good and at the top of our game and have to improve from where we are now."

The Republic of Ireland may struggle to win Group C, as they will go up against Germany, but should fancy their chances of finishing second ahead of Sweden, Austria, the Faroe Islands and Kazakhstan.

Spain, the World Cup and European Championship holders, were drawn in the smallest group, of five countries. But they will have to overcome France, the 2006 finalists, if they are to qualify automatically.

The nine group winners qualify by right with the eight best runners-up playing off for Europe's last four berths in Brazil

Anna Bligh publicly says she is safe but Fraser is busily shoring up his numbers..

Queensland premier Anna Bligh says she is confident in her party's support

QUEENSLAND Premier Anna Bligh says she's not worried she'll meet the same fate as South Australia's Mike Rann.

Mr Rann has reportedly been told by the Labor Party's factional bosses they want him to step down after nine years as premier.

South Australian Education Minister Jay Weatherill is shaping up as the leading contender to take over the top job.

Ms Bligh said she understood it was not an easy time for her interstate colleague and friend, but it was up to his party to make its decision.

"Mike has been a very substantial figure on the national stage for a long time and I certainly hope that he is treated with the dignity that he deserves," she said.

But Ms Bligh said she wasn't worried she'd meet a similar fate, despite falls in popularity with voters.
"The leadership of Queensland will be determined by the people of Queensland in an election in 2012," she said.

My View

Unlike the Liberal Party, the ALP faction leaders pull no punches and deliver their verdicts  in cold ruthless manoeuvres that leave the vanquished shattered and the electors angry. The latest recipient of such treachery was the Premier of South Australia, Mr Rann.

I am wondering if the next leader to meet such fate is the Premier of Queensland, Ms Anna Bligh. It is common knowledge that three months ago she was given six months to turn the opinion polls around. Falling any significant improvement  in the polls she has undertaken to resign in favour of the Queensland Treasurer, Mr Andrew Fraser. Politically, Fraser is dead weight and is unelectable and lacks any charisma.

I note the extra exposure given to Fraser of late on issues outside his portfolio. This is taken place as per a plan designed by QLD ALP insiders. Polling will take place towards the end of September to gauge any political traction by Fraser. If the polls indicate a continuation of the slide in Bligh's support and a positive poll for Fraser, Bligh will be given the opportunity/ultimatum to resign with dignity.
Federal opposition leader Tony Abbott says Mike Rann's leadership woes are due to the carbon tax
Opposition leader Tony Abbott has used the impending downfall of South Australian premier Mike Rann to attack the federal government's carbon tax. 

 The Labor premier has reportedly been told by the party's factional bosses that they want him to step down as Labor leader after nine years as premier.

South Australian Education Minister Jay Weatherill is shaping up as the leading contender to take over the top job.

Mr Abbott said there were a lot of Labor leaders who were very insecure in their positions at the moment.

"Mike Rann is not the only Labor leader who would be feeling very insecure this week," he told reporters in Sydney today.

Mr Abbott said Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who grew up in South Australia, would also be insecure in her position as Labor leader because of the carbon tax.

"There are an enormous number of Labor backbenchers who feel Julia Gillard is leading the party to disaster," he said.

"It's going to cost jobs big time in their electorate."

While Rome burnt Nero fiddled!

A stoush over who would announce a planned dam expansion has led to the public rolling of a premier
THE leadership crisis in South Australia involving Premier Mike Rann and Education Minister Jay Weatherill centres on a dispute over who should announce BHP Billiton's expected expansion of the Olympic Dam mine early next year, it can be revealed.

A senior Right faction source this afternoon told The Australian Online that Mr Rann had agreed to step down as Premier only after he had made the expected announcement based on a decision yet to be endorsed by BHP Billiton's board.

The well-placed source said that during the past six weeks the dominant Right had agreed that Mr Weatherill should be the next Premier, even though he was from the Left, because he was their best chance of Labor winning a fourth term in 2014.

However, the source said, once Mr Weatherill was advised of the Right's decision to support him, he decided that he did not want to wait and that he should be the one to announce the mine expansion because it was so important for the future of the state.

There also was concern among the Left that the Right would renege on the deal.

Mr Weatherill conveyed this to right-aligned union boss Peter Malinauskas, who agreed that now was the right time to tell Mr Rann to step aside by August 31 because of parliament's winter break.

Mr Malinauskaus and Treasurer Jack Snelling conveyed this to Mr Rann late on Friday, but he reacted angrily and left yesterday for a one-week trip mission to India.

Mr Snelling late today did not deny the version of events when it was presented to him by The Australian Online at a press conference he had called.

A short time later Mr Rann released a statement saying that he would only step down as Premier once he had made the Olympic Dam expansion announcement.

"Before I step down as Premier and leader, there are a several key projects that I should complete, including most importantly, the go-ahead for the Olympic Dam expansion," Mr Rann said in the statement.

"I intend to conclude negotiations with BHP Billiton over the indenture agreement that will allow the expansion of the Olympic Dam mine project to proceed.

"On my return to the state I intend to make a further announcement about my future."

Queen Elizabeth's grandaughter Zara Phillips weds Mike Tindall

Kevin McKenna finds happy faces – and even a few union flags – as he joins the crowds to see Edinburgh's own royal wedding

 Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall wedding
Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall after their wedding ceremony at Canongate Kirk. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA

 The bride, as ever, looked radiant in a beautiful little off-the-shoulder number and the groom looked simply delighted. Then a white stretch limo pulled up and disgorged the ushers and a gaggle of bridesmaids, all pink and giggly. A lone piper greeted them at the door of the MacDonald Hotel then guests who had been sipping beers and Bacardis at the cafes on Holyrood Road followed them.

It was the wedding day of local couple Paul and Sharon, and they didn't seem in the least fazed by the thousands heading in the other direction for the union of a royal and a rugby star in the Canongate.

The Edinburgh Evening News had predicted a crowd of only 2,000, but there looked to be at least double that gathered 10-deep in the Edinburgh sunshine and stretching most of the way up the Royal Mile.

Earlier, I had sought to secure one of the little commemorative union flags that most people in the crowd seemed to be sporting. For this was Edinburgh's Old Town – perhaps the only place in Scotland where you can wave the red, white and blue without making an exhibition of yourself.

In the days before the wedding of the Princess Royal's daughter, some had tried to induce outrage at the cost of the event to the public purse. They had chosen the wrong target, though. Anne is Scotland's favourite royal and seems cast in our image and likeness. She doesn't seem to brook any nonsense and you can imagine her helping the servants bring the coal in of a winter night. Besides, she's patron of the Scottish Rugby Union and attends all Scotland's matches in a tartan skirt.

Zara herself seems a fresh and sonsie young woman who has emulated her mother as a world-ranking equestrian. The occasion had a down-to-earth feel – even, dare I say it, couthie. Two of Mike Tindall's ushers were family members while three came from his rugby background. One was Peter Phillips, Zara's brother. The groom's brother, Ian, was also among their number. And there was also a little human touch becoming of Anne: as she watched the couple set off for Holyroodhouse she firmly linked arms with Tindall's elderly father, Phil.

The choice of the Canongate Kirk as the venue for the nuptials struck some as unusual and iconoclastic, but it wasn't really. This 17th-century chapel, one of the most handsome in the city and commissioned by James VII, is the parish church of the Palace of Holyroodhouse and of the Scottish parliament. Indeed, did the Queen not worship there just the other week? She was also welcomed to this church 59 years ago, not long before her coronation.

In the Canongate kirkyard, perhaps one of the most beautiful urban resting places in Scotland, lie the remains of David Rizzio who loved a queen once then paid for it with his life. There, too, are the bones of Robert Fergusson, a great Scottish poet who inspired Robert Burns, and the philosopher Adam Smith is interred just ahead of him. One of the best views in Edinburgh lies just beyond
The spirit of another, whose remains do not lie in the Canongate, nevertheless haunts the Royal Mile.

Before his life of Samuel Johnson, James Boswell wrote his Edinburgh Journals based on his nocturnal adventures in this most historic of streets. This was 18th-century Scotland's Sunset Strip and housed many of the capital's shebeens and whorehouses.

Boswell, it seemed, visited every one. He would have chuckled at the procession of Daimlers ferrying the entire top tier of Britain's aristocracy to a church he once sashayed past while royally inebriated.

I digress. Across the road, Caroline and Lesley from Kirkcaldy were enjoying their day in the sunshine. Like many others in the throng, they would not regard themselves as great supporters of the royal family, but when the Queen whisked by with a wave, there were tears. "She's a lovely woman, I hope she enjoys her granddaughter's wedding," said one.

Thomas was there with three young children, his bronzed features belonging to someone who works outside for a living. Did he not resent the reputed £500,000 cost of the occasion? "Not a bit of it," he said. "This is the Queen's parish and she does a lot for this country. I wouldnae begrudge her a penny."

It had just gone four o'clock when Zara and her new husband emerged from their nuptials. Everyone cheered. Soon she would arrive back at Holyroodhouse and be serenaded by the Royal Scots Association pipe band. As a sidenote, though, she will not take her husband's name and become Mrs Tindall. Zara Phillips it was, and still is.

"Who do you think made the dress?" asked Lesley. I told her it looked suspiciously to me like a Stewart Parvin number, having seen the couturier's triumphant 2010 show at London's White Gallery. She regarded me with renewed suspicion. "Are you havin' a laugh?"

ALP machine usurps the democratic process, again.

Mike Rann handed deadline to stand down as South Australian premier
Mike Rann
South Australia Premier Mike Rann has been told he faces a leadership ballot if does not resign Source: The Advertiser

Mike Rann has been ordered by ALP factional powerbrokers to step down as the Premier of South Australia by August 31.
If Mr Rann does not resign then he would face a leadership ballot, which he would likely lose in what would be a humiliating end to his 17-year leadership of state Labor.

Mr Rann is not aligned to any faction.

The Premier’s principal adviser Rik Morris tonight told The Australian Online that he could not comment but he had returned from annual leave to deal with the crisis.

The ABC tonight reported that when told of a cross-factional deal yesterday to replace him with the Left’s Jay Weatherill over the winter break of parliament, Mr Rann reacted angrily and made several threats.

“Words were uttered along the lines of ‘I’ll make more noise than Kevin Rudd’,” ABC radio political journalist Angelique Johnson said during a special broadcast that cut into Saturday broadcasting of AFL.
“The Australian is the only phone call I have answered today, but I have to go,” he said.

Senior Labor sources told The Australian Online Mr Rann was confronted with the ultimatum to step down or be pushed by union boss Peter Malinauskas and Treasurer Jack Snelling. Both men are not returning calls.
Mr Rann denied he had been told to stand aside before flying out to India this morning for a government trade trip.

It is understood Right-aligned John Rau, the Deputy Premier and Attorney-General, would remain in his roles.

Saturday 30 July 2011

Neol Pearson | Social policy begets social misery as the Western world fails the poor

Noel Pearson is director of the Cape York Institute of Policy and Leadership.

Earlier this year I contrasted Lee Kuan Yew's achievements in the fight against poverty in his 50-year odyssey turning the city-state of Singapore from a Third World slum to a First World powerhouse with the performance of Western nations.

I argued there were more policy lessons to learn from Singapore than from our traditional sources of inspiration, namely North America and Britain.

My point was our Anglo-sphere allies hardly had great records in achieving social and economic uplift of their underclasses mired in poverty. While various commentators chafed at my recommendation, yesterday Ben Jensen from the Grattan Institute confirmed it: "We should turn east and learn from the world's best school systems."

Singapore's school system is ranked in the top five of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Program for Internation Student Assessment survey, along with South Korea, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Finland. "In addition, high performance is matched by high equity," Jensen writes. "Inequality is greater in Australian education. If you come from a poor family in Australia, you are likelier to drop out and have failing grades than in East Asian systems."

Many things distinguish native Britons from native Australians, but in the details of family breakdown, intergenerational joblessness and social misery, the story is uncannily similar.

Across the Atlantic, African Americans of the ghettos and the legions of trailer-park whites tell us plainly that, despite isolated examples of social innovation, it is mostly a miserable scene.

The situation of Australia's native peoples and the white natives of places such as Macquarie Fields, in southwest Sydney, tells us that amid plenty we have persistent intergenerational poverty and joblessness.

Borrowing straight from Tony Blair's New Labour play book, the prevailing policy paradigm in our country is called social inclusion, and, as deputy prime minister, Julia Gillard established a Social Inclusion Board to advise government. It is now astounding to think about Australian perceptions of the social policy revolutions taking place under Blair. Young policy wonks would wax lyrically about the work of the Social Inclusion Unit, and the rhetoric of New Labour was so compelling.

I would look askance when east London social entrepreneur Andrew Mawson visited us in Cape York every few years and gave the thumbs-down on Blair and Brown. Mawson's view was that social change agents who have only a plane-seat view of the problems can produce great visions, but his advice rang true: "The devil is in the detail."

Politicians and public servants who have never built anything from the ground up in such communities never really get it. Most people in social policy live in a world of programs and plans, bearing scant relation to realities.

Goods and services in the marketplace respond to the daily realities of human lives, their needs and desires. When the people and organisations producing and selling these products fail to understand and respond to demands of the public, they soon lose custom and disappear.

Government goods and services are different: they can fail to understand and respond to what the public needs and demands, and they never go out of business. The production line of useless or half-useless programs and services built by erstwhile social policy designers in government keeps producing because there is no nexus between stratosphere-level policy design and ground-level demands of people who need opportunity.

Not surprisingly, the government services system ends up, in the words of US senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, "feeding the sparrows by feeding the horses".

This week I met former British Conservative leader and present Minister for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith, who was in Australia as a guest of the Menzies Research Centre and delivered the John Howard Oration.

He is the first politician, and first senior public servant, who has struck me as having a profound understanding of social disadvantage at the ground level. Through the think tank he founded, the Centre for Social Justice, Duncan Smith has accumulated a vast and detailed understanding of the many facets of social disadvantage in Britain. He used his long years in opposition to start to design a policy and political program aimed at putting his revolution into effect.

The striking thing is Duncan Smith claimed social justice for the Conservatives. In his Sydney speech he said: "For too long Conservatives had left this area to the Left, only occasionally making forays to attack spending on welfare, and everything was viewed through the lens of saving money or catching scroungers . . . it remained a wholly negative message and allowed the Left to characterise Conservatives as simply interested in cutting benefits."

Duncan Smith's claiming of social justice may cause some discomfiture to his antipodean counterparts, but his view is that "these terminology arguments were utterly detached from the British people, and they marginalised Conservatives even further in the eyes of the electorate".

They conducted polls on the public's understanding and found that "they rejected the notion that it meant a bigger state or increased spending on welfare. Instead they felt it meant support for people in real need and support for those who are helping them."

In my view Duncan Smith aims to give real meaning to social justice. It is not about the failed welfarism of the Left but social policy aiming to transform the lives of the disadvantaged. As he says, "income matters, but the root causes of poverty and the source of income matter more".

In our work in Cape York Peninsula we have focused on three dimensions to our staircase of social progress where passive welfarism has created problems.

First, there is the crumbling effect that unconditional welfare and long-term disengagement from the economy has had on social foundations.

Second, governments invariably distribute resources from the state to citizens in ways that create dependency and fail to enliven them to engage in society and the economy. Instead of distributing opportunity, the state ends up delivering passive services that are ineffective in addressing needs and problems, and create new needs and problems.

Third, there is, at the bottom of the staircase, a pedestal that is priced higher than the first step on the staircase. The disincentive effect of the welfare pedestal on individuals moving from welfare to work, or avoiding welfare in the first place, remains a fundamental reform challenge in Australia as throughout the Western world.

We have developed innovative approaches to the first and second dimensions of the welfare reform challenge. It is in relation to the welfare pedestal that we are still bereft of solution. It requires a response that moves from the basis that it must pay to work. Then there is the requirement that jobseekers take available jobs.

Australian welfare reforms have still not counteracted the effect of the pedestal.

This is where the solution hammered out by Duncan Smith to simplify the benefits scheme into a single "universal credit" most interests me.

This may be one idea from Britain worthy of careful examination.

Author | Source |

Julian Assange's concerted appeal at festival

WIKILEAKS founder Julian Assange joined the rock 'n' roll circuit yesterday, making an address to the audience during the opening day of this year's Splendour in the Grass rock festival in Woodford, Queensland.

Assange is under house arrest in London awaiting the outcome of his appeal against extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault charges, but in a pre-recorded, 90-second video, the Australian spoke in rousing terms on the issue of leaking and the changing face of the media as part of a forum called Big Brother v Little Brother.

Assange's speech was aimed particularly at the young crowd gathered to see acts including Kanye West, The Hives and Eskimo Joe perform on the first day of the three-day festival. "This generation is burning the mass media to the ground," Assange said.

"We're reclaiming our rights to old history. We are reclaiming our rights to share ourselves and our time with each other."

"It was an inspirational call to young people," she told The Weekend Australian afterwards.
"I think he got the message over. Our free speech is under attack. The technology used by WikiLeaks on the internet will help keep free speech alive."

Mrs Assange, who launched her Justice For Julian campaign this month, said she hoped to persuade musicians, such as those playing at Splendour, to lend their support to her son, perhaps even by composing a song.

Author | Source |

ABC | 100 jobs at risk in ABC outsourcing drive

New Inventors
James O'Loghlin, on the set of 'The New Inventors' in Sydney. Picture: John Fotiadis Source: Supplied

ABC television staff have called on managing director Mark Scott to stop outsourcing production ahead of the expected cancellation next week of ABC productions The New Inventors, The Collectors and Arts Nation.

Some staff believe that the job losses could amount to 100 positions.

Media understands the ABC's director of television Kim Dalton is going to announce the end of a raft of ABC-produced shows to add to the growing list he has already axed: Spicks and Specks, Talking Heads, Can We Help and the Hopman Cup.

In a letter delivered to Mr Scott yesterday, staff said the quality of Australian content was at risk. "Under the current mixed model of production, ABC TV internal production staff and budgets have been steadily eroded. Starved of resources and opportunities, we are finding it increasingly difficult to deliver the quality content that the Australian public deserves."

The letter was signed by TV production staff in Sydney.

Sources say up to 100 people, including camera operators, researchers, directors and producers in the television and resources division as well as regional production staff in Adelaide and Perth are set to be retrenched.

The model pursued by Mr Dalton, who has pursued a strategy of outsourcing ABC-produced shows to independent production houses, risks the broadcaster becoming merely a funding body, or a "mere facilitator of the private TV production market", staff said in the letter.

Mr Dalton did not deny jobs or program cuts in a statement to Media in response to questions.

"Television is not a static business. Planning is ongoing around programming, the production slate and the management of resources. Programs may be cancelled - such as Talking Heads or Can We Help. Key talent may decide not to proceed with ongoing series - such as Maggie Beer and Cook And The Chef or Adam Hills and Spicks and Specks," he said.

"Programs are moved in the schedule - such as Poh's Kitchen. New programs are commissioned - such as the drama Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, the comedy At Home With Julia or the sports show Marngrook Footy Show.

"ABC TV's primary objective is always to deliver the best quality and diverse service it can to its audiences."

In their letter to Mr Scott, staff wrote: "We also firmly believe that for the ABC to continue to deliver quality Australian television content it must afford its staff the opportunity to create innovative, value for money content."

The staff letter called for an audit of the relative costs of internal versus external production has been ignored by Mr Scott.

"We believe that the current bias shown for external production is based on the false premise that we are less efficient," the staff said.

"External studies have in the past demonstrated this not to be the case. Before the ABC further dismantles internal production we urge you to address the questions that were presented to you in the open letter of 27 May 2011."

Author | Source

Rob Oakeshott | It's my cause and I'll walk if I'm unhappy

Julia Gillard's minority government has been put on notice it will need to start delivering on tax reform by the May budget or risk losing the support of key independent Rob Oakeshott.
The NSW member for Lyne, who helped the Prime Minister to office last September, yesterday upped the political stakes for October's tax forum, declaring everything was on the table for discussion and starting his own parallel process of public submissions and hearings on tax reform.

He also said he was "completely underwhelmed" by Labor's response to its Henry review of taxation and called for Coalition participation in the tax forum, despite its omission from the invitation list. Mr Oakeshott, who made the tax forum a condition of his power-sharing deal with Labor, said it was "pretty much" a make-or-break issue for him.

"I will be doing what I can to make sure that they treat it as their most serious work of the 43rd parliament and, without being too explicit, I will be extremely disappointed if they don't," he said.

This week, the government released its invitation list and discussion paper for the upcoming tax forum. But it ruled out any changes to half a dozen controversial tax issues, including the GST rate or coverage, the mining tax, negative-gearing tax concessions and alcohol taxation, to the chagrin of business. It later added congestion charges, which was canvassed in its discussion paper, to the list of exclusions. Mr Oakeshott signalled his plans to dramatically widen the forum's remit, saying he was open to all options, including the GST.

"Certainly, the Labor Party's view is they're going to restrict the territory they're comfortable talking about. Mine's not." He said he expected the government to start picking off the "low-hanging fruit" of tax reform and producing a "very explicit and specific" 10-year roadmap for implementing the Henry review recommendations by next year's budget.

Mr Oakeshott likened his commitment to a taxation overhaul to his fellow independent Andrew Wilkie's non-negotiable commitment to pokie reform and nominated commonwealth-state tax reform as a personal priority. " I think in there lies a lot of the handbrake on productivity in this country and, if we can streamline and harmonise a lot of that relationship between the commonwealth and the states with regard to taxation, we are doing a lot for business and small business in particular," he said.

The government wants the tax forum to focus on the Henry review recommendations that it neither formally ruled in nor out and has previously called the document a "10-year agenda".

It has already used some of the review's ideas as the basis for its mineral resources rent tax, company tax cut, changes to saving tax and to the low income offset, and simplification of tax returns.

Author | Source |

Why Gillard needs a new mandate from the people

This is an edited version of a speech given to the CIS yesterday.
The genius of Western civilisation is its constant self-questioning. Self-questioning, though, is not the same as self-doubt. It's a determination to build on acknowledged strengths. This enthusiasm to improve on success is an aspect of our culture's capacity to be liberal and conservative at the same time.

 The difference between one side of our politics and the other is not that one supports change and the other does not but the different sorts of changesand range of values that each side promotes. Politicians differ in the extent to which they prefer opportunity over equality, diversity over unity or innovation over conservation, but there's considerable common ground and acceptance of the rule that you should treat others as you would have them treat you.

The shift from feudalism to capitalism, from autocracy to democracy, hasn't been smooth, but a tradition of give and take and a preference for practical solutions has minimised upheaval. Change has been less traumatic where government has been by consent. The requirement to negotiate change has made it more sustainable.

First under Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, then under John Howard and Peter Costello, we deregulated financial markets, floated the dollar, reduced tariffs, privatised government assets, gave workers more freedom of contract, established Reserve Bank independence and began reforming the welfare system. Under Howard, real wages rose by more than 20 per cent, there were more than two million new jobs, and real net wealth per person more than doubled.

Even so, many of these reforms were endured rather than embraced. Although privatisation and close-to-zero tariffs have been uncontentious for almost a generation, the airwaves are still filled with angst against foreign products and greedy business people. The lesson is few philosophical arguments are ever finally won. Keating once said good policy is good politics, but leaders who can't make a case for their reforms don't win elections.

The GST was a sustainable reform because the public came to understand the old indirect tax system was inefficient. The GST was never popular but was at least a replacement tax and was accompanied by overall tax cuts.

Howard promised there would "never, ever" be a GST before the 1996 election but changed his mind. As a consequence, he sought a new mandate at the 1998 election. He didn't say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards. Howard's subsequent win confirmed people's readiness to accept tough but necessary reforms provided they hadn't been treated like mugs.

By contrast, Work Choices turned out to be unsustainable because it passed through a parliament that had no mandate for it.

Work Choices didn't fail because it was bad policy. It failed because it had never been put properly to the people so that it could form part of an election mandate. In our eagerness not to waste control of the Senate, the former government forgot consent of the people matters as much as the support of parliament.

Julia Gillard is likening her carbon tax to the reforms of the Hawke-Keating government but, in economic terms, it's not reform. To count as economic reform, change should increase freedom and reduce costs. Gillard portrays her carbon tax cum emissions trading scheme as a market mechanism even though it is a money tree for government. It is, after all, an odd kind of market that depends on the non-delivery of an invisible product to no one.

In the past 15 years, without a carbon tax, Australia has reduced its emissions intensity by almost 50 per cent as enterprises take steps to cut their power and fuel bills. Trucking company Linfox has reduced its emissions by 35 per cent since 2007 through educating its drivers to go easy on the accelerator and putting more skylights in its depots. Waste business Visy has developed negative emissions power generation by burning non-recyclable waste that would otherwise give off greater emissions in landfills. Farmers are storing carbon in soil.

None of this required an additional price signal. The Coalition's direct action plan should boost the conservation and innovation that's already taking place.

When change is needed, it's a good principle to change only as much as is necessary to bring about the required improvement. The fact a decision is unpopular doesn't make it brave; it may just mean it's stupid.

Governments don't need to take every significant change to the people at an election. Even so, if the case can't be made, the change can't be justified. Governments shouldn't dissemble before an election on the grounds the people can't be trusted. Even when both sides of politics agree changes are needed, leaders must take the public with them.

If the PM thinks the carbon tax is good for Australia, she should have taken it to the last election. If she's only come to that conclusion after listening to the Greens , she should seek a mandate for it at the next election. Governments can change their mind but on a tax to transform the way everyone lives and works, they can't reverse their position without a mandate.

The reforms of the previous two governments addressed the problems of those times. Today's reforms need to address the problems of these times. Then, we needed a stronger economy. Now, we still need a stronger economy but we need a stronger society too. Bodies such as the CIS and the Institute of Public Affairs have acknowledged this through the priority they give to social and cultural issues, as much as economic ones. It would be a mistake, though, for people committed to economic reform to assume the argument is self-evident.

A cohesive society needs a strong economy to sustain it. More than ever, though, would-be reformers have to show how proposed changes will strengthen the social fabric rather than simply conform to economic theory.

The Coalition will go to the next election as the party of reform -- reform that can appeal to voters as well as policy experts.

Tony Abbott is federal Leader of the Opposition.

Obama Calls for Debt Deal as the House Nears a Vote

Jason Reed/Reuters
President Barack Obama delivers a statement on the U.S. debt ceiling talks, from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington on Friday.
WASHINGTON — President Obama called on Congress on Friday to produce a fiscal plan that could be passed with votes from both parties, as House Republicans hardened their position and Senate Democrats said they would move ahead with their own plan.
After a caucus meeting to round up the votes needed for House passage, Republicans said that Speaker John A. Boehner had agreed to modify his plan, which raises the debt ceiling only enough to last a few months, to make the next round of spending cuts and debt relief contingent on Congressional approval of a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.
That, lawmakers confirmed, won pledges of enough votes to allow Mr. Boehner to pass his bill, which was put on hold at the last minute on Thursday, with only Republican votes, including those of many from the Tea Party faction.

But Democrats said it only made the House bill more unpalatable. “This is the most outrageous suggestion I have heard,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin, the assistant Democratic leader.

“Any solution to avoid default must be bipartisan,” Mr. Obama said. “I urge Democrats and Republicans in the Senate to find common ground on a plan that can get support from both parties in the House, a plan that I can sign by Tuesday.”

Mr. Obama urged Republicans in the House and Senate to abandon a bill that “does not solve the problem” and has no chance of passage in the Senate.”

“There are a lot of crises in the world that we can’t always predict or avoid,” he said. “This isn’t one of those crises.”

In an effort to break the logjam, Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, called on Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, to meet with him on Friday to try to resolve to the stalemate, given the failure of House Republicans to advance their own budget proposal.

“My door is open,” Mr. Reid said as the Senate convened. “I will listen to any idea to get this done in a way that prevents a default and a dangerous downgrade to America’s credit rating. Time is short, and too much is at stake, to waste even one more minute.

“The last train is leaving the station,” he said. “This is our last chance to avert default.”

It appears that the Senate will be in session around the clock this weekend.

The Democrats said they would file a motion on Friday that would start the Senate debate, running down the procedural clock while Republicans, presumably, filibustered against the Reid proposal. The first vote on breaking the filibuster would come shortly after midnight Saturday. Unless the Democrats can win over enough Republicans to cut off debate and move to approving the Reid bill or some variant, the Republicans would be forced to hold the floor continuously, awaiting some kind of deal.

Mr. McConnell, who had been working with Mr. Reid on a fallback plan, abandoned that attempt and has been supporting the effort by Mr. Boehner to push through a proposal that would raise the debt limit in two stages — an approach flatly rejected by Senate Democrats and the White House even before it was toughened with the latest demand for a constitutional amendment.

Mr. McConnell, too, came to the Senate floor on Friday and offered little indication that he was ready to deal, accusing Democrats of devoting recent days to undermining the House plan. “Our Democratic friends in the Senate have offered no solutions to the crisis that can pass either chamber,” he said.

Mr. Reid said he would be making changes to his measure to attract more support but made clear that he considered the Senate plan the final effort to avert a default next week.

“There will be no time left to vote on another bill or consider another option here in the Senate,” he said. “None.”

Mr. Reid said he had also had a “sobering” conversation on Friday with Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner about the consequences of a default.

“It is really precarious for our country,” he said.

Until now, the White House and Senate Democratic leaders had been waiting for the House to act before making their next move with an eye on the Tuesday deadline set by the Treasury Department for raising the debt ceiling or facing the possibility that the government would not be able to meet all its financial obligations.
Failure to pass his proposal would have represented a significant defeat for Mr. Boehner, the first-year speaker who has invested significant political capital in trying to get his fractious majority behind the legislation, which had the strong support of the entire leadership team.

Facing that prospect, he adjusted his proposal to the right, and his opposition within the caucus evaporated.

Norway prime minister urges nation to 'embrace freedom'

Jens Stoltenberg speaks at memorial service as first funerals for the 76 people killed by Anders Behring Breivik are held
Norway's PM Stoltenberg at memorial service
The first funerals for victims of the Oslo shooting were held on Friday. Norway prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg, spoke at the service. Photograph: Stoyan Nenov/Reuters
The Norwegian prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg, has told a remembrance service for the 76 people killed by Anders Behring Breivik that his country had been "struck by evil", but urged his countrymen to respond by embracing democracy and freedom.

Speaking as the first funerals were held for victims of Breivik's bomb and shooting attack, Stoltenberg said the 32-year-old's actions were "an attack against political engagement … an attack on our democracy".
He added: "We have memorials in churches and in mosques, in parliament and in the government headquarters, on the streets and in squares … Evil has brought out the best in us. Hatred engenders love."
While the prime minister was speaking, police questioned Breivik for the second time. Officers said they had now identified all of those killed in the bomb and gun attacks, adding a new list of victims would be released later.

Two psychiatrists have been appointed to assess Breivik's mental health.

Investigators believe the 32-year-old acted alone, after years of meticulous planning, and have not found anything to support his claims of being part of an anti-Muslim militant network plotting a series of attacks across Europe.

Breivik was questioned for seven hours last Saturday, the day after the twin attacks, which targeted the government district in Oslo and a Labour party youth camp. He admitted carrying out the attacks but has pleaded not guilty to terror charges, saying he is in a "state of war", according to his lawyer and police.

Police have charged Breivik with terrorism, which carries a maximum sentence of 21 years in prison.

However, it is possible the charge change during the investigation to crimes against humanity, which carries a 30-year sentence, Norway's leading prosecutor, Tor-Aksel Busch, told the Associated Press."Such charges will be considered when the entire police investigation has been finalised," he said. "It is an extensive investigation. We will charge Breivik for each individual killing." A formal indictment is not expected until next year.

Apple is richer than US govt

Apple is the second largest company on the planet after American oil giant Exxon Mobil
NEW YORK: As of today, Apple boss Steve Jobs is richer than Uncle Sam.

While the world's most powerful government has just $73.76 billion in its reserves, the world's top technology company has a neat cash pile of $75.87 billion.

The US Treasury Department warned that it has now only this much operating budget as Republicans and Democrats fight over raising the nation's debt ceiling. With only that much reserve at its disposal, the Obama White House has warned the Republicans that the US government won't be able to meet its obligations as of Aug 2.

Facing a government default, Obama can definitely turn to Steve Jobs to give him a very brief breathing space. The failure by the Republicans and Democrats to come to a compromise to raise the current $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by Aug 2 could lead to a hike in interest rates. The already battered dollar may also plunge further.

With its market capitalisation of $363.25 billion, Apple is the second largest company on the planet after American oil giant Exxon Mobil. The Cupertino-based Apple started rising suddenly in 2007 when it entered the smartphone market with the launch of its first version of the iPhone.

Within three years, Apple went on to overhaul BlackBerry company Research In Motion (RIM) which invented the smartphone and dominated the market. But its fortunes skyrocketed last year with the launch of the iPad tablet which has sold in millions. In fact, the iPhone and the iPad have made Apple the czar of mobile computing technology as rivals play up catch-up.

The stock of the company, which doesn't pay dividends, has now touched $400. After Apple, another non-financial company sitting on a huge cash reserve is Microsoft whose own pile is about $40 billion.
Author | Source | Times of India.

Friday 29 July 2011

Tony Abbott says 'draconian' carbon cop force will chase 'invisible' substance

Tony Abbott has attacked the sweeping powers of a new carbon tax regulator, questioning how it can effectively monitor invisible gas emissions.

The Opposition Leader this morning lashed the powers of the Clean Energy Regulator, set out in a draft legislative package, likening the body to a “carbon cop”.

The new regulator will be able to enter workplaces and compel individuals to hand over self-incriminating evidence and sensitive records.

“I mean this is a draconian new police force chasing an invisible, odourless, weightless, tasteless substance,” Mr Abbott told Nine's Today Show.

“Not only is the carbon tax going to be with you every time you turn on the TV or open the fridge or get into bed with the electric blanket on, there's now going to be a carbon cop.

“The carbon cop could hit you with 10 years in jail (and) million dollar plus fines.”
“This is a government that is addicted to bureaucracy, more carbon cops, more carbon regulation, more carbon laws, more red tape for everyday Australians,” Mr Hockey said in Sydney.

Julia Gillard said Mr Abbott's criticisms of the new powers were "remarkable" given they were there to protect taxpayers' money.

"Today he’s apparently endorsing rip-offs," the Prime Minister said
"The penalties are absolutely right. No-one should do the wrong thing, and if people do the wrong thing then they should feel the full force of the law."

Under the draft legislation, attempts to subvert the scheme would be punishable by 10-year jail terms and fines of up to $1.1 million.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said the tough approach followed instances of fraud in the European Union's emissions trading scheme.

“In Europe the emissions trading scheme has experienced some problems with the scheme's integrity and the government has had a look at what those issues have been and we've designed our proposed legislation here on the basis of what we believe to be world's best practice,” he told ABC radio.

Mr Combet denied the government was rushing to introduce the carbon tax legislation into parliament, despite only allowing three weeks of consultation on the exposure draft.

“There won't be too many surprises for businesses in what the government has put forward,” he said.

The carbon tax package will consist of 14 bills, the majority of which were released in draft form yesterday for public feedback.

The package will establish the $23-a-tonne carbon price, mechanisms to pay household compensation and a new Climate Change Authority and Clean Energy Regulator.

Inspectors working for the regulator would be able to obtain warrants to search work places, monitor activity and copy documents.

The enforcement provisions will be further strengthened by an extra $12.8 million over four years for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Author | Source |

  • From: The Australian

  • July 29, 2011 2:14PM