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December 2012

What a great achievement for everyone, every box ticked, every post a winner.


There are people who revel in this round robin stuff.   Build careers on it, travel a lot and teach others how to do it.  

Wouldn't it be a brighter future if Alcoa made cheaper, higher quality aluminium and aluminium products than its competitors?   Who really benefits when Alcoa management get into the business of horse-trading carbon derivatives and the government indulgences that go with them?

It is madness to think of all the paper shuffling and carbon (dioxide) emission permit trading that now accompanies the actual business of making aluminium stuff in Australia.

It's crazy - and at the end of the chain somewhere is a General in some African nation who has received huge sums of cash that represent the "value" he has put into the system by absorbing the carbon dioxide from Alcoa's plant in Victoria into his trees in Upper Kombuktastan.

I reckon we could do with a Thinker in Residence to think our way out of the situation where the business of making aluminium cans is more concerned with money going from Australia (successful, developed, carbon-emissions-bad, must pay money) to Tin-Pot-Dictatorship-Stan (unsuccessful, undeveloped, aid-dependent, its carbon-emissions-not-bad-or-harmful, must receive more money under the scheme).

The Anthropogenic Global Warming Scam has it all for the control freak greenie types.   For the rest of us, at some point actually doing things will just get too hard.

This snippet is from Melbourne's The Age newspaper.

Secret deal claws back carbon tax

December 28,  2012
Tom Arup and Josh Gordon
THE state  government and Alcoa have stitched up a secret  deal to trigger  more federal compensation to pay for Victoria's increased costs under the carbon  tax,  generated by subsidising the aluminum giant's electricity use.

The deal could also deliver tens of  of millions of dollars in extra  government benefits to Alcoa at the expense of Victorian taxpayers.

Details of the deal are shrouded in secrecy, with the two parties signing  a  confidentiality agreement. The value of financial dealings over electricity  between the government and Alcoa have long been undisclosed.

Alcoa spokeswoman Nichola Holgate said  a ''mutually beneficial agreement''  had been reached earlier this year, but would not provide details,  citing   confidentiality.

The deal  follows a federal-state $44 million bailout of Alcoa's Port Henry  smelter at Geelong earlier this year. Alcoa has  also received just under 6  million free carbon permits as federal compensation for the carbon tax.

Alcoa's two smelters in Victoria - at Point Henry and Portland - employ  almost  1200 people. The industry uses around  a fifth of the state's  electricity.

Under arrangements signed in the 1980s, the State Electricity Commission  - a  corporate shell used by the state government to manage contracts supplying  electricity to Alcoa - subsidises power for the two smelters based on the global  aluminum price.

As the carbon tax pushes up power prices, the state government's bill under  the Alcoa  power arrangements increases, potentially by hundreds of millions of  dollars, but it is not eligible for federal compensation.

Alcoa, however, is. It is understood negotiations on  the  deal  centred   on  moving some of the electricity onto Alcoa's books, triggering federal carbon  compensation because it is deemed an ''emissions-intensive, trade-exposed''  company.

The deal means  the state government will cover some of the higher  electricity costs on the subsidised Alcoa power contracts, which  end in 2014  and 2016.

While much of the extra compensation would be passed back to the state  to  cover its increased costs, during the negotiations Alcoa made it clear it wanted  to retain some of the compensation.

A senior source told Fairfax Media in June that Alcoa was arguing it should  be allowed to keep a proportion of the extra federal compensation because the  carbon price would reduce the working lives of its smelters.

''There is a negotiation about how much we can pass through to Alcoa. That is  significant,'' the source said at the time. ''They only want to give 80 to 90  per cent back.''

Last week, neither party would say what compensation Alcoa had been allowed  to retain, if any.

Treasurer Kim Wells refused to say how much the agreement would cost  taxpayers.

His spokeswoman, Stephanie Ryan, said the commission was party to an  agreement that may have exposed the Victorian taxpayers to a significant carbon  tax liability. ''The state negotiated amendments to the electricity supply  agreements in relation to the Portland and Point Henry smelters in July. The  government is limited in what it can say given the commercial nature of these  arrangements,'' she said.

Read more:

Thanks to reader Jim.

A 14% increase in our contribution to the UN next year? Why?

It rankles.

Our government has cut Australia's defence spending to the lowest level (of GDP) since 1938.

Every Australian Government department is making searing spending cuts.   Our border protection services are  stretched way beyond breaking (but we retain the magic pudding ability to find billions to fund all comers who decide they'll take the express route to migration by boat).

And yet in the face of that, we will increase our contribution to the most bloated, inefficient, wasteful and unaccountable plaything of the chosen few, the United Nations - by 14% next year.

Not enough money for our own - but 14% extra for the front of the plane very important people.

It's rather cruel to Australians, particularly those who created the wealth or fought to defend our ability to keep it.

UN funding rises as efficiency drive hits public service

AUSTRALIA'S financial contribution to the UN will rise by at least 14 per cent next year as the government pushes ahead with a drive to slash departmental expenses and promote public service efficiencies.

The increase coincides with Australia taking up its temporary seat on the UN Security Council next month and is part of an attempt to recast funding obligations in the light of the global financial crisis that has crippled Europe.

The recalibration will mean emerging economic powerhouses such as China, Brazil and India will greatly increase their contributions while European nations such as Britain, Germany and France pay less than before.

Australia contributed $44 million in the 2012 calendar year - amounting to a little under 2 per cent of the budget. Next year its contribution is expected to be well above $50m, with the revised UN budget set at $5.4 billion.

Contributions to the UN are determined by the General Assembly's fifth committee according to a complex formula that takes into account gross national income. New payment scales are negotiated every three years.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade yesterday confirmed that Australia's contribution rate had increased by 7 per cent under the new arrangement, with its share of GNI rising from 1.933 per cent to 2.074 per cent. The increase in dollar terms does not correlate directly with the contribution rate.

The increase comes as federal departments have been placed under acute financial pressure as the government ramps up the efficiency dividend to reap savings. In the current financial year, an additional impost of 2.5 per cent applies, taking the efficiency dividend to a record 4 per cent.

The government has also embarked on a program of spending cuts to try to meet its goal of a surplus next year - which is now unlikely after Wayne Swan abandoned his guarantee - as well as funding commitments such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the Gonski school education reforms.

Read more at The Australian's website, or better still, subscribe to The Oz.

John McTernan - Thinker in Residence, South Australian Government

Mike Rann, former national president of the Labor Party and long serving SA Premier is apparently quite friendly with Tony Blair.

Former British PM Tony Blair appointed Mike Rann  to the International Leadership Council of the Climate Group early in 2012.  He's also the Chairman of Low Carbon Australia.  

Apparently Mike Rann and Tony Blair think highly of each other.   Mr Rann says that he values the policy views of Tony Blair's former adviser John McTernan.   So much so that Mr Rann made Mr McTernan a South Australian Thinker in Residence in 2011.    Not to give political advice for Labor, no, McTernan was engaged to do the nuts and bolts thinking about how to make a visit to the Roads and Traffic Authority less draining, or the aged care ward more, well, caring, or the relationship between parents, teachers and students more "innovative".

McTernan started to think in residence in February, 2011.  Here's his diary for the first month.   It sort of stopped then, the diary that is.   The thinking, we're told, continued for a while.

Mr McTernan thought until about November, 2011 when he gave what was billed as his "Final Speech".   He probably started thinking about other things in September, 2011, when he started his job as Communications Director for the Prime Minister of Australia.

From November, 2011, until the last day or so, John McTernan has been officially "writing his report" to the South Australian people about his time thinking in residence in SA.

Well in the last day or so, it's been released.   Funny old time to release a much-vaunted and anticipated report that's designed to give South Australian's the benefit of a master thinker's grand plan for improved public service delivery!   Everyone's on holidays, including most of the media.   Whose terrible idea was that, to hide so important a piece of work?

So, what were they hiding?   Judge for yourself.   I don't now how much Mr McTernan was paid to think in residence, but I'd be querying the invoice if it came across my desk.

Here are a few of the first pages - you can download the entire report by clicking the link at the bottom.




Download JohnMcTernan_report

I like his filing cabinet tank.   And he had the good grace to thank South Australia's wine industry at the end of the report.

But how come South Australia had to import a Brit to write motherhood statements about South Australia?   We've got plenty of lousy writers here who could have done the job.

Anyone know the going rate for 10 months of thinking in South Australia?   I think I'll give it a whirl.

Nice one from reader Peter Hall

Peter Hall said:                           
                                I think this sums it up. I wanted to send some sort of holiday greeting to my friends and colleagues, but it is difficult in today's world to know exactly what to say without offending someone. So I met with my lawyer yesterday, and on advice I wish to say the following :   Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress , non-addictive, gender neutral celebration of the summer solstice holiday practised with the most enjoyable traditions of religious persuasion or secular practices of your choice with respect for the religious / secular persuasions and / or traditions of others, or their choice not to practise religious or secular traditions at all .  I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2013, but not without due respect for the calendar of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make our country great (not to imply that Australia is necessarily greater than any other country) and without regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee .  By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms :  This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for her / him or others and is void where prohibited by law, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. The wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher .   Best Regards ( without prejudice )   Name withheld ( Privacy Act ).

Ask the person next to you - what is the most important freedom in a democracy?

The freedom of speech.

We're giving it away.   Bit by bit.  

Sometimes you need a Christmas break to look back over stories and developments that may have been under-reported or not properly discussed during the year.   This is a huge such story for 2012.

In November, Nicola Roxon released some draconian guidelines for proposed new laws.   We were probably watching the AWU and misogyny matters at the time.   It's very important now to take stock of what Roxon and the Gillard Government are up to.

Annabel Hepworth's story this morning from The Australian is a good starting point - it was for me while I was fishing earlier.

Coalition 'soft' on offence laws

THE Coalition has been accused of being less trenchant in resisting Labor's plan to make it unlawful to offend or insult another person than a former political staffer to Gough Whitlam and a federal ALP backbencher.

In a letter to Coalition MPs a right-wing think tank says it has a "very great concern at the failure" of the Coalition to oppose the laws.

The letter by Institute of Public Affairs executive director John Roskam says "frankly, that's just not good enough" that the Coalition intends to wait until a Senate inquiry has examined the plan.

"Members from around the country have inundated me with phone calls, emails, and letters about the draft legislation," the letter says.

"Every one of them has asked the same question: where is the Coalition on this issue? I wish I had something positive to tell them."

It says that former Whitlam adviser, retired NSW chief justice and ABC chairman Jim Spigelman, who has criticised the proposed laws for imposing unprecedented restrictions on free speech because they make it unlawful to offend or insult people, has been outspoken on the plan, "in stark contrast" to the "silence" of the Coalition.

Read on at The Australian's website, or better still subscribe to the paper!  

Annabel's story is based on this 11 December letter from John Roskam of the Institute of Public Affairs to coalition MPs.   Good on him for writing it, and good on Annabel Hepworth and The Australian for reminding us about it today.

IPA letter to coalition MPs_001
 Simon Breheny from the IPA had a red-hot go at giving this issue some prominence in late November, it's worth re-reading what he said then.

Andrew Bolt law to be supercharged by Gillard government’s anti-discrimination changes

By on November 21, 2012in Freedom of speech, Media release

“Attorney-General Nicola Roxon’s proposed changes to anti-discrimination laws announced on Monday are an attack on the fundamental freedoms of Australians,” said Simon Breheny, Director of the Legal Rights Project at the Institute of Public Affairs.

“The right to hold and express political opinions is fundamental to a liberal democracy. The Gillard government’s proposed changes to anti-discrimination laws threaten to eliminate these freedoms.

“The draft laws will punish individuals who express political opinions, if someone is offended by those opinions while working. Andrew Bolt was censored for talking about race. The Gillard government wants to censor talking about politics,” said Mr Breheny.

“The Andrew Bolt case under Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act showed how ‘offend, insult, humiliate and intimidate’ on the basis of racial or ethnic characteristics can be used to silence free expression. These draft laws censor the expression of political opinion while working.

“Tony Abbott must immediately commit to opposing this extraordinary attack on our political liberty. If these laws are enacted, the Opposition must commit to repealing them in government,” said Mr Breheny.

The Institute of Public Affairs’ FreedomWatch project was founded in 2012 to focus on freedom of speech, the rule of law and personal liberties.

To donate to the IPA Freedom of Speech Fighting Fund visit:

For media contact: Simon Breheny, Director, Legal Rights Project, 0400 967 382  

People who've lived under totalitarian regimes can see the warning signs.   This is truly shocking stuff.   Imagine a tribunal appointed by the Gillard Government with the power to determine whether your statement of your political opinion had offended someone.   Climate change, asylum seekers, law and order issues, crimes and sentencing - a political leader's fitness to hold office.   This is too bizarre to even contemplate in a democracy, yet here it all is in writing.  

These things tend to happen bit by bit.   Then one day we wake up and wonder "how the hell did we get here?"

You should get active in support of John Roskam and the IPA.   They are a great voice of reason.

Read also Janet Albrechtsen in The Australian today. 

And The Australian's great editorial, New Discrimination Laws Undermine Civil Society.   

It's a shame we missed this during the business part of the year - or perhaps we are seeing the Gillard/McTernan media management handbook at play, ably assisted by a Canberra Gallery all too keen to ask tough questions of Ms Gillard like "What more can we do to help?"

Very hard to compete with $600,000 in legal clout from the Minister

Bill Shorten's actions in the Federal Court, which I viewed from the start as having the effect of punishing the HSU whistle-blower Kathy Jackson, cost taxpayers more than $600,000.

Keep in mind it was Kathy Jackson who fought so hard to report and to expose the corruption that was apparently (and in respect of Michael Williamson allegedly) endemic within the top of the Health Services Union.   It was hard for Kathy Jackson to do that, not easy.   It made her a lot of enemies in the Labor Party.   But it was unquestionably the right thing to do and I felt she should have been recognised and rewarded for her courage and integrity.

I met Kathy Jackson during my last few weeks with 2UE, after I'd interviewed Craig Thomson.   She struck me as honest and open then, and nothing I have seen since has changed my opinion of her.   I thought from day one that she was motivated by a very simple desire, to uncover and root out corruption in the HSU and to put members first.

After the NSW Police Strike Force Carnarvon was announced, many in the Labor Party took  a particular interest in the police investigation into Michael Williamson and Craig Thomson.   By April, 2012, it seemed to many that the police investigation into Mr Williamson in particular was progressing with a great deal of evidence apparently available to police.  To many commentators and observers, it seemed that charges were likely.   That was April.

In May, 2012, police raided the HSU headquarters and you may recall Mr Williamson being spoken to by police in the car park with certain material allegedly seized from him.

In July, Ian Temby QC's report was released into the management of the union and its finances.   It was damning.

For some reason, the Minister for Workplace Relations Bill Shorten formed the opinion, during April, that the leadership of the HSU was unable to work together, that relations had broken down, and that an administrator ought to be appointed to head up the union.   That had the effect of relieving Kathy Jackson of her executive job.  

Kathy Jackson never had the chance to run the union, free of Mr Williamson's influence.   Who knows what a difference her approach might have made.   She knew the union, its history and its members - and she was passionate about righting the union's wrongs.   It's hard to argue the same for an Administrator, regardless of how eminent and well chosen the Administrator may be.

Having seen Kathy Jackson's work at close quarters, it struck me as unfair that the fairly obvious factional dispute between her and the Michael Willliamson "faction" (upon whom she had "blown the whistle") should result in her losing her job.   Of course there would be a blue between Kathy Jackson and the Williamson forces.   That was the whole point of reporting him to authorities!   I thought she deserved support to finish her work.

Minister Shorten's actions can now be seen in a much clearer light.   His application was funded by the Commonwealth.   Money was not a concern.   And in the recent HSU election, Katrina Hart, a practising Health Worker at the Prince of Wales Hospital and a person aligned with the work started by Kathy Jackson,  narrowly missed out on the top job in NSW.   Gerard Hayes, The brother of Federal Labor MP Chris Hayes (a former AWU official who signed off on the Bruce Wilson redundancy cheque) took out the top spot.   Gerard Hayes is a candidate with whom the NSW Labor Right is said to be well pleased.

Senator Eric Abetz, the Coalition's industrial relations spokesman is reported in The Australian today as having said this:

"This avalanche of legal costs clearly could not be matched by individual union members or office holders, who were advocating for a different resolution to the issues.

"The upshot . . . has been that Michael Williamson's former lieutenant has succeeded him on a 'charter of reform'."  

This is not a good result for those who report malfeasance in trade unions or the Labor Party.   It's tempting to think that the whistleblowers are being punished.  

Here is The Australian's report today.

Shorten bill in HSU war tops $600k

WORKPLACE Relations Minister Bill Shorten's intervention in the fractious war in the Health Services Union cost the taxpayer more than $600,000.

In answer to a question on notice from opposition spokesman on workplace relations Eric Abetz, Finance Minister Penny Wong said the cost of Mr Shorten's successful application to the Federal Court to put HSU East into administration was $618,633.88. This figure included $356,000 for professional fees and $137,000 for counsel.

Mr Shorten has insisted he acted to place the allegedly corrupt East branch -- which covered NSW, the ACT and Victoria -- into administration because it had become paralysed by a factional war between its then general secretary Michael Williamson, and then executive president Kathy Jackson, and was dysfunctional for its members.

Ms Jackson has maintained Mr Shorten's role was designed to stop her mainly Victorian faction from gaining control of the union, in a bid to settle scores within the Victorian ALP Right of which Mr Shorten heads a sub-faction with Communications Minister Stephen Conroy.

Mr Shorten's application in April to the Federal Court came in the form of an intervention in a case brought by Ms Jackson in which she argued that the rules excluded many HSU East council members loyal to Mr Williamson from voting. Had the court found in her favour, her faction might have been able to seize control of the council and expel Mr Williamson.

While Ms Jackson fought for her original case to be heard, she was hampered by lack of funds.

Senator Abetz told The Australian: "This avalanche of legal costs clearly could not be matched by individual union members or office holders, who were advocating for a different resolution to the issues.

"The upshot . . . has been that Michael Williamson's former lieutenant has succeeded him on a 'charter of reform'."

Mr Shorten's application to the Federal Court saw HSU East split into its three pre-merger branches in NSW and Victoria, and elections held.

A candidate favoured by the ALP Right, Gerard Hayes, won the role of general secretary of the NSW branch, edging Ms Jackson's ally Katrina Hart.

A spokesman for Mr Shorten rejected the Abetz claims, saying the minister intervened to obtain the appointment of "an impartial administrator to get the HSU back on track . . . Is Senator Abetz saying he wouldn't have acted to put an administrator in charge?"

From the Cognescenti of Condescension - a few of the highlights of 2012 and beyond

As we face the prospect of Julia's last year in office, it's worthwhile to spend some time reminiscing, quietly contemplating the teachings from the Book of Julia.

What was the message of the Mayan Calendar?   How were the questions at the 23 August Group Therapy Session chosen.  

In today's Gospel, we learn how much better off we are now that there's a Battalion of field operatives armed with with sticky labels putting a price-tag on every piece of carbon they can find.


One for the wine connoisseurs

Dedicated to Rod, Paul, CJO, all officers and men of the Vung Tau Ferry, all those who served and those who can remember.

The regular taster at a wine merchant’s warehouse died, so the director started looking for a new one to hire. 

Bill, a retired Chief Petty Officer, drunk and with a ragged dirty look, came to apply for the position. The director wondered how to get rid of him.

They gave him a glass of wine to taste. 

Bill tried it and said, “It’s a Muscat, three years old, grown on a north slope, matured in steel containers. Low grade but acceptable.” 

“That’s correct,” said the boss, amazed.  

Another glass was brought for Bill to taste.

“It’s a cabernet, eight years old, south-western slope, oak barrels, matured at eight degrees. Requires three more years for finest results.”

Again, the boss was pleasantly surprised. 

A third glass was brought to Bill.

‘‘It’s a pinot blanc champagne, high grade and exclusive,’’ calmly said the by-now tipsy chief stoker.

The director was astonished. This time, he winked at his secretary to suggest something to try to catch Bill out.

She left the room and came back in with a glass of urine.

 The old Navy man tried it.

“It’s a blonde, 26 years old, three months pregnant, and if I don’t get the job, I’ll name the father.”



Don't mess with Old Navy Chiefs.   They’ve been there, done that.

Ian Taylor MLA - very keen to get to know Mr Taylor as well as we can!

Mel said:                           
                                Off topic, Michael, general question to WA people. Anyone know much about Ian Taylor MLA and deputy premier under Carmen Lawrence, who held various portfolios including consumer affairs? I recall somewhere in one of your documents Micahel, mention of Wilson being in and out of the deputy premiers office circa 1991/92. Ian Taylor represented Kalgoorlie Boulder as well. Could this have been the person one would write to to go over the head of the incorporation commissioner? I see he lost his seat in 95.                           
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