Tuesday 2nd of September 2014

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by Gus Leonisky on Tue, 2014-09-02 21:51

Mr Palmer rejected the suggestion that it was a conflict of interest for him, as a politician with mining interests, to be negotiating on the repeal of the mining tax.

"We all pay tax, does that mean that members of Parliament don't vote on income tax bills?" he said.

Mr Palmer said his party had only reached a deal with the government on Tuesday and as recently as Tuesday morning talks were continuing over sticking points.

Labor and the Greens attacked the government for what Labor Senator Penny Wong called "a dirty deal".

"We have another deal… another dirty deal where they try to ram through the chamber just like we've seen before," she said.

Greens Leader Christine Milne called the move to gag debate on the amended bill "contempt for the Senate".

"I can't remember a time when we had amendments dropped on the desk with no attempt to explain what they mean," she said.

Senator Cormann rejected accusations the government was rushing the legislation through.

"This is three hours more than the previous government spent on the whole debate in the first place," he said.

Senator Cormann said the deal  would benefit the economy.

"A strong mining industry... is good for Australia, good for the economy and it's an important part of generating more jobs," he said.

Senator Milne called the deal "an absolute disgrace" that would hurt the super entitlements of millions of working Australians.

"This is exactly what the Australian people were concerned about at the prospect of a mining billionaire coming in here."

I would remind readers that one of the biggest miners in Australia, Glencore, pays so little tax on a profit of about $15 billions, one needs a microscope to see it.

The Mining Tax was designed to remedy this unsavoury situation somewhat...

by Gus Leonisky on Tue, 2014-09-02 16:59

"They are the reasons why we expect a pretty tough season for most of NSW," he said.

Nationally, maximum temperatures are running the second-highest on record for the past year, at 1.33 degrees above the long-run average, according to David Jones, head of climate monitoring at the Bureau of Meteorology.

"The heat this year is even more pronounced in the eastern states," Dr Jones said. Mean temperatures for NSW, Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria were 1.08 degrees above average over the past 12 months, eclipsing the previous record anomaly of 1.02 degrees set only last year.

by Gus Leonisky on Tue, 2014-09-02 16:48

The Senate has voted to repeal the mining tax after the Federal Government and the Palmer United Party (PUP) struck a deal to keep the schoolkids bonus until after the next election.

But the agreement also further delays superannuation increases for Australian workers, putting them on hold until 2021.

PUP had insisted it would not back the mining tax repeal unless the schoolkids bonus and other assistance measures were retained.

The legislation passed the Upper House this afternoon and will now head back to the House of Representatives, where its passage is guaranteed.

Earlier Finance Minister Mathias Cormann announced the breakthrough in the Senate.

"I am pleased to announce that the Government has received indications from a majority of senators in this chamber that they will support our mining tax repeal package subject to amendments which are currently being circulated in the chamber," he said.


by Gus Leonisky on Tue, 2014-09-02 15:16

Australia's chief scientist has unveiled an ambitious agenda for change to increase the focus on science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills to help secure the country's future prosperity.

Professor Ian Chubb AC has outlined a number of recommendations to the Federal Government in a national science strategy to build a more competitive economy.

His call for action involves a long-term strategic view from the classroom to laboratories and the boardroom to create and foster STEM skills, which he says are relevant to an increasingly wide range of occupations.

The strategy outlines a broad approach across four main areas, including building competitiveness, supporting high-quality education and training, maximising research potential and strengthening international engagement.

Professor Chubb said the strategy begins in the classroom, starting in primary school.

"If we've got young people coming through the system who are interested in science, fascinated by science and understand how awesome science can be, then we'll be better off for it," he said.

He has recommended that every primary school have at least one specialist maths and science teacher – a policy already used in Victoria and South Australia.

"It means we've got to support our teachers – we've got to prepare them better," he said.


by Gus Leonisky on Tue, 2014-09-02 13:20

United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has given tacit backing to the Federal Government's plan to airlift weapons to Kurdish forces battling the Islamic State in northern Iraq.

The Government has been defending its plan to use Australian transport planes to deliver the arms and munitions, with frontbencher Scott Morrison saying the plan has been agreed to in coordination with Iraq's government.

At a media conference in Auckland today, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon thanked nations which he said were taking decisive action to address the security threat posed by Islamic State fighters in northern Iraq.

"Without addressing this issue through certain means, including some military and counter-terrorist actions, we will just end up allowing these terrorist activities to continue," he said.

Meanwhile, Iraq's ambassador to Australia has backed down from comments criticising the plan to arm Kurdish troops.


In arming the Kurdish regional government, Tony Abbott is helping a proscribed terrorist organisation and placing Australians at greater risk of terrorist attack.

So, to be clear about what the Australian government is doing in Iraq, we will be providing arms not to the government of that country, but to a breakaway province whose forces include a terrorist group, the PPK,

read more: http://www.crikey.com.au/2014/09/01/government-breaches-its-own-terror-laws-in-returning-to-iraq/

by Gus Leonisky on Tue, 2014-09-02 13:16

The politically motivated Hanger 'pink batts' royal commission, in its eagerness to condemn the previous Government, ignored seven vital issues in its "glaringly unfair" report, writes Alan Austin.

FORMER PRIME MINISTER MALCOLM FRASER warned that theRoyal Commission into the home insulation program (HIP) would be political ‘payback’.

Headlines following yesterday’s release of Commissioner Ian Hanger’s report have certainly been as damaging to Labor as those Tony Abbott has fomented for five years.

But, disturbingly, the report has not addressed at least seven critical issues — all with political impact.

One. To what extent did the scheme achieve its objectives? Was the HIP the reason – or part of the reason – Australia averted the recession which loomed in every developed country in 2008 and which eventuated everywhere except Australia and Poland?

Those who say it was include Australia’s Treasury, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University, UNICEF consultant Bruno Martorano, Sydney University’s Professor Rodney Rodney Tiffen, Australian Trade Commission’s Tim Harcourt and Lowy Institute for International Policy director Mark Thirlwell.

None of these was called to testify, nor was any other authority on fiscal stimulus. This vital question remains unanswered.

read more: http://www.independentaustralia.net/article-display/hanger-royal-commission-pink-batts-payback,6850


Anthony Abbott is a vindictive crappy politician... He should never have got there, except for the vindictive crappy lot that we are... Anthony Abbott is an opportunistic idiot... 

by Gus Leonisky on Mon, 2014-09-01 20:31

An Indian charity has unveiled 108 new lavatories in a village which gained notoriety when two young girls were found hanged from a tree there in May.

The teenage cousins were killed in Katra Sahadatganj in Uttar Pradesh when they went unaccompanied to relieve themselves in the fields.

Campaigners say the lack of toilets and the need to walk long distances makes women vulnerable to attack.

Nearly half of India's 1.2 billion people have no toilets at home.

Unveiling the brightly-coloured, cheap lavatories on Sunday, the sanitation charity Sulabh International said it aimed to provide the same facility for every dwelling in India.

"I believe no woman must lose her life just because she has to go out to defecate," Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of the charity, said.

"Our aim is to provide a toilet to every household in the country in the not-too-distant future," Mr Pathak told the AFP news agency.

The circumstances of the murder of the two young cousins in Katra Sahadatganj remain unclear.

But they were killed when they - like countless other girls and women - walked to the fields in the dark, for privacy, to relieve themselves.

read more: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-29008713#

by Gus Leonisky on Mon, 2014-09-01 20:25

Tony Abbott "wilfully misled" voters when as Opposition Leader he promised no "nasty surprises" and "pathetic excuses" in government, Labor says.

With the Coalition's one year anniversary in office nearing, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has renewed his attack on the government's budget by reminding voters of promises Tony Abbott made as opposition leader but has broken as Prime Minister.

"There will be no surprises and no excuses from a Coalition government," Mr Abbott said exactly one year ago.

Speaking in Canberra, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten revived Mr Abbott's pledge and said it was proof the government's budget was built on deception.

"We have seen a lie that statement was to the Australian people - it's been one year since Tony Abbott wilfully misled the Australian people,"

"When he said there would be nasty surprises, did he tell Australians about the GP tax? No. Did he tell Australian families and motorist about increasing the petrol tax? No he didn't," Mr Shorten said.

Mr Shorten said the government was fond of blaming the media and anyone else but themselves for their political mistakes and said: "This is a government who can be best described by nasty surprises and pathetic excuses."

See mischief at top...
by Gus Leonisky on Mon, 2014-09-01 20:11

Human rights groups say there has been an upsurge of executions in Saudi Arabia, after more than one execution per day in the first three weeks of August was carried out. To date this month, the country has almost doubled the number of declared executions in the seven months before August 4.

Charges have included murder, drug smuggling, and sorcery. On August 18, four members from the same family in the southwestern city of Najran were beheaded for smuggling a "large quantity of hashish".  The next day a Saudi national was executed in the northern city of Qurayyat for sorcery.

The Saudi Ministry of Justice has announced the execution of 26 individuals since August 4. In the seven months prior, 15 executions were carried out, bringing the total number to 41 so far this year. However, there were no executions during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan this year between June 28 and July 28.

"One theory behind the increase is that there is a backlog of cases [since the start of the year]," said Adam Coogle, a representative of New York-based Human Rights Watch.

According Sevag Kechichian, a researcher with London-based Amnesty International, the rate of executions in the first half of last year was high, before slowing down, while this year the reverse is true. One way of explaining this, Kechichian said, is that Saudi authorities may be trying to reach an annual target: at 79, the number of announced executions in 2012 and 2013 was identical.

In May, a Saudi court sentenced to death prominent Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr, who was arrested in July 2012. The court convicted him of inciting violence in his speeches and supporting the unrest in the eastern province of Qatif, home to many of the kingdom's minority sect who say they face discrimination. Al-Nimr's defence counsel has appealed the sentence, and a final ruling is expected on September 16, according to al-Nimr's brother via Twitter."A major cause of executions is the aftermath of the 2011 uprisings across the Middle East," he told Al Jazeera, adding that this, coupled with Shia mobilisation in Saudi Arabia and intra-regime fighting, might mean the authorities want to send a message. "It's about keeping the regime stable."

Shia Muslims number roughly two million in Saudi Arabia, or 15 percent of the population. Protests in Qatif have been ongoing since 2011.

In that year, at least 82 executions took place, more than three times the figure of 27 in 2010.

However, Professor Gregory Gause, head of International Affairs at Texas A&M University, does not see a direct political explanation for the recent spate of executions. "It's not like people are being arrested for protesting in the Eastern Province and then sentenced to death," he said. The executions "certainly fit in with a more general crackdown on the small margin of political freedom that the king allowed before 2011, but these executions are not for political crimes".

The legal system of Saudi Arabia is based on Sharia, Islamic law. Unlike other countries that use Sharia for legal guidance, Saudi Arabia does not possess a codified legal system, though attempts in this direction began in 2010. Since the country does not have a formal penal code, it leaves judges free to hand out sentences based on their interpretations of Islamic law.

Discussing the status of Sharia in the country, an editorial published by Saudi newspaper Al-Iqtisadiah last week said that "it has become urgent for a quick, efficacious and studied application of [personal law] rulings".

Khaled Abou El Fadl, a professor of Islamic law at UCLA, told Al Jazeera that Saudi law is based on two separate systems. In business matters, it is sophisticated. In civil law, however, Islamic courts retain jurisdiction. "What this has amounted to is Sharia courts staffed by judges who are completely disconnected from modern criminal law," he said. "The amount of discretion left to judges is monumental", so that "there is no way to guarantee a fair trial".

According to Abou El Fadl, judges in civil courts have also become more vicious in their application of Islamic law, as they vent their frustrations against what they perceive to be the un-Islamic behaviour of foreigners or members of the royal family.

Al Jazeera could not reach the Saudi Justice Ministry and repeated attempts for comment from the Saudi Interior Ministry went unanswered. In 2007, the Justice Ministry stated in a document the publication of judicial decisions in the kingdom is based on the use of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) and Islamic law.

It also explained that judicial outcomes are based on the correct application of Islamic law with a view of interpreting current events.

Meanwhile, the rate of executions has slowed down in the last week, with recent beheadings carried out only in the case of murder charges.

The planned beheading of Hajras al-Qurey scheduled for August 25, which prompted complaints from rights groups, has since been delayed.

The 53-year-old and his son, Muhammad, were arrested in 2012 and charged in 2013 with drug smuggling and attacking a policeman. Both claimed to have been tortured and forced to give false confessions during interrogation. An appellate court and the country's supreme court upheld the verdict.

But members of the al-Hajras family told Al Jazeera by email that they hope the king will intervene to grant a pardon. "These are not celestial rulings, but human interpretations open to error. The king has often granted pardons in similar cases, but unfortunately these are frequently given to those with a relationship to powerful people."

"There is a classist and ethnic bias in the way the Sharia courts handle cases," said legal scholar Abou El Fadl. "Depending on whether you're Bangladeshi, Indian, Syrian and so on, different gradations tend to be at different levels of risk."

Each year, the Saudi government executes foreign nationals as well as local citizens.

However, Fahad al-Anzi, a member of the king's consultative council, has accused foreign organisations of basing their views on distorted facts. In response to calls by Amnesty International to stop the execution of Hajras al-Qurey, al-Anzi said the human rights group "has not understood the system of criminal procedures that define many of the accused's [legal] guarantees".

Al-Anzi added the decision to execute drug smugglers is subject to judgments that transcend international agreements and human rights as they are understood in the West. Instead, it is based on legal rulings of religious scholars and religious law.

For Abou El Fadl, however, this is not a question of East versus West:

"I think it's the consensus of Muslim, educated experts that [in Saudi Arabia] there is abuse of a legal system that's being applied out of its historical context … There is discretion and anarchy. It's politicised, racialised, and classist," he said.


by Gus Leonisky on Mon, 2014-09-01 17:45

Doping experts have yet to find an effective test for athletes using xenon and argon, despite introducing a ban on the gases' use by sports stars.

The new ban has been ordered by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada), which runs drug testing across many sports.

It follows concerns that athletes were breathing these so-called noble gases to encourage the growth of red blood cells that boost stamina.

But despite being piloted, a valid test is not yet ready, the agency says.

Ignoble prize

The idea of doping with gases more usually associated with arc welding, neon light bulbs and anaesthesia may seem bizarre, but Wada believes there is enough evidence of their enhancement potential to ban them.

Media reports earlier this year indicated that athletes in Russia have been using the gases for years as a means of boosting their stamina ahead of international competitions.

Indeed the company that developed techniques to help athletes prepare using xenon, has a "badge of honour" on its website from the Russian Olympic Committee for "the organisation and conduct of inhalation remediation".

How xenon gas may boost performance

Inhaling xenon, mixed with oxygen, is believed to improve stamina because it increases the body's production of a protein known as hypoxia inducible factor 1, or HIF1.

In turn this stimulates the production of natural erythropoietin (EPO) which regulates the number of red blood cells. The more of these cells, the more oxygen you can carry, and the greater your athletic stamina.

Doping with artificial EPO has been one of the biggest threats to the integrity of sport over the past 20 years. The clampdown on using the drug has seen sports scientists develop other methods including the use of xenon and argon.

Earlier this year Wada's executive committee decided to ban these two named gases by adding them to the prohibited list from this month.

"We had serious information that xenon was being used," Wada's science director Dr Olivier Rabin told BBC News.

"We believe it has been used in the preparation for some major events."

Now that xenon and argon are banned, the agency needs to have an effective test for the gases. 

read more: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-28970855#