On returning after a break in Canberra (according to my taxi driver nothing much happens there), where I was listening to my daughter play in the music festival, I found a lot happening outside Canberra as well as in Parliament House.
Islamic Threats in Melbourne
Victorian police have just announced a new “protect the force” strategy involving (inter alia) the wearing of bullet proof vests and attending calls in twos, as well as carrying machine guns when raiding suspected Islamist extremists and even creating a no-fly zone above the HQ of suspects.
Two apparent plans for bomb attacks are reported to have been independently made (see two Herald Sun reports below). The first plan aimed at action on Anzac Day and included the killing of a policeman followed by a suicidal rampage ie kill until you are killed. It involved three youths who had been attending the same Islamic centre as the guy who was shot dead after attempting to knife two policemen a couple of months ago. They (or at least two of them) have just been refused bail, which could keep them in custody for up to 12 months.
Details are as yet limited on the second plan, which was stopped on Friday but which was also close to being implemented. It appears to have involved the use of pipe bombs constructed by a 17 year old, living in a large house and son of a doctor who migrated from Syria, and to be used in today’s Mothers Day run.
The action taken by police and the involvement of ASIO are to be applauded. Also encouraging is the decision to refuse bail for those planning the Anzac Day action. Hopefully that will be repeated for the latest attempt.
But why were the arrests only made at the last moment when, it appears, the authorities had earlier knowledge of the plans? The arrest on Friday 8 May followed a tip off reported to be from “the public” on 30 April on the National Security Hotline (1800 1234 00). Also, the youths are almost certainly to have been encouraged by preachers who support violent jihadism and whose views would have been known to the authorities. Although there would be reluctance to take action against such preachers because it would be presented by some as an attack against all Muslims, counter-terrorist legislation makes the advocacy of violence an offence. Particularly where suicidal rampages are envisaged, such legal action is surely justified now. As one commentator put it, “it was only a matter of time before the bombs that killed … in Afghanistan turned up here”. Indeed, consideration should be given to having violence-advocates indefinitely detained or even expelled from Australia where that is possible (one report suggests that consideration is being given to doing just that to the infamous Benbrika when his jail sentence expires in a couple of years).
Beyond all this, there continues to be a strong case for a government statement explaining why Australia does not accept preaching by or from any religion where violent activity against others is advocated. Note also that in the UK there will be no policy as advocated by Labor’s leader there – insulting of Muslims an offence.
Unions & Secondary Boycotts
Leading barrister and expert on industrial relations, Stuart Wood, has drawn attention to the failure of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to respond in any effective way to secondary boycotts activated by unions (see article below). Wood has been an adviser to multi-national company Boral, which was prevented by unions from operating in Victoria by inter alia stopping the supply of concrete for Boral’s building projects. Wood also points out that the Harper inquiry into competition policy limited its comments in this area to advocating a “more vigorous” approach by the ACCC.
Rod Sims, appointed head of the ACCC by Labor in 2011, was an advisor to former PM Bob Hawke. His main focus appears to have been on taking action against larger companies judged by him to have been exercising alleged monopolistic practices.
The end result is that, including the Fair Work Commission, we have two regulatory bodies which allow unions to determine what are essentially monopolistic practices in securing sympathetic conditions of employment. Not satisfied with this, it now appears that Labor’s draft national program to be considered at its July national conference envisages a role for unions under Labor which would virtually confirm them as having a definitive say on a range of policies (see article below). If approved, this could become a major election issue.
The Change in Budget “Policy”
With much of what’s in Tuesday’s budget having been deliberately revealed in advance, it already seems clear that a political decision has been made to go softly, softly with the budget. Economic considerations have been downgraded and the change is seen by some as being justified by the recovery in opinion polls to 48/52 on a TPP basis.
Whether that is the case is difficult to assess. Other important changes have been made which will have contributed to the polling recovery. These include the involvement of Abbott this year in “selling” the budget in advance (he made very little contribution last year); the disappearance from public and media view of Abbott’s secretary; the appointment of the highly capable Scott Morrison to negotiate changes in welfare policies which are saleable as being “fair” and to announce them and their justification; the corresponding reduction in the role of Treasurer Hockey and his more limited (but still occurring) gaffes; and the failure of Labor, particularly leader Shorten, to present alternative policies or, when they have done so, to address key welfare issues (one commentator has observed that, with the softening by the Coalition, Labor is running out of policies to criticise).
Even so, the likely presentation of a budget with continued large deficits and with expenditure reductions still heavily dependent on Senate approval, coming on top of last year’s budget mess, makes it difficult to believe that any further significant improvement in polling will occur post-budget. However, even with a negative net TPP the possibility of a double-dissolution election based on Labor’s continued opposition to expenditure reductions and Labor’s negativity is being speculated and cannot be ruled out (one analyst claims that early second term elections have all returned then existing governments). The RBA’s announcement on Friday reducing interest rates to 2 per cent (it should have happened long ago), and reducing by half a percentage point the forecast range of GDP growth in 2015-16 to 2-3 per cent, makes an early election more likely on the argument that we (the Coalition) can’t solve the economic/budget problem if existing arrangements continue. If TPPs stay below 50 or move up only marginally Abbott himself may see an election as a way of protecting his personal position.
Although less than had originally been scheduled, the target agreed with Labor for 2020, involving 20 per cent of energy to then come from highly inefficient and costly renewable sources, is to say the least highly regrettable. It is a disgrace that, before reaching any such agreement, the Abbott government did not first insist on an examination of the many uncertainties in the supposed “science” used by warmist believers to justify predictions of dangerous warming if fossil fuels continue to be used.
Other opportunities should not be missed for highlighting those uncertainties. In particular, in the report of the task force established in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to consider the target for emissions reductions that might be adopted after 2020 at the Paris conference of the IPCC in December. My submission to the Task Force (circulated previously) concludes that there is no substance in the dangerous warming claim because “no definitive causal correlation can be established between past changes in temperatures and in atmospheric concentrations of C0 2”.
There are also signs that some major overseas countries (not the US) have indicated they intend to increase their usage of coal. According to climate analyst Jo Nova some 63 countries are constructing new coal-fired power plants. Germany, for example, is scheduled to build 10 new such plants and China is also adding considerably to coal-fired plants. This indicates that despite Obama the Paris conference will not reach any substantive agreement on reducing emissions.
Also, while the relevant Ministers (Hunt and Baldwin) responsible for having the BOM temperature records checked have passed the buck to a Technical Advisory Forum of scientists operating under the BOM itself, an opportunity might also arise when the report is received. Many submissions have been made by climate analysts portraying considerable inaccuracies in the published data. It seems quite likely that substantial evidence could emerge (if allowed to) suggesting that at least half the published increase of about 0.8C over the past century did not occur.
Detailed analysis by physicist Dr Tom Quirk indicates that in Australia the BOM may have overstated the increase in temperatures by 0.6C. Quirk has sent his analysis to the (independent) Global Warming Policy Forum in the UK, which is conducting its own inquiry into temperature data.
UK Election Result
The surprise win by the Conservatives sends a signal that “tough” budgets are not necessarily election losers. This could be used in any early election here as could drawing a parallel between the left Milliband and Shorten. Why the polling was so wrong is a puzzle, but my guess is that the possibility of a government including the very left Scottish independents with Labor may have shifted the voters in England at the margin. Whether Cameron on his own can initiate major policy changes remains to be seen but there are some hopeful signs on climate change policies. He has already indicated that he will go all out for exploiting shale gas as in the US.