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28
Jun
2015

Labor at Precipice Edge

Islamic Terrorism Increases Further
Reports yesterday of many deaths overseas from terrorist attacks in three places, including a beheading in France (see More Terrorist Attacks), suggest the need for more counter-terrorism activity particularly by the US (the best Obama could do was send condolence messages). The deaths followed a call on Tuesday by an IS spokesman to mark the holy month of ramadhan by carrying out acts of jihad (see More Terrorist Attacks). They need to be seen as part of the ongoing threat from extremist Islam not only in Iraq/Syria but around the world.

Abbott has again emphasised that Australia is at war with Islamic extremist groups and an arrest in Darwin of a young man who had terrorist plans, including a “beheading hit list”, was followed by a national security committee meeting of Cabinet yesterday. Today’s Herald Sun reports Abbott as saying “we need ways of dealing with those that are not dual nationals. Perhaps to deal with it we need a modern form of banishment”.

This could provide an opportunity to give serious consideration to the suggestion made last Friday by Dr Anthony Bergin, the deputy director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (whose board I was on), that the action to allow withdrawal of citizenship should be extended to cover naturalised Australians as well as dual citizens. According to Bergin, Britain has empowered its government to allow such action against naturalised citizens who engage in conduct that is considered prejudicial to the ‘vital interests’ of the crown (see the report on Possible Extension of Citizenship Cancellations). He rightly points out that the proposed legislation to which Labor agrees only deals with about half of suspected Australian terrorists. It is surprising that the Abbott government has not asked ASPI to publish a comprehensive analysis of Islamic extremism.

Shorten’s Status
With the continued deterioration of the status of Opposition Leader Shorten, the time is ripe for extending the debate on government policies in various areas. An official comprehensive paper could be published by ASPI on the Islamic threat and possible responses. As The Australian’s political editor, Dennis Shanahan, indicates below, Labor under Shorten is in dire straits and (politically) it cannot now reject national security proposals which are properly presented (see below Dangerous game leaves Labor at edge of precipice).

In similar vein, there is an opportunity to advance or propose other changes, particularly in workplace relations. Yesterday, The Australian published further evidence of questionable deals done by Shorten when head of the AWU. This particular deal involved the extraction of $150,000 from a mushroom picking business (how “low” can this go!) for “paid education leave”. According to advice from a prominent legal firm, the arrangement probably prevented competition for the supply of labour and, as such, breached the Trade Practices legislation (of course, the failure of the ACCC to involve itself in restrictive practices in the labour market might have encouraged the AWU to take the risk). This will be one of the AWU deals considered by the trade union commission when interviewing Shorten in early July.

ABC’s Response on Q&A
ABC managing director Scott has admitted the Q&A program “error” in allowing on the program a man (Zaky Mallah) who can only be described as an Australian with terrorist aims (he seems eligible to citizenship cancellation). But Scott’s apparently considered defence, made five days after the incident, confirms the serious problems with the ABC. His argument that the ABC supports free speech does not address the issue: nobody has suggested that Mallah should be denied the opportunity to speak. Nor does Scott’s claim that the ABC is “Australian” address the question posed by Abbott (“whose side are you on”). While there has been a rush from left journos (including those on today’s Insiders program) to condemn Abbott as “over the top”, the reality is that the ABC is far too quick to include a sympathetic component in its programs dealing with Islamic terrorist activity. A bit of “over the top” provides a wake-up call to journos as well as others.

The question is what should be the outcome of the government inquiry of the Q&A decision. It is too soon politically to push for privatisation of almost all of the ABC. But hopefully it will at least conclude that the ABC’s budget of over $1 billion pa is far too large. That would provide the basis for a big cut in the next budget.

Climate Change
While so far the Pope’s encyclical has fallen on pretty deaf ears, it will doubtless get further publicity particularly when he talks with Obama in September.

Meanwhile, the Abbott government has announced a new 20 per cent renewable energy target – of sorts. I say “of sorts” because, as Alan Moran has pointed out (see RETS & Wind Turbines), energy intensive industries have been exempted from having to use wind or solar sources. Moran’s valuable analysis, published as an OpEd article in the AFR on 22 June, includes estimates of the additional costs compared with usage of coal – for wind farms about three times higher and for solar panels the existing subsidy alone is about the same as the total cost from coal usage. He also points out that the new RET target would only reduce emissions by 4-5%. For sceptics this might seem “encouraging”: but with the IPCC target requiring an 80% reduction, the Fairfax press and the ABC will continue to present Australia as being behind scratch and continue to ignore the fact that our emissions are such a small proportion of the world total that their contribution is relatively insignificant.

The report on RETS & Wind Turbines includes an important revelation by The Australian’s environment editor, Graham Lloyd, that, arising out of an interim report from a Senate Inquiry on wind turbines, the potential adverse health effects of such turbines require much stricter supervision of proposals for construction (the establishment of a wind farm commissioner has already been announced). Lloyd also points out that this is already happening in overseas countries and has led Britain to announce the cessation of subsidies, which will stop 2500 proposed turbines being built.

There are many outstanding questions about the dangerous warming thesis, including one not mentioned above viz that the Bureau of Meteorology has published temperatures in Australia since 1910 which almost certainly exaggerate the increase. The review, which was started by Hunt and seemingly undertaken by people with warmist beliefs, is clearly unsatisfactory. Dr Jenifer Marohassy, who has undertaken extensive research on the BOM’s methodology with many others, commented on the failure of the inquiry to refer to the “absence of most basic quality controls in the many adjustments made to the raw data in the development of the homogenised temperature series”. The decision of the panel conducting the inquiry to meet again next year (ie after the Paris IPCC meeting) is ridiculous. There needs to be a proper inquiry which includes outside experts such as Marohassy.

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