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   Sep 14

No love lost in Parliament on Valentine’s Day

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian (centre), Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Minister for Local Government Gabrielle Upton hold a press conference in State Parliament House. Photo: Louise Kennerley NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian fielded her first question time as Premier on Tuesday. Photo: Louise Kennerley
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The questions came thick and fast to and from NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, but bouquets weren’t given out. Photo: Louise Kennerley


Gladys Berejiklian’s first question time as Premier fell on Valentine’s Day, and love was in the House.

It was written in the eyes of Opposition Leader Luke Foley as he introduced his new Labor members to the house. It oozed between the backsides of an overflowing new government frontbench (and actually off the side in the case of Multicultural Affairs Minister Ray Williams).

It even softened the Greens into allowing the freshly sworn Shooters, Fishers and Farmers member Philip Donato to share their crossbench, albeit with the tactful placement of red-carded Liberal Glenn Brookes sitting between them.

And then there were the unlucky in love, those who had been relegated to the backbench in the January shuffle, who glowered and yawned behind the ebullient honeymooners.

But if Berejiklian had dared to hope that the spirit of love, peace and harmony would extend to the opposition, she was to be disappointed.

Her own ascension to the job, along with the cabinet shuffle and midday announcement that arranged marriages between councils in rural and regional areas would not go ahead provided her opponents with ample fodder for the opening of the season.

The man who had a PhD in planning had been moved to education, which he confessed was not his area of expertise, Mr Foley needled, while the man who was an expert in education had been shunted to the backbench “because the new leader of the Nationals hates him”.

“And in health they take the person who’s been in the portfolio since 1994 to refresh the cabinet and replace her with the guy who’s been here since 1991.”

Mr Foley taunted that the Premier had been elevated to her position by factional lobbyists and lurking machinists, and he challenged why she had reversed council amalgamations in the bush but was sticking to them in Sydney.

Ms Berejiklian parried.

“I appreciate the question from the Leader of the Opposition but I ask him to actually, by the end of question time, to have his position made clear,” she said.

“The rumblings of that side of the house have become apparent, Madam Speaker. They support mergers, they know they have a leader who has no policy and no principle.

“The Leader of the Opposition has had a lot to say about this but the sad thing is he still doesn’t have a position.” She wagged her finger. “You have until the end of question time.”

Mr Foley: “I would like to move the motion and let’s get it on.”

If Ms Berejiklian considered his comment a little forward on this of all days, she gave nothing away.

“But if I did that you would have a different position by the end of question time.” She smiled triumphant, glanced around the room, resumed her seat. There was no love lost.

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   Sep 14

Plan to help us decipher which vitamins and herbal remedies actually work

The Therapeutic Goods Administration is looking to reform the complementary medicine industry. Photo: Jennifer SooThe vitamins and supplements you buy could soon have a government tick of approval if they are found to be evidence-based.
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The Therapeutic Goods Administration is looking to reform regulation on complementary medicines so consumers have a better understanding of whether the billions we spend on them is giving us any health benefit.

At present, a listing on the n Register of Therapeutic Goods only means the product is safe, not that it delivers its stated claims.

But a review into regulation of the industry has recommended companies apply for approval if research finds its product effective.

Monash University Associate Professor Dr Ken Harvey said the change would make a world leader by building trust in the industry.

“This would greatly advance the future of complementary medicine if it gets implemented,” he said.

“[At the moment], there is no assurance of efficacy. There is no assurance that the product works. They can make whatever claims they like.”

It comes after a Choice investigation found one in three n pharmacists recommend alternative medicines that have little or no scientific evidence of working.

Four Corners also aired its own investigation into the complementary medicine industry on Monday night, which found seven out of every 10 ns take some form of vitamin or supplement.

The TGA released a consultation paper on Tuesday seeking feedback into the review.

The Review of Medicines and Medical Devices Regulation also recommended providing protections for companies that fund evidence-based research so that it can’t be copycatted.

Dr Harvey said this would encourage more clinical trials as companies would be safeguarded against having their researched ripped off to sell similar products.

Another recommendation was to eliminate the ability of companies to make unsubstantiated or extravagant claims by imposing a limited list of claimed health benefits a company could put down when making an application to the n Register of Therapeutic Goods.

Dr Harvey said there was a push back from industry lobbyists that argue it would put n companies at a commercial disadvantage.

However, he said although there could still be room for the system to be gamed, it was a step forward in improving the industry.

Complementary Medicines was contacted for comment.

The consultation closes on March 28.

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   Sep 14

Malcolm Turnbull’s new attack is a scare campaign, and it’s going to work

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has had an epiphany over energy. Photo: Andrew Meares Shadow Environment Minister Mark Butler (centre) during question time on Tuesday. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
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Watching the partisan battle over blackouts, renewable energy, and soaring power prices, there was a sense on Tuesday that it was Malcolm Turnbull who was more effectively honing his lines, and thus isolating his opponents’ weaknesses.

This is despite the fact that the once green-tinged PM has surrendered more of his own reputation in the conduct of this debate than Bill Shorten.

And it is despite Scott Morrison unhelpfully brandishing a lump of coal in the chamber last week – a visual so egregiously contrary to Turnbull’s early presentation, as to suggest that he was making this very point.

Turnbull’s right-ward trajectory has seen him bleeding progressives, with his support falling steadily since assuming the top job.

Voter disillusionment over his indifference to the causes he once championed – forward-leaning positions on climate policy, marriage equality, the republic – is usually cited.

But Turnbull has himself sloughed off some voters recently, having had an epiphany. Faced with the fight of his political life, he has concluded that chasing the shallow affections of browned-off cosmopolitans is a fool’s errand. Many were never Coalition voters anyway.

This realisation has freed the PM to target what he argues is the left’s ideological blindness on renewables and its cold indifference to the practical costs of too rapid a transition, for households and businesses.

Like the best political attacks, Turnbull aims to reduce a complex policy argument to a basic equation: South has the highest level of non-synchronous wind-solar energy, yet it also has the most expensive, least reliable electricity supply in the country.

You do the maths.

He cites examples such as Haigh’s Chocolates and large fisheries stretched by sky-rocketing power bills and slammed by calamitous outages. The goal is to combat Labor’s virtuous, future-focused policy, with tangible real-world consequences being felt now.

This explains why Turnbull so eagerly seized on Mark Butler’s description of the situation in SA as a series of small and large hiccups in the power supply.

Butler, Labor’s energy and climate spokesman, had been complaining about the government’s shameless politicisation of the blackouts.

He had a point. But in South , the debate is beyond politics now. Labor cannot afford to appear cavalier about rising electricity costs and collapsing confidence in the power supply in SA. There, comparatively abstract concerns over climate change have been overwhelmed by the tangible concern over energy security and the pressing reality of ever high prices.

Having read this switch clearly, Turnbull is now shaping to construct this harsh reality in voters’ minds well beyond the central state’s parched borders.

Scare campaign? You bet, and it will work too.

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   Sep 14

Cranbrook headmaster’s ‘misleading’ letters

Nicholas Sampson, headmaster of Cranbrook, leaves the Royal Commission in September 2015. Photo: Jason South Senior Counsel Assisting Gail Furness at the hearing earlier this month. Photo: Supplied
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The Commission is examining factors behind abuse claims in the Catholic church, with data showing seven per cent of priests were alleged offenders between 1950-2010. Photo: Mathew Lynn

The headmaster of one Sydney’s most expensive private schools, Cranbrook, wrote “misleading” letters about a teacher accused of child sexual abuse at his former school and failed to report the allegations to a higher authority, a royal commission has found.

Nicholas Sampson, then the headmaster of Victoria’s Geelong Grammar, paid teacher Jonathan Harvey to retire early in 2004 to avoid any formal complaints of child sex abuse being made against him.

Harvey was later found guilty of sexually abusing a 16-year-old boy known as BLF by repeatedly plying him with alcohol, fondling his genitals and forcing him into a threesome with another man in the 1970s.

Mr Sampson told the commission he was alerted to allegations against Harvey by the victim’s brother, BLW, and conducted a “fairly cursory” investigation before asking Mr Harvey to retire early.

The commissioners found Mr Sampson should have notified the Victorian Institute of Teaching about the allegations and that he “should have made a documentary record of the reason [Harvey left the school]”.

Instead, Mr Sampson wrote letters to Harvey thanking him for his “outstanding service”, praising him as a “wonderful teacher, an outstanding housemaster, a fine and thoughtful colleague and a tremendous and committed schoolmaster”.

A second letter from Mr Sampson to Harvey confirmed an extra year of pay following his retirement “due to the exceptional service [he] offered”.

The commission dismissed Mr Sampson’s defence that the letters were for personal use: “The letters were plainly kept amongst the school’s formal records in relation to Harvey,” it found.

“We also reject the submission that the letters were not misleading. No other records were produced which recorded the real reason for Harvey’s departure from the school, and no explanation was given as to why such documents were not produced.”

Mr Sampson, who became the headmaster of Cranbrook in 2012, an Anglican, $35,000-a-year school in Bellevue Hill, told the commission he was acting in the best interests of the victim, BLF, who did not want his identity revealed.

“We accept that Mr Sampson attempted to act in the best interests of BLF by securing Harvey’s resignation without disclosing his identity,” the Commission found. “It is clear, however, that he should have notified the Victorian Institute of Teaching.” Royal Commission: Vatican has no test for paedophiles

In a separate sitting on Tuesday, the Commission also heard there was no requirement for the Catholic clergy to be screened for sexual attraction to children but that the Vatican does have a detailed assessment procedure for homosexuality.

The Catholic Church’s central authority spent 13 years developing a protocol on homosexual tendencies among potential priests but has stayed “silent” on the issue of paedophiles, the commission heard.

The commission is examining factors behind abuse claims in the Catholic church, with data showing seven per cent of priests were alleged offenders between 1950-2010.

“As I understand it, the Vatican is specific that you must test for homosexual tendencies but the Vatican is silent in that same way on testing for children,” Commissioner Andrew Murray said.

Sister Lydia Allen???, who assesses candidates for the Seminary of the Good Shepherd in Homebush, said the Vatican was working on such a document.

“I have asked them if they have any documents on this situation of child abuse and they don’t yet … it’s part of a project they are going to work on,” she said.

“They do not have . . . anything that says, ‘You must assess for that’.

“However, I think it would be an unspoken rule. I don’t think it needs to be stated explicitly because it’s so obvious.”

David Leary, an academic and Franciscan friar, told the inquiry the assessment process was flawed.

“The first test for a candidate for either religious life or the seminary or for the priesthood is not a question about whether or not they’re homosexual,” he said.

“It’s about whether or not they are compassionate and that’s the thing that needs to be tested.”

Dr Leary said the Catholic church was “highly resistant” to understanding how its structures may have led to child sexual abuse.

“I don’t think we understand the psychology that underpins … child sexual abuse,” he said. “It’s really clear in every other jurisdiction except the church.”

Peter Thompson, rector of Vianney College in Wagga Wagga, told the commission it would be impossible to effectively screen every candidate for the priesthood.

“No one can infallibly predict that someone is not going to offend,” he said.

The hearing, before Justice Peter McClellan???, continues.

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   Sep 14

Andrew Walker says ‘the fire still burns’ if ACT Brumbies want 43-year-old to make a comeback

Andrew Walker playing against the Crusaders in 2002. Photo: Nigel MarpleAndrew Walker admits making a comeback at 43 years old seems too crazy to be true, but the cross-code veteran declared “the fire is still blazing” if the ACT Brumbies want him to play again.
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Walker has emerged as a potential recruitment option for the Brumbies as coach Stephen Larkham considers adding another player to his roster after injuries to Lausii Taliauli and Tomas Cubelli.

Walker hasn’t played professional rugby since retiring from the Queensland Reds in 2008 and he would become the oldest player in Super Rugby history if he is lured back on to the field.

Walker concedes he’s no longer the try-scoring freak he was in his prime, the dual international says he can offer wisdom to a Brumbies side that has lost more than 500 games worth of experience this year.

Larkham and Walker are yet to speak formally about contracts or whether Walker would be able to handle professional rugby again a decade after he retired.

But Walker said a taste of action at the Brisbane 10s last weekend reignited his passion.

“I haven’t really stopped playing footy, so my fitness is pretty high,” Walker said.

“I’ve probably lost about 10 per cent of speed, but I make up for that with experience. We can do things with the Brumbies and set it back on the right track again.

“The fire is still blazing, as soon as I threw the jumper on last weekend it turned into a bonfire. I was thinking, ‘how good is this?’.

“I really, really love the Brumbies so if there was anything I could do to help, then I’d do it in a heartbeat.”

The Brumbies are without Stephen Moore, Matt Toomua, David Pocock, Christian Lealiifano, Joe Tomane, Taliauli and Cubelli this year, leaving a gaping hole in squad experience.

Walker spent 16 years playing rugby league and rugby union at the highest level and showed at the Brisbane 10s age hasn’t diminished his magic.

However, the transition back into Super Rugby would be a giant leap given Walker retired from professional duties in 2008.

He still plays rugby league in Brisbane, is a personal trainer and was even working on his fitness on Tuesday night with the “Break the Cycle” charity, which aims to offer life-coaching and mentoring to prevent self abuse, self harm, addictions, and low self-esteem.

“I know it’s a big ask to be coming back at 43 years old, but my body is holding up really well.I was a bit sore after the 10s but I’m already training again,” Walker said.

“If Bernie [Larkham] came with a contract, I’d be firing. I have been thinking about it … it’s a matter of me thinking ‘can I do it?’.

“I think I can. I have looked after myself since I finished playing professionally and the fire in the belly really fired up when I got to play in the 10s.

“There are a lot of new guys at the Brumbies and what I noticed out there was that they weren’t talking that much.

“I think that’s where Bernie would love to have me, to help the kids. If it does happen, it will give a bit extra. It would bring the youth back out in me again.

“It’s a big ask and I’m not saying I wouldn’t do it … I’d put that jumper on again in a heartbeat.

Larkham conceded the Brumbies coaches “half joked” about Walker making a comeback at the Brisbane 10s, but it planted a seed about what he could offer the team.

Walker could be add valuable experience to the Brumbies bench if required at Super Rugby because of his ability to cover a variety of positions.

Walker would become the oldest player in Super Rugby history if he is asked to make a comeback, beating Brad Thorn’s record of being 39 years old.

“I did see that statistic. I’ve always loved a bit of history, I’ll take it,” Walker laughed.


February 25: Canterbury Crusaders v ACT Brumbies at Christchurch.

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   Aug 14

EDITORIAL: NSW government leaves regional councils alone

IN deciding not to proceed with council amalgamations in regional NSW, new Premier Gladys Berejiklian has washed her hands of a policy that was one of Barry O’Farrell’s big-ticket items when he brought the Coalition to power in 2011.
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As Mr O’Farrell’s successor, Mike Baird, found to his cost, having a bookshelf full of reports written by experts in favour of the policy was not enough to win it widespread support. Now, with an apparent party room mandate to clear the decks as best she can of any unpopular O’Farrell and Baird-era projects, Ms Berejiklian has decided that council amalgamations can proceed in metropolitan Sydney, but not in the rest of the state. Given that the basis of law and policy in has historically –and legally –been to treat all people equally, the idea that the council mergers imbroglio should be decided by moving one way in Sydney and another way in the bush has all the hallmarks of a ticking time bomb.

Yes, Ms Berejiklian’s announcement has taken the tension out of things in the short term. But by shoving regional council amalgamations into the too-hard basket, the Premier has effectively quashed any chance of substantial local government reform for a generation to come.

Given its timing, the councils announcement may have helped draw the public’s attention away from theother major state political issue on Tuesday, a march on Parliament House by some 700 or so public servants protesting against the privatisation of the state’s disability services. As the federal Coalitionis finding out, the NDIS is becoming a very expensive policy, financially, and while Canberra says it’s still committed to the project, lock, stock and barrel, it was a Labor initiative, and so may yet find itself trimmed in the name of the national budget.

The NSW government’s finances, by comparison, are robust indeed thanks to the booming property market, and the millions of dollars the Coalition has wasted in pursuing unrealised council amalgamations is unlikely to make a huge difference, economically. But what the backflip has done, however, is to hand a big win to Newcastle’s Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes, and to her Port Stephens counterpart Bruce MacKenzie, who will now go down as the council leaders who stared down a government.

It is now up to them to convince their respective ratepayers that the decision to retain the status quo was the right one.

ISSUE: 38,467

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   Aug 14

Canadian culture: 10 things you need to know about Canadians

In 2017, there’s another good reason to visit Canada: this year marks the country’s 150th birthday, and celebrations are planned for the entire 12 months. Events such as Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day (June 24), Canadian Multiculturalism Day (June 27), and Canada’s national day (July 1) will provide something extra for visitors.
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But here are 10 things you need to know about Canadians before you visit.

They’re not American

Although  their country boasts some truly beautiful scenery, most Canadians’ favourite geographical feature is the border that separates them from the US. Canadians are different to Americans, and they don’t enjoy being mistaken for their southern neighbours.

They’re extremely friendly

Stand around looking confused in any Canadian city for a few seconds and someone will offer to help you. You’ll see strangers striking up conversations on public transport. You’ll find you walk into a bar and immediately have friends. Canadians are like that.

They love hockey

“Hockey” in Canada means ice-hockey, and it’s a national passion that eclipses any other facet of life. Yes, it’s confusing that such polite, peaceful people are obsessed with one of the most brutal sports on the planet, but ice-hockey is the game of choice.

They’re multicultural

Though you might assume most Canadians are of either British or French origin, the fact is the majority now descends from other parts of the world. In Toronto, more than 140 languages are spoken, and almost 50 per cent of the population was born outside of Canada.

They’re progressive

When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his cabinet in 2015, it was a first for the country: an equal number of women and men. There were also two aboriginal members, and three from the Sikh community.

They’re outdoorsy

You’ll find most Canadians seem to have at least one passion that allows them to enjoy the great outdoors, from skiing and snowboarding to hiking, mountain-biking, rock-climbing, camping, canoeing and snow-shoeing.

They’re prone to frequent apologies

One of the cliches you’ll hear about Canadians is that they’re forever apologising – and it has some basis in truth. There’s something very charming about having someone tell you they’re sorry, even though it was clearly your fault.

Their coffee is terrible

There’s an increasing focus on good, locally sourced food in Canada via the “100-Mile Diet”; however, their coffee is uniformly terrible. Canada’s most popular coffee shop is Tim Horton’s, a chain founded by a former ice-hockey star that dishes up a very average brew.

Their capital city is Ottawa

In a similar way to the fact most people don’t seem to have ever heard of Canberra, many are taken by surprise when they discover Canada’s capital: Ottawa. It’s not exactly a tourism hub, but it will be popular during Canada’s 150th birthday.

They’re just like us

One of the most important things you notice about Canadians is that, essentially, they’re just like ns: similar values, similar traditions, similar history, similar ideals. It makes Canada a very easy place to visit.

See also: How Canada can now trump America as a tourist destination

See also: Why this Canadian city is the new New YorkListen: Flight of Fancy – the Traveller苏州夜总会招聘.au podcast with Ben Groundwater

The best places to visit in 2017

To subscribe to the Traveller苏州夜总会招聘.au podcast Flight of Fancy on iTunes, click here.

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   Aug 14

The coal war: Inside the fight against Adani’s plans to build China’s biggest coal mine

Abbot Point in Queensland, a proposed terminal for coal produced at Adani’s Carmichael mine. The n Conservation Foundation, the n Youth Climate Coalition and 350苏州模特佳丽招聘 rally in Melbourne against the coal mine. Photo: Wayne Taylor
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Abbot Point is surrounded by wetlands and coral reefs.

It’s the fight that has become a proxy war between forces for and against the coal industry in and it’s entering its fiercest round.

Indian conglomerate Adani’s plans to build ‘s biggest coal mine have been heralded by the federal and Queensland governments as a boon for local jobs and the economy.

But environmentalists are adamant the mine is a ticking time bomb that may imperil the Galilee Basin and Great Barrier Reef, as well as serving as an up-yours to the Paris climate change accord.

The battle will escalate this week when its opponents launch a campaign targeting 13 marginal federal Coalition seats and at least three Queensland state seats.

This comes as new details emerge about Adani’s chequered history in India, where the conglomerate and its subsidiaries have come under fire from environmental courts. The mine

The $22 billion mega mine Adani plans to build in Carmichael, Queensland will have six open-cut pits and several underground mines.

Coal will be extracted from the mine site west of Rockhampton and transported 400 kilometres by rail to the Abbot Point Terminal, south of Townsville.

It will be processed offshore, before being shipped to energy-hungry India. The federal government is considering granting Adani a $1 billion concessional loan to help build the railway line to the Abbot Point Terminal but the mine’s opponents consider the loan a key battleground in the war against the coal project. Killing the mine 

The anti-mine campaign is no empty threat. It has a $1 million war chest, nine full-time staff including polling and social media experts, hundreds of volunteers and is being run by left-leaning activist group GetUp.

While the anti-Adani movement wants to ensure the firm isn’t granted the $1 billion loan, its end game is to kill off the project.

“We will win,” says businessman turned environmental crusader Geoff Cousins.

This week, the n Conservation Foundation, a host of NGOs and GetUp will launch a campaign targeting 13 marginal coalition seats in Queensland, NSW and Victoria.

The campaign will employ cutting-edge and traditional tactics. Voters will be contacted by telephone, advertising and a social media blitz. GetUp’s campaigning is said to have contributed to the loss of several coalition seats during the 2016 election and the group is hoping to force Resources Minister Matt Canavan to ditch the proposed $1 billion concessional loan.

“We’re aiming to make 50,000 calls into these seats over the next three months, and have conversations with at least the number of people that is equal to that MP’s margin in votes. For example it would take just 532 votes to change the outcome of the seat of Forde in Queensland,” says GetUp’s Miriam Lyons.

The mine opponents will also lobby Westpac bank to join a host of other financial institutions in ruling out funding the $22 billion project, while continuing to use the courts to frustrate the government and Adani’s ambitions.

Adani believes it has become a proxy for the nation’s coal industry in a campaign that has seen calls from one environmental group to get activists to infiltrate the firm by posing as job seekers.

“This is the most regulated project in the history of and we are yet to push a shovel in the ground and get one ounce of coal. If they kill us, they will move on to other companies,” an Adani insider says. The political pay-off

In cities such as Townsville, heaving with n soldiers, and the sweltering, sprawling country town of Rockhampton, the mine is mostly seen as a godsend.

“I have come under fire from those opposed to coal for my vocal support of this project, but I won’t take a backward step,” Rockhampton Mayor Margaret Strelow recently said.

The Queensland Labor government faces an election in 2018 and, short on major infrastructure projects, hopes the mine and resulting jobs will see it returned to office.

Adani and the Queensland government say the project will deliver an employment bonanza, creating thousands of jobs during the construction phase. This will level off to 1500 or so employees when the mine is fully operational.

Pauline Hanson has backed the mine, subject to assurances around water management and the use of foreign labour, while local LNP member George Christensen supports both the mine and the subsidy.

The Minerals Council of ‘s CEO Brendan Pearson says the anti-mine campaign amounts to “futile grandstanding” that will only delay job and business opportunities for thousands of ns.

“It is patently clear that the Adani mine will proceed and that is a good thing for regional communities in Central and Northern Queensland,” he said.

Federal LNP members are also barracking for the mine.

One senior federal minister told Fairfax Media that regardless of opposition by “zealots”, the Carmichael coal project is likely to receive the $1 billion concessional loan from the government.

But the minister also privately acknowledges that subsidising a firm controlled by a controversial Indian billionaire is not without its problems. A grubby past

The Adani Group is a diversified conglomerate headed by billionaire Gautam Adani, one of India’s wealthiest magnates and a man who has cultivated powerful friends, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Mr Adani recently met Malcolm Turnbull, whose renewed support for coal (Treasurer Scott Morrison brandished a lump of coal in federal parliament last week) is at the heart of the Coalition’s claim that Labor’s renewable energy policy will lead to a surge in power prices and imperil energy security.

The power and reach of the Adani Group is legendary in India. But the group’s subsidiaries have also faced allegations of involvement in fraud and corruption, environmental destruction and labour exploitation.

A recent ABC investigation into the conglomerate focused on ongoing investigations by Indian authorities, widely reported by the local media, into alleged money laundering and tax fraud by Adani subsidiaries.

The federal resources minister described the ABC report as ‘fake news’ and said the allegations were untested.

But official Indian tribunals and watchdogs have landed punches on a number of Adani firms, including:

an August 2016 finding previously unreported in by the Indian National Green Tribunal- an environmental court- which found Adani partly responsible for failing to clean up after an oil and coal spill caused by an unseaworthy ship that ran aground off the coast of Mumbai in 2011. The ship had been chartered by Adani and was carrying the firm’s coal and fuel; and 

in January 2016, the same tribunal fined an Adani subsidiary $4.8 million after finding it had caused environmental destruction while undertaking works at a fishing village in the Indian port city of Surat.

A report released by lawyers from Environmental Justice documents these and other alleged Adani misdeeds in India, including an illegal iron ore mining and export operation and an environmental disaster at the Mundra port.

Mr Canavan believes Adani has “been exposed to unfair scrutiny” and criticisms of the firm carry “xenophobic undertones.”

“There have been some high-profile incidents by n mining and resources companies recently, some instances that are quite dire. But it seems to be, because they [Adani] are Indian or because they want to develop a new coal basin, they are exposed to a different standard.”

Mr Canavan insists has the regulatory checks and balances to keep Adani in line. For example, there are dozens of criteria for Adani to meet in order to meet and maintain its government approval.

And for all the doomsday warnings about Adani coal ships navigating the Great Barrier Reef, a company insider says such predictions overlook the fact that other vessels carrying the quarry of other big miners have for years been making a similar journey to little, if any, protest.

Queensland has exported more than 200 million tonnes of coal per year in recent times (more than triple the volume Adani plans to export) and the majority of that goes through the reef.

But a businessman who knows how corporate operates, former Optus CEO, Geoff Cousins, is dismissive of the protections proffered by the federal government and Adani. Mr Cousins, a former adviser to prime minister John Howard and current n Conservation Foundation chairman, notes that “major projects get a wide variety of conditions attached to them and state and federal  governments hide behind those conditions. But when you go to see if anyone checked on those conditions or whether they were met, the record is generally appalling.” Where will the coal go

The coal Adani wants to mine is bound for India’s power plants, including those the company owns. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is championing renewable energy in line with the aims of last year’s Paris Agreement (looking increasingly shaky in the wake of Donald Tump’s election. At the same time, India is also seeking to ramp up its own coal production in line with its ambitious aim to become self sufficient in its production of coal.

The mine’s proponents say if India’s power stations are denied n coal, they will be forced to use a dirtier local alternative, with greater emissions. This claim addresses the argument that the burning of Carmichael coal will undermine efforts to combat climate change. As with most claims connected to the mine, this is fiercely contested, including by the progressive Institute, who argue the Galilee Basin’s coal is dirtier than that in other n mines. They also contest the mine’s trumpeted job figures.

Ultimately, the fight about Adani’s Carmichael project is about the wisdom of building a massive new coal mine as the world moves towards less polluting sources of energy. The issue of climate change is the ultimate political fault line on which environmentalists believe the fight against Adani must be waged.

Mr Canavan says it’s all about jobs and economic opportunity. And while the competing battlegrounds aren’t mutually exclusive, there will only be one victor.

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   Aug 14

Malcolm Turnbull’s disability gambit backfires, drawing fire from Paralympian Kurt Fearnley

“It is political opportunism and it is just wrong:” n Paralympian Kurt Fearnley Photo: James Brickwood “Pitting battling ns against ns needing disability support services is dumb policy”: Senator Nick Xenophon Photo: Andrew Meares
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Treasurer Scott Morrison with ministers Christian Porter and Simon Birmingham spruik their omnibus savings plan at Parliament House. Photo: Andrew Meares

The Turnbull government’s bid to link disability funding to welfare cuts has backfired spectacularly, angering the Senate crossbenchers it was meant to win over and drawing fire from advocates and even a Paralympic champion.

The government had hoped to win support for its so-called omnibus savings bill by promising to direct $3 billion towards the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Another $1.6 billion would fund the Coalition’s childcare changes.

But crossbench kingmaker Nick Xenophon officially torpedoed the plan on Tuesday, saying the trade-off was simply “too harsh”.

“As a negotiating tactic, this is as subtle as a sledgehammer. Pitting battling ns against ns needing disability support services is dumb policy and even dumber politics,” Senator Xenophon said.

The government – which needs all three of Senator Xenophon’s upper house votes to pass legislation opposed by Labor and the Greens – would need to go “back to the drawing board”, he said.

Treasurer Scott Morrison and Social Services Minister Christian Porter are refusing to give up on the bill – which contains cuts to family tax benefits, paid parental leave and other payments – and are continuing to lobby the crossbench.

Government sources said it had “positive” signals from One Nation but without Senator Xenophon’s support, the bill appears doomed.

Paralympic wheelchair-racing legend Kurt Fearnley was furious about the government’s move, accusing it of using the NDIS as a “political football”.

“It is mischief. It is political opportunism and it is just wrong,” the passionate disability advocate and former NDIS advisory council member told ABC television.

“To sit there and draw a direct line between funding for people with disabilities and the cuts to other vulnerable members of our community — to those on welfare, to those on pensions — you could draw that line across a thousand different parts of the budget.

“I wish the government would fight for it with as much vigour as fighting for its $50 billion business tax cut because they believe both are benefits for our community.”

Mr Porter rejected suggestions the government was putting the NDIS in doubt.

“The NDIS is completely committed to, it will be completely funded,” he said.

“But we need to find more savings to ensure that we close that funding gap. The only alternatives other than that, are taxation or more borrowings and they are not in the best interests of all ns.”

n Council of Social Service head Cassandra Goldie strongly rejected the linking of social security cuts to disability funding.

“This measure is robbing Peter to pay Paul, pitting people on low incomes against each other in an unfair way. We need a properly funded NDIS, but that must not be at the expense of the poorest people in our country,” she said.

Disabled People’s Organisation chief executive Therese Sands said she was “shocked and troubled” by the government’s move. Labor said it should be condemned for its “shameful” tactics.

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   Aug 14

Fact Check redux: Unit reborn as RMIT-ABC joint venture eight months after axing

Russell Skelton will relocate from the ABC to RMIT to head up the joint venture Fact Check unit. Treasurer Scott Morrison invoked teh old ‘fake news’ line to defelct an unwelcome question on talkback radio last week. Photo: Daniel Munoz
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Eight months after it was axed as a result of government funding cuts, the ABC’s Fact Check department is to be relaunched – as a joint venture with a university.

The renamed RMIT ABC Fact Check will be housed at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology campus in the heart of the CBD, with a staff of three full-time researchers, an online editor and a chief fact checker working underneath Russell Skelton, who was head of the ABC’s Fact Check unit from its launch in August 2013 until its closure in July 2016.

Mr Skelton, a former senior journalist at The Age and partner of ABC broadcaster Virginia Trioli, will be employed by RMIT under the new three-year arrangement.

Gordon Farrer, an associate lecturer in journalism at RMIT who is writing a PhD on fact check units, will also work with the new unit part-time.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the ABC noted that the unit would also employ “interns drawn from RMIT journalism students and alumni”.

Mr Skelton insisted it would be completely “unfair” to interpret that as a sign the university would be staffing the unit with unpaid, inexperienced workers. “Why would they do that? We’ll have three experienced researchers.”

He said these positions, which are yet to be advertised, could be filled by “experienced journalists, mathematicians or corporate lawyers” among others. Any work done by students will not be for publication without further vetting by the paid fact checkers.

It is expected fact checking will become an integral part of the journalism program at RMIT, and ultimately students from other faculties may be able to take fact checking as a subject.

The unit will be housed in RMIT’s media precinct, part of the New Academic Street project currently under construction. The precinct is expected to be finished by mid-year.

ABC director of news Gaven Morris announced the imminent closure of the Fact Check unit in May 2016, following a reduction in tied funding to the ABC’s news division in the federal budget from $20 million a year to $13.5 million.

At that time, the unit had eight employees, including three fact checkers. At its peak, it had six fact checkers. It also employed interns.

The ABC initially held discussions with Melbourne University about the possibility of relocating the unit to its campus, but those discussions fell over around August last year. RMIT then stepped in with its offer in September.

The need for an independent (or, in this case, semi-independent) fact checker has arguably never been greater, with claims of “alternative facts” and “fake news” being bandied about whenever a public figure – and especially a politician – is confronted with information they don’t like.

Such disputed territory will be the main focus of the unit, says Mr Skelton. “The brief is anybody or any organisation – quite often politicians and ministers – who effect the direction or shape of public policy. We’re not about ‘gotcha’, trying to trip people up. We’re really going after the issues that we think matter to .

“I’ve always thought fact checking was tremendously important in terms of developing well-thought through public policy,” he says.

Despite its presence in the media and communications faculty at RMIT, the unit will not be focusing on the media per se.

“It would take a lot more resources if you wanted to go around every news site pinging fake news,” says Mr Skelton. “The ABC has Media Watch, so we’ve left the media to them. Otherwise you could spend all day doing shock jocks and never get to anything that really matters.”

Karl Quinn is on facebook at karlquinnjournalist and on twitter @karlkwin

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