December 4th, 2018

Cycling body slams sentence as driver walks free from court

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Cycling Tasmania executive officer Collin Burns outside the Launceston Magistrates Court yesterday with family and supporters of killed cyclist Lewis Hendey in the background. Picture: NEIL RICHARDSON
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CYCLING Tasmania has slammed the wholly suspended sentence handed to the driver who killed cyclist Lewis Hendey as “manifestly inadequate”.

Executive officer Collin Burns on Monday also demanded the state government take action on tougher penalties for negligent drivers who kill other road users.

Magistrate Reg Marron jailed driver Timothy Wayne Yole, 26, for four months, wholly suspended for two years, in the Launceston Magistrates Court on Monday.

Mr Marron also disqualified Yole from driving for 18 months.

Mr Hendey’s family, including his parents, sister, brother-in-law and a grandparent, were too distraught to speak to the media, so Mr Burns spoke on their behalf outside court.

He said the sentence was not justice and he personally believed that Yole should have gone to jail.

“It was an avoidable tragedy,” Mr Burns said.”Cycling Tasmania has been lobbying the government to protect bike riders.

“The government has failed to act so far.

“This is not a one-off; three men have lost their lives in the last three years. Pedestrians have also lost their lives and no one has gone to jail.”

A government spokesman said that the government was unable to comment on individual cases, but referred The Examiner to statements made earlier this month.

Attorney-General Vanessa Goodwin previously acknowledged there were several cases where there had been “significant community angst” about the application of suspended sentences.

Dr Goodwin said the Sentencing Advisory Council was investigating alternative sentencing options that would be introduced with the phasing out of suspended sentences.

Mr Burns added that Mr Hendey’s family told him they would like to see a 10-year mandatory minimum disqualification for drivers who kill other road users.

“I will be taking this up personally with the minister,” he said.”Driving a car is a weapon. People are just not being responsible for their actions.”

Infrastructure Minister Rene Hidding said on Ride 2 Work Day last week the government had launched the new A Metre Matters campaign which reminded motorists of the importance of passing cyclists safely.

Source: The Examiner, Tasmania

December 4th, 2018

Tony Abbott invites Joko Widodo to G20 as Indonesia’s new President promises to strengthen maritime

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Indonesian President Joko Widodo (right) meets Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott prior to a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta. Photo: Alex EllinghausenJakarta: Tony Abbott met the new Indonesian President Joko Widodo late on Monday night and personally invited him to Brisbane to the G20 meeting next month, but received a non-committal reply.
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As foreshadowed in an exclusive interview with Fairfax Media recently, Mr Joko is waiting for advice before deciding to make the trip to Australia on November 15 and 16.

“He invited us to attend G20. It was the main topic,” Mr Joko told reporters after his bilateral meeting with Mr Abbott at the presidential palace into which he had moved just hours earlier.

“I don’t know [if I will go] because I said we still have not a cabinet who will discuss it.”

Asked when he would appoint his cabinet, he said, “as soon as possible”.

The pair had also talked about two-way investment, which is a thin $15 billion in goods and services, and the number of students who came from Indonesia to study in Australian universities.

“The number is very big, but it’s not the case in reverse,” Mr Joko said.

The Abbott government is attempting to redress this with its so-called “reverse Colombo plan” to encourage Australians to study in Indonesian universities.

Australia regards both the bilateral meeting and Mr Joko’s attendance at the G20 as extremely important as Mr Abbott seeks to get in on the ground floor and build a strong relationship with the new Indonesian president, who was inaugurated earlier in the day.

But in small talk before their meeting, Mr Joko seemed to acknowledge the rocky history between the two countries, saying he hoped the relationship would improve.

He said he wanted Mr Abbott to know that, “if we have a problem, you can talk to my ambassador [Nadjib Riphat Kesoema, who was at the talks] because for me communication is important”.

Mr Nadjib is the same ambassador who was withdrawn from his post for six months by former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono over revelations of Australian spying.

Mr Abbott reminded Mr Joko that he was following in the footsteps of his predecessor, John Howard, who attended the inauguration of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2004.

Mr Joko’s meeting with Abbott was bookended by other parts of a crowded schedule; Mr Joko met with the Prime Ministers of Malaysia and Singapore, and the Secretary of State of the United States, John Kerry.

Mr Joko was also busy with the public festivities, cutting a ceremonial yellow cone of rice and distributing it to ordinary people: a taxi driver, three women from the poor easternmost province of Papua, and a physics student.

He prayed on stage with leaders of each of Indonesia’s six organised religions: Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, Buddhist and Confucianism and said he would throw open the presidential palace in an “orderly way” to the people for dialogue.

In his speech to the people, he repeated a sentiment expressed earlier in the day at his inauguration ceremony that Indonesians from all walks of life should work together to manage their “big nation … in the right way”.

“There is no way we will be big and strong if we are lazy,” he said.

Earlier, in his inauguration speech, Mr Joko had emphasised Indonesia’s history as a maritime nation, quoting the motto of the Indonesian navy “Jales Veva Jaya Mahe”, which means “In the water, we are triumphant”, and said that for too long the country had turned its back on the “bays and straits and oceans”.

“The time for us is to return to make Indonesia a maritime nation … to be as great in the oceans as our ancestors were in the past.”

The comment reinforces his intention, expressed in a blunt warning to Mr Abbott in an exclusive Fairfax Media interview, to be “stronger” on maritime sovereignty, and to invoke maritime law against any Australian incursions.

Also yesterday, Mr Kerry met Mr Abbott, and praised him for his contribution to the fight against ISIL, saying the United States “could not have a stronger partner” than Australia.

December 4th, 2018

The smoke rings suggest something is afoot at Ten

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Ten chief executive Hamish McLennan sees some small green shoots. Photo: Peter Rae Ten chief executive Hamish McLennan sees some small green shoots. Photo: Peter Rae
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Ten chief executive Hamish McLennan sees some small green shoots. Photo: Peter Rae

Ten chief executive Hamish McLennan sees some small green shoots. Photo: Peter Rae

There is too much smoke around the future ownership of Network Ten for there to be no fire.

The chat around the industry and investment circles is that a deal is brewing and one that will involve Rupert Murdoch’s empire either directly or via Foxtel, in which News Corp has a 50 per cent stake.

Any changes in Ten’s ownership would need to navigate around existing media rules; thus the betting is that News/Foxtel will take a 14.9 per cent stake in Ten and private equity will take out the remaining minority investors but will leave the holdings owned by James Packer, Gina Rinehart and Bruce Gordon.

Packer, Rinehart and Gordon are sitting on such large paper losses on their Ten investments that it is barely worth selling; and as none is financially stretched they are taking the view that they will take any upside that a privatised Ten might provide.

One hedge-fund player. Anchorage, and one private equity group, Providence Equity, have already been outed as having interest in Ten. If they teamed up with Murdoch the risk would be defrayed – particularly as they wouldn’t need to buy out the Packer/Rinehart/Gordon holdings.

Ten chief executive Hamish McLennan is clearly pushing for a relaxation of the media ownership regulations – particularly the two out of three rule – that limits a company having radio, television and print in the same market.

For Foxtel to become involved in the deal it would ultimately require a green light from its other 50 per cent owner, Telstra, which sources said yesterday was being advised by UBS.

It is not surprising that buyers are circling Ten given its shares are now trading at the penny-dreadful end of the market and its losses are predicted to extend into the current financial year. Last week it reported $168 million of red ink for the 2014 financial year.

From its current position Ten’s reversal of fortunes has less to do with luck and much more to do with money. It needs access to funding to vie for big-ticket programming – particularly in sport – that will provide it with ratings.

Support from Foxtel could certainly supply the funds and the two groups could bid for programs that would benefit both.

Recent history has shown that turning around this network is a mammoth task. McLennan is the group’s third chief executive since 2010.

Four years ago when a clutch of billionaires decided to take control of Ten, it had all the hallmarks of an opportunistic vulture-like move. The clapped-out third free-to-air network seemed ripe for management and financial renovation. Had it not been for the established wealth of the then new shareholders, James Packer, Lachlan Murdoch and Gina Rinehart, it would have been a shirt-losing investment. For these three (and fellow investor Bruce Gordon) the 80 per cent-plus fall in Ten’s value since was more akin to losing a sock from a financial perspective.

Roll the calendar forward to Monday and it certainly seems that these investors have lost not just money but interest in running the show.

Industry speculation says that News or Foxtel would take on the management rights of Ten, but whether this would pass the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission smell test remains to be seen.

(Some years back the ACCC blocked Kerry Stokes, who controls the Seven Network, from buying a major interest in Foxtel and FoxSports.)

Reports on Monday that Fairfax boss Greg Hywood had sounded out Ten chief McLennan lit a fire under the network’s share price but Fairfax’s ability to fund Ten would have to be questioned.

The fact that Gina Rinehart has apparently decided to quit her board seat – or at least appoint a representative – is testament to the fact that she seems to have abandoned her flirtation with influencing Ten’s management.

While she wants to retain her 10 per cent stake in Ten the message filtering out from her camp is that her focus has turned to the main game – which is the development and opening of her new $11.4 billion Roy Hill iron ore project.

Even if the network secures an offer, it would take a major turnaround and probably several years for Ten’s share price to improve to the $1.50 levels at which these investors could even recoup the money they put in. But better to roll the dice again than cement the loss now.

Packer achieved his objective in Ten many years ago when he managed to have the network ditch its sports digital channel, One, and relaunch it with a more mainstream offering.

In doing so it took competitive pressure off his investments in Foxtel and Foxsports, both of which he later sold. He is no longer a director of Ten.

Lachlan Murdoch, who was far more active in the running of Ten until last year, has now turned his attention to a bigger role in his father Rupert’s empire at 21st Century Fox and News Corp. Having been chairman and interim chief executive he is no longer on the board of Ten.

For now Ten continues to struggle in a fairly weak free-to-air television market against two strong competitors in Seven and Nine.

Some small green shoots were evident earlier this year with success in Big Bash cricket, the Winter Olympics and the last season of MasterChefcombined with the popular Bachelor.

But there have not been sufficient periods of ratings consistency to attract increasing advertising from the all-important media buyers.

October 9th, 2019

‘Damaging’, ‘costly’, ‘transformative’: how the right remembered Gough Whitlam

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Not without his critics: Gough Whitlam pictured in 1986.Gough Whitlam deadGough Whitlam’s life and timesGough Whitlam’s memorable quotesWhat did Whitlam actually do?Full coverage
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The announcement of Gough Whitlam’s death was only minutes old when Alan Jones delivered 2GB listeners a critique of the Labor icon’s time as prime minister.

“He damaged the economy through the absence of any prime-ministerial control,” Jones said.

Jones was one of many conservative figures attempting on Tuesday to walk a fine line between respect for a deceased Australian prime minister, while standing by criticisms of his time in office.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, Andrew Bolt was one of the most strident critics.

“Whitlam explored the gulf between seeming and doing, and tumbled into the chasm,” he wrote in his blog on the Herald Sun.

“The Abbott government is even today dealing with the costly consequences and culture of entitlement bequeathed by Whitlam’s decisions to give free universal medical care and university education.”

Jones, for his part, acknowledged Mr Whitlam’s intellectual ability and dignity.

“They [Mr and Mrs Whitlam] were people of significant dignity, notwithstanding whatever your differences might be in relation to their politics.”

He did, however, tie Whitlam’s welfare policies to Jones’ own long-running crusade against “dole bludgers”.

“He was the man who allegedly created the mentality of the dole bludger,” said Jones, referring to the Whitlam government’s reformist welfare policies that provided a multimillion-dollar increase in funding for the unemployed.

“Mr Whitlam was of the view that if someone lost their job, then we should all pitch in for what would be one transitional payment from one job to the next.”

Jones added that Mr Whitlam could not have foreseen “dole bludgers” remaining on welfare payments for long periods of time.

“That ideological purity was abused and people became dole bludgers; he never envisaged that people would sit on that forever.”

James Paterson, deputy executive director of the Institute of Public Affairs, a conservative think tank, praised Mr Whitlam for ending conscription and cutting tariffs, but said that his other policies were “regrettable”.

“No prime minister changed Australia more than Gough Whitlam. He was a transformative prime minister,” said Mr Paterson.

“He oversaw one of the largest increases in the size of government in Australian history. It will require a Liberal prime minister as bold as Gough Whitlam to reverse that regrettable trend.”

Other conservative commentators avoided discussing Mr Whitlam’s controversial dismissal or domestic policies and praised him for fostering a relationship between China and Australia.

“Whatever doubts conservatives and Liberals have raised about Gough’s domestic and foreign policies during the last 40 years, there is no question the PM deserves high praise for his overtures to China,” said Tom Switzer, a conservative commentator and academic at the University of Sydney.

“He not just spectacularly wrong-footed Liberal prime minister Bill McMahon and even preceded Richard Nixon’s historic visit, he established one of our nation’s most important diplomatic relationships that has helped guarantee a prosperous Australia that is fully engaged in east Asia.”

Malcolm Fraser, the former Liberal prime minister who replaced Mr Whitlam after his dismissal in 1975, and long ago cut ties with the right, chose simply to remember him as a “great Australian”.

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October 9th, 2019

Forza Horizon 2 game review: hitting the open road

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The Italian countryside is yours to explore in Forza Horizon 2. Race a train in a Subaru WRX, because why not.
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Forza’s trademark cockpit view returns, and each car features a stunningly accurate interior. What this play option lacks in visibility it gains in terrifying immersion.

Forza Horizon 2 on Xbox One, Xbox 360 Reviewed on Xbox One $89.95 – $99.95 Classification: PG Reviewer’s rating: 8/10

If the Forza Motorsport series is designed for car enthusiasts who dream of taking their hobby machines to professional race meets around the world, Horizon is for car enthusiasts who dream of road trips with friends and colour-filled parties where supercars are worshiped and their drivers are celebrities.

Horizon 2, in stark contrast to the straight-laced Motorsport 5, is a bizarre parallel world where a massive and picturesque south-eastern region of Italy can be shut down to host a gang of rich kids taking their Ferraris and Lamborghinis for a road trip. It’s an ego fantasy, pure and simple, and it’s a lot of fun.

The crazy attention to detail from the more serious game remains, as the cars look the part inside and out, yet rather than stick to the tarmac, Horizon 2 lets drivers loose upon fields and coastal towns, barreling through private property and narrowly avoiding unsuspecting traffic with nary a police car in sight. Events range from street races to crazy off-road tours through wheat crops, or you can always just roam the highways and enjoy the feeling of making a perfect corner in a Lamborghini Huracan.

This is still a simulation game, and car physics and control is realistically modelled. This means slamming the handbrake at top speed to drift around a corner is not a viable race tactic, but as always there are plenty of “assists” you can activate at any time – from rendering a suggested driving line on the road to automatically helping with brakes.

Despite the need to be a little more careful in your driving, the realism is an advantage as taking a 1988 Lamborghini Countach on a thrill-ride through wheat crops and across aqueducts on a whim wouldn’t be nearly as fun if the car didn’t fight you every step of the way. The 200 or so cars – which include work vehicles and city cars as well as those explicitly designed for racing – each offer subtle variations in performance and handling, and can be tweaked endlessly to your liking in the garage. Struggling to stay on the road at high speed in a McLaren or gliding around a corner in an Impreza is where Horizon 2 shines.

Another area of success is the sheer amount of freedom the game provides. Although you have to win a certain number of races and championships to progress, the class of car you race in is up to you. Fancy a 1999 Lancer Evolution for the next leg of the trip? Selecting the appropriate rally championship makes all the events ahead compatible with the car. Beyond the events there are also plenty of opportunities to hit the open road, and fulfil side objectives like taking photographs or discovering beaten-up old racers in countryside barns. An unexpectedly robust and streamlined online mode is present too.

The fun free-wheeling is ruined just a tad by the attempt to pull all the events of the game together into something of a road-trip story, as the cast of homogenised European 20-somethings (who by the way offer far to much input and exposition when they could be letting you enjoy yourself) aren’t quite sure whether they’re street racers or snotty billionaires. The rave festival narrative in general has a tendency to be at odds with the beauty of classic cars and coastlines (and this extends to the electro soundtrack, which can thankfully be switched off or turned to a channel of generic classical), but this is of course a matter of taste.

October 9th, 2019

Sudden impact: the Whitlam government’s legacy

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Rolling coverage: Whitlam dead at 98Martyr for a moment, hero for a lifetimeFull coverage
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No Australian government of recent times was more memorable.

No Australian government sought to change the country so much in such a short time. And no Australian government, for good and ill, has had such an impact.

The Whitlam government was a watershed in Australia’s history.

Before, Australia in the post-war era was a land of white people, where men were fully employed in farms and factories, and women fully employed raising kids. It was a prosperous land that, despite having more than non-British migrants, saw itself as British, followed the wishes of its “great and powerful friends”, took its culture from others, and expected the poor to get a job.

After Whitlam, Australia became another country, an adolescent nation that had left home to find its own identity. It no longer had full employment, rapid economic growth or low inflation. Women were no longer necessarily at home, mothers no longer necessarily married. Governments were big, deficit-prone and supported millions of people. Yet the country had a new independence and pride in itself.

Not all these changes began with the Whitlam government, or were caused by it. It was a government of change in a world that was changing more rapidly than ever.

In the three years Whitlam was in power, the Vietnam War ended, and with it the military phase of the Cold War. Throughout the Western World, the long economic boom came to a close, oil became expensive and mass unemployment arrived. Families broke up and sexual and social taboos broke down.

It was a time when men wore sideburns and wide lapels, and women wore short hair, jeans and platform shoes. The Kingswood was in the driveway, and the first colour televisions in the lounge. Skyhooks were our favourite band, Abigail was getting hot and bothered at Number 96, Peter Weir was shooting Picnic at Hanging Rock, and Patrick White won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The Whitlam government was as much a manifestation of social change as an instigator of it. But while the fashions of the time have gone, the legacy of that government’s policy changes on Australia has been enduring.

An astonishing number of Australia’s institutions and policies were created by the Whitlam government. And our economic problems also largely date from that time.

To those who lived through that era, the amazing thing is that so many of the reforms that provoked such controversy at the time have become accepted on both sides of politics.

They include Aboriginal land rights; the replacement of royal honours and knighthoods by the Order of Australia (although Tony Abbott reinstituted knights and dames to the Australian honours system this year); the abolition of the gerrymander favouring rural voters; Medibank; and the expanded federal role in schools, universities, roads, the arts and the environment.

Yet that stunning first fortnight of leadership in which Gough Whitlam and his deputy, Lance Barnard, abolished conscription, recalled Australia’s troops from Vietnam, recognised China, set up the Schools Commission, opened the equal pay case and announced 35 other decisions, created an environment of unpredictable radicalism that was to turn malign as the government and the economy began to fall apart.

What is that legacy? Let’s look at some of the main areas:

Foreign policy

For a decade to December 1972, the main political battleground was foreign policy. Yet after that decisive fortnight when Whitlam rewrote Australia’s policies, it retreated to become an area of broad bipartisan agreement.

Whitlam’s main thrust was to develop Australia’s relations with Asia, communist and non- communist countries alike. He and the Indonesian leader, President Suharto, became the first leaders of their two countries to develop a close relationship.

Oddly, given Whitlam’s passion for foreign affairs and institution-building, he left no regional institutions, but Australian foreign policy now basically is as he left it.

At the time, the most controversial element of its foreign policy was Labor’s independent stance towards the United States, exemplified by open criticism of the US by ministers, and government demands for joint control over US defence bases in Australia. Forty years later, both positions are accepted without fuss.

Whitlam’s other main foreign policy problem and legacy, however, was East Timor. In 1974, the Portuguese dictatorship was overthrown, and its colonies prepared for independence.

In April 1975, Suharto and Whitlam agreed in Townsville that East Timor should be peacefully integrated into Indonesia.

The Indonesians took this as a green light from Australia to invade the colony. Australia’s silence as their preparations advanced confirmed their view that the one country able to stop the invasion would not do so. A dispute in 1975 was avoided by an outcome that damaged the relationship for years.

Race relations

The Whitlam government removed race as a criterion for immigration, introducing a new test based on qualifications and family ties that saw Asia become the main source of new migrants. Al Grassby, the flamboyant immigration minister, introduced Australia to multiculturalism.

The reforms met bitter opposition, as did the laws granting Aboriginal land rights in the Northern Territory (passed under the Fraser government) and overriding Queensland’s paternalistic legislation governing Aboriginal communities. Yet, 40 years later, Aboriginal land rights, Asian immigration, and multiculturalism are accepted by both sides of politics.

Health and education

The greatest expansion of the Federal government’s role in Australian life took place here. Labor set up Medibank to provide universal health insurance and took over tertiary education from the states, pumping huge sums into government schools. In three years, its spending on health and education quadrupled from $1.2 billion to $4.7 billion.

That legacy has endured, and with it the balance of federal and state powers has permanently shifted. The Fraser government dismantled Medibank, but the Hawke government restored it as Medicare, which now seems beyond challenge.

Social policy

This divided Australians bitterly in the Whitlam years. As Attorney-General, Lionel Murphy introduced the Family Law Act to make divorce easier. Single mothers were allowed to claim welfare benefits. Unemployment benefits, just $10 a week in 1972, were lifted to the pension level, which itself was raised substantially. Women were guaranteed equal pay for equal work, and the government actively took up a feminist agenda.

The House of Representatives voted that homosexuality should no longer be a crime. The government built the National Gallery, and spent $1.1 million buying Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles for it. The Australia Council was established to fund artists and the Australian Film Commission to finance the film industry.

In 1995, it seems hard to believe the antagonism these changes met with at the time. In the bush, the Whitlam Government became identified with dole bludgers, single mothers, radical lesbians and arty wankers. But, equally, in 1975, it was hard to believe that the number of sole parents supported by taxpayers would rise nearly tenfold from 36,000 to 325,000 in two decades.

Cities this was the one area where the Whitlam government’s reforms did not last. From 1947 to 1972, Australia’s population grew from 7.5 million to 13.5 million, often housed in unsewered, poorly serviced suburbs. As Minister for Urban and Regional Development, Tom Uren set up programs to sewer the cities, buy up urban land, and build new housing.

But the states blocked his goal of developing Townsville and Coffs Harbor into growth centres, diverting funds to inland cities where Australians did not want to go. As population growth shrank, the Fraser government scrapped the cities agenda.

The economy

In the end it was the collapse of the economy and ministerial disunity that brought down the Whitlam government.

In the decade to 1972, the Australian economy had grown by almost 6 per cent a year. Australians believed that they would always have full employment, rapid growth, low inflation and sound government finances; Gough Whitlam himself assumed it.

Yet by 1975 inflation had soared to 17.6 per cent. Unemployment had risen from 2.1 to 5.4 per cent. Growth was halted by recession, and despite taxes doubling in three years, the deficit hit $2.5 billion.

Why? Too much stimulus and strain came too fast. In that heady atmosphere, wages shot up 48 per cent during 1973 and 1974. Government spending increased by 75 per cent in two years (by 46 per cent in 1974-75 alone). Yet tariffs were cut 25 per cent overnight, and taxes and interest rates hiked just as world oil prices doubled, and the West crashed into recession.

The new thinking behind Whitlam’s reforms, many of them long overdue, went hand in hand with a chaotic, dysfunctional style of government, a centralist approach to relations with the states, and a blithe indifference to economic constraints.

For all his towering dominance, Whitlam was bound by his caucus in ways that past and future prime ministers were not. Sometimes his announcement of a new government policy was overturned by his party room within days.

The veteran Minister for Minerals and Energy, Rex Connor, followed his own agenda without reference to cabinet, secretly commissioning a Pakistani trader, Tirath Khemlani, to negotiate a $4 billion loan from Arab governments so Connor could nationalise the mines of foreign-owned companies and ‘buy back the farm’.

Labour Minister Clyde Cameron, a former secretary of the Australian Workers’ Union, encouraged the Arbitration Commission to grant double-digit pay rises, regardless of the impact on a spiralling rate of inflation.

Whitlam had no interest in economic policy, and no appetite for managing his team of wild horses, who consequently went their own way.

To contain inflation, his government in July 1973 made a reckless decision to cut import tariffs immediately by 25 per cent: it certainly made imports cheaper, but also shut down hundreds of Australian factories.

Manufacturing output plunged by 10 per cent in a year, and over the next five years almost 200,000 manufacturing workers were laid off. The share of GDP going to wages, which averaged 55.3 per cent in the 1950s and 60s, soared to 63.5 per cent in 1974-75.

The combination of wage-price inflation at home, poor policy decisions, and soaring oil prices and recessions abroad sent Australia into its worst recession for 40 years.

The long boom had ended. Unemployment did not drop below 4.5 per cent for the next 30 years. Inflation took a decade to fall below 10 per cent. This was not just Australia’s experience: OECD growth rates collapsed from 4.8 per cent over 1964-73 to 2.2 per cent in 1974-83. But the Whitlam government contributed, and an angry electorate made it take the blame.

Looking back, we may have been unfair. In retrospect, the government’s errors on economic policy probably did less damage than we thought. Its reforms have proved more durable and substantial than they seemed. No government would want to imitate Whitlam’s in style, but none has left such a lasting impact.

Tim Colebatch is The Age’s former economics editor. This is a revised version of a piece originally published in 1995.

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October 9th, 2019

Abbott, Joko’s first date as awkward as it looked

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Tony Abbott and Joko Widodo meet after the new president’s inauguration. Photo: Michael BachelardAt times, international diplomacy resembles nothing more than speed dating.
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After the inauguration of Indonesia’s new president, Tony Abbott, along with a number of other international dignitaries, was found a short slot to meet with Joko Widodo.

A lot was riding on this brief encounter from Abbott’s point of view. He was searching for some way to establish a personal relationship that is warm, smooth and, as Abbott promised in the election campaign, contains “no suprises”. It follows a decade-long affair with Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono that had strong features of co-dependency — full of effusive praise (the diplomatic equivalent of roses and chocolates) then massive tantrums and the withdrawal of the ambassador.

So how do you go about building intimacy in international affairs between two people who have never met whose countries have a long and sometimes troubled history?

You put them together in a big room, the chairs barely facing one another, surround them by observers and note takers, and then ask them in about 30 minutes, to establish “warmth”.

Oh, and you invite dozens of cameras and reporters in for the first minute or two to capture the moment, which will then be publicly dissected and discussed.

In Abbott’s and Joko’s case, the first moments were painfully awkward. There was a long pause. The two men smiled at each other. Smiled at the room. The cameras flashed. Abbott nodded a few times. More smiles. Then Joko finally spoke, telling Abbott that, “if we have a problem, you can talk to my ambassador because for me communication is important”.

It may have been the equivalent of being told “talk to the hand”. Or it may have been a function of Joko’s self-acknowledged innocence in matters of foreign affairs.

Abbott replied that he was following in the footsteps of his mentor, John Howard, who had attended Yudhoyono’s inauguration in 2004.

Then the media were hustled out.

Afterwards, Joko walked Abbott out to the road and he left, with a wave, in his big black limousine. That left Joko, in the gap between that and a meeting with US secretary of state John Kerry, to kiss and tell.

He told journalists that “the main topic” of conversation had been Abbott’s strong desire for a second date at the G20 summit in Brisbane. Joko — who will already have been to two international summits that month, APEC and ASEAN — was again non-committal.

So all Australia has is the phone number of the ambassador. Abbott wants a a better, longer, less observed chance to find common ground with this new, unknown leader.

On the evidence of the first encounter, though, warmth may be a little hard to find.

October 9th, 2019

What did Gough Whitlam actually do? Rather a lot

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Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles generated considerable controversy for Gough Whitlam. Photo: Belinda PrattenLive: Tributes pour inTim Colebatch: the Whitlam government’s legacyGough Whitlam: full coverage
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He was prime minister for a relatively brief three years, but Gough Whitlam’s legacy is extensive. Here’s a selection of how he changed Australia.

UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE

That green and yellow Medicare card in your wallet is there thanks to one man.

Whitlam introduced Medibank, the ancestor of Medicare, as Australia’s first national health insurance system. It began operating on July 1, 1975.

Both sides of politics, often at their peril, have sought ways to wind back Medicare.

A $3.50 co-payment in Labor’s 1991 budget arguably cost Prime Minister Bob Hawke the leadership and opened the door to Paul Keating’s successful challenge.

The Hawke co-payment was gone by March 1992 but the Abbott government’s pursuit of a co-payment has been met with similar outrage by doctors, welfare groups, pensioners and even Liberal state governments.

EDUCATION FOR ALL

“When government makes opportunities for any of the citizens, it makes them for all the citizens. We are all diminished as citizens when any of us are poor. Poverty is a national waste as well as individual waste. We are all diminished when any of us are denied proper education. The nation is the poorer – a poorer economy, a poorer civilisation, because of this human and national waste.” Gough Whitlam on the campaign trail in 1969

Whitlam attended Sydney’s prestigious Knox Grammar, but for him the difference in opportunity for private and government school students was “morally unjust and socially wasteful”.

Part of Whitlam government’s turbo-charged start to office was the establishment of the The States Grants (Schools) Act 1973 and the Schools Commission Act 1973 to create the new system of fairer funding.

A much-talked about legacy – both by those who took advantage of it and those who missed out when fees were reintroduced – is the abolition of university fees from January 1, 1974.

Former prime minister Julia Gillard and many other prominent Australians trace their opportunities and successes back to a free university education.

The policy also created the modern phenomenon of “mature-age students”, with a rush of older Australians getting degrees in the 1970s.

ABORIGINAL LAND RIGHTS

Paul Keating: “Gough Whitlam changed the way Australia thought about itself and gave the country a new destiny.”

Part of that change in thinking was a new approach to the indigenous owners of Australia.

Ten days after taking office, Whitlam and his deputy, Lance Barnard, announced a royal commission into Aboriginal land rights under Justice Woodward.

The findings of the royal commission led to the drafting of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 and the establishment of an elected National Aboriginal Consultative Committee.

In his first month in office, Whitlam established the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

In 1975, he handed the Gurindji people at Wattie Creek in the Northern Territory title deeds to part of their traditional lands.

CHINA

Rarely a day goes by without a member of the government acknowledging China’s part in Australia’s enduring prosperity.

Forty years ago, relations were very different.

In January 1973, Whitlam re-opened the Australian embassy in Beijing, resuming diplomatic relations after 24 years.

After a visit to Indonesia with wife Margaret, Whitlam became the first prime minister to visit the People’s Republic of China in October 1973, having earlier led a Labor delegation in opposition.

Whitlam’s engagement with China came before US President Richard Nixon initiated the thawing of relations between the superpowers.

His early steps are seen as vital to the multiculturalism that developed in Australia throughout the 1980s and beyond.

THE ANTHEM

Gough Whitlam did not like God Save the Queen.

SBS Soccer caller Les Murray recounted on Tuesday how Whitlam was the first prime minister to attend a Socceroos match – but only on the proviso that Advance Australia Fair was played.

It became the official national anthem on April 8, 1974.

SEWAGE TO THE SUBURBS

Whitlam is remembered for his big thinking but part of his legacy is at the most local level – the backyard dunnie and the septic tank.

As the member for Werriwa, based around the then new-built but largely unsewered suburb of Cabramatta, Whitlam had a grasp of what was needed in the battler belt.

His government set a goal to leave no urban home unsewered. The Whitlam government gave grants directly to local government units for urban renewal, flood prevention, and the promotion of tourism.

Federal grants financed highways linking the state capitals.

GOOD-BYE VIETNAM

In opposition, Whitlam described the Vietnam War as “disastrous and deluded.”

On taking office he quickly abolished conscription and released all conscientious objectors from jail.

The process of withdrawal from Vietnam had begun in 1970 under Liberal prime minister John Gorton and his successor Billy McMahon announced additional troop withdrawals.

On its seventh day in power, the Whitlam government announced the withdrawal of Australia’s remaining troops, which by then were military advisers.

Australia’s involvement in the war ended officially ended on January 11, 1973.

THE ARTS

Whitlam “snapped Australia out of the Menzian torpor – the orthodoxy that had rocked the country asleep – giving it new vitality and focus,” according to Keating.

Part of that was a new approach to the arts.

Whitlam doubled funding to the arts in a year and created the Australia Council for the Arts, which is still operating today.

The government pushed forward with the creation of the National Gallery in Canberra with the first purchases of art.

The most controversial of which was Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles. There was outrage at the $1.1 million price tag for a single piece of abstract art.

By some estimates, Blue Poles, is now worth $100 million.

MODERN RELATIONSHIPS

Whitlam introduced “no fault divorces” through the Family Law Act 1975.

A national Family Court was set in train but not established until 1976 under Malcolm Fraser.

Sales tax was removed from contraceptives.

DISCRIMINATION

In June the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 also became law, ratifying a United Nations convention that, although signed by Australia, had remained unratified for nine years.

ENVIRONMENT

Whitlam scuppered plans to allow drilling for oil on the Great Barrier Reef.

His government introduced environmental protection legislation and the  Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service in 1974 .

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September 8th, 2019

Coles, Woolworths profits set to slow as crackdowns kick in

Comments Off on Coles, Woolworths profits set to slow as crackdowns kick in, 杭州桑拿, by admin.

A crackdown on competition issues could cut into the profits of the big supermarkets like Coles and Woolworths. Photo: Michelle Mossop A crackdown on competition issues could cut into the profits of the big supermarkets like Coles and Woolworths. Photo: Michelle Mossop
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A crackdown on competition issues could cut into the profits of the big supermarkets like Coles and Woolworths. Photo: Michelle Mossop

A crackdown on competition issues could cut into the profits of the big supermarkets like Coles and Woolworths. Photo: Michelle Mossop

A $3 billion profit transfer from food and grocery suppliers and smaller retailers to Coles and Woolworths may be coming to an end as governments and regulators crack down on anti-competitive practices.

Coles and Woolworths have increased their combined share of the food retail profit pool to $4.4 billion from $2.1 billion over the last seven years while the profits of smaller food retailers have fallen to $2.5 billion from $3.2 billion, according to a report by broker Morgan Stanley.

In the last four years, the combined profits of food and grocery suppliers have plunged to $3.7 billion from $6.1 billion, while the combined profits of Coles and Woolworths have climbed to $4.4 billion from $3.1 billion.

At the current run rate, if the total food retail profit pool remained flat, Coles and Woolworths would account for 100 per cent of industry profits by 2020, Morgan Stanley said.

Morgan Stanley analyst Tom Kierath believes profit growth for the major chains is likely to slow as the available profit pool shrinks and as the federal government and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) take a more-active approach to increasing competition, Mr Kierath said.

Last week, the ACCC launched its second major legal action against Coles in five months, accusing the retailer of unconscionable conduct against five grocery suppliers by forcing them to plug gaps in its profits, pay for wastage in stores and pay fines for late deliveries.

In May, the ACCC accused Coles of unconscionable conduct against 200 suppliers, forcing it to repay extra rebates so it could recoup the cost of a supply-chain program, Active Retail Collaboration.

Coles has rejected all allegations, describing its communications with suppliers as “normal topics for business discussions” between grocery suppliers and retailers around the world.

The ACCC has also forced Coles and Woolworths to stop offering excessive fuel discounts subsidised by grocery profits and stepped in to unwind restrictive lease provisions that prevent rivals from opening stores.

“Less favourable regulation will make it more difficult for the majors to expand margins, in our view,” Mr Kierath said.

His view is in line with that of Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) chief executive Gary Dawson, who told Business Day on Monday that the latest allegations against Coles and an incoming grocery code of conduct could help suppliers resist pressure from retailers to plug profit gaps, pay for better ­positions on supermarket shelves or fund promotions.

Food and grocery suppliers are now spending more than 25 per cent of revenue on ‘trade spend’ or rebates, discounts and promotional allowances to retailers, with the bulk of the spending going to Coles and Woolworths.

The AFGC says the trade spend, which could be worth more than $20 billion a year, is crimping margins and curtailing food suppliers’ ability to invest in innovation and new product development.

September 8th, 2019

Gough Whitlam’s legacy: Malcom Fraser, Paul Keating, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard pay tribute

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Former Labor prime ministers Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and Gough Whitlam in 1998. Photo: Steven Siewert Former Labor prime ministers Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and Gough Whitlam in 1998. Photo: Steven Siewert
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Malcolm Fraser and Gough Whitlam rally against the concentration of media ownership in 1991. Photo: Steven Siewert

Former Labor leaders Kim Beazley, Paul Keating, Bob Hawke, Bill Hayden and Gough Whitlam Photo: Paul Harris

Former Labor prime ministers Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and Gough Whitlam in 1998. Photo: Steven Siewert

Former Labor prime ministers Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and Gough Whitlam in 1998. Photo: Steven Siewert

The Pulse: Politics as it happensGough Whitlam: full coverageWhitlam: Martyr for a moment, hero for a lifetime

The man who replaced Gough Whitlam in the dramatic events of the 1975 dismissal, former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser, has helped lead the tributes for his former political nemesis.

Mr Fraser has been joined by former Liberal prime minister John Howard, former Labor prime ministers Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, former Labor leader Kim Beazley, union leaders and Liberal Philip Ruddock, the last current MP to serve with Mr Whitlam, in paying tribute to the Labor luminary.

Mr Whitlam was credited by Mr Fraser, his former rival, with opening new doors in Australia and helping “to show the possibility of a new and perhaps better future” in the arts, foreign policy and other areas of Australian life.

He led the ALP out of the political wilderness after 23 years of conservative rule, and was “not only a hero to members of the Labor Party,” Mr Fraser said.

Mr Hawke said Mr Whitlam’s passing was not a time for sadness as at 98, “Gough was ready to go and his family was ready for him to go” and that the simple truth was “Australia is a better country because of the life and work of Gough Whitlam”.

Mr Whitlam would be remembered for everything from civic improvements that put in place sewerage services in Australia’s newer suburbs, through more equitable health and education services, to his vision as an international statesman – best exemplified by this visit to China while opposition leader.

“If you look at the two fundamental issues which determine the welfare of ordinary people, that’s health and education. He was absolutely profoundly important in transforming both those aspects of the lives of ordinary Australians,” he said.

Mr Hawke said his predecessor as Labor prime minister “wouldn’t appreciate it if we were all here in these next few days saying he was a saint without blemish, adding that he learned the importance of “getting the party into shape” and of strength, “if you had a position, you had an obligation to put that position strongly”.

Mr Keating, who served briefly as a junior minister in the final days of the Whitlam government, said the Labor leader had “changed the way Australia thought about itself and gave the country a new destiny”, helping create a more inclusive and compassionate society that was more engaged in the world.

“He snapped Australia out of the Menzian torpor – the orthodoxy that had rocked the country asleep, giving it new vitality and focus. But more than that, bringing Australia to terms with its geography and place in the region,” he said in a statement.

“Along his journey he also renovated the Labor Party, making it useful again as an instrument of reform to Australian society. He will missed by all who identified with his values and determination to see Australia a better place. But no one will miss him more than his family.”

Mr Howard said Mr Whitlam’s high intelligence, commanding presence and strong beliefs had left a lasting impact on Australian politics.

“Gough Whitlam was prime minister when I entered Parliament in 1974. His ready wit, eloquence and prodigious recall gave him an easy mastery of the parliamentary arena,” he said.

“Fundamental to his policy attitudes was Gough Whitlam’s belief that an activist and interventionist national government was always the appropriate response to Australia’s challenges. Whilst there will always be debate on such a proposition, Whitlam’s commitment to it permeated his actions in government.”

Extraordinary statesman

Mr Rudd said Australia’s political history was littered with ordinary politicians but Mr Whitlam had been an extraordinary statesman and an “exemplar for us all”.

“This great man has left an indelible mark on Australia. An indelible mark for the good. And Australia will always be the better for it. In his character lay a deep blend of wide vision, broad intelligence and a boundless heart for the nation,” Mr Rudd said.

The two-time Labor prime minister said that people often forgot Mr Whitlam’s courage in serving with the RAAF during the Pacific War.

“Some also forget his political courage, profound foresight and sheer statesmanship when as leader of the opposition, in the anti-Communist hysteria of the time, he visited China, met Mao and Zhou Enlai, and undertook to recognise China if elected in 1972. Which promptly he did,” he said.

On the domestic front, Mr Whitlam’s “broad vision” had encompassed universal access to education and universal health based on need, not on privilege or the ability to pay.

“Gough’s instinctive embrace of indigenous Australians, and their rights to land, particularly at a time when racism was still alive and well in our country, has made him an unassailable hero in the hearts and minds of our Aboriginal brothers and sisters,” he said.

“Just as his introduction of the Racial Discrimination Act fundamentally reshaped our laws.”

Ms Gillard told Guardian Australia that Mr Whitlam would be remembered for his impact on Australia’s universities, Medicare, family law, land rights for indigenous Australians and improving relations with China.

“As prime minister, I was conscious of walking in Whitlam’s footsteps as our government set about creating a companion to Medicare, the National Disability Insurance Scheme,” she said.

“Every Labor leader and every prime minister who has followed him has wrestled with his legacy. Gough Whitlam transformed so much about Australia and the prime ministership.”

Former Labor leader Kim Beazley, who is now Australia’s ambassador to the United States and whose father Kim Beazley snr served as a minister in the Whitlam government, said the former Labor leader was “without question the most erudite politician we have had lead Australia” and a “timeless figure”.

“He made the modern opposition, through the establishment of shadow cabinet, the creation of comprehensive policy, the willingness not just to pursue the negative but to pursue what people wanted to know – what you would do with the place,” he told Fairfax Media from Washington.

“His government was fraught and struggled but it left many monuments behind it, the changes he made in education, then changes in Aboriginal affairs, the changes he made in health, the changes he made in innovative Commonwealth use of Section 96 grants,” he said.

“While his actual activities ebbed and flowed in the hands of different governments, his approach basically remains as the underpinnings of many of great Australian social initiatives.”

Mr Beazley said he had “millions” of personal memories of Mr Whitlam but the first was when, as a child, he would travel to Canberra with his father in August each year for parliament.

“My father used to be put me in the Speakers’ gallery of parliament, almost as a babysitting service, and Gough would often, if I was sitting there, come across and say hello.”

‘Most connected’

Liberal backbencher Philip Ruddock, the only sitting federal MP to serve with Mr Whitlam, having been elected in 1973, said that after John Howard, the former Labor PM was the former prime minister to whom he had been most connected.

“My election as the member for Paramatta [in 1973], it was a very adversarial by-election, it was when Billy Snedden was making ground and we got a huge swing. But it was primarily because he proposed Galston as the second airport for Sydney and that caused a great deal of anxiety that could be very easily exploited.”

“He forgave me for beating him. In his very magnanimous way he would say ‘comrade, that’s the way it had to be’…I liked Gough Whitlam, he was a gentleman who believed in what he believed but it didn’t interfere with the personal relationships.”

Mr Fraser said that his predecessor as prime minister had a place in Australian history that was “very special to Gough”.

“He is in some ways almost a mythological figure, he is revered, whatever the success or shortfalls of his government, he has played an enormously important part in Australians life and that can’t be taken from him,” he told Fairfax Media.

“In the arts, opera theatre literature, music he opened up possibilities that seemed to be new and exciting”.

“He went to China at a time when the visit took some courage, China was still very much on the outer, [US president Richard] Nixon’s visit hadn’t taken place, but he laid the foundations for a new and more productive relationship.”

Mr Whitlam was larger than life and a tough opponent in and outside of the parliament, who had not born a grudge for the manner of his dismissal, Mr Fraser said.

“He was a formidable parliamentary performer and one of the significant debaters of his time … Gough was one of the leaders. It was a time when there were people who had their own character because of who and what they were. I think the Parliament today has less personalities in it, people who don’t seem to shine – people read speeches rather than making them.

As for the events of 1975, Mr Fraser said he “never had the feeling he carried personal animosity to me as a result of 1975”.

“As we met at different forums, mostly overseas initially, the ice began to break and we established a friendship. We supported the independence of The Age from the back of a truck overlooking Fitzroy Gardens together. We found that we had a number of issues where we had a common view – on refugees, independence of the media, but also we had a common idea of Australia as a country that could play an active and productive role as a middle-ranking power cooperating with others.”

“It was only later we developed a closeness and a friendship, after we left the parliament.”

And in the years after both left politics, Mr Fraser said, the pair had not discussed the events of 1975 as “those events were passed, he knew and I knew what the facts were”.

“There wasn’t a great deal of point really. There were enough things to discuss between us that were relevant and significant and more up to date than 1975.”

“If he had a fault it was trying to do too much too quickly, which made it difficult to implement everything. That’s possibly a product of being out of office for 23 years, which is not healthy for democracy. It’s better that governments change more often than that.”

ACTU president Ged Kearney called Mr Whitlam “a once in a generation leader” who was driven by a vision for a greater Australia.

“Gough Whitlam sensed that Australians wanted something different and he harnessed that and ushered in a period of great social, cultural and economic change in Australia,” Ms Kearney said.

She listed recognition of China and equality for women and the first peoples of Australia among Mr Whitlam’s achievements.

Ms Kearney also paid tribute to the partnership of Gough and Margaret Whitlam.

“Gough and Margaret were a terrific team and together they made an enormous difference to generations of Australians.”

Ms Kearney said while Mr Whitlam was only prime minister for three years, he continued to contribute to the nation over his lifetime.

“Gough Whitlam’s legacy is one of a fairer and more just society and it is our responsibility to instil this in generations of Australians to come,” Ms Kearney said.  Gough Whitlam’s memorable quotesWhitlam’s China masterstrokeWhat others had to sayGrowing up in the Gough eraThe man who reached for the skyHis legacy to educationA life in photos

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September 8th, 2019

Lies, damned lies and health statistics: the patient’s guide to pathological politics

Comments Off on Lies, damned lies and health statistics: the patient’s guide to pathological politics, 杭州桑拿, by admin.

So the doctor says: “I’ve got good news and bad news.”
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And the patient goes: “Can I have the good news first?”

“Sure,” says the doctor. “You’ll only have to wait 49 days for your surgery.”

“That’s the good news?” The patient is aghast. “It sounds like a long wait.”

“Well, I was getting to that: the bad news. Here in NSW we have the longest waiting times in Australia.”

“Oh, so remind me. What was the good news?”

“Well,” says the doctor, “the waiting times haven’t got any longer for the past three years. Your government has slashed the health budget – and so saved you $725 million and made a total of $3 billion in efficiency savings – and you’re none the worse for it. You’d have to be happy about that.”

“Er, I suppose, Doc, now you put it like that.”

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has released the latest of its annual reports, Australian Hospital Statistics 2013-14: Elective Surgery Waiting Times.

It is understood the same report was delivered to NSW’s Baird Government and the Labor opposition. What cannot be understood is their wildly differing diagnoses based on the same evidence.

We are in the incubation period of an election campaign, when the first casualty is typically truth. But we’ll require an MRI to detect which of the following press releases is bull:

“Health Minister Jillian Skinner today congratulated the state’s public hospitals following the release of a report showing NSW was the best performing state for the total combined percentage of surgeries performed on time.”

Versus this from Opposition Leader John Robertson: “[The] statistics show that NSW has the longest elective surgery waiting times in the country.”

The statistics, in fact, do show that … sort of.

NSW tops the pops for the average waiting time for elective surgery – 49 days against 28 for Queensland, 29 for Western Australia, 35 for South Australia and Victoria, and 45 for Tasmania. It gets worse in NSW if you need a knee replacement (290 days against the national average of 194 days); your tonsils removed (233 days plays 99); cataract removal (218 v 79); or hip replacement 191 v 106.

And yet Skinnerreckons: “Today’s report shows NSW is leading the nation when it comes to elective surgery procedures being performed on-time.”

We’re sending that one off to pathology, just to be sure, but it presents as so much bull that there’s steam coming off it. It has to be pathological.

Skinner might resort to the three-kinds-of-lies defence. That is, there are “lies, damned lies and statistics”.

It is true, for instance, that the proportion of people who waited for more than a year for surgery in NSW fell from 2.8 per cent in 2012-13 to 1.8 per cent last year. And it is true that the 49-day average has been sustained for three years while the number of people in surgery has risen.

Skinner: “In 2013-14 there were 216,675 admissions for elective surgery – an increase of 2876 procedures on the previous year. We’re treating more patients than ever before.”

And the Australian Medical Association points out that NSW has the lowest rate of readmission. Better surgery, better care, fewer mistakes.

So we haven’t quite descended to the farce of Yes, Minister, in which patients – per se – were a burden on the efficient running of hospitals; in which a hospital with 500 administrators, but not a single patient, was nominated for the Florence Nightingale award. For hygiene.

But these are early, pre-cancerous days in the toxic election cycle. We’ll need to be vigilant, to subject the press releases to regular scans. If the budget won’t stretch to MRIs, perhaps we could wheel out that trusty old workhorse from Monty Python’s hospital adventures: the “machine that goes bing”.

September 8th, 2019

Australian jihadist warns Tony Abbott ‘we will defeat you’ in Islamic State video

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Abdullah Elmir, from Bankstown in Sydney, has appeared in an Islamic State video under the nom de guerre “Abu Khaled from Australia”.An Australian teenager who ran away from his Bankstown family home in June has surfaced in a chilling Islamic State video threatening Tony Abbott and vowing to fight until the militant group has conquered the West.
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Abdullah Elmir, 17 appeared in the video posted on the internet on Monday night under the nom de guerre “Abu Khaled from Australia”. He is dressed in military gear and holding a rifle, standing among several dozen fellow jihadists.

Speaking for a little under two minutes directly to the camera, Elmir baits the United States, Britain and “especially … Australia” to throw everything they have militarily against the Islamic State group, which has seized large tracts of territory across Syria and Iraq.

He then vows the group will keep fighting until it has raised the black flag of the Islamic State above the White House and beheaded “tyrants” – apparently referring to Western leaders including Mr Abbott.

It is the first time the Islamic State, also known as ISIL, has specifically mentioned the Prime Minister in one of its major propaganda videos and is also the most prominent role so far given to an Australian jihadist.

“This message I deliver to you, the people of America. I deliver this message to you, the people of Britain, and I deliver this message to you, especially, the people of Australia,” he says.

“Bring every nation that you want to come and fight us. It means nothing to us. Whether it’s 50 nations or 50,000 nations, it means nothing to us. Bring your planes. Bring everything you want to us. Because it will not harm us. Why? Because we have Allah, glorious be He.”

He continues: “To the leaders, to Obama, to Tony Abbott, I say this: these weapons that we have, these soldiers, we will not stop fighting.

“We will not put down our weapons until we reach your lands, until we take the head of every tyrant and until the black flag is flying high in every single land, until we put the black flag on top of Buckingham Palace, until we put the black flag on top of the White House.

“We will not stop and we will keep on fighting. And we will fight you and we will defeat you.”

Elmir ran away from his Bankstown home in June shortly after his 17th birthday, accompanied by a 16-year-old friend known only as Feiz.

He told his mother he was going on a fishing trip before he disappeared. His family discovered that he had left the country only after he sent a text message to another family member asking them to tell his mother he had “gone” .

The pair caught flights to Perth then Malaysia, Thailand, and finally on to Turkey.

From there, they contacted family and said they were going over the border. Elmir’s family presumed he meant he was going to Syria or Iraq to fight. They have been calling on the authorities to help bring him home.

Feiz was intercepted by his father while he was en route to Iraq and taken to Lebanon. Feiz returned to Sydney quietly last month.

Elmir’s family have said they are shocked and devastated.  They believe he has been “brainwashed” and they want to know who paid for his air ticket and encouraged him to go.

They have described him as academically bright and caring.

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September 8th, 2019

Southern Cross Austereo hit by poor advertising market

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“National markets remain more challenging with both TV and metro radio being impacted by what is a competitive ratings environment,” chief executive Rhys Holleran said. Photo: Arsineh Houspian
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“National markets remain more challenging with both TV and metro radio being impacted by what is a competitive ratings environment,” chief executive Rhys Holleran said. Photo: Arsineh Houspian

“National markets remain more challenging with both TV and metro radio being impacted by what is a competitive ratings environment,” chief executive Rhys Holleran said. Photo: Arsineh Houspian

Southern Cross Austereo has downgraded its earnings expectations for the first half, as a tough ad market and poor ratings across television and radio weigh on the broadcaster.

Departing chairman Max Moore-Wilton denied that Tuesday’s downgrade was a signal to the market that the company could not compete without a merger with a television network, but said Southern Cross was “hogtied at the moment by the nature of [media ownership] regulation”.

Following a tough start to the 2015 financial year, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization are now expected to be down 18 per cent to 20 per cent in the first half, compared with previous guidance of down by 10 to 15 per cent. During the first half of last year, Southern Cross reported EBITDA of $105.1 million.

The company said it now expects first-half revenue to be down 7 per cent to 8 per cent from the year-earlier period, compared with earlier guidance of down by 5 per cent to 7 per cent. In the six months to December 2013, ­Southern Cross reported revenue of $331.9 million.

Southern Cross Media shares plunged on the downgrade, finishing the day down 6.5 per cent at 86.5¢.

“The business is a tough business, it will go through cycles. We, and our affiliate Channel 10, are going through hard times,” Southern Cross chairman Max Moore-Wilton said at the company’s annual general meeting on Tuesday.

Current media regulations are preventing Southern Cross from adjusting its television business, Mr Moore-Wilton said, and the company is still working on turning around The Today Network radio business, which was mauled by the loss of Kyle and Jackie O to KIIS FM in 2013.

“I think hindsight is a wonderful thing. Would have are preferred to continue as the number one breakfast show in Sydney, unequivocally yes. But, that’s life, we have to move on,” he said.

Management will be putting a lot of time and money into turning around the Today Network, Mr Moore-Wilton said.

On November 1, 2013, Southern Cross announced the departure of Kyle and Jackie O by media release. The announcement pushed shares down 6.4 per cent on the day. The company was then issued with a price query by the Australia Securities Exchange to explain the price movement as the departure of the star breakfast duo was not announced to the sharemarket.

Southern Cross said that the number of stories written about Kyle and Jackie O may have led to the share price drop, but that the media did not take into account the rest of the business and that changes to the radio schedule occurred regularly.

At Tuesday’s AGM, when asked whether the decision to not announce Kyle and Jackie O leaving 2Day FM as market sensitive was wrong, Mr Moore-Wilton stated: “The market is always right.”

“I’m not in the business of holding myself against the market. The market is always right, it makes its judgements. Kyle and Jackie O, we would have preferred not to happen, but it happened.”

Chief executive Rhys Holleran said that the national market remains challenging with both TV and metro radio being impacted by a competitive ratings environment.

“Whilst the Commonwealth Games was successful locally, it has failed to attract much attention from our national clients and we are yet to see a sustained improvement in Channel 10 ratings from the incremental investment in special events and we continue to see year-on-year decline in our television revenues.”

The media company avoided a spill of its board with shareholders overwhelmingly voting down a second strike against the media company.

Close to 98 per cent of Southern Cross shareholders voted in favour of the company’s remuneration report. Last year, 31 per cent of shareholders voted against the remuneration report, deliver Southern Cross its first strike.

Mr Moore-Wilton, who will leave Southern Cross during the current financial year, when asked whether the company would look externally for his successor said the board would be “open minded.”

The company had been lobbying shareholders to get support for the re-election of long-time director Leon Pasternak ahead of its AGM. Mr Pasternak joined the board in 2005. Mr Pasternak was re-elected with more than 82 per cent of votes cast in support of his return.

The election of the newly appointed board members, Robert Murray, Kathy Gramp and Glen Boreham passed with all three receiving more than 99 per cent of votes for their appointment.

In the year ended June 30, Southern Cross Austereo reported a $296 million loss, following $392.5 million non-cash impairment losses – related to goodwill and the value of its regional television licence assets.