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Joe Hockey's new trick

Written By kom nampul on Jumat, 18 April 2014 | 12.03

"This challenge is political as well as economic": Hockey's 2014 Budget

"This challenge is political as well as economic": Hockey's 2014 Budget Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

As the storm clouds gathered in 2008, Labor was told to spend the lot.

"Go early, go hard, and go households" came the now famous advice from Treasury. It was like a licence to become popular.

This week, with the clock ticking down to the Coalition's first crucial budget, there was another piece of advice kicking around. Former Treasury official and now director at the firm Macroeconomics, Stephen Anthony, urged Joe Hockey to "cut early and cut hard". Not quite as pleasant perhaps, but equally clear.

Anthony went on to say, "there will never be a better chance than now to fix the budget".

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It has been rather hard to get an accurate read on the government's pre-budget positioning given that through the earlier part of this year, Hockey has at times flagged a mild, even stimulatory budget, rejecting any sudden contractions that would "undermine improving economic growth in the budget".

"We're not going to do that. We want the economy to grow faster, to give people more jobs. That's what we want," he said last month.

If there is any confusion in voters' minds, it is because Hockey is planning a budget which does both - stimulate now and cut later - which will be a pretty neat trick if he can pull it off. The pitch involves convincing people that cutting is the new spending - the only lever left to governments across the developed world.

Monetary policy has no leeway left in it with the cash rate already at rock-bottom. Ditto for fiscal policy with the Commonwealth's balance sheet, like so many countries, already heavily in the red ruling out significant new spending.

His answer? Structural reforms aimed at trimming costs and bridging the remaining fiscal shortfall with new activity making for new revenue. Or as Hockey put it this week: "Real reforms to our economies in order to lift the overall level of growth and therefore everyone will benefit".

In the frame are the projected growth rates of several massive expenditure programs - some of which will start to really bite into the budget towards the end of its four-year cycle and beyond - the national disability insurance scheme, the promised return to 2 per cent growth in real terms of defence spending, and increased Commonwealth expenditure on school education.

Along with the burgeoning bill for health and the aged pension, these things add up to a worsening structural deficit - a permanent and widening gap between what we raise in tax revenue and our fixed costs every year.

Treasury boss Martin Parkinson nailed the problem a fortnight ago noting that the NDIS and "Gonski" school reforms will add $3.1 billion and $2.8 billion to total spending over the forward estimates. But it's beyond that four-year period that the costs really begin to gallop with the NDIS rising to be $11.3 billion annually in 2023-24.

"What is less well understood is that total Commonwealth expenditure on health is anticipated to rise from $64.7 billion in nominal terms to $116 billion in 2023-24," he told the Sydney Institute.

"Similarly, our three main pension payments - the aged pension, disability support pension, and carers' payment - grow at an annual rate of 6 per cent per annum in nominal terms over the forward estimates, adding around $13 billion to annual payments by 2016-17, and another $39 billion by 2023-24."

Anthony estimates the task of making the budget sound again will necessitate phased but nonetheless rapid spending cuts equal to $16 billion a year - that is a permanent reduction in fixed outlays of around 1 per cent of GDP.

Clearly this challenge is political as well as economic.

Tony Abbott has made it clear he intends keeping his promises - all of them, with no exceptions.

Yet there are strong signals that the aged pension, about which he made an ironclad promise of no change before the election, is to be trimmed. Choices on the table include a lower indexation arrangement, a new assets threshold involving the family home, and delaying the eligibility age to 70.

There is also speculation that some taxes will be increased, and middle-class welfare cut - Family Tax Benefit B in particular - as well as other welfare supplements.

Abbott knows many of these changes can only commence after 2016 if he is to keep his promises, giving the electorate a chance to cast judgment.

But to many voters, it will feel like betrayal anyway.

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Hi there Vlad. It's Ed here

Video will begin in 5 seconds.

Edward Snowden calls Vladimir Putin

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden calls Russian Vladimir Putin during the leader's televised question and answer session with the nation to ask about mass surveillance.

PT1M35S http://www.smh.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-36vbm 620 349

Moscow: Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who was granted asylum in Russia, made a surprise appearance on Russian President Vladimir Putin's annual televised call-in session to ask if the country conducts mass surveillance like the United States does.

Mr Snowden's revelations about US spying practices set off a national debate about the trade-offs between security and privacy.

Q&A: Edward Snowden appears on Russian television to question Vladimir Putin.

Q&A: Edward Snowden appears on Russian television to question Vladimir Putin. Photo: AP

"Recently in the United States, two independent White House investigations, as well as the federal court, all concluded that these programs are ineffective in stopping terrorism," Mr Snowden said via video link from an undisclosed location on Thursday, local time.

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"They also found that they unreasonably intrude into the private lives of ordinary citizens - individuals who have never been suspected of any wrongdoing or criminal activity - and that these kinds of programs are not the least intrusive means available to such agencies for these investigative purposes.

"Now, I've seen little public discussion of Russia's own involvement in such surveillance," Mr Snowden continued. "So I'd like to ask you: Does Russia intercept, store or analyse in any way the communications of millions of individuals, and do you believe that simply increasing the effectiveness of intelligence or law enforcement investigations can justify placing societies, rather than subjects, under surveillance?"

Media event: Vladimir Putin responds to Edward Snowden's questions on his televised call-in session.

Media event: Vladimir Putin responds to Edward Snowden's questions on his televised call-in session. Photo: Reuters

Mr Putin, a former KGB officer, responded with a smile.

"Dear Mr Snowden, you are a former agent, and I used to work in intelligence," he said, a remark interrupted by massive studio applause and laughter. "So we will talk in a professional language.

"First of all, the use of special means by special services is strictly regulated by the law here. And this regulation includes the need to get a court permission to [conduct surveillance on] a specific individual. And this is why it doesn't have a massive, unselective character here, and cannot have in accordance with the law.

"Of course, we proceed from the fact that modern means of communication are used by criminal elements, including terrorists, in their criminal activities. And special services, of course, must react accordingly ... using modern methods and means to struggle against their crimes, including terrorist crimes. And of course, we are doing it."

But, he added: "We don't allow ourselves to do it on a massive and uncontrolled scale, and I hope very much we will never allow that.

"Besides, we don't have the technical means and the funds for it like in the United States. After all, our special services are strictly controlled by the state and society."

Mr Putin has said repeatedly that Russian intelligence services were not working with Mr Snowden, who was granted temporary asylum last year. The United States has demanded that Snowden be returned to face charges of espionage and theft of government property.

His Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told the Los Angeles Times last year that Snowden had an apartment in Russia and was taking Russian language lessons.

He demonstrated the progress he was making on Thursday by beginning his question in Russian. "Zdravstvuyte," he said. "Hello."

It was the only Russian word he used.

Los Angeles Times


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Texts tell tale of horror and fear

Video will begin in 5 seconds.

South Korean ferry captain questioned

The captain of a ferry that sunk of South Korea's coast is being questioned by authorities as hopes fade for any remaining survivors.

PT1M33S http://www.smh.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-36vbu 620 349

Jindo Port, South Korea: The parents stood vigil on the jetty, wrapped in disposable cagoules, clutching at what hope they could find as the wind and rain swirled around them. Nineteen kilometres away, more than 287 people were underwater, almost certainly dead, trapped inside the Sewol, the 6350-tonne Korean ferry which had been carrying them to the holiday island of Jeju when it sank on Wednesday morning.

The 69-year-old captain, Lee Joon-seok, was facing uncomfortable questions at the investigation headquarters in Mokpo, on the southwestern tip of the Korean Peninsula,  on Thursday about why he had been among the first to evacuate the sinking ship, leaving his post while high school students were drowning below.

On the second day of the rescue mission, visibility underwater was less than a foot and vicious seas left navy divers unable even to enter the submerged hull of the ship, the coastguard said. All efforts were abandoned in the early afternoon.

A relative of a missing ferry passenger at Jindo.

A relative of a missing ferry passenger at Jindo. Photo: Reuters

''There are 160 divers from the special forces but the current is so strong that they are being swept away when they enter the water,'' said Kim Dohyun, a 52-year-old veteran of the Korean Special Forces, who was acting as a liaison with the parents. ''Right now, the teams are tapping on the outside of the ship with hammers to listen for any survivors inside. When they can go in, only two divers at a time can fit because the corridors are so narrow.''

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Officials, who asked not to be named, said the chance of finding any passengers alive were ''close to zero''.

Almost 500 people, hundreds of them high school students, were aboard the ferry. As the tragedy grew dire on Wednesday, some aboard the vessel sent farewell messages to friends and loved ones. South Korean news outlets released some of the conversations, and some have been translated to English.

Rescue team members next to the capsized ferry.

Rescue team members next to the capsized ferry. Photo: AP

America's ABC News, citing Korean TV, reported this one: ''Dad, don't worry. I've got a life vest on and we're huddled together,'' a student identified as Shin, 18, texted her father.

Dad's reply: ''I know the rescue is underway but make your way out if you can.''

''Dad, I can't walk out,'' she replied. ''The corridor is full of kids, and it's too tilted.''

Relatives wait for news of missing passengers of the sunken ferry at a Jindo gymnasium.

Relatives wait for news of missing passengers of the sunken ferry at a Jindo gymnasium. Photo: Getty Images

Shin was among those still missing.

Some parents were able to stay in touch with their kids on the phone until mobile contact was lost. Many were holding on to the hope that their children remained alive and lashed out at what they said was official inertia and a government cover-up.

''We have received at least 20 text messages from children on the boat who are still alive,'' said one 42-year-old mother on the jetty, who gave her name as Mrs Jung. Mobile phone signals were weak at the time of the sinking, apparently preventing spoken communication in most instances.

A relative of a passenger aboard the sunken ferry.

A relative of a passenger aboard the sunken ferry. Photo: AP

One message, circulating around the parents, was allegedly a list of survivors organised by their class number sent from inside the ship.

''The government is blocking the news from getting out and there is no rescue mission for them,'' Mrs Jung cried.

However, all of the messages shown by parents to  the newspaper were second or third-hand, passed from phone to phone, and it was not possible to date them or to find anyone who had made direct contact.

Danwon High School students hold papers with messages such as "miss you", "love you" and "don't loose your hope" for their friends who are missing.

Danwon High School students hold papers with messages such as "miss you", "love you" and "don't loose your hope" for their friends who are missing. Photo: AP

As their anger grew, some parents tried to attack coastguard officials on the jetty and had to be held back by the crowd.

''Children are dying! They sent messages! What do you mean bad weather has stopped you!'' screamed one father.

In a nearby sports hall where hundreds more relatives are camping, South Korea's president was abused when she arrived for a visit. ''The government will do a thorough investigation and prosecute whoever is responsible,'' said President Park Geun-hye, but the crowd cried ''liar'' and ''how dare you come?''

Mr Kim, the special forces liaison, said the chances of finding further survivors were slim. ''There is an air pocket in the front of the boat. If anyone made it there, they may have survived. But for anyone in the rest of the boat, the hopes are low.''

Officials' thoughts are now turning to raising the ship to recover bodies.

Mr Kim said the ship had been ''outside its authorised route'' and may have struck a rock, opening a gash in the prow. But Captain Lee insisted it had not hit a rock. Surrounded by cameras, he pulled a hood over his head and said he could not face ''the passengers, victims and families''.

Unnamed investigators told The New York Times that the vessel had turned sharply left before it began to tilt and the captain may have been trying to steer back on course. One suggested that the load of 180 vehicles and  about 1000 tonnes of cargo in shipping containers may not have been properly secured and could have shifted when the ship turned, causing it to ''tilt out of control''.

In their initial panic, the crew failed to send a distress signal, and told passengers to remain in their cabins for more than an hour. As the water rose inside the ship, the victims may then have been unable to open their doors to escape.

''My daughter Yoonhwee sent me a message before the boat left, saying she did not want to go on the trip,'' said Mr Jin. ''I sent her one back saying not to worry and to have a good time with her friends. When the boat started to sink she called me but I was driving and I missed it. I have not slept, or washed or done anything since.''

Telegraph, London, USA Today


12.03 | 0 komentar | Read More

Give boredom a chance

MAN ABOUT TOWN

Keeping the kids happy: DVDs, in moderation, are unlikely to cause motion sickness.

Keeping the kids happy on a car journey is a challenge.

COMMENT

Go to any restaurant where there's a family eating and I guarantee you most children will be sitting at the table with a tablet. Mindlessly swiping and playing games, they sit in silence mesmerised by the flashing screen in front of them. And any car trip over 20 minutes these days involves a child and a tablet; the days of ''I spy'' and ''spotto'' are gone.

If I found out owning a tablet turns children into social workers, I'd start handing them out now. 

Well, I'm here to tell you we are spawning a generation of children with dulled brains and negligible social skills. But everyone does it? Yeah, everyone bought Joe Dolce's Shaddap You Face and it went to No. 1, but that doesn't make it right. People do it because it's easy and it works. The children don't play up and behave themselves at the table. I'd rather have garlic bread thrown at me than have a child stare at a screen while waiting for their nuggets. Children should get bored - they need to learn how to deal with boredom.

Then again, we live in a society where computer games, the folly that started all this rot, are treated like a sport. Grown men and women spend day and night playing games which mainly involve shooting, stabbing and blowing stuff up. It's a massive industry; every shopping mall has a games shop, the ABC has a TV show about gaming, and it's almost socially acceptable. I say almost, because essentially it's taking the pinball machine from the pizza shop and building on that concept.

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That's when computer games had their rightful place. A distraction while you waited for your large Hawaiian. You would put your 20 cents in and play Frogger or Galaga, having a great time for THREE MINUTES. And that was the big difference, a time limit. We valued that game of Pac-Man because it was short-lived. Imagine telling a kid these days that their time on the Wii would be limited to three minutes? There'd be a riot on your hands. You could end up with an online protest on Facebook.

Call me Amish or a Luddite, but I don't believe these games are doing our kids any good. The only research I could find on computer games said those playing games such as Tomb Raider or Doom make excellent fighter pilots. Great, we need more of them - that Indonesian invasion could be just around a corner. If I found out that owning a tablet turns children into social workers, nurses and overseas aid workers, I'd start handing them out to my kids right now. And, yeah, feel sorry for my children. Everyone has a tablet, a Wii, or at the very least a PlayStation, they tell me every day. Well, suck it up, kids, you can buy that crap when you move out to some share-house.

I tell my kids over and over - you know what the best computer in the world is? It's called your brain. Believe it or not, that thing between your ears created Clash of Clans, Minecraft and Pong.

I fear that in 10 years the good music, TV shows and books will just grind to a halt. Why? Because the iPad generation won't have allowed their creative ideas to germinate, incubate and then flourish. Nope, too much swipe, swipe, shoot, shoot, get on to the next game. No time to sit under a tree, get in the garage with their mates to play music, or simply sit with a blank sheet of paper and pen in front of them.

When Nirvana wrote Smells Like Teen Spirit, they were jamming and trying to write a song that sounded like their heroes and alt-rock legends the Pixies. When Isaac Newton came up with the theory of gravity, he was sitting under a tree. When Joe Dolce wrote Shaddap You Face he was … I don't what he was doing, probably some kind of heavy medication. But, reader, please note, not one of these brilliant creations involved a tablet or a computer.

And it's our fault.

Our generation has lost many of the real experiences we had as kids. Cracker night, anyone? We didn't need computer games - we were blowing stuff up. Gathering neighbours in a paddock, lighting a massive bonfire and then watching the kids ignite mini-explosives. Ah, the good old days, before the iPad. So, if you're reading this while watching your child on their tablet, throw that piece of junk out the window. And if you're reading this article on a tablet, ignore everything I've said. Tablets are brilliant. Swipe away.

Rhys Muldoon is on leave.


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Avalanche sparks fears for climbers

World

About five climbers are feared buried by an avalanche that swept the slopes of Mount Everest on Friday and hit a route used to reach the world's highest peak, officials said.

The avalanche hit the area just below Camp 2 about 6.30am on Friday (10am Sydney time), said Nepal Tourism Ministry official Madhu Sudan Burlakoti. Rescuers and fellow climbers at the base camp headed to the area to help. A helicopter was also sent from Katmandu.

Four or five climbers are believed to have been buried and more injured by the avalanche, Ang Tshering, from the Nepal Mountaineering Association, said.

He said that the area where the avalanche occurred is nicknamed the "popcorn field" and is just below Camp 2 at 6,400 metres.

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Hundreds of climbers, their guides and support guides had gathered at the base camp, gearing up for their final attempt to scale the 8,850-metre peak early next month when weather conditions are favourable. They have been setting up their camps at higher altitudes and guides have been fixing routes and ropes on the slopes ahead of the final ascent to the summit in May.

Nepal had earlier announced several steps this year to better manage the flow of climbers, minimise congestion and speed up rescue operations.

The preparations included the dispatch of officials and security personnel to the base camp at 5,300 metres, to stay throughout the spring climbing season that ends in May.

More than 4,000 climbers have scaled the summit since 1953, when it was first conquered by New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. Hundreds of others have died in the attempt.

AP


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Police detain duo during royal tour

Written By kom nampul on Kamis, 17 April 2014 | 12.03

NSW
William and Catherine greet officials as they arrive to meet with families that lost their homes during bushfires in the Blue Mountains.

William and Catherine greet officials as they arrive to meet with families that lost their homes during bushfires in the Blue Mountains. Photo: Reuters

Two men have been detained by police in the Blue Mountains as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge toured the area that was ravaged during last year's bushfires.

Inspector Joel Murchie, who is in charge of the police operation, confirmed that two men were detained and "moved on" by police in the vicinity of Buena Vista Road in Winmalee on Thursday.

Police officers were seen searching the men, who were apprehended as the royal couple were driving away.

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A NSW Police spokesman was unable to provide further details.

It comes as serial pest Peter Hoare was due to appear in court on Thursday after being arrested at Hamilton railway station in Newcastle on Wednesday.

Police allege Hoare was making his way to Sydney to disrupt the royal visit.

He was charged with being a convicted person found with intent to commit an indictable offence.

More to come


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MH370 has a week, says Abbott

A Bluefin-21 is craned over the side of Australian Navy vessel Ocean Shield in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

A Bluefin-21 is craned over the side of Australian Navy vessel Ocean Shield in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. Photo: Getty Images

The best leads in the underwater search for Malaysia Airlines flight 370 will be exhausted in about a week, Prime Minister Tony Abbott says.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, Mr Abbott said if the Bluefin-21 underwater drone scanning the Indian Ocean's seabed in the search area fails to locate wreckage, there would need to be a rethink.

"We believe that search will be completed within a week or so," Mr Abbott said.

"If we don't find wreckage, we stop, we regroup, we reconsider."

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Mr Abbott said he was confident searchers were looking in the right place for the plane based on the electronic signals, possibly from the aircraft's black boxes, detected by equipment towed by Australian naval vessel ADV Ocean Shield on April 5 and 8.

The prime minister's latest comments come as the US media questions the Australian government's use of the single Bluefin-21 in the search area after its first two missions were aborted.

The man who led the search for aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart's plane in the Pacific Ocean has been critical of the Bluefin-21.

"I can tell you it didn't work for us," Richard Gillespie, founder of the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, told CNN.

"We were very hopeful the Bluefin-21 would be the answer - the way to search for this very hard to find wreckage.

"What we found was the Bluefin-21 couldn't perform reliably.

"We had extremely frustrating aborted missions, just as we have seen in the Indian Ocean.

"We saw malfunctions."

Mike Dean, the US Navy's deputy director for salvage and diving, told CNN one of its Orion-towed search systems was available in Maryland for use in the search if Australia requested it.

The Orion can send back real-time data to searchers.

Other search experts say a REMUS 6000 autonomous underwater vehicle, used to find Air France flight 447 after it went down in 2009, would be more suitable.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was carrying 239 passengers when it disappeared while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8.

AAP

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Barry O'Farrell's Liberal machine as rotten as Labor's

NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell enters state parliament in the wake of his resignation.

NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell enters state parliament in the wake of his resignation. Photo: Britta Campion

Perhaps the most telling aspect of the now infamous thank-you note that ended Barry O'Farrell's premiership this week is that it was sent so soon after his bone-crushing election victory. This was a man who swept to power thanks largely to the insufferable stench of corruption that had engulfed NSW Labor. Thus was Labor's position apparently unrecoverable, and O'Farrell apparently invincible. All he had to do was stay clean.

And yet, there he was, personally accepting an expensive gift from compromised people, marking his gratitude in ink. I'm prepared to believe he genuinely has no recollection of this. But that only underscores the fact that he saw nothing remarkable about the exchange at all; that even as he must have been hawk-eyed about anything that even remotely connected to the corruption that destroyed Labor, he saw this kind of give and take as standard practice.

And on this score, he's probably right. It's highly unlikely O'Farrell has a uniquely malfunctioning radar, or that he is more corruptible than his colleagues. Au contraire, the truly remarkable fact is that the Liberals who have been so entangled in this Obeidian octopus have been those widely acknowledged as the best, the straightest, the most upright of them: O'Farrell and Arthur Sinodinos.

That tells us plenty. Not so much about the character of these men, but about the nature of the world they routinely inhabit. Until now, the story of NSW corruption has been presented as a thoroughly Labor one, backed at the federal level by the spectre of union corruption so vast it now demands its own royal commission. At every opportunity, the Liberal Party has sought to make this connection. Hence its bizarre pursuit of the complete non-scandal surrounding the Australian Workers Union and Julia Gillard's time as a labour lawyer, or its constant references to the faceless men of Sussex Street upon Kevin Rudd's knifing. The point was clear: that the rot was Labor's rot.

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But the real world doesn't respect such nearly confected boundaries. So we shouldn't be surprised that this scandal has so easily escaped its partisan confines. No Liberal has been found corrupt, but this episode reminds us that the Labor and Liberal parties do not represent two different worlds. There are shades of difference but they are both ultimately similar machines directed at similar goals and subject to the same power plays and moral compromises. At bottom, they represent the same subculture that is the profession of modern politics.

That is why, away from the public show of political conflict, politicians tend to get along surprisingly well with each other, in much the same way as members of most other professions do. The professionalisation of politics does not merely mean our political class is drawn from a narrow set of backgrounds. It also means they have markedly similar experiences and move in very similar circles once they're there. If they aren't in parliament, they sit on similar boards and offer similar consultancy services to the same group of people. Eddie Obeid might have been Labor's heart of darkness, but he was only ever a step or two away from the nearest senior Liberal.

There's a self-reinforcing system at play here, of favours and networking and dealing utterly divorced from the democratic process. Worse, it seems beyond reform even when everyone acknowledges both problem and solution. Take the Labor Party, booted so unceremoniously from federal office last year in part because it looked so focused in its own internal manoeuvring.

Most recently it copped a flogging in the Western Australian Senate election. Each time this happens, sage elders talk sombrely about wake-up calls and a message from the electorate received. Each time they pledge to create a more grassroots party, less beholden to the kind of political backscratching now on display. And each time nothing happens. That's the nature of such entrenched systems. Reform becomes too hard. You can have all the wake-up calls in the world, but you can also determinedly sleep through them.

In some ways Tony Abbott is right to describe O'Farrell as ''honourable'' for falling so readily on his sword. It is true he has acted swiftly, decisively and apparently with the kind of accountability so few ministers are prepared to exhibit when scandal strikes. In a saner world this might be a sacrificial act that rehabilitates the nobility of politicians.

But it is far from clear this will be the legacy of O'Farrell's demise. Rather, this could become the moment that gave tangible expression to what so much of the electorate has already intuited: that there is something hopelessly compromised about the very culture of mainstream Australian politics.

They're all bad guys now. They're all in it for themselves to the point they don't even know - or simply can't remember - when they're breaching our trust. Clearly that's not true at an individual level, but it doesn't have to be if it becomes received wisdom. In short, we're witnessing the slow motion desecration of the whole idea of politics.

That's what is behind this week's Nielsen poll that showed voters abandoning both major parties, and seeking refuge in a resurgent Greens and a fledgling Palmer United Party. That's why the same thing happened in the West Australian senate. Our political landscape now inspires such low esteem that the only place we can park our approval is on the margins: as far away from power as possible. The problem, though, is that no one ever governed from there.

Waleed Aly is a Fairfax columnist. He hosts Drive on ABC Radio National and is a lecturer in politics at Monash University.


12.03 | 0 komentar | Read More

10 questions Baird must answer

Mike Baird: one of the favourites to replace Barry O'Farrell.

Mike Baird: set to replace Barry O'Farrell. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Mike Baird is set to become the state's 44th premier this afternoon after the shock resignation of Barry O'Farrell over misleading the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Here are 10 questions the new Premier needs to answer.

1. What was your precise role in the appointment of Liberal fund-raiser Nick Di Girolamo to the board of State Water Corporation in mid-2012, how many times have you met him and what gifts have you accepted from him?

Mr Di Girolamo is under investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption over his role as chief executives of Australian Water Holdings - a company linked to the family of corrupt former Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid. Mr O'Farrell resigned on Thursday after giving false evidence to the ICAC that he had not received Di Girolamo's gift of a $3000 bottle of Penfolds Grange shortly after the March 2011 election. The ICAC produced a hand-written thank-you note from Mr O'Farrell to Mr Di Girolamo for the wine. In July 2012, Mr Di Girolamo was appointed by the O'Farrell government to the board of State Water Corporation. Mr Baird, as Treasurer, was shareholding minister and involved in the appointment, which he has insisted was merit-based and approved by cabinet.

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2. Will you take a policy advocating the sale of the electricity poles and wires to next year's election?

Barry O'Farrell initially said he would not sell the electricity poles and wires - worth up to $30 billion by some estimates - without an electoral mandate. In recent months he has indicated he would not take the policy to next year's election, despite the urging of business groups. As Treasurer, Mr Baird has been a supporter of the sale due to the funds it could unlock for infrastructure.

3. Do you believe the role and powers of the ICAC need to be revisited, as some are suggesting following Mr O'Farrell's resignation?

Senior Liberals and others are questioning the role of the ICAC after Mr O'Farrell's decision to resign. They point out that there is no suggestion he acted corruptly and was effectively collateral damage as part of a much bigger investigation. Some are calling for hearings of the ICAC - such as the one which saw Mr O'Farrell give misleading evidence over a $3,000 bottle of wine he received from Nick Di Girolamo - to be held behind closed doors.

4. Given the circumstances of Mr O'Farrell's resignation, will you implement all of the ICAC's recommendations tightening the rules for lobbyists and ministers being lobbied in NSW?

Following an inquiry into political lobbying in NSW in 2010, the ICAC published a list of recommendations for the then Labor government. In government Barry O'Farrell implemented two of them: a ban on lobbyist success fees and an 18-month ban on former ministers lobbying in their most recent portfolio area. But he failed to implement other proposed changes, including that companies and associations lobbying government be listed on the lobbyist register and details of meetings with ministers be published.

5. Will you require ministers to declare not only their own pecuniary interests but also those of their spouse and immediate family?

Labor has implemented this policy in opposition after a previous ICAC hearing involving corrupt former Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid found he had not declared key financial details because they were under a family trust. Labor has promised to apply this policy when it next takes government.

6. Your former chief of staff, Stephen Galilee, now runs the Minerals Council of NSW. How will you avoid the perception the coal mining industry now has a direct line to the premier's office?

Mr Galilee left Mr Baird's office after nine months in government to become chief executive of the NSW Minerals Council. Under the present lobbying rules, neither the Minerals Council nor Mr Galilee is required to register as lobbyists, meaning that any meetings that take place between the new premier and his former chief of staff are not required to be publicly disclosed as he is running an industry association.

7. What is your view of the future of the coal seam gas industry in NSW?

As Premier, Barry O'Farrell introduced significant restrictions on where the coal seam gas industry can explore, including a ban within two kilometres of residential areas. The moves upset the coal seam gas industry.

8. How will you set about repairing the government's relationship with the Shooters and Fishers Party, which shares the balance of power in the upper house?

Since Barry O'Farrell reneged on a deal with the Shooters and Fishers Party to allow unfettered access for hunters in national parks to get support for his electricity privatisation legislation, the relationship with the government has been poisonous. It has resulted in key government legislation being blocked in the upper house.

9. Will you do deals with minor parties in the upper house to secure the passage of important legislation?

Barry O'Farrell famously said he wouldn't do deals with the upper house that compromised his legislative agenda. But the deal with the Shooters and Fishers Party over national parks - since largely reneged upon - shows the government has been tempted go down that path to secure support for key bills.

10. How will you continue to pursue political donations reform after the High Court's decision to overturn the ban on corporate donations in NSW?

Barry O'Farrell responded to the decision in December by saying the government would "consider its options" but no action has been taken.


12.03 | 0 komentar | Read More

Baird, Berejiklian deal: Liberals' right outraged

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Mike Baird set to be next NSW Premier

Sydney Morning Herald State Political Editor Sean Nicholls says Gladys Berejiklian will withdraw from the Liberal leadership race on Thursday morning, leaving Mike Baird to become leader and NSW Premier unopposed.

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A deal struck between Mike Baird and Gladys Berejiklian to become leader and deputy leader of the NSW Liberals is threatening to spark a factional brawl by outraging the party's right wing, which is united for the first time in years in opposition to the move.

Mr Baird is set to become premier at a partyroom meeting at 3pm after Ms Berejiklian, his nearest leadership rival, agreed not to contest the leadership following Barry O'Farrell's resignation on Wednesday.

A deal between Mike Baird and Gladys Berejiklian threatens to start a factional brawl.

A deal between Mike Baird and Gladys Berejiklian threatens to start a factional brawl. Photo: Rob Homer

Ms Berejiklian has confirmed she will contest a ballot for the position of deputy Liberal leader.

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But the prospect of a Liberal leader and deputy from the left faction has outraged the right, which believed a ballot for the leadership would be held in which they could offer their support to Mr Baird.

This would allow them to enter into discussions about better representation in cabinet.

Premier deal: Gladys Berejiklian and Mike Baird.

Premier deal: Gladys Berejiklian and Mike Baird. Photo: Marco Del Grande

The right has been split into three sub factions: the centre right, the hard right and the "conservatives" - a grouping led by Liberal Party whip Jai Rowell and parliamentary secretary Matthew Mason-Cox.

In recent years, the centre right and conservatives have been in a loose alliance with the left for the purposes of preselections.

However, a right-wing source said the deal between Mr Baird and Ms Berejiklian was totally unacceptable to all of the right-wing sub factions, whose members felt they were having the arrangement imposed upon them.

Prue Goward will contest the deputy leadership.

Prue Goward has pulled out of the contest for the deputy leadership. Photo: Britta Campion

"This has reunited the right for the first time in years," the source said, adding that this view had been firmly put to Mr Baird.

The right intended to run Energy Minister Anthony Roberts against Ms Berejiklian in the deputy leadership ballot but just before the ballot, Mr Roberts announced he would not stand.

There was strong and wide support among my parliamentary colleagues for me to nominate today," Mr Roberts said.

Sealed his own fate: Barry O'Farrell.

Resigned: Barry O'Farrell. Photo: Anthony Johnson

"My decision to not proceed to nominate underscores the strength and unity of the NSW Liberals.

"I believe Mike Baird and Gladys Berejiklian will make a terrific leadership team for the NSW Liberal Party and I will be strongly supporting them."

Community services minister Pru Goward, aligned with the centre right, had told colleagues she intended to run for the deputy leadership but has now pulled out.

"After discussions with my colleagues, including the Treasurer, Mike Baird, and the Transport Minister, Gladys Berejiklian, I have decided not to nominate for the position of Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party in this afternoon's ballot," she said in a statement.

"This decision has not been taken lightly, however my primary focus is the unity of the NSW Liberal Party, and the delivery of a stable, competent government for the people of NSW.

"My commitment is to work closely with the leadership team elected this afternoon, to ensure the good work of the NSW Liberal and Nationals government continues."

Senior members of the right faction are lobbying Mr Baird to agree to better representation in cabinet, including "advancement" for MPs including Mr Rowell, Mr Mason-Cox, Baulkham Hills MP David Elliott, Castle Hill MP Dominic Perrottet, Camden MP Chris Paterson and Charlestown MP Andrew Cornwall.

The right also wants Riverstone MP Kevin Conolly considered for deputy whip.

"We've been ignored for the past three years," a senior right faction source said.

"Quite frankly, it's been advancement more based on the relationships with the Premier [Barry O'Farrell] than merit selection. We have simply had enough. It's time the party was represented across the board."


12.03 | 0 komentar | Read More
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