Topic: News

Give Qantas a chance by lifting restrictions on foreign ownership

QANTAS is more than the Victa motor mower, Hills Hoist and Peters Ice Cream phenomena, where the brand lives on under new owners. The Qantas brand is a big deal to Australia. Its loss would cause heartburn for the Abbott government. Can Australians understand an economy without national symbols of production, as well as “national” ownership?

The challenge for the Abbott government is different to that faced by the Hawke and Keating governments. Their task was to sell government assets into private hands. What was not so apparent then is becoming more so. As with Holden (assuming the brand fades), what will the Australian industrial landscape look like without familiar brands as well as Australian ownership?

In the late 1980s senator John Button, then industry minister in the Hawke government, walked into an ALP centre-left caucus meeting, my then home team, at Parliament House, Canberra, and asked the question, “What is the government doing owning an airline?”

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Being bullied in the workplace? Blame the bosses

I HEREBY declare 2014 the Year of the Bully. It seems that work no longer sets you free. Instead, it is an arena where every conceivable wrong apparently is perpetrated against the worker. The latest is the workplace bully, and government is ready to stamp it out.

One of Bill Shorten’s last acts as workplace relations minister in the Gillard government was to allow a worker who had been bullied to apply to the Fair Work Commission for an order to stop the bullying. The act comes into effect tomorrow. What are the chances of it stopping bullying?

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There’s a lack of intelligence on bikies

HOW come we have the capacity to eavesdrop on the private conversations of the President of Indonesia and his wife, but not on Queensland bikies? Or so it would appear.

Queensland and other Australian police have been tracking bikies forever. If, after all this time, and with all of the arrest powers, intelligence and surveillance available, they cannot find enough evidence to charge bikies with offences they want to charge them for, then maybe the bikies don’t do those crimes?

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Scotland the Brave requires innovation and dignity, too

I AM a proud Glasgow man: a descendant of the Scottish nation and peoples. My great-great-grandparents on my mother’s father’s side came from Glasgow in the 1850s. That seems to be enough these days for others to make great claims about their antecedents, so let’s go with it. My Cornish, English and Irish forebears can sit this one out; I will claim them later when I can find a use for them.

Anyway, there is my poor old homeland on the rack, thinking of breaking from mother England. The Scots have a rare moment to reflect on their good fortune and why it came to be so. The white paper, Scotland’s Future, opens with the silken words: “The central purpose of independence is to make life better for people living in Scotland. Only a Scottish parliament and government will always be able to put the interests of the people of Scotland first.” Apparently, being well off has something to do with ruling oneself.

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Car industry in its death throes

WILL Tony Abbott have a dollar float, tariff or GST moment? Or, will he be content to axe the tax, stop the boats, balance the books and leave the remainder to entrepreneurs and the workforce? As important as these are, there is another looming intervention required to make the economy better and, with it, a better society.

The new Labor member for Scullin, Andrew Giles, in his first speech, restated an old adage: “We wish to live in a society rather than simply fit into an economy.” He reiterated: “Let me be clear: I wish to live in a society.” Such is the romantic thinking that has locked workers into jobs that their neighbours have to support through taxation and out of jobs where they could support their neighbours.

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Shining a light (if it’s not broken) on culture of entitlement

IMAGINE the scene. My old trade union secretary mate is away on union business. He stays at a country hotel and after dinner and television feels the need for some recreation by expressing his manhood in a most complete manner. He rings up a lady who sells her services by the hour. Most unfortunately he injures his back during said recreation. What are my friend’s chances of successfully claiming workers compensation? Not as remote as you may think.

Fortunately, the majority of the High Court (4-2) would not grant his claim. The High Court knocked back a similar case recently, but it was a close-run thing and may well be revisited. The reasons are intriguing. The majority had to pull a rabbit from the hat to stop the case from succeeding. Indeed, the High Court had only six judges out of the usual seven decide the case because the seventh, Keane J., had decided the matter in the Full Federal Court in favour of the worker. Keane J. was recently appointed to the High Court and could not hear the matter. The decision is, in effect, 4-3.

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Cost of social health agenda

COME the revolution: we’ll all be healthy. Mind you a few could die on the way, but what the heck, the important thing is the cause. The cause is the “social determinants of health”, and you are funding it.

The World Health Organisation has convinced many governments worldwide that “social determinants of health are the genesis of many health problems”.

In a submission to a Senate committee earlier this year, established to respond to the WHO report, an enthusiast explained: “Take as an example two people growing up in different communities. One is from the north shore of Sydney, who has educational opportunities, is encouraged by his or her parents, has adequate food and has parents who are not alcoholics.

“Compare that person to the extreme case of somebody growing up in the community of Yuendumu, just out of Alice Springs, where there are not the educational opportunities and encouragement.”

In a stunning insight, our enthusiast concludes “their health outcomes would be very different”.

Health, it appears is not about addressing individual choices any more. Poor dumb fatties are powerless, and only social engineers, posing as the medical profession, can solve this one. Except, of course, they cannot.

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History yes, culture no

IN 2010, Ernest Munda of Fitzroy Crossing in Western Australia killed his common law wife of 16 years, with whom he had four children. He was sentenced to prison for seven years and nine months, with a non-parole period of three years and three months.

The taxpayer funded an appeal to the High Court that his sentence was too harsh. He claimed that the Court of Appeal of Western Australia failed to have “proper regard” to his personal circumstances as a “traditional” Aboriginal man. In particular, “an environment in which the abuse of alcohol is endemic in indigenous communities”, was not taken into account.

The High Court knocked him back. The court reiterated that while a person’s background could play a part in mitigation, it needed to be “weighed by the sentencing judge”. At present, judges have discretion, but in future, if Aboriginal culture is recognised in the Constitution, do not be surprised if the likes of Ernest Munda get lighter sentences.

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Let’s get realistic about reducing carbon emissions

ON Friday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will release a summary of its report for policymakers. It will reinforce the view among many scientists and policymakers that a great deal of the increase in air temperature that the world has experienced, until recently, is due to man-made emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The contribution remains contentious and its impact remains contentious.

What to do, if there is a problem, is especially contentious. How does a government frame policy in response to uncertainties of man-made climate change and its impact? What should the Abbott government do?

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A bad government that lost its way and lost an election

WELL done, Australia. You elected a Coalition government with a strong majority and you disposed of an incompetent Labor government. But judging from the spin over the weekend, Labor was defeated because it was a good government that “lost its way”.

Former Rudd cabinet minister Tanya Plibersek blithely scored her party “nine out of 10 for governing the country, (but) none out of 10 for governing ourselves”. Others remarked that no cabinet minister had lost their seat. True, but many resigned months ago. As former Howard government minister Peter Reith remarked, “it was as if the policies never counted”.

But policies do count and their competent implementation counts even more. The mandate from the electorate on boats, carbon pricing, the mining tax and reducing debt is crystal clear.

Tony Abbott will be judged on the competent implementation of those policies, and more besides.

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