Monthly Archives: June 2019

2019
06/21

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IAN KIRKWOOD: One-liner on multiple levels

“To me, ‘‘the low use of high office’’ is the common point in so many of the scandals and controversies that dog the three levels of Australian politics”. Picture: Jay CroninORATORY is not Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s long suit.
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His attempts at mastering the art of ‘‘sound bite’’ one-liners have proved so bizarre that they have been immortalised by comedian Shaun Micallef as ‘‘Bill Shorten’s ‘Zingers!’’’.

To throw my own zinger into the mix, I’m tempted to say that Shorten’s parliamentary delivery is so soporific it could put an ice addict to sleep. (Maybe paramedics should keep a Shorten podcast and a loudspeaker in the ambulance to deal with violent ice cases? But I digress …)

Anyway, I was driving to work on Friday morning when Shorten materialised on the ABC radio news with such a good line that I nearly ran off the road in shock.

The key phrase was just six words long, and it was this: ‘‘the low use of high office’’.

Shorten was talking, of course, about the controversy that had erupted around Dyson Heydon, the former High Court judge heading the Royal Commission into trade unions.

The full sentence was: ‘‘I’m still convinced, as I was from day one, that Mr Abbott is engaging in the low use of high office by spending $80million of taxpayer money to investigate his rivals.’’

I tuned out of the rest of the bulletin because that phrase, ‘‘the low use of high office’’, kept repeating itself in my imagination.

My first thought was that such a great line must have been pinched, but when I rang Shorten’s office they said it was his.

Google shows he’s used it regularly since last year. The only other online use I could find came from a news outlet in the Indian state of Manipur in 2006.

So it looks like congratulations to Shorten on a real zinger!

The more I thought about the line, the more it seems to be the perfect metaphor for the state of Australian politics at the moment.

I’m not necessarily talking about the royal commission, although I find it impossible to believe that Prime Minister Tony Abbott was not thinking about his own political advantage in ordering the inquiry.

It certainly gave the government a weapon to attack unions, and, by extension, the ALP, without having a parliamentary debate on industrial relations, an Achilles’ heel for the Coalition, given WorkChoices.

But is that in itself a ‘‘low use of high office’’?

I’m not sure.

Regardless of what happens to the commission from here – and regardless of Abbott’s political motivation – it has uncovered a series of disturbing industrial relations practices that are unlikely to have seen the light of day otherwise.

To me, ‘‘the low use of high office’’ is the common point in so many of the scandals and controversies that dog the three levels of Australian politics.

Whether it’s mayors and councillors defending themselves against conflict of interest allegations in local government, or the Credo and Spicer investigations of NSW politics by the ICAC, or the repeated examples of federal politicians spending up big on the taxpayers’ tab, the common link is the use of public office for private gain.

On one level, it can only undermine public confidence in our systems of government, in the same way that Nixon’s Watergate, for example, triggered such disillusion with United States politics.

It need not always be a downward spiral.

Politics is about people, and when a truly talented, charismatic and effective leader arrives, the tone of the game can often lift for the better. Or is that only until the old ennui sets in?

Unfortunately, the other negative aspect of such controversies is that they take up so much time and political oxygen that would be better used for the real business of government: of reform, of recognition, of the lawmaking and debate that should be the hallmark of ‘‘high office’’.

Perhaps, though, it’s always been this way?

Some 2500years ago, the Greek reformer Solon introduced a scheme of debt-relief, the ‘‘Seisachtheia’’.

But as Aristotle later recorded, Solon tipped off his friends, who borrowed heavily before the new laws were introduced, freeing them from the need to repay, and making them really rich.

Wi-fi and smart phones aside, is there anything new under the sun?

2019
06/21

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Charity football match chance to cheer on community spirit

You don’t have to look far to understandWarrnambool is a growing city.
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Housing estates have exploded in the north and west along with commercial developments.

The city’s population is predicted to hit 40,000 by 2031, the Victoria In Future report says. But much of that growth could be at the expense of smaller towns in the region.

While numbers of people, shops and houses are measures of growth, one aspect rarely spoken about is maintaining a sense of community.

The south-west is a strong, vibrantcommunity.The best example ishow we banded together to raise $5 million forWarrnambool’s cancer care centre.

On Sunday that community spirit and purpose will be on show when hopefully thousands of people turn out for an All Stars football match aimed at raising money for the Leila Rose Foundation.

The foundation is another example of what makes our community so great. It was founded by Warrnambool doctor Andrew Chow (pictured)and his wife Tracy after their daughterLeila died at age 21 monthsfrom a rare childhood cancer.

They decided to help others by creating the foundation which assists families of children fighting rare cancers. It is the only organisation in Australia that focuses on children with rare cancers.

In its fifth year, the foundation has spent $110,000 helping23 families – four from the south-west.

Sunday’s football match, thanks to the involvement of ambassador, Warrnambool’s triple Hawthorn premiership player Jordan Lewis as one coach and AFL legend Mick Malthouse as the other, has had national promotion.That promotion not only paints the foundation in a good light but itreflects well on Warrnambool and the region.

When Dr Chow addressed many of the volunteer players at a recent training session about what the foundation did and his hopes to raise funds for its work, you could have heard a pin drop.

On Sunday there will be 70 players ranging in size, shape, ages and abilities putting on a show. The gamehas nothing to do with winning or losing. It’s abouthelping others.That’s whatcommunities like ours areall about.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

2019
06/21

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Dialogue door left ajar between council and AGL

With spring on the way, the thawing of relations between Gloucester Shire Council and AGL appears to have begun. AGL’s executive general manager of stakeholder relations Jeni Coutts met with Gloucester’s mayor John Rosenbaum today with both sides agreeing to schedule a full meeting between senior AGL executives and Gloucester’s councillors on August 26. Up for discussion will be the future of AGL in the Gloucester Dialogue.
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“It’s really about how we can move forward and about putting in place our expectations as to how it can work,” said Cr Rosenbaum.

He said his main concern was ensuring AGL and the Dialogue had genuine conversations about what was going on and going to happen, before it came out in the media, so that they had a chance to form a response so that everyone was clear on their position.

“After the meeting, council will discuss what they want to do. If they decide against inviting AGL back into the Dialogue, I think it will be the end of the Dialogue itself,” he said.

Cr Rosenbaum said that he and Ms Coutts touched upon the impact of AGL’s upcoming final decision about whether or not to proceed to Stage One with the Gloucester Gas Project. Media reports have speculated that the decision is expected mid 2016, however a spokesperson for AGL said that no date had been settled upon but it would be “sometime in 2016.”

Responding to further reports about AGL’s ‘legacy’ for Gloucester should the decision not to proceed be made, AGL said it meets with all interested parties surrounding its projects and that it is important to differentiate that any talk of a ‘legacy’ should not just be in terms of ‘if AGL were to leave Gloucester’.

“AGL always has sought to give back to the communities in which it operates, whether that is through local employment, using local suppliers and services or providing funds to worthy projects through the likes of our Local Community Investment Program. We are doing all of that now and that’s already part of our legacy,” Ms Coutts said.

Further reports suggested AGL had applied pressure upon the NSW Government in relation to a policy detail surrounding their operation’s approval.AGL said “since 2009 AGL have worked through a myriad of State and Commonwealth Acts, regulations, policies, rules and Codes of Practice to ensure that our applications … satisfy numerous government approval processes, including a full environmental impact assessment… Fracture stimulating four existing wells is required under our approvals. This is an exploration activity for which a Review of Environmental Factors (REF) is required – not an Environmental Impact Statement. AGL submitted its REF, which is over 1000 pages long, in September 2013.”

“In relation to political donations, in the 2013/14 financial year NSW electoral law set a $5500 cap on donations to individual political parties. AGL did not exceed this and it is incorrect to say that $33,000 was provided to the Coalition. AGL’s policy is to proactively and regularly disclose political donations and declare every donation, not just those that are ‘reportable’.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

2019
06/21

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Tairua’s the big man to make a difference: Hill

Colt Tairua (pictured) has been a standout for Westside this season and Dylan Hill expects the back-rower to star again today against Forbes. Photo: CHERYL BURKETODAY’S Group 11 elimination semi-final between Dubbo Westside and the Forbes Magpies is guaranteed to be a huge battle up front.
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Both sides possess powerful forward packs with plenty of strike power but Rabbitohs’ stand-in captain Dylan Hill believes his side has one big man who can break the game wide open.

“One guy who has been outstanding for us this season is Colt Tairua, he’s been aiming up each week,” he said.

“With it looking like a forward’s game he’ll step up again because he’s been massive for us.”

Tairua was virtually unknown before joining the Rabbitohs from CYMS during the off-season but in the space of a season he’s become one of the leading back-rowers in the competition.

Hill admitted even he didn’t know who Tairua was before the season started but expects him to impact again on a game he believes will be decided by the forwards.

“We know they’ve got a big pack and guys like Zac Merritt and Jake Grace have plenty of experience and they’ll be the ones to watch,” he said of Forbes.

“I believe we’ve got the backs who can score the points but it’s up to the forwards to be aiming up and setting the platform.”

Today’s match at Caltex Park marks the first time Westside have made the finals since their return to Group 11.

The aim of coach Robbie Dunn and everyone at the club was to make the post-season in 2015 but just being one of the top five isn’t good enough for the Rabbitohs now.

“Our next goal is to make the grand final, that’s where we want to be but we’ve got to focus on these games first,” Hill said.

“Obviously they (Forbes) had a great win over Parkes last week so we can’t take them lightly but it is good to have the home ground advantage.”

Forbes, who finished the season one spot above Westside in fourth, defeated Parkes for the first time in six years last week and head into the match full of confidence.

It was a much different result for the Rabbitohs last week as they were thumped 78-8 but it was an understrength side which made the trip to Kennard Park, with only four regulars in the starting lineup.

Hill said his side had responded to that loss with their best training sessions of the season this week and the squad was of the belief they can win today after their 44-26 win over the Magpies in June.

“We did it once so I don’t see why we can’t do it again,” he said.

The action at Caltex Park gets under way today at 12pm with the league tag with the first grade match expected to kick off shortly after 3pm.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

2019
06/21

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Public hearing to discuss small schools

THE social costs of losing small schools from regional areas, including Wollombi Public School, aren’t given sufficient consideration alongside the savings the government can pocket from shutting them, an inquiry has been told.
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The Isolated Children’s Parents Association and Cessnock City Council have also criticised the level of consultation the Department of Education carries out before deciding the fate of a school, in submissions to a parliamentary inquiry looking into the government’s handling of the closures.

Under scrutiny are its decisions to shut Wollombi and Martins Creek School and review a string of others.

The inquiry will hold a public hearing in Sydney next Thursday.

Chairman and Christian Democrat MP Paul Green said he expected residents affected by the Martins Creek closure, which has six students and is slated to shut at the end of the year, would give evidence. Bureaucrats will also be called.

The Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association said the loss of rural schools had social costs that weren’t adequately considered, and communities were sceptical that savings from closing their schools benefited city schools over others in regional areas.

A department spokesman said its resource allocation model ensured schools taking over enrolments from one that had closed were ‘‘resourced appropriately and equitably’’.

Cessnock City Council told the inquiry the department conducted ‘‘minimal consultation’’ with it before closing the historic Wollombi school. The council could have provided an ‘‘understanding of the importance of the school for that community’’.

In an unusual move, Korean miner KEPCO has also made a submission, pushing its proposed mine in the Bylong Valley as an opportunity to boost the number of enrolments at Bylong Upper Public School.

‘‘The project provides a unique opportunity to arrest the decline in population which has been occurring in the Bylong Valley since the 1980s,’’ it said.