Recently the “Rat Pack” ratified a proposal to create a conglomerate. The perpetrator rationalises this novel approach by permitting the decorator to liberate the masses. Consideration was given to maximum impact and a co-ordinated demonstration of, jumping for joy, broke out.
An administrator takes responsibility for integration of regional plans. Such a proliferation of bureaucracy is deliberate. It separates the “plebs” from the overseers. Infiltration by those opposed to desecration is minimised. Consideration was given to any concentrated attack from ratepayers.
Congratulations Rat Pack our ration of forward thinking has once again been satisfied.
It is little wonder a grateful community smells a “rat”.
Legendary journalist Dan Rather is asking the two vital questions whose answers have the capability of ending Donald Trump’s presidency.
Legendary journalist Dan Rather is asking the two vital questions whose answers have the capability of ending Donald Trump’s presidency.
Rather asked four vital questions on his Facebook page: 1. What did Mr. Trump know and when did he know it about Russian efforts to influence the U.S. Presidential election? The President and those around him are engaged in a furious fight to prevent the American people from knowing. What are they hiding? If, as they say, there’s nothing to hide, why are they working so hard to conceal what they know?
Republican led House and Senate investigations are–purposely or not– bogged down. While the FBI investigation (also led by a Republican) is said to be rigorous and far-reaching, who can say with certainty? We do know that the FBI was slow and unsteady at the start.
A truly independent, bi-partisan investigative special commission (with maybe a special prosecutor?) would seem to be a must, but so far there is no significant movement to establish one.
2. Given indications so far, the President appears to have plenty to hide in his tax returns. Again, if he has nothing to hide why is he fighting so hard to keep them secret? How much taxes he has paid (if any) is not the most important part of this. More important is finding out how much he owes–how much he is in debt to–other people, who they are and where they are (foreigners, foreign powers?)
3. What is the President’s strategy to deal with war and peace challenges such as North Korea, Russia in Eastern Europe, Iran, Syria and Afghanistan. One-off missile attacks and mega-bomb droppings are tactical moves, in and of themselves. If they fit into a large strategy in any or all of the major threat areas, what is that strategy?
4. What is happening behind the shadows with our immigration policy? For all the talk of how the President has struggled in his legislative agenda, the reporting coming out of the Department of Justice under Attorney General Jeff Sessions and multiple local communities suggests that there has been an active change in how the nation is dealing with this issue.
Coffs Harbour is set to receive an innovative new TAFE NSW SkillsPointsheadquarters, as part of the NSW Government’s push to create the workforce of the future by collaborating with business and industry.
Member for Coffs Harbour Andrew Fraser today revealed the coastal town as the chosen location of one of six new regional and three metropolitan SkillsPoints headquarters, which have been designed to ensure TAFE NSW builds on its reputation as a world-class vocational education and training provider.
“SkillsPoints are intersection points where TAFE NSW will work with business and industry to develop curriculum and training to provide Australians with the skills needed for the jobs of the future,” Mr Fraser said.
“Our new SkillsPoints will focus on developing curriculum and training for the booming tourism industry, to cater for a high demand in hospitality staff, travel and accommodation workers and marketing and promotions professionals.”
The first SkillsPoints HQ – Innovative Manufacturing, Robotics and Science – will open in Newcastle in September.
The rollout of the remaining SkillsPoints HQs in Griffith, Tamworth, Queanbeyan, Dubbo, Coffs Harbour, Ultimo, Parramatta and Mount Druitt – will be announced in coming months.
Assistant Minister for Skills Adam Marshall said each SkillsPoints will be powered by a core team of between eight and 15 staff to meet the needs of local students and employers.
“What is so exciting about these SkillsPoints headquarters is that each location has been strategically determined to support its own region’s economic growth and employment needs. So, for example, the SkillsPoints in Coffs Harbour will focus on tourism while the SkillsPoints in Griffith will focus on agribusiness,” Mr Marshall said.
“With regionally based headquarters and a Statewide focus, SkillsPoints will be capable of rapidly designing and delivering training to meet the needs of established and emerging industries.
“Whether in a classroom, on-site, online or a combination of these, SkillsPoints training and resources will be tailored to industry needs and demonstrates the NSW Government’s commitment to ensuring the same high-quality, industry relevant content anywhere from the city to rural and regional NSW.”
But the government’s big political push, launched while Newspoll was in the field, was disrupted by continued displays of disunity.
After being advised by some colleagues to quit politics for the good of the government, the former prime minister Tony Abbott last week declared he would continue to make public interventions as he saw fit.
Abbott’s statement of defiance was followed by a leak of polling from the last federal election which showed the former prime minister was under pressure in his Sydney seat of Warringah. Abbot responded furiously to the leak.
Late last week the finance minister, Mathias Cormann, warned Abbott to pull his head in, saying his interventions were smoothing the Labor leader Bill Shorten’s path to the Lodge.
On Sunday the leading conservative Peter Dutton took a softer line on Abbott, saying the Liberal party needed to respect its former leaders, but he also chided the former prime minister about keeping his public interventions constructive.
There was a time I would attend church every day of Holy Week. Not this year – it is too hard to reconcile a church that makes special claims to grace with the findings of the royal commission into child sexual abuse
It’s Holy Week, the most sacred time in the Catholic liturgical calendar. Between Thursday and Saturday, Catholic liturgies will recount the last days of Jesus of Nazareth, including his last supper with his followers, his condemnation to death, his crucifixion and his burial.
There would have been a time in which I would have attended church every day of this week. Holy Week marks the key message of the Catholic Christian faith: that Jesus suffered, died, was buried and on the third day he rose again, breaking the bonds of death and redeeming humanity.
In short, Jesus’ death and resurrection saves us from our sins.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m no saint. I make no claim to sinlessness. I could use some of that forgiveness and redemption. But it is hard to take seriously a church that, in its very organisation, seems so sinful.
If Jesus’ death and resurrection imparts some saving grace to humanity, how is it that the very institution that is meant to mediate Christ to his followers can be so intrinsically flawed?
I know the church hierarchy is made up of human beings, and human beings are not perfect. But these particular human beings make special claims to holiness and grace, and yet they spawn and support an institution that grotesquely violates children.
Jesus said that children are special, that they are holy. The royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse says that there have been nearly 4,500 reported cases of alleged abuse of children in Catholic institutions over the past 35 years. No doubt many more remain unreported.
I know I am not alone among Australian Catholics in finding it near impossible to reconcile these despicable statistics with the church’s claim to be a special mediator of God’s grace and a place that I should attend in order to understand more deeply God’s love.
I know because my fellow Catholics talk to me about these issues. I know because I can look around Catholic parishes and see the declining attendance.
Even enrolments in Catholic schools are falling in Australia. Catholic education officials say they can’t build facilities fast enough to meet demand, so parents are choosing other government schools. It’s an odd logic that argues numbers are falling below capacity because demand is too high.
For what it is worth, I later moved my kids back to the Catholic education system when they reached high school. I wanted them to be grounded in Catholic principles of social justice and to know what it is to live Christian faith within a community of believers. For many Catholic families, Catholic school for their children is their one tangible link left to the Catholic faith.
There is a lot of chatter among practicing Catholics in Australia about what to do about the evidence given at the royal commission. Francis Sullivan, chief executive of the Catholic church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council, gave a talk recently:
There is now a deep malaise compounded by a simmering anger within the community about the Church and child sexual abuse … The very fact that the church was on trial rips at the heart of what the church is meant to be. And that speaks to me of a profound loss of direction, integrity, purpose and meaning at the heart of the church. A spiritual wasteland. It is my sense that so many Catholics share that shock. People say the Church now needs to get its house back in order but I say we have to re-build the house.
Sullivan’s address is excellent. It deserves a wide reading. He made five recommendations to how to rebuild the church. Each recommendation is good on its merits, but the reality is that these actions cannot be brought about by the people in the pews. As long as the church in its organisational structure excludes women, parents, married people, and men like Francis Sullivan from true leadership and decision-making, nothing is likely to change.
It pains me to say these things. I mourn the loss of being part of a parish community in which I can celebrate my faith and receive the sacraments. And I know there are good priests in the church, men who feel dismayed and betrayed too. But even more so I grieve for the thousands of children in Australia who have been irreparably harmed, whose lives have been destroyed and whose faith and trust has been so comprehensively violated. I can’t, in good conscience, continue to prop up a church that has been so exposed in its systemic wrong-doing, and yet is still doing so little to make reparations.
So this Holy Week I will look forward to Easter and the redemption it brings. And I will pray that redemption comes, and soon, to the Holy Roman Catholic Church.
THANK YOU Kristina for the memories and it seems that as our family grow up they get spread far and wide but how great it is to catch up. Hugh
The top police officer on Manus Island has flatly rejected the Australian immigration minister’s claim that a shooting last Friday was sparked by detainees taking a five-year-old boy into the detention centre.
“It’s a total separate incident altogether,” he said. “The incident that transpired on Friday was because a duty soldier was being assaulted by one of the asylum seekers or refugees.”
Yapu said a young boy had gone to the centre to ask for food about two weeks ago, but he was not led there and was 10, not five. The boy’s parents had not made a complaint, and police were not investigating any link between his visit and the shooting.
The navy and Yapu said detainees had refused to leave a soccer field on the naval base and accused an asylum seeker of assaulting a soldier – which detainees who spoke to the Guardian denied. The situation then escalated and at least two people were injured. The navy said asylum seekers had thrown rocks and all parties acknowledged soldiers were shooting.
But on Thursday, Dutton alleged the shooting occurred after local people witnessed asylum seekers leading a five-year-old boy towards the centre.
“I think there was concern about why the boy was being led, or for what purpose he was being led, away back into the regional processing centre,” he told Sky News.
“I think it’s fair to say that the mood had elevated quite quickly. I think some of the local residents were quite angry about this particular incident and another alleged sexual assault,” he said, while conceding he did not have “full details”.
The comments formed Dutton’s only public statement on the shooting since it happened a week ago.
Dutton’s account, which mirrored a witness’s statement to News Corp last week, was wrong, Yapu said.
On social media detainees also disputed Dutton’s statement, saying the allegation related to an incident two weeks ago when a young boy asked for some food and detainees told him to stay at the doorway while they gathered some up. Benham Satah said several CCTV cameras would have captured the visit and called for Dutton to release the footage.
“Security came to them later that night and asked what [the] child was doing and they explained and security left,” he said.
The Greens senator Nick McKim told Guardian Australia Dutton had been caught telling an “outrageous lie” and should either “resign or be sacked”.
“This is on top of consistent failures to protect vulnerable people to whom he owes a duty of care,” McKim said.
“If he won’t go the PM ought to sack him. This has disturbing echoes of the children overboard lies.”
There have been long-running tensions between the military and police in Papua New Guinea, and in the Manus community hostility towards the asylum seekers and refugees has also reportedly grown, particularly since those detained inside the naval base were given the ability to travel into nearby Lorengau township.
The Manus MP, Ron Knight, predicted at the time there might be violence. There have also been a number of alleged attacks by staff working at the detention centre, including the alleged drugging and gang rape of a PNG woman who worked at the centre by expatriate colleagues, including Australian citizens.
The Kurdish journalist and Manus detainee Behrouz Boochani told the Guardian on Thursday Dutton’s comments were dangerous and could further inflame community tensions.
The navy and police have launched an investigation into the shooting and pledged to bring perpetrators to justice.
A significant spill of firefighting foam at Brisbane airport has contaminated nearby waterways, killing fish and prompting warnings to recreational anglers.
About 22,000 litres of the foam leaked in a Qantas hangar on Monday, the Queensland government confirmed.
About three-quarters was kept within the hangar’s containment system but an undisclosed quantity entered the airport’s stormwater system.
The chemicals have contaminated the lower reaches of the Brisbane river. The impacted areas stretch from Bulimba creek to Fisherman Island, and further north to Shorncliffe.
About 20 dead fish were discovered within the airport’s boundaries. The Queensland government has linked their deaths to the spill.
The spill happened about 9pm on Monday. Qantas did not notify authorities until Tuesday. The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection is now investigating, and has taken samples from nearby waterways and the fish.
Health authorities are warning recreational fishers to avoid the area as a precaution. Queensland’s chief health officer, Jeannette Young, said people should avoid eating seafood from nearby areas.
“I recommend people avoid eating seafood that was caught in the potentially contaminated area until the results of environment department testing are known,” Young said. “While there is currently no consistent evidence that PFOA exposure causes adverse health harm in humans, I understand this was a significant spill.”
The environment minister, Steven Miles, said a joint Queensland-commonwealth investigation had begun. “Failure to fully contain PFAS firefighting foams is contrary to Queensland government policy, however the Brisbane airport is a commonwealth-regulated site,” Miles said.
“As such, this is now a joint investigation between the Queensland and commonwealth governments,” he said.
Qantas issued a statement on Friday morning, saying it was investigating the leak. It said most of the chemical was contained but some had overflowed into a nearby creek.
“The creek was quickly bunded to stop the fire retardant from flowing downstream,” Qantas said. “We take our environmental responsibilities very seriously.
“We notified the Queensland government and we’re working with Brisbane airport on the clean-up and the investigation.”
Qantas has engaged a specialist contractor to recover the waste and is storing recovered material in a container within the airport.
Queensland authorities are investigating the entry of foam into the Luggage Point sewage treatment plant, which discharges into the Brisbane river. “EHP officers attended the site again today to continue monitoring the onsite response to the situation,” Miles said on Thursday.
Last year NSW authorities launched their own investigation of contaminated sites, including airports, firefighting training facilities and industrial sites.
To target what the military described as a “tunnel complex” used by the Isis’s Afghanistan affiliate, the US for the first time used what the military colloquially calls the “mother of all bombs”, the GBU-43/B.
Dawlat Waziri, an Afghan ministry spokesman said of Thursday’s strike: “No civilian has been hurt and only the base, which Daesh used to launch attacks in other parts of the province, was destroyed.”
Designed for destroying underground targets but not itself a deep-earth penetrator weapon, the GBU-43/B has the explosive yield of more than 11 tons of TNT. The massive bomb is dropped from air force planes and detonates before reaching the ground, resulting in an enormous blast radius. Only the Massive Ordnance Penetrator GBU-57, which has never been used in war, is a larger conventional weapon.
The psychological effect on survivors or observers is considered an added impact of the weaideo
Asked whether he had authorized the bombing, Donald Trump said: “Everybody knows exactly what happened. What I do is I authorize my military. We have the greatest military in the world and they’ve done a job as usual. We have given them total authorization and that’s what they’re doing and frankly that’s why they’ve been so successful lately.”
Did this bombing send a message to North Korea? “I don’t know if this sends a message; it doesn’t make any difference if it does or not,” the president said. “North Korea is a problem, the problem will be taken care of.” He implied that China was “working very hard” on this issue.
Army Gen John W Nicholson, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, said in a statement that the GBU-43/B was the “right munition” to use against the Islamic State in Khorosan, or Isis-K.
“As Isis-K’s losses have mounted, they are using IEDs, bunkers and tunnels to thicken their defense. This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive against Isis-K,” Nicholson said.
The blast detonated at 7.32pm local time in the Achin district of the eastern province of Nangarhar, according to the US military.
Sarab, a local resident from Asadkhel in Achin, close to the mountain where the bomb targeted Isis tunnels, said he saw a giant flame before the blast made the ground shake. “It was the biggest blast I have ever heard,” he said. Sarab added that the targeted area had recently been completely occupied by Isis fighters.
“There is no way that civilians were still living there,” he said.
However, a parliamentarian from Nangarhar, Esmatullah Shinwari, said locals had told him one teacher and his young son had been killed. One man, the MP recounted, had told him before the phone lines went down: “I have grown up in the war, and I have heard different kinds of explosions through 30 years: suicide attacks, earthquakes different kinds of blasts. I have never heard anything like this.” Phone connections are regularly interrupted in Achin and there were no immediate indication of casualties.
Haji Ghalib Mujahed, a local veteran commander, said he felt “tremors” all the way to Bati Kot, a neighbouring district where he is now the administrative chief.
According to the most recent estimates from the US military in Afghanistan, there are between 600 and 800 Isis-K fighters in the country. Most of them are based in southern Nangarhar province, including in Achin.
An American special forces soldier was killed last week in Achin while fighting Isis-K, but a US military spokesman in Kabul, Capt William Salvin, said there was “absolutely no connection” between that death and Thursday’s bombing.
Nicholson’s command said it took “every precaution to avoid civilian casualties”, without defining those steps, but gave no word on the impact to Afghan civilians.
The military said it used the GBU-43/B to “minimize the risk” to Afghan and US forces fighting Isis-K in Achin.
Following the bombing, US and Afghan forces began clearing operations in the targeted area.
An Afghan army soldier told the Guardian, as he was driving toward the targeted area: “The explosion felt like a big earthquake, even in the surrounding districts.”
Trump has said practically nothing about Afghanistan, either as candidate or president. Nicholson told Congress in February that he wanted a few thousandmore troops to bolster the 8,400-strong force Barack Obama left to wage America’s longest war, now in its 16th year.
Trump on Wednesday said he would dispatch his national security adviser, HR McMaster, to meet with Nicholson and conduct a policy review. As a three-star army general on active duty, McMaster is outranked by Nicholson, making it difficult for McMaster to resist Nicholson’s recommendations.
The US military is currently facing widespread concerns that its accelerated bombing campaigns in Syria, Iraq and Yemen are increasing civilian casualties. A 17 March strike on a building in Mosul is currently under investigation after killing scores of Iraqis.
US allies have also felt the brunt of escalated US airstrikes. On Thursday, the Pentagon revealed that its Syrian allies in a Kurdish-led ground force, the Syrian Democratic Forces, requested an airstrike on an errant position erroneously believed to be held by Isis. The 11 April strike killed 18 fighters belonging to the Syrian Democratic Forces themselves.
Air Force statistics released on Thursday show that March 2017 was the most intense month of the US-led bombing campaign against Isis in Iraq and Syria, a war nearly three years old. US warplanes fired 3,878 munitions in March, topping January 2017’s previous high of 3,600.
In Afghanistan, US warplanes fired 203 weapons in March, the highest volume since October.
Hamid Karzai, the former president of Afghanistan installed in 2001 by the US and backed by the international community, tweeted that the bombing meant Afghans needed to “stop the USA”.
Trump said on the campaign trail that he would “bomb the shit” out of Isis.
His spokesman, Sean Spicer, said on Thursday the use of the GBU-43/B showed the US “takes the fight against Isis very seriously and in order to defeat the group we must deny them operational space, which we did ”.
Describing the bombing at his regular White House press briefing, he told reporters: “At around 7pm local time in Afghanistan last night the United States military used a GBU-43 weapon in Afghanistan. The GBU-43 is a large, powerful and accurately delivered weapon. We targeted a system of tunnels and caves that Isis fighters used to move around freely, making it easier for them to target US military advisers and Afghan forces in the area.”
He refused to answer further questions about the bomb at his regular press briefing, referring journalists to the Department of Defense.
Additional reporting by David Smith in Washingto
‘It felt like the heavens were falling’: Afghans reel from Moab impact
Journalism faces a crisis worldwide – we might be entering a new dark age | Margaret Simons
Amsterdam’s solution to the obesity crisis: no fruit juice and enough sleep
When Derryn Hinch told the ABC on Monday that “owning your own home is not an Australian right”, he was unwittingly throwing his weight behind a huge con.
That con, in essence, is to convince voters that a major structural undersupply of dwellings is responsible for the current housing affordability crisis.
The argument is utterly bogus, though Mr Hinch may not yet understand why.
When asked if young Australians had “unrealistic expectations of where they can afford to buy homes close to the city”, he replied:
“You’re right. You’re 100 per cent right … it’s the expectation that, you know, here I am, I’m married, I’m da da da da, and therefore I should have a house.
“Now, in many European countries, and you look at places like New York City, most people – I think I’m right in saying this, or it was some years ago – most people rent, they don’t buy, they can’t afford it.”
Sounds reasonable, until you look at the number of Australian residents per dwelling.
Houses have grown a bit bigger on average, but even in ‘bubble state’ NSW the average number of residents per dwelling has been virtually flat since the millennium (see chart below).
And yet our political leaders, hand-in-glove with property developers and the banks, try to create the illogical impression that average house prices have risen because people want to live close to city centres.
Treasurer Scott Morrison told the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute in Melbourne on Monday that “… just over half of renters say they rent because they can’t afford to buy their own property”.
“Because of this, they are staying in the rental market for longer – a dynamic that puts upward pressure on rental prices and availability and even more pressure on lower-income households, increasing the need for affordable housing,” Mr Morrison said.
“Increasing numbers of higher income earners privately renting has the obvious effect of lowering availability of affordable rental stock to those on low incomes.”
The Treasurer’s logic is completely flawed.
When a renter becomes a home owner, they vacate one property and occupy another. When a high-income earner sells their home and decides to rent, they vacate one property and occupy another.
The average number of Australian residents per dwelling is not affected by that process.
If immigration, or the birth and death rates, ever get substantially ahead of the national supply of housing stock, that really would be a supply issue – we’ll know more about that when the second round of 2016 census data is released in June.
But until that happens, rising prices in one area should be offset by fewer dollars chasing properties in another area.
So why does that not happen?
Well actually, it does. House prices are falling in Perth, for instance, as mining-related workers head east to look for new jobs. Rental vacancies in that city have risen from around 1 per cent to 5 per cent in the past four years.
But those relative shifts between one capital city and another, or between inner and outer suburbs, have been dwarfed in the post-millennium era by the credit bubble that began to grow when generous discounts to capital gains tax were legislated in 1999.
The 50 per cent CGT discount, combined with existing negative gearing provisions, meant that property investors could afford to borrow more to bid up house prices. As they did so, owner-occupiers were forced to try to match them.
The entire market has been lifted, like a harbour full of different-sized boats, by the same tide – cheap credit and ridiculously generous tax incentives for investors.
The two most important causes of the housing affordability crisis are, therefore, the ones Mr Morrison has already vowed not to reform.
To make planned affordability measures in this year’s budget seem plausible, Mr Morrison’s housing supply con must be maintained.
Mr Hinch should not join that effort. Owning your own home may not be an Australian right, but shopping for a home in a market that is not systematically distorted to benefit investors, developers and banks certainly is.