Thursday, January 03, 2008

Why Che Was a Monster pt3 Journey

ALP incompetence noted as:
Porn filter fails in UK
Vacillation threatens Sydney Airport
Hicks discovers freedom doesn't mean avoiding responsibility
Truckie sues over fatal error
Farmers lose out on Drought relief
Rudd goes south on defense spending promises


Anonymous said...

Labor’s plumbing the depths
Piers Akerman
THE Federal Labor Party seems to have learnt nothing about the politics of airports.

This despite the ALP’s experiences - including the resignation of the Hawke government’s transport minister Gary Punch in 1989 over Sydney Airport’s third runway.

Punch held the seat of Barton, to the west of Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport, and quit to save the seat for Labor when it was under attack over the increased noise threat the third runway posed.

Today that seat is held by Attorney-General Robert McClelland, but Grayndler, another Labor seat to the north of the airport, is held by the current Federal Transport Minister and party wheeler-dealer Anthony Albanese.

Though known to those within the political realm by the affectionate diminutive Albo, he is a tough customer. He is however already running up against other tough characters as he attempts to tackle the problems incurred during the necessary and overdue expansion of Sydney Airport’s runways to meet the needs of new generation aircraft.

Explosively, Albo claimed that the Sydney Airports Corporation had held off on starting the runway lengthening to assist the Coalition government’s election chances last year.

There is zero evidence to support this claim, but it is typical of Albanese to shoot from the lip when confronted with an unpleasant reality.

What has been exposed is not political chicanery on the part of Sydney Airports Corporation in support of the former Coalition government but the reality that Albanese has a major conflict of interest as a local member and the minister in charge of the major piece of transport infrastructure in his immediate neighbourhood.

Punch quit, but Albo is fighting on.

As it happens, the work on the runways has been scheduled and carried out to plan over four years - and is due to finish later this year.

The biggest and most expensive component of the upgrade, the extension of the East-West runway, has been left until last.

Albanese wants work on this portion accelerated and has made his demands clear to the airport operators. That’s all fine and dandy, but it’s not the Federal Government nor the ALP which is bankrolling the construction.

It’s the Airports Corporation, and it will in turn raise the money from its principal clients - the airlines.

Whether they will like to pay more on top of the estimate agreed to in order to placate Albo and his constituents is another matter. Consider it extremely unlikely that they will pay up without some grumbling.

As it happens, the airport has grown with the growth of the aviation industry. This is something which seems to have escaped Albo and his pals, despite their predilection for global tours, and it is a fairly safe bet that it will continue to grow into the future.

Holding up the upgrade to a certain extent are three factors: the M5, a series of high voltage power cables and ... wait for it ... a heritage-listed sewer which runs at the Cook’s River end of the East-West runway. Ahem.

Have any readers ever visited this heritage site? How many of you have jumped in the family car and taken the kids out to view this historic relic?

Are there any who have taken their beloved to sit and canoodle as they gaze upon our sewerage antiquity, serenaded by the thrusting jets landing and taking off?

One can only suggest that those responsible for listing this serene piece of plumbing were also on board when Justice Marcus Einfeld was promoted to National Living Treasure status by the National Trust and the Sydney Moaning Herald.

Nevertheless, heritage-listed it is, and it runs unseen but not necessarily unloved below metres of concrete, a valuable piece of the nation’s history and a treasured monument to our ageing infrastructure.

Some of the Rudd Labor Government’s better haters, and they’re pretty damn good at it, have been enjoying the knowledge that the construction work has meant more aircraft have had to be diverted over the Liberal seats of Wentworth, held by Malcolm Turnbull, and North Sydney, held by the jovial Joe Hockey.

What they fail to realise is that the good citizens in these electorates are also more likely to own shares in Macquarie Bank, the ultimate owner of the Sydney Airport Corporation.

One imagines they are therefore not particularly bothered by the sound of the jets roaring overhead.

Indeed, one Eastern Suburbs resident living beneath the flight path said the increased aircraft noise was as sweet to his ears as the constant ring of the cash registers to retailers during the Boxing Day sales.

Badgery’s Creek is still out there as a third airport option, should the Federal Government be so minded, but given the mess its vacillations over such development caused the last time Labor was in office, it seems unlikely that the revolutionary Ruddites will revisit that heritage tangle.

Far safer to stick with the listed sewer, which, while still a troublesome beast, is at least underground and out of sight.

Anonymous said...

Porn filter fails, say web experts
By Karen Dearne and Fran Foo
THE "clean feed" filtering system Communications Minister Stephen Conroy hopes will halt internet porn has already been defeated by British researchers.

Richard Clayton, of the University of Cambridge's Computer Laboratory, said the innovative blocking system CleanFeed, devised by British internet service provider BT, could be circumvented in a number of ways.

"At first sight, it's an effective and precise method of blocking unacceptable content," Mr Clayton said. "But there are a number of issues to address as soon as one assumes that content providers or consumers might make serious attempts to get around it."

The report is more bad news for those hoping to block violence and pornography from their internet. Although filter salesmen talk up their wares, the reality has never quite matched the industry hype.

Former communications minister Helen Coonan moved away from insisting internet service providers offer filtering after a 2006 NetAlert study showed the filters were expensive, difficult to set up, frequently inaccurate and drastically slowed the network performance.

Six filters were tested under optimised conditions, but the best responder resulted in an 18 per cent reduction in relative performance, while the worst cut performance by 78 per cent.

"The better-performing filters can process data at between 30-80Mbps (millions of bits per second), which would still provide sufficient performance for a small ISP," the report said.

"However, for larger ISPs with faster upstream connections, the use of such filters would severely reduce their performance levels."

Instead, Senator Coonan opted for providing families with free filters for home computers. But a teenager immediately bypassed the NetAlert anti-porn filter, simply by assuming his parents' profile on the home PC.

The Internet Industry Association has consistently warned of the technical difficulties involved in introducing such filters on ISP servers.

IIA chief executive Peter Coroneos said any clean feed policy would have to be balanced against the likely financial and performance costs.

Internet users would face slower access to websites, as every search request would have to be checked against official blacklists. And although there are millions of pornographic websites, the system would only block those listed.

Telstra BigPond spokesman Craig Middleton said yesterday: "We stand alongside the IIA and other ISPs in the view that PC-based filtering, in the hands of a responsible parent, is the only workable solution."

Warren Cann, executive director of the Parenting Research Centre in Melbourne, said that although filters offered some protection, parents still needed to monitor their children's activities online.

Meanwhile, a 2007 survey of internet filtering in public libraries found available filters were unreliable and inaccurate, often preventing access to legitimate content while allowing undesirable content through.

Anonymous said...

Free to go anywhere ... almost
By Garry Linnell
HE served five years in Guantanamo Bay and six months in maximum security in Yatala prison. But after four days of freedom, David Hicks has discovered he remains a prisoner in his hometown of Adelaide.

Welcome to Hicksville. The convicted terror supporter emerged from the security of a renovated bluestone cottage in Adelaide's northern suburbs yesterday sporting a stylish new haircut.

But underneath it remained the same pale, grim face. Another day as a free man had begun with him being driven to a local police station to report his whereabouts under a court order governing his release.

Hicks was gone for barely 15 minutes before returning to the protection of the cottage, one in a series of supposed secret "safe houses" provided by supporters as part of an elaborate plan to shield him from the media since his release from Yatala last Saturday.

After six years in captivity - some of it in solitary confinement - Hicks still had the haunted look of a trapped man. He managed a fleeting visit to a nearby beach on the weekend but his father Terry conceded yesterday it would take a long time for his 32-year-old son to feel comfortable with his freedom.

"At the moment he's struggling," he said. "He still has problems andthose problems will be ongoing for a while. It's the mental side of things that really need to beaddressed.

"There's a lot of anxiety and he still gets agitated and it will take him a long time to adjust. It's probably hard for anyone else who hasn't been through what he's gone through to imagine the job he has ahead of him."

With a home-made tattoo visible on his left forearm, it was the first time the convicted terror supporter had been outside the front door and into the harsh heat of the

Port Adelaide district in more than 36 hours.

Dressed in a grey T-shirt, dark shorts and thongs, Hicks was accompanied to Port Adelaide police station as part of a control order sought by the Australian Federal Police in an old Toyota Cressida by an unidentified man and woman who have been staying with him over the past few days. Property searches have identified the house as being connected to Bronwyn Mewett, the first wife of Terry Hicks. David is the son of Terry and his second wife.

Terry, now married for the third "and the last" time, said he had an enormous amount of respect for his former wife who, he said, was heavily involved in human rights and had joined Amnesty International and campaigned strongly for David's return to Australia.

"Over the years she got to know him and they got on pretty well. She has been a real support and I've got a lot of admiration for her."

Mewett, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, formed part of a team including Terry and his son's lawyer David McLeod, which began planning for Hicks' transition to freedom in the weeks leading up to his release.

Originally it had been hoped that David Hicks would read a short prepared statement before being whisked away to the first of the safe houses. But his agitated state over the last month of his imprisonment at Yatala ruled out such a move and last Saturday, after Terry found himself overcome with emotion, the task was left to McLeod.

The secrecy about David Hicks' whereabouts was then left with a small team of loyal supporters and family friends who played key roles in pushing the Federal Government to secure his release from the US military detention camp.

But Terry Hicks, who met briefly with his son on New Year's Eve, said he then removed himself from any knowledge about his son's movements. "My job was to keep my nose out of it. That way I could honestly say I don't know where he is. I left it to others who were more than capable of looking after that side of things."

Within hours of his arrival in the safe house, many of Hicks's new neighbours were already protective of him, abusing waiting media. "Why can't you let this guy live a new life?" yelled one passerby.

His father, who campaigned for his son and single-handedly turned his imprisonment into an international cause, was asked yesterday whether his own life could now return to normal.

Terry Hicks, who manages a printing business, answered: "It won't. It won't ever be the same."

He plans to return to work soon. "I'm hibernating at the moment. I've got some holidays. But I can never see it ever being the same again."

Anonymous said...

Truckie to sue over 'murder'
By Janine MacDonald and Paige Taylor
THE owner of the truck in which two men were killed by a West Australian bushfire will sue over the decision to open the Great Eastern Highway and send his workers to their deaths.

Darryl Gibaud, owner of the double semi-trailer in which friends Lewis Bedford and Robert Taylor died in Boorabbin National Park on Sunday, instructed his insurers yesterday to examine options for legal action.

Mr Gibaud plans to seek legal advice himself in an effort to secure compensation for the men's relatives.

"To me it is murder," he said. "They have sent those guys into a death trap. They have not thought about the consequences of what they have done."

Kalgoorlie detectives are preparing a report for state Coroner Alastair Hope on the deaths of three drivers who died trapped in their trucks 450km east of Perth after the Department of Environment and Conservation decided to reopen the highway at Coolgardie and allow them through at about 7.45pm (AWDT) on Sunday.

A wind change caused the inferno to flare up and the Bureau of Meteorology claims it told DEC hours before the roadblock was removed that the wind would change between 7pm and 8pm. DEC has insisted it was told the wind change was not due until 10pm, and has struggled to adequately explain its own media releases from the time, which say the wind change was due at 8pm.

Relatives of the dead men yesterday vented their anger and demanded answers.

Neville Cotter, cousin of Mr Taylor, 46, said he could not understand why there was no escort driving 2km-3km ahead of the trucks to assess the danger.

Mathew Rogers, nephew of Mr Bedford and also a driver for Mr Gibaud's company Darogi, said drivers relied on authorities for their safety. "I am angry with the system," he said.

Allen Murley, the older brother of Sunday Times delivery driver Trevor Murley, who also perished in the blaze, said the family was grieving with scant information about what happened and why. "Someone needs to answer for it," he said.

The blaze was still not contained last night and had burned through 29,000 hectares.

Mr Gibaud said that after talking to Mr Bedford and Mr Taylor on Sunday night, he had considered diverting them to an alternative route to Perth that was 250km longer.

But he said the Main Roads Department told him at 6.45pm the road would open by 8pm, so he told his drivers to take the original route.

"That decision (to let them through) should never have been made with the ferocity of that fire," Mr Gibaud said.

"I do not give a shit about my loss in regards to the truck. I cannot believe I have lost Lew and Rob because of someone else's decision to open the bloody road. That fire was not a brush fire; it was an inferno.

"They should have waited until it had blown out."

Mr Gibaud said he had told the families of his two deceased workers that he would get legal advice on their behalf to seek compensation.

DEC fire chief Roger Armstrong yesterday claimed the 15 drivers held up at Coolgardie in hot conditions on Sunday afternoon would have created pressure for the roadblock's removal.

But drivers contacted by The Australian claimed they only wanted drive if it was safe.

Mr Gibaud said even drivers who complained about delays always obeyed roadblocks.

"It does not matter how much pressure we put on them, they should not be making the decision based on drivers' (demands)," he said.

Anonymous said...

Farmers' drought relief will be tightened
By Matthew Franklin
DROUGHT-RELIEF payments to farmers will be revamped by the Rudd Government amid concerns taxpayers are supporting farms that will never be viable because of climate change.

The Government plans to pay incentives to farmers on unviable land if they are prepared to modify their farming practices to regain long-term viability in a move that would reduce the drain on the public purse involved in subsidising marginal properties.

And it will back the planned $75 million in research grants and funding to help farm organisations develop adaptation programs, including more support for genetically modified crops able to withstand drought.

Primary Industries Minister Tony Burke confirmed the plans yesterday as the latest manifestation of the Rudd Government's move to take greater action on climate change than the previous Coalition government.

Separate sources said the Government was also considering changes to exit grants used to encourage unviable farmers off the land. The sources said there was concern that quarantining the payments of up to $170,000 from bankruptcy claims meant farmers had no incentive to avoid bankruptcy and were leaving huge debts to suppliers.

The developments follow generous rains across much of Australia in recent months, which have provided some relief from the worst drought in a century.

While the rains have not broken the drought, they have created a situation where some NSW farmers have simultaneously qualified for assistance for the effects of drought and flood.

Since 2001, the Howard government committed $3.5 billion to drought relief.

Mr Burke told The Australian yesterday that "exceptional circumstances" arrangements, not due for review until September, would remain in place.

But Mr Burke, who is touring rural areas of NSW, said he would review the EC system.

"One of the things we need to make sure of is that the system is appropriate in an era of climate change," he said from Griffith.

"I want to make sure that every time people working the land interact with government, they go away better prepared for climate change."

Labor's election policy, published ahead of last year's poll, says the Hawke Labor government created the EC program and commits the party to support viable farmers during rare and prolonged events that fall outside "normal risk management".

But it adds: "Labor believes that EC arrangements should not be used to artificially support producers who are not viable over the longer term and that EC policy should not reduce the need for responsible risk management by agriculture producers.

"Labor believes it is important for governments to increase the number of drought-ready farming businesses so that farms are more prepared for years with reduced rainfall in the context of climate change."

Asked whether he believed some farmers in receipt of long-term drought assistance were working unviable land, Mr Burke said: "That's something we'd look at in the review.

"I genuinely am open about the outcome. The thing I'm specific about is wanting producers to be better geared for climate change."

He said this was why Labor planned to boost funding for research to improve farming methods. Labor's election policy promised $55 million in training and re-establishment grants for primary producers, as well as $15million for research into climate change programs in each agricultural sector. It also promised $60 million for work with national, state and community farming organisations to improve climate modelling, train producers on adaptation and develop more efficient farm management plans.

Mr Burke said climate change was a challenge but could also provide opportunities.

"There'll be some areas that have been very challenged by climate change where there'll be hope given to them through new developments in GM (genetic modification)," he said.

"Some of the different techniques are moving away from ploughing, and what that has done both for retention of water and for reducing carbon emissions from the soil can create some really significant opportunities. The fact that a particular style of farming might be less viable certainly doesn't mean that it's doomed."

A spokesman for the National Farmers Federation said last night the agricultural sector would be glad to work with the Government.

"Our argument is that it's not up to governments to decide what land is marginal and what is not or what should be farmed or not farmed," he said.

"Quite often the viability of a piece of land depends on the practices of the farmer, so we would have an issue with a blanket ruling."

The spokesman said Labor had sent farmers the right signal by stressing it wanted to work with the sector to mitigate the effects of climate change and to help farmers adapt.

The NFF was particularly keen to see more research on a region-by-region basis to find ways to make more producers more resistant to drought.

Mr Burke declined to comment on the future of exit payments. But sources said the Government was expected to examine the system to give farmers an incentive to accept exit payments well before they went bankrupt.

Anonymous said...

Rudd inherits defence nightmare
By Ian McPhedran
THE Rudd Government is compiling a "hit list" of troubled defence projects that will be either scrapped or given more taxpayer funds to fix.

According to government documents, up to $23 billion worth of projects are rated at medium to high risk of failure.

Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon has asked Defence to provide him with full details about three of the most notorious projects, worth a combined total of $3 billion.

The Government has labelled the projects "nightmares" and official documents list them as "high risk".

Those documents list another seven projects worth $20 billion in the medium to high risk category.

The Daily Telegraph yesterday revealed that, despite massive investment, the Adelaide class guided missile frigates are incapable of going to war and their crews are so angry that some are leaving the Navy.

"We are determined . . . to ensure that people are getting value for taxpayers' money and that each of our services . . . are being delivered the capability they require to adequately defend the nation," Mr Fitzgibbon said yesterday.

At the top of the list is the $1.4 billion upgrade of the four Adelaide class frigates, which has been labelled a "debacle" by the top brass and a "silly mistake" by the Minister.

Also on the list is the $1 billion project to equip the Navy's Anzac class frigates with 11 1960s vintage Super Sea Sprite helicopters.

The RAN and US contractor Kaman have been trying for years, without success, to fit the old airframes with state-of-the-art combat systems. All the money has been spent and not a single chopper is in operational service.

The third big ticket item is $600 million to upgrade 350 30-year-old M113 Armoured Personnel Carriers.

The project has been dogged with difficulties as the contractor, Tenix Defence, tries to fit modern components to the Vietnam War-era vehicles.

It is understood Mr Fitzgibbon has been shocked by the extent of problems in the so-called "legacy" projects.

Legacy is a term used by the Defence Material Organisation (DMO), which is responsible for buying defence equipment, to describe projects that carry poor contracts or political baggage.

"I have very serious concerns and this is just one of a number of projects which we are now learning are going to be a real problem," Mr Fitzgibbon said.

Other projects rated medium to high risk by DMO include;

 JOINT Strike Fighter ($16 billion);

 TROOP lift helicopters ($3.5 billion);

 BUSHMASTER infantry vehicles ($516 million);

 LIGHT torpedoes ($331 million);

 AIRCRAFT electronic warfare self-protection ($304 million);

 AIR defence command and control ($259 million); and

 ORDNANCE ($209 million explosive)

The Government has also ordered a review of the nation's air combat capability which could lead to the scrapping of 24 Super Hornet fighters ordered by previous minister Brendan Nelson against advice from the RAAF.