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Monthly Archives: January 2019

Training dogs to live with koalas

Written on January 20, 2019 at 17:59, by

LEARNING MORE: The Payne Family – Declan, Mel, Kacia and Bradd with Zoey.Dog attacks on koalas are one of three main causes for the ongoing decline in our local koala population, and the project aims to reduce these attacks through specialist training as part of the 12month pilot.
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Renowned dog trainer, Steve Austin has been engaged by Port Macquarie-Hastings Council to share his knowledge and trainup to eightlocally-based dog trainers. This transfer of knowledge, which uses wildlife protectionprinciples, will provide invaluable insights that may be implemented into ongoing local training andeducation programs.

“Council takes the protection of our local koala population extremely seriously, and the trial programis yet another initiative we are undertaking to protect one of our most loved icons,” said a council director Matt Rogers.

“For the trial to be meaningful we are looking for up to 32 puppies and 16 known problem dogs to betrained, and encourage local dog owners to express their interest.”

The Payne family of Port Macquarie, who are owners of nine-month-old staffy ‘Zoey’ are keen toparticipate in the training program.

“It’s a great initiative because when we’re going for walks we often see koalas, and as a family webelieve in looking after our local koala population,” said Bradd Payne.

“Zoey has already attended puppy pre-school, however it would be good to get some training todesensitise her so that we can be confident when we’re walking her she’s not going to bail up or hurta koala.”

There are a number of pet ownership behaviours that are encouraged, including keeping dogs onleads while in public reserves, tying up dogs in yards at night and encouraging kids to get involved inprograms that are run at school.

“Council will be contacting dog-owners in areas where attacks are known to be an issue, and will alsobe inviting owners of known ‘problem dogs’ to participate in the program,” Mr Rogers said.

Training is expected to commence in April, and dog owners can express their interest throughCouncils website at pmhc.nsw.gov419论坛/koalatraining, by dropping into any council office or by calling6581 8111.

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

North Shore byelection: Barry O’Farrell’s former chief of staff Anna McPhee in preselection bid

Written on January 20, 2019 at 17:59, by

Anna McPhee is seeking special permission to run for Liberal preselection in North Shore. Photo: Australian National Retailers AssociationFormer Premier Barry O’Farrell’s chief of staff in the year before his resignation, Anna McPhee, has launched a bid for Liberal preselection in the North Shore byelection.
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However, Ms McPhee, who is chief executive of the Retail Council, has been forced to seek special permission to nominate because she rejoined the Liberal Party on only Friday.

On Monday she asked the NSW Liberal state executive for special dispensation to nominate because party rules state that preselection candidates must have been members for at least six months.

It is understood a ballot of the state executive will take place in the next day so that Ms McPhee can nominate by the closing date of February 13.

Ms McPhee was Mr O’Farrell’s chief of staff for 10 months before he quit in April 2014 over giving false evidence at the Independent Commission Against Corruption about the gift of a $3000 bottle of Grange from businessman Nick Di Girolamo.

If allowed to nominate, as expected, Ms McPhee will be regarded as a strong contender in the preselection race.

Last week Mr O’Farrell said Ms McPhee “would be a superb candidate”. She also received an endorsement from another ex-boss, former Senator Bill Heffernan.

Other potential candidates include Felicity Wilson, a former Property Council executive and immediate past president of the party’s NSW Women’s Council, who would have the backing of the left faction.

Tim James, a former chief of staff to NSW Planning Minister Anthony Roberts, aligned with the right faction, is also being mentioned as a potential starter.

The Liberal party holds North Shore by 21.9 per cent.

The byelection – for which a date has yet to be set – was sparked by Jillian Skinner’s announcement she would retire from politics after Premier Gladys Berejiklian told her she would not retain the health portfolio in a cabinet reshuffle.

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

How income, age and education affect your world view

Written on January 20, 2019 at 17:59, by

“I know I’m really privileged and really lucky”: Rachel Katterl. Photo: Wolter Peeters “I’m getting sick of the elitism that is everywhere”: Darryl Coventry. Photo: Mark Jesser
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Architect Helen Day feels “very positive”. Photo: Simon Schluter

It’s the difference between being stuck or being able to escape when society and politicians have let you down.

High-income earners are half as likely as low-income earners to think that the world is changing too often and too fast, and low-income earners are twice as likely to feel let down by society, according to new research from the Political Persona Project.

Commissioned by Fairfax Media and done in conjunction with the ANU’s Social Research Centre and political research company Kieskompas, the project is one of the most comprehensive attempts to profile different types of Australians based on their lifestyles, social values and politics.

The results of an ANU survey of 2600 Australians, undertaken as part of the project, revealed an Australia divided into “haves” and “have-nots” by income, education and age.

Rachel Katterl, 31, is one of the “haves”. The senior health policy analyst has a postgraduate degree, a room in a house near Bronte beach and a pay packet of nearly $100,000 a year.

Ms Katterl, who describes herself as “left-leaning”, says she is disillusioned with politics in Australia – a view shared by 75 per cent of Australians, according to research from the project.

But unlike many less privileged Australians, Ms Katterl is able to retreat into her own world and find cause for optimism when the broader political and economic situation turns sour.

“I think [Australian politics] is pretty dire … Watching all of it play out just increases my desire to reinforce my own bubble,” she said. “I have knowingly changed my frame of reference, what I’m thinking about day-to-day, to become narrower, to focus on my immediate life.

“Now I tend to think about that, instead of the world more broadly, because I know I’m really privileged and really lucky, and I need to take stock of that and focus on the things I can control … rather than get upset about these macro events.” Being wealthy and in control

Low-income Australians – those earning between $15,600 and $52,000 – were twice as likely to say they felt let down by society, with 36 per cent feeling this way compared to 17 per cent of those on high incomes of $91,000 or more.

They were also nearly twice as likely to agree or strongly agree with the statement “everything is changing too often and too fast”. Nearly 50 per cent of low-income earners fell into this group, compared with just 26 per cent of high-income earners, according to the survey.

“Richer people are able to adapt because they have the means to do so,” said Ariadne Vromen, Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Sydney.

“They’ve got disposable income, they can buy new technology when they need to, they can even buy more education and training when they need. And they’re the people who are behind a lot of social and economic change as the leaders of society, as well.”

It comes down to a sense of feeling in control, with those who have more economic security enjoying greater control of their futures, Professor Vromen said.

In Melbourne, architect and consultant Helen Day, 47, said she felt “very positive” and believed Australia’s population growth presented countless opportunities.

“There’s just more potential for people to create a livelihood out of their passions and their true interests, whether that be a niche service, a new product or a specialisation if you’re an academic,” said Ms Day, who holds a masters degree from the London School of Economics, lives in the inner city suburb of Clifton Hill and earns more than $90,000 a year.

“Overall I’m positive but I do note that with any growth of a city there are issues around social disparity and violence. With the good, there will always come bad.” The young and the pessimistic

The same dynamic of control plays out across differences in age and education, with younger Australians and those with university educations much more likely to feel comfortable with change.

For example, 52 per cent of Australians whose highest level of education was high school felt everything was changing too fast and too often, compared with only 27 per cent of university-educated Australians.

Ms Katterl, who has a Masters degree, is among those advocating for greater change.

“Australia is moving way too slowly, particularly on same sex marriage. It’s a little bit ridiculous – we’ve been discussing it for such a long time,” Ms Katterl said.

“Even the discussion around climate change. Fifteen years ago when I was still living in North Queensland, I remember campaigning to save the Great Barrier Reef … I am amazed that we haven’t moved forward on that debate at all.”

However, the research also found young adults were the most pessimistic of any age group, bucking a long-term trend in previous studies. Nearly 45 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “I feel let down by society”, compared with 25 per cent of people aged 55 and older, according to the ANU survey.

Only 49 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement “I sometimes feel the future holds nothing for me”, compared with more than 70 per cent of people aged 65 and older.

Professor Vromen said pessimism among young people was rising both in Australia and globally.

“Younger people usually tend to be more optimistic … [But] in some ways the sentiments in this survey are a realistic reaction to growing inequality, housing unaffordability, job insecurity and so on,” she said. The educated, the poor and the altruistic

On the other hand, young people were the least likely of any age group to support offshore processing of asylum seekers, the survey showed. Just under 35 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “offshore processing of asylum seekers should continue”, compared with 65 per cent of people aged 65 and older.

“With young people, we tend to find they worry about the world at large and how politics affects people other than them,” said Jill Sheppard, a researcher and lecturer in politics and international relations at ANU involved in the project.

“Across the Western world, young people have much more progressive social attitudes, and part of that is that they weren’t brought up to worry about their hip pocket first. They’re the kids of the people who were around during the civil rights movements, the women’s liberation movement, and often they’re even more liberal than their parents.”

The only group more likely to oppose than support the continuation of offshore processing were those with university degrees, with 47 per cent opposed and 41 per cent in favour, according to the ANU research.

“The more well-educated people are, the more likely they are to prefer positions that benefit society at large,” Dr Sheppard said.

“It comes from a ‘hierarchy of needs’ approach – the better you’re able to support yourself, the better you’re able to look after ‘higher order’ needs, such as those of asylum seekers or other marginalised groups.”

However, the survey also found lower-income earners were more likely to oppose offshore processing of asylum seekers than high-income earners, with 41 per cent disagreeing or strongly disagreeing with the policy, compared to 35 per cent of high-income earners.

Dr Sheppard said this may reflect “a fairly well-documented phenomenon … that people on low incomes tend to be more compassionate and altruistic”. The city versus the bush

When it came to the divide between the city and bush, the treatment of people living outside our cities elicited one of the largest differences in opinion.  Seventy-six per cent of Australians living outside a capital city agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “politicians ignore people in rural and regional areas”, compared with 57 per cent of people in capital cities.

Darryl Coventry, 49, who lives in Albury’s working class suburb of Lavington, thinks people in Sydney and Melbourne do not realise the wealth disparity existing in regional Australia, and that politicians are just as city-centric.

A former policeman who spent much of his career in rural Queensland, Coventry now delivers parcels and gets a pension but is struggling to find consistent work, having moved to be closer to his two young children who live with their mother.

“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, I’d just like to be a bit better off,” he said. “But people don’t know that once you go out of the big cities to Lavington there’s not a lot of people at work, there’s a lot of arguments and even street violence.”

“I’m getting sick of the elitism that is everywhere,” he said. “I think Australia needs to work out what it’s good at and start learning how to make it, because there’s so much talent here,” he said.

The research also showed that people in regional areas were more likely to feel pessimistic about the future, with 29 per cent agreeing or strongly agreeing with the statement “I sometimes feel that the future holds nothing for me”, compared with 23 per cent in capital cities.

“People outside the cities are much further away from the centre of power, from the decision-makers. It’s probably not a surprise that people in regional and rural areas feel left behind or not understood,” Professor Vromen said.

However, she pointed out that the attitudinal rift between the capital cities and regions was far less stark than between rich and poor, young and old, and higher and lower levels of education.

“Between cities and rural areas, there were very few issues where people felt very differently,” she said.

with Derrick Krusche and Bhakthi Puvanenthiran

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

A weak watchdog focused on parliamentary expenses is a stopgap only

Written on January 20, 2019 at 17:59, by

Sussan Ley announces her resignation last month after her travel expenses sparked a scandal. Photo: Mark Jesser A history of perks: then speaker Bronwyn Bishop was forced to resign in 2015 after her dubious spending on helicopter flights was exposed. Photo: Dallas Kilponen
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Illustration: Alan Moir

The row over former health minister Sussan Ley’s use of parliamentary travel entitlements and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s decision to establish an independent parliamentary expenses authority will yield a valuable addition to the federal government integrity regime. For too long, the issue has been allowed to fester without strong government action. But, this time, a number of factors were conveniently aligned.

First, the scandal erupted in the depths of January, whenmembers of the press gallery are desperate for copy. The daily drip-feed of revelations about Ley’s various trips to the Gold Cost were journalistic manna from heaven, prompting a stream of further juicy stories about other parliamentarians. As the evidence steadily mounted and media-inspired anger intensified, Turnbull was forced to act, not only referring Ley’s conduct to his department’s secretary, Martin Parkinson, but also promising significant reforms to the entitlements system. At any other time of the year, the issue could have been safely parked in the non-urgent basket. But not in January.

Second, though the general issue was parliamentarians’ expenses, Ley was a minister as well as a member of Parliament. As such, she was subject to the ministerial code of conduct that is overseen by the Prime Minister. This allowed Turnbull to step in and directly involve his departmental secretary. Parkinson’s report on Ley’s conduct has not been released. But we may presume he took a careful, objective view of the issues and the code. He will then have played an active role in shaping the eventual recommendation for a new independent authority to oversee MPs’ expenses. If Ley had been an ordinary backbencher, however, such a strong executive response wouldn’t have been so easy. Members of Parliament don’t have their own code of conduct and are accountable only to Parliament. Issues of MPs’ behaviour are caught up in either the partisan conflict of adversarial politics or the cosy consensus of self-serving privilege, neither of which are conducive to the sensible assessment of ethical procedures. The focus on a minister fortuitously helped Turnbull impose a new level of external scrutiny on all MPs. The Public Sector Informant: latest issue

Third, the Prime Minister and his advisers had plenty of relevant material to draw on. The government was already developing a response to an independent review of parliamentary entitlements co-chaired by John Conde and David Tune. This review was established by then prime minister Tony Abbott in August 2015 as a response to the “choppergate” scandal involving then speaker Bronwyn Bishop. The review team produced its final report a year ago. Its main recommendations were to change the terminology from “entitlements” to “work expenses'”, to introduce a simplified principles-based system for assessing expenses, and to require more public transparency.

In addition, the government could look to the experience of Britain, which had its own parliamentary expenses scandal in 2009 over blatant misuse of housing allowances and established an independent parliamentary standards authority. In his press conference, Turnbull referred explicitly to Britain as a source of useful precedents. Britain also figured prominently as a model in a 2011 discussion paper by the House of Representatives’ privileges and members’ interests committee on a draft code of conduct for members of Parliament. That paper canvassed the possibility of an independent parliamentary integrity commissioner overseeing a members’ code of conduct on British lines, issues that were championed by independent MPs Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor as part of their compact with Labor prime minister Julia Gillard. Like so many promising initiatives on parliamentary ethics, it eventually went nowhere, withering under the weight of major-party indifference. But it laid some useful groundwork and helped keep the issue alive.

Turnbull has already announced that the authority will have a governing board including an auditing expert, someone with experience in remuneration (for the time being, the Remuneration Tribunal president), a former judicial officer and a former MP. It is to be a “compliance, reporting and transparency body” that will “monitor and adjudicate all claims by MPs, senators and ministers”. The Prime Minister also indicated reforms to the administration of the system to allow monthly disclosure of parliamentarians’ expenses. (He also strongly endorsed the recommended change in terminology from “entitlements” to “expenses”.)

The new expenses regime, we can presume, will follow the simplified principles-based approach recommended by Conde and Tune. Contrasting with a reliance on specific and detailed rules, the principles-based approach is now standard practice in most codes of professional ethics, not just for politicians. The situations in which particular ethical problems arise are so complex and varied that they can’t be covered by detailed rules and prescriptions. Ethical professional judgment involves a few broad principles (e.g. equity, accountability, honesty), which are then used to guide a careful assessment of a particular issue and to justify an eventual decision. Responsibility for the decision lies with the person making it and can’t be shifted on to someone else.

Individual ethical judgment of a particular situation is crucial in the case of parliamentary entitlements, where the relevant factors are so complex. The principles may be clear (e.g. claim expenses only for work performed predominantly in the public interest) but their application is far from straightforward. The key point is to make individual politicians responsible and accountable for their own decisions and to prevent them from hiding behind a set of bureaucratic rules and precedents that may or may not be appropriate to their case. For too long, politicians have been able to escape responsibility by claiming that a given expense is “within the rules” regardless of its ethical propriety.

In this respect, the most important element of the new structure is probably that it removes oversight of expenses from the Finance Department. So long as public servants are asked to authorise politicians’ expenditure, they will inevitably fall back on bureaucratic rules as a means of self-protection. Public servants can’t be expected to evaluate individual ethical judgments made by politicians, especially ministers. They are naturally more comfortable applying supposedly cut-and-dried rules and precedents. The present system therefore represents a collusive compact between public servants who are unwilling to ask hard questions and politicians who are unwilling to answer them. A change in institutional structure requiring politicians to justify their spending to an independent authority will help force a change of attitudes and practice.

Equally important will be the improved transparency requirements, giving the public, including the media, full and prompt access to politicians’ individual expenses. The reforms arise out of public disgust at the extent to which politicians are benefiting themselves at the public expense. The clinching argument is always that a particular level of expenditure doesn’t meet the so-called “pub test”, i.e. the ethical judgment of the average citizen. (Average citizens, of course, are not to be found only in pubs!) In justifying their expenses, politicians will need to have in mind the need to satisfy a sceptical and cynical public.

On its own, the expenses authority is unlikely to enforce these standards. Drawn from the great and the good, who do their own share of wallowing in expenses, it will inevitably have a more complaisant attitude than the average citizen (“the chairman’s club test” is much softer than “the pub test”). The authority’s decisions will therefore need to be regularly exposed to the blowtorch of tabloid outrage.

The main weakness in the authority as currently proposed is its limited scope. Focusing solely on parliamentarians’ work expenses, it overlooks a number of other issues usually considered relevant to promoting ethical standards among parliamentarians. In Britain, for example, the office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards is responsible for overseeing the register of members’ financial interests. It also monitors the operation of the House of Commons code of conduct. Australian parliamentarians still have no code of conduct, an omission that is becoming steadily more anomalous. Codes of conduct can be oversold as mechanisms for improving ethical standards. But as the Ley case reminds us, they provide useful standards for assessing the behaviour of those suspected of crossing the line.

Extending the new authority’s purview and introducing a code of conduct can wait for another day and another set of scandals. At least, with the authority in place, future prime ministers, when cornered over the issue of politicians’ impropriety, will have an obvious solution at hand: strengthen the authority.

Advocates of a federal anti-corruption agency have been quick to link the crisis over parliamentarian expenses to the wider anti-corruption cause. Greens leader Richard Di Natale, for example, welcomed the new authority as “a positive step” while signalling his party’s intention to legislate for a national anti-corruption watchdog, within which the authority would sit. The move for a “federal ICAC” is certainly gaining ground, with Labor softening its previous indifference. The sight of politicians flagrantly abusing their travel allowances will have strengthened public support for stronger measures against corruption.

But a government-wide anti-corruption agency would need much bigger fish to fry than politicians engaging in minor rorting within the law. Only when ministers or senior bureaucrats are caught taking bribes or engaging in other forms of serious illegality will the case for such an agency become compelling. Supporters of a federal ICAC should be hoping that some accountability agency uncovers major wrongdoing in a Commonwealth agency. If the scandal were to break in January, so much the better.

Richard Mulgan is an emeritus professor at the Australian National University’s Crawford School of Public Policy. [email protected]论坛

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

Open energy markets failing households

Written on January 20, 2019 at 17:59, by

“While some consumers are taking advantage of competition to get better value for money, the majority are not”: Rosemary Sinclair. Photo: Leanne Pickett LJP Consumers wary of electricity and gas markets: Few families are chasing alternate energy suppliers. Photo: Acton Mount Lawley
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Opening up the electricity market to competition may have been touted by government as paving the way for lower bills, but many households have refused to take part, which has resulted in only a modest number of families nationwide chasing cheaper power suppliers.

At the same time, households say that the value for money of their electricity services ranks behind gas and all other utility services, including banking, mobile phones and internet services, said Rosemary Sinclair, the chief executive of the government-backed Energy Consumers Australia.

“While some consumers are taking advantage of competition to get better value for money, the majority are not,” she said.

One difficulty can be the challenge of changing supplier even if you find a better priced offer, Ms Sinclair said, with a “general wariness about the market and the sense that it is not working in [consumer’s] interests”.

“The consumers who are switching – who are actively engaging in the market – are not reporting higher levels of satisfaction with value for money than those who are not. This points to the need to place the retail market – where there are questions about value for money, the nature of the services being offered and where innovation is going to come from – at the centre of thinking about the transformation of the energy system.”

Consumer wariness over how electricity and gas markets work have resulted in large numbers of households deciding not to engage at all, a survey by the consumer body released Tuesday has found, with nearly half of all households in NSW and Queensland never having switched supplier (47 per cent and 52 per cent respectively) while even in Victoria, which is touted as among the most competitive markets globally, 36 per cent of households have never changed their supplier.

As a result, it appears that much of the switching involves only a small number of households who change supplier regularly, the survey found, a finding which was reinforced by the fact that 74 per cent of households surveyed do not intend to change their supplier in the next 12 months. This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.