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Filter by February, 2012

The sun sets on solar hot water rebates

The Government has ended its solar hot water rebate initiative, the Renewable Energy Bonus Scheme (REBS). An announcement was made yesterday that henceforth REBS rebates will only be eligible to those people who have had systems installed, ordered or purchased before 28 February 2012, and lodged a claim before 30 June 2012. Although the scheme was always meant to end on 30 June 2012, this is the first time a purchase cut-off date has been publicised. Besides providing prospective applicants with no prior warning, the closure raises the question of why has the rebate been phased out so suddenly?REBS was first announced on 19 February 2010 as a replacement for the discontinued Home Insulation ... Read more...

New international standards on countering money laundering and terrorist financing released

On 16 February, the Financial Action Taskforce released its revised Recommendations for combating money laundering and terrorist financing, which now also cover financing of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The FATF is an intergovernmental body established to develop and promote national and international policies to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. It was established in 1989 by the G7 and Australia is a founding member. With the cost of money laundering and underlying serious crime estimated to be between two and five percent of global GDP, it is important that the standards used by over 180 countries as the basis of their responses remain up to date and ref... Read more...

London Somalia Conference: ‘A space for peace and stability’

The London Somalia Conference was held on 23 February 2012 showcasing what might be considered to be an ambitious agenda, given the short program dedicated to discussions on the wide-ranging issues plaguing Somalia. The conference was opened by the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, and addressed by nine keynote speakers that included United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton and United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon. Three separate sessions were subsequently held to deal with Somalia’s political process, security, and stability and recovery. The brevity of proceedings does not detract from the significance of the event and the renewed emphasis now garnered by the in... Read more...

Global Warming and Coral

There are two reasons why scientists have long been concerned about the effects of climate change on coral reefs. Firstly, corals will only grow in a narrow range of water temperatures. Secondly, when there is more carbon dioxide in the air, more of the gas dissolves into the sea. When carbon dioxide dissolves in water, it makes the water slightly more acidic, and this change in chemistry is likely to make it more difficult for corals to build reefs.While the growth rate of most marine organisms usually increases with warmer water temperature, it had always been thought that many corals are damaged by small increases in maximum water temperatures. On average, global sea surface temperatures ... Read more...

Syria’s constitutional referendum—‘quite laughable’ or ‘better late than never’?

 On Sunday 26 February 2012 Syria conducted a referendum on a new constitution. An amended constitution is one of the concessions promised by the Syrian Government in response to long-running unrest. Votes are currently being counted, and results should be released in coming days. This post briefly discusses the proposed changes to the constitution, as well as domestic and international reactions to the referendum.The 1973 Constitution establishes Syria as a ‘democratic, popular, socialist, and sovereign state’ (Article 1), and, perhaps most controversially, names the Socialist Arab Renaissance Party (the Ba‘ath Party) as ‘the leading party in the society and in the state’ (Artic... Read more...

Prime ministers and ALP leadership challenges update

Today’s leadership challenge to Prime Minister Gillard is the seventh in the last fifty years, and the sixth involving a party room ballot. On 7 November 1969 David Fairbairn and William McMahon both challenged Prime Minister Gorton. It was reported that Gorton’s majority was slim, 33 or 34 or 35 votes out of 65. The next challenge to Prime Minister Gorton came on 10 March 1971, with a confidence motion in the party room. This time the votes were tied at 33 all, and Gorton used his casting vote to vote against himself. During Malcolm Fraser’s prime ministership he was challenged unsuccessfully by Andrew Peacock on 8 April 1982; the votes were 54 for Fraser, 27 for Peacock. There were two cha... Read more...

Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory

Scheduled for debate on 27 February are the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Bill 2011 and its associated Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2011 and Social Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2011.All three follow through on measures that had their origin in the ‘Northern Territory Emergency Response’ (often referred to as the NTER or ‘The Intervention’) initiated by Prime Minister Howard and Minister Brough in June 2007. To refresh your memory, there were four bills.the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Bill 2007 provided for banning the consumption, possession or supply of alcohol within prescribed areas, the ... Read more...

'Brave new world'? The Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling

The report of the Review of Funding for Schooling (the Gonski Review) is a blueprint for a major overhaul of federal and state funding for school education. It has proposed a fundamental realignment of the historic funding roles of the Australian and state and territory governments that would see both levels of government provide more balanced funding to government and non-government schools. Significantly, the Gonski Review believes that its proposals will meet the Australian Government’s commitment that ‘no school would lose a dollar per student’. Through its initial response, the Australian Government has set itself an ambitious agenda for change, with the Prime Minister aiming to introdu... Read more...

Amnesty International reports on visits to detention facilities

  On 23 February 2010 Amnesty International (Amnesty) released an initial report of its findings from a series of visits to immigration detention facilities around the country. Amnesty has been consistently campaigning against the policy of mandatory detention for many years, and this is one of its most highly critical reports to date.It paints a damning picture of Australia’s mandatory detention policy, highlighting the harsh conditions in which people are being held and the numerous mental health problems suffered by detainees due to ‘the indefinite nature of their imprisonment’The report accuses the government of ‘blatantly contravening’ international human rights standards and urges ... Read more...

ALP Leadership

On 23 February 2012 Prime Minister Gillard announced that there would be a special meeting of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party on Monday 27 February at 10am, to conduct a ballot to decide the leadership of the Party. The following table provides details of Federal Parliamentary Labor Party leadership changes and challenges since 1982: DateChange or challengeVotes16 July1982Hawke challenged Hayden unsuccessfullyHayden 42; Hawke 373 February1983Hawke became leader without a ballot-3 June1991Keating challenged Hawke unsuccessfullyHawke 66; Keating 4419 December1991Keating challenged Hawke and wonKeating 56; Hawke 5119 March1996Beazley became leader unopposed following Keating’s resignation... Read more...