Australian News Headlines, Auspol News Headlines Friday 2 March 2018

in #news4 years ago

UN expert ‘astonished’ at the Turnbull Government's anti-democratic slide.

The Human Rights Law centre reports that the Turnbull Government’s anti-democratic slide has been criticised at the United Nations Human Rights Council, with the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders delivering a major report on Australian democracy. It is reported that in an at times scathing report, the Special Rapporteur told the Human Rights Council that:

he is “astonished” to observe “mounting evidence of regressive measures” being pursued by the Government;
he was “astounded to observe frequent public vilification by senior public officials” of charities, community groups and democratic institutions who hold the Government to account “in what appears to be an attempt to discredit, intimidate and discourage them from their legitimate work”; and
that there is an “increasing discrepancy and incoherence” between the Turnbull Government’s statements on the world stage and its actions at home.

Dr Aruna Sathanapally, a Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre they report, said that it was deeply disappointing that the pressure being placed on Australia’s democratic institutions and freedoms had reached this point.

Cotton company reaped $52m windfall in sale of water rights to government.

The Guardian reports that one of Australia’s largest cotton companies, Eastern Australia Agriculture (EAA), sold water rights to the federal government in July last year for $79m and then booked a $52m gain on the sale. It is reported that the deal, which was done without tender, will raise questions about whether the government paid over the odds for the water in southern Queensland. The Guardian reports that details of the water buyback were released to the Senate after an NXT senator for South Australia, Rex Patrick, sought production of documents associated with this and other water deals during Barnaby Joyce’s time as agriculture minister. The documents, it is reported, included valuations by Colliers International, which were used by the Department of Agriculture to price the water from EAA. However, unlike an earlier release of documents, the valuations were heavily redacted. The documents they report, also raise the question about whether Colliers, the valuer, had a potential conflict of interest. Twelve months before, in September 2015, it had been retained to sell EAA’s two huge properties in Queensland – Kia-ora and Clyde.

Can't get through to Centrelink? Busy signals jump as pensioners wait longer to talk to staff.

The ABC reports that older Australians are waiting an average of 25 minutes to speak with Centrelink on the phone and more than 33 million calls have gone unanswered in the past nine months. That's an increase of more than half a million unanswered calls compared to the same period a year earlier, prompting concerns the Government agency is underfunded. The ABC reports that the Department of Human Services (DHS) secretary Renee Leon said that the agency remained committed to improving services and the increase could not be blamed on staffing or resourcing.
"There hasn't been any reduction in the number of staff on the lines over recent years, at all, so the idea this is occurring because we are reducing staff on the phones is not accurate," Ms Leon said. The average wait time for pensioners has increased from 19 minutes to 25 minutes with some people waiting hours for their call to be answered. It is estimated that more than 33 million calls to Centrelink have gone unanswered since July. It is reported that DHS say they're not under-staffed and the rate of unanswered calls will fall.

Michael McCormack says cabinet reshuffle not about retribution.

The Guardian reports that Michael McCormack has said that Nationals cabinet ministers have kept their roles to cause “minimal disruption” to the government, but refused to deny that he considered dumping Barnaby Joyce loyalists, including the Indigenous affairs minister, Nigel Scullion. The reshuffle they write, announced on Thursday attempts to undo damage from Joyce’s December reshuffle by returning key allies Darren Chester and Keith Pitt to frontbench roles but not to cabinet, and keeping Joyce loyalists David Littleproud and Matt Canavan in cabinet.

Ken Henry laments a lost decade of tax reform.

The Australian Financial Review reports that Former Treasury secretary and architect of Labor's Henry Tax Review, Ken Henry has renewed his support for the Coalition's company tax cuts as a reliable driver of investment and wages growth but has warned that they fall well short of a comprehensive plan to secure future living standards. In his most detailed comments on tax since the release of his review eight years ago, Ken Henry will also issue a rallying cry to corporate leaders to elevate the debate over welfare-boosting reforms to assure Australians business is not pursuing cynical self interest it is reported. The AFR writes that lamenting years of lost opportunity, Dr Henry, chairman of National Australia Bank, says that today's narrow tax debate ignores what should already be in place had there been the necessary political leadership over the past decade. Not only would Australia's tax system be dealing with entrenched budget deficits and covering the growing demands of "bigger government", it would be less reliant on company taxes that global competition will inevitably leave Canberra "no option" but to cut, he says.

Australian weather: Don’t wave goodbye to summer just yet.

Channel Nine News reports that summer may have officially ended, but that doesn't mean you need to pack away the board shorts for another year. They write that the latest climate models from the Bureau of Meteorology predict most Australian capital cities will experience above average temperatures for the next three months. They write that the predictions come off the back of Australia's second hottest summer on record and seem to be a sure sign that our climate is only getting hotter. Channel Nine News writes that Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide, Perth and Darwin all have a high chance of receiving above average temperatures this Autumn.

Australia accused of imposing fewer restrictions on overseas labour than TPP partners.

The SMH reports that Canada, Chile, Japan, Vietnam and Malaysia are among countries that have taken greater steps than Australia to protect local jobs under the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement, unions have warned. It is reported that new details from partner countries have prompted union claims that Australia has done less to restrict the number of professions that can be filled by overseas workers without any need for labour market testing to establish a skills shortage.

"While other governments exempted key industries from parts of the TPP, prevented the possibility of foreign companies suing them and [got] a good deal for their workers, our government has not attempted to get a better deal for us," Australian Council of Trade Unions analysis released on Wednesday says.

SMH writes that under the TPP to be signed in Chile on March 8, Australia has committed to allowing the employment of workers from six new countries without requiring employers to first check if there is an Australian who could do the same job.

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