Monthly Archives: May 2018

Australian Politics 2018-05-31 15:44:00


Ayers rock closed to climbers

Just a disgusting Leftist stunt. Done in the name of the Aborigines, not by them.  A great tourist activity closed down

Why the closure of the Uluru climb is reason to celebrate

Expect one heck of a celebration on October 26, 2019. On that date, the Uluru climb will close for good. It will be a joyous day for the Anangu people, who have long asked visitors not to climb this sacred site, but that is not the only reason to celebrate.

The closure of the Uluru climb tells us a lot about how tourism in the Red Centre has changed. A visit to Uluru is about more than sightseeing; it is now considered one of Australia’s most significant cultural destinations, a fact recognised by UNESCO way back in 1994. That was the year that the park received a World Heritage listing for its cultural landscape, having already been inscribed for its natural values back in 1987.

These days, visitors can enjoy a whole host of experiences from sunrise to sunset and Indigenous-focused activities allowing for a deeper connection with the ancient culture and landscape. (recommended read: How to experience Indigenous culture in Uluru). As the range of activities has grown, interest in climbing the rock has fallen. Around 300,000 people visit Uluru annually; in 2015, only 16 per cent of them climbed Uluru. That is a big change from the 1990s, when 75 per cent of visitors tackled the climb.

There have long been plenty of reasons not to climb Uluru. There is the erosion caused by the passage of thousands of feet, which has left permanent scars. Climbers leave behind other impacts, too. With no toilet facilities on top of Uluru and no soil to dig a hole, tourists caught short while climbing have only one option. When it rains, the evaporated waste is washed off the rock and pollutes surrounding waterholes, which the area’s birds and native animals depend upon for survival.

Climbers also endanger one of the area’s rarest species, shield or tadpole shrimp which – incredibly – live on Uluru itself. Their eggs are adapted to survive long periods of drought and are hatched by rainfall. The fast-growing shrimp quickly lay more eggs; when the water dries up, these lie dormant until the next rain. However, with climbers unwittingly crushing the tiny eggs underfoot, the shrimp are now on the verge of extinction.

The most important reason not to climb Uluru, however, is that it is a sacred site for the Anangu, its significance dating back to the creation time. Anangu believe that during the time when the world was being formed, the Uluru climb was the traditional route taken by Mala men when they arrived at Uluru.

Climbing the rock is also dangerous – which is why the chain was installed in 1966, after two deaths two years earlier. Even with additional safety measures – in recent years, authorities closed the climb when conditions were particularly hot, windy, wet or cloudy – deaths and injuries have continued.

Thirty six people have died climbing Uluru since 1950, the last as recently as April 2010. Between 2002 and 2009, no fewer than 74 rescues involved medical attention. The most common issues included heart attacks, head injuries from falls, panic attacks or fainting.

Back in 2010, the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Plan of Management confirmed that the Board would look at closing the climb when one of three goals was met: that fewer than 20 per cent of visitors were climbing the rock; that an adequate number of new visitor experiences was established; and that cultural and natural experiences were the key reason why travellers were visiting the park. With all three conditions now being fulfilled – visitors can now choose from more than 101 different tours and experiences, for instance – the time to close the climb has come.

The fate of the chain itself has not yet been decided. Investigations are underway to decide how it might be removed, and whether the process might damage the rock. One thing, however will not change. A number of memorial plaques on Uluru itself commemorate climbers who died there; these will stay, out of respect for the families of the deceased.

The dramatic decrease in the number of visitors climbing Uluru shows that Indigenous Australians are not the only ones who see Uluru and its surrounds as a special place. There have always been those, Australian and International visitors alike, who felt the power of this landscape. As far back as 1942, author and art dealer Frank Clune suggested, “As Fujiyama is to Japan, so should Ayers Rock be to Australia, a sacred mountain and place of pilgrimage in the heart of our continent.”

The closure of the climb suggests we are closer than ever before to fulfilling that vision. The date chosen for the event, October 26, is a significant one for the Anangu: it is the anniversary of the day in in 1985 when, during a ceremony at the base of Uluru, the Governor-General, Sir Ninian Stephen, handed the title deeds to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park to the Traditional Owners. Truly a day worth celebrating.


Smoking: The government nannies lose one

It's a very strong addiction so that outcome is no surprise.  The only reasonable role for the govermnment is to ban smoking in public places -- to protect non-smokers from having the foul habit imposed on them

Australians are smoking just as much today as they were three years ago – even with plain packaging, e-cigarettes and the world's highest priced packets.

Australia's falling behind the rest of the world, according to the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association (ATHRA), despite numerous tax raising and deterrence initiatives.

Data shows that between 2013-2016 Australia's annual smoking decline rate has stalled at 0.2 per cent in comparison to a 3 per cent decline in New Zealand, 4 per cent in Canada, 5 per cent in England and a huge 12 per cent in Iceland.

These nations have one thing in common – the legalisation of smoking alternatives such as vaping and heat-not-burn products.

Smoking nicotine is hard to quit and many people enjoy the motion so often seek alternatives such as vaporisers.

The Australian National Drug Strategy Household Survey indicated around 70 per cent said they wanted to quit but despite repeat attempts, are not able to.

ATHRA director Dr Joe Kosterich told 'If we look at other jurisdictions, they've pretty much done similar things to what we've done; similar increase in taxation, banning smoking in public places, smoking health education.

'All of these things are really important moves but you then reach a point where you're not going any further.'

Only last month the New South Wales Parliament passed the Smoke-free Environment Amendment Bill 2018 to join forces with Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT to ban vaping in the same places that cigarettes are banned such as parks, sports grounds and outdoor dining areas.

The amendment came into motion despite international evidence that e-cigarettes save lives.

Nicotine liquid once heated and vaporised into in an e-cigarette delivers inhalable nicotine vapor whilst failing to produce carbon monoxide, tar and most cancer-causing chemicals found in combustible cigarettes.

This liquid is illegal in Australia and its ban is upheld by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

ATHRA Chairman and professor, Colin Mendelsohn said: 'Most of the harm from combustible tobacco is caused by the 7000 chemicals produced by the burning process and these are mostly absent from vapor,' 'It is unethical and unscientific to ban a much safer product that could help many thousands of smokers to quit a deadly addiction.'

Australian Medical Association (AMA) President Dr Tony Bartone disagrees with the compelling research telling 3AW that there was 'still a lot of work to be done on whether they [e-cigarettes] really do help people getting off smoking,'

'A lot of the evidence coming through now is showing that actually all it does it defer or delay the decision to actually come off cigarettes, and a lot of people go back to cigarettes while coming down to it.'

Professor Mendelsohn said: 'Banning wider access to e-cigarettes on the basis of unproven, potential risks to adolescents would prevent access to life saving quitting aid for millions of smokers,'

'A better solution would be to employ strategies to minimise youth access and make vaping available for adult smokers who are otherwise unable to quit smoking with conventional therapies.'

New Zealand Associate Health Minister Nicky Wagner has suggested 'there's a general consensus that vaping is much less harmful than smoking.'


Vile trolling, disgusting brutality and now 258,000 fake breath tests: As Victoria's cops are busted in ANOTHER scandal people ask, who polices the police?

After allegations of brutality and the sacking of a top officer earlier this year, Victoria Police has been rocked by revelations more than 258,000 breath tests were faked.

An external investigator will be brought in to examine the falsified tests, in which officers blew into RBT straws themselves or placed fingers over the holes.

The fake tests were discovered just weeks after the force was hit with allegations of excessive violence, with the beating of a disability pensioner caught on camera.

The incident involving six officers allegedly beating the mental health patient with batons, verbally abusing and pepper spraying him was caught on camera. Police were referred to oversight body Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) over the incident.

The arrest of a Sudanese-born Melbourne man who allegedly robbed and trashed a chemist in 2016 was also reported to the IBAC.

Footage showed the man being punched 11 times and hit with a baton before one of the officers stomped on his back in a two-and-a-half minute ordeal.

That incident followed a complaint by Jia Meeks, who was seen on CCTV been thrown into a cell door at Bendigo Police Station.

Mr Meeks, who was arrested for allegedly swearing at police and acting aggressively, was left bleeding from facial injuries and suffering a bruised wrist after the alleged incident.

The allegations of brutality followed the resignation of Assistant Commissioner Brett Guerin over a series of offensive online posts made under a pseudonym.

Mr Guerin, was was the head of Victoria Police's ethical standards body, quit the force in February after being referred to the anti-corruption commission.

Using the alias 'Vernon Demerest', Mr Guerin made a series of racist comments on Youtube.

'The jigaboo runs riot and out of control. The 'boo needs the lash,' read one of the vile comments.

'Wonderful to see greasy, diving, cheating dagoes get their just reward. Bitter, lingering defeat,' said another posted on a soccer video.

The comments were exposed a week after he publicly apologised last week for making graphic references to former police commissioner Christine Nixon.

In March the IBAC delivered a damning report accusing the force of failing to investigate dangerous incidents.

The IBAC itself has been criticised for its handling of complaints about Victoria Police.

Lawyers told a parliamentary inquiry in February they do not recommend complaining to IBAC, as more than 90 per cent end up handed back to police to investigate.

Victoria Police is now in discussions with IBAC about the roadside breath test revelations, which occurred over five years.

'The investigation, which analysed over five years of data, 1500 preliminary breath test devices and more than 17.7 million tests, disappointingly found 258,463 PBTs or 1.5 per cent of all tests had been falsified,' Assistant Commissioner Russell Barrett said on Wednesday.

'I had not heard of our members engaging in such a practice, we let ourselves down, we've let the community down. It stops now.'

'There could be a number of reasons but the main rationale I believe is to hide or highlight productivity. Whatever reason our workforce may come up with, it isn't acceptable.'


Being critical of inconsiderate cyclists is "hate speech"?

A cycling boss has been publicly ridiculed after claiming some of the 100,000 furious Australians calling for a single-lane bike road law were fake 'bots'.

Anne Savage, CEO of Bicycle Queensland, claimed some of the 101,700 campaigners demanding cyclists are made to ride single file on Australian roads are not real people.

Drivers For Registration of Cyclists launched the petition to protest the current law which allows cyclists to ride two abreast while on the roads, as long as they are no further than 1.5m apart.

The petition, titled 'Compulsory Single File for Cyclists', says cyclists are presenting safety hazards by riding two or more abreast and flowing into the traffic lanes.

Ms Savage said she had evidence that 'the majority of names on that petition are false names',The Courier Mail reported.  Many of the names - now exceeding 101,000 - were created by electronic 'bots', she said.

'We don't expect the government or anyone else to take this petition seriously. It's disappointing to see hate speech on social media taken this far,' she said.

'We would like to see this person pursued for hate speech and vilification on social media with content that is graphic and deeply hurtful to all in the community.'

Ms Savage has so far not provided any evidence relating to her assertion that many of the names were created by electronic 'bots'.

A spokesman for said all of the signatures were real.  'Our team puts significant effort into ensuring the legitimacy of signatures on,' he said.  'Our spam systems automatically detect patterns, such as multiple signatures coming in from the same IP address and any signatures that prove to be fake are removed between 28-48 hours.'

At 9.30am on Thursday the petition had 101,700 signatures and said it was aiming to reach 150,000. 


Crucial progress on adoption

When I started researching the nation’s child protection crisis a decade ago, there were approximately 35,000 children living in out of home care in Australia, and only 35 of these children where adopted from care in that year.

In 2016, with over 46,000 children in care nationally, only 70 children were adopted — with all but 3 of these adoptions occurring in NSW.

This means — as my book showed — that tens-of-thousands of children are continuing to spend the majority of their childhoods in highly  unstable care without finding the permanent homes that all children need to thrive.

However, the good news is that in 2017, adoptions from care in NSW more than doubled to 127.

This is slow but significant progress. The credit is due to the nation-leading child protection reforms implemented in NSW since the election of the O’Farrell government in 2011. And those reforms reached a milestone this week.

Adopt Change has been appointed to deliver a new program  — ‘My Forever Family’ —  designed to halve the time children spend in care before finding a permanent home through either successful restoration with parents, or through guardianship and adoption.

Predictably, critics have again zeroed in on the taboo subject of adoption — and falsely claimed it is being used as a quick fix to solve the problem of rising numbers in care in NSW.

But as my recent research report explained, the NSW reforms are investing heavily in targeted early intervention and restoration services designed to ensure as many children as possible can stay home safely and be reunited safely with their parents.

This means adoptions will only occur in NSW as the last resort to achieve permanency for children after the best efforts to assist struggling parents have failed.

By implementing a two year deadline (a long time in child’s life) within which permanency must be achieved, the NSW reforms have struck the right balance between attempting to keep families together and protecting children’s vital need for safe and stable homes.

However, what NSW has also done is something I and advocates of the greater use of adoption have long argued for.

This is to swing the pendulum of the child protection system back from the ideologically-driven pursuit of family preservation at almost all costs — regardless of how long, unstable, and ultimately damaging a child’s time in care ends up being — and instead ensure more children find permanent homes via adoption.

It’s gratifying that the NSW Government has heeded this message. The next step is to ensure the ‘NSW model’ is emulated in all states and territories in children’s best interests.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

Dismantling US policies towards migrants and the Americas

If you'd like to read two profiles of individuals who served the US during the Trump administration, I would recommend Jon Lee Anderson's profile of John Feeley in The Diplomat Who Quit the Trump Administration. Among other positions, Feeley is former US Ambassador to Panama. Feeley is famous for his op-ed in the Washington Post on “Why I Could No Longer Serve This President. Feeley represents one of many seasoned Foreign Service veterans that our country has lost under President Trump. 
William Brownfield, an Assistant Secretary of State who had served as Ambassador to Colombia and to Venezuela, decided to leave, and this February Tom Shannon, the department’s third-highest-ranking official and for decades the presiding expert on Venezuela, turned in his resignation. Jeffrey DeLaurentis, who in 2016 was nominated to be the first U.S. Ambassador to Cuba in half a century, is also leaving. One of Feeley’s colleagues explained the widespread dismay: “In terms of policy, what is there? Apart from migration issues, there’s the nafta reboot and stronger means being advocated for use against Venezuela. I don’t see much else. There is also the sense of an attempt to eviscerate anything Barack Obama did. I’ve never seen that before in my career.”
In March, Roberta Jacobson announced her resignation, after a three-decade career. Jacobson was appointed Ambassador to Mexico in 2015, but Marco Rubio, the Republican senator from Florida, stalled her confirmation for nearly a year. She took up her post in May, 2016, as Trump’s Presidential campaign got under way, so her time as Ambassador was spent mostly managing fallout from the new Administration. 
The second profile is article is Dara Lind on Attorney General Jeff Sessions in Trump made an immigration crackdown a priority. Jeff Sessions made it a reality. President Trump has nominated a number of incompetent people that have done damage to the US by means of their incompetence. That's not the case with Jeff Sessions. He's doing damage to the US and to the country's relationship with the rest of the hemisphere because of his understanding of the bureaucratic process and his distaste for all things migration. There doesn't seem to be anything about people moving to the US that he supports.

Given President Trump's regret at selecting Sessions for the AG position, I imagine that people are speculating whether Trump will now remove him or whether Sessions will do the honorable thing and resign. As Lind explains in the piece, however, that might not make too much a difference as Sessions has been able to groom others with his perspective on immigration and help them into positions of relevance. You should follow Lind. She's really good on the technical details of immigration policy.

Bending the Health Care Cost Curve Ever Upward

Did the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. "Obamacare") succeed in making health care more affordable for the average American household?

Data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey says... no!

Change in Average Annual Health Care Expenditure per Consumer Unit (Household) Since 2008, 2008-2016

Update 1 June 2018: The vertical dashed line in the chart indicates a break in the U.S. Census Bureau's methodology for collecting information about health insurance coverage that was implemented after 2013, where data in the periods before and after this change are not strictly comparable to each other. That said, the Consumer Expenditure Survey's data since 2013 confirms that the Affordable Care Act has failed to restrain the growth of average health insurance costs by American households during the period that it has been in effect.

Although the chart above focuses on what happened after it took effect, in reality, the health care cost curve began bending upward almost immediately after the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, leaving millions of Americans who had been promised by the ACA's supporters that it would reduce the cost of their health insurance sorely disappointed.

But that disappointment didn't extend to the people who owned stock in the U.S.' major health insurers, such as Centene (NYSE: CNC), United Healthcare (NYSE: UNH), WellCare (NYSE: WCG), Cigna (NYSE: CI), Humana (NYSE: HUM), Aetna (NYSE: AET), Molina (NYSE: MOH) and Anthem (NYSE: ANTM), where the Affordable Care Act has been a government-granted license to print money since it went into effect after 2013....

Percentage Change in Health Insurer Stock Prices from 2 January 2008 through 25 May 2018


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Consumer Expenditure Survey. Multiyear Tables. [PDF Documents: 2008-2012, 2013-2016]. Accessed 28 May 2018. [Note: Data for 2017 will become available in September 2018.]


Added 4 June 2018: Here's a neat chart that accompanied a September 2017 Motley Fool article by Keith Speights:

Average Annual Health Insurance Costs for Family Coverage, Premiums and Deductibles, 2008-2017 - Source:

The cost of health insurance, both in premiums and in deductibles, jumped considerably after 2013 when the Affordable Care Act went into effect.

Australian Politics 2018-05-30 15:53:00


Chief of Army admits females recruited for infantry before men

It was Senate Estimates. And the topic was Defence. On one side was the Chief of Army, Angus Campbell. He was confident, cocky and condescending.

On the other side was Senator Fraser Anning, the grazier from Queensland. He was coughing and clearing his throat. No doubt, he is more comfortable at home with his cows than in a committee in Canberra.

And surrounding them was the sycophantic crowd praising the naked emperor’s clothing.

It takes courage to walk into that room and ask the questions that no one wants to hear. But Fraser Anning did just that. He looked at the Chief of Army and asked if Defence had ever commissioned a study to determine whether placing females in combat roles would increase Defence capability.

The answer: no.


And then, when the Chief of Army claimed that there were no quotas for women, Anning asked why the Chief of Army had previously informed the Senate that the recruiting targets for females had not been met.

The answer: there are no ‘quotas’ and instead the Army simply won’t recruit males unless no female is found within six weeks of the job opening up.

Boom! Boom!

These answers given to Senate Estimates last night should shock the nation. And they come just days after the Army also informed Senate Estimates that just 24 of the 154 females recruited for an infantry role have passed their basic training courses:

Question 6

Please provide a breakdown of Reserve/Full Time females who were recruited into the Army for a role as a Rifleman:

a. How many commenced via the Army Pre-Conditioning Program?
b. How many completed the Army Pre-Conditioning Program?
c. How many commenced the Recruit Training Course at Kapooka?
d. How many completed the Recruit Training Course at Kapooka?
e. How many commenced Infantry Initial Employment Training?
f. How many completed Infantry Initial Employment Training?


The Army Pre-Conditioning Program is designed to assist women to meet the general entry-level fitness standards and build resilience to successfully complete the Army Recruit Course.

The Army Recruit Course is designed to prepare and train recruits to be soldiers in the Australian Army and commence their respective Initial Employment Training. Initial Employment Training is designed to train soldiers in their Employment Category or trade.

For the last six years, the Army has embarked on a costly and politically-correct crusade to bring females into the infantry.

It has been done on an assumption and without any research. And to make it happen, blokes have been told to go away.

It takes, on average, almost eight months for a male to join the Army. And the Chief of Army has just let them know that they won’t get a look in if a female applies before them and punches out eight push ups at a recruiting centre.

If they can’t manage that, women can still take a position via the Army Pre-Conditioning Program, which will give them 49 days of paid training to help them reach that target. It’s almost one week of training per push up.

True, if no woman can be found, men will be contacted six weeks prior to the position opening up and offered a job. But after waiting for months, for many this will be pointless. They’ll have already found a job doing something else.

The Chief of Army claims that this system is helping Defence secure the best talent possible. The reality is that it is turning talent away. Our military is weaker for it.

Last night the clichés rolled. Angus Campbell told the Senate that half the nation’s talent was in its female population. Following that logic and the Army might as well recruit everyone and grab all the talent on offer.

No one denies that females are talented. But the infantry requires specific talents: strength, endurance and fitness. And Defence’s own statistics show that when it comes to these talents, females can’t compete.

Of the 154 women recruited for infantry since 2016, just 24 have passed basic infantry training. Already 25% of those have been medically downgraded.

And every single female recruited for an infantry role via the Army’s vaunted Pre-Conditioning Program has failed to qualify as an infantry soldier.

When asked if the Army concedes that this program has been a failure for the infantry, the Chief of Army said no.


In terms of success, this program has been an utter disaster. It is a barren wasteland with a 100% failure rate. Yet the Chief of Army claims it is working. He sounds like this guy (and you wouldn’t want him running our military):

Taxpayers are wearing the burden of this costly program.

Millions have been spent on advertising to make it happen. Millions more have been spent on squandered training days.

And the unit which is receiving these women is now in the process of sacking almost as many male soldiers due to  comments they have made about women on Facebook.

In the big picture, every single dollar spent has been wasted with absolutely zero increase to capability, while those who could increase it have been turned away.

That’s bad enough. On the financial figures alone, the program should be scrapped.

Making it worse is the fact that standards have been dropped. And that means capability has actually been diminished.

Comments from recruit instructors or those at the School of Infantry make it clear that assessments are no longer as rigorous as they once were, just to enable females to pass. Consequently, the quality of male soldiers will also decrease.

And worst of all is that this entire program has been based on a politically-correct assumption. No research has been done at all.

There is no data to back the Chief of Army’s claim that female infantry soldiers increase capability, unit cohesion or the ability to win on the battlefield.

And the Chief of Army has no idea whether those women who do get through will not suffer an increased risk of long-term health consequences over their male counterparts.

If any other organisation embarked on such a program without any due diligence it would be rightly described as negligence.

Unfortunately, the Army is not any other organisation. It is not a business that this nation can afford to fail because it embarks on some politically-correct flight of fancy.

Yet it is being eroded before our very eyes, while the crowd bays for the emperor to walk back down the cat walk.


Today's Sonia Kruger fails to have racism complaint dismissed two years after she said Muslims should be banned from Australia

Today Show and The Voice host Sonia Kruger has failed to have a racism complaint against her dismissed. Kruger sparked outrage after saying Australian borders should be closed to Muslims.

The Civil and Administrative Tribunal rejected Channel Nine's application to have the complaint dismissed without hearing, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Sam Ekermawi made the complaint saying Channel Nine had vilified 'ethnic Muslim Australians'.

Kruger said Australian borders should be closed to Muslims while discussing a column written by Andrew Bolt on the Today Show in July 2016.

'I mean, personally, I think Andrew Bolt has a point here, that there is a correlation between the number of people who are Muslim in a country and the number of terrorist attacks,' she said.

'Now I have a lot of very good friends who are Muslim, who are peace-loving who are beautiful people, but there are fanatics.

'Personally I would like to see it stopped now for Australia. Because I want to feel safe, as all of our citizens do, when they go out to celebrate Australia Day.'

Mr Ekermawi wrote an email to the Anti-Discrimination Board of New South Wales saying Kruger had dehumanised Muslims.

The Nine Network applied to have Mr Ekermawi's complaint dismissed, saying the segment discussed religion and not race.

They also said Mr Ekermawi's history of making vilification complaints meant it would be an abuse of the tribunal's processes to allow the complaint to proceed.

NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal deputy president Nancy Hennessy refused Channel Nine's application.


Japan coal threat could cost Queensland ‘jobs and billions’

Japan’s biggest steelmaker has threatened to slash its demand for Queensland coal and find other suppliers amid an escalating ­industry brawl that could see “significant job losses” and billions of dollars wiped from the state’s budget.

On a trade mission to Tokyo, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will today meet Japanese steelmakers and Foreign Minister Taro Kono over the freight ­dispute between her state’s rail monopoly, Aurizon, and miners, including BHP, Glencore and Rio Tinto.

The row follows the draft ­decision of the Queensland Competition Authority to cap Aurizon’s income at $3.8 billion over four years — about $1bn less than the company said it needed — and restrict maintenance costs that it passes on to its customers.

Aurizon’s subsequent cost-cutting, which includes fewer freight services with more maintenance shutdowns for trackwork, risks cutting exports from central Queensland coalfields by about 20 million tonnes each year. The hit to royalties is ­estimated at $2bn to the state’s budget over the next four years.

Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation, which spent more than $2.5bn on Australian coal in 2016, last week wrote to Ms Palaszczuk expressing alarm at the looming shortfall.

“We are afraid that this might damage the reliability of the supply chain of Queensland coal, and as a result, we will inevitably have to consider buying coal from other regions,” managing executive officer Yasushi Aoki said in the letter, obtained by The Australian.

Ms Palaszczuk, whose state exports almost $5bn of coal to Japan each year, said she would “reassure the Japanese gov­ernment their coal exports are secure”.

“It is very important that Auri­zon and the QCA sit down and try to resolve this issue as a matter of urgency,” she said.

It comes as the Palaszczuk government is set to announce a boost in infrastructure spending in the June 12 budget on the back of rising coal royalty payments, which the industry estimated would hit $3.7bn this financial year.

Aurizon chief executive Andrew Harding has told staff there would be “significant job losses” if the QCA’s “fundamentally flawed” draft ruling was not changed. “If the draft decision stands, it will permanently change the way our network business operates, resulting in significant job losses in both network and support areas,” he said in a message to staff.

Mr Harding said ignoring the draft decision, delivered in December, and maintaining normal operating practices was not an option because the final ruling would be backdated to July 1 and leave Aurizon facing a “huge financial hit”.

“The QCA have recommended we drive our operational and maintenance practices to the lowest possible cost regardless of the impact on our customers.

“They have also recommended one of the lowest rates of return on any regulated asset in Australia.”

Liberal National Party leader Deb Frecklington urged the government to assertively “intervene” and make the QCA and Aurizon reach a solution.

However, Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said Ms Palas­zczuk was “absolutely right” to respect the independence of the QCA. He said Aurizon was going to the big miners individually to broker side deals outside the regulator’s process.

“Aurizon is using thug tactics, being a monopoly, saying to the coal companies, ‘If we don’t resolve this issue, we are going to cut your exports’,” said Mr Macfarlane, a former federal resources minister under Tony Abbott and John Howard. “This is going to cost this state enough to pay the wages of 7000 teachers or nurses a year.”


University degrees costing up to $100,000 may get you NOWHERE

Young Australians are often told that the path to success is paved by a tertiary education.

But a new study by Ernst & Young may have debunked that apparent myth, with almost half of Australian university degrees now at serious risk of becoming obsolete in the next decade.

The company has called on universities to future-proof themselves given the current model leaves graduates with more debt and poor job prospects, the report said on Tuesday.

More than 50 university leaders and policymakers were interviewed and more than 3000 students and employers were surveyed.

Around 42 per cent of current and past graduates felt their degree needed to be overhauled.

Only 36 per cent of those studying humanities, culture and social sciences and just 41 per cent of science and mathematics students thought their degree was relevant to their job.

'Australian universities are under threat from changing learner preferences, new competitive models and international competition,' Ernest & Young Oceania Education Leader Catherine Friday said.

'They need to move now to ensure they meet the needs of a changing society and changing economy. To succeed, they will need to deconstruct the higher-education value chain, offering new formats such as unbundled degree programs, continuous subscription-based learning and just-in-time learning options.'

The report urges universities to collaborate more closely with industry in creating course content to produce more work-ready graduates after 50 per cent of employers claimed that management and commerce degrees are not worthwhile.

'Australian universities are ranked last in the OECD ranking for the ability to collaborate with business on innovation,' Ms Friday said.

'Fixing that has become an urgent priority - 51 percent of international students believe their degree needs to be transformed and the university leaders we spoke to estimate that 40 per cent of existing degrees will soon be obsolete. Those institutions that can crack the new, flexible teaching learning models required will reap the benefits, as they outpace competitors that persist in delivering three to four-year degree programs that employers simply do not value.'  


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

How Much Do You Need to Save for Retirement? (Part 2)

U.S. Average Annual Household Expenditures by Age Group, 2016

In our first installment of this series, we approached the question of "how much do you need to save for retirement?" by considering how much money you would need to accumulate in your savings or retirement accounts to effectively replace your annual income after you retire. In this installment, we're going to focus instead on how much you plan to spend each year after you've stopped working to identify your lifetime savings target.

That's an important difference to consider, because if you have developed the kind of frugal and thrifty habits it takes to build a comfortable nest egg where your personal spending is concerned, the odds are that the answer to the question will be much smaller, and much more realistically attainable, than the answer that would belong to someone who lives a less financially disciplined life.

Here, we'll start with the amount of money that you want to spend each year in retirement and figure out how much you would need to save after taking the monthly retirement benefits you might get from Social Security into account (you can find out that number directly from Social Security), which will give us the minimum savings target you will need for your savings and retirement accounts. We'll be applying the simple math that lies behind the Four Percent Rule to find that number, where our tool below will let you set the percentage of money that you would seek to withdraw from your retirement account each year if you would prefer to be more conservative, as some advisers recommend.

We'll also consider something that a lot of retirement advisers haven't yet been taking into account for their clients - what will happen when those benefits are cut as promised under current law by 23-27% after the year 2033 when Social Security's Trust Fund is projected to run out of money, which is just 15 years away at this writing.

The fun starts with our tool below, where you're more than welcome to change any of the default values we've entered to consider whatever retirement spending scenario you would like to consider! [If you're accessing this article on a site that republishes our RSS news feed, please click here to access a working version of the tool.]

Spending, Social Security, and Retirement Withdrawal Data
Input DataValues
Annual Spending In Retirement
Monthly Social Security Retirement Benefit
Percentage of Retirement Savings to Withdraw Each Year After Retiring
Percentage that Social Security Benefits Will Be Cut After Trust Fund is Depleted

Total Retirement Savings Target
Calculated ResultsValues
Amount Needed Before Social Security Cuts
Amount Needed After Social Security Cuts

In case you're wondering about the default data, $45,786 is the average amount of annual household expenditures for Americans Age 65 or older in 2016, which comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau's annual Consumer Expenditure Survey. Data for 2017 will become available in September 2018.

To find out if you're on track to hit your personal retirement savings target indicated by our tool, assuming that you've found the results from our tool to be reasonable for your retirement planning scenario, please take advantage of the tool we provided with our first installment.

Perhaps the biggest wild card in our tool's results to consider is what will happen to Social Security after the trust fund that is currently boosting the retirement benefits that it is paying out by about 20-25% runs out of money and it switches back to a pay-out-only-what-it-takes-in type program. It's possible that politicians will strike a deal to keep those payments from being cut, which would more likely than not mean higher payroll taxes.

Alternatively, they could continue doing what they started doing under President Obama and begin cutting Social Security "loopholes" benefits in small installments to more sustainable levels for the government. [Note: We put "loopholes" in quotes because that's how the politicians described cutting the Social Security benefits that earlier politicians had specifically set up to work exactly as they were used by Social Security beneficiaries. Funny how that works!]

Otherwise, big Social Security benefit cuts will arrive all at once, as soon as Social Security's Old Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund runs out of cash.

Finally, if you're looking for ways to cut your expenses after retirement that involve little in the way of sacrificing your quality of life, Paul Katzeff of Investor's Business Daily has four suggestions.