Monthly Archives: November 2021

Median Household Income in September 2021

Political Calculations' initial estimate of median household income in September 2021 is $70,824, an increase of $519 (or 0.7%) from the initial estimate of $70,305 for August 2021.

The latest update to Political Calculations' chart tracking Median Household Income in the 21st Century shows the nominal (red) and inflation-adjusted (blue) trends for median household income in the United States from January 2000 through September 2021. The inflation-adjusted figures are presented in terms of constant September 2021 U.S. dollars.

Median Household Income in the 21st Century: Nominal and Real Modeled Estimates, January 2000 to September 2021

September 2021 saw inflation once again rise more slowly than median household income, with the typical income-earning American household gaining a little more purchasing power during the month. Adjusted for inflation, median household income remains below the April 2020 peak of $71,135 in terms of constant September 2021 U.S. dollars. That change can be considered good news because 2021 has generally seen inflation rise faster than median household income.

Analyst's Notes

The BEA made small, negative adjustments to its estimates of aggregate wage and salary income for July and August 2021 in its latest data release. The BEA's next data release covering the period through October 2021 is scheduled for 24 November 2021. We anticipate our estimate for median household income in October 2021 will be available on 1 December 2021.


U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Table 2.6. Personal Income and Its Disposition, Monthly, Personal Income and Outlays, Not Seasonally Adjusted, Monthly, Middle of Month. Population. [Online Database (via Federal Reserve Economic Data)]. Last Updated: 29 October 2021. Accessed: 29 October 2021.

U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Table 2.6. Personal Income and Its Disposition, Monthly, Personal Income and Outlays, Not Seasonally Adjusted, Monthly, Middle of Month. Compensation of Employees, Received: Wage and Salary Disbursements. [Online Database (via Federal Reserve Economic Data)]. Last Updated: 29 October 2021. Accessed: 29 October 2021.

U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. Consumer Price Index, All Urban Consumers - (CPI-U), U.S. City Average, All Items, 1982-84=100. [Online Database (via Federal Reserve Economic Data)]. Last Updated: 13 October 2021. Accessed: 13 October 2021.

Australian Politics 2021-11-02 07:26:00


Experts give controversial ‘hippie school’ top marks

I don't generally put much faith in "experts but I see that John Hattie approves of this unusual school. Hattie is a formidable data analyst so I think the story below is interesting. Whether such a school would work in a less affluent area is a question

Jason Wong gets two types of reactions when he tells people his three daughters attend Lindfield Learning Village, an unorthodox public school on Sydney’s north shore. “That hippie school?” some say, sceptically. “That school that’s doing amazing, progressive stuff?” say others.

LLV, as it’s known, is in high demand; when it opened in a fortress-like former UTS campus 2019, it had a 3000-strong waiting list. Some parents tried to enrol their unborn children, attracted by its abandonment of old-school traditions, such as uniforms, detentions and timetables.

P&C president at Lindfield Learning Village Jason Wong with his wife Teresa and daughters Ella (black t-shirt) Bree (white dress) and Lucy (pink dress).
P&C president at Lindfield Learning Village Jason Wong with his wife Teresa and daughters Ella (black t-shirt) Bree (white dress) and Lucy (pink dress).CREDIT:RHETT WYMAN

But others, including some educators, are dubious. They worry Lindfield - a government-run school - is relying on what they call faddish, untested ideas such as basing learning on a child’s stage rather than their age, replacing normal subjects with student-driven projects, and putting pupils in charge of their own learning.

“[We have been] unlearning what school is, shedding those assumptions that we bring as educators to what school has to have,” principal Stephanie McConnell said last year.

In February, One Nation MP Mark Latham called for the Lindfield experiment to end and its teaching to be “normalised” after photos showed ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Stop Killer Cops’ had been written on butchers paper during a brainstorming session about what the students already knew about key moments in recent Indigenous history.

But a new report by two eminent education academics, commissioned by the NSW Department of Education in the wake of the February furore, praises Lindfield as “an impressive school” and a “high achievement place of learning” that carefully tracks its students’ progress, acknowledges when it needs to change tack and could teach other schools a thing or two.

COVID-19 stopped Professor John Hattie and Tim O’Leary, both from the University of Melbourne, from travelling to Lindfield to see its brutalist architecture, the grand piano in the indoor play area, or the students, aged from kindergarten to year 12, mingle in the downstairs café.

Nor were they asked to investigate the February incident. Their brief was teaching and learning, and they were given access to all the school’s information, ranging from NAPLAN data and meeting agendas to the system that tracks each child’s progress.

“It was very impressive,” said Professor Hattie. “What impressed us was the evidence they had on what was working and what was not, and what was going to work and what wasn’t.”

Many in the education sector are still working out how to use data effectively in the classroom, but Professor Hattie said Lindfield’s system of collecting examples of student work, tracking progress against the NSW standards and curriculum, and taking feedback from students “actually stunned us,” he said. “I’ve never seen a better system.”

One of the school’s strengths was its ability to assess itself, and jettison anything that was not working. “Not every kid achieves brilliantly every day, but [teachers at Lindfield] were able to pick out those kids and subjects, and focus on them,” said Professor Hattie.

“I’ve done enough of these [reviews to know] they don’t always work out as well as this one. To say they’re perfect is not true, but they told us before we found out where they needed to grow.”

The report also found Lindfield’s NAPLAN results were comparable with similar schools, and its attendance and student satisfaction were higher than average. However, it could improve in numeracy.

Mr Latham said the report looked encouraging. “But generally we would expect Lindfield students, in the highest socio-economic area in the state, to get good school results and strong opportunities in life,” he said. “My main concern is not to have racist comments and police vilification hanging from the ceiling of a 5-6 classroom.”

Mr Wong said the February furore felt like “an attack on our ability to make decisions about what school to send our kids to,” he said. The parents threw their support behind the teachers and principal, filling the corridors with messages of support.

Parents have read the report and are “pretty chuffed,” Mr Wong said. “It wasn’t surprising for me. It was pretty spot on. We took a bit of a risk as parents sending our kids to this school, and although we don’t really need a report to tell us how the school is going, it’s always nice to have that validated by an external authority.

“The way most of us gauge the success of the school is feedback from our kids. I’ve got a year 9, a year 2 and a kindy; they all love going to school. They have an environment in which they want to learn.”


TGA recognises more international vaccines

Two more international COVID vaccines have been formally recognised by the national medical regulator, paving the way for more overseas visitors to come to Australia.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration said on Monday it would recognise the Indian-made Covaxin and the Chinese-made BBIBP-CorV vaccine.

In a statement, the administration said the decision would allow those who had been jabbed with either of the vaccines to be eligible for travel to Australia.

Only travellers who have been fully immunised with a vaccine recognised by the administration will be able to arrive in Australia under travel arrangements.

"This will have significant impacts for the return of international students, and travel of skilled and unskilled workers to Australia," an administration spokesman said.

"Citizens of China and India as well as other countries in our region where these vaccines have been widely deployed will now be considered fully vaccinated on entry to Australia."

It comes as international arrivals touched down in Australia without having to undergo quarantine, for the first time in almost two years.

Monday saw fully vaccinated Australians being able to arrive back in Sydney and Melbourne for the first time since the pandemic began.

There were tearful scenes at airports, with many families able to be reunited after more than a year of travel being restricted

While international travel is currently limited to fully vaccinated citizens, permanent residents and their families, it's expected skilled workers, those on visas and then tourists will be allowed to enter in coming months.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia was again open to the world, following a rise in vaccination rates.

"The Australian public have been keeping their side of the deal, which means the national plan is enabling them to regain the things that COVID has taken from them," he said.

It comes as quarantine-free travel arrangements resumed with New Zealand, after the travel bubble was suspended earlier this year following the Delta variant outbreak.

Australians will also be able to travel to Singapore from November 8, while residents from the Asian city state will be able to come to Australia from later this month.


South Australia adopts electric vehicle tax, joining New South Wales and Victoria

Many unhappy Greenies

Electric car buyers in South Australia will soon be charged for every kilometre they drive, with the state joining New South Wales and Victoria in adopting electric vehicle taxes.

The new tax will come into effect in July 2027, or when electric vehicles make up 30 per cent of the market, whichever is earliest

South Australia was the first Australian state to propose an electric vehicle (EV) tax in November last year, but delayed the introduction of legislation amid debate and community opposition.

A bill to allow the tax passed South Australia's Legislative Council on Thursday, with SA Best's MLCs Connie Bonaros and Frank Pangallo as well as independent MLC John Darley voting with the government to approve it.

In order to secure its passage, the government offered some short-term sweeteners, including a three-year registration fee exemption for new electric vehicles, and a $3,000 subsidy for the first 7,000 electric vehicles sold.

Those subsidies will not apply for hybrid vehicles, or those priced at more than $68,750.

The bill will also establish a parliamentary committee to examine the rollout of electric vehicles.

The new tax will come into effect in July 2027, or when electric vehicles make up 30 per cent of the market, whichever is earliest.

Owners of plug-in hybrid vehicles will be charged an indexed fee of 2 cents per kilometre, while the owners of any other electric vehicles will be charged an indexed fee of 2.5 cents per kilometre.

The charge will be levied in arrears as part of the vehicle registration process, with the final cost calculated on the distance travelled since the previous registration renewal.

Treasurer Rob Lucas said that, while South Australia was the first to propose the tax, it would not be the last state to enact it.

"Look, I think it's a recognition that this is inevitable," he said. "Sooner rather than later, we're going to be almost 100 per cent electric vehicles on our roads.

"And we're going to have to have a mechanism which funds the maintenance and replacement of our road network, because fuel excise will completely disappear."

Fuel excise is currently charged by the federal government.

Opponents of the new tax said its passage would slow the state's ambition to be a national leader of electric vehicle uptake.

"While statements and goals are good, adequate policy commitments to support the EV sector are now needed," said the Australia Institute's South Australian director, Noah Schultz-Byard.

"Our research shows the EV package in South Australia falls well short of what is being offered by the SA government's Coalition counterparts in New South Wales."

The Labor opposition said the passage of the bill days before the Glasgow Climate Change Conference sent the wrong message.

"This is a state government trying to fix a federal government revenue issue while the planet is literally on the verge of climate catastrophe," Deputy Labor Leader Susan Close said.

"While most of the rest of the world is trying to incentivise take-up of electric cars, Steven Marshall's government has just brought in a big new tax to act as a disincentive.

"Sadly, it seems the reckless climate policies of the Liberals at a federal level are now infecting the Liberals here in SA.

Greens MLC Robert Simms said the vote on the bill was an "embarrassing day for South Australia".

"Much like the Morrison federal government, the Liberals here in South Australia just aren't taking the threat of climate change seriously," Mr Simms said.


Enthusiastic consent - more feminist fantasy than real world sex

Bettina Arndt

Ivan is 74 years old. He has been making love to his wife, Suzie for thirty-five years. Their foreplay starts early, sometimes at the breakfast table. He writes:

“Remember the song, Come on Baby, Light my Fire? That can mean starting the mating dance hours before....

If the signals are faint, I’ll gently see if I can strengthen them … with a lingering kiss or a touch here and there. If there is no obvious inclination, then I won’t push it. I’ll back off. I look for tacit communication that she is in the market—or could be. The communication is in the eyes—and the way they look into mine. I can feel instantly if we’re on the same wavelength”.

He knows what to do if he senses she is interested:

“I can then be emboldened to make suggestions, like ‘How’s your skin at the moment? Does it need to be creamed?’ We both understand the code. We are both averse to being obvious and blunt. We prefer innuendo and teasing.”

This long-married couple like to keep things subtle. He’s aware she doesn’t want him to ask for consent. He’s spent decades learning to decipher her desires:

“This is a woman who has real trouble talking about sex and whose main method of communication is a whispered yes, a small groan, a tensing of her leg muscles, so it was a difficult process.”

Ivan’s lucky. He lives in West Australia where their lovemaking is still legal. But in NSW it is now a different story. Enthusiastic consent legislation has been law for the last two months.

According to NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman it is all “very simple”. Consent now has to be communicated by the other party “saying or doing something." Subtle interpretation of long-established codes is not enough to let the accused off the hook. “A reasonable step has to be an act or something said to ascertain the complainant's consent."

That’s it, you see. Most people don’t seek consent before and during lovemaking and nor do they have any interest in doing so. But that means we are all now prospective complainants or alleged perpetrators.

Consent is certainly not “very simple,” Mr Attorney General. It’s obvious you and all the other people making these laws don’t have a clue about what goes on beneath the dancing doona. There are many, many women like Ivan’s wife who’d be appalled if their husbands asked them for permission for sex. They expect their men to be able to tell if they are receiving a green light... or not… and sometimes to work hard to achieve it.

I’ve had people talking to me about these complex interactions for much of my adult life, having started my career as a sex therapist using the media to encourage more open conversations about sex. It recently occurred to me that I’m sitting on just the evidence to show why this simplistic talk about consent makes no sense.

I have diaries I collected from hundreds of couples during a 2007-9 research project about how they negotiate differences in sexual desire. I’ve already used this material for books about the gender desire gap and why sex means so much to men. But these revealing his-and-hers diaries offer clear proof as to why enthusiastic consent laws are totally barking mad. And whilst they focus mainly on people in long-term relationships, the research did include some very young people who’d only just met and believe me, here the communication is even more dense and bewildering.

Let’s have a look at another of my diarists – I called him ‘Anthony’ (unsurprisingly most of the participants preferred their names withheld from this revealing project). This 47-year-old man just couldn’t get his wife, Adele, to be open about her desires. He was yearning for her to admit that she wants him:

“To just say she felt like sex and wanted me to do it to (or with) her. I would like to see her wanting sex the way I want her to want it (now there’s a selfish, unrealistic thought!). I would really like her to verbalise her sexual thoughts. Over the years I have tried to move toward that point but have been frustrated by her apparent difficulty in finding the words or willingness to share them. Tactile is OK but it’s so damned ambiguous. I don’t want to imbue her touch with my meaning, I want to know what she’s been thinking to want to touch me. I want to know how she wants sex. I want to be inside her head.”

Now, see here, where he describes one of their interactions:

“Before I get out of bed, I pick up my book for a half hour of reading. Adele usually wakes before me, and she is reading already. She rests her hand on me and from time to time strokes my skin with tiny finger movements. The movements themselves and the places being touched don’t carry any overt sexual overtones at all but the persistence of them tells me she probably wants something. Whether it is to please me or to please her I don’t know. I don’t trust my judgement about that anymore. After a while I begin to think about the possibilities—imagining she wants pleasure and I feel a slight sexual response developing.

“Adele persists. She treads a narrow path so well—lots of practice, I suppose. She makes no overt sexual move and thereby avoids making the exchange unambiguous, ie with the potential for rejection. I put my book down and cuddle up to her. I can’t see her face but I’d bet anything that she is smiling.”

Look at this, Mr Speakman. She is touching him but deliberately making her approach ambiguous, so she won’t be seen to be asking for sex and won’t risk rejection. She’s ensuring it is up to him to make the next step.

This is classic of the complex dance of desire playing out in even the most harmonious of couplings. What makes you think you can go stomping into this delicate arena using your brand new, glistening legal jackboots and work out who is raping whom?

I have hundreds of such interactions I could trot out here, all showing why today’s sexual thought police are on the wrong planet. Clearly today’s 4th Wave feminists never bothered to read the classic 70s sexual works that educated and enthralled many of their mothers. Like Nancy Friday’s famous collection of real women’s sexual fantasies, My Secret Garden, full of steaming rape scenarios and women who want men to take charge. They are still well and truly out there, Mr Speakman.

Here’s another of my diarists, Anthea, describing a fling she had with an American guy, who was ten years her junior:

“From the outset it was aggressive, hard, powerful and incredible, so much so I cannot really begin to do it justice with a description. During our second day together, I gave him my vibrator to do what he chose with. His response was to throw me to the bed, tie me up with a tie that happened to be hanging on my bedroom door and then use the vibrator on me to get me to reach multiple orgasms. He said nothing before we did this, there was no discussion, he took charge, and it was incredible.”

She wanted him to take control, not ask for permission to throw her on the bed, to tie her up, and use the vibrator to drive her crazy. It was a perfectly straightforward, mutually advantageous transaction.

But imagine this scenario was happening now and the younger man tired of her attractions. What if this wonderful fling ended badly and Anthea decided to take advantage of this open invitation from the government inviting her to rethink? To retrospectively withdraw her consent and claim he’d overwhelmed her. The man was a marine after all, a big burly aggressive toxic male. Who’d believe him in a she-said, he-said legal battle if she decided to play the aggrieved victim?

It’s a simple fact of life that most love-affairs, most hook-ups end leaving one party disappointed. When the wounded party is a woman, she is now presented with a new legal weapon targeted to destroy the man who has let her down. Oh yes, in theory the legislation is gender-neutral but the reality is that women are rarely charged with such crimes, even though our most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey found almost one in three people claiming to be victims of sexual assault were male (28.4%). Men rarely take action over such crimes, knowing that if they do, they are unlikely to be believed.

Men are the ones in the firing line – primarily because their stronger levels of sexual desire mean they are usually the ones pushing for sexual consent. “Men want sex more often than women at the start of a relationship, in the middle of it and after many years of it,” reports Roy F Baumeister, psychology professor at University of Queensland and a world expert on gender differences in desire. And as my diarists proved, most women still prefer men to initiate, partly because the female psyche seems to struggle more with sexual rejection.

The new sexual consent laws are all about encouraging women to rewrite the history of their sexual relationships in order to find more men guilty of sexual assault.

These laws willfully ignore women’s own ambiguity and confusion which means men face a lethal guessing game.

For one final example of these complexities, here’s a his-and-her version of one couple’s lovemaking session:

Terry’s diary - Wednesday, 26 September

“Last night she was drawing on my back. This is unheard of—her touching me like that. So, I lay there for a bit and enjoyed it. Then she ran her finger down my side and it tickled so I laughed and she rolled over, so I turned and cuddled her and we were having a good moment together gently stroking each other and cuddling. But then she pushed me away, saying ‘You always reject me!’ I protested and said I was enjoying our time together but she had made up her mind, ‘No, you rejected me. That’s why I don’t make a move on you, it hurts me to be rejected.’ I tried to say sorry, but it fell on deaf ears.”

Megan’s diary - Wednesday, 26 September

“We got into bed, he turned his back to me and I started stroking his back. He said it was nice. Then I tried to reach around to touch his penis and he started being really silly, saying that it tickled. I felt rejected so I pulled away. He then came over to my side of the bed and cuddled me but it was too late. I was lying there thinking mean thoughts about him. Then I said to him ‘Why did you do that? You could tell I was making an effort to initiate sex with you and you knocked me back.’ To which he responded, ‘What? What? I didn’t knock you back.’ He didn’t make an effort to make moves on me (it probably would have been unsuccessful), and he fell asleep shortly after.”

He says, she says. Two totally different versions of who did what, written within days of the actual event. Go figure….

Now we are expecting juries to sort out what actually took place years after a confusing liaison which one person claims took place without consent. In our current climate there’s a very real risk that such contradictions and confusion will be just swept aside, and those twelve ordinary men and women will step up, conform to the zeitgeist and believe-the- woman.




The S&P 500 Closes October 2021 at All Time High

The S&P 500 (Index: SPX) continued the rally it began last week, closing at an all-time high of 4,605.38 on Friday, 29 October 2021.

The trajectory of the S&P 500 index continues to fall within the redzone forecast, though now it falls in the upper half of the forecast range. Sharp-eyed readers will note that with an improving outlook for future dividends, the forecast range itself has shifted to a less negative direction.

Alternative Futures - S&P 500 - 2021Q3 - Standard Model (m=-2.5 from 16 June 2021) - Snapshot on 29 Oct 2021

The index began rallying last week when President Biden's proposed tax rate hikes were dropped from legislation under consideration in the U.S. Congress. The market received an additional boost this week when the U.S. House dropped the U.S. Senate's proposal to tax unrealized (or "paper") capital gains, which you'll see captured in the market moving headlines of the week.

Monday, 25 October 2021
Tuesday, 26 October 2021
  • Wall Street hits record but Facebook weighs
  • Wednesday, 27 October 2021
    Thursday, 28 October 2021
    Friday, 29 October 2021

    We've previously featured Seeking Alpha's Dividend News, but since they've revamped it and changed its web address, here it is again! SA provides an excellent running flow of dividend declarations as their bots detect them.

    Australian Politics 2021-11-01 03:43:00


    Black gold and housing boom driving Qld economic recovery

    China shot itself in the foot. It cut off orders for Australian coal when the demand for coal was going through the roof worldwide. Result: Blackouts in China and big profits for Australian coal miners

    About $60 billion in mining projects are driving the state’s economic engine room right now, the vast bulk related to coal.

    Queensland’s exports to China were nearly halved in the past year, but high prices of coal are still driving a strong economic recovery for the state, according to a new report.

    It will be revealed in the Deloitte Access Economics investment monitor report to be released today.

    There are about $60 billion in mining projects driving the state’s economic engine room at the moment, the vast bulk of which are related to coalmining, it found.

    A housing construction boom is also helping to drive growth in the economy.

    The report found investment in private housing in Queensland had grown more than 11 per cent and was back above pre-pandemic levels.

    But report author and economist Stephen Smith warned the construction boom soon stall due to material and worker shortages looming as a result of complications from the pandemic.

    Queensland’s exports fell by about 10 per cent in the 2020-21 financial year, including a 48 per cent drop in goods sent to China.

    Beijing’s ban on Australian coal was the driving factor in this, but the report found that rising to record high prices for both thermal and metallurgical coal would lead to a strong recovery for the state’s export sector.


    Cyberbullies to be suspended, more social media put on notice under new online safety laws

    I am not sure about this. It is normal for kids to be very critical of one-another. We would have to be careful not to stop a normal part of growth

    Australia’s program to shut down cyberbullies will get even bigger next year, reaching social networks like Snapchat, Discord and WhatsApp.

    Children who suffer threats, harassment and humiliation in gaming forums and private messaging apps will be able to ask the eSafety Commission for help in a shake-up of the country’s world-first anti-cyberbullying laws next year.

    The changes, which could see bullies stripped of their accounts or taken to court, will also reduce the time social media giants are given to remove harmful messages from their platforms from 48 hours to just one day.

    But experts say cashed-up social media and gaming platforms needed to improve how they tackle cyberbullying and shouldn’t rely “on the eSafety Commissioner to do their job”.

    The changes come after weeks of pressure on tech giants, with Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen revealing the company’s own research showed Instagram had the potential to harm children, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged to introduce new laws to deal with offensive content on social networks.

    The expansion of the Australian eSafety Commission’s cyberbullying scheme will come as part of the Online Safety Act due to begin in January.

    eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said cyberbullying reports made to the agency jumped by 30 per cent last year, and one third of those reports involved children being bullied in private messages.

    A recent study of 3600 Australian children by the Commission also found one in five children were bullied while playing online games, but the current anti-bullying scheme was only set up to deal with content posted to open social networks.

    “We know that harms happen in any online spaces that kids are in,” Ms Inman Grant said.

    “(With this change) we’ll be able to help children who are experiencing serious cyberbullying on whatever platform they’re on.”

    Under the new rules, any Australian child or their guardian will be able to report serious threats, intimidation, harassment or humiliation to the eSafety Commission that have been sent using services including WhatsApp, Discord, Twitch and Snapchat, and in private messages on Instagram or Facebook.

    The harmful content must first be reported to the platform that hosts it but they will have just 24 hours, rather than the current 48, to take action before it can be escalated.

    While the agency could currently seek court-ordered injunctions against online bullies and civil penalties from online platforms which did not respond, Ms Inman Grant said the new scheme would require a different approach.

    “We might not be dealing with content take-down notices because this is happening in real-time but there are important things that can be done to make sure platforms are enforcing their own policies and, if there are abusive accounts, that they are suspending them,” she said.

    Cybersafety educator Leonie Smith welcomed the change to the reporting scheme, saying “the majority of cyberbullying reported to be from schools happens in direct messages”.

    But she said social networks and online gaming platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Roblox, needed to do more themselves.

    “This will put pressure on social media companies to make reporting easier and that’s what they should be doing,” she said. “But we shouldn’t be relying on the eSafety Commissioner to do their job.”

    Ms Smith said online platforms needed to introduce greater safeguards for children under the age of 13, including easier reporting and better moderation of online bullying, and greater parental controls for younger users.


    $130k tweet storm shows there is no more doubt that the ABC exists in a parallel universe

    Mike O’Connor

    If there was ever any doubt that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation now exists in a parallel universe, it has been swept away by the Commonwealth auditor-general.

    Investigating a decision by ABC management to pay $130,000 in legal costs and damages awarded against staff member Louise Milligan for a defamatory tweet she had made, Auditor-General Grant Hehir found that there was “no documented advice … prepared to support the appropriateness of the decision to meet the costs of an employee”.

    In other words, someone decided that it was a good idea to burn $130,000 of taxpayer funds on behalf of an employee when there was absolutely no appropriate reason for it to do so.

    The ABC did not publish the tweet. Milligan did, yet the ABC paid. The individual defamed by the tweet, Federal MP Dr Laming, had asked Milligan to delete it and apologise. The chances are that at this stage, the issue could have been defused, but Milligan refused to apologise and so we picked up the tab.

    It is only a few months since under questioning by the senate, the ABC was forced to reveal that legal action taken by former Attorney-General Christian Porter against it and Milligan had cost it $780,000.

    While all this was taking place, ABC managing director David Anderson was enjoying a 10 per cent pay rise, which boosted his salary to $1.098m, while chairwoman Ita Buttrose had to struggle by on $195,000.

    Sadly, Ms Buttrose has been a profound disappointment to those who had hoped she would have the courage to subject the ABC to desperately needed corporate and editorial discipline.

    Belatedly, she has ordered an ­external review of the corporation’s Audience and Consumer Affairs Investigation Unit, but only after ongoing claims that complaints made against the ABC were routinely dismissed. It investigates itself and finds – surprise, surprise – that all is sweetness and light.

    In recent months, Four Corners screened Exposed: The Ghost Train Fire series. It took an external review, only commissioned after an outcry, to find that the series wrongly implied that former NSW premier Neville Wran was linked to corrupt activity.

    Complaints were made to the Audience and Consumers Affairs unit and the program faced accusations of sloppy journalism and lazy research, but no ­action was taken.

    David Hill, a one-time ABC managing director and chair who has been among the critics of the complaints-handling process, said the review was essential because the complaints process that followed the airing of Ghost Train was “deeply flawed”.

    Then there was the two-part TV series Juanita Nielsen: A Family Mystery – removed from the ABC website after serious doubts emerged surrounding the accuracy of material it contained.

    When I was learning this trade as a young, moustachioed, safari suit-wearing newspaper reporter – yes it’s true – the ABC represented the gold standard of journalism.

    Balance was rigorously enforced and opinions were banned with the emphasis on hard news accurately reported – what happened, where did it happen and when did it happen? If you heard it on the ABC, then you knew it was right.

    It is sad that what was once the ­nation’s premier news-gathering organisation has now lost its way.

    Climate change alarmism, doomsday projections, endless opinions parading as news and a perceived lack of impartiality are now its trademark.


    Watchdog admits holding back Right to Information details

    The Queensland Building and Construction Commission’s senior Right to Information officer has admitted holding back details about an RTI request.

    The bombshell admission comes as hundreds of small businesses are at risk today of closing their doors as a result of the State Government’s new fire protection regulations.

    It has sparked fresh calls for a commission of inquiry into the troubled government body.

    According to evidence tabled to a recent parliamentary hearing, the QBCC’s principal RTO officer wrote to the integrity and complaints director, Geoffrey Airo-Farulla, on March 23 after a request for invoices.

    “I’ve already taken out as much as I can in line with LPP (legal professional privilege),’’ she says.

    “If this were to go to OIC (Office of the Information Commissioner), more information would be released than (sic) what I’ve decided.’’

    State Opposition Leader David Crisafulli said Public Works Minister Mick de Brenni must resign to preserve the integrity of the Government.

    He said it was further evidence of the culture in Mr de Brenni’s office.

    “It’s becoming increasingly apparent that this third term Labor government doesn’t value honesty and transparency,” Mr Crisafulli said.

    “Mr de Brenni operates the QBCC like a fiefdom and Queenslanders are worse for it.

    “Every week we have another scandal involving the QBCC and Minister de Brenni at a time when proper regulation of the industry has never been more important.”

    Opposition public works spokesman Tim Mander said this was another example of Mr de Brenni not following the rules.

    “The Right to Information Officer is admitting she is deliberately keeping stuff out,” Mr Mander said.

    “Every week another QBCC scandal comes to light.

    “Just last week we heard further evidence of Ministerial intervention in to QBCC operational matters despite de Brenni’s denials.

    “Allegations of a conflict of interest by Board Members gave us no choice but to call for a commission of inquiry.

    “There must be a full and thorough review into the QBCC and how much influence the Minister has over it.”

    Mr de Brenni has been under fire over claims he made to parliament that he and his office did not get involved in QBCC operational matters.

    Emails show the former commissioner Bret Bassett had regular correspondence with Mr de Brenni’s office but the Minister says there has been no interference from his office.