Qld donations inquiry won’t probe unions

An inquiry into political donations in Queensland doesn’t need to investigate the influence of union donors, the Labor government says.


Deputy Premier Jackie Trad says the purpose of the inquiry, which the government wants the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) to lead, is to consider links between donations and the awarding of government contracts.

She says the probe is aimed at the former Liberal National Party government.

However, Ms Trad claims union donations are unlikely to be examined because governments do not award tenders and contracts to trade unions.

“How many government decisions are made that are actually about giving unions tenders? It doesn’t happen,” she said.

“It’s about the donations to the political party of the day that’s governing and decisions made by that government in relation to awarding tenders and to spend government money.”

The deputy premier admitted unions lobbied governments, like business and environmental groups, but it was all above board and part of any healthy democracy.

While Ms Trad brushed off the need to examine union donations, she listed specific matters involving LNP she wanted investigated.

Those include the LNP’s approval of the expansion of the Acland coal mine and retrospective legal changes advantaging LNP donors Karreman Quarries and Sibelco.

Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg said overlooking unions was hypocritical and proved the inquiry was “an absolute witch-hunt”.

“They’re imposing one set of standards on the LNP and a totally different set of standards on themselves,” he said.

Mr Springborg said Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was repeating the same mistake as Anna Bligh during the 2012 election when tried to incriminate LNP leader Campbell Newman by referring him to the then Crime and Misconduct Commission.

The opposition leader said Labor’s actions only diminished the integrity of the watchdog at the time, and Ms Palaszczuk was repeating history.

“She is politicising the Crime and Corruption Commission in Queensland, this is completely wrong and she should move away from that immediately,” he said.


Timbertop like Lord of the Flies: inquiry

Life was “brutal” at Timbertop, much like the scenes depicted in William Golding’s classic novel about the descent into barbarity of a group of marooned schoolboys.


That’s how former student BKO recalls his time at Geelong Grammar School’s rural campus, famously attended for two terms by Prince Charles in 1966.

In Golding’s book Lord of the Flies, the stranded boys run riot and turn on one another once they are removed from the rules of civilisation.

BKO, who spent a year at Timbertop in 1973, describes the school campus on 325-hectares of bush and farming land as an unusual and “quite a brutal” environment.

“You’re out in the bush with 14 other boys in your unit and you live very closely with those boys.”

He said it was very different to Geelong Grammar’s Corio campus, where if you did not get on with somebody you did not really have to see them much at all.

“But at Timbertop you’re forced together and it’s a Lord of the Flies type situation at times,” BKO told the child abuse royal commission on Wednesday.

BKO said when he started as a 10-year-old boarder at Geelong Grammar in 1969 it was like an English boarding school with strict rules and no court of appeal.

By the time he was in year 11 and 12, the school had become co-educational and far more relaxed.

BKO recalled that when he was in year six, a year two boy was “completely victimised” by the other boarders at the Glamorgan primary school.

“The treatment of this boy was the saddest thing that I saw at that school.

“I just add, 47 years later, I still hear the timbre and the tone of his voice as he cries and screams and yells. He was just a little boy.

“I’m disappointed that I didn’t do anything to help him.”

BKO and others have told the royal commission hearing into five decades of abuse at one of Australia’s most prestigious schools that Geelong Grammar was strict and authoritarian.

“It started with the staff and it worked its way down through the school years,” BKO said.

Victim BKV became a boarder in the senior school on the main Corio campus in 1971 but found it quite different from Glamorgan.

“Discipline was strict and almost extreme,” BKV said in a statement read by counsel assisting the commission David Lloyd.

“It was a pretty severe environment to grow up in.

“I think it was intended to be a place to build character and to be a pretty hard place.”

BKV believes the abuse he suffered from a teacher contributed to him playing up at school.

“Sitting on a secret and not feeling safe won’t have helped anything.

“I don’t hold any grudge against the school but I think there was something about the culture and the way they didn’t stop this sort of abuse happening.”


Emissions to rise under rules: experts

New rules for the federal government’s direct action climate policy will allow major industry to increase their greenhouse emissions, experts say.


Environment Minister Greg Hunt on Wednesday released proposed rules and regulations for the emission reduction fund’s “safeguard mechanism”.

The mechanism, due to start in July 2016, is being put in place to ensure that higher emissions by industry and power generators don’t undo emission reductions bought through the $2.5 billion ERF.

The government wants to finalise the rules in October.

Mr Hunt has also left the way open for businesses to access international units in 2017/18 subject to the result of the Paris climate conference in December.

The government has set a target of cutting Australia’s emissions by 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

“Only the coalition is committed to taking serious action to tackle climate change without hurting Australian families and businesses in the process with a painful carbon tax,” Mr Hunt said.

But market analysts Reputex say Australia’s highest emitting companies will in fact increase their emissions by 20 per cent over the next 15 years.

None of the top 20 emitters – including power stations Loy Yang A and B, Hazelwood, Bayswater, Yallourn, and new LNG processing facilities such as Wheatstone, Gorgon, Itchys and Pluto – will be forced to reduce their emissions.

“We project emissions covered by the safeguard scheme will grow by around 20 per cent through to 2030, which will put the new emissions target well out of the picture,” the analysts said in a statement.

Labor environment spokesman Mark Butler said it showed the coalition’s direct action plan was a “cruel hoax on future generations”.

“There is no obligation at all on Australia’s biggest polluters to reduce their pollution – indeed, Mr Abbott provides them with a range of options to increase their pollution,” Mr Butler said.

Climate Institute CEO John Connor said the safeguard mechanism was “more a pollution trampoline than a safety net”.

“It explicitly lets the industry from the last century off the hook and will only frustrate the billions of dollars of new investment needed in clean technology and innovation,” he said.

However Mr Connor said he welcomed the government leaving the door open for international carbon abatement permits.


Siege gun a terrible reminder at inquest

The appearance of the squat, ugly weapon used by killer Man Haron Monis came as a shock in the orderly courtroom confines of the Sydney siege inquest.


That the gun would be produced was no surprise – counsel assisting the inquest Jeremy Gormly SC had warned in advance the sawn-off shotgun had to be shown.

But after recent hearings dominated by lengthy legal argument, the brutal weapon was a jarring return to the dreadful reality of the business before the court.

The families of victims Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson were absent from the court during the evidence.

Counsel assisting the inquiry Jeremy Gormly SC had given notice that the grim exhibit would be shown and the only siege survivor present was Louisa Hope.

Outside the inquest, Ms Hope said it was a challenging experience.

Grim as it was, it was necessary in an inquest that must give the coroner a full understanding of every element of the siege.

NSW Police crime scene officer Walter Murphy demonstrated the gun’s lethal capabilities, using dummy cartridges to show how it could fire four shots in as little as five seconds seconds.

The gun was roughly cut down from over 1.2m to just 58cm, Mr Murphy said, most likely by someone who wasn’t highly skilled with their tools.

It showed signs of wear and possibly poor maintenance, but Mr Murphy was unable to offer any insight into its prior use.

The history of the gun remains murky: imported into Australia in the 1950s, it has never been registered and is believed to have come from the “grey market” of 250,000 cheap, illegal rifles and shotguns available in Australia.

There have been objections to images of the gun being shown but Mr Gormly said at the opening of the current hearing that it served a purpose.

“It is important that an image be shown in circumstances where so worryingly it is one of a great number of firearms floating around on the grey market in this country, capable of doing great harm in the wrong hands,” he said.

Even as the inquest goes on, police are continuing their investigations. How Monis got his hands on the gun, Mr Gormly said, is still very much an active line of inquiry.


Ebola, fire threaten to derail Commonwealth Youth Games

The organisation had barely stared down a request for sanctions be levelled against Samoa, just days before the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games began, before Caribbean nation St Lucia withdrew from hosting the 2017 Games for financial reasons.


Samoa, which is hosting the fifth edition of the Youth Games from Sept. 5-11, had refused to issue visas to the Sierra Leone team due to the fear of the Ebola virus in west Africa.

Delegates from Ghana had proposed issuing sanctions against the South Pacific nation, or the CGF could at least reimburse Sierra Leone for costs incurred for preparing a team to compete in Samoa.

CGF chief executive David Grevemberg added the organisation had done all it could to try to change the Samoan government’s mind, but were unsuccessful.

Outgoing President Prince Tunku Imran managed to defuse the situation while delegates from Fiji and St Vincent and the Grenadines suggested sanctions would be disproportionate for what was a health decision made by a sovereign government.

The CGF was then told that St Lucia had to withdraw from hosting the 2017 event after a fire had caused severe damage to a hospital in the south of the island, meaning the national stadium had been adapted into a temporary medical facility.

Design issues, however, had slowed the rebuild of the hospital, which would now not be completed until 2016 and the cost of returning the stadium to a sports facility was in excess of $15 million and also not be completed in time for the Games.

Prince Imran said that Canada and Scotland had expressed an interest in hosting the 2017 Games.

“The board met earlier this morning and decided to put this to the meeting, but also give the other members who would like to offer to host the Youth Games in 2017 a chance,” Prince Imran said.

Grevemberg said the CGF had not received any official bids but would call for initial expressions of interest by the end of October and then initiate the formal process after that.

(Editing by John O’Brien)


McEnroe backs Hewitt as Kyrgios’ mentor

John McEnroe says embattled Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios couldn’t have a better man in his corner than Lleyton Hewitt.


After hosting Kyrgios at his Bahamas base last week as the 20-year-old was crucified by the tennis world and sanctioned by the ATP for his sledging of Stan Wawrinka, Hewitt took up a front-row seat in his Davis Cup teammate’s courtside box for his US Open clash with Andy Murray on Tuesday night.

ESPN listed Hewitt as the coachless Kyrgios’ “advisor” and, commentating for the network, McEnroe said it was a masterstroke to turn to “one of the greatest competitors in the history of tennis”.

“It’s a good move from Kyrgios. It could be just what the doctor ordered,” said tennis’ original superbrat.

A big fan of Kyrgios, McEnroe said he was as much concerned about the two-time grand slam quarter-finalist’s loose game management as his conduct.

“Obviously that next guy he gets to coach him is going to be extremely important to him; to get the right guy, the right people around him,” McEnroe said.

Hewitt, who endured his own troubles after polarising fans early in his career, said he sympathised with Kyrgios.

“I do feel for him. He’s a good kid,” Hewitt said after advancing to the second round at Flushing Meadows for the 13th time on Tuesday.

“As a bloke, he’s pretty reserved for how you see him on the court.

“He trusts me at least, which is a big step forward. Obviously I’ve been able to earn that trust being in Davis Cup teams and showing that I do care about his career.”

Kyrgios credited Hewitt for helping him get in the right head space for the US Open despite the flak flying around him.

“He’s a mentor for me,” Kyrgios said after his four-set loss to Murray at Flushing Meadows.

“He’s been helping myself, Thanasi (Kokkinakis) out as well. He’s taken time out. I’m really thankful for that. He’s really helped me a lot the last couple weeks.

“He’s been a massive part of getting my head stable, and being able to have the performance tonight, I think that’s massive. Yeah, that’s all Lleyton.

“It’s easy to listen to him obviously. He’s been there. He’s won grand slams. He’s won here. But he’s been through it all.

“I think we’ve got a really good relationship now, which is going to be unbelievable for Davis Cup. I have really good trust in him.”

Six-times major winner and former world No.1 Boris Becker, now coaching the top-ranked Novak Djokovic, was another interested observer at Kyrgios’ match.

The German dubbed Kyrgios “a character”, but said he needed to tone down his on-court antics and start making headlines for his tennis instead of his trash talking.

“I’ve learned that he’s extremely talented, that he could be a much better player if he stopped his talk,” Becker said.