Archive for May, 2019 | Monthly archive page

Tony Abbott’s threats, scare tactics only dig him a deeper hole

Tuesday, May 7th, 2019

Tony Abbott’s speech to the National Press Club was a chance to show his party that he can turn a losing government into a winning one.

Instead, he confirmed the widespread suspicion that he is incapable of reinvigorating his government.

He sought to project steadiness, but when he resorted to trying to scare his own party his performance verged on desperation.

He resorted to trying to frighten MPs with the prospect that they would be doomed if they repeated Labor’s “political assassinations”.

He even told his party that they didn’t have the right to remove him: “It’s the people that hire and, frankly, it’s the people that should fire.”

This was not wise. MPs cherish their prerogative to choose their own leader.

Julie Bishop counselled restive Liberal MPs last week to give Abbott a chance to recover, that his speech to the press club would set out a “compelling narrative” for the government.

In the event, there was nothing compelling and not much of a narrative.

The speech was premised on the idea that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the government or its program, only its communications.

This is deeply frustrating to his backbench.

Most of Abbott’s time was spent reiterating previous themes, justifying old decisions and promising to consult his colleagues more.

“There was no forward agenda at all,” said an MP critical of Abbott’s leadership.

The headline item was Abbott’s conciliatory gesture to dump his costly and unpopular paid parental leave scheme, which he had imposed on his party without consultation.

He promised to lead “the most consultative and the most collegial government this country has ever seen.”

One of his MPs privately snapped: “We’re supposed to be in this new era of consultation, so he dumps a policy we took to two elections, a policy we’ve all been out defending for a year and a half, without consulting any of us.”

Another MP griped that Abbott had insulted voters who had voted Labor at the Victorian state election.

Abbott called it “a fit of absent mindedness when people elect Labor governments.”

The MP said: “We need people who voted Labor to switch and vote for us. So what does Abbott tell them: ‘You are idiots – vote for us.'”

Overall, Abbott’s performance did much more to arm his critics than his defenders.

The Liberal MPs who seemed to be impressed were the ones already on his side.

“I don’t think it resolved anything,” said a member of the government.”

Rather than a mea culpa for breaking promises, Abbott tried to justify them.

He drew a novel distinction between keeping promises and “keeping faith.” Keeping faith involved delivering on the government’s election mantra of stopping the boats, and so on.

Promises to the voters, he implied, were a lesser order of commitment.

In another defensive move, Abbott’s office has drawn up an extensive program of prime ministerial visits to the electorates of his MPs, an effort to shore up support.

It may well be too late: “The mood for change is overwhelming,” testified an MP.

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Former bankerColin Towner dies on alpine bike ride

Tuesday, May 7th, 2019

Colin Towner. Pic: Supplied

VALENTINE’S Colin Towner, 73, was an outdoorsman and nature lover.

He died on Monday while mountain biking in alpine country.

Mr Towner was riding a trail with a group in Kosciuszko National Park, 23 kilometres west of Jindabyne, police said.

Mary Towner said her husband had arrived on Sunday with the Newcastle Bushwalking Club to spend a week in the area.

‘‘They go down there every year,’’ Mrs Towner said.

Her husband loved nature and fitness, she said.

Colin Towner’s family, wife Mary (left) with great granddaughter Katie, son Geoff, grandsons Jamie and Mathew, granddaughter Rebecca, and daughter Lyn. Pictured at home in Valentine. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

‘‘He used to go bushwalking a lot but he did his knee and needed a knee replacement, so he couldn’t do bushwalking any more,’’ she said.

‘‘He did bike riding instead.’’

Police said Mr Towner ‘‘fell from his bike down a ditch beside the trail’’.

The accident happened just before 10.30am on Monday.

Mr Towner had been staying at a Thredbo lodge with the group, police said.

The bushwalking club’s president Ray Williams said Mr Towner’s death would leave ‘‘a big gap in our lives’’.

‘‘He was a fantastic bloke – not many blokes like that come along in a lifetime,’’ Mr Williams, of Rankin Park, said.

‘‘One good thing is he was doing what he loved.’’

Monaro Police Inspector Michael Handley said Mr Towner was alone when the accident occurred.

‘‘He was found lying next to a creek, beside the track,’’ Inspector Handley said.

‘‘Nobody saw what happened.’’

Other members of the group were behind and in front of Mr Towner, but not close enough to witness the incident.

‘‘By the time emergency services arrived, he had died,’’ he said. ‘‘They rendered first aid, however, they were unable to revive him.’’

Inspector Handley said Mr Towner had ‘‘some marks on his helmet’’ and a cut forehead.

Police said the cause of death would not be known until after an autopsy.

‘‘We either think he’s hit an embankment and gone over and hit his head or had a heart attack,’’ Mrs Towner said.

Mr Towner was a retired bank manager who had lived in Lake Macquarie for about 35 years.

‘‘He loved life,’’ Mrs Towner said.

‘‘He was a loving husband, good father and good provider.’’

He had a boat and kayak and ‘‘liked to be out doing things’’.

‘‘He was supposed to go on a kayak trip at the end of the month down the Murray River,’’ she said.

Mr Williams, 70, was not on the alpine trip but was ‘‘just out having a beer and lunch with him at Stockton last Thursday, planning our trip down the Murray’’

Mr Towner had three adult children and seven grandchildren.

Residents fear tainted water from mining

Tuesday, May 7th, 2019

ACTION: Resident Deidre Olofsson.THE state government is under increased pressure to stop mining activities from contaminating precious groundwater reserves.

THE state government is under increased pressure to stop mining activities from contaminating precious groundwater reserves.

Water experts and environment groups are concerned existing policies such as the aquifer interference policy and groundwater protection policy may not fully safeguard water reserves.

Deidre Olofsson of Camberwell has written to NSW chief scientist Mary O’Kane for information about the protection of groundwater in the Hunter. “The cumulative impacts of a development on groundwater quality should be recognised,” she said.

An estimated 30 post-mining voids, some up to 200-metres deep, will be left in coming decades. Ms Olofsson said she was particularly concerned about the long-term impact the voids would have on water supplies.

“The issue of final voids and the actions that the sink has on groundwater systems is a major concern,” she said.

“There is also the issue of how the conduit [the medium through which the water travels] affects the transmission of water down a gradient.”

Ms Olofsson said there were also concerns about how far pollutants such as heavy metals and salinity could travel once they had entered an aquifer system.

“The question of how the various conduits that run across the Hunter are interconnected is very important,” she said.

“There is real potential for water in a contaminated aquifer to travel a great distance.”

Mining-affected Upper Hunter communities protested about the impact of open-cut mining on aquifers and groundwater last year.

Federal funding returns published

Tuesday, May 7th, 2019

CLUBS, hotels, mining companies and industry groups helped line the Coalition’s and Labor’s coffers, while a slush fund that was the focus of a recent corruption hearing for funnelling money to the NSW Liberal Party is still receiving donations, federal funding returns show.

The 2013-14 returns, published by the Australian Electoral Commission on Monday, show the Australian Hotels Association NSW branch, which is banned from donating to NSW campaigns, gave about $22,000 to the federal level of the Liberal Party, about $84,500 to the ALP’s NSW branch for its federal campaigning and another $15,000 to Labor’s federal branch.

Clubs NSW shelled out more than $30,000 to the NSW Nationals, $37,000 to the NSW Liberal Party’s federal campaign and about $20,000 to the NSW ALP, including $5000 to Labor’s campaign for Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon’s seat.

Tobacco giant Phillip Morris gave about $100,000 to the federal division of the Liberal Party.

AGL Energy, which is behind the Gloucester coal seam gas project, donated $5500 to the NSW National Party and $22,500 to the NSW Liberal Party division, along with giving money to other state divisions.

Mining lobby group the NSW Minerals Council gave $5000 to the NSW ALP, which was dwarfed by the $30,000 it gave to the Liberals’ NSW division and about $10,000 that went to the NSW Nationals.

The returns show the Free Enterprise Foundation, a Canberra-based trust that came under the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s spotlight for funnelling banned donations into the NSW Liberal Party, is still receiving donations, reporting that it received about $1.4 million.

Overall, the Liberal Party of Australia reported receiving $43 million, the ALP declared $40 million, and the Palmer United Party declared $28 million – most from businesses owned by billionaire party founder Clive Palmer.

Clarke has no issues playing second fiddle to Smith

Tuesday, May 7th, 2019

REHAB: Michael Clarke.INJURY-dogged Australian captain Michael Clarke says he’d have no problem playing under the Test leadership of stand-in skipper Steve Smith.

Furiously rehabbing to prove his fitness for the World Cup, Clarke has found himself battling on another front following a report claiming teammates had moved on and preferred the leadership of the younger Smith.

Clarke on Monday insisted his relationship with his Australian teammates was “exceptional”.

Eight years Clarke’s junior, Smith enjoyed enormous success after taking over as Test skipper when Clarke suffered a hamstring injury requiring surgery.

He also made by a clean sweep of the three major Australian cricket awards at the Allan Border Medal night last week.

Meanwhile, Clarke’s long-term back problem will continue to cast an unwelcome cloud of uncertainty around the batting great.

Clarke said he’d be happy to play under Smith if it was decided the younger man should retain the captaincy even when he returned.

“Most definitely I would,” Clarke told the Triple M Grill Team in Brisbane.

“I feel for Smithy because I sat in his shoes when a lot of the media were calling for [former captain] Ricky Ponting [to go].”

“The people that sit above both him and I will make their decisions.

“Whatever they feel are the best 11 players, they will pick that 11. Whoever they feel is the best captain for the team then they’ll pick that.”

Asked about the Fairfax report which claimed teammates preferred Smith as skipper, Clarke expressed bemusement.

“I’d like to know where it’s coming from,” he said.

“It’s obviously disappointing because I haven’t been around the team . . . for the last seven weeks now I’ve been away from the group, so it is disappointing that people are writing that, but they are obviously getting their information from somewhere.

“I feel like my relationship with Cricket Australia [and] especially my teammates is exceptional.

“I speak to all my teammates regularly . . . [stand-in ODI skipper] George Bailey, Steve Smith, Darren Lehmann – the captains and the coaches – I will speak to regularly.”

Clarke is due to play for a Cricket Australia XI in a one-dayer against Bangladesh in Brisbane on Thursday. AAP