Coalition delivers blow to local government referendum’s ‘Yes’ campaign

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott meet local residents at Whittlesea RSL club. Photo: Penny StephensBipartisan support for the local government referendum appears to have collapsed with Coalition frontbencher Christopher Pyne advising the Australia Local Government Association to call on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to ”pull” the upcoming vote.
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This came after Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said he had ”enormous reservations” about the referendum to recognise local government in the constitution, delivering a serious blow to the ”Yes” campaign.

Constitutional expert Professor George Williams has previously noted the referendum will only succeed if there is strong support from the Coalition.

Mr Abbott told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday that the referendum had been mishandled by the government, and encouraged voters to tick ”No” if they had concerns about it.

He said Labor had ignored the advice of the committee that explored the issue, and had failed to properly consult state governments.

”This thing has been done badly and undemocratically,” Mr Abbott said.

”I say to the Australian people, if you don’t understand it, don’t vote for it.”

In Adelaide on Tuesday, Mr Pyne – who is not the Coalition’s spokesman on the matter – said the government had not laid the groundwork for the referendum to pass.

Mr Pyne said Labor had instead created the referendum as a ”distraction” from its troubles.

”My advice to the Australian Local Government Association is they should ask the Prime Minister to pull the referendum … because I believe it will be defeated under the current circumstances and if it is defeated a third time, no government will want to return to it again,” he said.

Mr Pyne said people were confused about what was happening in Canberra, ”let alone being asked to pass a change on the Constitution”.

The Coalition’s spokesman on local government, Barnaby Joyce, told Sky News shortly after Mr Pyne’s doorstop that it was for the Local Government Association to ”determine where the best chances lie” for the referendum.

While Senator Joyce has agreed to campaign for a ”Yes” vote, he said its chances of success were being ”clouded by complete chaos”.

The referendum will ask voters whether or not they agree to the financial recognition of local government in the Constitution, amending section 96, which deals with financial assistance to the states.

This would guarantee the federal government’s ability to directly fund local government projects such as the Roads to Recovery program, as well as services such as childcare, sporting fields, swimming pools and libraries.

In May, former prime minister Julia Gillard announced the referendum would be held in conjuction with the September 14 election.

It could still be held in conjunction with a September 14 poll, or later. But now that the election date is due to change, there are question marks over the referendum.

The Coalition had already registered reservations about the referendum.

When the Senate voted on the referendum last month, seven Coalition MPs crossed the floor to vote against the bill and about a dozen others abstained.

Last month, the government also revealed that the campaign against recognising local government in the constitution would receive one twentieth of the public funding allocated to the ”Yes” case – a move that also angered some within the Coalition ranks.

The “No” case will receive $500,000 while the “Yes” case will get $10 million, which Anthony Albanese argued was allocated based on the level of support in the Parliament.

In May, the referendum bill passed the lower house, 134 votes to 2.

Australia does not have a strong history of supporting referendums. Similar attempts to recognise local government in 1974 and 1988 were not successful and only eight referendums out of 44 have been successful since 1906.

The Local Government Association has been contacted for comment.

With AAP

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Rudd tries to hit ‘reset button’ with business

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with his new ministry. Photo: Andrew Meares Photo: Andrew MearesThe business community has renewed calls for an early election, despite Kevin Rudd’s attempts to repair Labor’s relationship with business.
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On Tuesday morning, Mr Rudd met with the Business Council of Australia for the first time since being reinstated as Prime Minister.

Mr Rudd promised last week that one of the first things he would do as leader was work ”very closely” with business.

President of the BCA, Tony Shepherd, described the meeting with Mr Rudd as “useful” and “constructive” but said he still wanted an election as soon as possible.

It has been speculated that Mr Rudd wants to delay the election beyond September 14.

“We believe an early election would be a good way of settling down business confidence,” Mr Shepherd said immediately after the meeting in Canberra.

“I think that business is on hold at the present time, and the sooner that that can be resolved the better it will be for everybody.”

Since replacing Julia Gillard as Prime Minister, Mr Rudd has distanced himself from the rhetoric of former treasurer, Wayne Swan, who alienated some business leaders by lashing out at billionaires, including Clive Palmer and Gina Rinehart.

Besides abandoning the former treasurer’s rhetoric, Mr Rudd is understood to be considering at least one policy change favoured by business. He would prefer to abandon the carbon tax and move quickly to a floating price on carbon, linked to global markets.

In his first speech after the leadership spill, Mr Rudd made a direct plea to business: “Let me say this to Australian business: I want to work closely with you.”

Mr Rudd reminisced about how closely he worked with business in the past, particularly during the global financial crisis.

“I’m saying it loud and clear to businesses large and small across the country, that in partnership we can do great things for the country’s future,” Mr Rudd said.

“Business is a group that this government will work with very closely.”

Mr Shepherd was cautious when asked whether he thought Mr Rudd had changed and would listen more to business.

“We’ll see that play out in the future,” he said. “But it was a constructive meeting … I think it’s an opportunity to hit the reset button.”

Mr Shepherd said the BCA’s conversation with Mr Rudd was mostly a “general” discussion about the relationship between government and business and about productivity.

They did not discuss Labor’s contentious crackdown on foreign workers allegedly “rorting” the 457 visa program.

Others in the business community have been cautiously positive about the new Prime Minister.

Last Friday, the chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, Innes Willox, told ABC radio he was encouraged to see Labor trying to “reset the relationship” with business.

“Look, there was a chequered history with the Rudd government,” Mr Willox said.

“But there has been quite significant outreach from parts of the government.”

Labor could start by trying to “get the tone of language right”, Mr Willox said.

“We’ve had a couple of years of unfortunate use of language at times around the business community and those who do business in Australia.

“So if we can get the tone right, that would be a most welcome step.”

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Girl found barely hurt in booster seat after being thrown 10 metres from car

A girl, 6, who was strapped into her booster seat and thrown 10 metres from a car during a collision in Sydney’s north has escaped with minor cuts and bruises.
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Police found the girl, still strapped into her booster seat, on the F3 at Waroonga after a car and truck collided about 10am on Tuesday, Careflight spokesman Ian Badham said.

All northbound lanes of the freeway were blocked to traffic to allow a CareFlight helicopter to land at Hornsby.

Paramedics were called to initial reports of a girl who was not breathing with head injuries.

The CareFlight doctor said he was amazed to find the six-year-old girl, of Engadine, suffering only bruising and cuts to her head.

“Police told the doctor they reached the crash scene to find the girl, still strapped in her booster seat, after she was thrown over 10 metres from the car,” Mr Badham said.

The girl was taken in a stable condition by a road ambulance to the Children’s Hospital at Westmead for observation.

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It’s only plonk if you look at the price tag

Our brains feel more pleasure when we think we are drinking a $45 wine instead of a $5 bottleSo you think you can tell fine wine from plonk without reading the label? You might be deluded because, economists say, our grasp of wine’s class and worth is shaky. Several scathing studies suggest we are suckers for mystique and marketing – the price tag-driven power of suggestion.
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According to the industry blog The Wine Economist, the wine retailing industry’s ”dirty little secret” is that we automatically lean towards dearer brands. On the hunt, we look at least for a mid-range bottle, irrespective of other dynamics, swayed by the brainwashed belief we should spend proper money. Nobody wants to look crass.

Our unease about buying plonk is exploited by supermarkets. Cheap brands are shelved near the floor, forcing anyone who feels moved to buy an everyday table wine to stoop – so demeaning.

The contrarian case for still taking the low-rent road and picking plonk is anchored in an anecdote about wine tycoon Ernest Gallo. The Wine Economist recounts how, during the 1930s, Gallo poured a customer two glasses of wine, saying that one sold for 5¢ and the other for double. Both were the same, but guess which the customer chose – the 10¢ one.

”Clearly, the customer wanted to buy an identity – the image of someone who wouldn’t drink that 5¢ rotgut – even if he couldn’t actually taste the difference,” The Wine Economist says.

The mystery client’s suspect belief that pricey wine has more class than its low-cost counterpart is widely shared, science shows.

In 2001, the cheeky University of Bordeaux researcher Frederic Brochet ran two experiments. In one, Brochet tested the impact of labelling, presenting the same Bordeaux superior wine to 54 volunteers in two different bottles: one fancy, one plain. Duly duped, although they were tasting the same wine, the volunteers ranked the wine from the ”expensive” bottle higher than the wine from the ”cheap” bottle. In the second humiliating test that underlined the depth of consumer naivety, Brochet had 54 volunteers taste white wine dyed red with food colouring. Incredibly, all failed to sense it was fake.

Further evidence that we are blind about wine comes from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). In a 2008 Caltech study, 20 volunteers connected to brain scanners sampled a range of wines.

The Caltech study showed that our brains feel more pleasure when we think we are drinking a $45 wine instead of a $5 bottle – even when the vino is the same.

It gets worse. In 2011, a British psychologist devoted to exposing the frailties of human perception, Richard Wiseman, ran a double-blind wine test featuring stock ranging from a $5 Bordeaux to a $50 champagne.

The 578 experiment participants rightly identified pricey varieties only half the time – the same level as guesswork. Go for the plonk, Wiseman advised.

Wiseman’s subversive findings spurred former Wired writer Jonah Lehrer to say that, if pricey wines taste no better, then the wine sector has no business model. ”It’s yellow tail all the way down,” Lehrer wrote.

Clearly, the case for spurning that costly vintage fancifully linked with some chateau is strong – it might well taste like vinegar.

Worse, the pate that accompanies your fancy wine could be just as dubious. A 2006 study published by the American Association of Wine Economists found that most people cannot tell pate from dog food. Remember that the next time you seek a snack to go with your snobby grand cru.

Can you tell the difference between expensive wine and the cheap stuff? What price would you pay for a good drop?

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Horwill cleared of stamping charge – again

Wallabies captain James Horwill will play in the series decider against the British and Irish Lions after having a stamping allegation against him dismissed for a second time.
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After more than 13 hours of deliberation, International Rugby Board-appointed judicial officer Graeme Mew found on Tuesday there was no reason to overturn an earlier decision that Horwill had not intentionally stamped on the head of Lions second rower Alun Wyn Jones during the first Test in Brisbane on June 22.

The incident occurred during the third minute of the Lions 23-21 victory over the Wallabies. Horwill struck Jones in the head during a ruck. The Lions second rower played out most of the match and required stitches to his eye after the full-time bell.

The Lions referred the matter to the citing commissioner after the game, but a four-hour hearing in front of IRB-appointed judicial officer Nigel Hampton QC last Sunday night found there was sufficient merit in Horwill’s explanation that he was “spun off balance” by Lions players entering the ruck from the other side.

The decision was controversially overturned by the IRB on Thursday night and while the board did not provide a clear reason why, they cited the “preservation of player welfare”.

“It is important for the IRB to ensure amongst all stakeholders in the game that there is full confidence that priority is given to player welfare and the values of the game,” the IRB said at the time.

Horwill claimed he was unaware of the incident until he was cited and had a chance to view footage from the game.

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