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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QBE on track to reach $US250 million in savings

Insurer QBE is on track to meet its savings targets.QBE says it is on track to hit its target to cut costs by “at least” $US250 million by 2015, as it replaces hundreds of jobs in western countries with staff in Manila.
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The global insurer also affirmed its full-year guidance on Tuesday, as it benefits from relatively few natural disasters and the recent fall in the Aussie dollar.

At midday its shares had risen 2.6 per cent, or 39.5c, to $15.70.

QBE, which is looking to rationalise its operations after a spate of acquisition-led growth under former boss Frank O’Halloran, earlier this year unveiled a plan to save $US250 million a year by 2015 by sending about 700 positions to the Philippines.

As the changes are rolled out across its Australian division, chief executive John Neal today stressed that he expected expenses would be cut by “at least” $US250 million as a result of the program.

The cost-cutting push will also result in changes to its operations in North America and Europe – where the company may also look to carry-out cuts in its European business slightly earlier than expected.

“This is very much the start, the first wave if you like, and there will be more activity that will follow,” Mr Neal said.

So far, 521 positions in Australia have been affected by the offshoring changes.

Most of these staff are set to be redeployed within the group, while 39 have been made redundant, and 52 contractor positions have not been renewed.

The chief executive of its Australian arm, Colin Fagen, said QBE was “extremely confident” it would save more than the original $85 million in costs that it had planned to trim from its Australian operations by 2015 through the offshoring changes.

This was likely to occur because the company’s redundancy costs had been lower than expected, while the volume of work being carried out in Manila had exceeded expectations.

Mr Neal also said he was confident the company expected to hit its full-year forecast for premiums to increase by about 5 per cent, and indicated it had benefited from several one-off factors.

He said conditions were “very positive” in Australia and North America but tougher in Europe, where rates were flat.

“It’s still very very early days in the year but we are quite relaxed about where we see ourselves for the half year.”

QBE, which reports its profits on a calendar year basis, will present its half-year results in August.

Insurers have benefited relatively few natural disasters in recent months, while QBE has extensive US operations, so it tends to benefit from a falling Australian dollar.

“Overall, the weakening in the Australian dollar is good news for us, but it does bring some complications,” Mr Neal said.

Deutsche Bank analyst Kieran Chidgey said the progress on cost-cutting and positive one-off factors should cause the “market’s conviction in QBE’s turnaround” to increase.

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Spencer rules breakfast, but Nova’s share explodes

He’s done it again; 612 ABC Brisbane announcer Spencer Howson has retained his crown as king of the lucrative breakfast radio session.
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Despite a 0.1 per cent drop, Mr Howson’s 13.1 per cent market share is still firmly in front of his commercial rivals, ratings agency Nielson confirmed on Tuesday.

But DMG’s Nova106.9 breakfast team of Ash Bradnam, David ‘Luttsy’ Lutteral and Kip Wightman closed in on Aunty’s star, gaining 1.1 per cent to steal the number two spot from Robin Bailey, Terry Hansen and Bob Gallaghar on ARN’s 97.3FM.

Nova also overtook 97.3 as the station with the largest overall audience through the week – a coup that rounds out its standing dominance of the weekend market.

Fairfax Radio 4BC, owned by the publishers of this website, also improved its overall market share, growing its audience by 0.9 per cent to beat 4KQ, 4BH, and the ABC’s Radio National and Triple J for the number six spot.

The station’s breakfast team also recorded a 0.4 per cent audience boost to maintain its sixth-place ranking.

Meanwhile the Triple M Grill Team – Pete Timbs, Michelle Anderson and Greg ‘Marto’ Martin – moved from fifth to fourth place, changing places with their Austereo cousins at B105 – Jason ‘Labby’ Hawkins, Stav Davidson and Abby Coleman.

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What a relief; now let’s get on with it, says Horwill

Now we can all get some sleep: Wallabies captain James Horwill, left, fronts the media with coach Robbie Deans after the judicial hearing. Photo: James BrickwoodWallabies captain James Horwill says he feels ‘‘vindicated’’ by an International Rugby Board ruling that a stamping allegation against him be dismissed for the second time in nine days.
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The Test second-rower is free to play in the series decider against the British and Irish Lions in Sydney after 12 hours of deliberation overnight on Monday produced the same result as the first hearing on June 23.

Horwill said he was ‘‘very relieved’’ to be told the news during a gym session on Tuesday morning after enduring a sleepless night in limbo.

‘‘I feel very vindicated by the way it’s gone,’’ he said. ‘‘I love what I do and it means a hell of a lot to represent my country and not only to represent it but the opportunity to lead in what is probably the biggest game in this country since the 2003 World Cup final. I’m very excited and now we can focus on the game and that’s what is important.’’

The decision was handed down by Canadian judicial officer Graeme Mew  at about 10am on Tuesday, 12 hours after he took final submissions from Horwill, his legal counsel and the Australian Rugby Union.

Mew found there was no cause to overturn the original ruling of judicial officer Nigel Hampton QC, who said on June 23 that he could not find an intentional or deliberate action of stamping or trampling on the head of Lions second rower Alun Wyn Jones.

‘‘For the appeal to succeed the IRB would have to establish that there was some misapprehension of law or principle by the judicial officer or that his decision was so clearly wrong or manifestly unreasonable that no judicial officer could have reached the conclusion that he did,’’ Mew noted in his judgement.

‘‘There was sufficient evidence upon which a reasonable judicial officer could have reached the decision that was made.

‘‘Accordingly, it could not be said that the judicial officer was manifestly wrong or that the interests of justice otherwise required his decision be overturned.’’

Horwill accepted the decision calmly on Tuesday but was obviously pleased to have the uncertainty behind him.

‘‘I can’t complain. It’s been a very fair process both times; as I said before, the hearings have been very fair and the process is what it is,’’ he said, after  thanking the public for their support.

‘‘My family and the team have been very overwhelmed by the amount of support we’ve received so I thank you very much and it’s now time to get on with football.’’

The original incident occurred in the third minute of the Lions’ 23-21 victory over the Wallabies in the first Test.

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 Hampton last Sunday night found there was enough 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,  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 said he had been unaware of the incident until he was cited and had a chance to view footage from the game.

Rugby Union Players’ Association chief executive Greg Harris congratulated Horwill on being cleared to play.

‘‘James Horwill was initially cleared of the stamping charge as per the IRB’s established judicial process.

“RUPA, like the ARU, was both surprised and disappointed that the finding of the IRB appointed judicial officer, Nigel Hampton QC, from New Zealand was deemed to be ‘erroneous’.

‘‘The fact that the verdict was not delivered until midday on Tuesday added significant disruption to the preparation of the Wallabies team for the third, and deciding Test.

‘‘RUPA still remains sufficiently concerned with the perceived inconsistencies with the processes and as such has raised the matter with the International Rugby Players’ Association and requested that IRPA raise the matter formally with the IRB.’’

Harris said the case set a dangerous precedent by the IRB and that not only the RUPA membership, but the broader rugby community in Australia, were concerned about the motives behind the decision to refer the matter again.

‘‘James is the Australian captain and is a sportsman of impeccable character who in 130 professional games had never been cited.

“He always had the full support of RUPA and his fellow players no matter what the outcome of the IRB’s judicial processes were to be,’’ Harris said.

The IRB released a statement a short time ago accepting Mew’s decision.

‘‘While ultimately not proving successful in its appeal, the IRB is satisfied that it took the right approach,’’ the statement said.

‘‘The IRB would like to acknowledge the professional manner in which the Australian Rugby Union managed the process as host union of the tour.’’

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Electrocution ruled out as cause of man’s death

POLICE investigating the death of a man on his boat moored at Soldiers Point marina have ruled out electrocution as the cause of death.
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Evidence at the crime scene had earlier indicated to police to ‘‘suggest that electricity may have been a contributing factor’’, a police statement said.

However, Port Stephens crime manager Detective Inspector Matt Moroney has confirmed to theherald南京夜网.au that further investigation of the scene had since ruled out the electricity theory.

The death of the man, 55, is also not being treated as suspicious or a result of self-harm.

He had been living on the boat, which was moored at the marina, with his two cats.

A crime scene remains at the marina while forensic officers process the area.

An autopsy should reveal the cause of death later this week.

The scene at Soldiers Point Marina on Tuesday. Picture: Ryan Osland

The scene at Soldiers Point Marina on Tuesday. Picture: Ryan Osland

The scene at Soldiers Point Marina on Tuesday. Picture: Ryan Osland

The scene at Soldiers Point Marina on Tuesday. Picture: Ryan Osland

Fox grilled over alleged tip-off: inquiry

ARCHIVE of Herald reports
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SERIOUS doubts have been cast over allegations that former Maitland-Newcastle bishop Michael Malone allegedly tipped off a priest that he was being investigated over claims of child sex abuse and told him who the complainant was.

Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox made the claim before the Special Commission of Inquiry in Newcastle on Tuesday morning, but his recollection of the event has been heavily questioned.

Under examination by counsel assisting the inquiry, Julia Lonergan SC, Fox was asked about a complaint he received in 2002 from a victim, known only as AH.

Fox told the inquiry that AH was “very distraught” when she called him. She allegedly told Fox that Bishop Malone had spoken to Father James Fletcher, disclosed AH’s real name to him and told him that she had made a complaint to police about his sexual abuse of her.

Fox later told the inquiry that he held a meeting with Bishop Malone and asked him about what he had told Fr Fletcher. Fox conceded that neither he or the other police officer who attended the meeting took any notes at their meeting with Malone.

In his evidence, Mr Fox said he contemplated laying charges against Bishop Malone, given that “potential evidence was destroyed”.

But serious doubts have been cast over Mr Fox’s recollection of the meeting and when he made reports about it.

One report given to the commission by Fox was not dated, and his evidence provided on Tuesday was at odds with another statement and evidence he gave the commission in a private hearing in May this year.

Commissioner Margaret Cunneen took the unusual step of lifting a suppression order on extracts of a transcript taken during the private hearings last month which showsthat Fox’s evidence was contradictory.

Ms Lonergan suggested to Fox that there “were elements of reconstruction” in Mr Fox’s new version of events, raising “serious questions about its reliability”.

She alleged that Mr Fox was changing his evidence to “make people think it’s more reliable than it actually is”.

Mr Fox rejected the suggestion.

Ms Lonergan asked Fox if he deliberately set out to mislead the commission.

Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox leaves Newcastle Supreme Court at lunch on Tuesday. Picture: Darren Pateman

Mr Fox also rejected that suggestion.

The inquiry continues.