by Alan Thornhill
Australian families suffered less crime in 2012-13 than they did five years ago, according to new figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The Bureau reported that the rates for crimes such as break-in, attempted break-in, malicious property damage and motor vehicle theft were all lower.
Its Director of the National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics, William Milne said: “”physical assault and face-to-face threatened assault (rates) are also lower in the new findings.”
However, Mr Milne said women suffered from repeated physical assault more frequently than men.
He also said that alcohol – another substance – was considered by victims to be a contributing factor in 65 per cent of physical assaults.
“ Where a respondent’s most recent experience of physical assault occurred in a place of entertainment or recreation, 82 per cent of victims believed alcohol – another substance – contributed to the incident,” Mr Milne said.
by Bo Gong
By Special Writer Bo Gong
We fear that Tony Abbott’s natural modesty may have caused him to understate his achievements in the just published account of his government’s first 100 days.
So we will try to fill that gap, in this updated account, tentatively titled “One Hundred and One Days with Tony.”
In the speech that launched his election campaign, Mr Abbott promised a “no surprises, no excuses” government.
Some were slightly surprised, though, back in those early weeks, when it emerged that Mr Abbott had been claiming expenses, for participating in iron man contests and attending a colleague’s wedding, that of the delightful Sophie Mirabella.
The first duty of a politician is to stay in touch with the voters.
Tony just saw that a little more clearly than his carping critics did.
He promised, too, that your family would be $550 a year better off, once the carbon tax was abolished – and that would be his government’s first priority.
The ABC had calculated, before-hand, that this figure was exaggerated.
And Mr Abbott has now, reluctantly, accepted that the carbon tax is not likely to be abolished before July 1, when the new – and hopefully more co-operative Senators take their seats in upper house of Federal parliament.
But those bills, to abolish the carbon tax, have passed the House of Representatives.
And would anyone expect the ABC to get its sums right?
Mr Abbott admitted, in his own account of his first 100 days, that his government had made “a strong start” in keeping the promises he made before the election.
But there have also been several triumphs that he was too modest to mention.
These include setting the Indonesians right, on the internationally accepted principles of intelligence gathering.
Their President, Susilo Bambang Yudiono, sought an apology, after reports that Australian spies bugged both his phones – and those of his wife – several years ago.
Mr Abbott wrote him a nice letter, but the Indonesian president still isn’t happy.
However as our Prime Minister so patiently explained, last weekend, it is now “high time” for the Indonesians to put all that in the past.
Mr Abbott was equally firm with China calling in its ambassador to protest, when that country declared an air defence zone, over disputed islands, off its shores.
Some argue that a quiet word, through diplomatic channels, might have been a better way of dealing with our best customer, at least at this early stage.
But they don’t understand Tony’s courage.
Then there’s East Timor – and the ASIO raid on the Canberra office of Bernard Collaery – the lawyer who may be representing that country in a possible challenge to Australia, at arbitration in the Hague.
That upset US jurists, who saw it as an interference in legal processes.
Tony Abbott, though, is a man who will always defend Australia’s national interests.
Who is Gonski?
Yes, there was some misunderstanding about education funding.
Some people wanted the government to keep commitments they thought it had made.
These included funding Australia’s schools on the Gonski principles, which stress equality of opportunity for all children.
Yes, the government did take a brief nostalgic look at the old Howard formula, which had served the private schools so well, in the old days.
But Tony did perform a truly impressive double back flip on that issue, didn’t he?
Yes, Australia will get the Gonski plan, after all.
But we mustn’t mention it.
Gonski’s name has now been carefully expunged from all official records.
And then there’s Holden.
We’ll save billions, in coming years, because we won’t have to keep subsidising that unprofitable car maker.
Joe Hockey achieved that, on Tony’s watch, by telling that GM company that it had to decide whether it was “in or out.”
A few thousand subsidised jobs may be lost, but many new ones will be picked up, when the Olympic Dam project gets under way.
After all, developments, like these, are just early steps on Tony’s path to prosperity.
But what of debt and deficit?
Tony fixed the first of those problems, in a little deal with the Greens, which saw the $300 billion cap on Federal debt scrapped altogether.
And true, Mr Abbott did say, before the election, that he would be well on the way to producing a surplus, as he approached the end of his first term.
He is a little less sure of that now.
But that’s because of the appalling state of the nation’s finances, after six years of big spending Labor governments.
Joe Hockey will make that clear, when he produces his budget update, later today.
This is not a question of excuses or blame shifting.
It’d just that Tony Abbott, himself, recognises, very clearly, the importance of speaking honestly, in such matters.
by Alan Thornhill
Tony Abbott told reporters in Sydney today that he believes it is “high time” for co-operation between Indonesia and Australia to resume.
The Prime Minister was speaking of the strong progress he said his government had made in its first 100 days in office.
The break in co-operation between Indonesia and Australia occurred as the result of a scandal over revelations that Australian spies had bugged the telephones of the Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudiono and his wife, several years ago.
The Indonesians demanded an apology, which Mr Abbott has not supplied.
A reporter asked Mr Abbott if this phad affected his government’s ability to stop the boats.
The Prime Minister admitted that Indonesia’s decision to suspend co-operation with Australia had been “singularly unhelpful.”
“And given that people smuggling is a crime in Indonesia, just as it’s a crime in Australia, I think it’s high time that that resumption, that that co-operation was resumed,” he said.
“ But, I accept that in the end, what Indonesia does is a matter for Indonesia and what Australia does is a matter for Australia,” he added.
“We absolutely respect Indonesia’s sovereignty,” Mr Abbott said.
“ We expect Indonesia to respect our sovereignty.
“ As far as we’re concerned these illegal boats that are coming to Australia are a sovereignty issue and so we stand by all the policies that we took to the election and we will stop the boats.”
Mr Abbott also gave the first hint, at his news conference, that he is now resigned to having to wait until July next year, to get Senate approval for his plan to abolish the carbon tax.
He had said that he wanted the tax abolished before Christmas.
Mr Abbott also threatened to keep the Senate sitting, as long as necessary, to achieve that.
But the Senate rose for the year last Thursday, as planned, without voting on the issue.
Mr Abbott told a reporter “… we will continue to put it into the Senate.
“And as you know, a new Senate takes office on the 1st July of next year.
“I know six months seems a long time, but come the next election, it will be a mere blink.
“And we will get it through – we will get it through.
“We will get it through because the Labor Party will wake up to itself, because the new Senate will take office, or because we will utilise the constitutional opportunities available to us.”
Those “constitutional opportunities” include taking the nation to fresh elections, in a double dissolution, if the Senate rejects the carbon tax abolition bills twice, in votes at least three months apart.
Mr Abbott was upbeat, though, in his assessment of the new government’s performance, in its first 100 days.
“One hundred days ago (Monday this week} the government changed,” he said.
“ At the election, the people voted for a change of government.
“ They voted for a new government with a plan – a plan to create a strong and prosperous economy, for a safe and secure Australia.
“And since that time we have been carefully, methodically and purposefully implementing our commitments.
“I’m very satisfied that what we’ve demonstrated over the last hundred days is a Government which is competent and trustworthy,” Mr Abbott said.
by Alan Thornhill
The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, declared today that the newly elected Federal Parliament “has great work to do.”
Speaking at the opening of the new Parliamentary session, the first he has faced as Prime Minister, Mr Abbott said it has to “secure our borders, to balance our budget, to strengthen our economy, to the relief of families and for the protection of jobs.”
Today’s meeting of Parliament is largely ceremonial.
However Prime Ministers making such speeches are expected to lay out their plans for the new parliamentary session.
Mr Abbott has already declared that his main objectives, for this sitting, will be to start the processes needed to abolish both the carbon tax and the mining tax.
In today’s speech, though, he spoke mainly about the unity of the Australian community, including aborigenes.
“It’s Noel Pearson, a great indigenous leader and a prophet for our times, who has observed that Australia is the product of a British and an indigenous heritage,” Mr Abbott said.
“This Parliament is redolent of our British heritage.
“But only recently has this Parliament acknowledged our indigenous heritage.”
He noted that the present parliament has two Aboriginal members and added: “May that number increase.”
“There is much that I dispute with my predecessor as Prime Minister, Mr Kevin Rudd,” Mr Abbott said.
“But I honour him for the historic apology to indigenous people that took place at the opening of this Parliament in 2008.”
In his reply, the Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, said Labor would help close the gap that still exists between Aboriginal and other Australians.
“I know that there is much still to do,” Mr Shorten said.
“..and it’s with this new spirit of reconciliation that we stand together today and reaffirm our commitment to do more.
by Alan Thornhill
Tony Abbott says he would use the military to stop boat people if he wins the upcoming election.
In a statement today, the Opposition Leader said :There is a national emergency on our borders.”
And he added: “A Coalition government will establish a military-led response to combat people smuggling and to protect our borders.
It would be called Operation Sovereign Borders.
Mr Abbott said: “We will ask the Chief of the Defence Force to recommend the appointment of the 3 Star commander, as well as a command and control model for this major operation.
“The commander will report directly to the Minister for Immigration, who will have portfolio responsibility for Operation Sovereign Borders.”
He said the operation would be directed by a Joint Agency Taskforce involving all agencies with direct involvement in border security.
In the first 100 days of a Coalition government, it would:-
? Establish a headquarters and create the joint agency taskforce;
? Finalise an operation to turn back boats where it is safe to do so
? Increase capacity at offshore processing centres and
? Lease and deploy additional vessels to relieve patrol vessels of passenger transfers.
Mr Abbott said a Coalition government would “end the chaos and dysfunction that has characterised our border security under the Rudd-Gillard Government.”
by Alan Thornhill
Kevin Rudd says Tony Abbott’s “ultimate fitness” to be Prime Minister is in doubt.
The Prime Minister said the Opposition Leader had produced that situation himself, by “undermining” the government’s new refugee policy.
Speaking to reporters in Sydney, Mr Rudd said: “It is quite plain to us that Mr Abbott is out there deliberately undermining the Government’s clear message to people smugglers.”
“This is not in the national interest,” the Prime Minister said.
“It might be in Mr Abbott’s personal political interest.
“But frankly, if you do that sort of stuff, you raise the question about your ultimate fitness to hold the high office of Prime Minister,” Mr Rudd said.
He announced last Friday that asylum seekers who came to Australia by boat would never be allowed to settle in this country, but would be sent, instead, to Papua New Guinea.
Mr Rudd said this “hardline” decision, taken in co-operation with the PNG government, would undermine the people smugglers’ business model.
Mr Abbott sought to cast doubt on the deal the Australian and PNG governments have reached on this issue.
Speaking to reporters in Melbourne, earlier in the day, the Opposition Leader said: “The trouble is (that) this particular deal is unravelling before our very eyes.
“It is not legally binding and it doesn’t say what Mr Rudd says it said.
“It doesn’t say that everyone who comes to Australia illegally by boat will go to PNG and it doesn’t say that no-one who goes to PNG will ever come to Australia.
“So Mr Rudd is being misleading to the point of dishonesty and that’s the problem.
“You can never trust what Mr Rudd says because what Mr Rudd says today is totally different from what he said yesterday and it will be totally different from what he says tomorrow,” Mr Abbott said.
by Alan Thornhill
Unexpected arrivals always test nations.
Only a few years ago, the unscheduled arrival of some 30,000 people from the overcrowded island of Malaita, on the nearby island of Guadalcanal, led to a bitter civil war, in the new nation of Solomon Islands.
More recently, it was Australia’s turn to be tested.
Fragile boats, loaded with hundreds of asylum seekers, seeking refugee status, have been appearing off Australia’s northern approaches, in ever increasing numbers.
The ambition, of every adult aboard, was to secure refugee status in Australia.
This presented Australia with acute problems.
The UN convention on refugees, which Australia has signed, gives anyone, in genuine fear for their lives, or safety, a right to seek that status.
So, despite what Conservative politicians said, these arrivals were not illegal.
But scepticism about the boat people has not been confined to the Conservative side of Australia’s political fence.
It was the Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, after all who said he believed 98 per cent of boat people, in recent times, have been economic refugees.
International worries, though, have been growing with the Coalition’s Immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, talking of using SAS troops, to turn back the boats.
Indonesia responded drily by saying it would not welcome such “unilateral” action.
Anyone familiar with diplomatic language would know that is serious.
The most acute domestic political issue, presented by the boat arrivals, though has undoubtedly been its divisive impact in Australia.
Labor politicians, like Kevin Rudd, have often derided Tony Abbott’s three word slogan “stop the boats.”
But they have never denied its power.
The Prime Minister’s complex announcement, on the subject today, might strike you as just a tricky politician’s attempt at a quick fix, in the shadow of an imminent election.
Or you might see it as a clever step towards a possible solution, to this apparently intractable problem.
Either way, that dead, nameless baby, lying in the Christmas Island morgue, haunts us all.
It is time for this heartless trade in desperate human lives to stop.
by Alan Thornhill
Julia Gillard has taken a cue from the American president, Franklin D. Roosevelt.
In his inaugural speech, Roosevelt said: “”The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”
The Prime Minister is well aware that deep insecurities still linger, in Australian hearts, five years after the Global Economic Crisis struck, with the collapse of Lehman Brothers.
Australians are worrying, not only about their jobs, but also about crime and border protection as well.
And with good reason.
Just a few days ago, police in Sydney smashed a major organised crime syndicate after seizing chemicals capable of producing $15 million worth of methamphetamines.
So the Prime Minister’s twin announcements of a National Anti-Gang Task Force and a National Centre, to target crime at Australia’s borders, could hardly have been better timed.
The Coalition sought to convince the public that these were just pale copies of policies it had put, itself, before the 2010 elections, and should be dismissed as spin.
But Ms Gillard dismissed those claims, saying both initiatives were firmly based on US models, which had worked well.
President Roosevelt was speaking both of the Great Depression and the prospect of turning the U.S. economy around, when he spoke about public fears, in that way.
Sadly, there were no resounding declarations, like that, in Ms Gillard’s announcements.
But she did say that the gang crime and tougher border controls, aimed at organized crime, are national issues, not localized fears, in Sydney’s western suburbs.
Yet both Ms Gillard, and her challenger, Tony Abbott, will be out meeting people in those suburbs, over the coming week.
When Ms Gillard announced, at the National Press Club recently, that Australians would go to the polls on September 14, to choose either herself, or Mr Abbott, as the nation’s next Prime Minister, she declared that she would be “governing,” not campaigning, in the weeks then ahead.
Inevitably, though, many will see her exercise in the Western suburbs this week, as powerful, old-style campaigning.
That’s understandable, particularly as Labor will need to poll well, in this area, if it is to be returned to power, however unlikely that might seem, at present.
A loyal lieutenant, Bill Shorten, declared that Ms Gillard will, indeed, be governing, not campaigning, as she tours the Western suburbs this week.
“What we’ll see in Western Sydney is what we see all over Australia – the Labor government focused on jobs,” Mr Shorten said, in a television interview.
“It’s focused on better education for our kids, it’s focused on a National Disability Insurance Scheme….” he added.
Mr Abbott took a simpler approach, as he declared what he will be doing in Sydney this week.
“The Coalition’s plan for western Sydney is quite simple,” he said.
It would sort out problems with bus and train services, in the Western Suburbs.
It would also sort out cost of living issues, by abolishing the carbon tax.
He said the Coalition would also take pressure off the police operating in the areas with initiatives set out in its Safer Streets, Safer Communities program.
“That will get CCTV into crime hotspots, Mr Abbott said.
Australians could see the Coalition’s positive plans, Mr Abbott said.
“They want to see hope for the future and that’s what the Coalition is offering them,” he added.
Weathercoast by Alan Thornhill
A novel on the murder of seven young Anglican Christian Brothers in the Solomon Islands.
Available now on the iTunes store.
Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.
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