Iraqi refugee pleads guilty to people-smuggling charges

AN IRAQI woman who was granted permanent protection after coming to Australia as a refugee has pleaded guilty to people- smuggling.Samira Al Kanani pleaded guilty to three charges relating to the unlawful entry into Australia of two Iraqi men in March 2007 and February last year.She admitted taking a man’s Australian passport out of the country, knowing the travel document had not been issued to her.She also admitted taking part in bringing two non-citizens, Hassanien Mohammed and Ghaith Al Joubori, to Australia in contravention of immigration laws. Neither man has been charged with an offence.Her alleged co-offenders, who include an Australia Post employee, will face trial in coming weeks.Ms Al Kanani’s barrister, Jehane Ghabrial, told the Sydney District Court that before her client sought refuge in Australia, she had spent more than a year and a half in an Iraqi prison due to her Shiite Muslim beliefs.After she had fled Iraq her husband was also jailed and in 2000, Ms Al Kanani was told he had been murdered in prison.”Where people come from the refugee background, from places like Iraq, there are some fairly complex psychological issues at play,” she said.Ms Ghabrial said a specialist psychiatrist in the field of refugee trauma had agreed to examine Ms Al Kanani.She told Judge Greg Woods Ms Al Kanani was granted a permanent protection visa before later becoming an Australian citizen.”It is important for this court to understand her mental condition and to understand any connection between her mental condition and the offending,” she said.The judge said it was ”inconceivable” that Ms Al Kanani had been the ”mastermind” of the people-smuggling operation, but the facts suggested that she had played a significant role.”On the face of it there’s money changing hands in Iraq and somebody is making a dollar out of it,” he said. ”It doesn’t appear to be your client …”The prosecution applied for bail to be revoked in light of the guilty pleas and the strong likelihood of a custodial sentence, but the judge continued bail to allow Ms Al Kanani to get a psychiatric report.
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Catherine Hill Bay project gets go-ahead

A CONTROVERSIAL development proposal at Catherine Hill Bay will proceed but residents have been given a sweetener in the form of heritage protection for parts of the town.The Planning Minister, Tony Kelly, has proposed state heritage listing for the coastal hamlet south of Newcastle, and rezoning of land for residential development in bushland areas next to it.The town’s dilapidated jetty has not been included within the ”cultural precinct” marked for protection, but 126 19th-century properties – mostly workers’ cottages from the town’s coal mining heyday – will be considered.”If the listing is approved, major developments within the precinct will need to respect the area’s significant heritage values,” Mr Kelly said.Last year, the Land and Environment Court threw out a planned development by Rosecorp for about 800 dwellings in Catherine Hill Bay because of an unlawful land swap deal.That development will soon be reconsidered under the draft development controls for land south and west of the proposed heritage area, and for land north of the nearby town of Gwandalan. Buildings up to nine metres high could be built on those sites.Lake Macquarie Council said the government had ”still not addressed the underlying issues”. A spokeswoman for the council said ”studies have not been prepared that prove that development of this land can be accommodated without significant social and environmental impacts on the area”.One resident, Sue Whyte, was pleased about the heritage listing, but vowed to keep fighting the development.”It’s not everything we would have hoped for but … we’ve been able to push the developers away from the heritage areas.”Now that there will be a new [development application], we really hope that we have a chance to bring those dwelling numbers down. It’s still 820 houses on top of 100. We argue this is overwhelming.”A spokesman for Brian Rose, of Rosecorp, said ”the significant heritage values of the village will be further enhanced by our proposal which will be put forward in due course”.The government is rezoning the land to remove legal uncertainty and is seeking public comment. It follows the revival of the state’s biggest residential development last week, Huntlee New Town near Branxton.
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World recognition sought for reminders of our convict past

PRISONS aren’t the obvious thing that comes to mind when the term ”world heritage” is mentioned.Robben Island, perhaps, home to Nelson Mandela for 27 years? The gulag where Alexander Solzhenitsyn lived One Day In the Life of Ivan Denisovich? The Bastille, if it hadn’t been demolished in 1789 by property developers one step behind the French revolutionaries?But 11 of Australia’s best preserved convict heritage sites are being reviewed this week by a UNESCO meeting in Brazil to determine whether they deserve World Heritage listing. The decision is expected to come on Saturday morning.NSW sites include Hyde Park Barracks, Cockatoo Island and the Old Great North Road around Wisemans Ferry.The federal government’s 2008 submission said the 11 properties represent ”an extraordinary example of global ideas … associated with the punishment and reform of the criminal elements … during the Age of Enlightenment”.But it is Paramatta’s Old Government House and Domain which yielded the most recent evidence of why our convict past merits international acclaim. In May, workmen renovating the drainage system uncovered the footings of outbuildings which date to 1793, when Australia’s first governor, Arthur Phillip, was using convict labour to create the newest administrative centre of the British Empire.”It was like joining the dots of a building,” says Michael Ellis, of the National Trust of NSW, which now takes care of Old Government House. ”A very exciting time.”The footings are significant finds. They match the Phillip-era bricks in the house itself. The mortar doesn’t have any lime in it. At that early stage, they obviously didn’t have the facilities to burn shells to make lime.”On conservation advice, the old footings have been reburied, but Mr Ellis says the shape of the outbuildings will be reflected in the new sandstone paving.But not all historians are entirely happy with the focus on the 11 sites. David Roberts, senior lecturer in Australian history at the University of New England, says, ”There’s a lot of rhetoric about what makes something worth of World Heritage significance. But essentially, it has to be something that is large, physical and imposing.”In a recent paper, Dr Roberts argued that the chosen sites did not reflect the common experience of convicts, most of whom led lonely and blameless lives far away from the emerging cities.Granting World Heritage status for the 11 might mean less obvious, but no less deserving, convict sites were effectively categorised as second class, simply because nothing much remains.THE CONTENDERSOur 11 convict sites nominated for world heritage listing:Old Government House and Domain (NSW)Hyde Park Barracks (NSW)Cockatoo Island (NSW)Old Great North Road (NSW)Kingston and Arthur’s Vale Historic Area (Norfolk Island)Brickendon-Woolmers Estates (Tas)Darlington Probation Station (Tas)Cascades Female Factory (Tas)Port Arthur Historic Site (Tas)Coal Mines Historic Site (Tas)Fremantle Prison (WA)
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Cabcharge accused of bullying its competitors

TAXI drivers and owners who have tested alternative payment terminals in their cabs claim they have been bullied by the industry’s most powerful player, Cabcharge Australia, in a bid to protect its $450 million stranglehold over the market.The companies behind the new payment systems, Live Payments and the Transport Australia Xpress System, accused Cabcharge of trying to keep them out of the market as they prepared to launch their products this week.Tom Varga, chief executive of Live Payments, said Cabcharge-owned taxi networks – which in Sydney include Taxis Combined, Silver Service and Yellow Cabs – had refused to allow their drivers to use his firm’s terminals despite a 2006 ruling by the competition regulator designed to break Cabcharge’s monopoly over the electronic taxi payments system.”We have experienced first-hand where drivers and operators have come to us and said that their network has told them they are not allowed to have another terminal,” he said. ”We have seen evidence of messages from networks where they have displayed messages [on the dispatcher] that Live Payments is not an endorsed method.”Almost all of Sydney’s 20,000 taxis are fitted with Cabcharge terminals, while about 25 per cent contain secondary terminals.The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is pursuing Cabcharge in the Federal Court over alleged anti-competitive behaviour on the grounds that it created barriers to entry by new players and used its ”substantial degree of power” to discourage competition.Live Payments is one of six companies expected to give evidence in the trial, which is set down for October 4 in Melbourne. Cabcharge declined to comment when contacted by the Herald yesterday.Live Payments, which held a launch on Tuesday, will enable passengers to pay using its own brand of cards and vouchers that can still be used on Cabcharge terminals where a Live Payments one is not available. Live Payments will still charge a 10 per cent processing fee, but unlike Cabcharge, which doesn’t pass on any of the fee to drivers, Mr Varga said drivers using Live Payments would receive a 30 to 40 per cent cut.The Transport Australia Xpress System, developed by the breakaway industry group the Australian Taxi Drivers Association, will broadcast jobs and accept payments using mobile phone technology. It will undercut both Cabcharge and Live Payments by charging 8.5 per cent commission for credit card payments and 5 per cent for payments from debit accounts. Passengers will also receive the driver’s name, taxi and phone numbers at the time of booking. ”In Sydney there are 14 million bookings over the network each year,” a spokesman for Xpress, Michael Jools, said. ”From that only 9 million get picked up.”He said Cabcharge had used ”regulatory stealth” to secure a deal that gives it exclusivity over payments for government subsidy schemes, such as taxi trips for the disabled.
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Dead man’s claims denied by crime commission

THE NSW Crime Commission has denied interviewing an accused drug dealer found dead in his prison cell last week, who had claimed that the crime body had intimidated him.Czaba ”Chubby” Magyari told someone close to him a week before his death that he had just been hauled before the NSW Crime Commission.He claimed the threats were worse than in his native Hungary where he had already spent time in prison. He said he was told to plead guilty and inform on his co-accused in an alleged sophisticated drug supply syndicate or his former girlfriend and best friend would be targeted.But above all, Mr Magyari claimed, the officers wanted to find the money of the suspected large-scale syndicate which allegedly distributed cocaine and heroin in NSW, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia.The Crime Commission is one of the few government agencies whose revenue raised usually matches its expenses.Mr Magyari said he had refused to co-operate, and his best friend, Tamas Czako, and girlfriend, Lilla Toemoeskoezy, were charged that same morning. He was upset by the trouble he thought he’d caused them and insisted they did not understand what was going on.But yesterday the Crime Commission, which has initiated proceedings in the Supreme Court to seize Mr Magyari’s assets, denied it had conducted any interviews with him.Police have claimed that Mr Magyari, 42, who was found dead in his cell in Parklea Prison on Friday, was the head of the criminal syndicate that had used highly sophisticated technology to escape detection.Covert pinhole cameras hidden in a picture frame, a smoke detector and elsewhere in his Drummoyne home, and in an alleged drug safe-house in Bexley North, could be remotely activated, police claim.When any motion – such as from covert police activity – was detected the men would be informed by email and SMS, while all cameras could also be monitored remotely, police claim in documents tendered in court.They also allege Mr Magyari used GPS trackers on the cars used by other syndicate members and had their cars bugged so he could listen to their conversations.The court heard that Mr Czako, who is in Australia on a visitor’s visa, was unemployed and shared phones, bank accounts and computer passwords with his long-time friend Mr Magyari. He allegedly installed the electronic devices and monitored the security systems.”His only means of making money was through assisting the criminal syndicate members by installing such devices in order to avoid detection by police,” police claim.They have so far charged at least eight people, seized more than 2 kilograms each of cocaine and heroin – worth more than $1.5 million – and intercepted 1400 phone calls.But while most are charged with drug supply or being part of a criminal organisation, Ms Toemoeskoezy was accused of dealing with the money from the alleged drug business.An inquest will be held into Mr Magyari’s death in custody.Lifeline: 131 114
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Tiny Tonga sends troops to Afghanistan

The tiny Pacific kingdom of Tonga has agreed to send troops to Afghanistan, saying “it looks safer than Iraq” and that fighting the Taliban will provide much needed jobs.A contingent of 55 Tongan soldiers is expected to begin service in Afghanistan in November, the first of 275 soldiers committed over a two-year period following a request from Britain to get involved.”It looks safer than Iraq. Our soldiers will not be doing street patrols where there have been a lot of deaths,” Tongan Defence Services commander, Brigadier Tauaika ‘Uta’atu, said.”This is an invitation from the British army who saw our soldiers work in Iraq and the then prime minister Gordon Brown wrote to our Prime Minister and asked for support.”This is something we think is an honour to be a part of.”Tonga, which has suffered negative economic growth for the past two years, sees a continuing role in UN peacekeeping missions as a way to build up defence force numbers.But ‘Etuate Lavulavu, one of the few popularly elected legislators in Tonga’s semi-feudal political system, expressed misgivings about the government’s stated advantage of the deployment providing jobs.”If it is to find employment, the unemployed can get jobs if they are given skilled training, rather then sending them out to the battlefield to get killed,” he said.He was also not happy a soldier would only be paid £30 (83 Tongan pa’anga, or $52) a day, which he said was not enough “considering he is risking his life and I earn 50 pa’anga an hour and I am not at risk”.However, Brigadier ‘Uta’atu said he was happy with the decision made by parliament which voted 22-0 in favour of the deployment.”The British government will pay £2.6 million to cover all the costs over the first year,” he said.”This will include the uniforms, stores, ammunition, accommodation, travel expenses and a stipend of £30 a day for each soldier every day in Afghanistan.”Brigadier ‘Uta’atu has already been to Afghanistan to look over the camp where the Tongans will be based with about 20,000 British troops and US Marines.”We will be doing force protection and security on the boundaries of a camp, which is in the desert,” he said.Tongan soldiers served in Iraq from 2004 to 2006, and again from 2007 to December 2008.AFP
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Beautician accused of smuggling night scopes from US to Moscow

Just weeks after breaking up a Russian spy ring that included a 28-year-old woman, federal authorities have charged a Dallas-area woman of a similar age with trying to smuggle three night-vision rifle sights to Russia.A federal court affidavit filed in New York accuses 24-year-old Anna Fermanova of suburban Plano of trying to move the scopes in March without the proper export licences.The devices were seized as Fermanova was boarding a plane for Moscow at JFK International Airport, according to the document.She was allowed to complete the trip but was arrested after her return on a charge of attempting to export US munitions.She was arrested at her parents’ home in Plano on July 15. She was released to home detention after posting $US50,000 ($56,000) bail.The case, first disclosed on the website thesmokinggun南京夜网, offers a mix of glamour and international intrigue similar to that of Anna Chapman, who pleaded guilty on July 8 to being a Russian spy.Like Chapman, Fermanova has a Facebook page that includes provocative photos of herself. Chapman lived in New York, where she appeared to work in real estate.But Fermanova’s lawyer, Scott Palmer, said Fermanova’s case does not involve spying. He said Fermanova bought the rifle sights online for a friend of her husband, who lives in Moscow, and that they were to be used for hunting.”There’s no terrorism, no spying, nothing that remotely touches these recent concerns,” he said. “She’s one woman who bought something on the internet, put it in her luggage and this apparently violates federal law.”Palmer said Fermanova was a US citizen who was born in Latvia and raised in the Dallas area. She splits her time between Dallas and Russia, where her husband has a job in the country’s financial industry, he said.The federal affidavit states that Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel are investigating Fermanova and others for attempting to export US military commodities to Russia without the proper licences.The affidavit details how agents found the scopes in Fermanova’s luggage on March 1. Some identification markings on the devices were covered with black marker pen, according to the document.Fermanova told the agents she covered the markings “so they would be less noticeable” when she tried to take them overseas without a licence, the affidavit states.Palmer said Fermanova has been studying to become a cosmetologist. She has a Texas cosmetologist’s licence that expires next year, according to the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulation.AP
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Motorists failing to heed speed warning

CHRISTMAS motorists aren’t drinking, but they sure are driving fast.
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Motorists are taking no notice to speed warnings being issued by police, despite double demerit points during ‘Operation Safe Arrival’.

Police in the Chifley area command have charged 169 drivers so far with speeding offences and this is an increase on the total of 143 from last year.

While general offences are down over the Christmas period, drivers are still exceeding recommended speeds issued on regional roads.

Highway Patrol Sergeant Bob Moulden said police are still being vigilant in targeting holiday motorists.

“Police are still sending out the warning that Operation Safe Arrival is still in full swing so motorists should slow down when they are taking to the roads,” he said.

“Speeding is of particular concern to police at the moment because of the volume of traffic over the holidays.”

Full story in the Western AdvocateCHRISTMAS motorists aren’t drinking, but they sure are driving fast.

Motorists are taking no notice to speed warnings being issued by police, despite double demerit points during ‘Operation Safe Arrival’.

Police in the Chifley area command have charged 169 drivers so far with speeding offences and this is an increase on the total of 143 from last year.

While general offences are down over the Christmas period, drivers are still exceeding recommended speeds issued on regional roads.

Highway Patrol Sergeant Bob Moulden said police are still being vigilant in targeting holiday motorists.

“Police are still sending out the warning that Operation Safe Arrival is still in full swing so motorists should slow down when they are taking to the roads,” he said.

“Speeding is of particular concern to police at the moment because of the volume of traffic over the holidays.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Can we afford to keep people alive?

WHEN my 79-year-old mother died peacefully in St Vincent’s Hospice, we were thankful we were with her. At home until just a few days earlier, she remained in control as much as anyone dying from cancer could. In the hospice, the morphine made the last few days bearable – and killed her. This is what ethicists call double effect: the intention is good but it has a foreseeable bad outcome.Hospices help people die with dignity. My mother was lucky she was not in hospital – they are not designed to help people die but to keep them alive.The earliest hospitals treated injured soldiers in Roman times. Perhaps this is why we like military metaphors in health so much. We fight diseases and lose the battle against them when we die. Until recently – the past 50 years – most people died in the company of family, friends, priests or faith healers. Today, if we die in hospital, we are more likely to die alone or in the company of strangers.In the 19th century, people were expected to live for half as long as they do now. Most families would mourn the death of at least one child, sometimes more. Medical advances and a better standard of living mean we are no longer reminded of death each day.Hospitals with advanced technology and medical specialisation still fight diseases and frequently win. But there is one fight they cannot win: the one with death.Hospitals are filled with elderly patients at the end of their lives. People over 65 make up an eighth of the population but comprised about 37 per cent of all patients in public hospitals last year. Twenty per cent were over 75 and about 5 per cent over 80.Doctors always include age in an oral summary of a patient but other factors are also important, such as lifestyle, psycho-social factors and a capacity for relationships. Some people in their 70s are fitter and healthier than those in their 50s.I was at a public lecture last month when a 95-year-old woman spoke wise words from the front row. She was as sharp as a tack. If she got sick, she should have all the medical care needed to get her well – but only if she understood the risks and was able to state a preference. A person’s capacity to enjoy life and make decisions is what counts.Because hospitals are designed to treat and save patients, healthcare professionals follow protocols designed to maintain and sustain life, often without considering the patient’s circumstances. The sanctity of life underpins the ethics of hospitals. They use expensive, often invasive, treatments when basic, humane medical and nursing care is more appropriate.The full range of interventions – heart monitors, ventilation machines and other vastly expensive technologies – are given to patients admitted to intensive care units. Expensive imaging equipment, such as MRI machines, can range in cost from $1 million to $3 million, with each scan costing between $500 and $3500.Whether a patient wants any of this is frequently unknown. Patients may be unconscious when admitted, or deteriorate suddenly. The miracles of medicine allow life to be maintained even in the frailest humans. Many die during treatment and the lucky ones have palliative care for their remaining days. Many who recover are incapable of interacting with others and unable to say what they would like to happen. They are incapable of enjoying life or relationships. Is this how we want to die?While affordability is a big consideration, my arguments for limiting treatments for the elderly at the end of their lives are based on the potential for harm from those treatments and avoiding unnecessary suffering – be it for weeks, days or hours.If an elderly patient’s heart or lungs stop working, they will usually be given cardiopulmonary resuscitation by an ”arrest team”, regardless of how likely they are to survive. This is the default treatment. Only patients who have expressed a preference and had it recorded in their medical records are not given the treatment.Many doctors and nurses who are critical on ethical grounds of the requirement to revive elderly patients will go through the motions of CPR. Others give it their best and keep the patient alive, only to wonder later if they did the right thing.The fallback position of extending life seems proper but is, in fact, tragic. Until the mid-1990s, patients in NSW had red or blue codes inserted into their records to show whether were to be resuscitated. Often, neither those patients nor their relatives knew which colour applied to them. They didn’t know that doctors had already decided not to resuscitate. Such information should be shared with patients and carers – a necessity for both them and clinicians.Confusion about policy regarding treatment of the elderly in hospitals means many terminally ill patients are kept alive unnaturally and suffer unnecessarily. It allows the personal biases of doctors to dictate treatment. Some doctors may act on their own moral and religious convictions and try to save every life. Others will not offer treatments when they should on the basis of the patient’s chronological age alone.Why are we reluctant to talk about caring for the dying? Some patients worry that if they refuse high-tech treatment, they will be left without any care. Some doctors see little that’s heroic in caring for the dying – their skills lie, and are better used, elsewhere. Patients need a warm hand and comfort rather than a scalpel.Notwithstanding the clinical complexities of treating the elderly, who often have multiple problems, surely the goal of treatment is to relieve pain and reduce symptoms while not over-treating or causing undue suffering by prolonging life.Palliative care clinicians should be discussing the options with patients and carers to determine what is best for them. Sadly, they are often called only after more invasive treatments have failed – perhaps because palliative care is not well understood by the community.In 2006, for instance, the government report Community Attitudes Towards Palliative Care found it was raised by just 1 per cent as a health issue. While hospices are the alternative to hospitals, palliative care is the alternative to life-saving treatments. A palliative approach treats the whole person by focusing on their quality of life, not just treating the disease. Yet it was not specifically mentioned in the health and ageing budget statements for this financial year. The government did allocate $500 million for more sub-acute care services, which enable many older people to leave hospital earlier. But we need to keep them out of hospital in the first place. Hospitals can be dangerous for the frail elderly, who are at risk of over-treatment, infection and adverse events. If a family member wants ”everything done”, doctors are likely to agree – the fear of litigation ensures that. Doctors respond to family demands, even when the patient will suffer.Yet the cost of treating the elderly in hospital is enormous. This year, $64 billion was allocated to public hospitals and reducing pressure on emergency departments. A disproportionate amount of that money will be spent on those in the last few months of life. This money could be better spent on patients who would benefit and on health prevention.In a NSW hospital, one bed costs about $450,000 a year – $1233 a day. The average cost nationally for each admission to a public hospital is about $4500. Older patients generally stay longer than younger ones – 7.3 days compared with 4.5 for the rest. Apart from toddlers under the age of one, patients over 75 stay longest. Most elderly patients are admitted to hospital for circulation problems, then cancers and tumours.Coronary heart disease and stroke account for 30 per cent of deaths of those over 65. Surgery and general anaesthetic are too much for some. About 10 per cent of aged patients are transferred from hospital to a residential care facility, including those who were admitted with only a broken bone.Where should the elderly go when dying if not to hospital? If a person cannot die at home, the next best place is a hospice.We arranged for my mother’s admission to the hospice when she had difficulty breathing and strong pain. There are too few hospices; of the 78,000 elderly people now in nursing homes, a significant number are transferred to hospital for symptoms similar to those experienced by my mother. Yet the average cost of an aged-care bed is about $100 a day – less than a tenth of the cost of a hospital bed. The cost of a hospice bed is also significantly less than a hospital bed.Keeping the dying out of hospital is better for family, friends and the patient. It’s much easier to have meaningful conversations in a hospice.In the past half-century, we have handed over responsibility for dying to doctors – and we’ve incurred the costs. Accepting death as natural is necessary for imposing limits on treatment. We need more discussion on how we die, how we care for those approaching death and on whether the goal of medical treatment for the dying is to relieve suffering or extend life.This problem is not one of medicine’s making; it is a conceptual one about how we use medicine on the inevitable journey to death.Merrilyn Walton is professor of public health at the University of Sydney.
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Can politicians develop policy before engaging their mouths?

THE lead up to this election campaign did not follow the usual script. Sure, everything that came out of Julia Gillard’s and Tony Abbott’s mouths was scripted and, most likely, focus group-tested as well. But when it comes to the content of the campaign – the policy, the things they promise to do – there seems to have been almost no script. It seemed as though our leaders were ad libbing, or at least making stuff up in a hurry.Gillard and Abbott may have been forced into an extraordinary level of political improvisation because of the unusual tumult of this political term.Labor knifed one leader and the Coalition two in the space of one parliament, during which the policy agenda was consumed with the tumult of the economic crisis. Both leaders came to their jobs late in the term.Because of what Labor did to manage that crisis, Labor and Liberal entered an election campaign with restrictions on how much money they can spend. Everything they spend has to be cut from somewhere else, which may come as a shock after the past few elections.The aftermath of the economic crisis casts uncertainty over the economic outlook.In normal political cycles, the weeks before an election are full of demands that the alternative government reveal its policies. These are rebuffed on the grounds that the alternative government has not yet seen the final budget figures and will release its policies when it is good and ready and when it is sure the voters are listening.But this year, the final weeks before the campaign were consumed by the Labor leadership change and demands that the government explain its policies, devised on the hop by the new Prime Minister to try to neutralise political problems inherited from her predecessor.First, Gillard pulled off a ”deal” to end the war with the mining companies over the resource super profits tax. It emerged with a new name, slightly smaller revenue projections and three big mining companies mysteriously happy. We now know forecasts of higher commodity prices have driven this outcome. The government is delighted Abbott is locked into opposition to a tax supported by the companies set to pay more than 80 per cent of it.Second, she unveiled a new asylum policy – a regional processing centre in East Timor – which unravelled almost as soon as she announced it because of East Timor’s grave reservations. The East Timor solution was preferable to John Howard’s Pacific Solution, she said, because unlike Nauru, Timor was a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Refugees. When Nauru said it was not only keen to reopen its processing centre, but would also consider signing the convention, the policy reasons for shunning it became less clear.And third, Gillard worked up policies on climate change to make up for the fact she was sticking with Kevin Rudd’s decision to delay Labor’s central climate change policy – the emissions trading scheme – even though Labor still believes a carbon market is the cheapest way to bring emissions down.Abbott got to the election starting line having released very few policies at all. And most of those also had a seat-of-the-pants quality to them.He announced a generous paid parental leave policy, which he didn’t take to the shadow cabinet or the opposition party room despite his promises to his colleagues and in contradiction to his attacks on the former prime minister Kevin Rudd for disregarding normal decision-making processes.He once said such a scheme would be implemented ”over my dead body”, but by May he was so convinced it was necessary he was prepared to introduce a ”temporary” levy on big business of 1.7 per cent to pay for it. Then he said the levy would be permanent, but might one day be offset by a cut in company tax which would leave small business even further ahead.He said the paid parental leave would be followed by a generous policy for stay-at-home mothers – like the policy he laid out in Battlelines, and the one he unsuccessfully proposed for inclusion in his budget-in-reply speech, before he was rolled by his shadow cabinet. The Coalition said such a scheme could not yet be afforded.He also released a ”direct action” climate change plan, proposing to reduce greenhouse emissions through government grants and regulation.Most of the emission reductions are supposed to come from storing carbon in the soil. The only major planned industrial emission reductions come from paying hundreds of millions of dollars to the dirtiest brown-coal-fired power stations, to subsidise their owners to replace the stations with gas-fired ones and to subsidise the power produced so the prices don’t rise.Another promise is for a 15,000-strong ”green army” to tackle feral animals and weeds. Initially it was estimated to cost $750 million a year. Now it is costed at $400 million over four years, with the ”army” more likely to total about 3000 workers.Both parties had policy processes under way – the Liberals’ chaired by Andrew Robb and Labor’s – until her ascent to the leadership – by the then deputy prime minister, Julia Gillard. So possibly, the policies we will get in rest of the campaign will be a little less rough and ready.As fascinating as the presidential-style personality race between Gillard and Abbott will be, as fulsomely as it will fill media sound grabs, both sides owe the voters some ideas that are fully costed, and fully thought through.Lenore Taylor is the Herald’s national affairs correspondent.
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