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Abbott won't specify source of immigration cuts

Сообщение Ramzes » 24 авг 2010, 12:44

Изображение

By Tim Leslie

Updated Tue Jul 27, 2010 12:39am AEST
Tony Abbott

Tony Abbott says his party is the only one that has been willing to set an immigration limit. (ABC)


Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has refused to specify how he would cut immigration levels down to the Coalition's target of under 170,000.

The Government has accused the Opposition of being "tricky" on population and says immigration is already forecasted to drop below the Coalition's cap of 170,000 under the current policy.

A BIS Shrapnel report predicts net migration will drop to 175,000 by June 2011 and 145,000 by June 2012.

But in an interview with the ABC's 7.30 Report, Mr Abbott dismissed the predictions of the report, saying his party was the only one that was willing to set an immigration limit.

"I don't know what's going to happen under Julia Gillard's policy because she hasn't told us what her policy is," he said.

"I've told you what my position is - it will come down to under 170,000 in the first term of our government.

"Last time I looked BIS Shrapnel don't set immigration policy. It's the government that sets immigration policy."

However, when pressed on where the cuts would come from, he would only say that those under skilled migrant visas would be protected.

"I just can't specify every last category at this point in time. What I can say is I want people who are contributors," he said.

"That's why I am not going to reduce the numbers of employee-nominated entrants because they are making an immediate contribution to Australia's economic welfare.

"But I also want to ensure the overall numbers are 170,000 or less."

The Opposition Leader also defended the rise in immigration levels seen under the Howard government, saying the electorate's views on population had changed since then.

"Circumstances have changed, Australia's cities are choking on their own traffic. We were booming in the Howard years, we've gone through a global financial crisis, there has been an economic slowdown since then," he said.

"The public no longer support immigration the way they did under the Howard government."

'Respect the electorate'

Mr Abbott's change of heart on the Howard government's WorkChoices legislation was also put under the microscope.

The Opposition Leader was played an excerpt from an interview conducted last year, where he said "if we are going to have productive workplaces we can never bring down the curtain on workplace reform".

But in a disciplined performance, the Opposition Leader stuck to his previous statements saying said he had to respect the wishes of the electorate on WorkChoices.

"The message I've been getting is they [small businesses] want stability and certainty and that's what they'll get from me," he said.

"No democratic politician can or should defy the wishes of the electorate.

"I am a party leader now, I'm not just a philosopher I'm not just a pundit.... and party leaders have to respect what they're hearing from the electorate and also from the people who will be impacted by any change," he said.

He also touched on parallels to John Howard's "never ever" promise on the GST, saying if he was to make any changes to the Fair Work Act it would only be after he had achieved a mandate from the people.

There wasn't a GST in the first term of the Howard government, and [in the second term] he went to the people and sought a mandate of it," he said.

"I have no plans to do that, but if there is to be any change far off into the future obviously there should be a mandate."
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Migrants made to feel like 'election scapegoats'

Сообщение Ramzes » 24 авг 2010, 15:22

By Jennifer Macey

Posted Sat Jul 31, 2010 5:30pm AEST

Migrant communities say they are being made to feel like scapegoats by both the major parties in the election debate on population and asylum seekers.

The Ethnic Communities Council of Australia says both Labor and the Coalition are fear-mongering and causing migrants to feel marginalised.

Council chairman Pino Migliorino says a sensible debate on the issue is needed.

He says what is inherent in the comments from both major parties is that every new migrant is a problem.

"There's a real sense of being on the margin and feeling that because when we have the politicians kiss babies they're all white," he said.

"There is a real feeling of marginalisation.

"There's a real feeling that we don't count and there's a real feeling that this is particularly playing on and stoking fears that people have which in the main are unfounded."

Mr Migliorino says the word multicultural has been left out of the election debate altogether.

"None of the parties and neither of the leaders have acknowledged that we are a multicultural society, that immigration has actually been fundamental to how we've grown and lifestyle we now have, and the level of life that we experience," he said.

"First of all, it's disrespectful in terms of their contribution.

"Secondly it does come across as quite alienating in terms of why aren't we acknowledging that we're a multicultural society?"

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has scrapped the idea of a big Australia, saying a sustainable population will ease pressure on suburbs struggling with public transport and other infrastructure problems.

But Mr Migliorino says migrants are not to blame if buses do not run on time or the trains are overcrowded.

"If you're living in Western Sydney and from a non-English-speaking background, you're going to feel the same types of frustrations in the fact you can't drive anywhere without it taking you hours or public transport is poor or public infrastructure is poor," he said.

"Then if it's poor now, what's it going to be if we actually have more people?

"But at the end of the day, what is actually happening in the public debate is that we are getting people to think it's the immigration that's the problem rather than the lack of infrastructure."

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's mantra is to stop the boats.

Mr Migliorino says the focus on asylum seekers in this election has disproportionately inflated the issue.

"The almost unacceptable and ridiculous level of response to asylum seeker boats and the amount of attention we gave them," he said.

"Overall, less than 1 per cent of anyone who comes to Australia in any given year; that's what we're talking about."

He is calling on both major parties to show leadership and bring some balance back to the debate or risk turning huge parts of the population off both major parties.
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Abbott says migration cut won't hurt business

Сообщение Ramzes » 24 авг 2010, 15:33

Изображение

By James Maasdorp and staff

Updated Sun Jul 25, 2010 12:04pm AEST
Tony Abbott campaigns at a mine in Kalgoorlie

Tony Abbott campaigns at a mine in Kalgoorlie (ABC: Ashley Hall)

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says the Coalition's immigration policy will look to "intelligently manage" immigration but not at the cost of Australian businesses.

The Federal Opposition says it would cut migration levels by almost half if it wins the election, reducing Australia's net migration from nearly 300,000 people per year to just 170,000.

Mr Abbott told a press gathering skilled migration remained important to the Australian economy.

"What we are proposing is a reduction of 100,000 [immigrants] from 2009. We're going to get there sensibly, carefully, with good advice," he said.

"What we're not going to do is restrict various employer-nominated categories because we think they are important for Australia's continued economic health.

"Most are not aware but I am a migrant myself. Australia is an immigrant society. It is important that an immigration program has the support of our people and that is what this policy is designed to ensure.

"What we are announcing today is a demonstration that we are fair dinkum, that we will back up our talk with appropriate policy."

Earlier, the Opposition's immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, indicated the number of skilled worker visas would be protected.

"We are very keen to ensure a strong skilled migration program and one that particularly addresses the needs of regional areas," he said.

But Population Minister Tony Burke has accused the Opposition of using a sneaky political trick.

He says migration levels are already forecast to fall even further than the Coalition's target.

"By 2011/2012, it's forecast that we'll be at 145,000," he said.

"That's because there were rorts in the system that were put in place under the previous Government. We've cleaned up those rorts and they're now working our way through the system.

"All he's done is take existing projections over the next 12 months or so and call them his policy."

Student visas

When asked on cutting back on student visas, Mr Abbott said he was all in favour of Australia selling education.

"But what I don't want particularly is selling immigration outcomes in the guise of selling education," he said.

"It is just a question of intelligently managing the program, making sure that all the entrants in these various categories are fair dinkum - that's what we did before under Phillip Ruddock, that's what we'll do again.

"If we want to be a cohesive, prosperous society, we need strong popular support for the program.

"Let's have an immigration program that people can support, that they don't think is out of control, that they don't think is subcontracted to people smugglers."

In April it announced it would set targets to stop the country reaching a projected population of 36 million by 2050.

Treasury figures showed Australia's population was set to reach 36 million by 2050 but the Opposition said that was too high.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said then that a Coalition government would expand the Productivity Commission and have it review population sustainability on a yearly basis.

It would use the commission's advice to establish what it calls a population growth band target.
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Coalition plans to slash migration levels

Сообщение Ramzes » 24 авг 2010, 15:35

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Updated Sun Jul 25, 2010 10:12am AEST
Labor says migration levels are already forecast to fall

The Federal Opposition says it would cut migration levels by almost half if it wins the election.

The Coalition says it would reduce Australia's net overseas migration from nearly 300,000 people per year to just 170,000 if it wins the election.

The Opposition's immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, has indicated the number of skilled worker visas will be protected.

"We are very keen to ensure a strong skilled migration program and one that particularly addresses the needs of regional areas," he said.

Mr Morrison says there is a clear choice between the two parties.

"The difference between the Government and the Coalition when it comes to population policy is that the Coalition actually has one," he said.

"We believe that it is necessary not to rob future generations of the opporunities we enjoy today by ensuring that our population growth is sustainable."

"We need to get our population growth rate back to - at least - the long term average."

Population Minister Tony Burke has accused the Opposition of using a sneaky political trick.

He says migration levels are already forecast to fall even further than the Coalition's target.

"By 2011/2012, it's forecast that we'll be at 145,000," he said.

"That's because there were rorts in the system that were put in place under the previous Government. We've cleaned up those rorts and they're now working our way through the system.

"All he's done is take existing projections over the next 12 months or so and call them his policy."

The Coalition will detail more of its policy later today, including which visa categories will be affected.

In April it announced it would set targets to stop the country reaching a projected population of 36 million by 2050.

Treasury figures showed Australia's population was set to reach 36 million by 2050 but the Opposition said that was too high.

Mr Abbott said then that a Coalition government would expand the Productivity Commission and have it review population sustainability on a yearly basis.

It would use the commission's advice to establish what it calls a population growth band target.
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Latham says Labor trying population 'con job'

Сообщение Ramzes » 24 авг 2010, 15:43

Updated Thu Jul 22, 2010 5:25am AEST

Former federal Labor leader Mark Latham says the Prime Minister's comments on sustainable population are a con job on the people of western Sydney.

Julia Gillard has spent several days talking about the need for "a sustainable population, not a big Australia".

But the Opposition says the Government has not given any specific details on what a sustainable population is or what immigration levels should be.

Mr Latham has told Sky News that is because Ms Gillard's comments are a fraud.

"It's an attempt to con people in Western Sydney that she's going to do something about congestion," he said.

"I think some smartie in the Labor party's worked out that if we say 'oh look, we're sort of indicating we're not really in favour of big population', that's a proxy for saying maybe we're not in favour of those refugees."
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Sailor's wife grills Abbott on turning boats back

Сообщение Ramzes » 24 авг 2010, 15:49

Изображение

Updated Wed Jul 14, 2010 3:20pm AEST
Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott addresses a conference

The wife of a Royal Australian Navy sailor has challenged Opposition Leader Tony Abbott on his plan to turn back asylum seeker boats.

Mr Abbott was visiting a market in the western Sydney seat of Lindsay this morning when he was approached by a woman who said her husband served on one of Australia's patrol boats.

She told him she was concerned about the risk posed when asylum seekers deliberately sabotage their boats, referring to last year's boat explosion in which five asylum seekers died and Navy personnel were injured.

The explosion was deliberately lit by some asylum seekers on the boat.

"Are you concerned that there is going to be more incidents like that? Because I am," she said.

Mr Abbott told her turning boats around would only happen on rare occasions, when a patrol boat commander judged it was safe.

"We would be absolutely guided by the advice of the naval personnel on the spot," he said.

The Government says turning back boats is impractical and the policy is a nonsense.

Mr Abbott was on the campaign trail with the Liberal Party's new candidate for Lindsay, 33-year-old marketing manager Fiona Scott, who was preselected last night.

Mr Abbott introduced Ms Scott to market-goers and stall holders on her first full day as the Liberal candidate for Lindsay.

The party is hoping she will win the seat like Jackie Kelly did for the Liberals in 1996.

Labor MP David Bradbury holds Lindsay with a swing of over 6 per cent.

The Liberal Party is hoping to capitalise on a 25 per cent swing against state Labor in the Penrith by-election three weeks ago.

Mr Abbott says the Labor brand is in trouble in western Sydney and the Coalition has a strong chance of winning.
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Independents want more than barking dogs

Сообщение Ramzes » 25 авг 2010, 08:33

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AAP August 25, 2010, 2:40 pm


Independent MP Tony Windsor says Australia has one of the worst examples of the Westminster system, where politics has been reduced to "two dogs barking".

Mr Windsor, with fellow independents Bob Katter and Rob Oakeshott, and new Australian Greens MP Adam Bandt, took part in a panel discussion at the National Press Club on Wednesday.

While Mr Bandt has indicated he would back a Labor minority government, the independents are undecided, but have stressed they remain independent, and are not a bloc.

The men on Wednesday issued a call for information on seven key points, before entering any negotiations with Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.

Mr Windsor said a letter sent to them was a "pre-emptive pathway" to power, ahead of talks once counting is complete next week.

Mr Windsor said voters wanted things to change, and he would not support a government that had an intention to rush back to the polls.

"One of the things we've done in this country is probably create one of the worst examples of the Westminster system, where it's actually become too confrontational," he said.

"There's an expectation, and even within the media, that it will be the two dogs barking, and that's what the reporting is made of.

"We're trying to establish a pathway that's slightly different to that."

Mr Windsor said the men could not reveal the entire plan at this point.

He stopped short when a bell rang to indicate he had talked for three minutes, and joked that he needed to set an example for his long-winded colleague Mr Katter.

Independent MP Bob Katter told the audience he was concerned that free trade was decimating rural Australia.

"It's wonderful to free trade ... but if you're doing it and no one else is doing it, it will close down your food industries and your manufacturing industries," he warned.

Mr Katter said Australia had become a net importer of fruit, vegetables, pork and seafood, and was on track to become a net importer of food in general. He said this was disastrous for the bush.

"Every year you own a business you know it's going to get less and less," he said.

"Every year you know your kids are going to leave because there's no jobs for them in the local town."

Two constituents had had to pull their own teeth out because they could not find a dentist.

Mr Katter spoke against the stranglehold of Coles and Woolworths on the grocery market, saying this was difficult for farmers.

He called for more opportunities for renewable energy in northern Queensland, saying clean wind, solar and biofuel plants should be hooked into the electricity grid.

Mr Katter showed a photo of himself in Brazil filling up his car on cheap petrol, in apparent support of Australia's ethanol industry.

Mr Oakeshott spoke about the "return of the local member" as the building block of parliamentary democracy, not political party democracy.

"And I get the irony that a new gang of four's in town," he said referring to former prime minister Kevin Rudd's kitchen cabinet, including Julia Gillard, Wayne Swan and Lindsay Tanner.

"But I assure you we act for good not evil ... good government not bad government."

Mr Oakeshott wants more power delivered to each of the 150 lower house MPs.

"We have lost the focus on the local member."

"The sky doesn't fall in when we think differently, we actually achieve better results on the ground," he said.

Mr Windsor said he didn't necessarily believe Tony Crook, from the WA Nationals, should automatically be considered one of the coalition seats to form a minority government.

While Mr Crook has indicated a desire to sit in the Nationals party room he also wants to sit on the crossbenches.

In WA, the Nationals and Liberals have a different relationship to the federal coalition.

"If he's not a part of the coalition, he's a crossbench and that's the way I look at the numbers at the moment," Mr Windsor said.

Mr Oakeshott said Mr Crook could make his own decisions but he took aim at the 145 or 146 members of the major parties who were "opting out" of making this government work.

"(They're) leaving delegated authority in the hands of four people," he said.

"I would hope there's some reverse pressure ... in asking where the other local members of parliament are in this issue of national interest."

Mr Bandt said during the campaign people wanted an end to discrimination against same-sex couples and more compassionate treatment of asylum seekers.

"But most importantly ... they want a price on carbon," Mr Bandt said drawing applause from the audience.

"When the only party that goes to the election asking for an immediate price on carbon is the party that has the largest swing to it, that is a message that can't be ignored."

He said scientists want the country to act urgently, the business community is saying "just get on with it", and the community is standing up and making "a clear and loud statement".

"The opportunity we now have in this parliament is to take that action so that business, community and everyone can move on and we can safeguard this planet for future generations," he said.

When asked about the information the independents are seeking on costings of election promises and budget updates, Mr Oakeshott said he would not seek for all that information to be made public.

"If there are sensitivities in the national interest ... well no," he said when asked if he would seek to make the information public.

"We're not here as wreckers."

Mr Windsor said "most of it should be (made public)", but accepted that information on matters like defence should be kept private.

The men were asked if they would accept a ministry in the next government or the speakership, and how they would take into account the views of their electors.

Mr Oakeshott said calls to his office were "running pretty hot".

"But in the end, they have elected someone to fulfil responsibilities as a member of parliament and that is to act without fear or favour," he said.

Mr Bandt said becoming a minister or speaker was not a priority for him, while Mr Windsor and Mr Katter ruled out both options too.

Mr Katter said his electorate was his sole concern.

"I've bought and sold cattle for a large portion of my life, and I'd like to think I could drive a deal," he said.

Mr Windsor said there was an item in the independents' letter to the leaders that might separate which party was most serious about forming a stable, full-term government.

"I will support that party that is the most serious about looking at some of these issues and the reform processes that we may have to be interested in, if in fact there is a hung parliament," he said.

Mr Bandt, who has stated he was more inclined to support Labor, said he would consider formalising a coalition arrangement with Labor.

"Yes but I don't know that coalition is necessarily the right word," he said.

"At the moment there is nothing on or off the table in that respect. The discussions have only just begun.

"It is far too premature to be talking about what kind of arrangement it is."

Mr Bandt said he wanted an arrangement delivering stable, effective and progressive government.

"And I am not particularly hung up on how one describes that and I am certainly not going into the discussion that I am having with preconditions," he said.

Mr Windsor said consideration would be given to a major party should it win more seats than its opposition.

"It's one of the mix (of considerations)," he said, emphasising that stability would be the "key".

"If it's (government) untenable at the start we should recognise that and call it off."

Mr Oakeshott warned parties not to deliberately destabilise government to enable an early poll.

"If anyone plays that game ... that party should not be rewarded," he said, noting that it would be seen as a "blight" on the political system.

Mr Windsor said the political system had been improved in other parts of the world.

"And it can be improved here," he said.

"This is the start of the process, not the end of it."

Mr Oakeshott said there should be 145 others involved in this process.

"This is a moment where we can all do some things for all of us to get some better outcomes," he said.

"If we are left to the dumb down decision of blue or red, we will do it. But there is a window of opportunity here to do something else."

Mr Oakeshott said hopefully the Australian people would apply the burners to some local MPs so this could be achieved.

"From the result on Saturday, we can if we want to move forward with real action," added Mr Oakeshott, in a conflation of the Labor and coalition election slogans.

On the hot topic of climate change, Mr Katter voiced doubts about the science.

"I'm not a sceptic, I'm an anti on the global warming connection," he said.

"I can give you the science of why the global warming connection, there's no science."

Mr Katter said he had spoken with taxi drivers who had told him climate change was not an issue among passengers. And none of his constituents had raised it with him.

He strongly opposed a carbon price, saying you could "kiss goodbye" to the aluminium industry if electricity went up.

"If you want to deal the most terrible body blow to your economy go down that pathway," Mr Katter said of a carbon price.

The other three MPs backed the science of climate change and called for action.

Mr Oakeshott said the best advice from the best scientists was that climate change was real, and it was a pity action on climate change "went to mush" when the politicians got hold of it.

The government's proposed emissions trading scheme had been "dumbed down" by the parliament.

"We failed to deliver," he said of climate change.

Mr Oakeshott backed the work of climate adviser Ross Garnaut, and called for action, whether that involved a carbon price or not.

"Let's get something on the table for all that work," he said.

Mr Windsor said as a parent with future generations in mind, he supported action on climate change.

"We have to make substantive changes to the way in which we live," he said, adding parliament should "drive this thing forward".

Mr Windsor was concerned about changes to renewable energy policy, which had confused consumers.

Mr Oakeshott said the Labor government's response to the Henry tax review was another example where parliament "flopped" at the end of its last term.

He said people were engaged in the process, but "what came out of it was a dirty big fight with the mining industry".

"There's been no legislation for any of us to see," he said.

"If parliamentarians had been engaged and local members had been engaged, and by extension communities had been engaged, rather than a gang of four and vested interest, we might have got a better result for Australia," he said.

He said the review is still there to be acted on, and the mining industry was supportive to the shift from state-based royalties to a resource rent tax.

"I'd love a government response to all those recommendations, not just a couple, and then let's have a genuine tax reform debate in this country and work forward from there."

Mr Windsor said the parliament wasn't really involved in the mining tax decision, and the government suffered because it wasn't.

He said he supported a resource tax, as does the minerals industry, because it was a much more efficient way of taxation.

"I was very surprised that the coalition didn't adopt that particular way," he said.

"The only reason they probably didn't, it was a convenient add-on to the waste and mismanagement ramblings that were going on in terms of the stimulus package."

He said it became a political strategy rather than having anything to do with economics and the raising of taxation from resources.

Mr Bandt said the Greens had supported the originally proposed 40 per cent resources super profits tax and were disappointed at the backdown to a 30 per cent minerals resource rent tax.

"What it says about the current state of democracy in Australia (is) that a few people gather together with a substantial amount of money and run a few ads and all of a sudden a fantastic proposal ends up being watered down," he said.

The Greens went to the election strongly supporting the original tax proposal and argued that money should be put into a sovereign infrastructure fund so it can't be frittered away in the future.

But Mr Katter said the mining tax would have done "absolutely untold damage" to the economy.

Mr Katter, a miner himself, said neither the prime minister or treasurer had bothered to ask him about the tax, being somebody with some authority in mining.

He said 19 out of 20 mining projects would have gone down the chute, in what is a "rollercoaster industry".

"If you are going to ride that rollercoaster then you have got to be able to make the profits on the upswing to cover you for the losses you are going to make on the downside," he said.

Mr Oakeshott said the independents would not be tied to the majority view of the major party they join to form a minority government.

"We're not saying it's going to be holding hands and skipping down streets," he said.
"We should have differences of opinion, we should have robust debate, but it should happen on the floor of the parliament."
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Plea for calm over UK cat woman

Сообщение Ramzes » 25 авг 2010, 08:39

AAP August 25, 2010, 4:45 am

The owners of a kitten in the England thrown into a wheelie bin by a middle-aged woman have appealed to hundreds of people who have expressed their rage online not to "take matters into their own hands".

The RSPCA launched an investigation after a grey-haired woman was captured on CCTV dumping Lola the rescue kitten into a large green rubbish bin in Coventry.

The cat, which was trapped for 15 hours, emerged unscathed but footage of the incident, posted on social networking site Facebook, provoked angry reactions.

Hundreds of people have joined groups on the site, including one entitled "catch the evil b**** who put the cat in the bin", and many have posted threatening messages about the woman depicted in the CCTV.

The RSPCA said the woman had been identified and was due to be interviewed on Tuesday.

The charity said police were supporting the investigation and urged the public to "leave the matter to be dealt with correctly by the authorities".

Police also urged local residents to show restraint.

A small number of community support officers - wardens who assist the police but have no powers of arrest - had been stationed near the woman's home after a crowd gathered outside.

Lola's owner Stephanie Mann, 24, said: "I can't believe the reaction to the story. I only posted it on Facebook because I wanted to see who she was.

"Now that the police know who she is, I think people should leave it to them and the RSPCA and not take matters into their own hands.

"Whatever she has done, I don't like her, but I don't want her to get hurt. It needs to be dealt with properly, not by people getting aggressive with her."
The RSPCA said it planned to interview the woman involved after it confirmed her identity, but declined to say whether she had been identified by a viewer of the clip online.
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Leaders back Afghan mission after digger's death

Сообщение Ramzes » 25 авг 2010, 08:53

Изображение

By James Maasdorp and staff

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott have backed Australia's mission in Afghanistan despite the Australian Army's latest casualty in the troubled country.

The Defence Force confirmed this morning a 28-year-old Lance Corporal was killed in an intense firefight with the Taliban.

Defence Minister John Faulkner says the soldier is the fourth member of 6 RAR group lost in a matter of weeks.

Twenty-one Australian soldiers have now died in Afghanistan since 2001.

But Ms Gillard said in a press conference that while the loss of the soldier's life was dreadful news, Australia's mission in Afghanistan must go on.

"Our thoughts do go out to family and friends who've heard this dreadful news today and are coping with this dreadful news," she said.

"Of course it's a shock, it's a tragedy and our hearts do go out to them in these dreadful circumstances.

"The mission in Afghanistan continues with a loss of 21 soldiers, it goes without saying this is dangerous and difficult work, but it's also vital work.

"What I am advised is that the intensity of the fighting at this time is very fierce.

"[It is related to] the intensity of the work that is being undertaken in Afghanistan now. We are there to train the Afghan National Army, that is our task.

"The anticipation is that in timeframes completing that mission will take two to four years but good work is being done, progress is being made in training the Afghan National Army."

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott also offered his condolences to the family of the fallen soldier, and shared Ms Gillard's sentiments that the mission in Afghanistan must continue.

"This is obviously a very difficult and dangerous time in Afghanistan. It is a mission that is vital for the security of our country and the wider world and now is not the time to waver in our commitment," he said.

"I'm not going to put limits on Australia's commitment to do its bit to rid the world of terrorism.

"We know terrorism is a threat to this country...obviously our soldiers are paying a higher price to protect Australians and others from the threat of terrorism but this is a very important struggle and it cannot be abandoned.

"I don't think Australians want us to shirk our responsibilities, obviously we deeply regret casualties, no-one can be anything other than horrified at the number of casualties, but we do have a duty to maintain a world which is safe, a world where the universal decencies of mankind are respected and we will continue to do that as far as I'm concerned."

Ms Gillard says there is no evidence Taliban insurgents are specifically targeting Australian troops.

"There's no advice to me that would draw anybody to that conclusion," she said.

More troops needed

As the Australian casualties rise, there are renewed calls for a debate about the conflict.

Australia's former chief of operations in Iraq, retired Major General Jim Molan, says the fight with the Taliban will not be won unless the next federal government boosts personnel numbers in Afghanistan.

He says the next government needs to stop its censorship of the Defence Force and let it report to the public about the war.

"Someone's got to look at this and look at it very, very critically, look at it openly and look at it honestly," he said.

Iraq war whistleblower and likely federal independent MP Andrew Wilkie says Australia's involvement is based on a "great lie".

"[It is] a lie told by both the Labor Party and the Liberal Party that we have to be there to fight terrorists for Australia's national security," he said.

But Ms Gillard says the Labor Government provided Parliament with reports on Afghanistan that are open to debate.

"My view would be that it's appropriate for the Parliament to receive regular reports on the mission in Afghanistan and to debate and consider those reports as appropriate," she said.

Mr Abbott says he would support a parliamentary debate about Australia's commitment in Afghanistan.

"I'm happy to see a parliamentary debate about it but, as I say, as far as the Coalition is concerned we fully support our commitment," he said.

Defence Minister John Faulkner says he also supports debate in the Parliament and in the community about Australia's involvement in Afghanistan.

"Of course full debate should be encouraged, also frankness and transparency about our progress in Afghanistan," he said.

"I would commend to you the approach that's been taken in relation to the substantive ministerial statements that have been brought down in the last four parliamentary sessions."
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Ramzes
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Adversarial and aggressive Abbott stumbles

Сообщение Ramzes » 27 авг 2010, 08:10

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It was bound to happen. One side of politics or the other was always going to stumble as both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott struggled to come to grips with the new political paradigm.

The first to trip up has been Abbott.

The Opposition Leader's strident demands that the independents be barred from having access to the Treasury "Red Book" and his refusal to allow the Treasury to cost the Opposition's election promises is wrong on so many counts it's hard to know where to begin.

Let's start with political optics. The people have spoken and we have a hung Parliament. This wasn't a mistake. It's democracy. Ipso facto the voters can never be wrong. What's happened here is that the electorate has sent a deliberate message; they wanted neither Gillard nor Abbott. Therefore what they did want was some form of government that gave vent to these doubts.

Enter the idea of a minority government reliant on a motley collection of independent, Green and renegade Liberal-National MPs. What this radical shift means is that whether Labor or the Coalition eventually form government they will both have to countenance thoughts, reforms and policies way outside the comfort zone of a two party system.

Which is just what the voters intended.

What this also means is a period of negotiated consensus as the independents submit their list of demands. This process should put to rest any loopy demands from either the lunar Left (the Greens' Adam Bandt) or the lunar Right (Bob Katter). On the current numbers in the House of Representatives extremist positions will deal whoever is making them out of a share of the balance of power in any case.

What needs to happen here is lots of serious talk from all concerned. Everybody has to recognise that the old adversarial ground rules dictated by the two party system of government no longer apply. Gillard has moved in this direction both rhetorically and in her actions. Indeed the fact that Abbott's view matters here at all is because Gillard has granted him a veto under the caretaker government conventions which require agreement on questions of process.

So, Gillard appears to know that all the ground rules have changed, that we went to bed on August 21 playing Aussie Rules and woke up on August 22 playing Rugby League. The independents know it too. The only one who hasn't made the cognitive leap into the political future is Abbott.

In resisting the requests of the independents for access to the Treasury economic brief prepared for the incoming government and for Treasury to validate the Opposition's election promises, Abbott demonstrates he's still stuck in campaign mode. That is; adversarial and aggressive. Right when the national mood requires constructive and non-partisan engagement.

By his behavior Abbott gives every sign of missing the moment when the caravan of democracy moved on. The Coalition's normally reasonable Finance Spokesman, Andrew Robb is similarly trapped. His argument that the Coalition won't present their policies to the Treasury because of a campaign leak damaging to the Coalition and sourced to the same department is adversarial politics on steroids.

The leak, which became a handy campaign excuse for the Opposition not to submit all of their costings to Treasury, is now irrelevant. In the changed political climate the country now faces, the rolling out of the same excuse, the same grievance, simply sounds negative and carping. Small minded even. Robb and Abbott are behaving as if nothing happened on August 21.

There's something else they seem to have missed; this time it's not the Labor Party demanding the Coalition submit itself to Treasury scrutiny. It's the independents who now hold the nation's future in their collective hands. The voters have given them the right to ask for these things.

Katter got it about right in his reaction to Abbott's arch refusal to accommodate the Independents when he said: "Obviously every person in Australia at the present moment believes that he's got something to hide," he said.

One other problem; Robb argues that the Treasury Red Book, as the incoming government brief is known, should be kept confidential as per precedent and not revealed to the independents. Well why not?

As observed above, the independents will be playing an absolutely pivotal role here. Hasn't it yet dawned on either Abbott or Robb that whichever way the power coin flips these guys are part of any incoming government. They should be shown the Red Book as of right.

While we're on that point, why can't the Australian people also be privy to the contents of a brief that could fundamentally change their lives? The idea of Robb - a member of the Opposition - suddenly arguing against full government disclosure is somewhat quaint in itself. Certainly it's one I've never heard before.

Surely Robb's debating point that the "Red Book" should be kept under wraps because, to quote him "it contains frank and fearless advice on the economic outlook" closes the deal on making it as widely available as possible.

So, let's take stock on where all this belligerence leaves Abbott: Firstly he's seen as still being fuelled by campaign aggression when the political paradigm dealt by the election outcome requires calm. Second he's seen as shifty on the issue Coalition costings. And thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, he's fouled, in one fell swoop, his relationship with the independents.

The latter is not a good look for someone potentially relying on those same independents to support the Coalition's claim to government.

Last, but not least of all, the above has left Abbott looking like he's still an Opposition Leader, rather than a Prime Minister in waiting. All you need to know is that Abbott's behavior has left Labor "flabbergasted", the description of one ministerial adviser.

If Abbott has given Julia Gillard hope then he's clearly got it all wrong. From here on Tony, just say "yes".

Glenn Milne has been covering Canberra politics for more than two decades.
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