An Australian news roundup

A savvy Leftist politician for a change

A Brisbane Labor MP wants the Federal Government to pay rent subsidies for some low-income earners direct to landlords to prevent the tenants misusing the money. Craig Emerson, whose seat of Rankin includes low-income areas in Logan City, said last night that if the measure were applied to persistent rent defaulters it would guarantee their children had a roof over their heads. "Some may say this is an invasion of civil liberties and of the rights of parents," Dr Emerson told a Young Labor meeting in Sydney. "But surely children have a right to a secure roof over their heads and taxpayers have a right to be assured that the rent assistance they provide is actually being used on accommodation."

Single-parent families eligible for rent assistance can have up to 45 per cent of rent payments made, provided they produce a lease or complete a certificate at Centrelink stating that they are renting. Low-income two-parent families are also eligible. Dr Emerson said the rent assistance was paid regardless of whether the tenant was actually paying rent.

He said one of his motives was to ensure stable homes so children could access education. "Many highly-intelligent, brilliant young Australians miss out on a good education because they are growing up in dysfunctional families and in disadvantaged, welfare-dependent communities," Dr Emerson said. "In my own area, in Logan City, an estimated two-thirds of chronic school absences are condoned by parents. "Depressed single mothers want a child to stay home with them."

He said children in disadvantaged areas needed support and encouragement and that providing their parents with "passive welfare' was not helpful. "Passive welfare says to them: 'Your place is outside of mainstream society, you are on the outer, and your children are on the outer too'," he said.


Evil legislation defeated at last in the High Court

The West Australian Government could be held liable for millions of dollars in damages after its proceeds-of-crime legislation was labelled "draconian" by High Court judges who said it failed to provide fair access to the justice system. While many defendants across the country had been forced to scrimp on legal representation in the past because their assets had been frozen, the High Court ruled that property could be exempted to pay legal costs.

The decision could open the way for defendants to appeal against their convictions after they had been forced to represent themselves or hire cheaper solicitors, said celebrity lawyer Martin Bennett. Under the 6-1 judgment, Western Australia may also be liable to pay damages for changes in market value to property held under its control. Proceeds-of-crime legislation in other states could also be affected.

Mr Bennett led the landmark case, representing Nigel Mansfield in a battle against the state to access Mr Mansfield's funds to pay for his defence to insider-trading charges. Mr Mansfield's assets have been frozen for the past four years. "The act ... is draconian in its operation and complex in various of its provisions," the judgment said. Judge John Heyson was the only one who voted to dismiss the action. For Mr Mansfield, 65, a former financial adviser, who fought the case with the financial aid of friends and family, yesterday's decision was gratifying but came too late. "For four years this has drained me, utterly and completely," he said.


Australian boost for ethanol as fuel

Queensland scientists will attempt to create supercharged sugarcane crops designed specifically to fuel our cars. Others are working on a plan to create green fuel from algae grown in farm dams and lagoons across the state. The work is funded by national grants as the Federal Government attempts to improve our research into alternative fuels. Queensland has won the bulk of the $10.5 million announced yesterday under the Renewable Energy Development Initiative Program. CSR Sugar has secured $5 million for its work on "SugarBooster" - a program to develop high yielding sugarcane varieties increasing the amount of fermentable sugar.

Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane, who announced the grants yesterday, said the program could dramatically boost Australia's green fuel industry. Bardon company SQC Pty Ltd has received $200,000 to help commercialise the process which could utilise suitable farm dams and irrigation lagoons to grow the algae. Other grants include $258,000 for a solar collector in NSW and $2.3 million for a renewable energy grid connector in the Northern Territory.


Drug-loving Australian Greens

The irrational cravings the Greens and other Leftists have for easier drugs runs so deep that we must conclude the worst. This month's "drugs, please" came from the Victorian Greens, who promised to scrap all criminal sanctions for drug users and give addicts free heroin. Last month's came from the Democrats' leader in South Australia, Sandra Kanck, who told Parliament that ecstasy (or MDMA) was "not a dangerous drug". In fact, she chirruped, "one of the best things you could probably have done for the people on the Eyre Peninsula who had gone through that trauma (of bushfires) was give them MDMA."

The federal Greens are no better, vowing at the last election to decriminalise drug use and consider free heroin for addicts. And three years ago its (now quietly deleted) policy was to make softer drugs "more freely available" because people need "the opportunity to achieve personal fulfilment" and that "may, for some people at particular times, involve the use of drugs".

I said this hankering for easier-to-get drugs was irrational -- but only if the Left's aim is to cut drug use. You see, make anything more available, and more people will use it. So when Switzerland pioneered "safe" injecting rooms, overdose deaths tripled. And when the Howard Government instead got tough on drugs, deaths dropped.

The sorry conclusion? These "more drugs" policies are clearly drawn up by people so selfish, unimaginative or arrogant that they can't imagine anyone who isn't exactly like they fancy themselves -- rational, and strong enough to take drugs without hurting anyone. I sure don't say they use drugs themselves, mind. But I can introduce them to plenty of junkies who once shared their lethal conceits.



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