JASON GORDON: Don’t hold your breath

JEFF McCLOYWHEN water wants to go somewhere, it’ll find a way, as we found during the April storms.
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It doesn’t matter how many towels you stuff under the timber sliding doors, how many fingers in the dyke, how tiny the hole in your shoe, irresistible force will win.

If Mike Baird doesn’t know that already, there’s a fair chance he’s about to.

The Premier, seemingly kissed on the backside by a rainbow, led the state Liberals out of last year’s ICAC scandals without so much as a bruised hip, but politics can be a bit like whack-a-mole. Knock one on the head with a mallet, and another pops up. And sometimes you can’t keep a bad one down.

Since Jeff McCloy’s infamous run-in with the ICAC, calls to reform political donations laws have been getting louder and more toxic.

Salim Mehajer, the unnaturally-smooth deputy mayor of Auburn who obviously couldn’t afford live unicorns for his wedding, had the drums banging at the Premier’s door again last week.

Fairfax Media revealed that Mehajer had failed to tell election funding authorities about who funded his election campaign, how much was in it, and how much it cost to nail pictures of his head all over town. He got whacked with a couple of $1100 fines, slightly less than one of his Louis Vuitton shoes.

Mehajer is an independent and is not Baird’s problem, but the issue of political donations is.

Travel rorts at a federal level aside, it’s local councils where a deepening distrust of elected officials has become the not-so-silent creeper.

Baird knows the laws have to change, and with his party suffering the most knocks by recent scandals, he has to lead the charge.

Local government elections will be held late next year, with growing expectations of a federal poll as early as next March. Baird has promised to take the issue to a meeting of Australian governments later this year, but there appears little chance of turning reform around before we next go to the polls.

Talk so far has centred around tighter limits on how much can be donated to parties and candidates. Sure, that’ll help, but for cynics like me, that sort of reform won’t touch the sides. Unless we can see a real-time register of who’s donating to who, keeping the bastards honest will remain as difficult as finding unicorns for weddings.

No one should be in the business of predicting High Court judgments, but I’ll take a crack at what the High Court might make of Jeff McCloy’s challenge to what he says is a breach of his constitutional rights. That is, he should be allowed to donate to whoever he likes, regardless of what he does for a crust. He’s also challenged limits on donation amounts.

McCloy, as we know, was unhinged by the ICAC for illegally donating to the campaigns of three Liberals before the 2011 state poll.

Having sat through the High Court hearings, I find it difficult to see McCloy losing the first challenge. You can’t ban one person, in this case a developer, from exercising the same democratic right afforded to everybody else. But the second claim is a tad messier. If we work on the idea that donations buy influence, does the size of that influence change in accordance with how much you can afford to donate? Yes, to hazard a guess.

Regardless, aren’t we better off knowing that he’s donated in the first place? Only then can we determine if he’s simply backing a horse he likes, or if he’s backing a horse that’s returning him something way over the odds.

There is no evidence to support the theory that McCloy got any return at all, despite him breaking the law, but the issue is bigger than McCloy alone. Take a look at the electoral funding returns of the Liberal and Labor candidates and you’ll see, almost like magic, that their entire campaigns were funded by a donation from their party or branch. In other words, how the hell do we know who donated to the union, to the party, to the state office, to the federal office, to the local branch, to fund the candidate?

Real reform needs to start from the ground up and it’s going to be a difficult mole for Baird to whack into oblivion any time soon. Because regardless of what shape that reform takes, and regardless of how political donations are governed, that same cynic in me suggests that ways around them will soon follow. Like water, it will find a way.

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EDITORIAL: Union inquiry goes on

Dyson Heydon TRADE unions, not surprisingly, are unhappy that royal commissioner Dyson Heydon has dismissed their bid to have the former High Court judge step aside from his probe into corruption among their ranks.
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It had been alleged that, because the commissioner had agreed to deliver an address to a Liberal Party fundraising event, the public might perceive him to be biased towards the Abbott government’s anti-union agenda.

The commissioner withdrew from his speaking engagement after the controversy erupted in the press, explaining that he had ‘‘overlooked’’ links between the annual Garfield Barwick address and the Liberal Party. He has, however, stated that he would be willing to deliver the Barwick address at some time in the future, when he was no longer presiding over this royal commission.

Ruling on his own case, Mr Heydon has declared himself unbiased and ready to keep the corruption inquiry rolling ahead. ‘‘It could not rationally be concluded that a person who merely agrees to give a legal address at such an event, albeit organised by the lawyer branches of the Liberal Party, believes in, supports or has any relevant association with the Liberal Party,’’ the commissioner stated in his decision.

Whether many members of the public care much either way is a matter for conjecture. It appears to be a commonly held belief that the Abbott government started the commission for political reasons. Many people appear to agree with the contention that numerous other matters might be examined by a royal commission with greater prospect of real benefit to the nation than can be expected from this trade union inquiry.

But even if that view is accepted, not many Australians seem to have much sympathy for the union movement in this particular situation. Union membership has been dropping for years, and many remaining members often complain that their unions have become bureaucratic behemoths with only sporadic focus on workplace problems.

Indeed, the royal commission has revealed many shocking facts about the way some unions have operated, about their relationships with some employers and their influence on national politics through the Australian Labor Party.

Despite all that, one suspects that, on balance, many people probably regard the controversy as yet another partisan sideshow occurring during a highly charged period in Australian political life. Some might relish the discomfiture of the unions and the ALP, while others may equally have enjoyed the spectacle of some seemingly awkward moments for the commissioner and the government that appointed him.

The unions’ failed attempt to remove the commissioner may ensure, however, that more people pay attention to the commission’s future proceedings.

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Sailor considers appeal after losing compensation case over unwanted pregnancy

Lawyers representing a sailor who sued the Department of Defence over an unwanted pregnancy are considering appealing a judge’s decision to throw the case out.
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Emily Hetherington, now aged 26 from Queanbeyan, NSW, had been seeking damages for pain, suffering and loss of earnings after Navy medical staff failed to detect her pregnancy.

Ms Hetherington claimed that if her pregnancy had been confirmed, she would not have kept her unborn son.

But Supreme Court Justice Bernard Bongiorno dismissed the case, finding Ms Hetherington was not entitled to a damages payout under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act.

Under the Act, Defence staff members were barred from receiving a compensation payout if they suffered a “service injury” caused by another staff member.

“The health status of a newly enlisted sailor would be a matter of some importance to the Navy,” the judge said.

“If the sailor was female her pregnancy status would be particularly important, having regard to the functions she might be required to carry out, whether ashore or on a ship.

“Accordingly, it is in the interests of the Navy as well as in those of the sailor, that her pregnancy status be ascertained and taken into account in the enlistment process and in the training which would normally follow it.”

The judge said when Ms Hetherington was attending Navy medical examinations, she was “acting in the interests of the Navy as well as in her own interests”.

“She was engaged in ‘rendering defence service’ just as much as if she were driving a truck, cleaning the deck of a ship, or engaging in some other more obviously Naval activity.”

The judge said, as a result, Ms Hetherington had suffered a ‘service injury” caused by another Defence staff member and was not entitled to compensation under the Act.

Slater and Gordon medical law senior associate Nick Mann told Fairfax Media on Monday that an appeal was being considered.

“We are reviewing the judgment and our client is currently considering her options,” Mr Mann said.

In her statement of claim, Ms Hetherington revealed she enlisted with the Navy on January 14, 2008, at Anglesea barracks in Hobart.

She underwent a medical examination on the day which included a urinary pregnancy test. This pregnancy test was reported as being negative.

A pregnancy test was also never carried out on a blood sample taken from Ms Hetherington.

The next day Ms Hetherington transferred to the HMAS Cerberus training facility in Victoria.

During her time at HMAS Cerberus, she attended the health care centre six times between January 15 and April 29, 2008, where she received a number of vaccinations.

During each visit to the health care centre, she told staff she had not had her period since either November or December 2007. Medical staff did not carry out any pregnancy tests during these visits.

Ms Hetherington said when she went to the health care centre on March 13, 2008, she told staff she was experiencing nausea, fatigue, dizziness, had gained weight and not had a period for about six months. No pregnancy test was undertaken.

Ms Hetherington claimed if she had known she had been six to seven weeks’ pregnant at the time, she would have had an abortion.

She underwent an obstetric ultrasound examination on May 2, 2008, which revealed she was 22 weeks pregnant.

She gave birth to a son on August 24, 2008.

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Regular game time gives Socceroos hopefuls the best chance of making international grade

Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou. Photo: Brendan Esposito Perth It’s a dilemma many young players face.
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To earn a big pay packet by sitting on the bench at a big club and rarely featuring.

Or to drop down a level and play regularly, improve your game and prospects and in so doing pave the way for an even bigger deal at a bigger club later in your career.

It’s a major talking point in the English game at the moment as the FA rues the fact that so many talented English youngsters seem content to harvest the riches on offer for merely being in a Premier League squad, even if they only play on the odd occasion.

But it’s equally relevant to the Socceroos and the Australian game, and something Ange Postecoglou and the national team coaching staff consider a major issue.

Postecoglou is a firm believer that, unless there are exceptional circumstances or that a player has already proved himself on countless occasions in green and gold, then anyone looking for selection has to prove himself ready by playing regularly.

Many in the game thought that former Melbourne Victory goalkeeper Mitch Langerak was an all round more talented keeper than ex-Central Coast custodian Mat Ryan when the two were in the early stages of their careers.

But it is the latter, a couple of years younger, who has firmly established himself as Postecoglou’s number one, in large part due to the fact that after both moved to Europe he played regularly while Langerak didn’t.

The latter spent years on the bench as back up goalkeeper at one of the world’s biggest clubs, Borussia Dortmund. But he only started occasionally.

Ryan went to the less glamorous Belgian League where he instantly became first choice for Club Brugge. They won the title, progressed in the UEFA Cup, Ryan established himself and is now playing for Valencia in La Liga, one of the best league’s in the world.

Langerak has, only now, moved to VFB Stuttgart but his chances of breaking through have been stymied by a knee injury which has prevented him playing for his new side.

There are several players in the current Socceroo squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers who have faced a similar choice.

Left back Jason Davidson secured a dream move from Holland to the EPL after the World Cup when he signed for West Bromwich Albion. But the switch to the Hawthorns turned out to be anything but for the Australian international as he rarely featured for the Baggies all season.

He has now joined Championship strugglers Huddersfield Town. Its a step down in grade, but at least he is playing all the time and is a much better chance of developing his game with regular football.

Massimo Luongo has burst on to the Socceroo scene like a comet in the past 12 months.

When his then third tier club, League One Swindon Town, did not win promotion to the Championship last season it was inevitable that Luongo would leave. After all, he had won the player of the tournament award at the Asian Cup and was in demand from bigger clubs.

While the youngster was linked with teams in the Premier League and overseas, Luongo plumped for a move to the Championship to join Queens Park Rangers, the London team just relegated from the EPL.

Some saw that as a strange move given he might have gone to a higher level, but for Luongo it was the chance to play regularly with an ambitious team looking to bounce back to the top flight that was the clincher.

For Postecoglou it is far more useful to have a player like him appearing regularly in the hurly burly of The Championship, one of the most competitive leagues in the world, than sitting on the bench at a club like Aston Villa (with whom he was linked) and playing sporadically.

Tommy Oar, the Socceroo winger who has just signed a deal with another Championship side in Ipswich Town, is another example. He parted company with Utrecht, of the Dutch Eredivisie, and although he was linked with moves to Spain he has taken the chance to join a club where he might get the chance to play more regularly than he would in La Liga.

Admittedly its not always straightforward. And its sometimes hard to convince young men to turn down lucrative financial offers which could set them up for life in favour of a more measured approach which promises deferred, but potentially even greater, riches.

Its something Socceroo assistant coach Ante Milicic acknowledges. But, as he points out, there are major benefits, at least to a player’s international prospects.

“Every case is individual and there are also a lot of advisers and agents involved in the players personal decisions as to where they are going to play their club football.

“But definitely for us, when we look at the bigger picture, players that are playing consistently and playing at a decent level always gives you a better chance to play for the national team.

“It also means that when you come into camp you are fit and can back up and play two games in five or six days, you can handle the travel and it just gives you a better chance of selection when you have got the minutes in your legs.”

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Trade Union Royal Commission: Dyson Heydon shows why judges really are a breed apart

Dyson Heydon will remain as the head of the royal commission into trade union corruption. Photo: Ben RushtonUnions weigh appeal as Labor shifts attack to ParliamentAddressing Lib fundraiser does not mean supporting Libs: HeydonComment: Heydon saves his own skinAnalysis: Heydon finds ‘fatal’ flaw in unions’ argument
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A welter of evidence clearly establishing a widespread public perception of bias on the part of the royal commissioner into trade union corruption has been brushed off as irrelevant by the highest legal authority charged with assessing it: the royal commissioner himself.

In finding that the evidence tendered by unions amounted to insufficient weight to justify his own recusal, Heydon has confused his own subjective self-assessment with a more objective public understanding of his impartiality, giving more weight to the former than the latter.

In part this is driven by a calculation – shared by the government as it happens – that much of the “outrage” against him is transparently political and self-serving. Further, that the claims of apprehended bias derived from opportunistic outrage by persons primarily concerned with discrediting him, undermining his inquiry, and thereby avoiding further scrutiny of their own questionable actions.

This is undoubtedly correct, inasmuch as some parties are concerned, but the question mark hanging over the royal commissioner’s impartiality remains and, despite his determination to continue, is not limited to unionists, dodgy or otherwise.

Heydon’s verdict was to some extent inevitable. When a judge is asked to rule on his or her self – especially on questions of impartiality – disentangling the personal from the public, the subjective from the objective, is difficult. It is itself a conflict of interest.

But that’s the job.

Heydon may well be completely unbiased and may well have brought to this politically super-charged inquiry a completely impartial and unprejudiced mind.

But self-evidently, many people do not think so.

In any event, Heydon appears to have sloughed off his own admirably economical direction in another case, that being British American Tobacco Australia Services Limited v Laurie of February 2010, where he said: “It is fundamental to the administration of justice that the judge be neutral. It is for this reason that the appearance of departure from neutrality is a ground of disqualification … Because the rule is concerned with the appearance of bias, and not the actuality, it is the perception of the hypothetical observer that provides the yardstick. It is the public’s perception of neutrality with which the rule is concerned. In Livesey it was recognised that the lay observer might reasonably apprehend that a judge who has found a state of affairs to exist, or who has come to a clear view about the credit of a witness, may not be inclined to depart from that view in a subsequent case. It is a recognition of human nature.”

Prima facie, the retention of the royal commissioner is a win for the Abbott government. Heydon’s departure in ignominious circumstances would have de-spurred a process which is central to the political architecture of the Coalition’s re-election.

Yet it has also served to deepen public suspicion that its aims were always partisan – and that the $60 million-plus allocated is a vast sum of public funds directed to a political cause deemed advantageous to the incumbent government.

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Exclusive Henley startup club launches in Sydney with broadside for tech hubs

Trimantium Capital founder and Henley Club president Phillip Kingston. Photo: Ben PedrochiOne of Australia’s leading social impact investors will launch a new social club saying the rise of innovation hubs and coworking spaces do not fix real problems and can ultimately have a negative impact on their members.
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Trimantium Capital founder Phillip Kingston is heading up the targeted social movement known as the Henley Club, which will open in Sydney this week.

Henly Club differs from recently launched startup hubs such as Stone & Chalk, by operating as a private members social club, running events and offering its members networking opportunities. Mr Kingston questioned the value of startup hubs and accelerators to the community they purport to serve.

“Coworking spaces and incubators are systemically broken. They are often marred by a commercial imperative but fundamentally they do not solve a real problem,” Mr Kingston said.

“There is a definitional bias in which companies that take off will leave, so members are exposed to people who not moving out, and there are negative consequences to this. There is also no perverse incentive [with Henley Club] where a big investor wants first dibs on any emerging ideas.” Melbourne success

The Henley Club runs events and workshops for its members. Sydney will be the second chapter of the club, which has been running in Melbourne since 2012.

It has hundreds of members, many of whom have become investors, board members or mentors for each other. Its main focus is on innovation and technology entrepreneurs, social enterprise and young professionals.

One example of the network benefits of the club can be seen in the rise of the New Palm Court Orchestra, which combines jazz, classical and improvising musicians and was launched by pianist, composer and Henley member Gemma Turvey.

Mr Kingston said most existing technology co-working spaces and accelerator programs had very narrow focus, and curtailed the creativity and connections required to launch genuinely progressive organisations and businesses.

“There are a lot of people working in innovation and progress. A wider community solution is going to drive more meaningful and robust change that people actually want and need than political solutions.”

The club requires referrals to join and has a series of quotas including an equal split of male and female members, as well as racial and religious diversity quotas.

“Connectivity and building social capital have clear short and long term benefits,” Mr Kingston said.

“There is a massive fragmentation of capital networks. This is about bringing groups of people with answers to problems together with people with connections and money to support them.”

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ASX set for strong recovery, Deutsche’s top stock picks include Harvey Norman

Deutsche says Harvey Norman and a string of other stocks are strong buys. Photo: Scott Barbour
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History suggests the ASX 200 index is on track for gains of about 10 per cent over the next six to 12 months – as long as Australia avoids a recession, according to Deutsche Bank.

In addition to the big four banks, financial market plays and healthcare stocks, Harvey Norman, Echo Entertainment, Flight Centre, Boral, Fletcher Building, Stockland, REA Group, QBE and AMP were strong buys, Deutsche said, while resource stocks still looked too expensive.

Deutsche’s report, Corrections, Current Valuations and What to Buy, noted that the ASX200 had fallen 15 per cent over the past six months. Since 1960, there had been 13 such corrections.

“There are some 20 per cent-plus rebounds over the ensuing 6 to 12 months, but also some 20 per cent-plus falls,” Deutsche said. “The average is flat performance.”

However, the picture was rosier if corrections that preceded recessions were excluded.

“The market tends to rally following a 15 per cent fall provided no recession develops,” Deutsche said.

“Given our view that a recession is not imminent, we expect the market to rise in a similar fashion to historical precedents. Indeed, the market is already up 5 per cent since last Monday’s trough.” Resources expensive 

The ASX 200 was trading around 5202 at Monday noon, AEST, down more than 1 per cent for the day but 5.5 per cent higher than last Monday’s nadir of 4929.7.

Deutsche’s paper used a variety of price-earnings ratios to determine the value of the market: forward P/E ratio; trailing P/E ratio; modified trailing P/E ratio; cyclically adjusted P/E ratio; and Deutsche’s own “fair-value” model, which takes into account inflation, real interest rates, the Australian dollar and recent earnings per share revisions.

According to Deutsche’s analysis, both the forward and trailing P/E ratios were still 7 per cent above the historical average, suggesting the market was overvalued.

But other P/E ratios told a different story. The cyclically adjusted P/E ratio was 12 per cent below the historical average, the fair-value model was 2 per cent below the historical average and the modified trailing P/E ratio – considering return on equity minus cost of equity – was 17 per cent below the historical average, suggesting a cheap market.

Amid major sectors, “resources still look expensive, banks seem cheap and industrials are in the middle,” Deutsche said.

Among industrials, cyclicals are trading at a 5 per cent discount to defensives.

“This is not especially large, but does suggest that cyclicals offer marginally more value.” On path to 6000

Deutsche also slashed its ASX 200 predictions, tipping 5600 by the end of 2015 (previously 6200) and 5800 by mid-2016 (previously 6350).

It tipped 6000 by the end of 2016.

UBS, like Deutsche, was not enthusiastic about prospects for the market.

“Valuation does not appear overly compelling in absolute terms, but we believe relative values versus low interest rates is the key positive support.

“Given headwinds from banks and resources, as well as a subdued outlook for the domestic economy, medium-term market prospects beyond a short-term bounce appear constrained by mediocre earnings growth.

“We believe the positive earnings impact from further falls in the Australian dollar … remains the key potential positive in the earnings cycle,” UBS said.

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Sydney weather: Mild start to spring ahead of warm burst

If it doesn’t feel like spring yet – it should do soon. German tourist, Vincet enjoying the sunshine in the Royal Botanic Gardens. Photo: Louie Douvis
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South-eastern Australia had its coolest winter for decades in some regions but seasonal temperatures for most of the country were above average and the mercury will soon start to climb, meteorologists said.

With winter officially ending on Monday, Sydney will have had its coldest winter by mean temperatures since 2010. For Melbourne, it was the most chilly since 1989, according to Weatherzone.

The Bureau of Meteorology said that final day figures could affect the comparisons for Sydney with the latest temperatures matching those of the 2012 winter. Maximums for the city are running at 0.8 degrees above the 1961-90 average and minimums 0.1 degrees below.

For Melbourne, the mean temperatures were just 0.1 degree below 1997’s level so Monday’s result “could conceivably push it level” with that year, making it only the coldest in eight years, Blair Trewin, senior climatologist with the bureau, said.

“The last couple of winters have been quite mild across south-eastern Australia, so this year was more typical of what we used to get,” Ben McBurney, a meteorologist with Weatherzone, said. “It has certainly come as quite a shock for some.”

Sydney, for instance, will come in about 1 degree above the long-term average for temperatures across the winter. Although the early mornings felt cold, only July among the three months of winter was below average for minimums – and only just, by about 0.1 degree, said Rob Sharpe, also a Weatherzone meteorologist.

Australia as a whole will post a warmer-than-average winter, particularly for the north and west, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. See chart below:

September will get off to a mostly sunny start in Sydney and Melbourne on Tuesday before rain arrives later in the week, particularly Thursday.

The low pressure trough, though, is unlikely to develop into an east coast low and will instead head “straight out to sea”, Mr Sharpe said.

Conditions, though, should warm up early next week, particularly for Sydney where a string of days with tops of 22-23 degrees can be expected, he said.

“It will feel like we’re getting into spring,” he said.

Nationally, the most notable warmth was in WA and Queensland, Dr Trewin said. Below-normal temperatures were largely confined to the south-east regions of the country, particularly for Victoria, Tasmania, southern NSW and southern SA.

“NSW hasn’t had a below-average winter for mean temperatures since 1997, a record which will not be spoilt in 2015,” Dr Trewin said.

Spring outlook

The bureau last week released its three-month weather outlook for the country, predicting a wetter-than-average spring for central and western parts of the country and more average conditions for the rest.

The additional cloud expected will likely mean day-time temperatures will be mild for spring, the bureau said:

The odds, though, strongly favour milder than average overnight temperatures during the September-November period, according to the bureau:

Rainfall and climate influences

Rainfall during the winter months was on the low side for both Sydney and Melbourne.

Sydney received about 229 millimetres of rain over the June-August period, or about 74 per cent of its long-run average, Weatherzone said.

Melbourne’s 124 millimetres was about 84 per cent of its usual for winter.

The sub-par rain came as a strong El Nino event developed in the Pacific. Such events tend to see rainfall shift away from Australia as easterly trade winds stall or reverse.

The winter, though, would have been drier across much of southern Australia if not for the countering influence of exceptionally warm waters in the Indian Ocean. (See chart of temperature anomalies below:)

“Generally speaking, [the Indian Ocean warmth] is going to moderate the effects of the El Nino, particularly during the late winter and into spring,” Mr Sharpe said.

The record El Nino year of 1997-98 was characterised by close to average rainfall across much of Australia in large part because of moisture still reaching much of the country because of favourable Indian Ocean conditions leading to more convection.

“It looks like [the El Nino] might not be all that bad for Australia,” Mr Sharpe said, adding that its impacts globally may still be large.

Weatherzone is owned by Fairfax Media, publisher of this website.

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Trade Union Royal Commission: Dyson Heydon stays on as Commissioner

Dyson Heydon arrives at the royal commission on Monday morning ahead of delivering his decision. Photo: Ben Rushton Australian Council of Trade Unions president Dave Oliver speaks to the media after the decision. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer
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Heydon shows why judges really are a breed apartAttending Liberal event does not mean I back Liberals: Heydon

Dyson Heydon has ruled he will continue as the head of the royal commission into trade unions despite being accused of bias for agreeing to appear at a Liberal Party fundraiser.

In a short hearing on Monday, Mr Heydon dismissed an application by unions to have him removed as commission chair after he accepted an invitation to speak at the Sir Garfield Barwick Address.

“I have considered all the submissions. In my opinion, the applications must be dismissed. I publish my reasons,” Mr Heydon said at the end of the five minute hearing.

In the 67-page judgement of his reasons, Mr Heydon ruled “it is not the case that a fair-minded lay observer might apprehend that I might not bring an impartial mind” to the inquiry.

He rejected the unions’ submission that the Sir Garfield Barwick address was a “Liberal Party event”, saying the “mere fact that  a person agrees to deliver a speech at a forum does not rationally establish that the person is sympathetic to, or endorses the views of, the organiser of the forum”.

The government welcomed the decision but unions said they would be reading the judgment carefully before announcing whether they would appeal.

Mr Heydon was forced to consider his position after Fairfax Media revealed he was listed as a guest speaker at the Sir Garfield Barwick Address, a Liberal Party fundraiser.

The commissioner withdrew from the event but unions said his acceptance of the invitation gave the appearance of a political allegiance – with the commissioner himself left to make the ruling on whether it was a case of apprehended bias.

He had first been due to make a ruling last Tuesday, which he delayed until last Friday.

That date was again pushed back to Monday after fresh claims emerged Mr Heydon only withdrew from the event after he was alerted to possible media interest by counsel assisting the royal commission, Jeremy Stoljar SC.

Mr Heydon told the commission on Monday he had received three sets of written submissions on Friday afternoon – one from the CFMEU, one from the ACTU and one from the AWU.

But he had determined the application should be dismissed.

In his reasons, Mr Heydon noted he only read emails printed out by his personal assistant and in this case, he did not read attachments about Sir Garfield Barwick address.

Responding to the decision, Attorney-General George Brandis said the government was pleased.

“I’m not at all surprised by this decision, it’s a decision that I was privately expecting because the case for apprehended bias, applying the appropriate legal tests is so thin,” Senator Brandis told Sky News.

He said it would difficult “for anyone reasonably to conclude that he was biased to the Liberal Party” when Mr Heydon said he had withdrawn from the event as soon as he was aware it was a fundraiser.

“One of the reasons I recommended to the Prime Minister that we appoint Dyson Heydon to conduct this royal commission is that you could always foresee that the Labor Party and the union movement would throw everything at this person because they had so much to lose by the corruption in the union movement being exposed,” Senator Brandis said.

“Therefore I wanted someone whose reputation was so strong, whose integrity was so beyond question that he would withstand all the mud that has been flung at him by the Labor Party, the union movement and its surrogates in the parliamentary Labor Party.”

But ACTU secretary Dave Oliver said the royal commission’s reputation was now “terminally tarnished” as a result of Monday’s ruling.

“Despite the decision today of Dyson Heydon, the reality is that this royal commission is now terminally tarnished,” Mr Oliver said.

“Any recommendation out of this can’t be taken seriously in respect of looking at it for the political nature of this commission.”

He said unions would consider and read the judgment before deciding whether to appeal the decision in the Federal Court but renewed calls for Mr Abbott to shut the commission down.

“We have only just received it. We will need to talk to our legal counsel and we will engage with our affiliates and make an announcement in due course.”

“Look, the fact is he [Mr Heydon] has had to sit in judgment of himself. I am sure there are many people sitting in pubs at the moment or sitting at home watching this [thinking] “How does that work? Does that pass the sniff test?”. Speaker invite

New documents were released on Thursday after a fresh request by unions, with an email showing Mr Stoljar was asked on August 12 by Chris Winslow, the publications manager for the NSW Bar Association, if Mr Heydon was aware the Sir Garfield Barwick Address was a Liberal Party fundraiser.

The commission also released a note from Mr Stoljar’s diary which showed that he had raised this with Mr Heydon on August 13 and Mr Heydon had shown him an email from the event organiser Greg Burton in which he said the lecture was not a fundraiser.

Unions have demanded to know why the documents were not released two weeks ago when they made their first application for information.

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott says Treasurer Joe Hockey has his ‘full confidence’

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says Treasurer Joe Hockey is doing a fine job. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer Mr Abbott said no one had raised with him the question of Mr Hockey’s future. Photo: Louie Douvis
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Abbott urged to consider dumping Hockey

Tony Abbott says Joe Hockey is “doing an excellent job” and enjoys the full confidence of the Prime Minister and cabinet, a day after two cabinet ministers told Fairfax Media that discussions were taking place about whether to move against the Treasurer if the Canning byelection goes badly for the Coalition government.

Mr Abbott has insisted that no one had raised with him the future of his under-fire Treasurer.

His comments came as respected NSW senator Arthur Sinodinos launched an attack on his former ministerial colleagues for leaking against Mr Hockey and called on Mr Abbott to sack anyone found guilty of destabilising the government.

In a sign of the gallows humour taking hold in the Coalition, despondent Liberals joked to Fairfax Media, “that was close — we almost stayed on message today” and “another week going well; didn’t even make it to 9am Monday without another self-inflicted wound”.

But Mr Abbott said talk of a switch to Social Services Minister Scott Morrison was “a matter of almost no account whatsoever, no one has even raised it with me. The Treasurer is doing an excellent job, he has my full confidence and he has the full confidence of the cabinet,” he said.

“Not a single person has raised this issue with me; it’s a matter of so little moment that not a single person has raised it with me. He has my full confidence, he has the full confidence of the cabinet, he is doing a fine job.”

Asked about the call to sack  leakers made by Senator Sinodinos, Mr Abbott said that “this government is focused every day on jobs and growth. The best thing we can do for jobs and growth right now is get the China free trade agreement through the Parliament”.

Labor Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen made an extraordinary plea for his opposite number to be kept in the job because “getting rid of a treasurer, even as bad as this one, would have a blow on consumer confidence and business confidence”.

“We have cabinet ministers backgrounding and leaking against their Treasurer. We have the spectacle of a government senator, Senator Sinodinos, releasing a statement about the internal workings of the Liberal Party and attacking his own colleagues. What is very clear is that this is a government focussed on themselves,” he said.

Meanwhile, a leak to Fairfax Media about Monday’s talking points, which are sent to ministerial offices, revealed that no ministers were offered any instructions on how to respond to questions about the future of the Treasurer.

On the Canning byelection, which cabinet ministers believe could trigger a frontbench switch to Mr Morrison if the swing is larger than 6 per cent, the talking points emphasise the local nature of the contest.

They  state that voters in Canning are being asked to choose someone to follow in late MP Don Randall’s footsteps and represent their interests in Canberra.

“It’s about choosing someone who has the experience, compassion, leadership ability and dedication to listen to local people and deliver what they need,” the note states.

“[Liberal candidate] Andrew Hastie served his country and has the experience and training to deliver for the people of Canning.”​

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