Liberal senator threatens to torpedo Gonski 2.0 schools funding package

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A retiring Liberal senator is threatening to cross the floor over the Turnbull government’s “Gonski 2.0” school funding model, saying the deal would dud Catholic schools.

Chris Back, a West Australian Liberal senator and nine-year veteran of that state’s Catholic Education Commission, said he could not support the government’s package in its current form, and threatened to cross the floor as his final parliamentary act.

“I’m not convinced,” he told ABC radio. “Until I’m convinced that the proposals in place will not disadvantage Catholic schools, and independent schools for that matter, I’ve indicated to the minister: ‘please don’t make me vote against the government in my last week in the Senate’.”

At the heart of the dispute is Senator Back’s call for Catholic schools to maintain their system-weighted average (SWA) funding model for another 12 months while the socio-economic status (SES) formula is reviewed.

“I am not satisfied yet that a change from the system-weighted average through to an individual student SES model will do anything other than radically hurt the Catholic sector in Australia, and if that’s the case I can’t support it,” he said on Monday morning.

“Do I want to be in this position in my final sitting week? No, I don’t.”

Senator Back said he was engaged in “robust discussions” with Education Minister Simon Birmingham, who hopes to pass the new school funding model into law this week before Parliament’s long winter break.

"I'm not convinced": Liberal senator Chris Back says he can't support the schools funding package in its current form.

“I’m not convinced”: Liberal senator Chris Back says he can’t support the schools funding package in its current form. Photo: Andrew Meares

Senator Birmingham stressed annual federal funding for the Catholic sector would grow from $6.3 billion in 2017 to $9.7 billion in 2027, or $3.4 billion over the decade.

However, modelling comparing the plan to the likely outcome under the status quo – what Senator Birmingham calls Labor’s “special deals” – estimates Catholic schools will be $4 billion worse off over 10 years.

"Robust discussions": Education Minister Simon Birmingham.

“Robust discussions”: Education Minister Simon Birmingham. Photo: James Hall

The state-based commissions would maintain the ability to divvy up funding between their schools as they saw fit.

“They can continue to fund all their schools in the same way with additional funding into the future,” Senator Birmingham said. “Which means there should be no need for school fee increases or the kind of fear campaigns and scare mongering we’re seeing.”

He described his colleague Senator Back as “a good man” and said they would continue to discuss “some technical issues” on which they disagreed. Senator Back announced his retirement last week and Thursday will be his final day in Parliament.

​While the “Gonski 2.0” package has been welcomed by other sectors and former Gonski Review panellist Ken Boston, Labor and the Australian Education Union remain opposed because the overall funding increases are less than those promised by former Labor prime minister Julie Gillard.

Because the Turnbull government does not have a majority in the Senate, it needs to secure a deal with the Greens and/or other crossbenchers to pass the schools funding package.

If the government wins the support of the Greens, it would need one more vote to pass its package – two if one Coalition senator crosses the floor.

enator Back’s threat does not doom the schools funding package but makes the government’s job more difficult if it cannot strike a deal with the Greens and needs to cobble together the support of crossbenchers to reach the 39 votes required to pass the bill.

On Monday, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation appeared to come to the table, with whip Brian Burston describing the reforms as a “fair deal” that his party would support.


Source  : WA Today

Former PM&C boss Terry Moran questions decentralisation push

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One of Australia’s most respected former public servants has called for a strategic approach to government decentralisation, warning regional cities could be too small to support transplanted workers without their own broad and viable labour markets.

Kevin Rudd’s pick to lead the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Terry Moran, said the National Party’s latest decentralisation push should only force public service relocations to cities and towns where local workforces encompass the skill base of the new agency, citing state and federal decentralisation to Geelong as an example of successfully locating related agencies together.

A corporate advisor and former president of the Institute of Public Administration, Mr Moran said employment hubs in capital cities and major regional centres with good public transport links had proven to be ideal decentralisation locations for the Victorian and New South Wales governments over more than 15 years.

Public servants were not isolated professionally or personally and could pursue their public service career or seek external employment in related jobs, he said.

“In Victoria’s case it has been happening for at least 15, if not 20 years, and typically the decentralisation occurs to major regional cities, such as Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo.

“It is often done with the aim of creating an employment hub for people with the expertise that is relevant to a particular business or activity. In the case of Geelong, it has become a hub for government insurance bodies,” Mr Moran said.

“The National Disability Insurance Agency has gone there, but also state government insurance activities like the Transport Accident Commission and Worksafe. Geelong is an example of where you can do decentralisation but in a way that doesn’t limit the career prospects of the staff involved in the future.”

The country’s most senior public servant until 2011, serving Mr Rudd and Julia Gillard, Mr Moran has advised Boston Consulting Group on public sector reform and previously led Victoria’s Department of Premier and Cabinet for eight years.

He said the co-location of agencies related to the federal Treasury – including the Reserve Bank, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and the Australian Securities and Investment Commission – in Sydney created a strong employment market for economists and lawyers.

When considered by government, moving departments and agencies out of cities including Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne could also help reduce population pressures.

“People in Sydney working for the RBA or the other big regulators, likewise in Melbourne with the Productivity Commission and the ACCC, aren’t marooned because they can move into state government jobs requiring the same expertise, private sector jobs, or between related Commonwealth agencies.

“In Victoria, I think there was a secretary of a department who based himself in one of those regional cities, and occasionally commutes to Melbourne, rather than the other way around,” he said.

The comments come as Turnbull government ministers are being required to justify why non-policy divisions of their departments and portfolio agencies should not be relocated to the bush.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has faced ongoing criticism for moving the pesticides authority to his own electorate of New England.

Business cases for the next round of decentralisation will form part of next year’s federal budget.

Last month, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann conceded the only significant detail about the plan to move agencies and departments was contained in a speech by deputy National Party leader Fiona Nash to the National Press Club and a doorstop press conference by Mr Joyce.


Source  :  The Canberra Times

King Abdullah Port completes construction of central operations room for customs

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JEDDAH: The Ports Development Co., the owner and developer of the King Abdullah Port, announced that building a central operations room for monitoring and linking customs X-ray inspection systems in the port has been completed.
A wireless network will connect all customs inspection areas. The project has been delivered to Saudi Customs at King Abdullah Port, making the port a pioneer in activating a 24-hour container inspection initiative.
Managing Director of the Ports Development Company, Abdullah Hameedadin said: “This achievement comes within King Abdullah Port’s efforts to support the Saudi Customs’ initiative, as well as enhancing customs operations in the port in line with the goals of Vision 2030.”
The project was completed over two phases, the first of which included equipping all customs inspection areas with a 1.75 GB wireless network. Customs officers will be able to inspect containers using a tablet in the inspection area and directly send all comments to the system without having to do it the traditional way, which required leaving the site and returning to the office to manually input the information.
In the second phase, inspection equipment in the port was connected using fiber optics to the central operating room, which, in turn, is connected to the customs system through its wireless network, with a speed of up to 2 GB per second.
Saudi Customs earlier confirmed that successfully clearing containers within 24 hours of arrival primarily depends on establishing the import statement prior to the container’s arrival. This enables the department and government entities to finalize procedures while the containers are still on the vessels.
The department clarified that containers are transferred upon their arrival directly from the vessel to X-ray inspection and then to final clearance.


Source  :  Arab News

Public Prosecution decree reflects king’s keenness to promote values of justice: Experts

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RIYADH: Officials and legal experts have underscored the importance of changing the name of the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution (BIPP) to the Public Prosecution, and linking its office directly to the king.
In this context, Minister of Justice and Chairman of the Supreme Judicial Council Walid Al-Samaani said the new Public Prosecution reflects the keenness of the king to promote the values and principles of justice. He said linking the Public Prosecution directly to the king is an important step which comes in line with measures practiced in countries with developed judiciaries, and in accordance with Islamic Shariah. The step also promotes the principle of neutrality that will ensure justice, and supports the work of Public Prosecution in being a part of the judiciary, he said.
For his part, Head of Bureau of Grievances Khalid Al-Yusuf said the new amendment will strengthen the rules of justice and impartiality. He said the step reflects the king’s keenness in organizing the judiciary and assuring its full independence. By the issuance of the royal decree, the justice system in the Kingdom reflects international laws which focus on separation between the judiciary and executive authorities, he said.
Lawyer and legal adviser Fahad Mahboub said separation between executive and judiciary authorities is crucial in terms of independence and impartiality.
Firras Hijazi, a lawyer and legal expert, said the new amendment is in line with rules and principles applied in many countries, and it is a matter of concern among legal practitioners when it comes to standardization and unification of terminologies. Speaking to local press, he said the change of the BIPP to the Public Prosecution is closer to a proper understanding in which the Public Prosecution represents society in introducing and prosecuting criminal cases in the appropriate courts.


Source  :  Arab News

Abe’s support slumps amid doubts about school scandal

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Support for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe slumped more than 10 points to 44.9% in a public opinion poll published on Sunday, amid opposition party suspicions he used his influence unfairly to help a friend set up a business.

Abe has repeatedly denied abusing his authority to benefit his friend. His grip on power is not in danger, given his ruling coalition’s huge majority in parliament, but the affair looks unlikely to fade away.

The education ministry unearthed documents last week that the opposition said suggested Abe wanted a new veterinary school run by a friend to be approved in a state-run special economic zone. The ministry had earlier said it could not find the documents but reopened the probe under public pressure.

Opposition politicians and the media have identified Abe’s friend as Kotaro Kake, the director of the Kake Educational Institution, which wants to open a veterinary department. The government has not approved new veterinary schools for decades because of concern about a glut of veterinarians.

Nearly 85% of voters responding to a Kyodo news agency survey said they did not think the government probe had uncovered the truth of the affair and almost 74 percent were not persuaded by the government’s insistence that there was nothing wrong with the approval process.

The institution has said it had acted appropriately.

Voters were split over last week’s enactment by parliament of a controversial law that will penalise conspiracies to commit terrorism and other serious crimes, with 42.1% in favor and 44% against the legislation, Kyodo said.

The government says the new legislation is needed so Japan can ratify a U.N. treaty aimed at global organised crime and prevent terrorism in the run-up to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Opponents say it will allow police to trample on civil liberties by expanding the scope for surveillance.

The ruling coalition pushed the law through parliament last week, taking the rare step of skipping a vote in committee and going directly to a full session of parliament’s upper house.

Almost 68% of voters expressed dislike of that rarely used tactic, Kyodo said.

© Thomson Reuters 2017.

Source  : Japan Today

Yamagata town drafts in sniffer dogs to improve cancer detection rates

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The mayor of a small Japanese town with high rates of stomach cancer among its residents has turned to a sniffer dog research program to improve the accuracy and effectiveness of health checkups.

Facing the challenge of improving early cancer detection rates in Kaneyama, a town with 6,000 residents in the northeast of Japan, Mayor Hiroshi Suzuki reached out for professional help.

Knowing his town had among Japan’s highest fatality rates due to stomach cancer, Suzuki consulted Masao Miyashita, a medical school professor who visited the town last year, and received a proposal to take part in a research program in which dogs are used to sniff out cancer from test samples.

At no cost to residents, the Yamagata Prefecture town sends frozen urine samples to Miyashita at the Nippon Medical School Chiba Hokusoh Hospital in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo.

The hospital then has the samples tested at a facility in the prefecture where dogs are trained for the purpose.

The substances emitted by cancer cells which allow the dogs to sniff out the disease are unknown, as is how the dogs know what they are detecting.

“In our research so far, cancer detection dogs have been able to find (signs of) cancer with an accuracy of nearly 100 percent,” said Miyashita.

There are only five dogs trained to work as cancer detection dogs in Japan, according to St. Suger Japan which operates the training facility. It costs about 5 million yen ($45,000) to train each dog.


Source  : Japan Today

Economic Watch: A glimpse of China’s mid-year online shopping spree

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(Xinhua)    08:06, June 19, 2017

An advertisement of 2017 “6/18” shopping festival (file photo)

BEIJING, June 18 (Xinhua) — Chinese Internet users splurged on the mid-year online shopping spree on Sunday.

While November 11, or Single’s Day, is the largest online shopping festival in China created by Alibaba’s Tmall, June 18 (“6/18”) shopping festival was launched by, Tmall’s arch rival.

Other companies soon jumped on the bandwagon and began to offer special offers to get more customers.

On June 18, reported its first hour sales more than doubled from the same period last year. Tmall pocketed over 100 million yuan (14.71 million U.S. dollars) seven minutes after its opening. Another Chinese e-commerce heavyweight saw its orders more than quadrupled from a year ago.

According to iResearch, a Beijing-based consultancy, while demand is high, Chinese consumers tend to be rational by caring more about quality instead of price.

The top five items on the shopping list of consumers are cell phone, air conditioner, flat panel computer, laptop and baby formula. Consumers are more selective in quality., a cross-border e-commerce platform, found consumers are becoming more critical in selecting big names, but were less interested in popular best-sellers.

Cao Lei, director of China E-Commerce Research Center, said with consumer upgrade going on in China, e-commerce market has shifted from “price war” to responding to the demands of the affluent and sophisticated middle class.

Putting all those purchases into consumers’ hands is a huge task.

To make fresh food reach consumers in the shortest period of time possible, Tmall’s cold chain service is operating around the clock. Its daily delivery of fresh food totals near 500 tonnes.

By using smart warehouse, it takes only three minutes to move a parcel out of the depot through automated assembly lines.

E-commerce platforms are using drones to make speedy deliveries. At this year’s “6/18” shopping festival, is using drones to get packages directly to shoppers in rural villages. uses augmented reality and virtual reality to offer interactive shopping experiences and also employs robots, driverless cars and drones for deliveries.

Xu Lei, JD Group’s chief marketing officer, said retail sales will be driven by changing consumer habits and technology upgrades.

The mega-spending spree came as China’s economy is slowing down as the world’s second largest economy is transitioning from dependence on export and investment to consumer spending.

Growth of the property development investment slowed in May for the first time since November, but retail sales grew 10.7 percent year on year in May boosted by strong online sales, signaling continued consumption strength.

China is the world’s largest online shopping market, with about 467 million online consumers spending about 26.1 trillion yuan last year, up 19.8 percent year on year.


Source  :  Xinhua