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Australia’s budget woes unlikely to threaten AAA ratings

Joe Hockey’s budget headaches are unlikely yet to lead to higher borrowing costs for the country, credit analysts say. Photo: Andrew Meares Joe Hockey’s budget headaches are unlikely yet to lead to higher borrowing costs for the country, credit analysts say. Photo: Andrew Meares
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Joe Hockey’s budget headaches are unlikely yet to lead to higher borrowing costs for the country, credit analysts say. Photo: Andrew Meares

Joe Hockey’s budget headaches are unlikely yet to lead to higher borrowing costs for the country, credit analysts say. Photo: Andrew Meares

Australia is likely to keep its triple-A ratings even as the government’s looming budget review is set to show a marked deterioration in its finances, two ratings agencies said on Thursday.

The Coalition government has faced a slide in tax revenues as plunging prices for key commodity exports, in particular iron ore, eat into company profits.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has also had mixed fortunes in pushing proposed budget cuts through a sceptical Senate, with some measures having to be scaled back or abandoned.

Treasurer Joe Hockey’s mid-year budget review is scheduled to be unveiled on Monday. It will likely show the budget deficit for the financial year to end June 2015 had blown out by around $5 billion to nearly $35 billion.

Analysts suspect shortfalls for the following three years could as much as $10 billion larger per year and the goal of reaching a budget surplus will have to be delayed again.

Yet, ratings agencies see no reason to change the nation’s top notch credit ranking and its stable outlook.

“We don’t see any immediate pressure, provided the government remains committed to improving budget performance and getting back to a broadly balanced budget,” said Craig Michaels, an analyst at Standard & Poor’s.

Australia has one of the lowest levels of government debt among Western nations at a gross $348 billion, while net debt amounts to only 12 per cent of gross domestic product compared to an average of over 50 per cent for the developed world.

“The ratio debt-to-GDP would have to be significantly higher than where it is now before we even consider a ratings change,” said US-based Moody’s analyst Steven Hess.

Underpinning the agency’s triple-A ratings was a strong institutional framework and economy, as well as a large export potential from its abundant natural resources.

Hess, however, did highlight a reliance on offshore capital as one vulnerability. While Australia’s national savings rate is relatively high by international standards, investment spending is even larger and much of that is funded from offshore.

Reuters

Arkaroola, South Australia: Travel guide and things to do

Flinders Ranges Photo: SATC Flinders Ranges Photo: SATC
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Flinders Ranges Photo: SATC

Flinders Ranges Photo: SATC

Located 660 km from Adelaide (the road to Copley or Lyndhurst is sealed – the rest is good quality dirt road) Arkaroola is the personal vision of the late Dr Reg Sprigg who purchased the 610 square kilometre (61,000 hectare) property in 1968 and slowly converted it into a wildlife sanctuary complete with a lodge. It is probably the most isolated self-supporting village in Australia. It is also a truly fascinating region with dramatic, ancient hills (some of the rocks are estimated to be older 1000 million years), beautiful waterholes and a truly harsh and dry environment.

The area is an important part of Aboriginal culture. The Adnajamathana Aborigines believed that Arkaroo, a mythical monster, drank Lake Frome dry and then crawled into the mountains. As Arkaroo moved through the land he created the Arkaroola Creek. Where he stopped and urinated he left the waterholes which are one of the most beautiful parts of the Arkaroola area.

The area around Arkaroola was first explored by Edward Eyre who passed through the area in 1840 and by G. W. Goyder (famous for Goyder’s Line – the northern limit of agriculture) who started to survey the land in 1857. In 1860 miners moved into the area as a result of the discovery of copper at Yudnamutana but the drought of 1863 drove them from the area. It wasn’t until the early twentieth century that settlement occurred again. In 1903 rubies and sapphires were discovered near Mount Pitt and by 1910 a smelter had been built at Yudnamutana and uranium had been discovered at Mount Painter. The first person to identify the uranium in the area was the geologist, Douglas Mawson, who later became a famous Antarctic explorer.

It was always marginal land and these projects were short-lived although the constant search for uranium meant that miners periodically attempted explorations and this resulted in the area being well covered with reasonable roads constructed by optimistic mining companies. By the 1930s the area was full of wild camels and donkeys so by 1935 the property had been fenced and an eradication program had commenced. This program, initiated by the Greenwood brothers, was a serious attempt to convert the area to grazing land. By 1945 the program had been successful and in 1948 there was a short and unsuccessful attempt to open Arkaroola as a health spa.

Dr. Reg Sprigg purchased the property in 1968. By 1979 he was a trustee of the World Wildlife Fund and actively involved in protecting the endangered yellow footed rock wallaby at Arkaroola.

The late Dr Reg Sprigg was a fairly ferocious self publicist. The walls of the bar at Arkaroola are emblazoned with mementos which range from the impressive (the Order of Australia) down to personal Christmas Cards from Don Dunstan, the one-time Premier of South Australia. Things to see

Ningana Visitor Information Centre An excellent natural history and geology museum at Arkaroola which includes early Aboriginal artefacts, photographs, geological maps and fossils. It is an ideal starting point for any exploration of this remarkable area.

Old Copper Mine Ruins at Bolla Bollana The highlight of the journey to Bolla Bollana (it is a short distance away from the resort) is the remarkable Bolla Bollana copper smelter with its distinctive beehive shape. It was erected in the 1890s to smelt copper ores which were brought to this isolated smelter from the mines at Yudnamutana, Daly and Wheel Turner by bullock wagon. At the time the area was home to Cornish miners. The special high temperature bricks were brought from the Midlands of England while the other bricks were baked in a round house kiln. The area is so isolated it is hard to imagine that it was once an important part of South Australia’s copper industry.

Astronomical Observatory The Arkaroola Astronomical Observatory houses two substantial telescopes. On nights when the sky is clear (a common phenomenon in the desert) tours and viewings are held. The 360 mm computer operated telescope offers excellent viewing of other galaxies and distant planets.

Paralana Hot Springs These hot springs rise through a fissure and contain helium, carbon dioxide, hydrogen and radon gas (which is poisonous). Camping in the area is prohibited because of the possible build up of deadly gases. The water reaches the surface at near-to-boiling point.

Guided Tours While many people who arrive at Arkaroola are driving 4WD vehicles, the ‘resort’ does offer excellent 4WD guided tours with guides experienced in the region’s geology, biology and botany. The trips to The Ridgetop (this route is not available to privately driven vehicles), Echo Camp, East Painter, Hidden Valley, Nooldoonooldoona (it is an Aboriginal term reputedly meaning ‘place of falling rocks’) Waterhole, Mount Jacob and Paralana offer great diversity and are excellent opportunities to experience the richness of the landscape.

Environs The Gammon Ranges National Park is near the Balcanoona Pastoral Station. The major part of Balcanoona Pastoral Station was added to the Gammon Ranges National Park in 1982. The name Balcanoona is derived from a word in the Adnjamathanha language meaning ‘old woman’. This is the name given to a rock formation high on the hill overlooking the area. On the road from Blinman to Arkaroola is the solitary grave of Peter Fagan who died in January 1871. The name and date were once on the piece of wood on this lonely grave. Now it has just worn away leaving a blank and bleached piece of wood.

For tourist information, see Flinders Ranges website.

‘It’s not a filter’: Malcolm Turnbull’s anti-piracy crackdown wordplay defies logic

Don’t call Malcolm Turnbull’s site-blocking scheme a filter or he’ll go bananas. Photo: Alex EllinghausenRead Turnbull’s response
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Question: When is an internet filter not an internet filter?

Answer: When Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull says so.

On Wednesday, the minister announced the government’s response to an “online copyright infringement” discussion paper that he and Attorney-General George Brandis put out in late July.

Brandis, famous for his now Walkley award-winning “what is metadata?” interview on Sky News, was notably absent from the announcement bar his name on a media release.

As part of the reform, the Copyright Act will be changed to enable movie, music and TV show rights holders to seek an order in court to prevent access to overseas websites linking to – or hosting – unauthorised content.

But try to suggest this is a form of internet filter to Turnbull and he’ll disagree.

“That’s nonsense, Ben. There’s no internet filter here at all. What on earth are you talking about?” Turnbull told me (transcript) in a teleconference with journalists on Wednesday when I reminded him of the Coalition’s pre-election policy not to introduce a filter.

The Liberal Party proposed a filter just days before the September 2013 election to the surprise of Turnbull. He then abandoned the plan.

“Can I just say this to you … Don’t … I mean, I know the temptation to sort of engage in journalism by click bait is very strong but this is not, repeat, not an internet filter,” Mr Turnbull said.

“I mean that’ll get you a lot of clicks [if you call it an internet filter],” he continued.

“But that is complete BS. It’s not a filter.”

 

After his announcement on Wednesday, conservative think tank the Institute of Public Affairs said it was a filter, the Australian Greens Senator Scott Ludlam called it a filter and so too did consumer group CHOICE.

“It waddles and quacks like a filter,” telco industry veteran John Lindsay, of Lindsay Strategic Advisory, said.

Turnbull’s filter denialism is reminiscent of his defence of Tony Abbott’s “no cuts” to the ABC and SBS pledge the night before the election. He eventually came clean, though.

It’s time for Turnbull to come clean and call his site-blocking regime what it is: a filter.

Yes, there will be oversight by a court with the blocking but that doesn’t make it any less a filter.

Internet providers will need to use one of a number of mechanisms to block websites. And if they don’t want collateral damage – ie many legitimate websites being knocked offline because they’re hosted on the same server as a website hosting copyright infringing material – then they’ll need to use either “DNS poisoning” or deep packet inspection technology to filter out the list of banned websites.

If internet providers go down the route of IP address blocks, as financial regulator the Australian Securities and Investments Commission did when it lawfully asked Australian providers to block financial fraud websites, then thousands of legitimate websites will be blocked.

According to Tony “no tech head” Abbott, Turnbull “virtually invented the internet”. So he should, after all, understand that courts directing internet providers as to what’s in and what’s out is a form of filter.

Or are we just going to call this a website efficiency dividend?

‘Feels good’: Pirate Bay co-founder celebrates its demise

Pirate Bay founders Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, left, and Peter Sunde, right. Photo: Bertil Ericson
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Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde is happy about the site’s demise. Photo: Flickr/shareconference

Pirate Bay founders Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, left, and Peter Sunde, right. Photo: Bertil Ericson

Pirate Bay founders Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, left, and Peter Sunde, right. Photo: Bertil Ericson

The Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde has declared it “feels good” the site may have been shut down forever as a result of Tuesday’s police raid in Sweden.

In a post on his blog, Copy me happy, Mr Sunde slammed the site for having developed a sleazy culture that put profits ahead of community.

“I’ve not been a fan of what TPB has become,” he wrote. “The past years there was no soul left in TPB.”

Mr Sunde said the site had become “ugly” and “full of bugs, old code and old design”, and a repository for “distasteful” ads.

“It feels good that it might have closed down forever,” he said.

The site’s founders had planned to shut it down on its 10th birthday, Mr Sunde said.

Instead, a party, sponsored by “some sexist company that sent young girls, dressed in almost no clothes”, was held in Stockholm.

“Everything went against the ideals that I worked for during my time as part of TPB,” he said.

Comments to the blog post largely defended The Pirate Bay, with some readers disputing Mr Sunde’s “facts”.

“Jim” said that entry to the birthday bash “only required a ‘like’ on Facebook”, and said he had no recollection of the “young girls” at the event.

Another reader, Erik Lönroth, confirmed entrance was free and said the party was largely crowd-funded to pay for entertainment, fireworks, refreshments and more.

“Peter was never part of it and his opinion is from that of a bitter person, bashing at people that are trying to make good stuff happen,” Mr Lönroth wrote.

Mr Sunde was recently released from a five-month stint in a jail for facilitating copyright infringement.

Swedish courts have also handed down prison sentences and heavy fines to his co-founders Carl Lundstroem, Fredrik Neij and Gottfrid Svartholm Warg.

On Tuesday, authorities seized servers, computers and other equipment servicing the The Pirate Bay during a raid on a server room in Greater Stockholm.

The Swedish Prosecution Authority said “a number of investigative measures will be taken, including interrogating different people”.

The website, previously at thepiratebay.se and redirecting from thepiratebay杭州龙凤419, has been offline since the raid.

Other “proxy” or “mirror” sites, including thepiratebay.cr and labaia.me, look identical to the original site but are not functioning.

Founded in 2003, The Pirate Bay allows users to dodge copyright fees and share music, film and other files using bit torrent technology, or peer-to-peer links offered on the site.

With AFP

Arnhem Land, Northern Territory: Travel guide and things to do

Arnhem Land, NT Arnhem Land, NT
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Arnhem Land, NT

Arnhem Land, NT

Arnhem Land is an area of 97 000 sq. km in the north-eastern corner of the Northern Territory. It extends from Port Roper on the Gulf of Carpentaria around the coast to the East Alligator River where it adjoins Kakadu National Park. The region was named by Matthew Flinders after the Dutch ship Arnhem which explored the coast in 1623.

The coast has one of the longest histories of exploration of any area in Australia. It is likely that the first Aborigines, making their way across the Indonesian archipelago some 40-50 000 years ago, arrived on the Arnhem Land coast. Certainly by the fifteenth century the coast was being regularly visited by Indonesian and Malaccan sailors and traders.

In 1644 Abel Tasman sailed along the coast and in 1803 Matthew Flinders, as part of his circumnavigation of Australia, charted the complex coastline. The inland areas were explored by Ludwig Leichhardt, who travelled through the area on his 1844-45 journey from Moreton Bay to Port Essington, and David Lindsay, the South Australian surveyor, who, in 1883, was commissioned to explore the central and eastern sections of Arnhem Land. He met with strong resistance from the local Aborigines. At one point his party was attacked by over 300 men.

The area continued to be explored throughout the nineteenth century but much of it was inaccessible. The northern coast, for example, is characterised by mangrove swamps and tidal rivers. Inland from the mangrove swamps are areas of tropical jungle, swamps and gorges. Thus the Aborigines of the region, who have lived in Arnhem Land for at least the last 25 000 years, tend to live near the coast where fish are abundant and life is relatively easy. The reserve is noted for its rich examples of rock art and Aboriginal artefacts. The stone axes found in the reserve are some of the oldest in existence.

The first mission station was established in Arnhem Land in 1908 by the Church Mission Society. In 1916 the Northern Territory Administration bought Paddy Cahill’s cattle station at Oenpelli and in 1920 the 2400 sq. miles around the station were converted into an Aboriginal reserve. At the same time the Methodist Overseas Mission established a mission on Galiwinku. The mission at Galiwinku, a large island 500 km from Darwin, is now one of the largest communities in Arnhem Land with a population of over 1000 people.

In 1931, after pressure from a number of organisations, Arnhem Land became an Aboriginal reserve. A number of mission stations, with populations hovering around 500 people, now exist in the area. Notable are the ones at Maningrida, Milingimbi, Numbulwar and Yirrkala.

During World War II over 5000 servicemen were stationed on Gove Peninsula (qv) and after the war prospectors found vast deposits of bauxite in the area. In the early 1970s Narbarlek prospected for uranium in the reserve and in 1979 permission was granted to mine yellow cake.

There are a large number of books on the Aborigines of the Northern Territory but a good starting point is People of Two Times: The Aborigines of Australia’s Northern Territory which is a 16 page illustrated brochure available from the Northern Territory Tourist Commission. It has a bibliography for those travellers interested in reading further. A recommended starting point is Arnhem Land: Its History and its People by the noted anthropologists Ronald M and Catherine H Bernt. Things to see

Visiting Arnhem Land During the dry season, and with the appropriate documentation from the Northern Land Council, it is possible to drive into Arnhem Land. The current attitude of the Northern Land Council to such journeys is that there must be some reason beyond sightseeing or simply wanting to travel around the edges of the continent. Consequently applications to travel through Arnhem Land are not easy to obtain. It is private property and should be respected as such. For more information of traveling to Arnhem Land check out:http://www.travelnt杭州龙凤419m