Almost two weeks after deciding to release rapist and killer Jamie John Curtis, the Tasmanian Parole Board has made its reasons public.
The Tasmanian Parole Board has published its reasoning to release convicted rapist and murderer Jamie John Curtis, saying his attitude and behaviour has improved
Curtis was released in 2018 but returned to prison within weeks after breaching his parole conditions
Now aged in his 60s, Curtis will be on parole for the rest of his life and must wear a electronic monitoring anklet
Curtis was jailed after he tortured a Hobart couple for 12 hours in 1986, repeatedly raping then 17-year-old Tameka Ridgeway before murdering her fiance, 22-year-old Dean Allie.
He will walk free from Hobart’s Risdon Prison on Wednesday in the wake of the parole board deciding earlier this month to release him.
The board initially refused to comment on its reasons and what safeguards were in place for the community, but its reasons have now been published.
Curtis was released for a short time in 2018 on strict conditions because of his past sex offences, but within weeks had breached the conditions of his parole by using fake names to sign up to multiple online dating sites.
He applied for parole again in September 2019 but was knocked back due to a lack of suitable accommodation and the board’s view that he needed to demonstrate improvement in his behaviour and attitude in prison before it would consider releasing him again.
Curtis applied again, appearing before the board in June, September and December last year, with his application being adjourned on each occasion for further information requested by the board.
“The board’s view was the offences that led to the applicant’s parole revocation showed an apparent disregard for the level of compliance required with the type of order the applicant would continue to be subject to in the community if granted parole,” the board said in its recent decision.
The board said Curtis’s attitude and behaviour had improved since his September 2019 application.
“Information before the board since that refusal suggests the applicant has continued to work on his attitude and behaviour as recommended and has sought and engaged with additional supports within the prison to assist in management of clearly identified risk factors for re-offending to enable re-integration into the community,” it said in its decision.
“During the past six months, the applicant has attained medium classification and is housed in medium security. He is currently employed as a wardsman and case notes provided indicate the applicant’s behaviour is polite, respectful and he engages appropriately with Correctional staff.”
The board noted Curtis had been working with a clinical psychologist while in custody, had suitable accommodation and his partner had provided support and assistance in establishing and organising various community supports.
Curtis was allowed to address the board but a request by his victim, Ms Ridgeway, to do the same was refused.
The board’s report revealed Curtis was classified minimum security when he first returned to jail after his breaches in 2018, but internal offending saw him put into maximum security.
Curtis has been assessed as requiring a very high level of supervision and management of his risk in the community, and he will be the first parolee in Tasmania to have to wear an electronic monitoring anklet as part of his parole conditions.
Now aged in his 60s, Curtis will spend the rest of his life on parole.
The board’s initial refusal to comment on the reasons for Curtis’s release saw advocates for victims and prisoners criticise it for what they said was its lack of transparency.
Victims of Crime Support Group Tasmania spokesperson Jim Franke said one of the problems was that because of the way the board worked, the wider public did not know what criteria went into parole decisions.
“There should be complete transparency,” he said.
“If you’re going to be letting someone back into society, we need to know the reasons why they’ve agreed to let them out so people can feel safe.”
Prisoners Legal Service chair Greg Barns SC also called for the board’s reasons to be made immediately public.
“The board’s transparency does concern us … there is no reason why those reasons should not be available on the day that a decision is made, just as it is with a court,” he said.
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In the haste to keep the Australian Open as close to its January timeslot as possible better alternatives may have been overlooked, according to John Alexander, the former Australian Open doubles champion, now the federal Member for Bennelong.
John Alexander said Tennis Australia was “too hasty” in its decision to stick to its schedule
Alexander said northern hemisphere players would not get the time they needed to acclimatise
Alexander said players criticising the quarantine requirements were “a tad spoilt”
One suggestion put forward was to host back-to-back events in December 2021 and January 2022, making Australia the epicentre of world tennis for two months.
“Had that option been taken — and it still might be forced on us if we can’t get it up, starting on the 8th of February — that would’ve given much, much more time for us to come to terms with the COVID virus, much more time to make arrangements with players, [and] it would have reduced the cost for setting up the various events because you’d be setting up for two events not just one,” he told The Ticket.
“We might also have seen who was going to be the greatest of all time because you might have a [Novak] Djokovic or a [Roger] Federer with two grand slams within a period of two months.
“There were quite a few arguments why that might not be the worst idea but we are stuck with what we are doing now … there is still a possibility that things will get too difficult and it might have to be postponed, but I would advocate rather than not do it, to look at doing one in December and another one in January.”
While praising the extraordinary lengths Tennis Australia had gone to, with support from the Victorian Government, Alexander said the decision to stick with the event early in the calendar year may have been too hasty.
“When you make hasty decisions, maybe the other options weren’t tabled or fully worked through,” he said.
“But with the difficulties we are encountering now, and there are many, we seem to be coping quite well — but I think at best it’s going to be a compromised championship because so many of the players won’t have a fair opportunity to prepare.
“A big part of preparing for the Australian Open, especially for a great majority of the players coming from the northern hemisphere winter and then having to acclimatise to our weather conditions of temperatures in the mid-30s and 40s, it sometimes takes more than one week [of] intense practice and training under those conditions, it’s more like a two-week exercise and the players in lockdown aren’t having that opportunity.”
Fourteen-day lockdown ‘not that big a price to pay’
World number one Djokovic, who is quarantining in Adelaide, has been widely criticised for making a list of suggestions to help those players who are under the strictest lockdown rules.
Alexander says many of the younger players will have their minds broadened by playing at this year’s Open and having to deal with Australia’s strict approach to combatting the COVID-19 pandemic.
“One of the great things of travel is that it’s said to broaden your mind, and you’ve got players coming from all around the world and they’re hypercritical,” Alexander said.
“But if they understood what we have gone through here in this country, and in particular Victoria, and how well we have combatted the COVID virus and all that it brings, they might then have some appreciation as to why the rules are so strict,” he said.
“And then they might understand that it’s probably not a bad deal — they’re having their airfares paid, their hotel paid, their food paid and they get a minimum $100,000 in prizemoney if they’re in the main draw.
“That’s not a bad deal and, as somebody else said from the Victorian Government, ‘They’re asked to spend 14 days in quarantine, our entire state had 111 days in lockdown.’
“But you know, you get young people, who are very, very, successful, they make a lot of money and if they can’t get the booking at the right table in the right restaurant at the right time it’s a major problem for some of them.
“They’re a tad spoilt possibly, a bit privileged, but I think it will broaden their takeaway that they’ll understand that Australia has actually done outstandingly well and the effort that Tennis Australia is going to — and the costs to try to stage this event as close to the traditional date as possible — is Herculean and it would be nice if people co-operated and realised they are one of the major beneficiaries in getting the tournament on.”
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And then my colleague Jake Sherman starts bugging me. He [says] there’s a problem with a security fence outside. You can’t hear anything in the chamber, so I go outside. And once I get outside the chamber, you can hear the crowd. I ran down to the second floor of the Rotunda, and the sound was overwhelming. There were hundreds of people pounding on the door from the east side of the Capitol. There were cops rushing up to the door, and they started screaming at us to get out of here. I went up to the third floor. That’s where I could see [the protesters] banging on the door. It seemed like they had tools—like iron rods or something. They were prepared to try to break windows. I mean, these are bombproof windows on the east side of the Capitol, and these doors. They had to be prepared to do that.
Dovere: [The Capitol police] removed everybody from the chamber. They removed the reporters to a safe location.
Bresnahan: I had left the chamber. And by the time I left the Rotunda, they had sealed the members and reporters inside the chamber … I couldn’t get back in, so I went into my press gallery, where all the reporters who work out of the Capitol work. And [from there], I was actually able to access the catwalk above the Statuary Hall, where all reporters and members of Congress do interviews right after the State of the Union.
So I was up like a half-floor above these people, and I could see them coming into Statuary Hall. And there were no cops. I didn’t see any cops. I sat there and watched the whole thing. First you’d see a couple of protesters. It was a trickle, and then a flood of people. They were walking from the center of the Capitol—the Rotunda—and they were walking toward the House on the south side. They were trying to get into the House. You could hear them banging on the doors. At that point inside the chamber, police officers had pulled guns, and they were going to shoot anybody trying to get in the House floor. Because the members were still on the floor.
But I was actually down there, so I could watch what was happening from the outside. My viewing point was probably one of the better ones for the reporters inside the building, because I wasn’t locked down at that point. I was there for at least an hour. These protesters come into Statuary Hall, where there’s a statue of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King …
Dovere: Right, that’s the original House chamber. It’s not just a room; there’s history there.
Bresnahan: Exactly. Some of them were taking selfies with the statues like they were tourists. Others—it was strange, I saw this woman pull out documents, and she starts giving a speech. She clearly had people with her. They formed this crowd, and they were filming it. She was reading a speech about the Constitution, clearly doing something for social media. That was the other thing: You could see they were all putting stuff on social media.
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FILE PHOTO: A general view of a busy westbound platform during an evening of signal failures at Earls Court tube station in London, Britain, January 2, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs
January 5, 2021
By John Kemp
LONDON (Reuters) – In the advanced economies, the coronavirus epidemic is likely to accelerate long-term structural changes in the location of work and accommodation and the transport systems that link them.
But the rate of change will be tempered by enormous inertia in real estate and transit systems to accommodate a widespread shift in work from central cities to the suburbs and secondary cities.
The current distribution of land use is the product of the railways in the 19th century and the automobile in the 20th century, which allowed people to travel much greater distances from home to the workplace.
While many executives and professionals can afford to live in central areas of large cities if they want to take advantage of networking opportunities and cultural facilities, most workers are forced to live in suburbs and satellite communities where housing is cheaper.
The result is a twice daily commute from home to work and back that is expensive in terms of money, time and energy – especially in megacities and other primary cities – and also exacts a significant penalty in terms of physical and mental health.
Over the last three decades, however, improvements in communications technology – including email, instant messaging and cheap video-conferencing – have made remote working more feasible, even for service sector firms which rely on contact between colleagues and between suppliers and customers.
WORKING FROM HOME
In Britain, the proportion of the workforce working remotely had been increasingly steadily, albeit from a low base (“Coronavirus and home working in the U.K. labour market”, Office for National Statistics (ONS), March 2020).
Even before the coronavirus epidemic, 5% of Britain’s workforce was working mainly from home, according to the ONS survey, with 12% of respondents saying they had worked from home at least one day during the week prior to the survey, which was conducted in 2019.
Full-time and part-time home working was most common in the traditional commuter regions of London and the South East, as well as among older and more senior workers, and those in the highest-paid occupations.
The implication is that working from home, at least part of the time, to reduce commuting or avoid it altogether was desirable, and many more employees would have liked the option if it was available.
More widespread use was held back by stigma, with remote working seen as a privilege reserved for high-status individuals and experienced workers nearing the end of their careers.
Enforced working from home for many office employees during the epidemic, however, has proved it is technically feasible and has lowered the barriers to its social acceptability, which is likely to speed up more widespread adoption.
London’s workers spent an average of 1 hour 32 minutes travelling to and from work every day in 2019, compared with an average of just under 1 hour in the rest of the country.
As a result, London’s workers spent an extra 140 hours per year travelling to and from work compared with their counterparts in other regions (“Transport Statistics Great Britain”, U.K. Department for Transport, 2020).
The longest commutes of all were into central London, with round trips averaging 1 hour and 48 minutes per day, with those travelling by rail taking journeys averaging a lengthy 2 hours and 18 minutes.
Like other megacities, London relies on public transport to shuttle millions of workers between the centre and periphery as well as satellite towns (“Coronavirus and travel to work”, Office for National Statistics, 2020).
Before the epidemic, two-thirds of Inner London’s workers used public transport (rail, underground and buses) to get to work compared with just 15% in secondary cities and less than 10% in the rest of the country.
Public transport is far more energy-efficient than private cars, which helps explain why London’s per capita energy consumption for transport is less than half of that in other regions of Britain.
Nonetheless, commuting still imposes a heavy penalty in terms of fares, energy consumption and time absorbed, as well as impacting adversely on physical and mental health.
Even before the epidemic, researchers had identified that crowded public transport accelerated transmission for respiratory diseases such as influenza.
LAND USE AND TRANSPORT
Transport improvements over the 19th and 20th centuries transformed the size and shape of cities. Now improvements in communications technology are likely to remake them again.
Increased remote working implies a reduction in the need for central offices and their ancillary services, with a partially offsetting increase in demand for working space in the suburbs, secondary cities and rural areas.
Much of this increased work space will be located inside dwellings, translating into pressure for bigger homes with more rooms, often further from megacity centres.
The principal constraint on the more widespread use of remote working is likely to come from the relative inflexibility of the real estate and transport systems.
There are roughly 24.4 million dwellings in England, with an average of just 180,000 new dwellings created each year over the last 10 years, an increase of just 0.7% per year.
In the short and medium term, therefore, the increased demand for working from home outside central cities will have to be met from an existing housing stock that is essentially fixed.
The inflexibility of the housing stock explains why the epidemic has depressed central city home values and rents while sending prices and rents in other areas surging.
Commercial real estate faces a similar problem. There is an emerging oversupply of work space and services space in central cities, with not enough in other areas.
Conversions to non-commercial use in central areas and the construction of more space in other areas will take years.
WORST OF BOTH WORLDS?
In response to the epidemic and pressure for more remote working, commercial real estate owners and employers have promoted the concept of “hybrid” working.
Business surveys show employers envisaging workers spending 60% of their time in the office, while employee surveys generally show a preference for working in the office 40% or even just 20% of the time.
Hybrid working is often portrayed as a compromise that offers the best of both worlds. But it could easily provide the worst of both.
Employees would still need to live close enough to the central workplace to commute two or three days each week, foregoing the advantage of relocating further away in search of cheaper accommodation and more space.
Employees would also have to find more space to work from home, pushing up their housing costs, while continuing to pay commuter fares at least some days each week, which would probably work out more expensive.
In a hybrid model, employers would see their need for office space decrease by 40-80%, but only if they can implement a “flexible working” model (i.e. hot-desking), which will be controversial after the epidemic.
Commercial real estate owners would still see demand for space decline significantly, with the oversupply of space likely to persist for years, depressing rents.
Finally, transit system operators would see a big decline in the number of daily commuter journeys, reducing their economies of scale, and probably pushing up fares per journey.
The epidemic and enforced working from home have shown the potential for a revolutionary shift in the location of work and accommodation, but the enormous inertia of the real estate and transport systems may delay much of the shift.
– Will coronavirus trigger a megacity exodus? (Reuters, Oct. 1)
– Disease X and rethinking the future of cities (Reuters, Aug 27)
– Megacities after coronavirus (Reuters, Aug. 25)
– Must the metropolis mutate for the virus? (Reuters, Aug. 13)
– Coronavirus is dark side of an urban interconnected world (Reuters, May 22)
(Editing by Susan Fenton)
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“At this stage there is no need to restrict travel to the bush. My message has been if you can avoid travelling into Sydney or out of Sydney, please do,” he said on Today this morning.
“We know some people have bookings but we need to find the balance. At this stage, the restrictions stay as they are.”
He said another “one or two” cases connected to the Berala outbreak would be reported later today.
“But, again, numbers look OK. Contact tracing is in place,” he said.
“Nothing in front of me today says I should panic,” he later said on 2GB.
The fact that new case numbers associated with the Berala cluster were slowly increasing, rather than spiking like the Avalon cluster, meant western Sydney suburbs did not need to be placed in lockdown.
“What we were seeing during that Christmas holiday period brought great risk. Mobility, people moving during the Christmas period, we know would have been significant,” Mr Barilaro said.
“That is why we did the lockdown for the peninsula… At this stage, there is no need or advice from [NSW] Health that we have to go to a lockdown approach for the Berala or western Sydney.”
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The Philadelphia 76ers have maintained a 5-1 start with a 127-112 win over the Charlotte Hornets with Ben Simmons claiming his first triple-double of the season.
Simmons has put up 29 triple-doubles in his regular season career and is racing up the leaderboard in record time, taking just 223 games to reach the mark.
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While Dallas Mavericks wunderkind Luka Doncic is looking to eclipse Simmons’ record with 25 in his 138 game career so far, it’s a stunning record for the Australian.
Only Magic Johnson, who took 186 games and brought his 29th up in 1982, and Oscar Robertson, who did it in 74 games by 1961, have more triple-doubles in less time than Simmons.
Only Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and Nikola Jokic have more triple-doubles than Simmons since the Aussie started his career, but since Magic, Simmons 223 games beats Jokic’s 310 games, Grant Hill’s 336 games, Jason Kidd’s 372 and LeBron James with 556 games.
Westbrook took 570 games to get 29 triple doubles but exploded after that and has now tallied 150 in his career.
Simmons said the 76ers are developing into a handful for any team.
“You see the way we’ve been playing, we like to move the ball, share it, it doesn’t matter who gets the ball in the game in terms of the points, but when we play like that it’s tough,” he said.
He added that the addition of shooters at the perimeter has helped the side with all the players buying in.
Simmons had 15 points 12 rebounds and 11 assists while Joel Embiid added 19 points and 14 boards, while Tobias Harris’ 24 points and Seth Curry’s 21 were the pick of the 76ers.
Simmons is getting the relationship going with his new teammates as well with Curry dishing a no look alley-oop to Simmons for a dunk.
Before the game, Simmons gave the credit all to new coach Doc Rivers who has freed him up to play as he likes.
Rivers has been dismissive of any of the talk around Simmons’ jump shot this season and despite hitting a three in his last game, has said it doesn’t matter.
“I think that’s the good thing with Doc, he allows me to make the right reads,” Simmons said.
“He’s gonna tell me if there’s a certain spot he thinks I should get to. If I don’t do something whether it’s cut or slash, or just spacing-wise. I think I have that freedom.”
WALL DOES IT WITHOUT HARDEN
John Wall delivered a game-high 28 points as the Houston Rockets won their second straight game over the Sacramento Kings 102-94, despite playing without NBA all-star James Harden.
Eric Gordon replaced Harden and scored 21 points, while Christian Wood finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds for the Rockets, who also beat the Kings 122-119 on New Year’s Eve.
‘‘I just put in a lot of hard work and dedication to get to this point,” Wall said. ‘‘I couldn’t ask for a better start to be 2-0 in my first two games.”
It will give Rockets fans some joy knowing the side could be OK without Harden as the trade talk continues.
Harden had 33 points in the New Year’s Eve game but was a late scratch Saturday. The disgruntled American, who has asked for a trade, sat out with a sore ankle, although he has not been placed on the injury list.
Without Harden, Wall carried the offensive load for the Rockets. He had missed their first two games of the new season because of COVID-19 restrictions and was out all of last season because of injuries.
Sterling Brown came off the bench to score 11 points in the win. Rockets coach Stephen Silas said he is pleasantly surprised with the immediate impact from Wall.
“Whatever expectations I had, he’s obviously exceeded them,” he said.
The Rockets seized their first double-digit lead of the game, 92-81, early in the fourth quarter when David Nwaba and Gordon drained back to back threes.
The Kings got to 92-83 with just over eight minutes left, but then cold shooting and turnovers resulted in them going scoreless for five minutes.
De’Aaron Fox led the Kings with 23 points, while Buddy Hield chipped in 17 points in the loss.
DANTE EXUM COMES UP BIG
The Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young is one of the NBA’s most exciting talents but Aussie star Dante Exum has shown how to shut the young gun down.
His Cleveland Cavaliers are fourth in the Eastern Conference having a 4-2 record but claimed a massive scalp against the Hawks.
While Exum had just six points and five rebounds in 35 minutes on the floor, the 96-91 win was set up as he shut down Young.
Young averages 28.2 points for the season as well as 8.3 assists but he was kept to 16 points and 10 assists.
Cleveland even had to battle back from 15 points down halfway through the third quarter, before outscoring the Hawks 26-17 to come over the top of the Hawks.
Cavs star Larry Nance Jr. was blown away by the team’s defence.
“They put up 35 on us in the first quarter and then for the rest of the three quarters of the game, for 36 minutes of basketball, we held them to 53 points,” he said. “That’s unheard of. That’s unheard of. Like we keep saying, that’s what we gotta hang our hats on every night. If you play defence, there’s no game you’re out of.”
English football greats, commentators and current players have contributed to furious backlash against a decision to punish Edinson Cavani for using a racist term.
The Manchester United forward was banned for three matches and fined $180,000 by the Football Association announced on Friday in a decision that’s shocked the game.
The 33-year-old summer signing had produced a matchwinning display at Southampton on November 29, providing an assist for Bruno Fernandes before netting two goals in a 3-2 comeback win.
Cavani posted a social media message on Instagram shortly after the match, replying to a message of congratulations using the Spanish term “negrito” (small black person).
The Uruguayan swiftly deleted the post and issued an apology after being made aware of the connotations, but the FA felt compelled to take it further.
“A comment posted on the Manchester United FC striker’s Instagram page was insulting, abusive, improper and brought the game into disrepute,” the FA said in a statement.
“The post also constitutes an ‘aggravated breach’ … as it included reference, whether express or implied, to colour and/or race and/or ethnic origin,” the statement added.
But many in the game have described the ban as a massive over-reaction.
Ex-Liverpool player John Barnes, a Jamaican-born English international, was vocal on Twitter.
“The exchange between Cavani and his friend is one of mutual love and respect and can’t be interpreted or misinterpreted in any other way,” he wrote. “This does nothing to either promote or solve the issue of racial equality.”
Media heavyweight Piers Morgan also spoke out. “Ridiculous that Cavani has been banned for using a term to a friend that’s considered inoffensive in his own country,” Morgan tweeted. “No racist intent, no offence felt by recipient. Dumb over-reaction by the FA. A quiet word about language sensitivities would have sufficed.”
Ander Herrera, a former teammate of Cavani, leapt to the defence of his friend on Instagram.
The Spaniard, 31, blasted: “If they ban you for that. The world is going to s***. Big hugs and stay strong Edi.”
Uruguay’s Spanish language academy even weighed in, saying the words “negro” or its diminutive “negrito” — similar to “gordo” (fatso) or “gordito” and “flaco” (skinny one) — are commonly used as terms of endearment.
“In the Spanish of Uruguay, for example, in couples or among friends, between parents and children, one often hears and reads expressions such as… gordito, negri, negrito…” the Academia Nacional de Letras said in a statement.
“In fact, a person so addressed is not necessarily overweight or dark-skinned.” The academy issued its “strongest rejection” of the sanctioning of Cavani, and said the federation’s “questionable resolution” was the result of “poverty of cultural and linguistic knowledge.”
The statement concluded the FA had “committed a serious injustice to a Uruguayan athlete of the highest international level and has exposed ignorance… regarding the use of language and in particular Spanish, without taking note of all its complexities and contexts.”
Cavani responded to his suspension with class. “Hello everyone, I do not want to extend much in this uncomfortable moment for me,” he wrote on Instagram.
“I want to share with you that I accept the disciplinary sanction knowing that I am foreign to English language customs, but I do not share the point of view.
“I apologise if I offended someone with an expression of affection towards a friend, nothing further was my intention.
‘Those who know me know that my effort is to always seek the simplest joy and friendship!
“I appreciate the countless expressions of support and affection.
“My heart is at peace because I know that I always expressed myself with affection according to my culture and way of life. I send you a sincere hug.”
Fellow United star Marcos Rojo offered words of support, writing: “Those who know you know the kind of person you are!”
Manchester United issued a statement saying Cavani was not aware his words could have been misconstrued and “sincerely apologised” for the post and to anyone who was offended.
“Despite his honest belief that he was simply sending an affectionate thank you in response to a congratulatory message from a close friend, he chose not to contest the charge out of respect for, and solidarity with, the FA and the fight against racism in football,” the club said.
United said they hoped the independent regulatory commission appointed to decide the sanction would make it clear in its written reasons that the former Paris Saint-Germain player “is not a racist, nor was there any racist intent in relation to his post”.
John Howard had come to office as prime minister in 1996 promising that by 2000 he would return Australia to being “comfortable and relaxed” about its history, the present and its future.
The 2000 cabinet papers, released by the National Archives of Australia on Friday, reveal that he was well advanced in his mission to turn Australia into the place he promised.
Howard had won a comfortable 14-seat majority in parliament and as the 2000 cabinet papers confirm, he was steadily implementing the policies that had brought the Coalition to office.
“With the accumulated experience of being halfway through its second term in office, the Howard government proceeded with its conservative re-engineering of Australia at a politically prudent pace,” wrote Dr Chris Wallace, cabinet historian for this year’s release.
“2000 was the year before the ‘year that changed everything’: 2001, when al-Qaida attacked the United States on 11 September, and the Howard government created its ‘Pacific Solution’ asylum seeker deterrent – prisms through which Australian politics would be refracted for many years to come.
“His Liberal and National coalition government’s concerns in 2000 were overwhelmingly domestic, and the approach to issues with international ramifications was heavily weighted toward local implications over international obligations.”
The cabinet papers show a government preoccupied with implementing its major tax reform, the GST, with policies that would deliver to rural Australia and issues associated with aged care.
“2000 was the last year of normality,” said the former deputy prime minister John Anderson, who was invited by the archives to put the cabinet papers in context.
“It was only 10 years after the collapse of the Berlin Wall. As Francis Fukuyama wrote in his book The End of History, it was assumed that liberal democracy, supported by free enterprise or mixed economies, had won out and that totalitarianism and dictatorships and other various forms of authoritarian governments would wither away, that democracy would be on permanent advance.
“Well, that dream didn’t last very long. 2001 was a very dramatic shock.”
With a 1 July start date looming, Howard’s cabinet knuckled down to the task of implementing the most significant tax reform in a decade.
Howard had come to power promising a broad-based consumption tax and cuts to income tax. The details had been announced in 1998 and following negotiations with the Australian Democrats, the goods and services tax became law. But actually introducing it was complex.
Howard later noted, of all the big economic reforms since 1980, this was “the most complex and had the potential to cause the most dislocation”.
In February cabinet committed to a $20m “tax reform education package” – an advertising campaign that was designed to overcome the perception that everything was going to rise by 10%. Cabinet noted that the public and businesses did not seem to appreciate that some wholesale taxes would no longer be charged on inputs.
One of the greatest fears of the government was the impact on petrol prices.
In February the then-treasurer, Peter Costello, briefed cabinet without submission on petrol prices, and agreed that Treasury would prepare options – with input from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) and Anderson’s Department of Transport and Regional Services – for how the promise that petrol prices would not rise because of the GST could be met. Excise was cut to ensure GST did not push up prices. But it turned out not to be sufficient to prevent a price rise.
In her analysis of the cabinet papers, Wallace wrote that Howard’s political antenna was slower to pick up on the storm brewing in late 2000 over petrol prices – an issue evident on the ground to the Nationals but absent from the late 2000 cabinet papers.
Early in 2001 Howard joined Costello and Treasury in opposition to Anderson’s push for a further petrol excise cut.
“John Anderson was right, and Peter Costello and I were wrong,” Howard declared in his memoirs. “I would fully realise this some weeks later” – at which point Anderson’s proposal was adopted.
The cabinet papers show the powerful Australian Hotels Association was worried about the impact of the GST on the price of beer. Cabinet rejected its pleas for special treatment, though concessions were made for mid-strength beer.
Then there was the question of what businesses like nightclubs, hotels or supermarkets would do once the clock struck midnight on 1 July.
Cabinet determined they would be able to trade until their normal closing time on 1 July, before having to reset their tills.
Climate change remained a major issue for the Howard government as it had been in previous years – and would continue to be.
The 2000 cabinet papers show the Australian Greenhouse Office was working on an emissions trading scheme in early 2000, and sought funding for it in the May budget.
But there remained big divisions between the approach of the then-environment minister, Robert Hill, and his cabinet colleagues over what the government should do to meet the commitments Australia had made under the Kyoto protocol.
In May Hill brought a submission to cabinet suggesting that the federal government may like to scrutinise two major greenhouse gas intensive projects and consider imposing conditions on the projects, including requiring abatement of the carbon they would produce.
The cabinet submission noted that together the coal-fired Kogan Creek power station in Queensland and Comalco Alumina would account for 25% of the emissions growth that Australia was permitted under Kyoto. The Kogan Creek power station would be half as efficient as a gas-fired plant, Hill said.
But the idea of conditions was roundly rejected by the prime minister’s department, Treasury and the Department of Finance.
PM&C said it was “desirable to clarify future greenhouse policies as soon as possible to reduce the uncertainty faced by investors in projects such as these.”
But it said a broad policy was better than a project-by-project approach.
As 2000 drew to a close Australia was again under pressure to outline how it would meet its Kyoto pledges when it attended the sixth meeting of the conference of parties, known as COP 6, at The Hague.
The cabinet papers reveal that Hill was told to push for Australia to be given credits for reducing land clearing and to argue for additional carbon sinks beyond those already approved under Kyoto.
He was told to “minimise the cost of implementing Kyoto and the impact on Australian trade competitiveness”.
If the outcome of the COP 6 climate talks would impose disproportionate costs, Hill was “to work with like-minded countries to block consensus or failing this, make a statement of Australia’s position”.
Howard was to be kept informed of progress.
Another cabinet note of discussions in December said the prime minister should write to the US administration – it was the lame duck days of the Clinton administration – to convey that Australia was “disturbed” at reports that the US may be contemplating substantial concessions to the EU, and that Australia would not support such a deal.
It noted “the possibility of a better outcome under the new US administration” of George W Bush.
Hill would go on to take an emissions trading scheme to cabinet in 2003. But Howard, following intense lobbying by the mining industry and the Murdoch press, ensured its defeat. Instead Howard unveiled his new climate and energy plan in a white paper in 2004.
Marian Wilkinson wrote in her book, The Carbon Club: “It was a clear signal to the world that Australia would not be seriously reducing its large greenhouse footprint any time soon.”
In 2007, faced with political annihilation, Howard revived the idea of an ETS. But this too may have been another example of Howard’s trademark pragmatism.
In a 2019 speech to the mining industry, Howard described himself as an “agnostic” on climate change.
“I don’t think we’ve got the balance right,” Howard explained. He said climate change had become a “substitute religion” and the Australian government had erred in its policy in providing “too many incentives for renewable energy”.
Pragmatism tempering ideology
The papers also confirm that Howard brought to his cabinet a sharp political nose and this often tempered the economic rationalist ideological leanings of his government.
In early 2000, his then-employment minister, Tony Abbott, proposed closing Employment National, the last remaining government employment agency in a market that had been privatised.
The proposal on paper had support from most ministers, but Howard, sensing that it would play badly in rural Australia, turned the decision around.
The bush wins big
The coalition between the Liberals and Nationals was working smoothly in 2000 despite the political pressure that One Nation was exerting in Queensland.
Speaking at the cabinet papers briefing, Anderson, also the Nationals’ leader at the time, said his party publicly backed the government’s policies and in return its voice was heard in cabinet.
Many cabinet submissions at the time included a rural impact statement and the Nationals made significant gains in areas such as road spending, with the establishment of the Roads to Recovery program.
Cabinet also considered ways to get more doctors into rural areas and to boost services in the regions.
Salinity and the Murray Darling
The year 2000 also marked a national attempt to tackle degrading natural resources and dry land salinity caused by land clearing and over-extraction from the nation’s river systems.
In August, cabinet received a briefing from Prof Peter Cullen on the problems facing the nation’s major river systems. The government had already established the Natural Heritage Trust and resolved to take national leadership through the Council of Australian Governments.
The debate over the need to act was couched heavily in economic terms. The problem was one of “market failure” and “Australia’s reputation as a green food and fibre producer was at risk”. It warned that in 20 years Adelaide’s drinking water would fail World Health Organization standards two days out of five.
The discussion would eventually lead to the development of the Murray-Darling Basin plan.
International questions were largely viewed through the prism of domestic politics. In 2000, the government was pursuing a bilateral trade agreement with the US.
The major international concerns preoccupying cabinet were Australia’s involvement in East Timor (now Timor-Leste), and the problems that were besetting Pacific nations, including coups in Fiji and the Solomon Islands.
A review of Australia’s policy on Papua New Guinea, considered early in the year, and another on Australia’s policy toward the South Pacific later in 2000, were both withheld in their entirety by the archives because release would “cause damage to security, defence or international relations”.
Aged care and an ageing population
Residential aged care, in which more of Australia’s ageing population was increasingly living, attracted intense public scrutiny in early 2000 when it emerged that residents at Riverside Home in Melbourne were being subjected to kerosene baths, with lethal consequences. Other stories of maltreatment at residential care homes quickly emerged.
The then-aged care minister, Bronwyn Bishop’s, submission in response was considered by cabinet in August.
On the one hand, it trumpeted the Howard government’s Aged Care Act 1997as “the basis for a sound and sustainable aged care system” and “the most significant change for the industry in its history”, said historian Wallace.
But Wallace also noted that Bishop grudgingly conceded there had been 4,000 complaints since the legislation’s introduction and that the commonwealth ombudsman had found that the scheme lacked clarity and timeliness.
A new complaints handling process was put in place but the government baulked at a return to staff ratios, because it “would return the industry to detailed input regulation and reduce its efficiency”.
Cabinet also considered issues arising from Australia’s ageing population and worried about the falling birth rate. A paper on population commissioned in April 2000 noted that fertility had fallen from 3.5 children per woman in 1961 to 1.75 in 1999 and was expected to fall further.
The paper warned that a fall below 1.6 would be a cause for economic and social concern and was a “plausible possibility”.
Skilled migration would make up some of skills needed in the workforce but the paper suggested measures were also needed to encourage older Australians to work longer and boost the birth rate.
The memorandum recommended against a formal population policy but its findings would inform the Howard government’s family policy in years to come.
In the 2002 budget it introduced the baby bonus and followed up with policies to facilitate more mothers staying home with children.
It was an important step along the path of Howard returning Australia to the country he desired it to be: relaxed and comfortable.
“I think he will enjoy the way they race down the straight and he has always been a good hold up and sprint home horse.
“The only worry was barrier one, but they don’t often follow the fence there so he should get the right run and might just be too strong for them late.”
Southern Lad is the winner of five of his 25 starts and nine of those runs came in 2020. His only win came at Randwick on January 11, but he was never more than 1¾ lengths from the winner.
He has also run five further places, mostly in good company. He ran Everest winner Classique Legend to a half-length in the Bob Charley Stakes in June and was also runner-up in the Wagga Town Plate.
Southern Lad is rated an $8.50 chance in an open market where proven straight-trackers Sirius Suspect and Defiant Dancer share favouritism at $3.80.
Meanwhile, the scratching of Southern Lad and early favourite Athiri means Eleven Eleven is the favourite for the Christmas Classic at Canterbury on Friday.
Trainer Greg Hickman is using it as a final lead-up to the Snippets Sprint at the Magic Millions for Eleven Eleven, which has drawn the outside gate.
“He likes a bit of room in his races, so if he can drop in somewhere he will get his chance,” Hickman said. “There looks to be plenty of speed and if he gets the right run he will be coming quickly at the end.
“We are looking to get him back to the Gold Coast and this is the perfect race after his win at Wyong [in the Magic Millions three and four-year-old].”
Eleven Eleven is the $4.60 favourite, but could be challenged for his place at the top of the market by Discharged and Hightail, which are returning from spells.
Joe Pride thinks Easy Eddie, a $10 hope, is fitter for his first run in more than a year and is confident he will perform on his preferred wet surface.
“He is always a horse that takes a run to find his best and the soft ground is in his favour,” Pride said.