Hey there! Thanks for dropping by Theme Preview! Take a look around
and grab the RSS feed to stay updated. See you around!

Archive for June, 2019

Cabinet Secretary Arthur Sinodinos has said the Liberals are philosophically committed to performance pay for public servants Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Former Treasury secretary Ken Henry was denied a bonus in 2007 when his speech criticising water policy was leaked. Photo: Sasha Woolley
Nanjing Night Net

Australia’s top public servants have refused for almost three years a directive to pay themselves bonuses.

As Malcolm Turnbull prepares to form government, a Fairfax survey shows the bureaucracy brushed aside a Coalition promise made during the previous election campaign: to pay officials bonuses based on how much “red tape” they cut.

The pledge remains Coalition policy, though Liberal ministers would not discuss it this week.

But the Australian Public Service’s 20 largest workplaces effectively ignored it: each confirmed they don’t give executives the extra payments.

One official who works on remuneration said the policy was “bizarre … and impossible to implement. It was never going to happen,” adding it would be easy to game the scheme.

Before the 2013 election, the Coalition said it would “link remuneration of senior executive service public servants, including future pay increases and bonuses, to quantified and proven reductions in red and green tape”.

It met resistance almost immediately. In his first brief to the Abbott government, then public service commissioner Stephen Sedgwick warned of “practical challenges in implementing” the plan.

Yet ministers went on to write to all agency heads, telling them to set up the bonus system.

Bonus pay has become a partisan issue in the past decade.

Senior Liberals, including Arthur Sinodinos and Eric Abetz, have argued in favour of financial incentives for government staff, saying they help get the best out of them.

Seven in 10 senior federal bureaucrats received bonuses under the Howard government. The average payments in 2007 was $9900 for the lowest level (SES band 1) and $19,600 for SES band 3 staff.

However, Kevin Rudd abolished performance pay for department heads after he won office in 2007, saying it persuaded bureaucrats to say what ministers wanted to hear rather than what needed to be said.

Labor also began to wind back bonuses for SES staff. By the end of 2014, only one in eight senior officers were still receiving them.

Campbell Newman’s conservative government in Queensland also introduced bonuses for agency heads, but Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk axed them almost immediately after taking office.

She said she valued public servants’ expertise “but I also think our most senior public servants are paid well enough that they don’t need generous bonuses on top of their salary”.

Labor’s federal employment spokesman, Brendan O’Connor, said this week the bonuses that never happened were “just another Liberal Party policy which seeks to deliver more to the haves at the expense of the have-nots”.

“The biggest issue confronting the public service isn’t bonuses to senior executives,” he said.

“It’s the massive number of workers who have had their pay frozen for three years and working conditions attacked because of the Liberal Party’s unfair bargaining framework.”

Asked why the bureaucracy had refused to implement bonus pay, the Public Service Commission said agencies had “considerable flexibility to manage their senior executive remuneration arrangements, within the boundaries of government policy”.

“For a number of senior executives, the success of deregulation initiatives would be a factor in their performance management and assessment arrangements,” a spokeswoman said.

All of the agencies surveyed said they had implemented the “cutting red tape” agenda, and many said they assessed senior staff’s commitment to deregulation in their annual performance appraisals. But each refused to pay bonuses.

Former department head Allan Hawke, who served under the Howard government, was a fierce critic of its performance bonuses, saying they were “at odds with public service culture, ignore the complexity of how the public service actually works [and are] bad for morale and teamwork”.

He said this week: “Bonuses are not the issue. What’s important is to have performance agreements that help to deliver the results required and development of each person towards realising their potential.”

One incident that encouraged Labor to ditch bonuses was the treatment of then Treasury secretary Ken Henry, who was denied a bonus in 2007. It was widely reported to be a punishment for criticising the Howard government’s water policy in a speech to staff, which was later leaked to the media.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Supernatural fiction with Colin Steele
Nanjing Night Net

SMOKE. By Dan Vyleta. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. $29.99.

Smoke has echoes of Charles Dickens, Philip Pullman and J. K. Rowling in its settings and characterisation. In an alternate Victorian England, people’s “sins” are measured by the amount of smoke that physically issues from their bodies. The rural rich pay to become “pure” and largely smoke-free, whereas the poor and uneducated live in a profusion of smoke in the cities. Boarding school friends Thomas and Charlie combine with young aristocratic Livia to uncover the truth behind their world’s dark smoking mirrors. Smoke is an intriguing and complex novel, only marred by too many subplots.

HEX. By Thomas Olde Heuvelt. Hodder and Stoughton. $32.99.

Bestselling Dutch author Thomas Olde Heuvelt originally set Hex in his native Netherlands. For the English translation, however, the location is changed to the Hudson Valley town of Black Spring. Hex begins with the tragic story of Katherine van Wyler, sentenced to death for witchcraft in 1664. Her ghostly presence has quarantined the small town’s residents ever since from the outside world. But when teenagers post videos of Katherine on the internet, ancient supernatural evil is unleashed, as well as the town’s internal conflict. Hex is an unrelenting, yet compelling, supernatural horror story.

VIGIL. By Angela Slatter. Jo Fletcher. $32.99.

Australian author Angela Slatter has won numerous Australian and international awards for her short stories. Vigil, her debut novel, the first of the Verity Fassbinder trilogy, is located in an alternate Brisbane. Verity is half human and half Weyrd. Her dead father was a “kinderfresser”, a man who killed children for bizarre reasons. Private investigator Verity atones for her father’s crimes by maintaining the balance between humanity and the Weyrd. But when more children go missing, the acerbic Verity has to tackle many issues, including dark angels, a golem and an evil Weyrd. Vigil is a rich paranormal dark fantasy.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Topdrops

Chapel Hill McLaren Vale Shiraz 2014, $28-$30. Photo: Supplied Bit o’Heaven Think Outside the Circle Chardonnay 2016, $20. Photo: Supplied
Nanjing Night Net

Pizzini King Valley Nonna Gisella Sangiovese 2015, $21.50. Photo: Catherine Sutherland

Bit o’ Heaven Think Outside the Circle Chardonnay 2016, $20

This wine comes from Brian Mullany’s Bit o’ Heaven vineyard in the Hilltops district, near Young, NSW. Mullany tends the vineyard, but sends the grapes to Cumulus Wines, Orange, for winemaking. The blend comprises 90 per cent chardonnay and 5 per cent each of viognier and muscadelle. The viognier component, though small, plays a big role in the wine’s texture and flavour. What would otherwise be a good, full-bodied, fresh young chardonnay, gains exotic apricot-like viognier varietal flavour and a slippery, smooth texture.

Pizzini King Valley Nonna Gisella Sangiovese 2015, $21.50

Fred Pizzini released his first sangiovese in 1996. Twenty years later, the family produces a range of wines from the variety along with many other Italian-inspired wines. Winemaking includes cold maceration ahead of a hot fermentation – a combination that captures rich, bright fruit flavours and introduces more savoury characters to the wine. The wine has a light to medium colour and a mouth-watering, medium-bodied palate suggestive of plums, with a light dusting of herbs and fine tannins drying out the finish.

Chapel Hill McLaren Vale Shiraz 2014, $28.50-$30

Variations in growing season temperatures largely account for the diversity of Australian shiraz styles. The big influences on temperature (including intra-day variations) are latitude, altitude and proximity (or not) to large bodies of water, especially the sea. Broadly, cooler areas produce more fragrant, spicy, lighter bodied wines than warmer ones. On that spectrum, McLaren Vale occupies its own special place, reflecting its warm climate, tempered by the cooling influence of St Vincent’s Gulf on its western boundary. The 2014 provides ripe, full drinking, with cherry-like fruit flavour and the Vale’s distinctive savoury tannins.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

ONE-POT CHICKEN WITH SPRING VEGETABLES
Nanjing Night Net

Serves 4

1.5-1.6kg chicken

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp runny honey

1 tsp lemon juice

300g baby new potatoes, scrubbed and any larger ones halved

1 onion, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole

200g baby carrots

300ml hot chicken stock

300ml white wine

100g frozen peas

2 tbsp tarragon leaves

Salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Put the chicken into a large, shallow ovenproof dish or skillet. Drizzle over the olive oil, honey and lemon juice and season. Roast for 30 minutes until lightly golden brown, then add the potatoes, onion, garlic and carrots and toss to coat with the olive oil, honey and lemon in the dish around the chicken,.

Pour the stock and wine over the vegetables, then put the dish back in the oven for a further 45 minutes, until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through and the vegetables are tender (you might need to cover the chicken with foil if it is getting too brown). Add the peas and cook for a final five minutes.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with tarragon before serving.

APRICOT, PECAN, RAISIN AND CHOCOLATE COOKIES

Makes 20 cookies

100g unsalted butter, softened

100g light soft brown sugar

1 large egg

150g porridge oats

75g self-raising flour, sifted

A pinch of salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

50g dried apricots, roughly chopped

50g raisins

25g pecans, roughly chopped

100g dark chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4 and line two large baking sheets with non-stick baking paper.

Cream the butter with the sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy, then add the egg and beat again. Fold in the remaining ingredients until well incorporated.

Shape the cookie dough into 20 balls. Place on the prepared baking sheets, well-spaced apart, and press down slightly to flatten. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden but still slightly soft in the middle. Leave to cool on the sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Suitable for freezing once baked

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Bush Heritage Australia has forfeited the inheritance of a 350-acre property near Bega and lost numerous donors as they face backlash from a planned kangaroo cull at Scottsdale​ Reserve, south of Canberra.
Nanjing Night Net

Regular supporters of the non-profit organisation have pulled donations following reports of a cull, with one referring to the organisation as “hopeless frauds”.

Bush Heritage aims to “conserve biodiversity” at properties either purchased or donated across Australia.

However, the Australian Society for Kangaroos unveiled a practice of culling which has left supporters feeling lied to.

“I’ve cancelled my donation forever,” one email read, in correspondence with ASK.

“If so-called saviours of the bush can’t do it without this slaughter they shouldn’t be doing it. Hopeless frauds.”

Another person emailed ASK to say they would no longer be leaving their “precious” property to Bush Heritage in their Will.

“Following what seems to be a constant stream of horror stories [including] secretive native animal culling, we have now changed our Wills by omitting any reference to Bush Heritage,” the email reads.

Bill Taylor, of Bywong, said he was a contributor to the non-profit for a number of years, before “pulling the plug” when the organisation didn’t respond to questions about kangaroo culling he raised in reference to their annual report.

In response to the protests, Bush Heritage Australia has cancelled the kangaroo cull, which was approved by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

Science and research manager at Bush Heritage Australia, Jim Radford, said kangaroo culls had been undertaken at the Scottsdale Reserve in the past, however the planned cull was called off due to, in part, concerns for public safety.

He said one the main concerns was “unauthorised access onto the site”.

“We didn’t have any direct evidence of that and we weren’t approached directly but we considered there was a risk,” he said.

He said Bush Heritage had a range of ways to manage the kangaroo population, but as a last resort they turned to culling the macropods.

“Under certain circumstances we do need to reduce the pressure applied by an excessive number of kangaroos,” he said.

The Scottsdale Reserve is home to a variety of flora and fauna classed as vulnerable or critically endangered, including the Rosenberg’s monitor and Yellow-box grassy woodland.

Mr Radford said the kangaroo population in the grasslands at Scottsdale Reserve was at more than twice the recommended level for maintaining ecologically sustainable populations.

“I think there is a great misunderstanding out there,” Dr Radford said.

“In some landscapes there are hugely elevate and unsustainable numbers of roos.

“We aim to maintain a healthy, resilient kangaroo population but there comes a point where their a risk to their own welfare from starvation stress. But to be honest our primary concern is the other species that are potentially impacted.”

He said there would not be a kangaroo cull undertaken in the “foreseeable future” at Scottsdale Reserve.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.