Thursday, April 30, 2009
In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is critical of the surge of illegal immigrant arrivals under the Labor government's new "soft" policy
Mice attack disabled veteran in government nursing home
What Green/Left government leads to
A BEDRIDDEN war veteran was found on Anzac Day with bloody ears, hands, face and neck after being "severely chewed" by swarming mice at a southwest Queensland nursing home.
Opposition MP Ray Hopper said Queensland Health had been slow to respond to a mice plague at the Dalby Hospital, which includes a nursing home, leading to the attack on the 89-year-old man.
The man's daughter said staff found her father bleeding from bites to his head, neck, ears and hands on Anzac Day, Mr Hopper said. "The top of his ears were severely chewed and he had bites to his head and neck,'' Mr Hopper said. "His hands were covered in blood because he was trying to get the mice off him. "We are talking about a health facility overrun by vermin. It's atrocious.''
Mr Hopper said the man was so distressed that doctors had put him on morphine to calm him down. He said it was normal to see an increase in mice in Dalby and the Darling Downs at the onset of winter, and the problem was handled with chemical sprays. "But the bureaucrats said no sprays this year because it uses agricultural chemicals, and that's not allowed to happen at a health facility,'' he said.
Leftist public broadcaster trivializes Australia's most honoured occasion
The excerpt below summarizes the author's response to an ABC website. She then goes on to make excuses for it. She was, after all, writing in a Left-leaning newspaper
And at Gallipoli gravity was, if anything, more than usually evident. From the first pre-dawn moments when Anzac soldiers drowned under the weight of their own packs to the hellish eight-month struggle for ascendancy in that jaggedly vertical terrain, gravity ruled.
Yet, to judge by the ABC's otherwise excellent new website, Gallipoli: The First Day, gravity might as well not exist. The site, launched last week, constructs a compelling narrative and shows something of its own Anzac spirit, having been produced in just a few months and for a tiny fraction of the usual gargantuan animation-type budget. Adroitly directed by the ABC's Sam Doust, it mixes flash-maps, fly-overs and digital dioramas with more traditional means such as voiced letters and diaries (by Hugo Weaving) and videoed recollections to give a blow-by-blow from both Allied and Ottoman points of view. You can clamber interactively around the island, scrutinise strategy and character, examine maps, guns and events in detail.
And yet this dreadful story is strangely light-on in the emotion department. This is partly due to Lucy Bell's hushed and girlish narration, as though she's whispering us a bedtime story that mustn't wake the children. (A pomo gesture, this, laying such a lace doily of a voice upon so blokey a tale. Doust explains that female team-members argued for estrogenism, so to speak, and the mere fact that this was from start to finish a testosterone tale seemed an insufficient reason to deny them. But doesn't that say it all, really? Death of the soldier, the bloke and the auteur, with a single democracy-soaked bullet.)
But the main reason it's Anzac Lite is that, while the camera may whiz giddily about, the characters themselves are oddly without motion or mass. Efforts are made - shadows, close-ups, a richly textured soundtrack - to bolster a sense of reality. We hear Lieutenant-Colonel Kemal's famous command, "I don't order you to attack, I order you to die," and British General Ian Hamilton's even more notorious "dig, dig, dig". We hear groans, and curses, and guns.
But there's no blood in this bloodbath, no falling or staggering or pitching headfirst into the trench. And this zero-gravity feel causes a corresponding lack of emotional weight.
Australia makes "asylum-seeking" very attractive
Asylum-seekers on Christmas Island receive generous payments for doing nothing
A FAMILY of four asylum-seekers living on Christmas Island in community detention receives up to $1000 a fortnight from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC). DIAC spokesman Sandi Logan said 33 asylum-seekers who had undergone health and security checks were living in houses in the community while awaiting outcomes of their visa applications.
A further 40 asylum-seekers, mostly family groups, women, children and those with special needs, are in alternative detention while 193 single men are detained at the Christmas Island Detention Centre. Women and children are not housed in the detention centre itself, and instead live in alternative detention called the construction camp near the Poon Saan neighbourhood on the island.
Mr Logan said adults in community detention were given $100 cash and $360 in store credit, which can be used at one of two local stores, a fortnight to buy food and other items. A family of two adults and two children would receive $300 cash and $766 store credit each fortnight, which is administered by the Red Cross.
Those under the age of 18 who were deemed unaccompanied minors [In other words, young adults pretending to br teenagers] in community detention receive $50 a week and each household consisting of up to five minors, who are looked after by a carer, is given $900 a week for food and supplies.
Mr Logan said those on community detention had to cook and buy their own food. "We can't put them out in community detention and let them starve," he said. Some chose to save their money and buy luxury items including sunglasses and MP3 players, and were entitled to do so, Mr Logan said.
Inside the detention centre, detainees have 20 internet terminals. "There is also a telephone available in each of the (eight) compounds and they are issued with a phone card each week to make phone calls, it could be to their representatives, to friends or to others ...," Mr Logan said. The calls are unrestricted and include international calls.
Mr Logan said the detainees are encouraged to participate in activities and are rewarded for attending English classes and helping out in the detention centre. The reward system has been in place for some time in Australian detention centres, Mr Logan said.
Detainees are free to move around the inside of the detention centre, often playing cricket and soccer on the oval, but have a night-time curfew when they go back to their single rooms.
The centre was built by the Howard government at a cost of $400 million and is located on the remote corner of Christmas Island, an Australian territory 2,600km northwest of Perth. More than 200 people including 38 DIAC staff are on the island to support the centre.
More than 130 asylum-seekers picked up in the interception of four boats since Saturday, including two today, will also be taken to Christmas Island. It is not known when they will arrive on the island.
A nearly honest man in Australia's Leftist government
Icecap science rattles Craig Emerson but he soon backs down
FEDERAL Small Business Minister Craig Emerson has split from Kevin Rudd and ministerial colleagues by declaring science is undecided on key aspects of the global warming debate. Dr Emerson yesterday became the first minister in the Rudd Government to cast doubt on the assertion that scientific evidence was conclusive for a catastrophic meltdown of the polar icecaps if global warming was not curtailed.
He said he would like to see scientists settle the question of what would happen to sea-level rises and the polar icecaps as a result of climate change. "We have been basing our responses to this issue on the basis of scientific evidence," Dr Emerson told Sky News. "I suppose what's disappointing around the world is that there is so much disagreement around the edges or even on key issues such as what's happening to Antarctica. Now what I'd like to see is the scientists themselves settle on some of these issues."
Dr Emerson added there was little disagreement that the climate was warming. "We can't wait to see whether the sea level rises by half a metre, one metre, two metres or more, and then act," he said. "We need to act now to get ahead of it, and do everything we can to prevent these sorts of dire predictions from becoming a reality."
Dr Emerson was commenting on a report in The Australian yesterday that a rift had emerged between Climate Change Minister Penny Wong and Environment Minister Peter Garrett over the ice-melting debate. Senator Wong was concerned about Mr Garrett's claim that the calving of ice from the Wilkins ice shelf indicated the Antarctic icecap was melting, potentially causing sea levels to rise 6m. Evidence has emerged that while parts of west Antarctica are warming, much of Antarctica is cooling and sea ice around the continent generally is expanding.
The Government has previously insisted the science on global warming is not in dispute. Kevin Rudd declared in 2007 that there were no scientific doubts surrounding the issues of sea levels and ice melting. "Can I just say, the science is in. The icecaps are melting, the oceans are rising," Mr Rudd said. Mr Garrett declared last year that the "science is in" on climate change.
Last night, Dr Emerson denied he believed that the science on global warming was inconclusive. "The science is in that we are experiencing climate change and we need to act to deal with it," Dr Emerson told The Australian. "There are disagreements about projections on how severe the consequences will be but that must not prevent countries from acting now to deal with climate change."
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
By William Kininmonth, a former head of the National Climate Centre and a consultant to the World Meteorological Organisation. Kininmonth agrees that there is a global warming effect but points out reasons why it has to be trivial. The temperature rise across the 20th century was certainly trivial -- about a half of one degree Celsius. It takes acute imaginitis and a lot of statistical jiggery pokery to extrapolate that to a huge rise in the 21st century
The science of global warming is claimed to be too complex for the public to comprehend and judge. We are continually being told to take and act on the advice of the consensus of IPCC experts; the dissenters are no more than paid mouthpieces of industry or worse. Nevertheless, the public and their representatives are showing innate common sense.
The Australian Senate is poised to reject the "cap and trade" legislation designed by the Rudd Government to implement the Orwellian carbon pollution reduction scheme; it is unlikely the US Senate will ratify similar legislation to limit carbon dioxide emissions any time soon, despite the rhetoric of Barack Obama; and the UN's post-Kyoto dreams of global industrial regulation are destined to fail in Copenhagen later this year.
Economist John Quiggin appears so concerned at the direction of events that he claims "mainstream science is on the verge of being overturned by the efforts of a group of dedicated amateurs" (The Australian Financial Review, April 23).
With public perceptions changing so dramatically and quickly it is little wonder Ian Plimer's latest book, Heaven and Earth, Global Warming: The Missing Science, has been received with such enthusiasm and isinto its third print run in as manyweeks. The public is receptive to an expose of the many mythologies and false claims associated with anthropogenic global warming and are welcoming an authoritative description of planet Earth and its ever-changing climate in readable language.
In an interesting slant on logic, Robert Manne, writing in The Weekend Australian last Saturday, takes the position it is not what citizens should believe that is important but who they believe. Needless to say, he favours the UN's IPCC and its so-called consensus over those such as Plimer who question the anthropogenic global warming science.
What is often forgotten is that the UN established the IPCC in 1988 only because of the then raging scientific debate over the veracity of the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis. The debate has continued because the dire predictions violate fundamental scientific laws and the real science cannot be suppressed.
Recognition of the essential flaw in the dangerous global warming hypothesis predates the IPCC and has been there for the world to see in the title of a paper published in 1966 by CSIRO division of meteorological physics former chief Bill Priestley: "The limitation of temperature in hot climates by evaporation."
Seventy per cent of the Earth's surface is made up of ocean and much of the remaining surface is transpiring vegetation. Evaporation and the exchange of latent energy from the surface is a strong constraint to surface temperature rise. It is not rocket science that water from a canvas bag is cool even on the hottest days.
Furthermore, the surface temperatures of the warmest tropical oceans seldom exceed 30C and for millions of years the underlying cold sub-surface waters have provided a powerful thermal buffer to warming. The suggestion of anthropogenic global warming exceeding a tipping point and leading to runaway or irreversible global warming is a violation of conservation of energy principles.
Computer models are the essential tool for prediction of future climate. Since the IPCC fourth assessment, several independent analyses of the characteristics of the various models have been published in the scientific literature. These analyses reveal serious defects. As the Earth warmed during the 1980s and '90s, it was observed that the convective overturning of the tropics (the Hadley circulation) increased. In contrast, the overturning of the computer models is portrayed to decrease as increasing carbon dioxide generates global warming.
Separately it is found that the computer models underspecify (by a factor of three) the important rate of increase of evaporation with projected temperature rise, meaning that the models underspecify rainfall increase and exaggerate the risk of drought. The same evaporation problem causes an exaggeration of the temperature response to carbon dioxide, but the exaggeration is a model failure and not reality.
The greenhouse effect is real, as is the enhancement due to increasing carbon dioxide concentration. However, the likely extent of global temperature rise from a doubling of carbon dioxide is less than 1C. Such warming is well within the envelope of variation experienced during the past 10,000 years and insignificant in the context of glacial cycles during the past million years, when Earth has been predominantly very cold and covered by extensive ice sheets.
Fundamental science has always identified that it is quixotic to attempt regulation of climate through management of carbon dioxide emissions. The pity is that community leaders have been beguiled by the mystery of powerful computers and have failed to critically assess the predictions within the context of Earth's history. Plimer's authoritative book provides the excuse and impetus to re-examine the scientific fundamentals and redress that failure.
Split in Australian government over Antarctic ice shelf claims
The phony story of an Antarctic ice breakup has now been acknowledged as such -- but not in time to prevent embarrassment
A SPLIT over global warming has emerged in Kevin Rudd's cabinet after it was revealed that a 13-month-old photograph was published this month to support the view that a catastrophic melting of Antarctic ice was imminent. Federal government sources said Climate Change Minister Penny Wong was disappointed with the way her ministerial colleague, Peter Garrett, weighed into the debate about global warming, claiming sea levels could rise by 6m as a result of melting in Antarctica. Senator Wong yesterday pointedly refused to indicate whether she supported Mr Garrett's view.
"The impacts of climate change are being seen in many ways, from sea level rise through to extreme weather events," Senator Wong said yesterday. "Climate change is a clear and present danger to our world that demands immediate attention." Senator Wong declined to nominate potential levels to which seas could rise.
At a time when the Rudd Government is battling to salvage its emissions trading scheme, some of Mr Garrett's Labor colleagues were annoyed the Environment Minister used his responsibility for Australia's Antarctic territory to weigh into the climate change debate with exaggerated claims. Mr Garrett claimed the break-up of the Wilkins ice shelf in West Antarctica indicated sea level rises of 6m were possible by the end of the century, and that ice was melting across the continent.
The Environment Minister later sought to distance himself from his comments. A study released last week by the British Antarctic Survey concluded that sea ice around Antarctica had been increasing at a rate of 100,000sqkm a decade since the 1970s. While the Antarctic Peninsula, which includes the Wilkins ice shelf and other parts of West Antarctica were experiencing warmer temperatures, ice had expanded in East Antarctica, which is four times the size of West Antarctica.
British newspaper The Observer this month published prominently a story with a photograph of breaks in the Wilkins shelf. "A huge ice shelf in the Antarctic is in the last stages of collapse and could break up within days in the latest sign of how global warming is thought to be changing the face of the planet," the story began. In March last year, US news agency msn published the same photograph with a similar story that began: "A vast ice shelf hanging on by a thin strip looks to be the next chunk to break off from the Antarctic Peninsula, the latest sign of global warming's impact on Earth's southernmost continent." The photograph was published by numerous other outlets, including The Australian. A spokeswoman for the British Antarctic Survey said the photograph in both stories was taken in March last year.
Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce said the misuse of the photograph and the similar story lines 13 months apart reflected how the Wilkins ice shelf break-up was being recycled annually to fuel global warming concerns. Senator Joyce said Mr Garrett's entry into the debate demonstrated how it was being hijacked by misinformation. "We are on the edge of a possible pandemic that could cause untold misery and people are running around tilting at windmills," he said. Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt said Senator Wong should distance herself from Mr Garrett's comments.
Mr Garrett was defended by Australian Conservation Foundation director Don Henry. "The minister is right to raise concerns that melting of our ice caps could lead to that kind of sea level rise," he said.
Insane Leftist attack on jobs for young people
WHAT madness would make it more expensive to hire those Australians traditionally hit twice as hard during recessions? Answer: that provided by the Industrial Relations Commission under instruction from Julia Gillard.
An extra 34,000 teenagers have become unemployed over the past year, lifting teenage joblessness to 141,400 or 16.4 per cent. The prospect it will rise well over 20 per cent underlines last week’s warning from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development that rolling back John Howard’s Work Choices will make it harder for young Australians to get a foothold in the job market. This, warns the OECD, risks a “build up of a large pool of youth at risk of becoming long-term unemployed”.
But the danger is greater than the OECD’s Paris-based analysts recognise because they haven’t got their heads around the IRC’s award “modernisation” process ordered by Gillard. The OECD’s review of Australia’s school-to-work policies assumes that “modernising” the “tangled web of binding rules” known as the award system will unwind the red tape strangling the job market.
The OECD clearly hasn’t looked at the Fast Food Industry Award that the IRC will impose from the start of 2010. It hasn’t picked up the threat to the youth-employment business model of the fast food industry, from franchise chains such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, KFC, Domino’s, Subway and Eagle Boys Pizza to thousands of small business takeaway food outlets.
Since the 1970s this sector has evolved on the edges of the federal award system, based on casual employment and minimal or no evening or weekend penalty rates. But the IRC’s award “modernisation” would force it to pay part-time student workers the sort of high casual loadings and penalty rates that it seeks to standardise across the workforce.
This would reverse the labour market liberalisation that allowed the jobless rate for those aged under 25 to fall to three-decade lows of 8.7 percent by the end of the latest boom. As the OECD notes, Howard’s individual work contracts - or Australian Workplace Agreements - are “likely to have increased the labour market competitiveness of low-skilled youth”.
But these individual contracts are being abolished just as the recession hits young Australians the hardest. Many will be seeking work for the first time just as business decides that the new unfair dismissal rules make it riskier to hire young people with no employment history. And those young people with jobs are likely to be the first to be laid off during the downturn. Firms typically have invested less in training juniors than their more senior staff, who are more expensive to retrench as redundancy pay standards have become more generous.
Such dynamics explain the OECD’s quantification of how young workers have been hit hardest in previous recessions. For every one percentage point softening of annual economic growth, the jobless rate for those aged 25 to 54 years has risen 0.87 percentage points. But at the same time, the jobless rate for those aged 15 to 24 years has increased 2.03 percentage points. That means the youth jobless rate rises 2.3 percentage points for every one percentage point increase in the adult rate.
The priority should be to retain the flexibility that allows young people to get a foothold in the job market. Most young Australians get their first job while at high school or university, often through the sort of evening and weekend casual work provided by fast food businesses. Some disparage such jobs as dead-end hamburger-flipping. Yet the OECD says casual and part-time work in Australia is typically a “stepping stone” to better-paid careers. Moreover, the frequent resort to part-time work does not mean that Australian uni students graduate any later.
Until now the fast food business has grown up under less onerous state awards or tailored enterprise deals for franchise chains, which even facilitate the direct payment of union dues. These are based on flexible rostering of a casual workforce mostly aged in its teens or early 20s with no, or minimal, penalty rates.
But the IRC’s new Fast Food Industry Award imposes a national 25 per cent penalty rate for casuals plus an extra 25 per cent for work on weekday evenings and Saturdays. An extra 75 percent applies on Sundays. Casuals working public holidays will have to be paid a 275 percent loading on their normal hourly rate.
And the IRC ropes store managers into the award penalty rates and work rules on the basis that managerial classifications are included in other “retail” awards. The IRC offers no reason why penalty rates should apply at all for student workers during the very times they are most available to work: in the evenings and on weekends.
Amid the argy-bargy, the increased costs may be phased in. But this merely concedes the breaking of Gillard’s undertaking that award modernisation would not impose extra costs on employing labour. It will still stifle the business model that is one of the biggest employers of young Australians.
Against the howls of the shop assistants’ union, Gillard has allowed franchise chains such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and KFC scope to have their own enterprise awards “modernised”. But not until Fair Work Australia - as the IRC is to be rebadged - determines whether such awards would “lessen the competitiveness” of rival fast food operators. So Fair Work Australia will consult with “other businesses in the same industry” to make sure one franchise doesn’t get a supposedly unfair competitive edge from the way it organises its workforce. Regrettably, some business lobbies even support such levelling of the playing field, as they term it, against competition.
Gillard is not deaf to the fast food sector’s complaints over its new award, but is limited by the IRC process she has unleashed. She retorts that no business person has ever told her that “this nation’s economic prosperity should be based on ripping off young Australians”. That class warfare rhetoric would be more digestible if she allowed genuine scrutiny - say by the Productivity Commission - to ensure that Labor’s job market “modernisation” does not deny young Australians a work choice.
Why the lenient sentences for egregious criminals?
I documented long ago how great the gap is between what the courts deliver and what the public want. Nothing seems to have changed. Note the latest episode: "A driver who veered onto the wrong side of the road and killed a motorcyclist while tuning his car radio has walked free from court". I think many will see no reason why negligence causing death should be treated any differently from murder yet the courts are completely indulgent of such episodes
I reckon the judiciary has a magisterial disdain for what you and I believe is justice. They certainly talk the talk. Judge Felicity Hampel thundered at stalker and nasty child pornographer Ross Andrew Sargent that he was predatory, and his secret toilet videos were a gross violation of the women and girls he filmed - then slashed his jail sentence to two months.
Judge Margaret Rizkalla had similarly harsh words for Matthew James Vernon, one of Victoria's worst sexual offenders. He raped an 11-year-old he was babysitting, and the poor girl had Vernon's child, an unimaginable physical and psychological trauma. "The complainant is now torn between the world of being a mother and the world of being a child,'' Rizkalla observed. "It cannot be overlooked, but the child will be a constant reminder (of Vernon's shocking and selfish crime),'' she said sternly - before sentencing him to a fraction of the decades he could have received.
Judge Roland Leckie was on to serial killer Peter Dupas's shortcomings 25 years ago. Sentencing Dupas in 1985 for a knife-wielding rape - and knowing his violently dark past - he told the convicted man, "there is a strong possibility of your reoffending'', and then let him serve relatively light sentences, concurrently, as well. Tragically, Nostradamus had nothing on the prescient Leckie. So far there's been lots of talking, but not much walking.
Last week there was more talk around killer-driver Brett Franklin, whose sentence for claiming the lives of sisters Glenda Thomson and Michelle Hurst, and seriously injuring Glenda's daughter Tara, has been reduced on appeal to just 5 years. It was a lenient sentence to begin with. The work of young, drunk, irresponsible drivers is one of the bigger issues in the community.
"We will catch you,'' warned Assistant Commissioner for Traffic Ken Lay on television and in billboards across the state over Christmas. And in Franklin's case they did get their man, if the young bloke can ever be called one. Franklin had previously lost his licence for speeding. On the night he killed Glenda and Michelle in a TAC ad come to life, he was about three times over the legal limit and friends begged him not to drive. Franklin knew better and, showing off doing burnouts and fish-tailing, his V8 lost control.
His original sentence would have seen him behind bars for only seven years, not much when you plead guilty to charges that could see you cop 20 years each on the two main counts - and you have form. Franklin also pleaded guilty to two charges of negligently causing serious injury. Now things get interesting, Judge John Smallwood complaining that the five-year maximum sentence for this too low.
That was a coincidence. Six days earlier Judge Joe Gullaci had dealt with a Brendon James Healey. Healey, driving drunk, had hit and almost killed Jordynne Wilkie, 6, along with her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. JUDGE Gullaci said it had been a miracle that Healey, who jumped bail and fled overseas, had not wiped out four generations of the same family. He also commented that the five-year maximum sentence for negligently causing serious injury was inadequate - but then gave Healey a minimum sentence of four years when the bloke pleaded guilty to four of the offences, and why don't we chuck in speeding, skipping bail and exceeding .05 for bad measure?
Attorney-General Rob Hulls was listening. As shadow attorney-general he had pledged he would review sentencing laws, aware that we wanted tough penalties for serious offenders. In 2007, Hulls wrote to the Sentencing Advisory Council seeking advice on the maximum penalty for negligently causing serious injury, later doubling it from five years to 10. The Government was "committed to ensuring that adequate maximum sentences are in place'' he was reported saying at the time.
But that's just talk. You can increase as many maximum sentences as you like, but if the judiciary won't apply them, or anything getting near to them, then it's just legislation taking up shelf space. According to figures compiled by the Sentencing Advisory Council, the number of people jailed after being convicted in the higher courts of causing injury intentionally or recklessly is extraordinarily low, about one in five. Another one in four receives a ``wholly suspended sentence'' - ie, they walk. MANY others get community-based orders. Gee, I can feel that soggy lettuce thrashing the backs of my legs right now.
So what about the more serious culpable driving - you've killed someone and it's your fault? The Sentencing Advisory Council says of those convicted of this between 2001 and 2006: "Imprisonment terms ranged from one year to 12 years and three months, while the median length of imprisonment was five years.'' That should break your heart. More than 100 drivers have killed more than 100 of us for a median penalty of five years' jail. The worst offender received about 60 per cent of the possible maximum. That's why you might not be safe on the roads. If a bunch of those drivers was serving the 20 years behind bars, the Brett Franklins and Brendon Healeys of this world might think twice. We should be outraged. To the maximum. It's time to help judges see things our way
THERE are few more acute moments in the life of a democracy than when one person sits in judgment on another. It is a burdensome responsibility in which those we appoint must rise above any petty reactions of the aggrieved and look beyond simple biblical punishments that remain popular, but are these days mostly meted out drunkenly in pubs. We no longer take an eye for an eye, but we have turned the other cheek too far.
Our judiciary acts without prejudice or bias, and is objective. But our judges and magistrates go easy on lawbreakers and, I believe, are failing us with sentences that do not reflect community attitudes and that too often are well short of what their authors expected. Too often, criminals receive quite light sentences, appeal them, and are further rewarded with even lighter sentences. The Sunday Herald Sun reported earlier this month that our Court of Appeals had slashed 116 years of jail time off killers, rapists and drug dealers in the past 16 months. Those precedents further damage our faith in the system because they become part of "current sentencing practices''.
I would like to see every judge and magistrate's performance recorded and constantly updated. We should be able to look up their sentencing records. Legal fraternity insiders know the hanging judges and those who go easy - so why can't we? Why doesn't every sentencing decision record what percentage of the possible maximum has just been delivered? It would shock many people to know how infrequently a robust sentence is handed down. Each of those percentage figures should be filed against a name. Soon, an insightful profile of the sentencing inclinations of judges would emerge and we could deal with any anomalies.
We have a right to know the judges whose decisions are most regularly challenged in the Appeals Court. We have a right to know which judges' have the most decision overturned. Let's put an end to concurrent sentences. They are not sentences at all.
LET'S have no time off for good behaviour. Add time for bad behaviour, and plenty of it.
Finally, given how out of touch so may magistrates and judges seem to be, let's learn from the successful Operation Beacon, in which all operational police, more than 8000 of them, were retrained throughout 1994 after a series of unnecessary shooting deaths sparked public uproar. Almost immediately, the shootings stopped and the reputation of Victoria Police recovered.
We need an Operation Beacon for the Victorian judiciary in which every magistrate and judge is "retrained'' - familiarised once more with the contours of common thought, the great aggregates of opinion held by the society in which they work. Judicial life is privileged, exclusive and too often isolated. We can fix that. We should.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
We see once again the bias and lack of ethics we have come to expect from Left-leaning public broadcasters. It is now completely clear that nothing they say should be taken seriously
Nick Kaldas specialises in assassinations. It was not his intention, it just worked out that way. He is on leave from his job as Deputy NSW Police Commissioner to head the investigation by the United Nations Special Tribunal into the assassination of a former prime minister of Lebanon, Rafiq Hariri, and several related murders and murder attempts.
Kaldas has also served in Iraq training the new police force, which routinely deals with political murder. His expertise in such dark matters began back in 1994, when he led the investigation into Australia's first political assassination, the murder of the NSW Labor MP John Newman. A local Labor politician and Vietnamese community leader, Phuong Ngo, was convicted in 2001 of orchestrating the killing.
Eight years later, to the distress of Kaldas, he has had to deal with a different kind of assassination - character assassination. It began on April 7 last year, when ABC's Four Corners broadcast a program which questioned whether the conviction of Phuong Ngo had been a miscarriage of justice, based in part on sloppy conduct by Kaldas.
The Four Corners program was loaded with suppositions such as this one, by a former Labor politician: "I don't think they [Phuong Ngo's accusers] had anything else to go on. I think just because he was Vietnamese." Friends of Ngo, such as the refugee advocate Marion Le, were quoted claiming there had been "a miscarriage of justice".
The report was based in part on the work of two academics from the Australian National University, Hugh Selby and Don Greig. Soon after the program went to air, both men made submissions to the Chief Justice of NSW, James Spigelman, calling for the murder case to be reopened. On the basis of these submissions and the public claims made in the Four Corners program, Spigelman ordered a judicial inquiry into the case. This was highly unusual. On the same day, the NSW Attorney-General, John Hatzistergos, issued a press release dissociating himself from the decision. [Spigelman was a far-Left student in his university days]
The Chief Justice ordered the inquiry without seeking advice from the NSW Police, the Director of Public Prosecutions, or the NSW Crime Commission. The matter had been exhaustively examined by hearings of the NSW Crime Commission, a coroner's inquest, a committal hearing, three Supreme Court trials (one aborted, one resulting in a 10-to-one hung jury, and one which led to the conviction of Ngo), an appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal, and an appeal to the High Court of Australia, which declined to give leave to hear the case.
The inquiry went ahead. The cost to the taxpayer was $770,000. When it was over, the judicial officer who conducted the inquiry, the retired judge David Patten, issued a devastatingly comprehensive rejection of the accusations that had been regurgitated on Four Corners and put by Ngo's supporters in submissions to the inquiry, including a former independent member of the NSW upper house, Peter Breen. To quote from Patten's report, released last week:
"Not one scintilla of evidence points to any wrongdoing or improper activity by Mr Kaldas … despite a number of allegations by various supporters of Mr Ngo there is no evidence that the investigation of Mr Newman's murder was conducted otherwise than professionally and competently …
"[The] material put before the inquiry increased rather than diminished the strength of the Crown's case at trial. Moreover, Mr Ngo's own evidence, which was not before the jury at the trial where he was convicted, was, I believe, very destructive of his claim of innocence …
"Regrettably, the strength of the evidence available against Mr Ngo was virtually ignored by his supporters in their submissions to the inquiry. Unsupported allegations of gross impropriety were substituted for analysis of the facts … Mr Selby's submission to the Chief Justice … lost all significance, in my opinion, when scrutinised at an open hearing …
"I find that nothing in the matters raised by Mr Selby [and] nothing which has come before me [suggest] the investigation into Mr Newman's murder was conducted otherwise than thoroughly and competently by police officers dedicated to the task."
During the preparation of the Four Corners report, Kaldas declined to be interviewed on camera because, he told me last week, he had come to the view that the ABC reporter, Debbie Whitmont, was biased against the Crown case. He did, however, agree to go through the trial evidence with Whitmont, in detail. He took notes of these meetings. When the Four Corners program went to air he found that not one of the points he had made to Whitmont was mentioned.
Unusually, the accusations made on Four Corners were subjected to forensic scrutiny and the report by Patten found the inquiry had "increased rather than diminished" the strength of the Crown's case. He criticised Ngo's supporters for their "lack of objectivity", "intemperate language" and "making allegations of fraud, perversion of justice, and improper conduct … without a shred of evidence".
Yet all this was the basis on which the two ANU academics and Four Corners based their claims. Debbie Whitmont submitted the report for a Walkley Award. And won.
Last week, Four Corners issued a statement standing by its report. No acknowledgement of error. No acknowledgement of distress caused. No hint of admission that the program contained innuendo, omission, supposition, false accusation and a preconceived outcome. This is exactly the sort of case another ABC program, Media Watch, should examine, but it is the last thing it would touch, because the opinionated Media Watch actually operates as Ideology Watch. Such is the ethical rigour at our ABC.
DOOM AND BOOM ON A RESILIENT REEF
Our lab has just published a new paper in PLoS ONE, detailing the interactions of coral and algae on the Great Barrier Reef, and uncovered just how resilient some reefs can be following coral bleaching events. The southern end of the Great Barrier Reef was exposed to extended periods of high sea surface temperatures in the end of 2006, resulting in extensive coral bleaching across the Keppel Islands throughout January 2006. Following the bleaching event, a single species of fleshy macro-algae (Lobophora) overgrew the coral skeletons, causing high rates of mortality throughout the second half of 2006. But, by February 2007, corals were rapidly recovering due to an unusual seasonal dieback of the macro-algae, and astonishing regenerative capabilities of the dominant branching Acroporid corals - almost twice the rate of offshore corals on the northern Great Barrier Reef.
What is unusual about the Keppel Islands story is threefold: first, that corals recovered within months to years (reversal of macro-algae dominated reefs often takes decades), second, recovery of the corals occurred in the absence of herbivory (traditionally assumed to be the 'driving factor' in macro-algal phase shifts), and third, that corals recovered through asexual (regenerative) capacities rather than reseeding of reefs by larval recruitment. Understanding the processes that drive recovery following disturbances is critical for management of coral reefs, and the Keppel Islands example shows that managing local stressors (overfishing and water quality) helps reefs bounce back from global stressors such as coral bleaching events. PLoS One is an open-access journal, so the article is free to read - click on the link below, and feel free to rate and comments on the paper. Congratulations Guillermo et al!
Guillermo Diaz-Pulido et al. (2009) Doom and Boom on a Resilient Reef: Climate Change, Algal Overgrowth and Coral Recovery. PLoS ONE 4(4): e5239
NOTE: Hoagy (Prof. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg), Australia's no.1 coral doomster, was among the joint authors of the paper. I wonder will this slow him down any?
White refugee from the Zimbabwe horror extremely badly treated by Australia's Immigration department
Man unlawfully held in detention for six months now seeking compensation
A ZIMBABWEAN immigrant wrongly held in detention for six months is seeking $2 million in compensation. Troy Parker arrived in Western Australia with his Australian wife and two children in 1999, having fled persecution from the government of Robert Mugabe. He was granted a temporary spousal visa but his application for permanent residency was rejected in 2002 after the relationship broke down.
However, Mr Parker says he never received the notification and continued working in Perth until 2004 when immigration officials placed him in detention as an illegal immigrant. He remained at the Perth immigration detention centre for six months before being released on a bridging visa though he was denied work rights for another 12 months.
Mr Parker, who now resides in Cairns in north Queensland, was finally granted permanent residency last Wednesday, after his case came to the attention of migration agent John Young who lobbied the Federal Government on his behalf.
However, a freedom of information application to the Department of Immigration revealed department officers acknowledged in 2006 that Mr Parker had been detained unlawfully. The documents reveal the letter notifying Mr Parker his visa application had been rejected was not dated, meaning his temporary visa remained valid for the entirety of his detention. They also revealed the visa cancellation was later overturned by the migration review commission, in the interests of Mr Parker's children, but the letter notifying him of the decision was sent to the wrong address.
"This is just a total mess, it's the biggest mess up I've ever seen," Mr Young told AAP. "The whole thing was flawed. He had rights, he had a valid visa."
Mr Parker is now seeking $2 million in compensation from the Federal Government. Two weeks ago he received a letter from the Department accepting there was a risk his detention may have been unlawful and indicating the matter had been referred to the Government's insurer to consider a payout figure.
Mr Young said he and his client were unlikely to accept an offer less than $2 million. "If he'd just been held in detention for six months and had been able to work immediately and get on with his life then we'd probably accept a lesser figure," Mr Young said.
Mr Parker said he was also seeking a formal apology from the Department. "I think some people have to answer for quite a few mistakes - it's caused quite a bit of chaos, it's split families up," Mr Parker said.
An immigration spokeswoman said the Department could not comment because the matter had not been finalised. "Given that the legal issues in this case are yet to be resolved it is inappropriate to discuss at this stage whether, and the extent to which, Mr Parker's detention was indeed unlawful," she said.
Fatal ambulance bungle a complete bureaucratic disaster
The more we hear the more unbelievable the mess gets. How could anyone be so stupid? It is bordering on evil that such stupdity was left uncorrected
A COMBINATION of bureaucratic bungling and technical glitches meant vital time was lost in the search for a teenager dying in the New South Wales Blue Mountains, an inquest has heard.
Police were made to fill in request forms and wait almost 24 hours before receiving information that they admit may have saved 17-year-old David Iredale, who died after becoming separated from his friends during a trek in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. Superintendent Patrick Paroz told Penrith Coroner's Court he made two separate requests to the state emergency services for copies of 000 calls made by the Sydney Grammar student. He did not receive them until almost a day later.
The inquest heard that a "technical difficulty" was to blame for the delay. A disc containing sound files of the calls had to be driven from the city to Katoomba because computer firewalls in the ambulance service system prevented police receiving them by email.
On December 11, 2006, David repeatedly told three New South Wales Ambulance Service operators that he was on the well-known Mt Solitary walking track heading towards the Kedumba River. The inquest heard vital time was wasted time as authorities looked for "Doherty's Pass", which they concluded did not actually exist. "It was time-consuming," said Superintendent Ian Colless, who led initial rescue efforts.
Superintendent Colless said that based on information received from the ambulance service, police treated the calls as a "priority 3", classed as needing action but not urgent. "This is a call we may get every day of the week," he said. Superintendent Colless, who heard the emergency calls for the first time yesterday, agreed that immediate access to them would have given police a more accurate idea of David's location and health. "Not only of the Mt Solitary track but also which portion of the track," he said.
After hearing the calls, Superintendent Colless admitted it was "completely" wrong to assume David was not in distress. The fact David was "yelling" and had fainted meant the situation was "critical", he said.
Monday, April 27, 2009
More Federal intervention? John Howard might have done it but Rudd and the Queensland Labor government will just talk
In one Queensland community, a packet of pasta costs $4, a kilo of tomatoes is worth almost $9 and deodorant is sold for more than $10. But the food is often out of date and the store is unclean.
In a damning submission to a federal parliamentary inquiry into indigenous community stores, Lockhart River residents say people have fallen ill after eating poor-quality food from a local store. The submission - compiled by Royal Flying Doctor Service employees on behalf of Lockhart River residents - accuses the community store of stocking "mouldy" bread, "rotten" fruit, frozen vegetables which have been defrosted and refrozen and meat that tastes like "cardboard" when cooked. The submission complains about a lack of healthy quick meal options, no pricing on some goods and a filthy store environment.
A comparison of prices shows Lockhart River residents pay up to seven times more than shoppers in Cairns for some common items. Tomatoes, for example, cost $2.45 kg in Cairns, but $8.66 kg at Lockhart River. The cheapest pasta in Lockhart River costs $4.02 for a 500g packet, but the same product could be bought in Cairns for 59c.
A submission from the Kowanyama community on Cape York says its store also sells out-of-date foods with prices up to three times those in Cairns. It says complaints are generally ignored. Supporting those submissions, the Australian Red Cross has told the inquiry such "exorbitant" prices are unjust. "The poorest people in the country are forced to endure the highest prices in the country," the submission says.
According to the Red Cross, the situation has directly contributed to malnutrition and chronic disease in Australia's indigenous population. The inquiry will hold public hearings in the Northern Territory this week.
Crook food for Australian soldiers
AUSTRALIAN Diggers risking all on the deadly battlefields of Afghanistan are fighting on a diet of tasteless gruel. Soldiers bombarded Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon with complaints when he made a secret Anzac Day visit to Oruzgan Province on Friday, prompting him to pledge to fix the problem. Senior officers have conceded the poor diet is affecting morale and soldiers' health, and have ordered a study into the nutritional value of the food.
The Herald Sun took the taste test on Friday at the Dutch-run mess at Tarin Kowt military base after learning of complaints about food quality. The tasteless slab of roast pork was submerged in a sea of equally flavour-challenged gravy, and the pumpkin had long since morphed from a solid vegetable to liquid gruel. The other choice was an equally inedible turkey slice.
As Diggers from the Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force confront a limited daily diet, just up the road their comrades from the Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) enjoy fresh vegetables and quality cooking. The difference was obvious at an Anzac Day breakfast hosted by SOTG, as our exclusive images show.
Mr Fitzgibbon heard plenty of complaints about the food and vowed to act. Numerous soldiers and senior officers told him the "kings versus paupers" attitude was divisive and unfair. Special forces troops eat in a mess that is financed and run separately from the normal army channels. The "special" mess employs qualified cooks and uses only fresh ingredients. For the troops of the MRTF, it is Dutch gruel or a hamburger.
The issue is bigger than just the Diggers complaining to their partners at home. Commanding officer Lt-Col Shane Gabriel said the difference in food had affected both nutrition and morale. He has commissioned a study into the nutritional value of the MRTF food.
The SOTG runs its own tight supply lines and team of cooks, while the Dutch mess runs at half capacity and is forced to import prepared meals. After several complaints back home, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Defence Force chiefs are also now involved and want the problem fixed.
Slow road to FOI
HOW many bureaucrats does it take to process a Freedom of Information request? If a leaked Brumby Government memo is anything to go by, the answer is at least 18.
A confidential Department of Treasury and Finance report, obtained by the Sunday Herald Sun, reveals no less than seven secretaries in the department are notified of requests lodged each week. A copy is sent to the chief financial officer, chief operating officer, planning and executive services director, public affairs manager and chief of staff. The request is also viewed by advisers and chiefs of staff of Treasurer John Lenders and Finance Minister Tim Holding.
Government departments often take more than the 45 days required under the FOI Act 1982, citing lack of staff to handle requests. But Opposition scrutiny of government spokesman David Davis said the leaked documents exposed the Government for allowing ministerial advisers to interfere with the process and manage responses. "This is a government determined to obstruct the release of information to prevent the community knowing," he said.
More on how Victoria's Leftist government gets people out of their cars
Public transport services per head are DECREASING, despite a high level of demand
MELBOURNE'S busiest train lines have fewer services now than 50 years ago - when "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" was at the top of the charts, pubs closed at 6pm and commuters bought tickets with shillings and pence. A comparison of the city's 1959 and 2009 timetables showed bustling parts of the city enjoyed more trains half a century ago when there were 2.3 million fewer Melburnians.
The Public Transport Users Association said today's train services were not much faster despite more sophisticated rolling stock. The analysis revealed:
TRIPLE the number of trains from Williamstown during morning peak in 1959 and double the services to Williamstown at evening peak.
MORE total peak services on the Frankston line in 1959.
MORE end-to-end and sweeper services on the Sandringham line.
EXACTLY the same number of Hurstbridge trains - but in 1959 more total services on the line.
The PTUA said the 50-year train freeze was a disgrace. "Now we have a city loop and 20 per cent more passengers, which means we ought to be running even more trains," PTUA secretary Tony Morton said. "Even having lost the St Kilda and Port Melbourne lines, we're doing no better than in the days of the Red Rattlers."
The State Government said Melbourne had a different concentration of population 50 years ago, the city had experienced population and commuter booms in recent years and there were now more country trains sharing the tracks. "Since 1999, the Government has added more than 1300 services to the metropolitan timetable, including more than 400 in the past 12 months," a spokesman for Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky said.
The comparison revealed there had been slight improvements over the five decades on some lines. There were more Glen Waverley end-to-end evening peak services now than in 1959. The Frankston line had more end-to-end services, but fewer total trains on the line once sweepers were included. There were slightly more peak services in 1959 to and from Dandenong, but more overall services on the line including sweepers.
The analysis showed that over the same period service numbers had stagnated, Frankston's population had increased 650 per cent, Dandenong's 470 per cent, Hurstbridge's 331 per cent and Melbourne's had more than doubled.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
There does not seem to be a lot of interest in the news today. No doubt most journalists are still getting over Anzac day. So I thought I might put up something a little different. I reproduce below a small memoir I wrote in the late 1990s about computer shops. My son tells me that many such shops are just as bad these days so I think the memoir still has relevance
Computer people are generally held to be pretty bright but my experience with computer shops has left me wondering.
For instance: Around 1990 I had been told that Amiga computers have very good software for helping pre-schoolers to learn to read and write etc. So I tried to buy an Amiga for my then three-year-old son, didn't I? Naturally, as computers are complicated things, I wanted to see the use of the software demonstrated before I bought. So I went into the computer shop of one of our better Department stores (Grace Bros. in Sydney) and asked for a demonstration. I found that they could indeed demonstrate two teenage-type games to me. They could not, however, demonstrate anything else as "We cannot open the packs".
So I sought out a specialist computer store didn't I? Now I already had an IBM-type computer so I knew this was not likely to be a joyous experience. I seem to be invisible in such shops. As far as I can see, in computer shops everyone always seems to be on the phone and customers in the shop can just go hang. And those phone conversations are long. They just seem to be so much more interesting than the boring business of actually selling to a customer.
So I walked into a rather big example of such a shop at what should have been a quiet time of the week in the hope that maybe there would be one person there who was on the ball. But no, I turned out to be invisible again. This time, however, the worm turned. I wandered out the back to what seemed to be the boss's office and asked the man there (who was, of course, on the phone), "Is anybody selling here?" His response? "Just wait out the front and someone will serve you". I said, "But I have already been waiting for some time and no-one has said anything to me." His reply? "What do you want?" I said, "I want to buy an Amiga." "Don't sell them", he then said and returned to his phone call with evident relief. He did not want to be bothered with a piddling $1,400 sale, did he? (At that time the average male gross wage would have been about $350 per week).
So next I went to a small computer shop in the hope that a small firm might be keener. Again, of course, I was invisible until I asked someone if anyone was selling here but I did then get some attention. Yes, he did sell software for pre-schoolers and the Amiga was indeed ideal for that but he had no software for pre-schoolers at all in stock at the moment so try him again next week. So by that stage I still had not managed to buy an Amiga.
Eventually I found a small retailer with a heavy foreign accent who was so keen that he offered the lowest prices AND even delivered the Amiga 500 to me at home. He actually travelled for over an hour through Sydney traffic from his shop at Campbelltown (outer Sydney) to Lewisham (Inner Western Sydney) to make the sale. Funny that he was foreign! (Northern Italian, it turned out).
Now let me tell what happened when I first decided to buy an Atari ST computer: I knew virtually nothing about Ataris but I did already have a 286 (i.e. an Intel machine) and an Amiga so I knew a bit about computers generally. One thing I certainly knew was that the big expense with computers is not the machine but the software. So when I rang up the main computer firm that dealt in Ataris (United Computers) to enquire about Atari prices, one thing I wanted to know was how easily I could get public domain software for Ataris. I was put on to the firm's apparent Atari "expert" to discuss this.
I said that I knew that some Bulletin boards had Atari software and asked how I could get such software onto Atari disks. If I downloaded it on my IBM machine would the Atari read my IBM disks? If not, would I have to buy an Atari modem program to download the Atari files direct onto Atari disks? I was told: NO you will need to buy an expensive program to enable an Atari to read IBM disks; and: YES you will need to buy an expensive Atari program in order to use your Atari for modem work.
Both these answers were of course bare-faced lies. Ataris read IBM disks as easily as they read their own and the commonly-used Atari modem programs, like Amiga and IBM modem programs, are mostly in the public domain or shareware. Anyway, their lies just ended up costing them business. I concluded that since the software was going to cost me such a lot I had better economize on buying the machine. So I bought a secondhand Atari rather than a new one and United Computers lost a sale.
The same firm also sold Amigas and on a later occasion quoted me outrageous prices for Amiga disk drives -- around twice what other people were charging. They also tried to sell me a box of high-density 3.5" disks for $55 -- then normally available for $20 and later available for $10 or less. Needless to say, on both occasions I walked out of the shop with my money still in my pocket!
And what about the time I tried to buy a complicated piece of software off them? They tried to demonstrate it for me but could not get it to work. I offered to buy it anyway on condition that I be allowed to return it for refund if nobody I knew could get it to work either. They refused my offer! "But you could just copy it and then return it", they said. Maybe. But the fact that the software concerned was on CD-ROM should be mentioned. The CD was going to cost miles less than a hard drive of similar capacity would have cost me. Anyway, I once again walked out with my money still in my pocket.
And then there was the time I got a secondhand copy of the game "Dungeon Master". As it was copy-protected, it had not been backed up but had just been used straight out of the box. The original buyer did the right thing and relied on the retailer to provide any backup needed. By the time I got the game, however, it had died, so I took the disk, box and manual to United Computers and asked for backup service. They undertook to provide this at a charge of $5. Quite reasonable -- at first. I then waited -- and waited -- and waited.
After two months or so I gave up, asked for the stuff back, obtained a Blitzcopy cable and re-copied the game courtesy of another owner of it. United's excuse for the delay? "The game was out of production and our supplier had to write to America for a copy". But if this begins to sound half reasonable remember that Dungeon Master was at the time arguably the most popular computer game ever. Could they really not find another copy of such a game? They were obviously not even trying. They sure knew how to encourage software piracy! Or didn't they WANT to sell software?
I mentioned above how when you walk into almost any computer shop all the staff are on the phone. Occasionally there is a receptionist there who knows nothing about computers and whose only function is to ask you to wait but that is about as good as you get. The only exceptions seem to be when the shop is run by Asians. When you walk into one of their shops you find them on the phone too but they immediately say something which must be the Cantonese (or Urdu) equivalent of, "A customer has just walked in. I will call you back." They then get up and serve you promptly.
The only way I ever found of getting reasonably prompt attention from non-Asian computer shop staff was to say, "Excuse me. I want to buy a 486". Since the 486 was at the time the top-of-the-line IBM-type machine and cost accordingly, they then put the phone down and paid some attention to me. It was amusing to see their faces when I told them that I did not really want to buy a 486 but just said that as it seemed to be the only way of getting served.
Mind you, with firms like United Computers (who of course eventually went broke) even that trick may not work. I know someone (Jason Marianoff) who once went in there to ask seriously about buying an Amiga 3000 (the top-line Amiga at the time). The staff were too busy playing a computer game to answer his questions properly! He too left their premises without putting his hand in his pocket. He then went into business on his own account as an Amiga retailer and did such a superb job at it that he ended up as the only surviving Amiga retailer in Brisbane.
So computer firms at least should think about the company they keep. If they want to sell machines they would do well to cease relying on lackadaisical and typically Australian firms like United and try instead to sign up a few small Asian retailers. They would sell a lot more gear that way. Why? Because charging like the Light Brigade puts everyone except pretentious people off and pretentious people buy Apple Macs anyway. And NOBODY -- pretentious or not -- likes to be treated like a bad smell when they go to buy something. And if a potential customer DOES get treated like a bad smell, it is very easy for him/her to go elsewhere and buy a rival product instead.
And then there was the time I wanted to get a computer monitor cable copied by a firm that specialized in such work (Qld Connectors and Cables). The firm did the job and got it wrong. The copy cable did not work -- for a rather obvious reason. Rather than listen to me when I politely asked to tell them where they had got it wrong and how to fix it, they insisted on giving me my money back instead. They would rather lose money than listen to a customer! Customers who complained, no matter how politely or with how much justification were just not to be dealt with any further. Rather British, really, but quite incredible by Japanese or American standards.
And it is not even as if the service the firm concerned was offering was anywhere near irreplaceable. Anybody can buy all the connectors they need from a Tandy or Dick Smith store and then solder them on to a bit of cable themselves if they want to. It takes little skill and less brains when all you have to do is copy the example in front of you.
Another offended shopkeeper was in a way even more amusing. I wanted to replace my 486 with a machine running a Celeron chip in late 1998. I found the cheapest Celeron being advertised in the paper (by a firm called Global Computers) and rang up and ordered one. When I arrived I asked to test the machine to see that it worked, only to find that the computer was nowhere near ready for use. All they had done was put it together. They had not even formatted the hard drive. So I had to partition and format it myself (warned by past experience with computer shops, I "just happened" to have a DOS boot disk in my pocket) plus set up access to the the CD drive plus set up the soundcard -- all of which took me about 20 minutes while the salesman just sat on his behind staring into space.
At the end I found that the sound did not work and pointed this out. He asked his technician about it and was told that a special piece of software would be needed to get the sound running. I asked if he would like my phone number so he could let me know when the sound was running. He did not seem to want to be bothered so I just walked out the door with my cash still in my pocket. As I walked out he said: "Thanks for wasting my time". He was angry with me because I would not buy an inoperable machine!
So I then rang someone I had long known ("Game Dude") and asked him for a quote. He charged $1321 -- about $200 cheaper than what the moron was charging. And when I went to Game Dude he had everything all set up. I just had to walk in, test it and hand over the cash! Shopping around can make an amazing difference. Game Dude was of course an owner/operator of his business.
Australia contrasts greatly with Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, the retailer seems to think that it is his/her job to ensure that you walk out with less money in your pocket than when you walked in. And he/she does what it takes to bring that about. He/she actually makes an effort either to give you what you want or convince you that you want something else. The retailer actually gives the impression that he/she wants to make a sale! There are no invisible customers in Hong Kong.
But Hong Kong capitalism is closer to us than you might think. When I took my train to work in Sydney of a morning (in 1990), it was not uncommon for around half the faces in the carriage to be Asian. And that is already beginning to show up in the shops. And everyone knows what it is like in a Chinese restaurant. You no sooner sit down than there is a menu in front of you. You have no sooner made your selection and closed your menu than there is someone by your elbow waiting to take your order. In other restaurants it can take half an hour just to get a menu! I wonder why I mostly eat out in Asian restaurants?
At any event, it has already happened in Britain. Polite brown people from the Indian sub-continent of Asia now seem to run almost all the small businesses in Britain -- from laundrettes and grocery shops to Post Offices, small hotels and electrical goods shops. Australia's Asians might come from a different part of Asia but they will do a similar justly deserved takeover in due course. "Old Australian" businessmen will just end up at the beach and on the dole, where they generally seem to belong -- modern-day Pacific islanders. Australia is, after all, the largest Pacific island.
Dismal record of state-run projects
Kevvy is still pushing hard with his enhanced broadband project for Australia and now seems to be intent on the government doing the installation rather than contracting out the work to private firms with expertise in the area. It is all rather comical, really, as the article below points out
IN the late 19th and early 20th century civil engineers, driven by ambition and imagination, built cities. Robert Moses in New York, Baron Haussmann in Paris and John Bradfield in Sydney mapped and transformed the city. With the exception of Bradfield, the ambition bankrupted the city but left a legacy of infrastructure to accommodate future generations.
For now it is the financial engineers who determine the future of cities. Public-private partnerships enable the fast-tracking of infrastructure.
But during the past decade taxpayers across Australia have watched aghast as major road projects have gone wrong and state governments have evaded responsibility by blaming private partners.
The BrisConnections Airport Link in Brisbane is the latest casualty of a failure of responsible state governance of infrastructure development. Under the Airport Link funding model the, mostly small, shareholders are obliged to pay a further $2 on shares that have now fallen from $1 in value to 1c. They are understandably reluctant to pay. Anna Bligh remains silent about this elephant in the city.
About $270million of the original share value of $409million went to pay the financial engineers who put the deal together. More than 20per cent of the $1.2billion of shareholder funds in the motorway is advisory transaction and management fees before it is built.
Getting the economics of urban infrastructure wrong isn't a new event. The London underground was electrified by an American, Charles Yerkes, who financed it with pound stg. 15million worth of bonds. When asked to comment on the viability of this proposition the chief accountant of London County Council said he couldn't understand a word of it and wouldn't touch it with a barge pole. The investors never got a penny back. Surely the Queensland government advisers must have had similar scepticism about the BrisConnections business model?
ASIC has suggested BrisConnections has made a number of "inadequate and deficient" statements to unitholders on their obligations to make future instalment payments, on the financial status of the Airport project.
Meanwhile, Brisbane is in gridlock morning and night. The small investors who trusted that a government-backed infrastructure project couldn't go wrong look like losing all their money. There has to be a better way.
Queensland is not alone in this. The NSW Government is a serial offender as project after project has failed to complete and resulted in losses for all concerned. But mainly for small shareholders.
In Sydney, Bob Carr's election promise to selectively fund the users of the M5 have distorted the economics of the route, making it difficult to expand a successful but quickly haemorrhaging toll road. The cross-city tunnel under Sydney's CBD is blissfully peaceful as drivers use every other route to avoid paying $4.16 for a five-minute trip. The investors in the Hills motorway have taken a bath. With this track record why would anyone get involved with state Governments in infrastructure investment?
But wait, there is more. The federal Government, through the Building Australia infrastructure fund is about to give $12.5billion to the states for infrastructure development. When the leaders of government are routinely blaming the banks and finance houses for the global financial crisis, the answer is to pour money into infrastructure.
State governments have proven themselves singularly inefficient in managing the development and financing of infrastructure yet they are about to be showered with billions of dollars and an instruction to spend it as quickly as possible.
Based on the BrisConnections model about 20percent, or $2.4billion, of the Building Australia infrastructure fund will go to banks and finance houses.
The career path of senior government personnel and politicians has been from public service to finance houses. The failing fortunes of finance may reverse this career path and provide state governments with the financial expertise to avoid future BrisConnections debacles.
Public-private partnerships in infrastructure development are a great idea. We have in Australia some of the best infrastructure construction and finance expertise in the world. But structuring such partnerships solely to avoid government debt and responsibility has clearly resulted in great financial and quality of life cost to the residents of all our capital cities.
The costs and benefits of infrastructure cannot be solely calculated on the basis of user-pays, as infrastructure has what economists call externalities. It benefits the economic efficiency of an entire city and improves quality of life with calmer, less polluted streets in adjacent neighbourhoods and in numerous other ways.
Early reports on state bids to the commonwealth infrastructure fund were that bids were so ill considered as to be unacceptable. The Infrastructure Australia Committee has formed its priority list for funding state projects and has produced a checklist of minimum information to be provided.
But the information requirements do not request that the consideration to be offered to financial engineers be identified as a proportion of the cost to taxpayers. Nor does it specify the means and penalties for monitoring compliance in the financing and construction and governance of the projects.
When we are desperate for increased infrastructure to improve our economic potential and provide for jobs growth, the principal impediment is the appalling record of government in managing such projects.
Just as we are hearing proposals to monitor the finance industry, its institutions and management of funds, so we should be hearing proposals for the federal Government to monitor the performance of states in the financing and implementation of infrastructure projects. There should be no impediment to establishing an independent authority to report on the financial engineering and realisation of development targets on such proposals.
Without an auditing process, on the basis of experience taxpayers can expect their $12.5billion may well be spent without a successful outcome, with an increased commitment to complete the project and with ongoing levies to use the infrastructure.
Hopefully, before too long some agreement can be reached between the BrisConnections financiers and the state Government that will save the small shareholders from bankruptcy and secure continued construction of the Airport Link. Without a transparent process for the commonwealth monitoring and auditing infrastructure development we shouldn't be embarking on further BrisConnections.
How Melbourne gets people out of their cars
Recently, I was on a tram at 6.30am with an Early Bird ticket (which allows free transport before 7am), when a ticket inspector approached. She took one look at my Metcard and proceeded to inform me that unlike every other ticket in the public transport system, these tickets were only valid on trains. I was stunned. I offered to validate a brand-new, 10 x 2, hourly ticket, but she refused and instead confiscated it! The proceeds from this article will go towards paying the fine.
If this were a movie, the villain would be the litigious Department of Transport. Lynne Kosky stars as its inept leader, babbling her way through disaster after disaster. "In for a penny, in for a pound!" is her battle cry as she throws more than $1 billion at the troubled myki ticket system in lieu of buying trains and laying tracks.
Meanwhile, her army of green-clad ticket inspectors are doing their best to get it all back. Remember when you could reason your way out of a misdemeanour? Well, those days ended a few years ago when operators (Connex, Yarra Trams, etc) began getting a commission from fines. And the zealous ticket inspectors? Maybe they get a gold star for everyone they catch, and at the end of the month, whoever has the most stars gets a $20 voucher.
While Connex distributes its stars, delays and cancellations have become the norm, inflaming passengers' anger when ticket inspectors are as unforgiving as the system is unreliable.
Fortunately, there are some heroes who make the journey a little easier. They may not be powerful enough to challenge Kosky and her belligerent Green Army but, with humour and empathy, they manage to crack its impersonal facade. These are the bus drivers who stop when they see you running to meet them. A small gesture, but when you run for a bus, one of two things inevitably happens: either you're left on the kerb, breathless, and cursing the driver as you lock eyes with a passenger who shrugs helplessly as they disappear down the road; or the bus stops and the driver becomes your personal hero.
Then there are tram drivers who bring people together by putting their loudspeakers to good use. "Can you please get out of the stairwell," quips the driver on the No. 1, "or you'll be crushed when I open the door and I'll have to clean it up." He jokes his way from Coburg to South Melbourne, and people take off their headphones to hear his banter.
There's also a Richmond station attendant who talks merrily into the garbled speaker system. People on the platforms grin at each other as he riffs childish rhymes about departures. If you're lucky, he'll even broadcast opera.
Public transport users develop relationships with these heroes and are willing to show empathy when something goes awry.
Patrons at my local cafe tell me their favourite driver captains the 72 to Camberwell. With his northern English accent and gracious manner, he could have a bright future in easy-listening radio. As it is, he charms passengers simply by announcing the next stop. When an older couple requested their stop as the tram was about to glide past it and he erupted in anger, everyone agreed he must have been having a bad day.
People get angry about delays, they get angry about missing meetings, and angry that receiving compensation is more trouble than it's worth. But what makes people angriest is the lack of empathy from the Department of Transport. Recorded apologies for any inconvenience caused by late trains, and ticket inspectors with scripted idioms ("we have to take your details — if you receive an infringement notice you can appeal to the department") make people seethe. But the heroes of public transport make us smile and they make us patient.
Lynne Kosky and co would benefit from catching the No. 1, and if they don't learn anything from the driver, at least there's a chance I'll bump into them and cause them a little inconvenience of my own.
Third "refugee" boat in fortnight intercepted
Another boat load of asylum seekers has been intercepted off the Australian north-west coastline, in the same region a vessel exploded less than two weeks ago, killing five refugees. The vessel, carrying more than 50 passengers and two crew, was intercepted yesterday 90 nautical miles south-west of Ashmore Reef, about 900km from Darwin, by a Royal Australian Navy patrol boat.
It is the eighth boat of asylum seekers to approach Australian waters this year and the 15th boat to be intercepted since last August when Labor made changes to Australia's immigration policy, including the scrapping of temporary protection visas.
Minister for Home Affairs Bob Debus said in a statement the boat was in international waters and the group voluntarily transferred from their boat to the HMAS Albany.
It is believed the boat was travelling from Indonesia and the passengers were most likely Afghans.
It is also understood the vessel was not being tracked by Australian authorities, although its sighting was confirmed by a Customs and Border Protection Command Dash 8 aircraft following an alert by an oil rig tender vessel. Within an hour of receiving the alert, the navy had made contact with the boat, Mr Debus said. The interception demonstrated the effectiveness of Border Protection Commands surveillance, he said. The interception came as another boatload of asylum seekers was transferred to Christmas Island.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Australia's most solemn day of commemoration
White paper orders huge military build-up
A big surprise but realistic
KEVIN Rudd is set to announce Australia's biggest military build-up since World War II, led by a multi-billion-dollar investment in maritime defence, including 100 new F-35 fighters, a doubling of the submarine fleet, and powerful new surface warships.
The new defence white paper will outline plans for a fundamental shake-up of Australia's defence organisation to ensure that the nation can meet what the Prime Minister sees as a far more challenging and uncertain security outlook in Asia over the next two decades.
China's steadily growing military might and the prospect of sharper strategic competition among Asia's great powers are driving the maritime build-up, which will see new-generation submarines and warships equipped with cruise missiles, and a big new investment in anti-submarine warfare and electronic warfare platforms, including new naval helicopters.
The white paper will consider the emerging non-traditional threats to Australia, including cyber security, climate change and its associated risk of large uncontrolled people movements.
Senior government sources say Mr Rudd has insisted that defence spending remain largely insulated from the Government's budget difficulties, but the Defence Department will still have to find at least $15 billion of internal savings over the next decade to help pay for the $100 billion-plus long-term equipment plan.
Mr Rudd said yesterday the delivery of the white paper was proving "acutely challenging as we work to defend ourselves from the global economic storm".
"It is the most difficult environment to frame the Australian budget in modern economic history. It is also the most difficult environment to frame our long-term defence planning in modern economic history as well," he told the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce. "Nevertheless the Government will not resile even in the difficult times from the requirement for long-term coherence of our defence planning for the long-term security of our nation. This is core business for government. That is why we have forged ahead in our preparation of the defence white paper because national security needs do not disappear because of the global recession. If anything, those needs become more acute."
Funding pressures will mean the navy will not get a fourth air warfare destroyer, and the delivery of the first batch of the RAAF's F-35 joint strike fighters will slip by at least one year to 2014-15.
The huge cost of paying for the next-generation defence force, due to be detailed in the white paper and the forthcoming 10-year defence capability plan, will have little impact on the defence budget over the the next four years.
Apart from the air warfare destroyers and the F-35 fighters, most of the planned defence purchases will not have to be paid for until well into the next decade and beyond.
Mr Rudd and Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon are expected to release the long-awaited white paper as early as next week, with the more detailed 10-year defence capability plan due to be published by mid-year.
The naval build-up will be led by a planned 12-strong submarine fleet expected to replace the Collins-class boats from 2025. It will enable the RAN to deploy up to seven boats to protect Australia's northern approaches, including key maritime straits running through the Indonesian archipelago, at times of high threat.
The white paper will outline the requirement for a new class of eight 7000-tonne warships equipped with ballistic missile defence systems similar to the three air warfare destroyers already on order that will eventually replace the Anzac frigates.
A new class of 1500-tonne corvette-size patrol boats able to take a helicopter is slated to replace the Armidale-class vessels from the mid-2020s.
The more robust maritime force will also mean the RAAF's veteran AP-3 Orion fleet being replaced with a mix of at least eight P-8 Poseidon long-range surveillance aircraft, together with up to seven unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles, possibly the US-made Global Hawk, operating out of an expanded Edinburgh air base in South Australia. The navy is also expected to acquire up to 27 anti-submarine helicopters.
Mr Rudd has foreshadowed the maritime build-up as pointing to the need for Australia to accommodate "huge increases in military spending here in our own region". "If we are going to defend our sea-lines of communication to the rest of the world, we have got to make sure that we have got the naval capability to underpin that. And Australia must therefore have necessary maritime power in the future in order to give that effect," Mr Rudd said late last year.
As well as re-equipping with up to 100 F-35 fighters, the air force is expected to get up to six extra C-130J Hercules transport aircraft and a replacement for the Vietnam war-era Caribou light transport, expected to be the C-27J.
The $10 billion long-term expansion and "hardening and networking" of the army will continue with the regular army growing to about 30,000, including eight infantry battalions.
The army's Chinook helicopter fleet is expected to expand from six to 10 aircraft and the land force is expected to be re-equipped with self-propelled and towed artillery in the next decade.
The army will also acquire a new generation of armoured fighting vehicles from 2020.
The new white paper says Australia's defence force should be capable of taking the lead security role in Australia's neighbourhood, particularly the South Pacific, as well as having the ability to deploy military forces further afield.
Senior government sources say this year's white paper is a more broad-ranging and ambitious document than the 2000 white paper. It aims to give Australia more strategic weight and the Government more options when it comes to deploying military forces in the neighbourhood or further afield.
The white paper has moved defence doctrine back to a more regionally-focused approach firmly founded on the defence of Australia. It rejects the notion that terrorism and unconventional intrastate conflict should be a primary driver of the defence force structure.
The Rudd Government's focus on expensive war-fighting equipment underlines the Prime Minister's view that Australia must face up to a much broader range of contingencies, including the strategic consequences of inter-state conflict in Asia.
For the first time the white paper will address in detail electronic warfare trends, particularly the growing cyber security threat to Australia's national security network.
The Government is already investing millions of dollars to bolster Australia's cyber defence capability, led by the Defence Signals Directorate, and will invest even more heavily in the years ahead to protect critical infrastructure from cyber attacks already being mounted by a number of countries led by China and Russia. The Government is also moving quietly to bolster Australia's ability to mount offensive cyber operations.
The threat posed by ballistic missile proliferation in the Asia-Pacific will also be carefully monitored by Defence but the Government has ruled out any early development of a dedicated ballistic missile defence system for Australia. The biggest challenge to the blueprint remains the global economic crisis.
Life is more than a numbers game
AS the father of three small boys, I am well aware I am guilty of certain crimes. Like telling corny dad jokes. Or bragging about my sons' achievements to anyone who'll listen.
But in the grand scheme of things, these are mere social misdemeanours. Because it turns out that in process of raising a small brood of children, I have committed heinous crimes against humanity.
At least, that's what it felt like after I read comments by Sandra Kanck, a former South Australian Democrats politician and newly appointed leader of an advocacy group calling itself Sustainable Population Australia.
Ms Kanck said this week that Australia, whose current population is bumping up against the 22 million mark, should cut its head count to something nearer to just seven million. Kanck's suggested means of achieving this target is a China-style one child policy.
The SPA isn't what you'd call a people-friendly mob. One item at the SPA website suggests that Nadya Suleman, the American woman who recently gave birth to octuplets, should be jailed as a murderer who is killing all of us.
Never mind the Suleman case, which is admittedly at the extreme end of the scale. In the strange, Orwellian world of the population controllers, to give life is to reap death. My only hope is that if having eight children in one go is murder, perhaps some future Population Court will allow me to plea bargain my way to a charge of mere Earthslaughter.
Though there is a danger that my repeat offences - whoops, I mean "children" - arrived over a number of years might be seen as evidence of a long-running conspiracy against the planet.
Of course, the idea that even if we could depopulate Australia, anything good would come of it is laughable. As demographer Bernard Salt explains: "Australia is the only nation on the planet to lay claim to the resources of an entire continent. "In a world with a population of six billion, rising to nine billion in the foreseeable future, the cold, hard reality is that we'll have to accommodate more people, not less."
What's more, as Salt points out, Kanck's plan won't even work. "Even if you eliminated all immigration, which currently runs to about 200,000 people per year, a one-child policy would only begin to see overall population reductions by around the mid 2020s."
To achieve her complete 15 million reduction target in any speedier timeframe, Kanck presumably has a Plan B in mind.
And this does not even begin to take into account economic damage that would occur from about 2030, when an ageing population would have to be supported by a vanishingly small number of taxpayers, or what might happen to an all-but-empty continent seen as ripe for the picking by densely-populated, resource-hungry neighbours looking for more space.
As Salt puts it, Kanck's ideas are "retrograde and bizarre". For as even the deepest cuts in Australia's tiny (1.5 per cent) share of the globe's carbon emissions will do nothing to change the globe's climate, eliminating 15 million Australians would have zero impact on the global environment.
Just as the relationship between man and climate is a lot more complicated - and a lot less direct - than conventional green wisdom would have it, so to is the link between people and the planet.
The fact is, it is not people causing environmental degradation. Researchers at Rockefeller University in the US recently confirmed what dozens of studies have shown - and what anyone who has travelled in the developing world will understand.
Namely, that the primary driver of environmental damage is not people but poverty. Increasing incomes lead in the long run to cleaner air, cleaner water, and cleaner energy. Scientist Jesse Ausubel put it this way: "The long-term trend is towards natural gas and nuclear power, or conceivably solar power. If the energy system is left to its own devices, most of the carbon will be out of it by 2060 or 2070."
Yet the environmental movement is seemingly inextricably bound up in the sort of misanthropy of which Kanck is only an extreme example.
Years of dreary campaigns that turn every human achievement from powered flight to the incandescent light globe into nothing more than a carbon footprint that must be cut and eliminated show a real lack of imagination. And they suggest a subconscious desire to return to some green Garden of Eden that never was - and when life was a whole lot harder and a whole lot shorter for the lack of technology.
Eating disorders hitting five-year-olds
This is appalling. The only reasonable explanation for this recent upsurge is the recent upsurge in government persecution of "incorrect" eating: The "obesity" war. As with so many government programs, the unintended consequences are dire. Government should butt out of what people eat as weight is mostly genetic anyway.
EATING disorders are biting deeper into childhood, an expert has warned after conducting a study which included a five-year-old with the potentially fatal condition. Sloane Madden says demand for critical care beds at The Children's Hospital at Westmead, in Sydney, has surged over the past 12 months for children who were severely malnourished because of an Early Onset Eating Disorder (EOED).
The condition commonly linked to teenage girls was now becoming increasingly prevalent in Australian girls, and boys, aged 10 to 12 and even younger, he said. "Our own experience at the children's hospital, we have had a 50 per cent increase in demand for beds, and we haven't seen that increase in demand in hospitals looking after older adolescents with eating disorders,'' Dr Madden said. "At the moment, we have eight children in the hospital where we normally take six and we've got another five waiting for beds. "What we are seeing clinically, and what is being reported anecdotally around the world is that kids are presenting in greater numbers at a younger age,'' he said.
It was not just a case of the children being fussy eaters, said the Westmead-based child psychiatrist, as speaking to the children revealed a desire to be "thinner''. "They certainly will tell you that they believe that they are fat, that they want to be thinner, and they have no insight into the fact that they are malnourished and they are literally starving themselves to death,'' he says.
"And the parents when they see us are really quite terrified but they are extremely grateful that someone is finally taking their child's illness seriously.''
Dr Madden says children are often "medically unstable'' when brought to hospital with very low blood pressure, heart rate and temperature which "basically is putting them at risk of dying''. They often needed to be tube-fed, and placed on anti-depressant or anti-psychotic medication, but if treated early their chance of full recovery was were good.
However, Dr Madden's study of all Australian children with EOED from 2002 to 2005 shows there is a trend to late diagnosis diagnosis, meaning children being hospitalised with more more physical complications. "It makes us very concerned that these children are being misdiagnosed, or they are being diagnosed late and not being referred for appropriate care,'' he says.
Of the 101 cases of EOED uncovered by the study, there were 74 girls and 25 boys aged five to 13 (gender was not specified in two cases). Extrapolating this data, Dr Madden estimates Australia's incidence of EOED now stands about 1.4 cases for every 100,000 children aged five to 13 years. Of those, 1.1 cases would require a hospital intervention, according to the research published in the latest edition of the Medical Journal of Australia.
The number of cases is expected to rise, Dr Madden says, unless there is a change in the media's obsession with fat and weight. "I think that there needs to be a move away from this focus on weight and numbers and body fat, and a focus on healthy eating and exercise,'' he says. "You can see that in current (television) programs like The Biggest Loser, where it is all about numbers and weight, it's not helpful for those people and it's certainly not helpful for this group of kids.''
Rudd is being pig-headed about his foolish policies
KEVIN Rudd's insistence that his Government deliver all its election commitments despite changing circumstances is naive and ultimately not in the national interest. Superficially, his commitment could be seen as him acting honestly and meeting his side of his electoral bargain with the voters who made him Prime Minister.
Politically, it is designed to market Rudd in the lead-up to the next election as a person who delivers on election commitments. Political positioning, not good policy, is driving the Government. Good government requires leadership that is able to adapt its commitments to changing circumstances. This requires a deeper level of honesty with the electorate which, on a number of policy fronts, the Rudd Government is lacking.
This rigid adherence to outdated or inadequate policy for the sole reason that it was committed to it during the election campaign has characterised the Government from its beginning.
The so-called digital education revolution based on the strategy of providing a computer to all students in years 9 to 12 was the first insight into how Rudd would implement his election commitments.
Rather than accepting the advice of state education officials with more knowledge and experience that the policy was ill-conceived, the Government attempted to bulldoze its agenda on the states. Ultimately, the federal Government had to compromise and agree to more funding and a more flexible rollout of its policy. But rather than honestly acknowledging that its original policy was ill-conceived and required modification, the Government to this day continues to argue that it hasn't changed the details of its policy and that it is meeting its election commitment in full. Confusion still remains about the long-term funding and operation of this program.
The Government emissions trading scheme, the Orwellian-named carbon pollution reduction scheme, is another example of the Government valuing unrealistic election commitments over sensible policy and the national interest. The present ETS is fatally flawed. It is complex, confused and fails even a rudimentary cost-benefit test. As comments from the Government's climate adviser Ross Garnaut demonstrate, it does not even satisfy the requirements of the environmental special-interest groups whose pre-election support it was aimed at achieving.
Thanks to the Senate inquiry into the ETS, convincing evidence is accumulating on its disastrous economic effects. Businesses across the economy have made it absolutely clear that it will cost jobs. Its regional effects are likely to create significant economic and social dislocation and disadvantage. In the NSW Hunter Valley alone, the Hunter Valley Research Foundation estimates the ETS could affect more than 30,000 jobs in a diverse range of industries, from basic food production to heavy manufacturing and mining. Many of these industries are unprepared for its introduction.
It is foolhardy to continue the implementation of this scheme.
The only benefit the introduction of the scheme will have is it will allow the Government to claim it has met its election commitment.
The Government's surprising announcement that it would terminate the tender process for the national broadband network and create a government-owned national broadband network corporation to deliver its broadband vision is driven by this misguided obsession to deliver on election commitments no matter the consequences. The announcement has all the hallmarks of a policy created on the run to meet a political objective. Its details are sketchy but clearly different from its election commitment and, more important, its tender specification.
High-speed fibre to the node has been replaced with lower speed fibre to the home. The differences in detail won't stop the Government arguing that it has met in full its election commitments. In this case, as with the education revolution and an ETS,the policy outcome is a secondary consideration.
The ostensible reason Rudd has given for abandoning the tender process is "none of the bids offered value for money". This is hardly credible coming from a government that has shown no concern about the value for money of its $52 billion experiment with fiscal stimulus.
AAPT chief executive Paul Broad argues that the $43 billion the Government is projecting to spend during the next 10 years on its broadband network doesn't make economic sense. Broad points out that a reasonable return on this sort of investment of about 10 per cent would require the new company to generate in the order of $4.3 billion. To get anywhere near this figure, the average customer would bear costs of up to about $200 a month for a service that is nowhere near the Government's original broadband speeds. Broad say: "I just don't think people will pay double for something they don't need."
The economics of fibre to the home, Broad argues, don't stack up. The Government's proposal is, in Broad's view, extravagant and represents an irrational decision with taxpayers' money. Broad's alternative and less costly strategy of filling the gaps in the network reflects his hands-on experience in telecommunications. Unfortunately, sensible as it is, it fails the Government's real objective of creating the impression that it has saved Australia from the technological policy ghetto of the Howard government and met its election commitments in full.
The International Monetary Fund's cautionary world economic outlook and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's report on the adverse effect of industrial legislation on youth unemployment only confirms what Australian critics have been arguing all along. This is not the right time to be implementing this particular election commitment. A responsible government would have delayed industrial reform in the face of the weaker labour market.
The Government's handling of the recent tragic refugee incident is tainted with the consequences of its election commitment straitjacket. The Government was right to abolish the much-criticised temporary protection visas approach to dealing with asylum seekers. But to argue that the changes have not influenced the business activities of people-smugglers defies credibility. Instead of acknowledging the change in circumstances since the election and the need for a new response, a completely defensible political response, the Government has become defensive and obstinate. To deal with the present problem it doesn't have to reintroduce temporary protection visas but it certainly has to change direction.
US President Barack Obama, confronting similar changed circumstances, graciously accepted advice from outgoing vice-president Dick Cheney not to reject policy simply because he campaigned against it. Obama showed astute leadership when he said: "I think that was pretty good advice, which is I should know what's going on before we make judgments and that we shouldn't be making judgments on the basis of incomplete information or campaign rhetoric."
The Prime Minister needs to follow Obama's lead and accept that campaign rhetoric is not the basis for good government.
Friday, April 24, 2009
A NSW man is set to receive more than $300,000 in damages after successfully suing the State for assault and malicious prosecution. Allan Frederick Hathaway, now 45, sued the State over his arrest in Wagga Wagga in February 2003, which resulted in his admission to hospital and surgery for facial fractures.
Justice Carolyn Simpson accepted the evidence of Mr Hathaway, who complained he was beaten with a baton by a constable who discovered him hiding in the bedroom of a stranger's house after a police pursuit. Mr Hathaway has admitted to refusing to stop after being seen driving while disqualified in an unregistered car, sparking the pursuit.
The NSW Supreme Court judge concluded Mr Hathaway had been maliciously prosecuted by police on charges of possessing a knife with intent to prevent lawful apprehension, and breaking and entering a dwelling house and stealing a knife. The judge concluded the knife, which belonged to the absent householder, had been placed in the bedroom by a police officer or officers after Mr Hathaway was taken from the scene.
But she said Mr Hathaway failed to demonstrate he had been maliciously prosecuted in relation to charges of assaulting two officers and resisting another. The judge awarded $100,000 in damages in relation to the malicious prosecution. The overall damages figure, which is yet to be calculated, will be above $300,000 and will include $65,000 for general damages.
More details of this appalling episode and the gross police misconduct -- including both destruction and planting of evidence -- here. The goon involved was eventually arrested and charged but got off! It's very hard to nail a crooked cop -- particularly when his superiors are as crooked as he is and do all they can to protect him -- as happened in this case according to the official inquiry.
The charming NSW government ambulance service again
Culture of sarcasm familiar to another victim
THE sarcasm and insensitivity of ambulance call operators towards dying teenager David Iredale is all too familiar for Gareth Redshaw, who was called a "blatant hoaxer" when he called for help minutes after the Waterfall train disaster. Mr Redshaw, then 19, managed to kick a hole in the glass door of the overturned train carriage and climb up an embankment to call triple-0 from his mobile phone about 7.30am on January 31, 2003.
But the operator who took his first call told a clearly distressed Mr Redshaw that his story was unbelievable and a second, more senior operator also accused him of a hoax. In alarming parallels to evidence given at the inquest into Mr Iredale's death, call operators behaved as if Mr Redshaw was a teenage prankster when he could not provide an exact location of the derailment, which occurred in thick bushland between Waterfall and Helensburgh stations.
The Ambulance Service later apologised for questioning the validity of Mr Redshaw's calls and he was told by divisional management that operators would be given more information to help them distinguish between genuine and hoax calls. But yesterday Mr Redshaw, now 25, said the organisation had clearly failed to implement measures that would ensure the situation did not arise again. "I was promised that the issue of failing to deal with people who couldn't provide a cross-street would be rectified and I am disappointed that management has again failed to act. "The whole culture of the ambulance service needs an overhaul."
Mr Redshaw later told police attending the scene the operators "didn't seem to understand that it was on a railway". "They were saying, 'What suburb, what street' and I was saying there was no suburb, it's on a train line, the train's derailed." But a recording played at the special commission of inquiry into the disaster shows the two operators were sceptical.
Leyla Spinelli admitted she did not take the call seriously as she had found the idea of a whole train overturning "incredible". She had been suspicious after a spate of similar prank calls in the days before the accident and because Mr Redshaw's mobile number did not show up on her screen. "You rang up yesterday and told me … about someone hurting themselves in Queanbeyan, didn't you?" He said: "Queanbeyan? No, I told you I'm serious. F---in' train derailed here."
When Brad Deering took over the call he said: "Gareth, you're not mucking us around, are you mate?" and "Well, if this really happened the railway will know about it."
An Ambulance Service spokesman said procedures for incidents in remote or isolated areas with no street address were changed in 2008.
Criminologist appeals against biker laws
I don't always agree with "Narcissus" Wilson but he is right on this
Evidence, not emotion, should dictate new bikie laws, warns an Australian criminologist. Professor Paul Wilson from Bond University has written to the Queensland government branding proposed new bikie laws draconian and undemocratic. "The Queensland government's proposal to impose tough legislation on bikies sets a dangerous precedent," Prof Wilson said. "It opens up the potential for government to arbitrarily apply these criminal 'association' laws to any political opponents or religious groups to whom it takes a dislike."
His warning follows a push for states to adopt tough new laws after the Hells Angels and Comancheros were involved in a fatal brawl at Sydney airport last month. The laws would mean a club could be deemed illegal if police believe its members are involved in criminal activity.
But Prof Wilson said official figures showed gang-related violence represented just 0.6 per cent of all crime, with biker gang-related violence only amounting to 0.3 per cent of crime in total. "In deciding how to deal with any type of organised crime, including biker crime, modern democratic governments should not be persuaded by political propaganda or lobbying by interest groups, but rather, by evidence-based research and best practice," Prof Wilson said. "Rigorous investigation of individual offenders and effective crime-prevention schemes should be encouraged. "There is no evidence that supports the effectiveness of tougher laws targeting groups rather than individual criminals."
The NSW and South Australian governments have already passed tough new bikie laws.
The United Nations facilitates illegal immigration to Australia
People smugglers are using the chaotic registration process of the UNHCR to make it easier for asylum seekers to get to Australia by boat.
Since the beginning of March, 483 Afghan asylum seekers have turned up at the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Jakarta but none has been formally registered with Indonesian authorities. The Indonesians were unaware precisely where the asylum seekers were living and, in some instances, had not even been told they had arrived, said Ade Endang Dachlan, a senior Indonesian immigration intelligence officer who heads the department's Bogor office.
"This should not happen," Mr Dachlan said. "The UNHCR office should only issue refugee processing status based on the recommendation from the immigration office. "Since we can't get hold of them [the asylum seekers] and closely monitor their whereabouts, they have plenty of chance to escape and use illegal ways to enter a third country such as Australia."
Raids this month in Bogor netted 22 asylum seekers who carried genuine UNHCR papers but were not registered with the Department of Immigration. Mr Dachlan said it was only the tip of the iceberg, adding that people smugglers were exploiting the "loophole" - staying in touch with asylum seekers until "such time as the syndicates can get them access to Australian borders".
Ali Khatri, one of the Afghans snared in the Bogor raid, said a people smuggler had given him the address of the UNHCR office, told him to go straight there when he arrived in Jakarta, and he was assured that, by turning up, he would have protection as a refugee. He denied he planned to go to Australia, though others at the same villa said they were prepared to make the crossing. They asked not to be named. "The UNHCR gave us some papers, like an appointment slip," Mr Khatri said, adding he was not told to register with Indonesian police or immigration. "We just left and went back to our hotel in Jakarta. Then we came to Bogor because it was cheaper."
Bogor is a mountainous holiday area 1½ hours' drive from Jakarta and a favoured hideout for asylum seekers. The 22 caught in Bogor were only a small fraction of an estimated 2000 Afghans in Indonesia looking to come to Australia.
A spokeswoman for the UNHCR in Jakarta, Anita Restu, said 483 Afghans had come to its Jakarta office in the past seven weeks alone. "Because of this influx, we have just given them appointment slips," she said. They were not formally registered because "it takes too long to go through our system and there's so many people". Even if Indonesian authorities were told of the arrivals, "we cannot give out the address of the asylum seeker", she said.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
It's a big story in Australia at the moment. Four current articles below
Another nasty one for the Greenies
SEA ice around Antarctica has been increasing since the 1970s. Yet more explaining away to do but the best the Warmist can do is hark back to the failed "ozone hole" theory. And whatever explanation you put on it, there is clearly no danger of a sea level rise emanating from the Antarctic. And since the Antarctic contains 91% of the earth's ice, we can kiss the disastrous sea-level rise scares goodbye
SEA ice around Antarctica has been increasing at a rate of 100,000sq km a decade since the 1970s, according to a landmark study to be published today. The study by the British Antarctic Survey, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, says rather than melting as a result of global warming, Antarctica continues to expand.
The fact that Antarctic ice is still growing does not in itself prove that global warming is not happening. But the BAS says increased ice formation can be explained by another environmental concern, the hole in the ozone layer, which is affecting local weather conditions.
But the absence of an ice melt overall does put a further question mark over extreme claims that the world faces precipitous rises in sea levels because of the melting polar ice caps.
Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett has been under fire for suggesting sea levels could rise by 6m as a result of the melting of the Antarctic ice. Antarctica has 90 per cent of the Earth's ice and extensive melting of its ice sheet would be required to raise sea levels substantially.
The Weekend Australian reported on Saturday that the results of ice-core drilling and sea ice monitoring indicated there was no large-scale melting of ice over most of Antarctica. Drilling in the fast ice, a type of sea ice, off Australia's Davis Station last year showed the ice was 1.9m thick, its densest in 10 years.
The BAS, which discovered the ozone hole in the mid-1980s, has drawn on data from international agencies, including Australia's three Antarctic bases. BAS project leader John Turner told The Australian yesterday that cooling had been recorded at the Australian bases and elsewhere in east Antarctica. He said satellite images indicated the ozone layer had strengthened surface winds around Antarctica, deepening storms in the South Pacific area of the Southern Ocean. This had resulted in a greater flow of cold air over the Ross Sea, leading to more ice production. [But the ozone hole should be gone by now after CFCs were banned 20 years ago, shouldn't it? Surely we are not admitting the now obvious fact that banning CFCs had no effect! Look at the bottom right-hand graph by NASA here and you will see clearly that there has been no trend in the size of the ozone hole since 1989. What a laugh!] While sea ice had been lost to the west of the Antarctic Peninsula, sea ice cover over the Ross Sea had increased.
Dr Turner said the research results indicated why the extensive melting of ice in the Arctic was not occurring in Antarctica [Rubbish! Arctic warming is a purely local effect, probably due to the fact that the ice there sits on top of a chain of volcanoes (the Gakkel ridge). Warming episodes in the Arctic have been very uneven and much greater than anywhere else, indicating that their cause is NOT global] "While there is increasing evidence that the loss of sea ice in the Arctic has occurred due to human activity, in the Antarctic, human influence through the ozone hole has had the reverse effect and resulted in more ice," he said. As the ozone hole repaired itself as a result of measures in place to reduce chlorofluorocarbons in the stratosphere [When's that going to happen? There has been no trend in that direction so far], the cooling in Antactica was expected to be reversed. [One day, over the rainbow ...] "We expect ozone levels to recover by the end of the century, and by then there is likely to be around one-third less Antarctic sea ice," Dr Turner said. [A prophet!]
He said that while the expansion of sea ice, the relatively thin ice in Antarctic coastal waters, had been established, debate continued about whether the main mass of the Antarctic ice sheet was growing or shrinking.
Warmists answer facts with abuse and an appeal to authority again
And they call conservatives "authoritarian"! That good old projection again
THERE'S nothing like healthy academic combat. In the corridors of Adelaide University, two respected professors on opposite sides of the climate change debate are pushing their theories on the subject, sparked by a new book that has sceptics rubbing their hands with glee.
Outspoken academic geologist Ian Plimer [above] yesterday launched Heaven and Earth: Global Warming the Missing Science, concluding that scientific modelling had placed too much emphasis on the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and global warming should not be blamed on increased human activity.
Speaking after the launch yesterday, Professor Plimer accused high-profile climate change advocates such as former US vice-president Al Gore of "scaring people witless" with theories about the world ending. He also said 2007 Australian of the Year Tim Flannery pushed a "political line" and had considered only a "small body of evidence" when studying global warming.
Many scientists, he said, had not considered the history of the earth when discussing climate change, or factors including the earth's rotation, changing tides and solar winds. "When you look at the selective evidence, then there's a chance that you might be frightened about the end of the world," Professor Plimer said. "When you look at the comprehensive evidence, it just says the planet changes all the time."
Defending climatologists and thousands of other scientists, Barry Brook, who heads Adelaide University's Research Institute for Climate Change and Sustainability, poured cold water on Professor Plimer's book and said his colleague had only used "selective evidence" when quoting more than 200 scientists and from peer-reviewed papers. [More than 200? There are more than 2,000 scientific references in Plimer's book]
Professor Plimer's "stated view of climate science is that a vast number of extremely well respected scientists and a whole range of specialist disciplines have fallen prey to delusional self-interest and become nothing more than unthinking ideologues", he said. "Plausible to conspiracy theorists, perhaps, but hardly a sane world view, and insulting to all those genuinely committed to real science." Professor Brook, whose office is literally metres from Professor Plimer's base, said his colleague's research was "confusing" because he failed to argue one specific point, and that it was a case study "in how not to be objective". [Mere abuse!]
With the international debate on climate change raging, Professor Plimer yesterday said people were embracing his book because they were frustrated with the one-sided debate on global warming. The presses have started printing the third run of 5000 copies, after the first 10,000 sold in two days. "The average punter out there feels helpless and disenfranchised," he said.
CARMAKERS FEAR CAP AND TRADE WILL DRIVE JOBS OUT OF AUSTRALIA
FORD Australia has warned that the Government's emissions trading scheme could add millions of dollars a year to its costs and threaten jobs, six months after Canberra pledged $6.2 billion to rescue the local auto industry. The carmaker's entry into the politically charged debate over the timing and shape of the Government's response to climate change comes amid intense lobbying for a review of next year's start date for the scheme. BlueScope, OneSteel, Rio Tinto, Alcoa, Chevron, Woodside Energy and Visy have long pushed for changes or delays to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, citing its impact on jobs at a time of economic crisis.
But Ford Australia's submission to a Senate inquiry into the ETS marks its strongest call yet for caution on the scheme. "It is difficult to precisely quantify the impact, but it would well be in the annual order of many millions of dollars via increased energy costs," it said. "There will be extremely limited opportunity for domestic manufacturers to offset these increased costs with higher prices, particularly as the proposed introduction of the scheme in 2010 will coincide with a drop in the passenger car import tariff from 10 per cent to 5 per cent." Strong competition from imports and dwindling local demand cost 1400 local jobs at Ford's Australian operations over the 15 months to October last year.
The Government's ETS, initiated during an economic boom, is encountering growing resistance from business as their margins shrink. BlueScope Steel and OneSteel, which are reeling from falling sales and prices, said in their submission the damage wrought by the Government's emissions trading model would be second only to the impact of the global recession. The iron and steelmakers have already cut at least 1000 full-time equivalent staff from their combined 20,000-strong workforce. "In the context of the deep economic downturn - globally and in Australia - the cumulative costs of the carbon pollution reduction scheme are intolerable and are very likely to cause a fall in profitability, investment and jobs," their joint submission to the Senate inquiry said.
The 415 submissions to the parliamentary inquiry published so far highlight the difficulties Labor will face in pushing its emissions trading laws through the upper house, where it lacks a majority. The Coalition has slammed the scheme as "reckless" while balance-of-power senators consider it environmentally and economically damaging.
Business, too, is speaking with more than one voice on the issue. Companies such as BP Australia and Shell used the inquiry process to call on the Government to stick with its market-based approach to cutting greenhouse gases and its early implementation plan. "We believe the carbon pollution reduction scheme green paper largely got it right with respect to many of the emissions trading design issue," BP Australia's submission tells the inquiry.
Conservationists also oppose the proposal, but for different reasons. The Australian Conservation Foundation told the Senate inquiry the Government's targets for greenhouse gas cuts were too low and its permits for polluters were too generous.
AUSTRALIAN FARMERS' FEDERATION DEMANDS MORE DEBATE ON CLIMATE SCIENCE
The National Farmers' Federation has thrown its backing behind controversial climate change dissenter, Professor Ian Plimer, whose new book aims to debunk the theories and dire predictions of some within the scientific fraternity. In Heaven and Earth: Climate change - the real science, Prof Plimer, from the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Adelaide, notes that climatic change is "the norm", sea levels rise and fall all the time, and that climate cycles are driven by massive forces completely unrelated to carbon emissions.
"Climate changes in the past have been far greater and far more rapid than anything measured in the present," he writes. "Not one previous climate change has ever been driven by carbon dioxide. "To talk of carbon pollution shows an appalling ignorance of basic school science. "Carbon dioxide is plant food, without it humans could not exist."
Prof Plimer will be a keynote speaker at the NFF's upcoming National Congress in Brisbane in June. While not explicitly supporting the position Prof Plimer takes, NFF president David Crombie said it was time the climate change debate heard more from those with dissenting opinions. "We've heard ad nauseam from those scientists convinced that climate change will ruin us all and, seemingly, hell-bent on making grim doomsday predictions," Mr Crombie said. "But we've heard precious little from those experts for whom the jury is still out, or, in the case of Professor Plimer, say their research shows extreme climate change predictions are over-stated.
"Now, before I'm carted to a stake for public torching, I'm not saying Professor Plimer is right, nor that his colleagues with differing views are wrong. "Just that it's about time we had a balanced, informed discussion and debate... free from vilification of those who dare to question conventional wisdom."
In his book, Prof Plimer claims that every scientific argument ever used to show that humans change climate is wrong and cites over 2300 scientific references in support of his claims.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Australia's population is about 10% Asian so it gives young Caucasian men a nice alternative to self-obsessed Caucasian women. And Asian ladies certainly like tall Caucasian men. Am I "stereotyping" young Asian women as generally better mannered and more pleasant in their behaviour? I sure am! No wonder so many Caucasian women pump up their boobs with silicone and wear lot-cut tops and very short skirts. They have got to do SOMETHING to make themselves attractive. A return to the traditional values that have been wiped out by feminism is not considered, of course.
Below: A very influential Australian shows young Australians the way -- Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng -- followed by two young Australians
While the terms "yobette" and "ladette" have now passed into common usage, it's interesting to look at just how far the modern woman – regardless of age, race, status or income – has sunk in her attempt to "live in a man's world". Many Australian women are now socially inept, particularly when it comes to manners – from the businesswoman who orders the hotel concierge to get them a cab "quick smart" to the moody shop assistant who rolls her eyes when asked for help and then turns to the next assistant and announces that she cannot wait to knock off.
A Brisbane businessman recently revealed that, when he opened a door for two professional women exiting an office, he received no acknowledgement only to have a glass door slammed in his face after following them out. Many men are now becoming reluctant to open doors for women because they merely get "huffed" at and pushed aside.
Women in the 40 to 60-year-old age bracket regard footpaths, aisles and malls as theirs alone. Put two or three of these women together and everyone must make way for them. In their world nothing comes between them and their conversation, certainly not manners or respect.
Fewer men now stand up on buses and trains to offer a seat – even to elderly women. I've heard of grannies accusing blokes of considering them "invalid" because they've been offered a seat. Being an "invisible" man is a common male complaint. This occurs when rude women just push in and stand in front of men in a queue.
Unfortunately, it has become accepted that many modern women no longer care about politeness. Maybe men are at fault. We are so unaccustomed to this new breed of woman that we don't know what to do.
Many modern women are totally self-reliant. They have rewarding careers and are financially independent. She has travelled across the globe, can afford to buy her own meals and is accustomed to a man asking her out just for the pleasure of her company.
Good manners displayed by men or women should serve to make interacting with other people a pleasant experience. Modern women mistakenly seem to believe good manners are not something a modern man holds as an aspiration. Isn't it a pity more and more modern women grow up with an indifference to the niceties that used to be normal?
Gutsy churches unite against Islamic school in Sydney suburb
Fancy daring to tell the truth in an era of political correctness!
FOUR Christian churches have joined in an unprecedented attack on the Islamic faith in an attempt to stop a Muslim school being built.
Calling the religion an ideology driven by world domination, a submission to the Land and Environment Court yesterday said a proposed school at Camden was a "beachhead" in Islamic takeover of southwestern Sydney, threatening the Australian way of life.
The attack, co-signed by local heads of Baptist, Anglican, Presbyterian and the Evangelical Sisters of Mary churches, formed the spearhead of Camden City Council's defence to a court challenge over its rejection of a development application for the Muslim school. "Islam is not simply a private religion. It is driven by a powerful political agenda, it is an ideology with a plan for world domination," the letter said. "The Quranic Society application to establish an Islamic school in Camden is typical of a regularly repeated pattern to form a beachhead in an area for the development of a sub-culture which, for the most part, regards its own legal system as superior to the current Australian law." They said the Muslim community would seek to dominate public space in Camden "as we have seen in Auburn, Bankstown, Lakemba and more recently Liverpool".
The provocative submission was penned by Camden's Baptist Pastor Brian Stewart, St John's Anglican Rector Tony Galea, Presbyterian minister Warren Hicks and Sisters of Mary's sisters in charge Sister Simone and Sister Gideona.
Use of the letter is a turnaround from previous claims that the council's ruling was on the grounds of traffic congestion. The first day in the society's court challenge began with a visit to the proposed site on Cawdor Rd, Camden. Chris Gough, heading the Quranic Society's legal team, said there were no planning grounds why the school, for 900 students, should not be approved. "The constitution of Australia talks about freedom of religion," Mr Gough said.
In their objection, the Christian ministries said they may be seen as racists or hypocrites but they were trying to preserve a rich, hard-won way of life that was incompatible with Quranic Society teachings. "The Quranic Society espouses a world view which is not compatible with broader, Australian egalitarian culture," they said. "A fundamental tenet of the faith is that Muslims are not required to obey any law that does not come from Allah."
Greenie fraud backs away from his lies
FEDERAL Environment Minister Peter Garrett has moved to water down his claim that sea levels could rise by 6m as a result of the melting of Antarctic ice. Mr Garrett has also been forced to qualify his suggestion that ice across the whole of the Antarctic continent is melting.
He made the claims while being interviewed by the ABC's Lateline program on April 6 about the reported break-up of parts of the Wilkins ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula. The Weekend Australian reported that while some ice-shelf melting is under way on the peninsula and in other parts of west Antarctica that may be related to global warming, ice shelves in east Antarctica remain intact. East Antarctica is four times the size of west Antarctica.
At the same time, the area of sea ice around the continent is expanding, with sea ice growth in east Antarctica and the Ross Sea more than compensating for losses in west Antarctica. Contrary to public perceptions, parts of Antarctica have been cooling.
The suggestion that warming in the Antarctic could lead to sea level rises of 6m was made in An Inconvenient Truth, the film made by former US vice-president Al Gore. Mr Garrett embraced the prediction of possible 6m rises put to him when he was asked on Lateline whether he agreed with the "scary" scenario outlined by a Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research report, although the upper limit in a worst-case scenario suggested in the report was 1.2m.
He said he had not seen the SCAR report, but added: "Those kinds of projections and scenarios are consistent with what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change brought forward over the last couple of years." The upper limit of sea-level rises predicted by the IPCC by 2100 is 59cm, with a probable rise of between 28 and 43cm.
Mr Garrett claimed that ice was melting across the Antarctic continent. "I don't think there's any doubt that global warming is contributing to what we've seen both on the Wilkins ice shelf and more generally in Antarctica."
Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt said Mr Garrett had been alarmist. "There is a need to take practical action to tackle global warming, but using alarmist and patently wrong information to back his case will do nothing to instil confidence in his arguments," he said. "If Mr Garrett is going to get it so wrong on sea-level rises, how can people have confidence in comments he makes on glacier melts?"
James Cook University geophysicist Bob Carter said Mr Garrett's claims were typical of the political misinformation surrounding the global warming debate. "Like Al Gore and the other dark greens that they seek to mollify, politicians completely fail to comprehend that we live on a dynamic planet Earth," Professor Carter said.
In response to questions from The Australian, Mr Garrett said he had received advice suggesting the impacts of global warming in east Antarctica were "less pronounced" than in west Antarctica. "However, it remains critically important that we continue to work collaboratively with our international partners on the important scientific endeavours under way across the Antarctic."
Mr Garrett said through a spokesman that the suggestion of 6m sea level rises had been made by Lateline and not by him; he was commenting only that those "kinds" of predictions were consistent with IPCC forecasts.
"Refugees" reacted to Australia's immigration law change says Indonesia's ambassador
INDONESIA experienced an increase in the number of suspected refugees transiting through its borders at the same time Australia was softening its border protection policies. Indonesia's ambassador to Australia, Primo Alui Joelianto, said Indonesian-based people-smugglers had exploited changes to Australian law as a way of drumming up business.
And as the political row over the surge in boat arrivals deepened - with Kevin Rudd branding Malcolm Turnbull "opportunistic" over his handling of the issue - senior government sources told The Australian another boat was due to be intercepted "within days". They are likely to join asylum seekers, who landed earlier this month, on Christmas Island.
Yesterday, Mr Joelianto said Indonesia had seen a spike in suspected refugees transiting the sprawling archipelago. Significantly, Mr Joelianto dated the start of the increase at September last year, the same time the Rudd Government announced a series of policy changes aimed at softening Australia's treatment of refugees.
But at the same time, the ambassador acknowledged Labor's claim about the causes of the surge, saying violence abroad and the scourge of people-smuggling were at the root of the problem. Mr Joelianto said the problem of irregular migration was too big for Indonesia to handle alone.
When asked if more suspected refugees had been coming into Indonesia, heading for the main transit points for people journeying to Australia, Mr Joelianto replied: "We noted, especially after September 2008, the influx, the flow of illegal migrants get more and more," he said.
"But I think we have to see the root cause - conflict, the political instability, economic problems in the origin country; that's why this problem is not easy to tackle."
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Is this another indictment of the notorious John Tonge forensic laboratory? There have been many claims that the John Tonge problems have been "fixed". It that coming apart again?
MAJOR crime investigations could be stalled after forensic police raised doubts over the storage and security of their own DNA profiles. The situation has escalated to the point where some of the state's forensic officers are no longer voluntarily providing their own DNA to the Queensland Police Service.
Police were first asked to volunteer their samples in July last year, after advances in technology meant forensic officers were taking more complex DNA samples from crime scenes and risked capturing their own DNA in the process. Although 400 officers have already provided their DNA, the police union posted a message on its website on Friday advising officers to withdraw consent for their samples to be used, and the remainder not to provide their DNA profiles.
The message from Acting Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said the union had "grave concerns" about the storage and processing of their DNA profiles after "inquiries within the forensic science community". He said several of the 450 forensic officers had raised concerns with the union after they were given a May 1 deadline to voluntarily provide their DNA samples. Mr Leavers said forensically trained officers had been told if they did not provide samples they would be prohibited from handling exhibits and attending crime scenes. Police were concerned their DNA profiles would be stored with thousands of criminal samples lodged on the Queensland and national DNA databases.
The Queensland Police Service said they were still negotiating with the officers, and their DNA profiles were used for exclusion purposes only. The QPS would not comment on whether the May 1 deadline still stood. A spokeswoman said the QPU was consulted at the time, but expressed no concerns.
Queensland Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson has also written to the union asking it to provide information and evidence over their "previously unexpressed concerns" about the DNA process. All police provide their fingerprints for elimination purposes when they join the service.
Warning signs to rape, murder ignored by hospital, police and doctor -- even though the offender was known to be insane
Your government will protect you
QUEENSLAND'S largest hospital was warned, so were police and a doctor, but no one stopped a mentally ill man from taking a family holiday which ended with him raping and killing his 10-year-old daughter. The man headed off on the fateful Bribie Island holiday with his four children after he was allowed to postpone a check-up with Queensland health authorities.
The disturbing revelations are contained in a Children's Commission review of the 2007 New Year's Eve tragedy obtained by The Courier-Mail. Queensland Communities Minister Karen Struthers said yesterday that the review's recommendations already had been implemented. But she could only "hope" that new legislation would prevent a similar tragedy, her spokeswoman said.
The Children's Commission review and a Mental Health Court judgment on the matter released last week paint a sorry picture of opportunities lost. The man had been released from the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital's mental health unit, where he had been under an involuntary treatment order, on December 21, 2007. He had been admitted on December 8 after a manic episode in a shopping centre.
The man was allowed to postpone a check-up with mental health workers scheduled for December 31. Late that night he ritualistically killed his daughter but spared her three younger siblings.
Sometime between his release from the RBWH and December 31, police were advised the man had left his four young children unsupervised, but they failed to report that "indicator of neglect" to the police child protection investigation unit. The CPIU would most probably have made a priority notification to the Department of Child Safety for an assessment of the family.
On December 30, the man's parents were so concerned about their son's behaviour, including a threat that "someone close to me is going to die tonight", that they contacted his GP. That also warranted a notification to DOCS but whether that doctor contacted the RBWH or the police was not revealed in the Children's Commission review or the Mental Health Court judgment.
On December 31, the RBWH was contacted by a former girlfriend of the man after he had gone to her home. The documents did not say whether the hospital took any action.
The man - who was found by the Mental Health Court to have been of unsound mind at the time of the murder - did not abide by the terms of his discharge. The judgment revealed he had stopped taking the antipsychotic drug, Risperidone, and resumed smoking large quantities of cannabis.
In her report, Children's Commissioner Elizabeth Fraser did not record any findings against the police or health services. [Isn't it wonderful to be a bureaucrat? You can be as negligent as you like and be completely unaccountable for it]
Silence over boat-people fire
Leftists talk the talk but don't walk the walk
It's just under a month since the Special Minister of State, John Faulkner, declared that "the best safeguard against ill-informed public judgment is not concealment but information". He added that "there is a growing acceptance that the right of the people to know … is fundamental to democracy".
Faulkner's remarks were delivered at the Australia's Right to Know conference. He used the occasion to announce Labor's freedom of information policy. However, the cabinet secretary's comments had wider implications. But not one, apparently, which has influenced the Rudd Government's response to the fire on, and sinking of, a boat containing asylum seekers off Western Australia last Thursday.
Five days after this tragedy, there has been virtually no official information released on the event, even though the Government would almost certainly have received a brief from the navy. HMAS Albany had intercepted the boat and some navy personnel were on board it, and were injured, when the explosion took place.
The explanation for what happened seems clear. It is known that, at times, desperate people take desperate and sometimes ill-considered actions. It is likely that petrol was ignited on the boat by a person or persons who believed that this was the most effective way to ensure that those on the boat were taken by the navy to Australian territory. It is unlikely that anyone intended that there should be an explosion followed by a sinking.
It is much the same with the children overboard controversy that occurred before the 2001 election. In fact, in that particular instance, no children were thrown from an asylum-seeker boat by their parents or guardians. But if such an eventuality had taken place, this would have been motivated by desperate persons believing that this was the best way to ensure that all the occupants of the boat were rescued by the navy. John Howard got the facts wrong. But his more significant failing was an inability to exhibit an empathetic understanding about how desperate people sometimes act.
Certainly the Howard government's treatment of asylum seekers was excessively harsh, especially during the period 2001 to 2005. But there is no doubt that the policy worked, in that the boats stopped coming to Australian shores, even if asylum seekers continued to arrive by air.
That's why, on the Friday before the 2007 election, The Australian carried a page one story reporting that Kevin Rudd in government would take a tough line on asylum seekers. He told journalists Paul Kelly and Dennis Shanahan that, in government, Labor would "turn back" boats that were heading for Australia.
Here Rudd was continuing a Labor policy. After all, mandatory detention for asylum seekers - including women and children - was introduced when Paul Keating was prime minister. In 1993, the mid-point of the Keating government, there were some 350 children in detention. It is understandable why the Assistant Treasurer, Chris Bowen, linked the Liberal Party with "kids" being locked-up in detention on the Q&A program last Thursday. But it is inexcusable that the Liberal Party shadow minister, Sophie Mirabella, did not set the record straight when she had an opportunity to do so.
Since the 2007 election Labor has softened the asylum seeker policy it inherited. For its part, the Coalition hardened the policy which it had inherited from Labor in 1996. I supported the changes announced by the Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, last year. Yet it would be an act of denial to maintain the softening of the policy would have no impact on asylum seekers seeking refuge in Australia.
There has been a world-wide increase in asylum seekers. Even so, in view of the acute risks involved in attempting to enter Australia in small boats, it seems that such trips are likely to be undertaken if the chances of success are seen to have increased. The intensity of the debate is such that there is not much room for rationality at either extreme. Contrary to what many refugee advocates proclaim, not all asylum seekers are refugees, not all tell the truth and not all are secular saints. Contrary to what many of those who are hostile to them believe, asylum seekers are not security threats and most who gain refugee status become hard working and entrepreneurial citizens. Anyone who has the ingenuity to make it here - by sea or air - has a skills set which adapts well to a multicultural migrant community such as Australia.
Even so, no government - Coalition or Labor - can be expected to go easy on asylum seekers. This is especially the case with those who arrive by numbers in boats, with all the publicity that this entails. There is widescale opposition in Australia to unregulated immigration and this has to be dealt with by whatever party is in office.
Yesterday on ABC2 News Breakfast, refugee advocate Tony Kevin accused the Government of being "at the mercy of public opinion". The very nature of representative government requires that politicians pay some respect to the views of those who elect them.
Moreover, it should be remembered that some Australian citizens who are attempting to bring out family members, including designated refugees, resent the fact that preference may be seen to be extended to those outside the UN approved system.
It would make sense for the Rudd Government to be as open as possible on all matters relating to border security, including the recent tragedy. The electorate may accept this is a difficult area for any government. But it is likely to resent being denied information.
Some "People's" propaganda below about illegals coming to Australia
Published, of course, by Australia's public broadcaster
Asylum seeking is a risky business, as shown by the tragedy that unfolded in Australian waters last week. The risks of not seeking asylum can be even more severe, and people experiencing persecution may have little choice but to avail themselves of extreme measures in attempts to seek safe haven. [Really?? When they have passed through several other countries on their way to Australia, they have obviously had PLENTY of choice. Afghans could for instance have stopped in Pakistan. Many do]
The blame game for the tragedy near Ashmore Reef has begun, with shadow immigration minister Sharman Stone holding the Government culpable for putting lives at risk through what she describes as a watering down of the Howard government's immigration policies and the cutting of surveillance.
Political memories are short-lived and the opposition and its supporters ought to tally the loss of lives during boat journeys to Australia under the harsh policies of John Howard. The starkest reminder of the risks at sea is in the nation's capital of Canberra - a memorial erected by refugee advocates to remember the 353 women, children and men who lost their lives on the ill-fated SIEV X, which sank on its way to Australia in 2001. The government's Temporary Protection Visa, aimed at deterring asylum seekers, barred family reunion and women and children were the majority of those who perished in a desperate bid to reach their husbands and fathers through the only means available to them.
During the Howard era there were other less-known fatal voyages where people died in tragic circumstances while attempting to seek refuge in Australia. In December 2000, then immigration minister Philip Ruddock defended his decision not to launch a search and rescue mission for 160 asylum seekers feared drowned on their way to Australia, adding that his government believed another 350 people had been lost earlier that year. In 2001 deaths included a young baby on the boat known as SIEV 5 and two women, one pregnant, on the SIEV X. [It is perfectly true that refugee boats sometimes sink and kill people but the best cure for that is to stop them setting out in the first place and that is precisely what the Howard government did]
In 2005, the Australian Council of Heads of Schools of Social Work convened the People's Inquiry into Detention [Much like the People's Democratic Republic of North Korea, no doubt. The Marxist language tells you all you need to know. These guys aren't even clever] in order to challenge and expose asylum seeker policies and practices. Witnesses to the inquiry told of the perilous journeys to Australia and the harsh treatment they received at the hands of the Australian government. We surely do not wish to return to an era where we again experience the treatment meted out to desperate people as illustrated in the following account. ["Desperate", my foot. They had plenty of choices before coming here. Australia is a long way from where they originated. Even the country where they got into the boats -- Indonesia -- is a Muslim one with Muslim obligations of hospitality. And how did they get to Indonesia? On regular airline flights! "Greedy" would be a better word for them. It is money they are after, not refuge]
Monday, April 20, 2009
SELF-DESCRIBED hippies from northern NSW are suing the state's Department of Community Services for removing their two healthy children from their care without a good reason. The couple - who cannot be named despite wanting to tell their story and not being guilty of any offence - were last week awarded legal costs, believed to exceed $50,000, for the fight to have their children returned.
They could not afford a lawyer so represented themselves in court. The mother told The Australian that the money would be used to pursue DOCS further. A judge has found their children were taken for no good reason, in an apparent abuse of power by welfare workers.
The case comes as two Queensland families prepare legal action against the Department of Child Safety for removing their children and placing them in foster homes, where they died. In one case, the family's two-year-old boy suffered a head injury at the home of his 74-year-old foster mother and died a week later in hospital. The coroner is examining.
The boy's father does not deny he has a long criminal history and a drug problem, but he says the department should not have placed his son in a foster home with older children and an elderly carer. He says the boy was not being supervised when he was hurt.
In another case, revealed on ABC radio's Law Report in a special series on the secrecy that surrounds decisions to remove children from their parents, a first-time mother was told her daughter had died in foster care, from unknown causes.
A mother - who likewise wants to tell her story but is forbidden from revealing her identity - told the ABC's Heather Stewart that her baby girl had shown some problems during a 20-week scan. The baby had an operation immediately after birth, and another several months later. During a later medical appointment, a doctor noticed some bruising and scratches, and notified the Queensland Department of Child Safety, as required by law. The department removed the child from her mother and placed her in foster care. The family fought hard to have the child returned but, at eight months, the baby girl suddenly died. The coroner is investigating.
In the NSW case, two children were removed from their parents' care after they had an argument with DOCS workers over the mother's weight. A DOCS worker told the court she was concerned about drug use in the house and told the mother she looked as if she had lost weight. The mother replied: "You look like you've put on weight."
Hours later, the DOCS worker returned to the house with police and removed the children. They were placed in foster care for nine weeks, before Supreme Court judge George Palmer ordered the family reunited. He said he could not understand why DOCS had removed the baby, or why it was trying to keep the baby in care.
In the second Queensland case, the grandmother told the Law Report: "We tried desperately to get her back. We offered other family members that would care for her. "But DOCS is like an iron gate - you just can't get through. They never return your calls. They don't answer letters. They have no need to talk to family. Once they take your baby, they've done their job and they just don't want you around."
The family has a letter from Queensland's then attorney-general Kerry Shine, which says: "I accept you feel terribly let down by the actions of the department, which limited the time you were able to spend with your granddaughter during her short life."
Australia opts out of racist conference
AUSTRALIA has cancelled plans to attend an anti-racism conference in Geneva over concerns the UN-backed forum will degenerate into a launchpad for anti-Semitic attacks. The decision to boycott the Durban Review Conference was taken after Australia, in conjunction with the US, Israel and other countries, was unsuccessful in pushing for changes to the wording of a draft document upholding anti-Semitic remarks in the 2001 Durban Declaration.
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith yesterday said that while Australia remained strongly committed to fighting racism, the federal Government could not support the document reaffirming the original declaration. Canada, the US, Israel and Italy have for similar reasons already pulled out of Durban II, which begins today.
The Netherlands broke ranks with the European Union last night to join the boycott. Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said The Netherlands would not attend because it feared the event would be abused ``for political ends and attacks on the West''. Germany is also considering a boycott, after intense lobbying by Mr Smith and Mr Verhagen.
Pro-Palestinian Labor backbencher Julia Irwin broke ranks to slam the boycott.
Canberra's 11th hour decision follows a US State Department announcement on the weekend that changes in the meeting's final document did not address concerns of anti-Israel and anti-Western bias. The 2001 Durban conference ended acrimoniously, with Israel and the US storming out in protest over Arab attempts to adopt a resolution equating Zionism with racism.
Mr Smith said he feared the Geneva conference was heading the same way. "The 2001 declaration singled out Israel and the Middle East," he said. "Australia expressed strong views about this at the time. The Australian Government continues to have these concerns. "Regrettably, we cannot be confident that the review conference will not be used as a platform to air offensive views, including anti-Semitic views. Of additional concern are the suggestions of some delegations in the Durban process to limit the universal right to free speech."
Mr Smith's argument was strongly rejected by Ms Irwin. "It's a shame Australia will be one of a handful of nations boycotting the Durban conference," Ms Irwin said. "Any nation which has policies which discriminate on the grounds of race or religion should not be above criticism and should not be supported by the Australian Government."
Australia's Jewish community warmly welcomed yesterday's decision. Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Robert Goot said the Durban II conference would not advance the fight to combat racism but would again single out Israel for condemnation. Australia-Israel and Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein said Durban II's draft declaration was always going to be problematic. "With Libya chairing the preparatory committee assisted by Cuba as rapporteur and Iran as one of several vice-chairs, the proposed outcome document has mixed the fight against racism with a variety of morally deplorable political agendas," Dr Rubenstein said.
Palestinian groups expressed anger and disappointment at the decision, which they said showed Australia was not serious about ending racism. Australians for Palestine founding member Moammar Mashni said the Rudd Government had bowed to pressure from pro-Israel lobbies.
While Britain says it will be attending, [Another indication of the antisemitism that infests Britain's Leftist intelligentsia] the participation of countries such as Iran and Cuba, which have reputations as serial human rights violators, is likely to ensure the summit turns into an anti-Israel and anti-US slanging match.
FedGov is "listening" to immigration advice
In the circumstances, that's progress
THE Federal Government has warned the nation to brace for more illegal boat arrivals, describing the surge as a "threat" which must be stopped. "We have real problem on our hands,'' Immigration Minister Chris Evans said. "The Government acknowledges that. We are throwing all the resources we can into combating it.''
Senator Evans blamed increased armed conflict in northern Asia for people taking to leaky - and increasingly deadly - boats to try to reach Australia and seek asylum, The Sunday Telegraph reports.
He confirmed that the Government had been warned by Australian Federal Police (AFP), when it softened its refugee policy by abolishing Temporary Protection Visas, that more illegal refugees would try to reach Australia. "We are absolutely listening,'' he said. "There is no suggestion that the AFP warnings have been ignored.''
The Federal Opposition seized on the admission, with shadow foreign minister Julie Bishop accusing the government of a "cover-up'' and dropping the ball on its watch.
Senator Evans' warning follows the death of three people and injuries to a further 47 on a sinking refugee boat last week after it had been doused in petrol and set alight off Ashmore Reef, 600km from Broome. Two people are missing.
Authorities yesterday were reportedly tracking another refugee boat en route to Australia.
Surgeons in Brisbane today will operate on six injured people, airlifted from Darwin and suffering life-threatening burns.
Desalination plant already full of corrosion
Appalling bureaucratic bungling. Corrosion at this early stage indicates grossly incompetent design. Corrosion prevention should have been a leading design feature in anything handling salt water -- which has fierce and well-known corrosive effects
JUST two months after the taps were finally turned on, the State Government's $1.2 billion desalination plant will be shut down for five weeks for repairs. The plant at Tugun on the Gold Coast has been besieged with problems, and is still months away from being officially handed over to Water Secure - the government body that will own and run it.
Infrastructure and Planning Minister Stirling Hinchliffe confirmed the plant will shut down from late this month for "scheduled repair work", and dismissed claims it is an expensive white elephant. "The planned shutdown in late April will go ahead, to carry out work such as the replacement of corroded couplings," Mr Hinchliffe said. "There is also other ongoing work as previously announced, including the progressive replacement of water valves by the supplier. "Water Secure will not take delivery of the plant until all these issues are fixed. This is about protecting taxpayers' dollars - now and in the future."
The plant was supposed to be pumping 125 megalitres a day of water into the southeast Queensland water grid by January 15, but that did not happen until March 9. Premier Anna Bligh was featured on the cover of a national engineering magazine this year, supposedly tasting water from the opened plant last November. Water did not enter the drinking system until three months later.
Natural Resources Minister Stephen Robertson yesterday was forced to defend claims the plant had "mysteriously" stopped pumping last week as dam levels neared 60 per cent. He said the halt on Thursday was for "just scheduled maintenance". "There is no drama here, nothing significant here," he said, noting it was back at 33 per cent capacity yesterday. "Desalinated water costs more than water that comes from the sky and into our dams," Mr Robertson said. "To run the desalination plant more than you need to would result in an increase in the price of water, which is not in the public interest."
He said it would run closer to full capacity as the high Hinze Dam level dropped. Water is being let out of the Hinze, and into the water grid, so work can begin on raising the dam wall.
LNP Leader John-Paul Langbroek said the Government had serious questions to answer about how the water grid was being run. "It beggars belief that we can spend so much and get so little for it ... it just does not stack up," he said.
Despite the ongoing problems, Mr Hinchliffe said the project had been a success, supplying more than three billion litres of water to the southeast grid since late February. "This is the largest desalination plant built on the east coast of Australia, so some teething pains are to be expected," he said.
Green dream ruined by reality
AFTER spending five years raising three small children in what many consider the idyllic South Coast town of Berry, naturopath Amanda Haberecht and designer Stuart Cook couldn't wait to move back to the city.
"Over a bottle of wine one night, we realised that we actually liked art galleries and restaurants and doing nothing on the weekends," she said.
"Life in the country was working all week and then working all weekend to fix fences or build stuff or mow acres."
The Balmain couple say the years in the countryside were great for the children, "who can now deal with spiders and snakes and all those things city kids freak out about", but became a problem as they grew older.
"We spent so much time driving our kids around that we thought it really limited their independence," Ms Haberecht says. "In the city, kids have more opportunities and can get around on their own."
The couple also found it difficult to find enough employment while they lived in Berry and spent much of their time commuting back to Sydney for work.
"It took a real toll on the marriage because one of us was always single-parenting and the other was on the road," Ms Haberecht said.
"And you know what? I really hate gardening. I liked the idea of growing organic vegies, but I hated doing it."
Sunday, April 19, 2009
The "caring" one above
A SYDNEY woman who has been told she has six months to live will try to raise more than $2 million for life-saving surgery in the United States after her plea for government funding was rejected. Pauline Talty, 36, from Kellyville, was told on Thursday she would not receive money to have a small bowel transplant in Pittsburgh, under the Federal Government's Medical Treatment Overseas Program, because the operation could be performed at an Australian hospital. Specialists at Melbourne's Austin Hospital, while trained in the procedure, have never performed a bowel transplant because of a lack of donor bowels.
Ms Talty has short bowel syndrome, which developed after her intestines were damaged from radiotherapy she received for treatment of childhood cancer of the kidney.
She said having the operation in Melbourne would put her at "risk of serious complication or even death". "My case is very complex and I don't want to be their first one. I only get one shot at this and if the Austin messes it up, I die. I don't get a second chance."
Due to Ms Talty's stunted bowel growth from radiotherapy, she needs a child's bowel, but Professor Bob Jones, head of the Austin's liver transplant program, told her she may have to wait years for a donor. The average wait for a child's bowel in the US is 240 days. "I don't have years. I was told in October that I have 12 months to live and I have just wasted five months trying to appeal the Government's decision.
"In Pittsburgh, they have been doing this for 20 years and have a 96 per cent success rate, which they have only achieved in the past few years. They have an abundance of bowels so I am not giving up."
The federal Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, said: "I have real admiration for Pauline Talty, for her courage, and determination and I know this must be an incredibly difficult time for her. [But] there are clear, established guidelines for assessing applications under this program … which all applicants must meet."
Ms Talty, who was a business strategist before she became ill, has been in Royal North Shore and Royal Prince Alfred hospitals for 13 months. She is fed through tubes in her chest and groin. Ms Talty has already raised about $200,000 for her living expenses and nursing care while in the US but is now appealing to the public for money to pay for the bowel surgery.
A pedophile? Ho hum! say all the authorities
So he was left free to hurt those who reported him. An excellent example of how your government will NOT protect you
TWO girls who exposed their school principal as a sexual predator say their lives have been ruined since they were expelled from the Christian college. Friends Sarah Johnson and Bec Gavan blew the whistle on St Andrew's Christian School headmaster Frank Bailey, who is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to sex charges.
Their warning went unchecked by the Education Department, the Department of Community Services and police from the child protection unit, culminating a month later in the drugging and multiple rape of another teenage girl. In March, Bailey, 43, pleaded guilty to five counts of sexual intercourse with a person in his care.
A year earlier the NSW Ombudsman's office and others had been told of Bailey's breach of the Presbyterian Church's child protection policy for private schools. In late 2006, Hazel Bell, a science teacher at the school at Clarenza, near Grafton, went to deputy principal David Johnston and the board with concerns about Bailey, who became principal in 2005. Mrs Bell was concerned at Bailey's playground cuddles with female students, inappropriate behaviour at after-school Christian youth groups and student pool parties at his home. She said that within two weeks of making the complaint she was made redundant after Mr Johnston told an enraged Bailey of her concerns.
"Revealing my identity was a breach of the confidentiality guidelines in the Whistleblowers [Protection] Act, and I wrote to both the Ombudsman's office and DOCS, and Presbyterian Social Services, expressing my concerns after I was made redundant," said Mrs Bell, who had taught at the school for two years.
She said that within a month of his appointment, Bailey, who had taught at Broughton Anglican College at Campbelltown, abolished the school's "no touch" policy. He also wrote in the school newsletter that "students had free will to love whoever they liked". "He even announced at assembly one day that the no contact policy was out because 'families touch' and the school was 'one big family'," Mrs Bell said.
She has joined Ms Johnson and Ms Gavan, both 19, in legal action against the Presbyterian Church for damaging their reputations, potential career paths and earning capacity by failing to heed their warnings about Bailey.
The former principal pleaded guilty in the District Court at Grafton over the incidents, which took place at his home over a week in November 2007. He will be sentenced next month. The offences were committed a month after Ms Johnson and Ms Gavan, then 17 and in year 12, were expelled for voicing concern to other students and the deputy principal about Bailey's behaviour towards a teenager. Ms Gavan was expelled on the spot by Bailey on October 22, 2007, for telling him to his face: "Principal Bailey you are a pedophile."
Ms Johnson, who had been given detention for telling other girls she didn't like the way Bailey cuddled students or walked around Grafton with his arm around one, was expelled three days later for harassing and denigrating students and teachers, Mr Johnston wrote in his expulsion letter to her parents.
St Andrew's and the Ombudsman's Office said they could not comment on the matter.
Qld. police goons again!
Recent revelations about police misbehaviour don't seem to have slowed them down any. The cop who put his knee through Mulrunji Doomadgee's liver got away with it so I guess they have reason to be confident that they can do as they like without fear of retribution
THE Police Minister has ordered a report into the alleged assault of a handcuffed man at a Gold Coast police station after viewing a video of the incident. Neil Roberts has asked Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson for a report by the end of this week after being shown the footage by The Sunday Mail on Friday.
The incident, recorded by cameras at the Surfers Paradise Police Beat office, shows a male officer forcing the 19-year-old building worker to the floor after he allegedly refused to remove his socks. The man, who has his hands cuffed behind his back, hits the floor face first and when the policeman rolls him over there is a dark patch visible on the carpet under his face.
The man's mother, who uploaded the video on YouTube, claims the incident left her son with a $30,000 dental bill for jaw fractures and seven broken teeth.
An internal investigation by the police Ethical Standards Command (ESC), watched by the Crime and Misconduct Commission, last year cleared the police officer of using excessive force.
However, the man - who asked not to be identified because he fears police persecution - is using the video of the incident, on October 6, 2007, in a personal damages claim against the Queensland Police Service.
Mr Roberts admitted that his initial response after seeing the video was "one of concern" and he had asked the commissioner for more details. "There is no sound accompanying the vision to provide context to the situation," he said in a statement to The Sunday Mail.
The 19-year-old was one of several partygoers arrested following a brawl in Orchid Ave about 10pm. He was charged with a public nuisance offence, and later with obstructing police for having failed a direction to remove his socks.
The video shows him standing at the counter of the Police Beat beside a male officer while another officer speaks to him from behind the desk. Three other men, two also handcuffed, are seated along a wall below the camera. The 19-year-old kicks off his shoes, then appears to make an attempt to remove his socks with his feet before the officer forces him to the floor. The officer rolls him over, revealing the pool of blood before rolling him back on his face and walking into the station. The man eventually struggles to a sitting position and the other men seated in the station notice the bloodstain. They jump out of their seats before being restrained by police who then escort them out of the Police Beat - over the top of the man.
Mr Roberts said his initial advice from the commissioner was that the man was injured in the Orchid Ave brawl and was bleeding and spitting blood. "The officer involved took him to the floor to better manage the situation," he said. Mr Roberts said the man's mother made a complaint of excessive force, but investigations in December last year found the claim was unsubstantiated. He said despite repeated attempts by ESC investigators to speak with the man, he had declined to make a complaint or assist with the investigation. "I am also advised that the male person pleaded guilty to a charge of public nuisance and at that time, a second charge of obstruct(ing) police was withdrawn by agreement between police and his legal adviser."
The man's mother said he could not remember the incident. "My son has been to jail before. He's not a saint. He's stolen a car, he's been in a couple of fights," she said from her Gold Coast home. After her son's court case was finalised, she posted the footage on YouTube with a message saying: "This could be your child."
Planet doomsayers need a cold shower
The global warming scare campaign is reaching fever pitch. We have had one eminent Australian scientist claim this week to the senate inquiry on climate policy that global warming has already killed people in Australia. We have had another four CSIRO scientists at the inquiry arguing for Australian emissions reduction targets up to six times greater than planned, 90 per cent by 2050, and warning of catastrophic consequences otherwise.
We have also had the Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, agree on ABC's Lateline program this month that sea levels would rise as much as six metres due to human-caused global warming this century. Yet even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations body dedicated to discovering evidence of human-caused climate change, forecasts less than half a metre rise in the century to 2090.
It seems that when it comes to convincing the Government to take drastic, jobs-killing, economy-crushing and ultimately futile unilateral action on climate change, the ends justify the means. "How we get there matters much less than the fact that [emissions] are very low by 2050," CSIRO's Dr Michael Raupach, told the inquiry.
While debating with a National Party senator the wisdom of imposing reductions of carbon dioxide emissions, the University of Melbourne's Professor David Karoly declared: "Loss of jobs is important but loss of life is really important". True enough, but where is the evidence that climate change has killed a single Australian? More to the point, since Australia accounts for just 1.4 per cent of global emissions, even if we shut down all industry and move into caves, how would any theoretical effect on climate be more than negligible?
There is no doubting the passion and intelligence of these scientists and many of their colleagues in the climate change movement in advocating the cause of eliminating so-called "carbon pollution" to save the planet. But the tactics are not very scientific. As a University of Adelaide geologist, Dr Ian Plimer, writes in his new book, Heaven And Earth, Global Warming: The Missing Science, scientists are usually "anarchic, bow to no authority and construct conclusions based on evidence … Science is not dogmatic and the science of any phenomenon is never settled."
His dense book, crammed with 2311 footnotes, is a comprehensive scientific refutation of the beliefs underpinning the idea of human-caused climate change. "It is meant to be an overwhelming demolition job," said Plimer on the phone from Adelaide where he is preparing a field trip this weekend to Broken Hill to study rocks. He wrote the book, "for those out there with an open mind wanting to know more about how the planet works. The mind is like a parachute. It only works when it is open".
From the geologist's perspective he says our climate has always changed in cycles, affected by such variables as the orbit of the planet and our distance from the sun, which itself produces variable amounts of radiation. One of the lessons of 500 million years of history, he says, is that there is no relationship between carbon dioxide and temperature.
Plimer's book comes at a crucial time in the debate about whether and by how much human-produced carbon dioxide causes climate change, and, if it does, what are the effects, and can they be stopped. It is a warning to government, as it refines its emissions trading scheme, in the lead-up to the Copenhagen Climate Convention next year, not to back itself into the corner of relying on dubious computer models in an attempt to stop climate change by reducing so-called "carbon pollution".
Plimer says the business world would never "make trillion-dollar decisions without a comprehensive and expensive due diligence". "To have government policy based on propaganda is very dangerous."
Yet our Government has already promised to reduce emissions by 5 to 15 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020, and 60 per cent by 2050, and is trying to construct a carbon trading scheme by July. A Senate report into this Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, tabled on Thursday, demonstrated the difficulty of consensus, containing, as it did, three dissenting reports.
Meanwhile, the coal industry has warned that at least two NSW coalmines will have to close under climate legislation already planned. Those power outages in Sydney lately will be just a small taste of things to come. The consequences are everywhere, with cost of living surges ultimately borne by individuals.
And for what? Plimer says that if government had read the fine print of "the crucial Chapter 5" of the IPCC's 2007 report "Humans Responsible for Climate Change" they would have realised that it is "based on the opinions of just five independent scientists". "Governments are planning to structurally change their nations' economies where most people will suffer from increased taxes and costs … based on the opinion of the fabulous five whose computer models have not been able to accurately predict the cooling that has occurred since 1998," Plimer says.
Plimer, 62, has spent much of his life working in Broken Hill, in the real world of rocks and soil, far enough from the social pressure of academia to think for himself. Such independent scientific dissenters have been demonised, their evidence marginalised, as climate change has become a quasi-religious belief. But you cannot stop one side from debating what is the biggest policy decision of our era. Plimer's book, accessible as it is to the layperson, will help redress the power imbalance between those who claim to own the knowledge and the rest of us.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Hot air the only response from Rudd. He is furious that people respond to the incentives he has put in front of them. Fancy reality interfering with his cosy Leftist dreams! Reality interferes with all cosy Leftist dreams eventually
THE Navy is moving to intercept another boat of suspected asylum seekers, as a report comes to light warning Australia has become a magnet for people smugglers. The latest boat is thought to be carrying at least 100 people, twice as many as the boat that was intercepted and later burned earlier this week. It was expected to be intercepted overnight or sometime today. Indonesian authorities have also arrested 68 suspected asylum-seekers from Afghanistan, who were believed to be bound for Australia.
The latest arrivals came as it was revealed Australia's elite police force warned the Government that softer border protection laws would make the country a magnet for people smuggling. The secret intelligence briefings prepared by the Australian Federal Police were recently delivered to senior government ministers. The Courier-Mail understands the AFP also expressed serious reservations last year as the Rudd Government wound back John Howard's tougher approach to immigration detention.
Minister for Home Affairs Bob Debus last night refused to disclose details of the AFP intelligence. But the revelations are likely to harden the Opposition's claim that Labor's softer stance on border protection has contributed to a surge in the lucrative people-smuggling trade.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd yesterday hit out at the Opposition's accusations, saying people smugglers should "rot in hell" and were the "absolute scum of the Earth". "People smugglers are the vilest form of human life," Mr Rudd said. "They trade on the tragedy of others and that is why they should rot in jail and in my own view rot in hell."
On the defensive, Mr Rudd said Labor's immigration policies were hardline, tough and targeted. He said his Government had dedicated more resources to combat people smugglers than any previous Australian government and would "continue to match the resources necessary as the challenges unfold".
But the AFP warnings to the Rudd Government were based in part on intelligence picked up by officers in Indonesia, which has become a key base for the people-smuggling trade.
Public hospitals that can't even get simple basics right
If putting the correct ID armband on a baby is too hard for them, what does that say about more complex things that they do?
NEWBORN babies in Queensland are being regularly mixed up and wrongly tagged, with some errors taking days to fix. In one case, a mother had to have HIV and other tests after being given the wrong baby to breastfeed. The blunders have more than doubled in three years, with staff blaming distractions, poor communication and increasing workloads.
Newborns are supposed to have three tags for accurate identification but documents obtained by The Courier-Mail reveal there were 57 bungled identifications last year. Parents or Queensland Health staff found almost half of them had no tags or all three tags with the wrong name, mother's name or patient number.
In the breastfeeding case at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital last October, a mother had to have hepatitis and HIV tests after being given the wrong baby. "(The) wrong baby was taken to the mother," the report obtained under Freedom of Information laws found. "Baby's arm bands were not checked. Baby was fed by wrong mother before mistake was discovered."
Another case took four days to solve after a baby was transferred from Townsville Hospital to Cairns Hospital. The baby arrived in Cairns with no tags and weighing 160g less than when it left after staff in Townsville failed to conduct routine ID checks for three days before the transfer. "The baby has been identified as certain as possible at this point in time," staff said on October 2, 2006, after checking every baby at both hospitals. The identity was finally confirmed on October 5.
Queensland Health child safety director Corelle Davies yesterday defended the increase in cases, saying the bungles were always rectified before the babies went home. "Accurate patient identification is fundamental to the provision of safe health care and is taken seriously by staff in all Queensland Health facilities," Ms Davies said. "Staff are trained and work hard to ensure babies have correct identification. Very stringent guidelines are in place to ensure baby name tags are checked by both the mother and staff."
However, Australian College of Midwives state executive officer Jenny Gamble said the errors were a result of an understaffed system requiring urgent restructure. "Every man and his dog is involved - midwives, nurses, different sorts of allied health staff -- but no one is there all the time like two or three midwives could be," she said. "We need it to be much more personal."
The FOI documents show the number of cases reported jumped from 27 in 2006 to 55 in 2007 and 57 last year. In a typical case at Toowoomba Base Hospital last October, a staff member bathing a newborn discovered the baby had no identification. "When I undressed the baby to do a demonstration bath, I discovered that the baby had no identification bands and no identification tape on her back," the staffer said in a report.
Pesky! Antarctic ice growing, not shrinking
Greenies shriek about the bits of ice that break off but ignore the overall picture. I noted just such an instance of Greenie bias on 6th., when I referred to a Green/Left blog post as "an amusing exercise in unbalanced reporting". The author of the post, Tom Yulsman of CEJournal, was outraged and said he was just doing his best to set out what was happening. See the comments he left on my blog post. I hereby challenge him to report the findings below. That should show what he really is
All the Warmist agonizing about the Antarctic is just an attempt to con the gullible anyhow. The average temperature of the Antarctic is around minus 40 degrees C from memory so the few degrees of warming that even Greenie extremists predict are not going to bring that temperature anywhere near the melting point (zero degrees) where ice turns to water. But the Warmists have GOT to get that ice to melt in order to have the sea level rise that they crave -- so basic physics is totally ignored and the scientific ignorance of the general public is relied upon instead
ICE is expanding in much of Antarctica, contrary to the widespread public belief that global warming is melting the continental ice cap. The results of ice-core drilling and sea ice monitoring indicate there is no large-scale melting of ice over most of Antarctica, although experts are concerned at ice losses on the continent's western coast.
Antarctica has 90 per cent of the Earth's ice and 80 per cent of its fresh water. Extensive melting of Antarctic ice sheets would be required to raise sea levels substantially, and ice is melting in parts of west Antarctica. The destabilisation of the Wilkins ice shelf generated international headlines this month. However, the picture is very different in east Antarctica, which includes the territory claimed by Australia. East Antarctica is four times the size of west Antarctica and parts of it are cooling. The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research report prepared for last week's meeting of Antarctic Treaty nations in Washington noted the South Pole had shown "significant cooling in recent decades".
Australian Antarctic Division glaciology program head Ian Allison said sea ice losses in west Antarctica over the past 30 years had been more than offset by increases in the Ross Sea region, just one sector of east Antarctica. "Sea ice conditions have remained stable in Antarctica generally," Dr Allison said.
The melting of sea ice -- fast ice and pack ice -- does not cause sea levels to rise because the ice is in the water. Sea levels may rise with losses from freshwater ice sheets on the polar caps. In Antarctica, these losses are in the form of icebergs calved from ice shelves formed by glacial movements on the mainland.
Last week, federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett said experts predicted sea level rises of up to 6m from Antarctic melting by 2100, but the worst case scenario foreshadowed by the SCAR report was a 1.25m rise. Mr Garrett insisted global warming was causing ice losses throughout Antarctica. "I don't think there's any doubt it is contributing to what we've seen both on the Wilkins shelf and more generally in Antarctica," he said.
Dr Allison said there was not any evidence of significant change in the mass of ice shelves in east Antarctica nor any indication that its ice cap was melting. "The only significant calvings in Antarctica have been in the west," he said. And he cautioned that calvings of the magnitude seen recently in west Antarctica might not be unusual. "Ice shelves in general have episodic carvings and there can be large icebergs breaking off -- I'm talking 100km or 200km long -- every 10 or 20 or 50 years."
Ice core drilling in the fast ice off Australia's Davis Station in East Antarctica by the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Co-Operative Research Centre shows that last year, the ice had a maximum thickness of 1.89m, its densest in 10 years. The average thickness of the ice at Davis since the 1950s is 1.67m.
A paper to be published soon by the British Antarctic Survey in the journal Geophysical Research Letters is expected to confirm that over the past 30 years, the area of sea ice around the continent has expanded.
Big climate backdown coming? Might be best to dump ETS, says Green guru
Professor Ross Garnaut says it's lineball whether the scheme in its current form is worth doing. He urged senators to make substantial changes during a committee hearing today. Prof Garnaut, an economist, was hired by the federal and state governments to advise them on what to do about climate change.
"If there were no changes at all it would be a lineball call whether it was better to push ahead or say ... we'll have another crack at it and do a better one when time is right,'' Prof Garnaut said. He set out the three major changes he wants to the scheme, which is the main way to tackle climate change and is due to start next year.
Prof Garnaut wants a deeper cut to greenhouse gas emissions. The scheme will cut emissions by five to 15 per cent by 2020; Prof Garnaut wants the upper limit increased to 25 per cent, conditional on other countries taking similar steps.
He wants the Government to commit more money for new, green technologies. And he's worried the ETS gives too many free permits to industry. He wants an escape clause which would make it easier to stop the free permits.
Prof Garnaut said he was agonising over whether it was better to bring in an imperfect scheme or hold off and try for a better one later. The global recession meant "it is not a good time for good policy''.
Useless West Australian police
No juicy opportunities for corruption that time, I guess
A JUDGE has slammed police for their handling of a long-running domestic dispute which ended in the brutal murder of a Perth woman. Anthony Thomas Evans, 32, was jailed today for a minimum of 14 years for killing his partner, Alana Dakin, 33, with a knife on November 13, 2007. Evans cut her arm to the bone then, as she lay on the floor abusing him, he slashed her chest and severed her jugular vein at the home they shared in Girrawheen. Her other arm was in a cast – an injury from a previous domestic dispute - while she was being butchered. Justice Narelle Johnson said Evans had pressed down on her chest to increase the flow of blood from her wounds as she was dying.
Evans was previously found guilty of murder. He appeared in the WA Supreme Court today for sentencing. Justice Johnson was highly critical of the way police dealt with the five reported cases of domestic disputes between the two. “I have real concerns with the police case, they just accepted everything he told them,” she said. “I don’t see the police reaction as being indicative of the informed explanation of what happened. “He (Evans) was treated as the victim, while she is the one who has ended up dead.”
She said one police officer had suggested counselling to Evans, while telling Ms Dakin that it was an unviable option for her. She said on one occasion Ms Dakin spat on attending police, who then accepted Evans' version of events “despite her being the one who was constantly injured”. “You were being treated like the victim,” she said. She said that in one police report Evans was described as fine, calm and cooperative and that his version of self-defence was accepted.
Justice Johnson said Evans' state of mental health was a mitigating factor, but it did not contribute significantly to his actions. She said Ms Dakin’s alcoholism would have been difficult to live with but “she did not deserve the amount of violence perpetrated on her”.
Ms Dakin has a son, Zebediah, from a previous relationship. He turns six on May 3, and is being cared for by her parents, Marius and Rose Dakin, both 56. “We are happy with the outcome and that man got what he deserved,” Mrs Dakin said outside court alongside her husband. She said her daughter would be alive today if the police had handled the situation differently.
Ms Dakin’s close friend Jane Maton said the murder was preventable “if police had acted the way they should have”. “I find it devastating that he was given life yet will be eligible for parole in 14 years,” she said. “I hope he rots in that jail cell and feels the pain he has caused every second, every minute, every day and every night and even that won’t be enough.”
A victim impact statement from Mrs Dakin said Evans’ family had prevented her from collecting her dead daughter’s belongings. Mrs Dakin described it as “the loneliest night of her life” when she went looking for new clothing to dress her in. “She tried to find something for her daughter to wear or she (Mrs Dakin) would have found a sheet to cover her body,” Justice Johnson said.
Friday, April 17, 2009
In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is alarmed about the proposals to teach political correctness in kindergartens
Killer government phone operators have been "counselled"
They should be charged with murder. Not one out of the three bitches behaved responsibly and a young man died as a result. He could have been saved if any of them had taken their lifesaving job seriously. But what can you expect of government bureaucrats? Their wimpy boss even knew what they were like but no action was taken. The kid could have called almost anyone else and got better treatment. Calling the official emergency number was his big mistake. The number 000 is the Australian equivalent of America's 911. There are similar problems with 911 operators in the USA
The last thing David Iredale would have expected when he called triple-0 was sarcasm. But that's what the Sydney schoolboy received during frantic calls for help when he became lost while bushwalking in the Blue Mountains. "OK, so you have just wandered into the middle of nowhere, is that what you're saying?" was one operator's response. "There's no need to yell," was another's.
The officer in charge of the Redfern call centre of the NSW Ambulance Service yesterday admitted there were serious deficiencies in the way the 17-year-old was dealt with when he made five calls to the ambulance service about midday on December 11, 2006. Superintendent Peter Payne told an inquest into David Iredale's death that uncaring, sarcastic and dismissive attitudes among phone operators had been a "disease" within the organisation.
David and two school friends were on the second day of a three-day walk in the Blue Mountains when, severely dehydrated, he became separated from the others.
The court heard a major failure of all calls was that relevant information David provided about his whereabouts was not recorded or passed on to police rescuers. The operators had been "fixated" on asking for a street address because it was in accordance with their training and the steps they were to follow within the computer program. "One particular call, the last call we received from Mr Iredale, the calltaker's demeanour appeared quite uncaring, not responsive to information received and the distress that was evident from the caller," Superintendent Payne said.
"Do you agree that there is no room ever for sarcasm with triple-0 operators?" counsel assisting the inquest, Jeremy Gormly, asked him. "I do," Superintendent Payne replied. He agreed the behaviour of three operators was worthy of an internal investigation and possible action. Two operators had been "counselled" about their behaviour. Superintendent Payne agreed one operator's mind was "not on the job" when she asked David where to send the ambulance after he repeatedly told her he was in the bush.
"I take it the Iredales can rest as easy as they possibly can, given the circumstances, that the NSW Ambulance Service will alter its training problems … in order to more usefully gain information from … people who find themselves in non-urban areas such as David?" counsel for the Iredale family, Michael Fordham, asked. "Yes, we will," Superintendent Payne replied.
The inquest heard that two of the operators were involved in a similar case in November 2007, where they continually asked for a street address of a caller who had had a boating accident [And who was marooned on an island without streets].
Despite this, and changes made days ago to how operators respond to calls from remote areas, the inquest heard there were still no direct guidelines on questions to help locate callers who did not have a street address.
Kevin Rudd's policies prove harsh for illegal immigrants
JOHN Howard was called cruel for his Pacific Solution. But at least no one died. At least three boat people now dead. So how much "kinder" do Kevin Rudd's policies seem now? John Howard was supposed to be the cruel one, said Labor. It was Howard when Prime Minister who put in the Pacific Solution, whisking illegal boat people to Nauru, rather than land them here. Too harsh, said Kevin Rudd, and scrapped it.
It was Howard who cut the legal circus that allowed illegal immigrants to play the system for years, until we gave up trying to deport them. Too harsh, said Rudd, and laid on lawyers.
It was Howard who cut the lure of benefits and then imposed on illegal immigrants the imminent threat of return. Too harsh, said Rudd, and scrapped the Temporary Protection Visas, giving all illegal immigrants - including well-heeled ones fleeing no particular danger - instant access to permanent residency with all the tempting benefits and rights.
Too harsh, said Rudd. And enlightened opinion cheered. Now we were nice. Really? So how nice is it to have now lured at least three people to their deaths? To have not one child overboard - oh, what a confected scandal that was - but a whole boatload of 49? Yes, indeed. This is a "people overboard" scandal, but for real this time. The Rudd Government tried at first to deny and dodge, but West Australian Premier Colin Barnett let the mangy cat out of the bag - Defence sources had told him the explosion was caused when the boat people spread petrol around their vessel, clearly to prevent being turned away.
Here's now what critics of "cruel" Howard so conveniently and willfully forgot or overlooked. Howard's "cruel" policies saved lives. While Rudd's "kind" ones now kill.
Howard stopped the illegal people smuggling almost instantly from the introduction in 2001 of his Pacific Solution. Boat arrivals went from 54 in 2000-01 to none in 2002-03. There was only one boat arrival in the two years after that, and just three in the year before Rudd's election. But now? The boat that blew up yesterday was the sixth to arrive this year - and the fourth in just a fortnight. It's also the 13th since September, when the Rudd Government announced its latest measures to soften our treatment of refugees. This short year already, we've had 276 boat people arrive, compared with just 179 in all of last year.
But it wasn't just the illegal immigrants that Howard stopped - people rich enough to pay perhaps $10,000 a head to get here, and choosy enough to pass through several safe countries before settling on ours. Howard also stopped the deaths - the drowning at sea of people drawn to our wealth, peace and too-easy welcome. Hundreds had died before he acted, most notoriously in the foundering of the SIEV X just off Indonesia's coast. A whole conspiracy over that sinking was built that falsely suggested Howard had blood on his hands, refusing to let the navy rescue the drowning. The Melbourne Theatre Company even commissioned a play showing a character clearly meant to be Treasurer Peter Costello letting the SIEV X passengers drown.
But if politicians must be blamed for boat people dying, then blame Rudd rather than Howard. It's still unfair, yes, but far, far more justified. Rudd and his ministers have tried to insist the sudden rise in arrivals has nothing to do with them going soft. It's Afghans fleeing a country gone bad, they claim, as if Afghanistan hasn't been a basket case for years. But Steve Cook, chief of mission for the International Organisation for Migration in Indonesia, had warned already in December: "People smugglers have clearly noted that there has been a change in policy and they're testing the envelope. "Up until about a year ago there was very little people-smuggling activity. Over the last year there's been a considerable up-kick. There are rumours of a lot of organising going on."
And it was already clear that tragedy was just one boat away. As I wrote at the time: "Howard's 'inhuman' policies stopped not just the people smugglers but the deaths at sea. If some of these boats lured here by Kevin Rudd now sink, how truly 'kinder' is he?" Ask the moralisers now.
But good news. Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus at last admitted yesterday that laws against people smuggling must be toughened, after all. But here's the sick joke. It's Indonesia's laws that are too soft, he claims, not our own. "We are in negotiation . . . and have been for some time with the Indonesians," he burbled. "We are hopeful that they will change a number of their laws, particularly the laws that affect people smuggling directly."
A farce. Pardon if Kevin Andrews, the former Howard Government Immigration Minister so reviled as vicious by Labor and the media, now allows himself a smile. "Labor's response shows how different it is to govern than criticise," he said yesterday. And how different is seeming good from actually achieving it.
No privacy under socialism
Patient files demanded from doctors
THE Rudd Government will demand patients' intimate medical records - from past infectious diseases to current medications - under a plan to catch doctors defrauding Medicare. Doctors will be forced to hand over the patient medical files to prove they have performed the services they have claimed in a move the Government says will save taxpayers about $148 million over four years.
The plan immediately sparked warnings about the dangers of providing bureaucrats with highly sensitive personal information. But while the draft legislation - which was released on the eve of the Easter long weekend - was condemned by the Australian Medical Association and the Australian Privacy Foundation, the Government yesterday argued it was needed to ensure the sustainability of Medicare.
AMA president Rosanna Capolingua warned that patients would not be honest with their doctors if they knew their records could be seized. "The patient record will be completely exposed, extracts obtained, copied, retained and potentially submitted in court for all to see," Dr Capolingua said. "Doctors will be compelled to hand over highly sensitive medical information to justify Medicare claims, potentially including a patient's intimate concerns and examination findings, their test results, weight, sexual health, infections - nothing is protected."
The Health Insurance Amendment (Compliance) Bill 2009 also allows the Government to fine health professionals who make incorrect claims of more than $2500.
A Senate inquiry will be held into the legislation. Human Services Minister Joe Ludwig said yesterday only authorised Medicare staff would be able to view "relevant" extracts within doctors' files, and information would be stored securely and then destroyed after the audit process. [In Britain, bureaucrats LOSE similar information roughly once a month -- exposing it to anyone who finds it. How would you like your medical details left on a train for anyone to pick up and read? That's what the British experience is. Does anybody seriously think that our bureaucrats are more careful?]
Climate plan hits mines
A CONFIDENTIAL industry briefing to Federal MPs warned at least two NSW coal mines would close under planned climate change laws. Mining giant Xstrata Australia's chairman Peter Coates said the Emissions Trading Scheme would make some mines unprofitable and cut new investment. His warnings, regarded as extremely sensitive in the industry, added to concerns the Government's ETS, to start in July 2010, would cost thousands of jobs.
They were revealed ahead of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's bid to downplay the fears by launching a "think tank" on cleaning up the coal industry. Mr Rudd will today open the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute in Canberra, to examine ways to reduce and divert emissions.
In briefings in recent weeks in his role as Minerals Council of Australia climate change committee chairman, Mr Coates gave two case studies - an Illawarra mine and one in the Hunter. He said that the Illawarra mine produced 1.5 million tonnes a year of gassy coking coal, costing an extra $27 million a year to buy a permit for its carbon emissions under the ETS. The Hunter mine's 1.8 million tonnes a year of gassy thermal coal would add $39 million to its costs. Mr Coates' study found both mines and others will close, leading to 5000 to 10,000 job losses in the coal industry nationally.
He did not identify the mines and Xstrata does not have an Illawarra operation. An Xstrata spokesman yesterday told The Daily Telegraph the company would not name mines that might be threatened because it would alarm workers, saying only that "marginal, gassy mines" would be most at risk.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
SOME of the families in detention on Christmas Island spent almost two months in hotel accommodation in Indonesia before travelling to a small island for a three-day boat trip to the tiny Australian territory.
A little girl from the group, whose wooden boat eluded a Customs patrol vessel to dock at Christmas Island's main jetty, yesterday took her first steps outside the gates of the island's guarded and gated family accommodation complex since she arrived with her parents before dawn on April 8.
The 15m boat that brought them here is less than five years old and more seaworthy than most used by asylum seekers in recent years, but it was narrow enough to cause seasickness. It had one Indonesian crew member. The group's belongings, including clothes and toiletries, were drenched by seawater and rain during the journey. Some in the group of 38, mostly Iraqis and including seven children, have since told how the boat's diesel engine stopped during the journey, reducing the women and children to tears. Ten single males from the boat are being kept at the island's $400million Immigration Detention Centre.
Accompanied by adults and an immigration official, the girl went only a few metres to and from a makeshift office of the commonwealth department that will decide whether her family's asylum claim is valid. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship takes asylum seekers through a series of basic questions, including "Why did you come here?" It is during this processing stage, which can take up to two months, that the girl and the rest of the group will be kept under guard and behind fences, separate from the community and asylum seekers who arrived earlier.
The questioning and checks will continue today for the April 8 boatload as 16 men and boys from Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan receive permanent visas and are jetted off Christmas Island for new lives in Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland. [Just what we need: More arrogant Muslims to hate us] They include four men and four adolescent boys on board a boatload of 35 asylum seekers intercepted on December 2 last year on Ashmore Reef, 320km from the Kimberley coast. The adolescents have been attending school on Christmas Island, and living in the community with paid guardians from the organisation Life Without Borders. The other eight to receive permanent protection visas today are men whose boat was intercepted 12 nautical miles off Ashmore Reef on January 19.
A spokesman for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship said each of the 16 had been provided with resettlement support, and foster care arrangements had been made for the four adolescents. Of the 455 unauthorised arrivals, including crew members, since last September, 131 have been granted visas.
Refugee lawyer David Mann said people should not make judgments about the unusual group of asylum seekers who docked at Christmas Island last Wednesday simply because they were well-dressed or brought personal belongings. [One should not suspect that they are economic migrants rather than genuine regugees??]
Royal North Shore Hospital in trouble still
Firetrap fears for children at NSW government hospital
SICK children are being treated in the maternity unit of a major hospital because its children's ward is still a firetrap. More than a year after the children's ward at Royal North Shore Hospital was deemed a deathtrap, The Daily Telegraph can reveal that the hospital has been forced to set up a makeshift children's ward. It is also still treating children in its children's ward, which was deemed a deathtrap by fire investigators. Sources told The Daily Telegraph that about half the beds in the children's ward had been moved to the maternity unit because airconditioning vents still had not been coated with fire retardant.
It is the latest bungle to hit the trouble-plagued hospital and its $1 billion upgrade. A fire brigade's inspection exposed the safety risk in April last year, yet yesterday the safety upgrade still had not been completed.
Children had also been allowed to remain in the ward despite work going on there. Others were moved to a part of the maternity unit, fenced off by a makeshift plywood gate with a piece of A4 paper stuck to it reading "Children's Ward".
The mother of a child recently discharged from the hospital told The Daily Telegraph she was shocked to learn of the arrangements and would have taken her sick baby elsewhere had she known. Brianna Casey took her six-month-old baby Oliver Herngren to Royal North Shore with bronchialitis, a viral disease particularly dangerous to children under a year old. Ms Casey was shocked to discover Oliver was put into the maternity ward. "They couldn't find a bed for us upstairs in the children's ward," she said.
Ms Casey said that while staff had done the best they could, the area seemed completely inappropriate. They even had to bring down a cot for her son. "There's no equipment. This place is a joke," she said.
It is understood that when the ward was handed over by builders in 2003 it complied with fire safety regulations. However, the rules have been tightened since then and the building has not been upgraded accordingly. At least 15,000 children pass through the hospital's emergency department every year.
Beware the climate of conformity
What I am about to write questions much of what I have written in this space, in numerous columns, over the past five years. Perhaps what I have written can withstand this questioning. Perhaps not. The greater question is, am I - and you - capable of questioning our own orthodoxies and intellectual habits? Let's see.
The subject of this column is not small. It is a book entitled Heaven And Earth, which will be published tomorrow. It has been written by one of Australia's foremost Earth scientists, Professor Ian Plimer. He is a confronting sort of individual, polite but gruff, courteous but combative. He can write extremely well, and Heaven And Earth is a brilliantly argued book by someone not intimidated by hostile majorities or intellectual fashions.
The book's 500 pages and 230,000 words and 2311 footnotes are the product of 40 years' research and a depth and breadth of scholarship. As Plimer writes: "An understanding of climate requires an amalgamation of astronomy, solar physics, geology, geochronology, geochemistry, sedimentology, tectonics, palaeontology, palaeoecology, glaciology, climatology, meteorology, oceanography, ecology, archaeology and history."
The most important point to remember about Plimer is that he is Australia's most eminent geologist. As such, he thinks about time very differently from most of us. He takes the long, long view. He looks at climate over geological, archaeological, historical and modern time. He writes: "Past climate changes, sea-level changes and catastrophes are written in stone."
Much of what we have read about climate change, he argues, is rubbish, especially the computer modelling on which much current scientific opinion is based, which he describes as "primitive". Errors and distortions in computer modelling will be exposed in time. (As if on cue, the United Nations' peak scientific body on climate change was obliged to make an embarrassing admission last week that some of its computers models were wrong.)
Plimer does not dispute the dramatic flux of climate change - and this column is not about Australia's water debate - but he fundamentally disputes most of the assumptions and projections being made about the current causes, mostly led by atmospheric scientists, who have a different perspective on time. "It is little wonder that catastrophist views of the future of the planet fall on fertile pastures. The history of time shows us that depopulation, social disruption, extinctions, disease and catastrophic droughts take place in cold times . and life blossoms and economies boom in warm times. Planet Earth is dynamic. It always changes and evolves. It is currently in an ice age."
If we look at the last 6 million years, the Earth was warmer than it is now for 3 million years. The ice caps of the Arctic, Antarctica and Greenland are geologically unusual. Polar ice has only been present for less than 20 per cent of geological time. What follows is an intense compression of the book's 500 pages and all their provocative arguments and conclusions:
Is dangerous warming occurring? No. Is the temperature range observed in the 20th century outside the range of normal variability? No.
The Earth's climate is driven by the receipt and redistribution of solar energy. Despite this crucial relationship, the sun tends to be brushed aside as the most important driver of climate. Calculations on supercomputers are primitive compared with the complex dynamism of the Earth's climate and ignore the crucial relationship between climate and solar energy.
"To reduce modern climate change to one variable, CO2, or a small proportion of one variable - human-induced CO2 - is not science. To try to predict the future based on just one variable (CO2) in extraordinarily complex natural systems is folly. Yet when astronomers have the temerity to show that climate is driven by solar activities rather than CO2 emissions, they are dismissed as dinosaurs undertaking the methods of old-fashioned science."
Over time, the history of CO2 content in the atmosphere has been far higher than at present for most of time. Atmospheric CO2 follows temperature rise. It does not create a temperature rise. CO2 is not a pollutant. Global warming and a high CO2 content bring prosperity and longer life.
The hypothesis that human activity can create global warming is extraordinary because it is contrary to validated knowledge from solar physics, astronomy, history, archaeology and geology. "But evidence no longer matters. And any contrary work published in peer-reviewed journals is just ignored. We are told that the science on human-induced global warming is settled. Yet the claim by some scientists that the threat of human-induced global warming is 90 per cent certain (or even 99 per cent) is a figure of speech. It has no mathematical or evidential basis."
Observations in nature differ markedly from the results generated by nearly two dozen computer-generated climate models. These climate models exaggerate the effects of human CO2 emissions into the atmosphere because few of the natural variables are considered. Natural systems are far more complex than computer models.
The setting up by the UN of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 1988 gave an opportunity to make global warming the main theme of environmental groups. "The IPCC process is related to environmental activism, politics and opportunism. It is unrelated to science. Current zeal around human-induced climate change is comparable to the certainty professed by Creationists or religious fundamentalists."
Ian Plimer is not some isolated gadfly. He is a prize-winning scientist and professor. The back cover of Heaven And Earth carries a glowing endorsement from the President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus, who now holds the rotating presidency of the European Union. Numerous rigorous scientists have joined Plimer in dissenting from the prevailing orthodoxy. Heaven And Earth is an evidence-based attack on conformity and orthodoxy, including my own, and a reminder to respect informed dissent and beware of ideology subverting evidence.
Crazy Rudd government plan to install a high speed fibre network
It's a Rudd hobbyhorse so it it going to be done by hook or by crook -- even if the result is a white elephant. Telstra were wise enough not to want a bar of it
FEW communications technologies are as remarkable as fibre optics. Commercial fibre-optic cable first became available in 1981; since then hundreds of millions of cable kilometres have been laid across the world. Over the years, the quality of the cable has improved dramatically: by providing a progressively clearer transmission medium, fibre-optic cables have allowed vast increases in the volumes of information carried over the light waves they channel. Were the oceans as transparent as the cables that are now available, you would be able to stand in the middle of the Pacific and see the ocean floor.
It is consequently uncontroversial that fibre will be at the heart of future telecommunications networks. But there are crucial issues of timing and transition. We have a ubiquitous copper network; it makes no sense to scrap or duplicate that network, which already relies extensively on fibre optics for fat pipes where they are most needed, for as long as it can serve demand at less cost.
Determining that timing is no simple matter. No doubt, demand for data transmission is growing rapidly. Propelled by applications such as YouTube, Australian data traffic has increased more than a hundredfold this decade. Projected increases in residential demand, however, are readily capable of being carried by a combination of fibre in the backbone network with copper, and hybrid fibre-coaxial (used by pay-television networks) for the last mile. Moving fibre closer to the home using clever technology combinations would allow capacity expansion at a fraction of the cost of complete replacement.
The capacity increase would obviously be greater were fibre pushed all the way to the home. The reality, however, is that the vast majority of homes with access to premium DSL, which offers speeds of up to 20megabits per second, choose not to take it. Similarly, very few customers within the footprint of HFC cable networks, which offer up to 30mps, take the high speeds on offer.
Given that, will consumers value capacity of 100mps at more than its substantial additional cost?
The simplest way of allowing this judgment to be made is to leave it to the market. That is largely what is being done in the other advanced economies, with the exception of South Korea, Singapore, Greece and New Zealand (where a publicly funded scheme was an election commitment of the new Government). Those exceptions aside, public funding is generally limited to subsidising service in loss-making areas, with Finland, for example, adopting a controversial scheme to fund fibre rollout in its areas of sparsest population. And even where substantial public funding is being provided, there is little or no direct government involvement in network construction and operation.
The assumption underpinning a market-based approach is straightforward: given a regulatory framework that provides the confidence required for long-term investments, commercial investors are best placed to bear and manage the risks involved in determining timing and technologies. The pragmatic outcome is that private shareholders, rather than taxpayers, shoulder the costs of any mistakes.
There is no reason why this approach would not work for Australia. Our central business districts, where the demand clearly justifies the investment (and where telecommunications has been lightly regulated), are awash with fibre. Were our telecommunications regulatory arrangements more supportive of long-term investment, other parts of the network would also have been upgraded long ago. The Government therefore has a low-cost option: fix the regulatory framework and let markets do the heavy lifting, with properly targeted, technology-agnostic and competitively neutral subsidies for service provision in country areas.
Instead, the Rudd Government has opted for a central planning approach.
The rationale for the decision appears to be the failure of the Government's $4.7 billion tender for a fibre-to-the-node network. Few doubt that process deserves to be buried, but that hardly justifies spending 10 times more on the funeral than one had been willing to spend when the deceased was alive. Rather, a proper cost-benefit analysis of alternative options should have been carried out and published for public scrutiny: "announcement first, assessment later" has prevailed instead.
Moreover, what little analysis has been disclosed is plainly erroneous. For example, the Government claims its proposed approach is cost-effective because it avoids the need to pay Telstra for use of its copper network. But this is like saying that it is cheaper to dig a tunnel underneath a property than to pay the owners compensation for building a road through it. The payment to the owners is largely a transfer, which at most redistributes society's resources; in contrast, the digging is a cost, consuming resources that could be put to other uses. Confusing costs and transfers is a sacking offence in even first-year cost-benefit analysis.
The Government also claims that going direct to fibre is justified on cost-benefit grounds because it avoids the expense of intermediate upgrades. But that merely assumes that a near-term move to complete replacement is indeed warranted. No evidence has been given for that assumption, while there is plenty of investor choice and consumer behaviour, in Australia and overseas, that cautions against it.
The commercial assessment seems even sparser. No business case has been developed, yet ministers promise both low prices and (as required by the Competition Principles Agreement) a fully commercial rate of return. However, even with high take-up rates, breaking even requires national retail prices of $160 a month; to break even with lower take-up rates would require retail prices higher than $200 a month. Given those prices, the network will struggle in metropolitan areas, where it will face strong competition, while bearing large losses in the country (where costs per line will be more than $300 a month).
Compounding the risk of losses is the fact that laying pipes is easy, but providing service that reliably meets customer expectations is incredibly hard, as TransACT and many others have discovered. On how this will be done, the Government has nothing to say.
In short, everything points to a decision taken in haste and then announced as a fait accompli. Were the choice indeed between this costly, risky and poorly documented scheme and doing nothing, then it would be wiser to do nothing. But telecommunications is vital to our future: it deserves more than a stunt. With so much at stake, the Senate should demand a comprehensive, independent and fully transparent review, in the best tradition of Australian public policy, before any final decision is taken.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Bureaucratic emergency operator could only go by the book -- and scolded man as he lay dying in the bush
TRIPLE-0 operators told off a dying teenager as he made desperate calls for help while lost in bushland in the Blue Mountains - even repeatedly asking him to name the street he was in. An inquest into David Iredale's death yesterday heard six heart-breaking calls made to emergency services after he became lost and disorientated during a bushwalk in December 2006, The Daily Telegraph reported.
The 17-year-old was two days into a three-day trek, having run out of water almost 24 hours earlier and endured temperatures of up to 37C, when he made the first of the increasingly frantic emergency calls. Ambulance officers admit to rescue failure
During the calls, which dropped out each time due to poor reception in the area, David told ambulance staff he was lost, had fainted and was unable to walk. Despite telling operators he was deep within the Blue Mountains National Park, he was repeatedly asked "What's the address, what suburb are you in?" and "Can you name any of the streets?". During one of the calls an operator scolded David for his tone, telling the scared teen "Don't yell at me" when he raised his voice to overcome the poor phone reception.
David's parents Stephen and Mary Anne walked out of the inquest as recordings of David's increasingly frantic pleas for help in his final moments were played.
Michael Windsor SC, representing the NSW Ambulance Service, admitted that there had been major failings. The inquiry heard rescuers were not provided key information about David's location until four days after he first became lost and transcripts of his calls to triple-0 were driven to Katoomba police station. "The service acknowledges that there was a failure on its part to accurately convey the details of the conversations with David Iredale to police," Mr Windsor said. "The service unreservedly apologises to the Iredale family because of the failures."
Jeremy Gormly SC, counsel assisting Coroner Carl Milovanovich, read the last words David wrote in a log book on Mt Solitary the morning before making his descent towards the river. "Got to the top!!! Haven't had H2O for a whole day but river coming up! Enjoy the view," he wrote.
Mr Gormly was scathing of the NSW Ambulance Service response, recommending that the inquest find that an urgent upgrade to procedures allow triple-0 calls to be emailed directly to rescue workers.
Australian government fears new surge in illegal immigrants
Reality is finally breaking into their Leftist dreams
AUSTRALIA is urging Indonesia to do more to crack down on people-smugglers as the Rudd Government braces for a new wave of more sophisticated illegal boat arrivals. Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus yesterday attributed a spike in unauthorised arrivals in recent months to deteriorating security in Sri Lanka and Afghanistan and warned Australians to prepare for more boats in coming weeks. His warning came as immigration law specialist Simon Jeans said men in their 20s were posing as teenage boys to avoid immigration detention after they landed unlawfully in the country.
Twelve boatloads of asylum seekers have arrived in Australian waters since September, prompting the Opposition to accuse the Government of giving the green light to people-smugglers. The Rudd Government abandoned John Howard's Pacific Solution in February last year as it sought to soften Australia's treatment of refugees.
Opposition immigration spokeswoman Sharman Stone said yesterday the Government must stop "squeezing" border security funding. "In the last 10 days, we have seen the appalling results of this resource squeeze and lack of focus of Australia's border security," Dr Stone said.
Mr Debus, backed by Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and Immigration Minister Chris Evans, is attending a two-day summit in Bali this week. The three ministers will call on Indonesian officials to make a greater effort to intercept asylum seekers before they make the dangerous voyage to Australia. "You must expect that there will be, within a relatively short amount of time, attempts to reach a country of preferred destination like Australia," Mr Debus said yesterday.
Senator Evans said lobbying efforts would focus on convincing Indonesia to improve its domestic legal arrangements. "They currently don't have, in our view, enough capacity to prosecute people-smugglers in Indonesia," Senator Evans said. He described as first-rate the level of co-operation Australia had received from Indonesia in trying to break up people-smuggling rings.
The ministers' comments came less than a week after a boat carrying 38 Middle Eastern asylum seekers slipped past Australian border protection authorities and docked at Christmas Island. Mr Debus yesterday defended the breach, saying there was more surveillance now than when the Howard government was in power. "Our surveillance is informed by intelligence," hesaid. "You can't expect that every boat and every kilometre of the sea will be covered." He emphasised that despite the upsurge, the number of people coming to Australia remained modest by global standards.
Senator Evans said people-smugglers were changing tactics, often using sophisticated positioning systems to chart their course to Australia. "One of the things we've found is some of these boats being of better quality and having larger numbers than those that arrived last year, particularly one of the departures from Sri Lanka last year (which) had quite sophisticated positioning systems," the Immigration Minister said.
Mr Jeans, a Sydney-based immigration law specialist with 20 years' experience, yesterday told The Australian he encountered young men claiming to be 10 years younger than they were to get an easier ride through immigration. "Many young adults, aged between 18 and 24, arrive unlawfully claiming to be "unaccompanied minors'," Mr Jeans said. "They know they will receive a much easier time at an interview by immigration officials if they claim to be 14 or 15 years old and (coming from countries) with nutrient levels lower than Australia they can appear much younger than their real age." The scam is the latest to be adopted by illegal people-smugglers and exploits government policy against putting children into immigration detention.
Asylum-seekers destroy identity papers before entering the pipeline with the "snakeheads" who run the people smuggling trade. Frustrated Immigration officials say they are forced to give the young men, who routinely claim to be travelling alone, the benefit of the doubt if they are picked up in Australia. Sources say it is a catch-22 for officials. While aware of the scam, they must "err on the side of caution" and accept at face value the age provided to avoid locking up children.
Formerly, X-rays were used to check the bone density of those making what were considered to be questionable claims about their age, but this practice has since ceased. Pamela Curr, of the Asylum-Seeker Resource Centre, expressed scepticism at the claims of age fraud. "What's the advantage? It doesn't make any difference to the assessment of their claim," Ms Curr said. [Pamela the cur just shows her ignorance]
How immoral, to hold the wrong views
Peter Costello mocks rubbery Leftist morality and the media that facilitate it. Australians will remember the episodes he refers to. Costello is the Liberal member for Higgins, and a former federal treasurer
I've been feeling sorry for Belinda Neal. Neal, you will recall, is the Labor MP who let fly at a waiter when he asked her to move tables at Iguana Joe's a restaurant/night spot on the NSW Central Coast. "Don't you know who I am?" she demanded. Soon all of Australia knew who she was. Kevin Rudd stepped in, reprimanded her and ordered her to undergo anger management counselling.
I've never been to this sort of counselling but I can imagine how it operates. A therapist gives you a tricky case and questions you on how to respond. The idea is to keep your anger under control.
Here's a case study for Neal. You are flying on your private jet when the flight attendant brings you the wrong meal. Do you (a) eat it anyway; (b) point out you ordered something else and ask for an alternative; or (c) shout at the flight attendant and reduce her to tears?
Neal should think carefully about this question. At one level the answer appears obvious. But there's a bit of precedent for answer (c). Some powerful people she doesn't want to alienate have adopted approach (c). Better not to show them up.
Which brings me to Craig Thomson. He's the Labor MP in the seat next door to Belinda Neal. Before Thomson was elected to Federal Parliament in 2007 he worked for the Health Services Union No.1 Branch. Apparently a union credit card was used to pay for "escorts" in Sydney. Some people were pointing the finger at Thomson. He denies he was involved.
Thomson should think carefully about whether this is the best political approach. It is just possible that he could turn this incident into a big improvement in his polling figures.
Let's take another case study. You've visited an establishment offering sexual titillation. Do you (a) deny being there; (b) call an identification parade to see whether anyone can recognise you; or (c) say you were too drunk to remember what you were doing and ring home to apologise? The savvy political conclusion is answer (c). It shows you are one of the boys, humanises your image and should lead to a bounce in approval ratings.
There were periods when I suffered low approval ratings, but no one ever suggested this as the obvious solution. I called my old press secretary last week to complain that he had never once advised me to boost my approval ratings with a couple of boozy hours in a lap-dance club. I asked: "Where were you when I needed good ideas?" He answered: "(a) I was never drunk enough to think of it, (b) you were never drunk enough to go through with it, and (c) you're from the Liberal Party." By that he meant that since journalists are predominantly pro-Labor you can't expect easy treatment on the other side of politics.
Thomson should take stock of his situation. It's not as if he is accused of doing something really bad - something like leaving the lights on during Earth Hour. I'll bet Thomson has all the right views on climate change, Labor's new workplace laws and, world poverty. So the rest, ladies and gentlemen, is bagatelle.
The modern view is that a person's private conduct is not nearly as important as a person's public morality. And that turns on having the right political views and making the right pronouncements. Take climate change. The way the argument is being presented you can be for aggressive targets to cut emissions or you are for rising tides, mass drownings, increased heat-related deaths, the destruction of the planet and the death of polar bears.
Characterising this as a moral question allows the high priests of emission targets to actually measure the morality of their opponents. Supporters of a 20 per cent cut are moral, 10 per cent morally inferior, supporters of 5 per cent are grossly immoral, and so on.
If anyone questions whether these targets will be met, if they will make a difference without the co-operation of major emitters, or what will happen to those who lose their jobs in industries affected, they can be dismissed as engaging in moral subterfuge. This is a moral argument, and such people are really in favour of destroying the planet.
While the postmodern world has lost faith in absolutes - rights and wrongs in relation to private behaviour - it has discovered absolutism about the views that are acceptable in modern political discourse. Take the wrong turn and you are not just mistaken, you are immoral. It's not that your views are immoral. You are immoral as a person for holding them. By adopting the right views you get a wonderful release. There is not much you can do wrong at a personal level as long as you're in favour of a better planet.
Which brings me back to Belinda Neal. Why was she singled out for reprimand and counselling? It was not that she treated a waiter badly or lost her temper. The point is she was becoming a political nuisance who had to be distanced from the party leadership. But she was unlucky with the timing. After recent events no backbencher will be ordered into anger management for yelling at a waiter.
PM's high-speed populism
Another boondoggle coming up? There is talk of the proposed new high-speed broadband network costing subscribers $200 a month. The probable nationwide "No thanks" to that will make the new network into a huge and costly white elephant for the taxpayer to support
WHERE would Australia's railway network have got to in the 19th century if governments then had taken a "narrow conservative view" of what they should do, asks Kevin Rudd. Like then, the Prime Minister reckons it is time for government to "step in and take the lead" in building the $43 billion national broadband network of the 21st century.
But history suggests this nation-building populism should set off alarm bells over the management of an economy taking a big haircut on its export prices and shouldering a large and rising foreign debt burden.
Colonial over-investment in rail trunk line expansion during the debt-financed land booms of the 1880s deepened the Australian depression of the following decade. And then borrowing to fund the post-World WarI wave of railway branch line expansion and associated soldier settlement almost bankrupted state governments while condemning a generation of yeoman farmers to rural poverty.
The 19th-century lure was the promised incredible gains in the speed with which bulk goods could be transported across vast expanses of land. Now it is exponentially faster speeds for transmitting mega-bits of information. But then, like now, private enterprise baulked at the high capital costs and low returns of the miracle technology's promise to turn doubtful wheatland profitable.
Economic historian Edward Shann pinpointed a pivotal moment in the early 1870s when landowners in northern Tasmania violently repudiated their agreement to pay for any shortfall in a privately built line. The resulting property seizure - "Griffin's horse" - became a Eureka Stockade-style symbol of landowner resistance. "For good or ill, every project in Australia involving substantial expense became thereafter 'a public work of national importance"', Shann wrote in 1930. "Colonial governments built railways for wheat farmers who had not yet solved the problem of permanent agriculture."
While the private railroad entrepreneurs in the US followed development, Australian governments overbuilt railways in the often-dashed hope that development would follow: think John Howard's latter-day Alice Springs-to-Darwin folly. Rudd's vast new broadband plan fits this historical mould, making it harder to resist the conclusion that the Government's economic program is making the nation less, not more, secure.
Clearly, this Government is not an extension of the Hawke-Keating pro-market reform program, which may prove to be the historic high-water mark of Labor's economic rationalism. But nor is it as economically naive as Whitlamism. Instead, its pulse seems to be located somewhere in between, informed by the long history of Australian populism on both sides of politics, and particularly in Queensland.
The dangers are belied by the Government's bullish political stocks. The repeated cash handouts, the proliferating government guarantees, the re-regulation of the job market, the massive car industry subsidies and now pulling "the single largest infrastructure decision in Australia's history" seemingly out of thin air are popular even amid, and perhaps because of, the global economic crisis. And that emboldens the policy populism. The PM does not have the knockabout persona to mimic Peter Beattie-style populism. Instead, his Government has taken on the 24-hour news cycle obsession of the NSW Labor Right, perfected while fellow policy nerd Bob Carr was facilitating the premier state's descent into dysfunction.
Despite the PM's managerialist promise of considered evidence-based policy, the news-cycle obsession encourages the notion that the Government should be seen to have quick fixes for every new problem, even if initially channelled into policy reviews. But however "decisive" they might appear, policies made on the run will tend to have a higher failure rate. And the costs will be compounded when the political response to such failure simply turns up the dosage, whether on fiscal expansion or broadband investment.
The global crisis has crystallised these tendencies, providing the emergency required to justify unconventional policy interventions. Rudd's essay in The Monthly created a fuss because it used the particular failure of the global financial system to mount a generalised assault on so-called neo-liberalism. Ironically, this is the opposite of the great Australian narrative of the past quarter of a century: that a pro-market economic reform program can turn around a nation's declining fortunes in ways that remain true to basic Australian notions of the fair go.
Yet this narrative may not be as deeply rooted as previously thought in Australia's shallow political topsoil. And it will be severely stressed by a year or more of worsening monthly jobless numbers. Rudd, Wayne Swan and Lindsay Tanner already have fired off their big fiscal stimulus, perhaps the biggest in the G20. This "go early" strategy already has carved a huge hole in the federal budget, leaving a deficit approaching $50 billion, or 5 per cent of gross domestic product. And they want more infrastructure spending to show the Government implementing a nation-building strategy while it deals with the immediate crisis.
The priority will be to avoid being seen to "do nothing", the supposed alternative to Rudd's decisive populism. This will be difficult given how the instant gratification of the 24-hour news cycle conflicts with the longer leads and lags of stimulus policy. The stimulus of the past several months will take several more months to help stabilise the economy. And unemployment will continue to rise months after the economy turnsup.
But after also going early on a big stimulus, the Reserve Bank of Australia wants to resist cutting much more below its 3per cent official cash rate. It hopes to do as little as possible. The entire point of central bank independence is to avoid populist pressures that may make things worse.
Similarly, not getting the budget under control would increase the risks embedded in the sweeping government guarantees of bank deposits, wholesale bank fundraising, state government borrowing and even commercial property development.
Now the magic pudding of the government balance sheet will be used to conscript taxpayers into guaranteeing broadband borrowing, just as colonial and state governments tapped London's capital markets to finance the railway over-expansion of the 1880s and 1920s. Australia's taxpayers are taking on so much contingent liability, it is surely prudent to bank on something going wrong, something narrow conservatives worry about much more than populist nation-builders.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG comments on the ever-rising popularity of Ruddman, the bringer of debt
Federal government wants under-fives taught to be politically correct
BABIES, toddlers and preschoolers across the country are set to become political activists under controversial new Federal Government guidelines. The April 2009 draft Early Years Learning Framework wants teachers to make under-fives:
* Contribute in a meaningful way to reconciliation, including flying the Aboriginal flag and inviting elders to give talks.
* Use "social inclusion puppets" and "persona dolls" to explore exclusion and ethical issues.
* Challenge and resist bias and discrimination.
* Take action in unfair situations and learn to act when injustice occurs.
* Assess and act on power dynamics as they get older.
The political emphasis of the guidelines has divided early learning experts. Some, such as leading Melbourne educational consultant Kathy Walker, have questioned the merits of such issues being "rammed down the throats" of two, three and four-year olds. "Although I welcome the emphasis on play-based learning, there is an air of political correctness about the document overall," she said.
Others, such as Kindergarten Parents Victoria CEO Meredith Carter, believe it is merely an attempt to "include and welcome all families to join in preschool and kinder". "It's not as if children will be harmed for life by this focus on difference and commonality," she said.
Under the $700,000 new approach to early childhood education, the goal will be to "promote children's civic participation and nurture socially responsible citizens for a future world," a Federal Government February 2009 briefing paper states. "The early childhood years are a time when children are developing understandings of community and citizenship and learning about democracy and the rights and responsibilities of citizens," it says.
There is also a strong emphasis on caring for the environment and reconciliation. The briefing paper notes that "such a society values Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures as a core part of the nation's history, present and future" and stresses this as a key tenet of early childhood education.
Less controversially, the guidelines also focus strongly on play-based learning, the importance of communication and language, the role of the family in children's lives, and social and emotional development.
But psychologist, author and speaker Evelyn Field questioned the need for role modelling using puppets and dolls, instead preferring teachers "keep it simple through encouraging children to play together".
Melbourne clinical psychologist Andrew Fuller agreed the emphasis should be on children playing and learning through play. "If we overwhelm children with a sense of broader issues, we could make them anxious and confused," he said.
Welcoming the guidelines, Association for Children with a Disability CEO Elizabeth McGarry said the key was not to highlight negative differences between children, but positively promote diversity.
Community Childcare executive director Barbara Romeril also welcomed the focus on equity and getting children to challenge discrimination and disadvantage. "Children are already dealing with these issues," she said.
If adopted, the Department of Education guidelines would cover all kinders, childcare centres and other early childhood settings, and would provide the basis for the education and care of all Australian preschoolers.
The guidelines have just been tested in 29 settings, including a range of childcare centres. Online consultation is still taking place. They are due to be implemented in July.
The Qld. police version of an "apology"
The police brass "were happy with the actions the police took" (!!) Some apology
QUEENSLAND police have apologised to an 18-year-old man who was handcuffed after officers thought his steering wheel lock was a gun. While Chad Hastings accepted the apology yesterday, he expressed disappointment it did not come directly from the officers involved. The Zillmere teen said he received a phone call about 4pm yesterday from a senior constable in charge of the officers who handcuffed him. "He was apologising on behalf of the police commissioner," he said.
"He said they were happy with the actions the police took but they apologised for the way they handled it in the end.
"Sorry on the spot would have healed things better, instead of going through all this. I think the only reason they said sorry is because the media got involved." Mr Hastings said he would have preferred a visit from the officers involved. "It was just a phone call and not even from the people who did it, so I'm not really happy," he said. "But it's not the end of the world, I'll get over it."
Earlier in the day, Queensland Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson had promised to apologise to Mr Hastings if an investigation found the officers were in the wrong.
Mr Hastings was stopped for a routine random breath test on Milton Rd on his way to work about 5am on Thursday. While one officer breath-tested him, another checked his Nissan Skyline. Mr Hastings was then ordered to get out of the car and sit on the footpath while the officer demanded to know why there was a gun in the vehicle. Mr Hastings explained that he had no gun in his vehicle and police eventually realised what they thought was a weapon was Mr Hasting's partially-obscured steering wheel lock.
Police late yesterday said the officer involved had acted with caution by removing Mr Hastings from the car and calling for assistance. Mr Atkinson said after reviewing the incident it would be determined if additional training or policy issues needed to be addressed. [A directive to "open your eyes" might do it]
Stupid pennypinching by Federal Left
F*ck country people, seems to be the message. Rudd to cut out remote and regional doctors' bonuses -- amid a flood of money squandered elsewhere
THE Rudd Government will take a scalpel to doctors' bonuses in a move medicos say will spark an exodus from regional and remote communities. The Government has described the current system of rewarding doctors in regional and remote areas as "broken". About 700 doctors in regional and remote Queensland have been paid $32.6 million in incentives under the Rural Retention Program, which started in 1991.
Across the country, $171.5 million has been paid to almost 3600 doctors who were eligible under the plan because they billed Medicare at least $4000 a quarter and worked in those areas between one and six years. More than half of Queensland is classified as the most remote, earning doctors who work in those areas up to $25,000 in bonuses each year. Working in the North Queensland tourist destination of Port Douglas earns doctors $5000 a year, practising in Mount Isa gives them $15,000 and in Charleville they get $25,000.
The medical profession says axing bonus payments will adversely affect the health of remote communities. Australian Medical Association national president Rosanna Capolingua and Rural Doctors Association president Nola Maxfield have lodged separate budget submissions calling for more money to attract people to the bush.
Dr Maxfield, who has submitted a $300 million proposal to give more loading to doctors on a scale of "remoteness", said the Government should scrap schemes that did not work, but must replace them with other programs. "It costs more to run your practice (in the bush) ... it (incentives) definitely gets doctors out there," Dr Maxfield said. "I don't think people in rural communities should be the ones taking the full brunt (of any changes). "Across Australia 43 per cent of doctors in rural and remote areas are international medical graduates. Australian-trained doctors do not want to go to rural practice."
A spokesman for Health Minister Nicola Roxon said he would not "engage in speculation ahead of the May Budget". He said incentives programs would be reformed. "The current incentive system is broken. The previous Liberal government relied on antiquated population figures from 1991," he said.
Dr Capolingua said bush doctors needed more relief and locums should also be paid incentives. She said doctors deserved support in tough locations.
Energy industry warns of blackouts
CONSUMERS face possible blackouts and power stations could go broke unless the Rudd Government offers an extra $6billion worth of free permits under its planned emissions trading scheme, the energy sector has warned.
If the extra assistance is not forthcoming, the sector, responsible for about 70 per cent of Australia's carbon emissions, will ask the Government for a Rudd Bank-style financing facility to help raise the capital.
A survey by the Energy Supply Association of Australia has found the sector will need to find $100 billion over the next five years for refinancing, essential upgrades and new investments in low-emission generation to comply with the emissions trading scheme and new renewable energy targets.
The industry says it is facing a "perfect storm" of a credit squeeze caused by the financial crisis and the Rudd Government's bank guarantee, inadequate compensation under the carbon pollution reduction scheme, and a decision by the Australian Energy Regulator that could reduce the profitability of energy network providers.
The Government has offered the electricity industry $3.9billion in free pollution permits to compensate for the "most probable and most extreme" writedowns in power station asset values because of the carbon pollution reduction scheme - an acknowledgement that the scheme will cause upheaval in the sector as it shuts down some high-polluting power plants early and invests in new low-polluting generation.
The ESAA said this amount must be increased to at least $10billion, to be delivered over the first five years of the scheme.
"If the Government does not increase the level of compensation, we will have no choice but to go to them asking for another finance facility for our sector," association chief executive Clare Savage said.
"What is at stake here is the future of the energy market. If nothing is done, power stations are likely to be bankrupted, and if they closed, then there would be problems with electricity supply, or more likely governments would have to step in to take them over, and that would unravel the last 10 years' hard work to set up a national electricity market."
An ESAA survey found the energy sector would need to find $50billion for refinancing over the next five years, $6.3 billion for planned spending on existing assets, $12 billion for new lower-emission generation and $31billion for investments in the electricity networks.
The sector needs to fight for access to that capital in a market where banks and state governments have received federal government guarantees and where the carbon pollution reduction scheme means asset values are being written down.
The $40 billion energy distribution industry is facing a large reduction in its returns if the Australian Energy Regulator confirms a recent draft decision at the same time as it is being asked to fund billions of dollars in new network investments as the industry shifts to new types of generation.
According to the Energy Networks Association, the draft decision would reduce returns to the industry by more than 10 per cent.
"When you combine the effects of these decisions with the debt guarantees being offered to other sectors, it is tantamount to tying one hand behind the industry's back while it fights for capital in the midst of a global financial crisis," Ms Savage said.
"To help ensure these assets remain in service to support the transition to lower-emission technologies and give new investors in the energy supply sector confidence that when the Government institutes major policy change that has the potential to strand long-lived infrastructure assets, the value of these assets must be adequately recognised."
The Government says the revenue it will raise from auctioning permits under the carbon pollution reduction scheme is already fully allocated in compensation to industry and households, meaning any increase in compensation to one sector would require taking something away from another.
Monday, April 13, 2009
A YOUNG driver has demanded an apology from police after being arrested and handcuffed because an officer believed his steering wheel lock was a gun. Chad Hastings, 18, of Zillmere on Brisbane's northside, was on his way to work early on Thursday morning when he was pulled over by police on Milton Rd in the innercity. While a female officer breath-tested Mr Hastings, another officer checked his Nissan Skyline with a torch.
He was then ordered to get out of the car and sit on the footpath while the officer demanded to know why there was a gun in the vehicle. "I said, 'What the hell? I have no idea what you're talking about'," Mr Hastings said. The policeman repeated the question before handcuffing the teenager and telling him he was under arrest.
Mr Hastings tried to explain he had only recently moved to Brisbane from Coffs Harbour to play for the Redcliffe Dolphins' Colts rugby league team. "I said 'maybe someone put a gun in my car. It's an easy car to get into and I often don't lock it up and I stayed at a friend's place last night'," he said. Mr Hastings said the policeman then called for backup while he sat shaking on the footpath, wondering how a gun could be in his car.
When two senior police arrived in an unmarked vehicle the situation was quickly resolved and the handcuffs removed from Mr Hastings. "As the officer walked away he said 'get a new steering wheel lock, it looks like a bloody gun'," he said. "I was absolutely gobsmacked. I said 'are you serious? All that for a steering lock?'," he said. Mr Hastings said the officer then replied he was "a lucky boy". "He told me 'any other cop would have had you at gunpoint'."
The part-time labourer said he was shaken and dazed by the incident but he had no plans to get a new steering wheel lock. "If they'd opened the car and examined it more closely this whole thing could've been avoided," he said. "An apology would've been nice. He could've said 'sorry mate but we have to take extreme precautions'. It doesn't leave you with a very good impression."
Police yesterday released a brief statement to The Courier-Mail about the incident. "A police officer has the power to detain a person suspected of being involved in illegal activities until the necessary inquiries are made to ascertain the situation and ensure the safety of the community and police," the statement read. "This includes situations where there is suspicion a person is in possession of a firearm."
The Queensland Police Union declined to comment.
Immigration blitz nets nearly 100 meatworkers
Raids may be off the agenda in Obama's America but there seems to be no problem with them in Australia
A SIMULTANEOUS blitz by immigration officials and police has uncovered a fraud racket supplying up to 100 illegal workers to meatwork companies across three states. Sydney residences were among homes and business searched in early morning raids yesterday which spanned NSW, Victoria and Queensland. At least four illegal workers were caught in Sydney and one was found in Wagga Wagga. All were from China.
The Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, said the operation had exposed a labour contractor allegedly working as a go-between for overseas workers and the Australian meat industry. "The department's investigators received information from a number of sources about a labour-hire intermediary who was allegedly bringing Chinese foreign workers into Australia to be employed in meatworks unlawfully," Senator Evans said. "The racket [used] fraudulent identities to gain employment for people without permission to work in Australia."
Last night, 79 illegal workers had been identified and that number was expected to grow as more people were interviewed and confirmed as working in Australia illegally. "The department believes up to 100 illegal workers are involved in the racket," Senator Evans said. Investigations into identity fraud were under way and fake passports had been seized, he said.
The federal vice-president of the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union, Patricia Fernandez, said a shortage of labourers had forced companies to look overseas for workers. "The shortage of labour has been created by past governments not putting enough money into training for workers," she said. "We find companies bringing in people through agencies and making them work at the expense of Australian workers." Backpackers were the latest workers exploited for cheap labour, she said.
Raids were also conducted in Scone, Melbourne, Warrnambool in Victoria and Kilcoy in Queensland. Meatworks companies, unaware recruitment firms were allegedly supplying illegal workers, complied with the search, Senator Evans said.
Australia's investment banks are still doing OK
AUSTRALIA'S powerful investment banks are weathering the financial crisis, as renewed activity in debt and capital markets generates higher fees for the market's major deal-makers. The top 10 banks earned $521.1 million in the first quarter this year, a 16.6 per cent increase from last year, despite corporate activity slowing from its hectic pace during the bull market.
Swiss bank UBS maintained its position as the No1 investment bank ahead of Goldman Sachs JBWere, according to figures provided to The Australian by Thomson Reuters, but there was a shake-up among the rivals to those two banks.
Credit Suisse increased its fee revenue by 63 per cent and US bank JPMorgan experienced a 775 per cent surge in fees as it carried out 19 deals, primarily in debt markets, in the first quarter, compared with just six transactions a year ago.
One of the major victims of the current market conditions and the slowing of the traditional corporate deal flow has been Macquarie Group, which has struggled to attract the headline advisory roles it once did. The bank earned $23.1 million in fees for the first quarter, which was up on last year but well down from the fees it generated during the peak of the bull market. The bank has forecast its profits for the full year to March 31 will halve from $1.8 billion.
The composition of fee income for all the investment banks has changed markedly in the past year, with debt and equity capital markets work replacing merger and acquisition advice.
The top four retail banks have been responsible for most activity in debt capital markets, with domestic and international bond issuances to shore up funding positions. The Queensland-based bank Suncorp last week raised $US2.5 billion ($3.47 billion) in US markets to build its capital levels, and the majors have raised at least $18 billion using the federal Government's guarantee. Across the corporate sphere, 101 debt capital market deals were done, which raised $92.2 million in fees for the banks, almost triple the $26.5 million in the first quarter of last year. The debt market has become a lucrative sector for the investment banks with fee revenue in the first three months of the year more than double the level that was earned for the full 2008 year.
The equity capital markets have remained active with a rush of corporate entities carrying out raisings, particularly in the past few weeks, to take advantage of stronger world markets and emerging positive sentiment. UBS was the top bank in the sector, beating rival Deutsche Bank, which was No1 last year but slipped to No3 even though it managed to increase its fee revenue from deals.
UBS was involved in deals including Wesfarmers' $4 billion raising, Suncorp, Axa, Newcrest Mining, Tabcorp, Qantas, Fairfax and property developer Peet Group, which raised $81.5 million through a rights issue during March. UBS co-head of equity capital markets Andrew Stevens said the activity in the next few months in terms of raisings would be concentrated outside the biggest corporates, which had already tapped the market and were well capitalised.
"Most of the top 50 companies who needed to go to the market have done that over the past six months," he said. "We have seen since the rally in the market is a change in sentiment. As you look down the market ... people are wanting to move up the risk curve. The defensive stocks have underperformed while some of the more risky stocks have rallied aggressively as the market comes back."
Mr Stevens said the performance of the "riskier" stocks could indicate those companies would look to raise money while their share price was higher and there was healthy demand.
Kids' competition 'is climate change propaganda'
LIBERAL Senator Cory Bernardi has accused Climate Change Minister Penny Wong of pushing "extreme propaganda" on the nation's schoolchildren. Senator Bernardi, who does not disguise his view that man-made climate change is a myth, has attacked a new climate change awareness competition for schoolchildren launched by Senator Wong yesterday.
The competition "Think Climate, Think Change," asks students in years 3 to 9 to use short stories, poems and art work to answer the question "what does climate change mean to me?" First prize is a trip for two to Canberra (the winner and a parent), a Nintendo Wii console, sports kit and Wii Fit pack, and books for the winner's school.
Senator Bernardi slammed the competition. "Encouraging children to look after the environment is laudable aim but this seems to have more in common with the ministry of propaganda than the balanced education of our children," he told AdelaideNow.
"One can only guess that the only children eligible to win this competition will be those who conform to the Rudd Government and Minister Wong's extreme political propaganda about climate change.
"I doubt the competition materials will include any discussion of how the Rudd Government ETS (emissions trading scheme) will export Australian industry overseas and result in hundreds of thousands of job losses for Australian workers."
Ms Wong said the competition came about because children are naturally concerned about the environment and their future. "Schoolchildren from all over Australia have written to me asking about climate change and sharing their ideas," she said. "Young Australians are very well informed when it comes to the issue of climate change - they understand that we need to take action now."
The national competition will open on Tuesday April 24 and close two months later on June 24. Senator Wong said the winner would be invited to pass on their ideas to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and other senior ministers when they are flown to Canberra.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
By Piers Akerman
EASTER is the traditional season of renewal in the Christian faith, but this year growing unemployment will mean increasing numbers of Australians find little to celebrate. instead of looking forward to growth, Australia, along with the rest of the world, is hunkering down for shrinkage. Unfortunately for Australians, our country is being run by the Rudd Labor government, which has vowed to pursue a number of ideologically driven policies that carry with them a certainty of delivering more unemployment and greater hardship than would otherwise be the case.
The rate of increase in the numbers of unemployed is already well beyond anything the Government predicted. Last month, the national rate climbed from 5.2 per cent to 5.7 per cent - the steepest monthly increase since the last Labor government delivered the last recession in 1991. In NSW, the percentage of jobless jumped a full percentage point - from 5.9 to 6.9 per cent - taking it higher than the jobless rate in Britain, which most nations view as an international basket case.
It's not just the Federal Government that failed to pick the rapidly increasing rate of unemployment. Most economists seem to have had their heads elsewhere as the job market collapsed and employers began to make the cuts they hope will enable them to weather this crisis. Their job is not being made easier by the passage of the Government's draconian industrial-relations legislation or its threatened emissions trading scheme bill, both of which Labor has acknowledged will hurt employment.
Easter is a good time to take stock of what has occurred since the Rudd government came to office, even if there's no hope of a turnaround while it's running the country.
When it came to office, there was a surplus, but that has been given away in so-called economic stimulus measures that the figures now reveal have stimulated nothing except the numbers of jobless. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd even went so far as to claim his Christmas cash splash would create 75,000 jobs, but there's no evidence that it created anything but a hole in the nation's savings. His measure was not a reasoned policy but a public-relations gimmick designed to paper over the growing cracks in the economy. It was another con trick in the long and growing list of stunts pulled by the Rudd government to give the public the impression that it's actually doing something creative to deal with the pressures it finds itself under.
The reality is that it didn't see the global downturn coming - although former treasurer Peter Costello did - and it played the wrong cards from day one, talking down the Australian economy and placing it in harm's way when it should have been talking it up and building bulwarks against the tsunami rolling around the world.
What is also amazing is Rudd's own lack of insight into what was occurring. Before the November election, he was boasting of his ties to China's leadership and exchanging bon mots in Mandarin with the boys in Beijing. We now know that although Rudd was feted at the Beijing Olympics, no one let him in on the joke or told him that China was going to pull down the shutters as soon as the torch had moved on. Whether through stupidity or naivete, Rudd didn't learn a thing from his trip, even though many in the business community were talking of little else when they returned from the Olympic extravaganza.
Since then, Rudd's sleight of hand, and his skill at duchessing those he needs, have successfully blinded those who should have been more sceptical and more focused on representing the interests of the private sector. His remarkable skills have been rewarded by stunning poll results, with a whopping 74 per cent of Australians currently impressed with his pitch.
No one should be surprised. It's only 18 months since the election, a time of huge change, and few who voted for Labor would yet be ready to admit they were partly responsible for contributing to the change in the nation's fortunes. As the numbers of unemployed continue to grow, and economists talk of double-digit levels of unemployment by next year, as more and more pink slips are issued and increasing numbers of families find they are stretching their shrinking budgets to stay afloat, that popularity could take a rapid hit. Pie-in-the-sky is not very sustaining.
The Rudd government has not delivered for its constituents. It has given them gestures, but it hasn't brought home the bacon. Next month's Budget will be telling. The Government will look really stupid if it moves to recover the money it has just sent out, so it will probably maintain its increasingly shaky course. The only way it will be able to do so is by increasing the never-never account, pushing out the debt decades into the future and saddling generations still unborn with the bill for its disastrous administration.
Now THIS might get people out of their cars
Citytrain commuters to receive free internet access
PASSENGERS will soon be able to surf the web free of charge while catching the train in southeast Queensland. Transport Minister Rachel Nolan said commuters with laptops will have high-speed internet access on their high-speed train trips. Ms Nolan said new wireless equipment to allow security footage to be streamed in real time to Queensland Rail's control room at Central Station in Brisbane, would also create wireless internet access at stations and on trains. "This means that commuters will be able to log on to the internet and catch up on emails on their train ride to work or while waiting at a station," she said yesterday. "Access to wireless internet is becoming more and more important in people's professional and social lives, and this technology means a journey on the train can become even more attractive to commuters."
Ms Nolan said the scheme, which would cost Queensland Rail between $1 million and $4 million, was expected to be available in every train and station in the Citytrain network by early 2010. The new technology would make Queensland the only state in Australia where commuters could rely on constant wireless access. She said people living near train lines or stations would not be able to tap into the free internet service because it would be "fire-walled".
The Minister also announced upgraded security for Queensland Rail with real-time camera monitoring of carriages. A successful trial on the Gold Coast line convinced the Government to improve technology. "There are 6000 security cameras covering trains, stations and car parks across the rail network," Ms Nolan said. "The cameras on trains are capable of recording illegal activities, giving police the evidence they need to catch and prosecute offenders, but they are not able to be monitored live. "When this system is installed, police and security personnel will have the ability to monitor travellers on trains and any incidents in real time over a wireless network. "This will give the control room the capacity to track offenders on trains and at stations and also co-ordinate a rapid response by police and transit officers."
Figures released by QR yesterday revealed 230 assaults were reported across the Citytrain network last financial year, including 14 sex attacks and 63 weapons offences.
The Minister said the wireless system would go to tender in July and rolled out in 2010.
IVF baby is priceless, but who pays?
ISABELLA Zogopoulos is a gorgeous $70,000 miracle that we all helped to create. The 13-month-old was conceived after her mother, forklift driver Theona Zogopoulos, endured 10 cycles of IVF at a personal cost of $30,000. Taxpayers chipped in the rest via the Medicare safety net scheme, making the long-held dream of parenthood a reality for Ms Zogopoulos and her council worker husband, Chris. "I call her my little miracle on ice," the besotted mother says. "She was on ice for 18 months."
But without the 80 per cent rebate on the IVF procedure — the family also had other medical expenses — it's doubtful the Zogopouloses, who took out a $20,000 bank loan to cover their costs, would have been able to afford so many IVF cycles. Now, as the Federal Government scrapes for savings ahead of the May 12 budget, it is looking again at publicly funded IVF and obstetric services, which cost taxpayers $141 million a year through the safety net scheme.
The Zogopouloses fear such a move would render their dream of giving Isabella a brother or sister financially impossible. "It is very disappointing," Ms Zogopoulos, 37, says. "There are plenty of other things that the Government can look at and cut money from."
The issue of tampering with public funding for fertility services is politically fraught, as the previous Howard government discovered, because the area of assisted reproduction is emotionally charged and access to IVF is now widely accepted as a right in Australia. It is a right that is increasingly expensive: the safety net scheme, which has leapt 28 per cent since 2007, now costs $319 million a year, 44 per cent of it IVF and obstetric services.
How much taxpayers should subsidise assisted reproduction, and whether it should be means tested, remains controversial. When the Howard government tried to rein in the public cost in 2005 by limiting funding to three cycles a year for women up to the age of 42, or three in total for older women, it was a disaster. But with Labor's economic strategists now considering ways to pare back the safety net scheme, the IVF industry fears rebates on fertility and obstetric services are again at risk. Options being considered by the Government are believed to include capping the number of (now unlimited) publicly funded cycles available, means testing, and restricting access on the basis of age.
In the lead-up to the 2007 election, Health Minister Nicola Roxon pledged there would be no move to tamper with the safety net, introduced by the Howard government in 2004 to cover 80 per cent of out-of-pocket medical costs above $1111.60 in any given year (or $555.70 for low-income earners). Yesterday, Ms Roxon declined to "engage in speculation ahead of the May budget" with The Sunday Age.
But Access Australia, which represents IVF consumers, is taking no chances. It has been encouraging its members to flood the offices of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Treasurer Wayne Swan with angry emails. Sandra Dill, Access chief executive, argues that infertility is a medical condition like any other funded through Medicare and should not be singled out. Means testing or restricting public funding would make IVF affordable only for the wealthy, even though fertility issues affected as many as one in six Australians, she said.
IVF is now the preferred treatment for infertility, and the number of babies born with the help of assisted reproductive technology has trebled since 1995, to 11,000 a year.
"I find it curious that on the one hand the Government recognises the economic benefit of having children … and yet for another group of people who are trying to have them who need medical help they are threatening to make that even more unaffordable," Ms Dill said. She did not believe access to IVF should be restricted on the basis of age because individual doctors made decisions on a case-by-case basis and were unlikely to recommend IVF to women who had a low probability of success.
In Ms Zogopoulos' case, each of the 10 IVF cycles involved an upfront cost of $5300. The usual cycle costs $4400, but she was also using the ICSI technique, in which sperm is injected directly into an egg. Should she attempt IVF again, she will need to have a $3280, non-Medicare rebatable procedure in which cells from her embryos would be tested each cycle, to check for any genetic abnormality. The test could help avoid the previous nightmare of repeated failed implantations. But it will add to the overall cost and if rebates are cut, could mean the Zogopouloses cannot afford to try for a second baby.
Ms Zogopoulos believes the only fair cut would be a means test, by which wealthier people get smaller rebates. "I feel sorry for people just starting out on IVF. It is always very stressful financially," she said.
The extraordinary 28 per cent blow-out in the safety net bill since 2007 has been linked to the rise in gynaecologists' fees, which, according to one estimate, have increased by more than 400 per cent since the scheme was introduced in 2004. A senior Government source said the safety net had blunted competition in the health sector, allowing obstetricians to raise fees. But the president of the National Association of Specialist Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Dr Andrew Pesce, denied that charging for IVF in Australia was spiralling out of control, saying costs were relatively low by world standards. He said the increase was due to IVF becoming the treatment of choice for infertility, whereas previously it was one option among several, including surgery.
Federal MP Tony Abbott, who as health minister in 2005 tried to implement the disastrous attempt to limit public funding for IVF, concedes now that: "If you are a fortysomething woman who is desperate to have a baby and the Government decides that the rules are going to be changed to make it harder for you to pay for this, you get very, very unhappy."
Cultural sensitivity directives 'bamboozle' teachers
An education expert says teachers are being "bamboozled" by mysticism surrounding Aboriginal children and letting educational standards slip. Dr Chris Sarra, director of the Indigenous Education Leadership Institute in Queensland, was in Darwin this week addressing 200 principals and senior education department figures.
He says he told the conference teachers should demand high standards of Aboriginal children, instead of making allowances for cultural differences. "There is the potential and I believe this absolutely, that the Territory education system can move from one that is perhaps been guilty of creating an underclass to becoming a world class education system," he said.
Dr Sarra says he read a paper last year directing educators "not to look Aboriginal children in the eyes" because it might somehow damage their psyche. He says there is an impression that being culturally sensitive means accepting second rate outcomes from Aboriginal students, but that this approach does the students no favours. "It presented Aboriginal children as being so mystical and so culturally different and so exotic, to the extent that lots of teachers were overwhelmed by that sort of information and forgot these are actually just kids in schools who deserve an education as much as anybody," he said.
"We can't get to a point where we just cannot see the kids for the black faces. "We've got to take Aboriginal children as high-potential learners, high-calibre learners with tremendous potential."
Dr Sarra says he has completed a structural review of the Northern Territory Education Department which is currently with the Chief Minister. He was commissioned to conduct the review after the former head of the department, Margaret Banks, was sacked by the then education minister Marion Scrymgour in October last year.
Dr Sarra says it would be inappropriate for him to comment on whether his review recommends redundancies. "You'll have to wait for the Chief Minister to have a look at what's contained in the report," he said. "I don't believe it's fair that that education department employees up there should be hearing about any outcomes from me through this forum."
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Leftists are great on talking about "root causes" (generally fallaciously) when it suits them but take only the most superficial view where maladaptive sexual behaviour is concerned. See here for more of the facts about AIDS incidence that Leftists ignore
CARDINAL George Pell says he agrees with the Pope that condoms are making the AIDS epidemic in Africa worse, not better. On a trip to Cameroon and Angola in March, Pope Benedict XVI caused a storm of controversy, when he said condoms were aggravating the African epidemic rather than containing it.
Cardinal Pell, the head of the Catholic Church in Australia, said he "totally agreed'' with the pontiff's comments that condoms encouraged promiscuity. "The idea that you can solve a great spiritual and health crisis like AIDS with a few mechanical contraptions like condoms is ridiculous,'' Cardinal Pell said.
Cardinal Pell also said a non-Catholic health worker, with whom he had travelled back from a trip to Africa, had told him condoms were not an effective solution to Africa's AIDS problem. "He made the point that the people in remote areas are too poor to afford condoms and the ones that are available are often of very poor quality and weren't used effectively,'' he said.
Cardinal Pell compared the AIDS infection rate in Catholic Philippines with that of Thailand which, he said, was struggling to cope with an epidemic of the disease. "If you look at the Philippines you'll see the incidence of AIDS is much lower than it is in Thailand which is awash with condoms,'' he said. "There are condoms everywhere and the rate of infection is enormous. "That's what the Pope is talking about.''
Australia's arrogant secret police again
Let's be glad that they do eventually have to substantiate their claims in court. On this occasion it was a court order that would have revealed their improper activities that caused them to drop a case. They couldn't risk facing the light of day
NEARLY five years after the nation's most infamous former detective, Roger Rogerson, was arrested while appearing on the comedy circuit with Mark "Chopper" Read and former footballer Mark Jackson, the corruption charges against him have been quietly dropped.
The South Australian police case against Mr Rogerson was shelved after disturbing allegations that the nation's most powerful law-enforcement agency had illegally tapped his phone and run a campaign of intimidation and harassment against the NSW ex-detective. The allegations of corruption about the activities of the Australian Crime Commission were considered so serious that the South Australian judge hearing the case reported it to the ACC, which in turn referred it to the corruption watchdog -- the Australian Commission on Law Enforcement Integrity.
Mr Rogerson's lawyer, Paul Kenny, said the results of that corruption investigation had never been made public. "I am concerned about the lack of transparency of any secret inquiry," he said.
Mr Rogerson, now 68 and still working doing the "odd club and pub show", said he was disgusted at the ACC's actions. "These agencies are not answerable to anyone -- they are out of control," he said. "It's just like the old saying, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
A spokesman for the integrity commission said it could not comment on operational matters. However, a secret report believed to be about the complaint was sent to federal Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus. The report dismissed the allegations of illegal activities, but reported "possible breaches of duty" and referred the matter back to the head of the ACC.
Mr Rogerson was arrested in 2004 while on tour with the comedy act Wild Colonial Psychos, in which he, Jacko and Read talked about their life experiences. Mr Rogerson's performances around the country were seen by some as an attempt to remake his persona from a decorated detective gone wrong to a lovable rogue.
Mr Rogerson was sent to prison for six months in 1985 for perverting the course of justice. And he was jailed in 2005 for 2 1/2 years for giving false evidence to the NSW Police Integrity Commission in 2000.
Police had waited for two years until he crossed the border into South Australia before charging him with "attempting to procure the abuse of public office". The South Australian charges related to an alleged approach by Mr Rogerson to a police sergeant to find the whereabouts of former Sydney bikie lawyer Justin Hill. Police alleged that in 2002 he had asked David Lawrence Mullen, 55, to help find Mr Hill's address so he could give it to a friend -- a process server -- who was attempting to serve the former lawyer with a court order.
Mr Mullen also had the charges of abuse of public office against him dropped. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was put on a good behaviour bond in the South Australian District Court. During the preliminary stages of the case, it emerged that the charges arose because the ACC had been tapping Rogerson's phone with what were alleged to be illegal warrants.
Former ACC officer Sam Foster gave a number of affidavits, which were filed in the District Court, alleging that one of his colleagues at the ACC was running covert operations on Mr Rogerson "like a personal vendetta" and had told his colleagues that he would "get Roger".
Foster is in jail after admitting to setting up drug dealers and robbing them, and other offences. But he has been accepted as a credible witness by the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions in a number of successful prosecutions of his co-accused. Foster's affidavits alleged that the ACC had continuously targeted Mr Rogerson over a number of years even though he was not doing anything illegal. "I was most concerned that the particular interception warrants in relation to Mr Rogerson have been improperly obtained and were being reapplied for and granted without proper foundation as no evidence or credible information of substance was forthcoming," he said.
In preparation for the trial, Mr Rogerson's legal team subpoenaed every telephone warrant used by the ACC and the information used to get the warrants. But not one of those subpoenaed documents was presented to the court. And the charges against Mr Rogerson were withdrawn just days before the matter was due to go to trial. Meanwhile, Foster waits in jail, still anxious to give evidence about the activities of the ACC.
Nutty feminist pays a high price for her hatred of men and modernity
By Andrew Bolt
I DO not want to make Janet Fraser's grief any worse. But some things must be said to warn other women and spare them such a loss.
Fraser is perhaps Australia's most ferocious advocate of home births. In fact, as national convenor of Joyous Birth, she demands not just births free of hospitals, but births free of drugs and evil doctors, too. Her spiel mixes militant feminism and a green age's worship of Earth Mother: "In a woman-hating society obsessed with the control and regulation of women's bodies, choosing to birth at home makes a crucial statement of withdrawal from patriarchy." Medical intervention to help the baby or spare the mother is "birthrape", and obstetricians are warned: "When you rupture those membranes . . . even when the woman screams no, that's rape." Joyous Birth's 1000 members are even urged by its website to scrawl on hospital walls "Episiotomy is genital mutilation" and "Did your rapist wear a mask and gown?"
But three weeks ago, an Age reporter rang Fraser at her Sydney home to interview her for a story that appeared in the paper on March 22 and started: Janet Fraser is in labour. Her plan is to drop the baby on the lounge room floor, or wherever feels good at the time. Has she called the hospital to let them know what's happening? "When you go on a skiing trip, do you call the hospital to say, 'I'm coming down the mountain, can you set aside a spot for me in the emergency room?' I don't think so," says Fraser, whose breathing sounds strained.
Fraser told the journalist she'd not once in her pregnancy seen a doctor, even though her eldest child was delivered by emergency caesarean. Her breathing may have been hard, but she boasted: "I could do this for days." Deeper in the article was this ominous line: "At the time of publication, Ms Fraser's labour was continuing to progress slowly."
In fact, for some five days after that story appeared Fraser struggled at home to give birth. By her side were, reportedly, just her partner and a friend. And if she'd taken her website's advice, her only drugs were "Emergency Essence and other flower essences or homeopathics as desired".
On March 27 an ambulance was called at last. But too late for her baby.
You may well dismiss this ghastly tragedy as a one-off, typical of nothing. While Sydney's Westmead Hospital says four other babies have died in home births in western Sydney alone in just eight months, you may argue that babies die in hospitals, too. Right? You might even argue that the one or two extra deaths for every 1000 home births are a small price to pay for the joy of delivering a baby in a plastic swimming pool slopping in your lounge. And since only .25 per cent of Australian babies are born at home, most times with a trained midwife on hand, who'd whisk mother and child to hospital if needed, why this fuss?
Yet this case is indeed symbolic - of a demonisation of Western medicine (the flower of Western civilisation), and of a growing tide of irrationality. Fraser's "free birth" movement is just the most extreme manifestation of a cult of "natural" birth that forces so many women to endure unnecessary birth agonies for no good reason.
British home-birth guru Sheila Kitzinger is its priestess, touring here to scare pregnant women into believing only a "natural" birth is a good birth, and the best birth is at home. Say no to drugs. Say no to caesareans. Wave away that epidural. Experience pain as bliss, because only then will you truly connect to birth and baby.
Somehow drowned in this "omm-ing" (popular in new mothers' groups where organic soy-milk coffee is served) is the fact that the whole point of giving birth is to produce a healthy baby and mum. Modern medicine has actually improved those odds dramatically since the days when one woman in 10 would die in labour. That's why all those machines and drugs, ladies. As for the pain relief, why not insist on a "natural" tooth extraction as well? What is so sacred about pain?
But this unreason has spread far beyond the maternity ward. We've had a Sydney coroner investigate why a girl dying of infection was treated by her parents with homeopathy rather than Western drugs that would have saved her. In Melbourne, a coroner investigated the death of a toddler whose epilepsy was likewise treated with homeopathy, and then of a Melbourne man who sweated to death in a "North American Indian" purification ritual.
Again you'll object: every society has a few irrational people, so what's new? Yet what is new is that we institutionalise unreason now, pandering to what we must resist. Take the homeopathy favoured by Fraser. The Lancet medical journal says not one study has proved the worth of a "therapy" based on a theory that a little of what kills you makes you stronger. Despite that, taxpayer-funded TAFE colleges teach homeopathy as science. Victoria University until recently offered bachelor degrees in naturopathy and homeopathy, covering "vibrational medicine" and "the metaphysical".
EVEN crazier, VicHealth gave women in Ouyen $7000 to hold a naked rain dance. And home birth activists, even interviewed mid-way through a tragic labour, still get a good press. Just pray now that the Rudd Government's maternal services review will at least refuse demands that home births be covered by Medicare.
But when unreason is so on the hoof that millions of us believe man is heating the world to hell, despite no rise in temperatures since at least 2002, what hope that reason will triumph? What hope, when even children now die of our superstitions?
Victorian school rocked by student violence
Very different from the country schools of the "unenlightened" past
A COUNTRY Victorian school faces a growing culture of aggression and intimidation, a confidential report says. Several teachers have been assaulted and overwhelmed by unruly teens, the report commissioned by the Department of Education says. A former Benalla College teacher, who resigned last year, described the school as in crisis, but said the report into the violence had largely been ignored. "Staff are exasperated, they have nowhere else to turn . . . they expected the report to lead to changes," she said. "The Government has swept it under the carpet."
School sources said there had been at least five assault incidents against teachers in recent times, the latest last week.
The assessment report on trouble at the college, written by consultants ResolutionsRTK, says a mob of students was continuing to cause trouble. "There is a relatively small but growing cohort of students who are evidencing unacceptable behaviour," says the report filed last month. "There was also a perception that 'good' students are leaving the school at a higher rate . . . students swearing and being aggressive or threatening towards teaching staff was broadly reported."
Despite the reports, deputy principal John Brownstein said three recent incidents had been dealt with immediately and the students had apologised.
Concern over student conduct was raised last year when it was reported some parents were refusing to allow their children to return to the college. Police have attended the school several times in recent months and students had been asked to sign contracts regulating their behaviour.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Another attempt by judges to thwart the decisions of the elected government
A SUNSHINE Coast magistrate's court has ruled that a father who took a strap to the legs of his nine-year-old son crossed the line. Maroochydore magistrate John Hodgins, sentencing the 32-year-old father to 12 months' probation, said such discipline had no place in the modern world. Mr Hodgins told the farmer, who had beaten the legs of his son who refused to attend swimming lessons or wear a seatbelt on the school bus, that it was no longer acceptable to "rely on role models from previous generations".
But Mr Hodgins agreed community opinion on physical discipline for children was still divided and sympathised with the father over the difficulties of parenting.
The assault, which left the child bruised, drew fire from the Australian Childhood Foundation, which said physical attacks on children must be treated as seriously as any other assault in the community. "In fact, the child should be afforded greater protection because of their greater developmental vulnerability," foundation CEO Joe Tucci said. Dr Tucci has urged the State Government to outlaw all physical punishment on children, a course which Premier Anna Bligh has ruled out despite an affirmative vote on the issue at the ALP's state conference last year.
The father of four, who had been disciplined with a strap as a child, had taken numerous other steps to discipline his boy short of physical punishment, the court was told. The father spoke to the boy every morning before school and "took away treasured items in an effort to make him behave". But when the boy continued to refuse to wear a seatbelt and failed to go to a swimming lesson, the father strapped him across the legs up to five times.
"The child had ignored him on the afternoon of the offence," said Senior Sergeant Tony Hurley, prosecuting. "He (the father) wanted him to listen for once."
The boy's teachers saw the welts and contacted authorities, who have temporarily removed the boy from his parents' care. The father, who did not have a history of violence, readily acknowledged he had "gone too far".
Mr Hodgins said probation would allow the man to receive assistance.
Aged care funding via vouchers now being considered
A good move
FUNDING could be stripped from Australian aged care homes and vouchers of up to $50,000 handed directly to residents in a radical aged care overhaul being examined by the Federal Government. Under the proposal, vouchers would go directly to Australian seniors and their families, allowing them to decide what sort of care they wanted. The proposal has been floated by Warren Hogan, author of a landmark report on aged care funding for the previous Howard government.
It has the backing of mainstream facilities - including one of Queensland's largest providers, TriCare, which wants a more consumer-focused approach to an industry facing "the perfect storm of an ageing demographic and a declining number of aged care beds".
A spokesman for Minister for Ageing Justine Elliot yesterday confirmed the minister was looking at the issue of "consumer-directed care". "This is a radical area of policy development and we would need to proceed cautiously," he said. "In addition, we would have to ensure that there were strong safeguards to protect the frail aged."
Professor Hogan - along with the Productivity Commission and the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission - expressed deep concern about the nation's ageing demographic. All are pushing for aged care facilities to be more responsive. Professor Hogan said central planning at the core of existing policy strategies introduced inefficiencies and rigidities, sparking a retreat by providers and "regulated scarcity". He said allowing government aged care funding to be directed to users of services and their families could be arranged just as readily as sending the money to providers. "By issuing vouchers to residents and potential residents for the value of the care to be met by government, these users could determine in discussions with the provider of their choice the type of services suited to their needs as specified by an Aged Care Assessment Team."
Care subsidies paid annually to providers range from $3000 to $50,000 a year, with more than 60 permutations and calculations in between. But, generally, a high-care provider receives between $30,000 and $50,000 a year to care for a resident.
Jim Toohey - the spokesman for the national Aged Care Alliance and who also heads up TriCare - said the idea was one of a range of proposed new funding models which appeared to have merit. "Establishing a relationship with the consumer in which the consumer has power is the way towards innovation in the aged care sector," Mr Toohey said. He said good-quality providers would welcome removal from a situation where they relied on a government subsidy to one allowing the market to determine what services they should provide. Mr Toohey said the proposal, in practical terms, could allow ageing Australians to opt out of an aged care facility altogether.
A Brisbane resident in a $700,000 home who required aged care could choose to opt for a reverse mortgage on the home, collect the government voucher, and use the funds to arrange for private aged care inside the home. Alternately, seniors wanting a high quality of life could opt to top up their voucher with their own money for more luxurious care.
Dire shortage of submarine crews
Hey! Do you think the fact that Australia has no equipment to rescue crew from sunken submarines might have anything to do with it?
URGENT action is required to resolve a dire shortage of submarine personnel or Australia's once vaunted "silent service" faces collapse, the navy chief has warned.
A report on problems affecting the navy's elite submarine service released yesterday warns of a drastic decline in experience among sailors that could jeopardise safety.
Navy chief Vice Admiral Russ Crane promised a revamp focusing on a drastic improvement to working conditions for sub crews. Sea deployments lasting up to seven months will be cut, a dedicated submarine support group will be moved to Western Australia, shore-based accommodation will be upgraded and general quality of life will be improved for crews.
In a frank appraisal of how bad things have got, Vice Admiral Crane said a lack of adequately trained submariners was placing an unacceptable burden on personnel serving on the navy's three operational Collins-class subs. Three other boats had been taken out of the water. The submarine workforce sustainability program will focus on a five-phase strategy, as foreshadowed in The Australian yesterday. It aims to lighten the formidable workload of submariners by increasing from 46 to 58 the number of crew members allocated to each boat and calls for a fourth crew by 2011.
But training submariners was not an easy task, Vice Admiral Crane said. "They have to be trained in their particular category, then they've got to go off and get their dolphin qualifications."
The 109-page report compiled by Rear Admiral Rowan Moffitt makes clear that life as an RAN submariner is hard and suggests recruiters stress the submarine service as an "elite arm" of the navy. It says submarine safety issues need to be more fully addressed - the navy currently has no submarine abandonment, escape and rescue system (SAERS) capability. In 2003, HMAS Dechaineux was nearly lost with all hands after a hose burst and brought the boat within seconds of being lost off the West Australian coast.
"The declining experience level of the submarine community must be viewed with concern for the increased risk of an incident with a catastrophic outcome," the report warns. Recruiters are also likely to start targeting more females.
Opposition defence spokesman David Johnston said problems in the submarine service had worsened dramatically under the Rudd Government, which had ignored the problems posed by crewing shortages.
Brisbane lawyer warns anti-bikie laws could bring McCarthyism
Leftist governments will grab any lever to restrict individal liberties
PROPOSED anti-bikie laws could push Queensland into a ''McCarthy-like witch hunt'' against law-abiding citizens, a prominent defence lawyer warns. Brisbane criminal defence lawyer Tim Meehan said the State Government decision to implement anti-bikie laws smacked of a panic reaction to the current media and public focus on bikie gang behaviour.
Mr Meehan said the tough new laws could act against law-abiding citizens and legitimate businesses, drive the gangs underground and make them more dangerous. ''The headlines are all about a looming all-out bikie gang war in Australia, and that's exactly the environment which encourages McCarthyism. There's a real risk anyone who rides a motorbike will be labelled a bikie,'' he said.
He warned Queensland risks becoming like America of the 1950's when Senator Joseph McCarthy whipped up hysteria about communism and innocent people were wrongly accused of either being or even associating with communists.
Mr Meehan said the laws would be vigorously challenged and existing police powers were sufficient to deal with gang warfare. ``Imposing orders which restrict who people can associate with even if they have no criminal conviction is quite scary and the opposite of what Queenslanders take for granted as their rights in a democratic society,'' Mr Meehan said.
Thursday, April 09, 2009
In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG sees cranky Kev's behaviour in private as the true measure of the man.
The chapel without a crucifix
But a separate Muslim prayer room is OK
THE home of God at Royal North Shore hospital has fallen victim to a higher power - the State Government bureaucracy. The Mosman Daily has learnt that crucifixes, Bibles and all other Christian symbols are banned inside the hospital's chapel when it is not being used for a church service. The move, ordered by senior staff, is to avoid offending Muslims, Hindus or other non-Christian believers who may want to pray in the chapel.
Hospital staff say that while the chapel was built for Christians, they now want the chapel to be completely non-denominational. An inspection of the chapel last week by the Daily found no trace of a crucifix or any other religious symbol inside the chapel. The Daily has been told that church leaders must bring their own symbols to use in a service.
The chapel building also contains a separate Muslim prayer room.
Mosman Mayor Dom Lopez, a devout Catholic, said he was "outraged" to discover the rule when he was recently undergoing treatment at the hospital for bowel cancer. "When I was first told it I didn't believe it," Cr Lopez said. "When I was recovering, the Catholic priest came to see me and said, `It is true all the crosses are gone, somebody said we have to be a non-denomination church'. "That's just not right, it was built as a Christian chapel, now they (church leaders) have all to take all those things with them."
North Shore Liberal MP and Opposition health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner said the decision was "bureaucratic madness". "It's crazy, absolutely crazy," she said. "I bet there was no pressure from the Muslim community, the Jews or anyone - it's just silly bureaucrats." Mrs Skinner said visitors to the chapel needed all the strength they could get and that symbols of God would provide that. "I actually think it's offensive to all faiths (and) it is silly bureaucratic rules," she said.
Cr Lopez agreed. "They have completely disenfranchised a Christian chapel," he said. "Being a Christian, I find a lot of power in prayer and I think a lot of people do whether they are Muslim, Jewish or whatever."
A hospital spokeswoman said the rule change came after "the chapel was enhanced with the provision of a Muslim prayer space in the loft area". "At that time the decision was made to display the symbols of each faith, for example the chapel's cross and Bible, during specific services and ceremonies only," she said. "These important religious symbols are appropriately stored and used regularly. This decision was made out of respect for the many faiths that make up both the hospital and also the modern Australian community."
An example of why some jurisdictions (including Australia) now have parental alienation laws
A MOTHER who gave her three young children a drink she called "truth Coke" every time they returned from a visit with their father has lost custody of them. The drink, which was ordinary soft drink, was part of a bizarre ritual she subjected them to which included being questioned, bathed and having photographs taken, the New South Wales Family Court has heard.
She once paraded poster-sized photographs of bruised body parts of her children, including their genitals, outside the local post office with a large sign that said: "Don't support child abuse." She also threatened to put the photographs on YouTube.
The mother, 48, built up a dossier of allegations against her ex-husband in what had been a long and sad court tussle, including that he set his dogs on them, made them live in a shed and refused to feed them on Christmas Day. "She is utterly fixed in her view that bruises on the children are as a result of their father's physical abuse," Justice Linda Dessau said. "She does not entertain, see, or hear innocent explanations," the judge said, adding that none of the mother's allegations against the father had been substantiated.
After five years of living with their mother since the marriage ended, the judge ordered that the children, aged 11, 9 and 7, live with their father, 48, a farmer. She banned the mother from going to his property or parking on surrounding roads after hearing her claims were becoming more exaggerated and she was either delusional or vexatious.
The mother even told the court her ex-husband had been on a TV talent quest recently and had called himself a "loser" and was angry because he failed at the first show, when he had actually made the next round.
Her other unfounded claims included that their father suffered Asperger's Syndrome, locked the children in a dairy alone, had no electricity, fridge, television, telephone, hot water or toilet paper. She also said he made them drink only water and pick their own apples, and on Christmas Day had refused to feed them.
"There is abundant evidence these children are continually questioned and the mother undertakes something like a forensic analysis of their time with their father," the judge said. "I am satisfied the children do not face the risks in the father's case as the mother claims. The father's concern the children are being emotionally abused in the mother's care is well-founded."
The case was in court because the mother wanted to move six hours away with the children.
Plan for croc free zone around Darwin
At long last. Cairns needs the same
EVERY saltwater crocodile within a 50km radius of Darwin will be killed or captured under the Northern Territory Government's proposed new croc management plan. The Northern Territory News understands the Government will declare a large chunk around Darwin, including the rural area, as a croc-free zone. Any crocodile found in the "No Tolerance" zone will be either killed and used for skin and meat production, or captured and used as stock in crocodile farms.
The NT Government brought forward the proposed croc management program following the tragic death of eight-year-old Briony Goodsell, taken by a croc at Black Jungle Swamp near her Lambells Lagoon home in Darwin's rural area last month. The plan is expected to be released for public comment next Wednesday.
A government department source told the Northern Territory News that there will not be a cull allowing people to blow the animals out of the water with guns. "The new program will not allow massive, broadscale culling in the rural area," the source said. "It's about getting the balance right between protecting people and protecting crocs." "There's been a croc-free zone for years in Darwin and the Harbour - this will extend it to take into account our growing population and the increase in crocs."
No crocodiles will be relocated under the new croc management plan. [Because they just swim right back]
Greens deny Australia is 'soft touch' after boat people influx
If you believed a Greenie you would even believe in global warming -- despite the fact that the global temperature has not risen since 1998
Authorities may have detained 160 suspected illegal immigrants in the last seven days, but that does not mean Australia has become a soft touch for people smugglers, the Greens say. A boatload of 45 people people arrived at Christmas Island this morning without being detected.
Last week, 63 suspected illegal immigrants were detained off Ashmore Island and another group of 50 was transferred to a Customs vessel after their boat ran aground near Thursday Island.
But West Australian Greens senator Scott Ludlam says Labor has done the right thing by dismantling the former Howard government's Pacific Solution, which saw asylum seekers detained offshore on Nauru and Papua New Guinea's Manus Island. The number of people arriving in Australia by boat was relatively "tiny'', he said. "We supported many of the moves that the (immigration) minister made in beginning the long, slow process of dismantling the Pacific Solution, which was shown to be extremely flawed. "These are a tiny handful of people relative to our overall migrant intake so I don't think we need to be concerned that we're becoming a soft touch.''
The Opposition has blamed the Federal Government for the influx of recent arrivals. It was due to Labor watering down immigration detention policies, opposition immigration spokesperson Sharman Stone said. "There has obviously been a signal sent loud and clear to the people smugglers that it is now worth the risk,'' she said.
At least he seems to recognize that the new policies are the reason for resumption of illegal immigration. His "out" is that the absolute numbers so far are small -- but he ignores the rate of increase -- which is rapid
Qld to spend $1m on sheep fart study
IF someone gave you a million dollars, what would you spend it on? How about finding out how to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas blown out by cattle and sheep. That's exactly what the Queensland government's doing with three major research projects funded by Canberra.
Primary Industries Minister Tim Mulherin says many people don't realise just how much cows and sheep contribute to global warming. "In fact, methane from livestock contributes up to 14 per cent of Australia's total greenhouse gas emissions," he said in a statement on Monday. "We are already known for cutting edge research on this problem, in particular investigating whether bacteria from kangaroos, which are largely methane free, can be implanted in cattle and sheep to reduce their methane production. "Almost $1 million has been allocated to the projects, which aim to be completed in the next three years," Mr Mulherin said.
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Spanking costs dad his daughter
A man who smacked his five-year-old daughter with a belt after she stole money has been fined $1000 and had her removed from his custody. The 42-year-old man pleaded guilty to the aggravated assault charge in Darwin Magistrates Court yesterday. The court heard he took a black leather belt from his bedroom, folded it over and hit the girl four times on the bottom with it when she would not tell him where she got the money from. She was walking strangely to stop the $2.10 in coins making a noise in her pocket after the man picked her up from school last month.
The court heard the girl and her father had a "wonderful" relationship. The court was also told the man had two older sons who lived with him at the time, he had recently separated from his partner, and was under stress at work. The girl is now living with a foster carer interstate.
In sentencing the man, magistrate Greg Cavanagh said the assault of the girl was "outrageous". "The trust that is given to adults and to fathers to bring up and nurture their young babies is a very precious thing indeed - the most precious responsibility and trust you'll ever have," he said. "You have abused that trust and you have abused your love of her by giving her a beating."
Mr Cavanagh said that even if the man had been brought up with similar punishments, society no longer accepted it. "In this modern age, physical punishment of children is seen to be barbaric," he said. "I'll bet you she screamed and cried when you did this to her."
The man wiped away tears as Mr Cavanagh sentenced him. He was convicted and fined $1000.
They're flooding in now
BORDER protection authorities have intercepted a boatload of 63 unauthorised arrivals, bringing to 187 the number of boatpeople detained this year. The interception by Customs, 31 nautical miles southwest of Ashmore Island, took place last Thursday - a day after authorities were forced to assist a second boatload of 50 illegal immigrants whose boat had run aground in the Torres Strait. The latest boatloads mean the number of unauthorised passengers to arrive this year has exceeded the total of 179 for the whole of last year.
The increase in the number of boatpeople comes after the Rudd Government last year softened Australia's treatment of unauthorised arrivals, shutting down the so-called "Pacific Solution" of offshore processing centres and abolishing temporary protection visas. People who make protection claims outside Australia's migration zone enjoy greater appeal rights, although they do not have access to Australian courts if their claims are unsuccessful.
The Opposition has said people-smugglers have registered the Government's changes to immigration policies as a softening of the rules, leading to an increase in boatpeople.
The delay in announcing the latest boatload of arrivals, believed to contain a number of children, prompted Opposition immigration spokeswoman Sharman Stone to accuse the Government of seeking to bury politically sensitive news. "You have to ask, are they deliberately trying to manipulate the public to try to reduce the impression that we do have a major new surge on our hands?" Dr Stone said. "The public really does have a right to know. Or is it a case that ministers (Chris) Evans and (Bob) Debus didn't know what was going on four days ago?"
A spokeswoman for Mr Debus, the Home Affairs Minister, defended the delay in announcing the interception, citing "operational" considerations. "Due to the number of people on board, we waited until they were safely on their way to Christmas Island," the spokeswoman said. Mr Debus said Thursday's interception showed Australia's border security arrangements were working.
Dr Stone said it was clear there had been a surge in people-smuggling. "The fact that boats are getting bigger would suggest it's a tried-and-true measure," Dr Stone said. "We're back on the map." This year's boatpeople tally of 187 and last year's of 179 represent significant increases on the 148 who arrived in 2007 and 60 in 2006.
Last Wednesday, a boat carrying 50 Sri Lankan asylum-seekers had to be assisted after it ran aground 65 nautical miles northeast of Thursday Island. The boat was being monitored by Border Protection Command, an inter-government agency, before it hit the reef. Sources have told The Australian those in the Sri Lankan vessel are believed to have sailed without the assistance of people-smugglers.
About 115 of the 282 unauthorised arrivals to pass through Christmas Island have been granted protection visas, an immigration department spokeswoman said yesterday.
Public hospitals a turnoff for expectant mothers
THE death of four Sydney babies involved in home births in the past nine months has obstetricians asking what they have to do to improve womenÂ¿s confidence in a hospital birth. It has also raised questions about what might happen next year when it could become illegal for midwives to attend such births.
Australia is one of the safest countries in which to give birth or be born but these statistics cover up a growing discontent with our impersonal maternity system. It is this discontent that is behind some women’s decision to opt for a riskier home birth. The recent tragic outcomes of that choice have put a spotlight on the need for reform.
A Government review of maternity services that reported in February called for a major overhaul of the system to give midwives a greater role.
Fears about the nation’s high caesarian rate, a lack of access to birth centre services and some women’s distaste for turning what is a natural process into a clinical nightmare drives the choice for a home birth.
Obstetricians said overcrowded and overworked public hospitals where the care is impersonal was also a factor. The Australian College of Midwives said there was no continuity of care for pregnant women using public hospitals. They may never see the same midwife or obstetrician twice and can often wait for up to five hours for a quick pre-birth check up. As a result many women approach labour with fear, College president Professor Pat Brodie said.
Most women turned off by a hospital birth who choose to have their baby at home have positive birth experiences. But Westmead Hospital clinical director of women’s health Andrew Pesce said the safety of home births had been taken for granted. Those advocating them do not do enough to acknowledge the risks involved, he said.
Australian studies showed the chances of a baby dying in a home birth were three times greater than in a hospital setting. “There are one or two extra deaths per 1000 home deliveries and we wish people would acknowledge that,’ he said. Dr Pesce was also alarmed that in the past nine months there were eight “very bad outcomes” from home births that he knew of. Four of those babies died and four of them may have brain damage.
While mothers have a right to choose how they give birth, there were concerns that sometimes decisions were being made for ideological reasons without the clinical risks being properly assessed. Older mothers, those who have previously had caesarians, those undergoing a breech birth who have higher risks attached to their births were choosing sometimes to go it alone. “When it leaves the realm of health science and becomes politics and ideology you’re not thinking clinically, you’re thinking ideologically,” Dr Pesce said.
He said some of the coronial inquiries into home birth deaths in New Zealand showed midwives refusing to do vaginal observations on women in labour in case they distress her with news of slow progress. “They are only reacting to disaster at the last minute when the only way to minimise deaths is to minimise the risks,” he said.
Home birth advocates counter with claims about the damage hospital births often inflict on the mother and baby. Home births represent a very small number of all births that take place in Australia each year - 0.25 per cent. In 2006 there were 708 babies delivered in a home birth out of 277,436 babies born. More than 97 per cent of babies were born in a hospital. Even in New Zealand, where home birth is government-funded, only 2.5 per cent of mothers go ahead with a home birth.
Home births in Australia could get even riskier from next July when a new national registration scheme for health professionals kicks in. From then health professionals will need indemnity insurance to gain the registration they need to practise. Midwives working outside the hospital system have been refused insurance since the indemnity crisis of 2001. Unless the Government offers to pick up the indemnity bill, they will be unable to practice home births from next year.
Professor Brodie said if women were unable to get a midwife’s help for a home birth they would be forced to go it alone and “that is completely unacceptable”. But Dr Pesce questioned whether the government should be indemnifying higher-risk home births.
Both obstetricians and midwives want the maternity system reformed. They agreed women needed continuity of care, a link with a midwife or doctor they know and trust for the entire pregnancy. Dr Pesce hoped such a system might make a hospital birth a more appealing option for those women he now calls refugees from our health system.
Human rights crusaders rely on lies
BEING accused of using purple prose by lawyer Geoffrey Robertson - as he does in his new book, The Statute of Liberty - is a bit like being lectured about honesty by Bernie Madoff. And speaking of honesty, there are two ways you can to argue the case for an Australian charter of rights: honestly or dishonestly. Regrettably, the rights debate is deeply infected by a couple of grand lies.
The first falsehood is that an Australian charter would not transfer political power to judges because human rights are essentially self-evident, absolute and uncontestable. Rights are, according to this ruse, legal in nature and the corollary is that any limitations, conditions or quirks in their application will be minor, obvious things of a technical nature that could easily be sorted out by judges, with no need for political involvement.
Yet even the most obvious candidate for an unchallenged, absolute right - the right to life - demonstrates the magnitude of this lie. In many countries, the right to life is a deeply political issue, with abortion, euthanasia and capital punishment the key battlegrounds.
Today’s human rights cause du jour - where the rubber hits the road, so to speak - is the human right of bikies to freedom of association. Many of us may question whether the individual right of bikies to gather in drug dens and armed fortresses trumps our human right to avoid getting caught in their crossfire, but more on that later.
The content of our rights, their limits and conditions is the very essence of political debate. Lawyers have no more moral right or expert skill to decide these things than any other profession. Delegating power to courts to settle the finer details of human rights set down in broadly sweeping platitudes makes no more sense than delegating this power to the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, the Australian cricket team or any other unelected body. Our rights - and their precise content - are matters for us, to be determined by those we elect to make decisions on our behalf.
This leads to the second grand deception infecting the Australian charter of rights debate. An honest argument for a charter would go like this. By definition, politicians are elected by the majority and pay insufficient attention to the rights of the minority. To get elected, politicians pander to populism, to our base instincts and lowest-common-denominator politics. Even worse, they are too dimwitted and slow, too afflicted by venality and imprisoned by self-interest to care about human rights. They either pass bad laws or refuse to pass the laws they should. These defects require correction by wise, experienced, unelected people not subject to the vagaries and shortcomings of the political process: those who know what we want and how to engineer a more just society. These people are judges. And you won’t be surprised that many judges and lawyers share this view of judges as the people’s saviours.
This argument that unelected wise men need explicit power to correct the folly of politicians is honest but suffers from one serious flaw. Australians don’t buy it. Or at least they haven’t in the past when referendums were proposed in 1944 and 1988 to give judges broad powers to interpret new constitutional rights to free speech, freedom of religion and trial by jury. Rights advocates know this, though publicly they put it down to Aussie apathy.
Witness Robertson’s pompous prose, revealing his disdain for Australian voters: “When the sun shines and the beach beckons, a better world is difficult to envision and too much bother to build.” Crusading elitists such as Robertson never admit that the way Australians vote at referendums may reflect cautious wisdom rather than complacency.
Knowing that they can never win using honest arguments, they once again give the debate a much less honest turn. Rather than propose a constitutionally valid power for judges to correct explicitly the human rights failings of politicians, they now seek an indirect way of reaching that same result by subterfuge. Academics such as Hilary Charlesworth describe a charter as a modest little garden-variety law that will leave parliament supreme. Judges have the minor role of filling in the blanks: settling the technical stuff, stuff that apparently should not concern us mere mortals. Stuff such as: how far does a bikie’s right to freedom of association stretch? Excuse the purple language, but that’s more dishonest baloney. A statutory charter would become, and is intended to become, a super statute against which all other laws are measured.
Take the anti-bikie laws that apply in South Australia and are soon to come into force in NSW. Civil libertarians claim these laws are egregious breaches of the right to freedom of association found in the Victorian and ACT charters of rights. No doubt they are right. And of course Cameron Murphy, president of the NSW Council of Civil Liberties, would say that “this is exactly the sort of tactic that is used in fascist dictatorships to alienate groups or political parties that the government doesn’t like”.
If, as the Victorian Police Association fears, drug-dealing bikies swarm across the border into Victoria to set up shop in Prahran instead of Petersham, could Victoria enact legislation similar to that in NSW? Technically, of course it could. Any lawyer would tell you that a specific anti-bikie law passed by the Victorian parliament after the charter takes precedence over the generally worded charter to the extent of any inconsistency.
But here’s where a charter morphs into a super statute, changing the ordinary rules. It is deliberately constructed to hamper the operation of later laws. Assuming that bikie fans don’t win in the first round by simply pointing to the charter as reason enough why such laws should not be passed, then it’s on to the second round when such laws are passed.
Judges, and even civil servants, are directed by the super charter to interpret all laws as far as possible consistently with charter rights. So they have a broad power to re-interpret new anti-bikie laws as they deem fit. Remember, they get to fill in the blanks. The last line of attack under a super charter is that a Murphy-type judge or civil servant can issue a declaration of incompatibility, declaring the laws to be Third World instruments of oppression that breach charter rights. Only a brave government will ignore such a judicial sanction about some lofty “human right”. Meanwhile the big blokes in leather will thank their lawyers - and the present crop of charter crusaders - for their right to freedom of association.
Dishonest tricks aside, can those pushing for a charter now try telling us with a straight face that a charter is not a super statute that will transfer political power to the judiciary? Didn’t think so.
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
Meltdown of public hospital obstetrics in NSW
MIDWIVES in New South Wales public hospitals are supervising the labour of up to three women simultaneously because staff numbers have not kept up with the nation's baby boom. Overcrowding, lack of birth options and the closure of many rural obstetric services is forcing women into home births.
The Daily Telegraph reported yesterday at least four babies had died during home births in the last nine months and another four suffered possible brain damage. One of those babies was born without the assistance of a doctor or a midwife in contravention of NSW policy which requires two midwives to be present at a home birth.
The Australian College of Midwives said chronic understaffing had turned maternity departments into factories where women were left alone in labour as midwives ran between birthing suites. The overcrowding and inability to constantly monitor women giving birth has increased the intervention and caesarean rate, spokeswoman for the college Associate Professor Hannah Dahlen said. Thirty one per cent of babies in Australia were delivered by caesarean compared to the OECD average of 22 per cent. In private hospitals the rate is 41 per cent.
The college said the factory-like treatment of women in labour was one reason they were turning to home births. Clinical director of women's health at Westmead Hospital Dr Andrew Pesce said pregnant women must get continuity of care from the same doctor or midwife through pregnancy. This option was available to just 3 per cent of pregnant women in NSW.
Meanwhile, crucial maternity services are being cut across regional NSW forcing expectant mothers to choose alternative birthing methods including home births.
Heavily pregnant women are being forced to travel up to two hours for antenatal care or for birth as many services have either being downgraded or have closed their doors across the state. There are plans to cut four midwife positions at Port Macquarie while antenatal classes could be axed at Kempsey after more than 20 years under a staffing review of the North Coast Area Health Service.
On the Far South Coast, Pambula Hospital is closing its maternity service and merging with Bega, which had caused community anger. In the Southern Highlands, there are plans to downgrade maternity services at Bowral Hospital. Blue Mountains Hospital is constantly opening and closing because it cannot get an obstetric anaesthetist.
More neglect from NSW child protection workers
DOCS failed to heed carer's pleas over troubled teenager. They are just bureaucrats. They don't give a sh*t about anybody or any thing. Only publicity moves them
THE Ombudsman has started an investigation into how a deeply troubled 15-year-old girl was forced to remain in the care of a family friend even though the friend pleaded with the Department of Community Services for five months to remove the girl.
The girl was offered short-term accommodation with the family friend after she was treated in hospital after a suicide attempt. Instead of staying a weekend with the friend and her three children, the girl's stay lasted months.
Her family friend, a single mother, was not a foster carer and had not undergone any police checks or training before the department sought a court order to allow the girl to receive long-term care from the woman.
The department told the woman there had been a complaint against the girl, alleging she had sexually assaulted another patient while in hospital but, after an investigation, no charges had been laid.
The girl, who has a severe mental illness and a history of sexual abuse, was suspected of physically and sexually abusing her carer's young children while she stayed with them.
Despite the woman's constant pleas for help, the department did not intervene. In desperation, the woman called the Foster Carers Association, which reported the case to the department. The girl was removed.
The Opposition spokeswoman on community services, Pru Goward, said the department was negligent in failing to intervene and had turned its back on the woman, who was not qualified to cope with a teenager with such complex mental problems.
"The department is clearly in such disarray that it has ignored the pleas of a desperate woman who was concerned about the behaviour of a child who is in the minister's care and the affect of this behaviour on her own children," Ms Goward said.
"I understand the children told their mother that the foster child had frightened and abused them and the mother was so concerned she had hidden kitchen knives, fearing for the family's and the girl's safety."
A spokeswoman for the department said there had been two home visits and phone calls from caseworkers when the girl was in the woman's care, which had started as an informal arrangement between the girl's natural mother and the carer. "DOCS counsellors and teachers are continuing to work closely with this young person to give her the support she needs at this difficult time," the spokeswoman said.
The spokeswoman said the department would contact the carer to discuss the matter further. "Recent accusations made about assaults to the carer's children are being followed up by the department."
Rudd's popularity seems Teflon-coated
By Andrew Bolt
It’s over for Malcolm Turnbull - but the time for a fresh leader is not yet:
KEVIN Rudd’s mid-air outburst at a female RAAF cabin attendant has done nothing to dent the Prime Minister’s popularity, which has soared to near-record levels as Malcolm Turnbull’s rating has hit a new low…
Mr Rudd’s satisfaction rating jumped by five percentage points in the latest Newspoll, which was conducted (in) a period during which Mr Rudd’s apology for his angry outburst, the outcome of the Group of 20 leaders’ meeting and the imminent arrival of the Government’s $900 stimulus cheques were all headline news....
The two-party-preferred result, based on preference flows at the last election, puts Labor’s lead over the Coalition at 16 percentage points, close to its post-2007 election record high… Mr Rudd is preferred as prime minister by 67per cent of voters, while Mr Turnbull recorded his lowest preferred prime minister rating of 18per cent, down two points on the previous poll.
It isn’t enough to say Rudd is merely profiting from splashing cash that voters haven’t yet realised must be paid back - with interest. After all, his ratings have been high for two years now.
Nor is it enough to say it’s too early to get voters to admit they were wrong at the election. After all, John Howard’s ratings after his 1996 win soon fell.
Rudd’s leave-it-to-busy-beaver act is what nervous voters want. The impression of frantic activity (no matter how misapplied) impresses them, and makes him seem not just in control, but in their control. His nerdishness seems proof of his cleverness. His soothing words count for more than his deeds. And voters are in a dangerous mood to be nannied.
On the other hand, for two years the Liberals have yet to offer a competing vision - and particularly a competing moral vision. Indeed, for too long they failed to offer even an effective criticism of what most needed criticising. They seemed to run from their own legacy. And they were stuck on winning a weekly popularity poll, rather than concentrate on winning - and starting - the important arguments they’d need to win by the time of the next election. Think emissions trading. The first stimulus package. Workplace reform.
The most effective way for the Liberals to announce they’ve changed is to elect a new leader. That’s the easy bit. The second is to elect a new leader who indeed brings that deep change. That’s the hard bit. And all this has to be done not yet, when voters still are believing or hoping that Rudd’s spend-spend-spend comes at no cost, and when the media still has plenty of time to get bored with the new Liberal leader and to tear him down.
For the Liberals, then, its an agony to endure. And a time to plan a revolution, not a criticism. A story, not a line.
The curious nexus that must be broken is this - that the worse it gets, the better for the Prime Minister overseeing it:
There has been a 30 per cent fall in the number of newspaper job advertisements in the past two months and they are now 61per cent below the peak reached in November 2007. ANZ’s head of Australian economics, Warren Hogan, said there had never before been such a fast fall in the jobs market.
The more reckless the government’s guarantees, the safer voters feel:
THE Rudd Government has admitted its venture into commercial property banking may end up costing taxpayers money...
Green Myths About Australian Farming
David F. Smith
Agriculture has a bad name in Australia. We are told that: It has exhausted the soil, and yields of crops have collapsed. It has caused massive erosion. It has polluted some rivers, made many others salty and used all the water from the rest. Its animals make methane, a main cause of global warming. Clearing the land has made too many species extinct. Put simply, we shouldn’t have come here—we should have left it to the Aborigines who were so much more in harmony with the land than we are. Popular writers such as Jared Diamond and to a lesser extent Tim Flannery have written books that widely promulgate such views.
How much of these assertions is loose talk? What is myth? What is the evidence?
Few media people have any concern to get it right. Sweeping statements are reported uncritically, serious errors go uncorrected. Some of the repeating is innocent enough, but much is by people who should know better, such as people with titles like “Environmental Editor”. Too frequently they write to whip up emotions, rather than to inform or educate.
Some statements are made, and repeated, when a little deeper thought shows them as meaningless. Some are valid in a limited context but are given status far beyond this. Some are true, but immaterial. Such as:
• The first Europeans and their descendants have simply tried to do European farming in Australia.
• Native is always best: farm kangaroos rather than sheep and cattle; dig out the roses; mimic nature in managing the environmental problems of our landscapes.
• Australia is the driest inhabited continent.
• The soils of Australia’s agricultural lands are old and poor.
• The European settlers have cut down forests over vast areas and caused massive soil erosion and widespread salinity.
Let’s take them one at a time.
Farming Like Europe
It is often stated that not only were the early European settlers in Australia hell-bent on making a little Europe/England, but also that the farming systems used since are still part of such an attempt and therefore should be abandoned. The argument then goes that many of the environmental problems in the Australian landscape will only be “cured” when farmers cease to farm. One example was Tim Flannery’s Australia Day message in 2002: “most of us live as people from somewhere else who just happen to inhabit—sometimes unsustainably, ignorantly and destructively—this marvellous continent … we have believed we could remake the continent in the image of Europe … force our truculent soils to yield”. Ross Garnaut’s work also has a touch of this attitude.
In fact the new settlers must have quickly realised that they were in a very different land needing new approaches. Just because they brought some familiar, well-tried garden plants from “home” does not mean they eschewed the things that were already here. And we need to remember that they would not have seen their “home” land farming as ideal—Europe had had its share of famine and still had severe shortages of food well into the 1800s. Modern humans, who accept different ideas and technologies—and people—from all over the world naturally also scan the global range for useful plants and animals. Some are pretty, adding to the wonderful variety of things already here—like roses. Some give deeper shade when needed and none when it is not—like plane trees. Some are easier to confine and manage—like sheep, rather than kangaroos.
The settlers were quite prepared to use things native: local trees for timber and honey, their bark for tanning; kangaroos for meat, native fish for food; but above all, native grasses for what was for nearly a century to be their mainstay, the sheep industry. They greatly valued these grasses, and soon called them by local names—kangaroo and wallaby grasses. Research was carried out on how to use them best—as late as 1930 the very first graduate student at the new Waite Agricultural Research Institute in Adelaide studied wallaby grass.
Granted they did not attempt to “farm” the kangaroo or emu—with hindsight, sensibly. Despite the occasional assertion that we ought to do so, for instance by Garnaut and Flannery, the extraordinary movements of kangaroos defy any system to contain them and regulate their grazing, even with the superior technologies of our modern times, and “farming” emus remains problematic in economic terms. Some make much of the kangaroo foot being softer than the sheep—ignoring the enormous damage done by the softest foot of all, the rabbit! It is grazing habit and pressure that matter.
Plenty of aspects of agricultural life in Australia would have constantly reminded the settlers that this was a very different place from Europe. Animals could graze in the open year-round; in Europe they had to be sheltered and fed in barns for several winter months. Moisture shortage was a dominant consideration for crop growth; in Europe it was rarely limiting. Existing vegetation had to be cleared and regrowth shoots killed, stumps dealt with and often stones picked—processes that went on for many years; in Europe the crop was planted into “old” land, long cleared of stones and stumps, farmed for centuries.
From the start, those involved (for example the acclimatisation societies) would have, sensibly, scanned the world, not to imitate and transpose whole systems, but to search for new species and to gather ideas to evaluate and possibly incorporate. Conversely, Australia soon became the place to watch, and many Australian inventions have been used elsewhere. Particularly notable ones are the Ridley stripper in the 1850s, the H.V. McKay grain harvester a little later, the stump-jump plough in the 1880s, the fertiliser spinner in the 1930s, and the corrugated-iron rainwater tank. Israel copied our rain-fed systems, not the reverse.
There was soon a distinctively Australian system for widespread grain growing and, especially since 1900, continual evolution supported by excellent research, now leading the world for drier climates. The first system was especially interesting—and different in almost every way from Europe, perhaps only similar in that the crop was wheat, the staple food of the people. A long log was transported from the coastal forests, sometimes hundreds of miles. A horse team or a bullock team at each end pulled the log through the low scrub, often predominantly eucalypt trees, knocking most down. Axemen followed to cut the odd tree missed. When dry, the debris was burned to kill as much of the eucalypt regrowth as possible. The land was then ploughed—with great difficulty, using a European plough—until in the 1870s a farmer in South Australia invented a stump-jump plough—it rode up and over the stumps, dropping back into the earth. This truly Australian invention led to a greatly increased take-up of land for development, especially in South Australia. It too was exported.
From the 1850s the crop was harvested using another South Australian invention, the Ridley stripper, taking the grain only, leaving the stalks (stubble) which when dry gave a burn hot enough to kill much of the remaining eucalypt regrowth. Stumps were progressively pulled from the ground by the ploughs and sold for firewood to supplement income. After two or three “clearing” crops a fallow-wheat rotation was established, the fallow a way of reducing the impact of soil moisture shortage on the crop (rare in Europe), and also extending the arid boundary for cropping (almost non-existent in Europe).
A little later came the close integration of cropping with sheep farming (not a feature in Europe) and by the 1900s the very widespread use of legume-based pastures which also avoided the costly use of nitrogenous fertilisers (normally used in Europe, even now, and an environmental black mark). Phosphatic fertiliser was spread on the legume pastures using a spinner (another South Australian invention, many units of which were exported to Britain).
In fact, visitors and new arrivals from Britain were critical of Australians for not farming the European way—not ploughing deeply enough, for example. In recent decades came minimum, even zero, tillage, now widespread in Australia, while Europeans tilled on. Australians visiting Europe today are critical of excessive tillage. Use of satellite guidance equipment to minimise impact on soils is very common.
The assertions of Flannery and his friend Diamond that our ecosystems are “farmed out” is ridiculous. Flannery suggests that when taking a taxi in Perth the driver is likely to be a wheat farmer who has abandoned his farm. In fact, well-farmed wheat lands support flourishing farmers and in 2008 Western Australia produced at least half of Australia’s wheat crop.
No critical analyst could claim these farmers were simply imitating or establishing European systems. The frequent repeating of this brings into question the speaker’s knowledge of history and understanding of Australian ecosystems—and analytical capability.
Much more HERE
Monday, April 06, 2009
In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG sees the Sydney blackouts as a warning of worse to come
NSW police goons again
The gutless wonders claim they were "afraid" of an elderly Muslim lady. At least they didn't shoot any innocent people this time I suppose. But victimizing elderly ladies does seem to be their form. A safe way to get their rocks off, I guess. A foolish person might think that the police would treat an elderly person with respect and restraint -- but that would be very foolish indeed. That politeness works wonders is an old British policing idea but the NSW police have obviously never heard of it
A GRANDMOTHER who stabbed a child's football and threatened to do the same to two children is suing police after they entered her house, crash-tackled her and shoved her wheelchair-bound son. Bankstown magistrate Jacqueline Milledge said officers behaved "like paratroopers" when they kicked in Najla Salman's door and assaulted her and her teenage disabled son. The court threw out police claims Ms Salman, 55, had assaulted them and the family is now pursuing the maximum compensation of $750,000.
The ball had hit the woman's Regents Park house while a neighbour's 12-year-old daughter and friends were playing in late 2007. Ms Salman seized the ball, stabbed it with a kitchen knife and threw it down in front of them. She allegedly said to the girl and her cousin words to the effect: "Next time you hit my house I'll stab you in the stomach."
The frightened children called triple-0 and police rushed to the home, where they knocked on the door and entered the house. Senior Constable Simon Moore then asked her where the knife was. "And this is where it all goes pear-shaped," Ms Milledge observed.
Constable Moore said he told Ms Salman she was under arrest and to wait where she was but then claims she "shoulder-charged" him, forcing him to "check-drill" her, grabbing her shoulders and pushing her back. Ms Salman protested that she needed to care for her paraplegic son and attempted to get past Constable Moore, whereupon he tackled her again. The officer claimed she shoulder-charged him and he feared she was trying to attack him.
Ms Milledge rejected this as "nonsense". "Is she really shoulder-charging the constable because she wants to get to the knife to use it as a weapon? I don't think so," she said.
When Ms Salman's wheelchair-bound son Qutaiba Alsaad entered the room he saw his mother on the floor with police wrestling with her and trying to handcuff her. He too was pushed by a different police officer to get him out of the way - which Ms Milledge said she could understand.
However she said police had behaved appallingly. "This was a terrible, terrible incident handled badly," she said. "To suggest she was shoulder-charging him to get him out of the way to get to the knife first is just a nonsense and then for Mr Alsaad to come out and see his beloved mother on the ground with police officers on top of her, trying to handcuff her. Over what? A ball. A ball. It honestly defies commonsense and belief ..."
She found Ms Salman guilty of common assault in damaging the ball but dismissed all other charges.
Public hospital bed shortage as deadly as road toll
HOSPITAL emergency department overcrowding is responsible for at least as many deaths every year as occur on Australian roads, doctors say. In a damning series of reports in the Medical Journal of Australia, emergency medicine specialists suggest about 1500 Australian deaths could be avoided each year. The specialists say caring for patients waiting for a hospital bed represents about 40 per cent of the workload in major emergency departments, and up to 70 per cent in some.
They are critical of politicians and bureaucrats who deny that hospital overcrowding has major adverse effects on patient care. Ideally, for a hospital to function effectively, the doctors say occupancy should be no more than 85 per cent to allow for fluctuations in demand. But the Australian Medical Association says hospitals such as Townsville, in Queensland's north, operate at more than 100 per cent capacity "most of the time".
Australia has 2.6 hospital beds per 1000 people - far short of the average of 3.9 per 1000 for countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. A snapshot of overcrowding in accredited Australian emergency departments at 10am on June 2 and September 1 last year, found more than half the patients in non-NSW emergency departments were waiting to be admitted, three-quarters of them for more than eight hours.
Telstra complaints are up by 240 per cent under CEO Sol Trujillo
Why am I not surprised? Trujillo fired a lot of Telstra staff and helpline staff seem to have been among them. And that would explain the comment highlighted below -- a complaint that coincides with my experience
CUSTOMER complaints about Telstra's phone service rocketed by a massive 52 per cent in just 90 days, company statistics have revealed. And over the three-year reign of Telstra boss Sol Trujillo, complaint levels have risen by 241 per cent, figures from the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman show.
Mr Trujillo has been paid about $30 million over the same period, and is to receive a $3 million golden handshake when he steps down in June. "It's frustrating because you can't get through and when you do no one can tell you anything," Telstra Bigpond customer Michael Murray told The Courier-Mail.
Between October last year and the end of 2008 Telstra received about 236 complaints a day, or nearly 10 an hour, about landline and mobile phone services over the three months, for a total of 21,283. In the previous three months the phone giant received 14,014 complaints.
Over the same period, complaints about Telstra's Bigpond internet service climbed 65 per cent, from 3382 to 5607. Mr Murray complained after his internet connection was down for four days last week, calling Telstra "10 to 12 times" asking when the problem would be fixed.
Telstra executive director of corporate complaints Chloe Monroe said the company "acknowledged these are not good results". She said the company had put more resources into taking customer calls. Ms Munroe said it would be "drawing a long bow" to see a connection between Mr Trujillo's time at the top and the number of complaints. [What or who else, then??]
A parable of modern times
Once upon a time there was a Pharaoh – let’s call him Pharaoh John. Pharaoh John was helped by a Vizier called Peter. Peter was a hard man who was feared but respected by his people. Each year the people worked hard – they ploughed the fields, sowed the seeds, harvested the crop, sifted the wheat from the chaff and stored the wheat in silos. In the good years, they produced more than they consumed – and the surplus was stored away. The wise Pharaoh knew that in some years, the rains didn’t come and the fields didn’t produce enough to meet their needs. Under the Pharaoh’s leadership the grain silos were always in surplus – and so they had enough to eat during the lean years.
When the wise Pharaoh passed on, he was succeeded by a prodigal Pharaoh. Let’s call him Kevin. Kevin wanted the people to like him. He said it was time to party. Don’t worry about work, it’s boring. Kevin said “There’s so much grain in the silos that we can afford to give everyone a bonus hand-out for free. Have a party on me!”
The people loved him. They stopped working – and why wouldn’t they when they got grain for free? Kev was the most popular Pharaoh the nation had known since Pharaoh Bob! (Pharaoh Bob was a hard act to follow after he said that any Scribe who sacked a worker for pulling a sickie after the nation’s sailing win was a bum!)
It had taken Pharoah John and his Vizier Pete 10 years to replenish the nation’s grain silos after Bob’s reign. Pharoah Kev emptied them out in 8 months! The people rejoiced with wine, women and song. And they bought up big – particularly with imports from the mysterious nation of the Orient.
The Wise Men of the East who were exporting their goods to Kev’s people thought that Pharaoh Kev was just great, he made them very happy indeed.
One day Kev’s Vizier Wayne went to the silo for the next hand-out. He was shocked to see the grain-store was empty! So Wayne called the Wise Men from the mysterious oriental nation in for a secret meeting. It was so secret the nation’s Scribes weren’t allowed to talk about it. Pharaoh Kev and Wayne begged the Wise Men from the East to lend them grain. The Wise Men agreed but they demanded very generous terms in return.
Kev and Wayne couldn’t believe their luck! Sure enough, the Wise Men from the East delivered on their promise – they filled the silos with grain. As fast as they could deliver the grain (via a tender every Wednesday and Friday) Kev and Wayne handed it out to the people and the party went on and on and on! The people couldn’t believe their luck! Kevin smiled and spoke in mysterious tongues – the people couldn’t understand where the grain was coming from but Kev said it was the right thing to do and he would know!
One day the Wise Men from the East came calling again. This time no one was smiling. They held a big meeting and everyone was invited. The Wise Men brought out the parchment that Kev and Wayne had signed. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. The Wise Men brought their own Viziers, Scribes and Pharisees. Soon everyone was speaking in the mysterious tongue of the East. And the people were forced to get used to working again – this time for the Men from the East. And try though they might, this time there was no Moses to lead them from slavery.
Kev and Wayne sailed off with Bob into the sunset to a lovely future on the speaking circuit. They told tales of the good old days when money was free and the economy was stimulated to within an inch of its life! And the Wise Men from the East smiled knowingly.
For non-Australians, the story refers to conservative prime Minister John Howard paying off Australia's national debt and building up a reserve instead. Within about a year, the new Labor Party government had squandered the reserve and incurred a massive national debt -- mostly funded from China
Sunday, April 05, 2009
The NSW DPP is notorious. Prosecutors are bureaucrats and bureaucrats don't try hard. They just want an easy life
THE State's prosecution lawyers have been accused of downgrading, downplaying and interfering in serious criminal charges, undermining the justice system.
[Police prosecutors] have presented their allegations to the WA Police Union, saying they have been driven to raise ``concern and dissent'' because of the number of ``correctly laid'' charges downgraded to lesser crimes by lawyers from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution in recent months. The police prosecutors say offences are being downplayed and then sent from higher courts to magistrates courts where penalties are lighter. This is happening without the knowledge of victims.
In a document prepared for their union and obtained by The Sunday Times, police prosecutors claim DPP prosecutors ``are interfering in the autonomy of charging officers by amending correctly laid charges''. The police officers say the Office of the DPP is meeting the needs of an overburdened District Court, ``rather than representing the interest of the victim and the community they are supposed to represent''.
The union yesterday called for a parliamentary inquiry and the Opposition demanded a review of all indictable cases from the last year. Union president Mike Dean said he was appalled. ``It's deceiving the courts and interfering with justice,'' he said. Opposition police spokeswoman Margaret Quirk said last night: ``If the (Office of the) DPP is deflating the seriousness of offences so they are more likely to get a guilty plea, then it seriously undermines the justice system.'' Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan has also called for a report from his senior court prosecution staff.
In their complaint police prosecutors have highlighted several cases in which they claim charges have been downgraded: A charge of possession with intent to sell and supply 200 dexamphetamine tablets (40g), reduced to a simple possession and sent back to a magistrates court. In a theft case a $60,000 boat was amended to a $9999 dinghy. This meant the matter could be dealt with in a lower court because the value was under $10,000, but the owner of the stolen property could not recoup his money. Other charges reduced included:
* Sell and supply 6.85g of amphetamine reduced to possession.
* Sell and supply 4.53g of amphetamine reduced to possession.
* Stealing a motor vehicle and reckless driving sent to magistrates because department prosecutors did not think it was serious.
* Aggravated burglary and stealing charges reduced to trespass and stealing.
* Stealing with violence reduced to assault and stealing.
* Aggravated burglary and assault reduced to trespass and assault.
A spokeswoman for the Director of Public Prosecutions Robert Cock said: ``This office would not be a party to misleading a magistrate about an offence or the true value of property. "These issues are not as clear or straightforward as they appear. The boat matter had been brought to his (Mr Cock's) attention and he has asked police prosecution to provide details. He has still not received the details.''
The document states one police prosecutor ``vehemently opposed'' a change so much that the DPP prosecutor returned to the office and laid a complaint.
There are about 80 police prosecutors who say they are now being forced to handle the same complex matters dealt with by DPP prosecutors in the District and Supreme courts. They say they will become overburdened, with indictable matters being amended by DPP prosecutors and sent back to magistrates courts. They also believe the police service will be put at risk of legal action by victims of crime who believe they have not been fairly represented.
Opposition police spokeswoman and former National Crime Authority lawyer Margaret Quirk said: ``The Government needs to audit all indictable cases from the last 12 months to see how widespread the problem is. ``Hopefully, it is not happening on a wide scale, but the indications are that it may be. ``It's extremely disturbing and little wonder that the community is somewhat disillusioned with the criminal justice system. Frustration will only grow if charges do not adequately reflect the true level of criminality of an offence.''
Ms Quirk said repeated downgrading of serious criminal charges was seriously undermining the justice system. ``This is a betrayal of community trust,'' she said.
Mr Dean said: ``These cases are designated to be dealt with by the (Office of the) DPP in the upper courts, they should not be dealt with in such a frivolous matter.'' Attorney-General Christian Porter said he would consider the report when it was made available to him.
Welfare reform coming?
DISABILITY pensioners will face stronger pressure to return to work under reforms flagged by the Treasury Secretary, Ken Henry, as the Federal Government faces a blow-out in welfare costs. Dr Henry told a conference in Sydney yesterday that the pension and the public housing system discouraged people from joining the workforce.
A clearer picture is emerging of where the Henry tax review - the broadest inquiry into the system ever held - is heading. Tax on business is likely to fall, while the review will suggest to the Government that it takes a knife to anomalies within the network of taxes and family and welfare payments.
In his speech yesterday Dr Henry emphasised the aim was to make the system fairer - by minimising quirks as well as providing for the disadvantaged. He highlighted as a concern the gap between the Newstart Allowance for the unemployed and the disability support pension. The disability pension is worth about $70 a week more than Newstart, and recipients can earn more before losing payments. "In fact, if you are in the grey area between unemployment and disability it seems better in every way to be on DSP."
Some people were not able to work, but "I wonder whether we couldn't redesign the system to reduce disincentives to workforce participation", Dr Henry said at the Australian Council of Social Service national conference. Redesigning the system could mean making it more difficult to receive the pension, along the lines of policies introduced by the Howard government.
The president of ACOSS, Lin Hatfield Dodds, said Dr Henry made it clear there were preferable options to leaving people parked on a disability pension. "At the moment there is a perverse incentive for Australians on pension payments to prove they are unable to work so they can stay on the higher rate pension of around $300 a week rather than be moved to a lower-paid allowance of around $225 a week," she said. She hoped the Henry review would endorse the council's proposal for a single adequate payment for all Australians on welfare to end the distinction between pensions and lower-paid allowances.
Dr Henry said his review had not reached any conclusions about the distinctions between various payments. The disability pension looms as a problem for the Government as unemployment increases. Between 1990 and 1993, in the previous recession, the number of recipients rose from 300,000 to 400,000. At present there are about 725,000 recipients.
Dr Henry warned yesterday that unemployment would climb above the forecast 7 per cent. He also highlighted a gap between public housing and rent assistance payments. While the public housing system is more generous, it discourages people from working as rents are linked to income. Dr Henry said it was not obvious why there should be two different sets of policies for the one purpose of subsidising housing. "Perhaps it would be better if low-income earners received the same assistance, irrespective of whether their landlord was the state or in the private sector," he said.
The parliamentary secretary for disabilities and children's services, Bill Shorten, said employer attitudes played a big part in keeping people with disabilities out of the workforce. "There's an inbuilt prejudice there," he told the Herald. Mr Shorten said the Government was working on ideas to encourage businesses to take on disabled employees.
Another member of the Henry tax review, Greg Smith, this week told an Australian National University conference that business taxes would form the thrust of the review. "The big issue is whether we should reduce the tax burden on business." The Henry review will report by the end of the year. It is expected to emphasise a long-term vision for reform rather than policies that can be adopted immediately.
Fathers getting more recognition
It was once widely assumed that children were better off with their mothers, especially after divorce. In part, that was because mothers did most of the child-rearing. They got pregnant, gave birth and did most of the heavy lifting - nappy changes, toilet-training and school pick-ups - as the children got older.
The role played by fathers, for many years, was assumed to be mainly financial: he was the breadwinner and often the person who provided the discipline.
Things have changed. This week, The Australian reported on an extraordinary Family Court decision - in the sense that it was completely out of the ordinary - to remove two children who had been living with their mother in Tasmania since their parents separated in 2005 and send them to live with their father and his girlfriend in Melbourne. There was no suggestion of physical abuse or neglect in the case known as Irish and Michelle (2009).
The facts are this: The couple separated in 2005; the father met a woman and moved to Melbourne to be with her in 2006; his children (a daughter, then aged six, and a son, then four) stayed with their mother in a Tasmanian country town. The mother - known in court documents as Ms Michelle - reorganised her working day so she could spend more time with the children. She had a limited income (less than $500 a week) but the father didn't earn much more (he works as a firefighter and makes about $50,000 a year, minus child support for two children).
The mother has a house with a front garden and a back yard for the children to play, and they live next door to their grandparents, who help out. Her father is a well-known, successful Tasmanian businessman.
The children's father - known in court documents as Mr Irish - works shifts: four days on, four days off, and often through the night. He has always had access to his children, but recently the change-overs had become difficult. He would turn up in Tasmania to take the children for holidays, and they would say: "I don't want to go" or "I don't have to go". On one occasion, witnessed by a child psychologist, the girl tried to climb out of his car window rather than go with him for a weekend. The father believed his relationship with the children was being eroded, that his daughter, now nine, was becoming estranged from him, and that their mother was responsible for these problems. He took the case to the Family Court and, to the utter shock and devastation of the mother, who has been the primary carer of the children all their lives, he won.
Justice Robert Benjamin accepted the court-appointed lawyer's evidence that "both children have consistently maintained that they wish to continue living with their mother".
"They have a close and intimate relationship with the mother and want to be with her," the psychologist said. "They identify their mother as their primary emotional support. As much as the children enjoy spending time with their father, both the children verbalised that they become distressed and miss their mother when they are separated from her."
But he also believed that the girl, in particular, did not understand how important it would be, in later life, to have a relationship with her father.
He said the child, known as B, was becoming emotionally estranged from her father and "either suffered, or was at risk of suffering, serious psychological damage if not psychiatric damage" if the mother didn't encourage her to have a relationship with her father.
There was nothing in the judgment to suggest the mother had denigrated the father, only that she hadn't encouraged a good relationship between the children and their father. The girl told her court counsellor that she didn't like that her father had left the family and now had a new girlfriend, whom she didn't like either.
But Benjamin made the decision to move the children with amendments to the Family Law Act in mind. These amendments, colloquially known as the "shared parenting" provisions, were introduced by the Howard government in 2006. They say that children "have the right to know and be cared for by both parents, regardless of whether their parents are married, separated, have never been married or have never lived together".
Children also have a "right to spend time on a regular basis with, and communicate on a regular basis with, both their parents".
The case of Irish and Michelle suggests that mothers must now encourage their children to have a good relationship with the father; they must facilitate access; and they aren't allowed to talk down the father. If they do, the children will be removed from their full-time care.
Wayne Butler, president of the Shared Parenting Council of Australia, established in 2002 by fathers frustrated at the perceived bias of the Family Court, says the decision "has given us hope. There's a feeling now that if you want a substantial amount of contact with your children, you should wait and go to the Family Court because there is a good chance you'll get it. We strongly believe that children need a relationship with their father. There's a whole change in society's view of a father and that's being reflected in the Family Court."
That view isn't being encouraged by Family Court Chief Justice Diana Bryant, who told The Australian yesterday that Irish and Michelle shouldn't be read "as a marker for anything". "I've read the judgment closely and it seems to me that the judge took into account what the experts said, which is that the children, especially the girl, were at risk of psychological harm if they stayed with their mother. Some people won't agree with the decision." She noted that the mother could appeal within 30 days. Bryant promotes a view of the court as bias-free and transparent. She authorised the release of data on court orders made since the Family Law Amendment (Shared Parenting) Act came into force. The data isn't comparative - that is, it doesn't say whether fathers are now likelier to get access than they were before the amendments - but the Shared Parenting Council's Jim Carter says the data is nevertheless "encouraging for fathers and their children" because it shows that fathers are likelier to get substantial access to their children if they go to the Family Court than if they negotiate directly with their former wives.
"The situation since 2006 is that 17 per cent of fathers were granted primary care of their children and another 15 per cent were granted equal parenting time," Carter says. "That's a total of 32 per cent of fathers in litigated cases (getting substantial access)."
Mothers still get the bulk of the orders in their favour - 60 per cent get primary care of their children - but the Shared Parenting Council suggests that fathers who want "substantial access" to their children after divorce go to court because there is a reasonable chance they'll get it.
At a Senate estimates hearing on February 23, Family First senator Steve Fielding asked the chief executive of the Family Court, Richard Foster, about the amendments and he, too, was told there had been "a change in the orders that impact specifically on fathers".
Bryant says the data shows that fathers were given residence (or full-time custody) of the children in 19 per cent of litigated cases in 1999-2000, compared with 17 per cent of cases after 2006, "so that's actually gone down".
"We can speculate as to why. I think what's happened is that, rightly or wrongly, there was a prevailing view that orders were likely to favour mothers, and fathers would only litigate when they thought they had a good case," Bryant says. "It's possible that view has changed, so more (men) might litigate."
The number of orders for shared parenting is certainly up, from 6 per cent to 15 per cent, which means fathers get at least equal access in 32 per cent of the cases.
Women's groups are worried about the perceived new direction of the court. An online petition, started last month, has gathered 2300 signatures, and a coalition of women's groups will host rallies in all states next month, to highlight the plight of women whose children have been killed by their ex-partners on access visits. Victims of crime will speak, wearing red hoods over their faces, to circumvent laws that make it a crime to identify any party to a Family Court matter. Organiser Barbara Biggs says: "Our speakers have children who were killed after bad Family Court decisions. Some of them are very well known, with the cases all over the media already, but they can't be identified because that's a breach of the Family Law Act."
On publishing the Irish and Michelle story, The Australian received many calls from fathers who intend to try the Family Court system again. One such father, who hasn't seen his 12-year-old girl for two years, despite there being a Family Court order for access in place, says: "I'm supposed to see her this Easter but the orders were made in her absence. (The mother) doesn't show up for court. She doesn't acknowledge the orders. She has changed her telephone number so she can't be reached."
The couple separated when the child was five. "For a few years after that, I got good access. That changed when I got remarried. It dwindled away to nothing. When I read that case (Irish and Michelle) I thought: 'That's exactly what happened to me.' My daughter started to say: 'I don't want to see you' and 'I hate you', and of course that's not the case. We had a good relationship. I would try to speak to her on the phone and maybe I'd get her when her mother was in the shower, but she'd say: 'I can't talk to you. I've got to go."'
At the other extreme are women such as Kelly, a mother and a lawyer from Queensland, who was amazed when the court ordered a 50-50 custody arrangement with her ex-partner even though he'd been convicted of assaulting her.
"The lawyers kept saying: 'It has to be 50-50,"' she says. "He assaulted me when I was holding (the baby), but they say that's not the same as assaulting the baby, so the court says he isn't hurting the child. They said I had no choice under the new laws to hand the baby over one week on, one week off."
Islamophobia is a fabrication
I've been considering a request from a post-graduate student who wants to do a thesis on Islamophobia in Australia. She writes: "I am researching the topic Islamophobia, and I am trying to prove whether Islamophobia is based on religion fear or cultural fear of Islam."
What about proving that Islamophobia exists at all? That would be the logical, ethical and scholarly starting point. But it appears the outcome has already been decided. This would fit the prevailing orthodoxy in academia that the default position for Muslims in Australia is victim. The jargon, "Islamophobia" is part of this ideological construct. Literally, it means fear of Muslims.
I reflected on all this while on holiday in Malaysia and the Maldives last week. This was my twelfth visit to Muslim societies because I do not "fear" Muslims and do not "fear" Islam. Yes, there is ample evidence that Australians have become uneasy about Muslims in general and hostile in specific cases, but this is about cause and effect. Consider the series of blows to the image of Muslims in just the past three weeks, where the everyday decency of the majority have been collaterally damaged by the antics of the few.
On March 8, the night of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, police say a group of about 100 young Muslim men, allegedly members of a loose gang called MBM - Muslim Brotherhood Movement - moved through the centre of the city intimidating, harassing and beating bystanders.
On March 15, Abdul Darwiche was murdered, shot to death in a shopping centre in the latest hyper-violence involving two warring Lebanese Muslim clans. Police later arrested Darwiche's brother, Michael, for driving around with a loaded pistol. A third brother, Adnan, appeared in the NSW Supreme Court three years ago to be sentenced for a double murder. He and his fellow accused, Nasaem El-Zeyat and Ramzi Aouad, laughed and joked, going out of their way to express their contempt for Australian law. After the three men were all given life sentences they shouted "God is great!" This was the same Adnan Darwiche who purchased rocket launchers stolen from the Australian Army, which have never been recovered.
Hundreds of mourners attended Abdul Darwiche's funeral at the Lakemba Mosque, where, within days, Sheik Taj el-Din al Hilaly was involved in yet another controversy. Channel Nine obtained a copy of a video surveillance tape which shows the former mufti of Australia kicking in a door, then returning soon after in the company of police. Apparently he called police over vandalism which he committed, blaming others who are engaged in a power struggle at the mosque. Sheik Hilaly has been embroiled repeatedly in controversy and provocation, making numerous inflammatory remarks about Australia and Australians.
A few days later, yet another rape sentence was handed down to one of the K brothers, three of whom, during their various trials for gang rape, claimed they were victims of an anti-Muslim conspiracy. Between them, four K brothers have been convicted of gang-raping five girls.
This sentencing followed closely on the conviction of seven Sydney schoolboys for the aggravated sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl in a toilet block in Yagoona in 2007. According to police, the ring-leader was on his phone speaking in Arabic during the assaults and most or all of the boys are of Muslim background.
If this is so, these latest convictions produce a morbid tally of more than 30 young Muslim men involved in serious proven sexual assaults of non-Muslim girls in Sydney, involving the Skaf brothers, the K brothers, the E-M cousins, the Yagoona schoolboys and various others. Because sexual assault is the least reported crime (about 15 per cent of incidents are reported to police) this particular phenomenon was certainly much broader.
Finally, there has been fatal violence between bikie gangs, accompanied by news that there has been an infusion of young Muslim men into the bikie culture. There is now warring between new gangs and traditional Anglo criminal gangs for control of the drug and protection markets. Gang leaders named Mahmoud and Hassan and Ismail have been prominent. Gangs like MBM, Notorious and Asesinoz have flaunted their ethnicity. Overtly racist videos have been posted on YouTube, such as the message that "Asesinoz is now targeting Aussies", with an image of a vandalised Australian flag.
The events of the past week have been a variation on a theme police have been dealing with for years. It erupted spectacularly in 2005 when a self-styled "intifada" by armed Muslim men, travelling in convoys, staged numerous co-ordinated assaults across the eastern beach suburbs of Sydney. The attacks were in response to the most notorious case of anti-Muslim feeling in Australia, the Cronulla riot in December, 2005. The roots of this demonstration was the failure of the police, who for years had preferred to pretend the problem did not exist.
Given the abundant evidence of violent cause and fearful effect, involving a small percentage of antagonists, the general charge of Islamophobia is an ideological fabrication.
As for the criminal gangs, for more than 10 years I have argued that Australia needed anti-gang laws similar to the RICO laws (racketeering influenced corrupt organisations) used in the United States, which smashed the code of silence and solidarity by criminal gangs. Finally, the state Labor Government has begun to stir on this issue.
Saturday, April 04, 2009
A WOMAN gave birth to a stillborn baby in the toilets of Bankstown Hospital after being told by two doctors that she was just constipated. Health officials have confirmed that the woman, aged 21, went to the hospital unaware she was pregnant, after consulting two local general practitioners. It is the fifth serious incident to have occurred in the toilets of a NSW hospital since a miscarriage at the Royal North Shore in September 2007 prompted the State Government to open a special commission of inquiry into the health system. The Garling commission handed down its 139 recommendations just last week.
Complaining of pains in her stomach on Thursday night, the woman was taken for X-rays, a process that can be harmful for pregnant women. The results confirmed she was heavily pregnant, but the woman wandered off from the radiology section of the hospital before she was informed.
While she was in the hospital toilets, her waters broke and she gave birth to the child in a toilet bowl. It is understood the baby had a pulse and hospital staff rushed to try and resuscitate the child, but were unsuccessful.
A Sydney South West Area Health Service spokesman said the details of the events were still being investigated. "[The woman] gave birth to a baby that sadly did not survive," he said. "These are very unusual and upsetting circumstances for the patient and hospital staff. The woman is receiving ongoing support and care. "The family have requested no further details be released. This is now a matter before the coroner and it is inappropriate to comment further."
A spokesman for the Health Minister, John Della Bosca, said he was first alerted to the incident by a media report, but confirmed it would be referred to the coroner to be investigated. "[Mr Della Bosca's] very concerned about this. He has already made phone calls to make sure that woman involved gets the support she needs," the spokesman said.
The Opposition health spokeswoman, Jillian Skinner, describing the incident as "horrific" and "unbelievable", said Mr Della Bosca needed to show some leadership and extend the coroner's powers. She said the incident had echoes of the Vanessa Anderson case. Her death in November 2005 highlighted systematic failings of the health system.
"A coroner looks at death, a coroner doesn't look at the system and how it has let this mother and her child down," she said. "I expect a coronial inquiry, but we also need to know what else in this whole process went wrong …" "This is more than a death, it's about a whole systemic failure to address what went wrong, and this woman has been subjected to error after error after error." It is the fourth time a woman has lost a child in a NSW hospital toilet since September 2007.
Bishops running amok
Pronouncing on matters outside their field of expertise is not confined to scientists
There used to be a time when lefties regarded the church in all its forms as an enemy of freedom. In some of the bigger civil upheavals of the past century, Spain in the 1930s, France and Mexico in the late '60s, left-wing activists went so far as to physically attack the clergy. Today, the Left is more at risk of being rendered obsolete by the churches, which conspired this week to ensure that as the Group of 20 summit got under way in London, God should crash the party.
The God we saw in London this week was a much more supreme version of the supreme being most of us know. Not the kindly old white-bearded guy but an activist and thinker, a can-do, Keynesian God who believes that governments must play an interventionist role in the event of market failure. A God who regards climate change as the greatest moral challenge facing our generation, to quote St Kevin of Nambour, and wants us all to sign up to an emissions trading scheme.
Ahead of the G20 meeting most people would have assumed that the biggest lunatics would be the ones out on the street trying to set fire to Burger King, Laura Ashley and other examples of capitalism at its most sinister. But the anarcho-syndicalists and deep ecologists were out-weirded hands-down by the clergy.
In welcoming our Prime Minister to St Paul's Cathedral, Bishop of London Richard Chartres added a new ritual to the liturgy: not the jangling of the incense but the blowing of smoke up the arse. "It would not be too strong to say the election of Kevin Rudd constituted something of an Obama moment for that country," he said.
It's hard to fathom how the vicar drew such a parallel, although it should be remembered that this is the same bloke who wrote in The Times about the liberating powers of being retrenched and how "getting off the treadmill" can be good for the soul.
In fairness, it may have been the similarities between Rudd and Barack Obama's victory speeches that confused him. You'd remember Rudd saying: "We have put before the Australian people a plan, it's our agenda for work, and you know something? Everything I have said through this election campaign and in the year leading up to it is our agenda for work", in much the same way that Obama said: "Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope."
The Bishop of London was just the warm-up act. The star of the show was our very own George Browning, the former bishop of Canberra and Goulburn, who tastefully decided that a service in memory of the 173 people who died in the Victorian bushfires was the ideal spot for a free lecture on climate change. "We dare not contemplate a future without learning the lessons this experience has taught us," he said.
Browning didn't expand on the carbon footprint caused by the mileage of his Canberra-Sydney-Singapore-London-Singapore-Sydney-Canberra homily, as he was too busy making mileage out of our greatest natural disaster. It was audacity in the highest to deign to speak for the families of the dead, many of whom would not blame the disaster on climate change at all. Some of them might argue that it was more the result of staunch climate change adherents in local government who prevented land and home owners from cutting down trees.
Taste aside, the more fundamental point is whether a clergyman who makes a living talking fantasy has any standing to hold forth on the most complicated scientific question of our time. During the past year that great empiricist George Pell, the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, has written several columns saying he's yet to be convinced by the science on climate change. Now we have the likes of Browning at the other end of the spectrum. Both men also believe that it's possible to come back from the dead.
Maybe I should get the Bible out and have another flick-through, but I'm struggling to remember the passage about climate change, either for or against, unless it's referred to obliquely in Revelation along with that stuff about the seven-horned beast that will arrive shortly before The Rapture. I can't recall the section on financial regulation or monetary policy either, a problem not shared by the 32-member delegation of vicars, mullahs, rabbis and other holy men whose G20 communique just may solve the global financial crisis.
It went beyond the generic and vaguely admirable anti-greed stuff that underpins allreligions and instead offered precise suggestions to "restore that lost sense of balance between the requirements of market mechanisms that help deliver increased prosperity and the moral equivalent to safeguard human dignity". Sounds like God's backing the bailout, then. Maybe Kev sent him a $900 cheque, too; if dead people and prisoners got them, there's no reason deities should miss out.
A day ahead of the communique, the Pope upped the ante by urging Gordon Brown to embrace an ethical financial system and to ensure that developed nations did not wind back on their aid budgets as a proportion of gross domestic product, "especially for Africa and for less developed countries elsewhere". It was the Pope's first bit of assistance to Africa since his helpful observation to its vastly uneducated, highly religious poor last month that condoms only make AIDS worse, a bit like the old Methodist warning that sex should be avoided as it can lead to dancing.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's short fuse trigger exodus of personal staff
Mark Latham, Rudd's Labor party predecessor, was an even bigger bully. But it should be no surprise that Leftist "compassion" is a false front.
PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd's short fuse and unreasonable demands have triggered an exodus of personal staff and a backlash from public servants. His staff turnover is about to reach 16, or one a month since winning office, with the latest casualty being $78,000-a-year ex-butler John Fisher, dubbed "Jeeves" by the Opposition, The Daily Telegraph reports. "Jeeves" will join a range of advisers, secretaries and assistants to leave the turbulent PM's office.
Mr Rudd's bully-boy style has come under close scrutiny after it was revealed he had reduced a young RAAF cabin attendant to tears during a VIP flight when she was unable to produce the right meal.
Labor staffers - even those who have left the PM's office - are reluctant to speak out about their boss. But some are privately critical of Mr Rudd's management style. "He never gives positive feedback and gets angry very easily," said one.
A former senior Rudd staffer described his old boss as intolerant and socially dysfunctional. He said Mr Rudd was unable to deal with situations such as catering and usually left those matters for others to handle.
Senior public servants have also become frustrated at the unrelenting demands of the workaholic PM, who thinks nothing of calling them at night.
Mr Fisher, whose role as butler caused embarrassment to the PM, is expected to leave after Easter. He has moved on from his role as travelling assistant, where his job was to lay out Mr Rudd's suits. Other staff to recently depart include Virginia Dale, a long-term Labor adviser, and Gary Quinlan, who will soon become our new ambassador to the UN.
Mr Rudd's spin doctor Lachlan Harris also has been criticised from Labor MPs who say they've received sprays. Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull turned up the heat after revelations Mr Harris had tried to cover up the jet incident. "You get the feeling with the Rudd Government that they only tell you the truth when they've been found out," he said.
Laurie Oakes has more background on the matter. There is a chronically inept defence force bureaucracy (surprise! surprise!) involved too. But that is of course no excuse for abusing an entirely innocent young woman.
Principals Australia calls for job preparation -- in pre-school!
Does the nonsense from "educators" ever stop? It's true that little kids do have career thoughts. Most little boys that I have known have wanted to be firemen or policemen when they grew up but I know none who grew up to be so. The Archbishop of Westminster wanted to be a truck driver when he was a boy.
THE head of Principals Australia believes toddlers in daycare should be given early career counselling to help them work out what they want to be when they grow up.
Kate Castine, who runs the Principals Australia career education project on behalf of the federal Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, is calling for "career development concepts" to be included in the new national curriculum, according to a report in The Australian. The call was immediately rejected as "crazy stuff" by a leading childcare operator, while the state and territory children's commissioners warned against pushing academic-based teaching on children still in nappies.
But Ms Castine said research showed students as young as six could identify what they wanted to do when they grew up. "The argument that children should be exposed to career development concepts at an early age has been endorsed by current worldwide research," she wrote in comments posted on the department's official online forum, seeking feedback on the latest draft of the "early-learning framework". "Reference to career development competencies needs to be explicit so teachers understand its importance."
Ms Castine said her concern was that little children rarely think beyond what their parents and relatives do for a living. "They identify very, very limited careers, usually associated with their family," she told The Weekend Australian. "That makes quite good sense but what needs to happen is that children who are very young need to identify there's a whole range of possible careers ... and not just what they see at home."
Queensland's biggest childcare chain, the community-based C&K, yesterday rejected the kids' careers counselling as "crazy stuff". "What about letting children be children?" said C&K's chief executive Barrie Elvish. "It's bad enough that kids in years 11 and 12 have to choose a career. How on earth can you get a four-year-old to think about what they'll be doing in 20 years' time?"
Indian students boost Australia's export economy
VASHA Vankadesh is the new face of Australia's export economy. As part of an exploding diaspora of young Indians now studying in Australia, she contributes more than $30,000 a year to the domestic economy as she ploughs her way through an engineering degree at the Australian National University in Canberra. But Vasha's investment in Australia is unlikely to end there.
The 18-year-old from Chennai, in India's southern state of Tamil Nadu, was one of the 96,739 Indian enrolments in Australian higher education and vocational training courses last year, a massive 54 per cent increase on the almost 63,000 Indian enrolments in 2007 and up from just 11,313 in 2002.
With India projected to be the fifth-largest consumer market by 2025, Australian-trained Indian graduates and skilled workers represent a future trade and investment bonanza as they return home to jobs in the business and government sector.
Australia's now well-established business links with Southeast Asia can be traced back to the 1950s, 60s and 70s when many students from that region studied in Australia.
"You're now seeing the beginnings of that sort of relationship between India and Australia," Australia's High Commissioner to India, John McCarthy, said yesterday.
Indian students now make up almost 18 per cent of Australia's total foreign student population, the second largest group after China, which represents 23.5 per cent of the total foreign student body. Foreign students are now Australia's third-largest export income earner, behind coal and iron ore, contributing $14.1 billion in direct income and an additional $12.6 billion in value-added goods and services, a new Access Economic report has found.
Vasha says she chose Australia over Britain and the US because it was closer to home and cheaper. "I was quite nervous, but since a large number of (Indian) students are now in Australia they're really helpful to new students," she said. She plans to return to India at the end of her four-year degree.
Friday, April 03, 2009
Ho hum! Just another big Leftist ego behind the "caring" facade
KEVIN Rudd reduced a young female RAAF cabin attendant to tears with a tirade of abuse because he did not get a meal he wanted during a VIP flight. The Prime Minister was forced to apologise for his behaviour, which appalled a number of senior Government officials. An official report was filed by the flight crew about the behaviour of VIP No. 1 - Mr Rudd - after the flight from Port Moresby to Canberra in late January, The Daily Telegraph reports.
Mr Rudd, who had attended the Pacific Islands Forum, was told by the 23-year-old flight attendant that his request for a "special" meal - he is on a meat-free diet - could not be met.
Sources said the PM reacted "strongly" and a heated exchange followed. The attendant burst into tears and reported the matter to the senior cabin attendant. She later composed herself and continued with the in-flight service. "The crew were distressed but later in flight apologies were made by all," the report says. It is believed Mr Rudd made a personal apology.
The PM's chief spin doctor, Lachlan Harris, initially tried to cover up the incident with a flat denial that it had even occurred. But the report by the Commander of the VIP fleet, Group Capt Peter Wood, leaves no doubt about Mr Rudd's behaviour. It says cabin crew on board the taxpayer-funded Boeing 737 VIP aircraft were not even aware of Mr Rudd's special meal request. Mr Rudd has been losing weight and is on a non-red meat and fruit only dessert diet.
It is not the first unsavoury incident involving Mr Rudd and RAAF cabin crew. During a flight between Sydney and Canberra last June he became "extremely irritated" when the only food on offer was gourmet sandwiches, rather than a hot meal, a source said.
The Boeing 737 VIP jet costs more than $28,000 an hour to run and the first-class service includes the best available food, wine, spirits and beer. The Port Moresby-Canberra flight would have cost taxpayers about $150,000. The flying visit to PNG included a "who's who" of senior public servants, who spent the return flight putting the finishing touches to the Government's $42 billion economic stimulus package.
Last year Mr Rudd admitted to not being a very careful eater after eating a dodgy pie at the footy. "I don't pay a whole lot of attention to what I eat. When someone hands me something I stick it in my mouth, so there's a problem with that," he said. And according to his wife Therese Rein he makes a "fierce" chocolate cake.
The Defence Department said it was not appropriate to comment on the service provided by No. 34 Squadron on its aircraft. A spokesman for Mr Rudd, who is in London for the G20 Summit, said the PM was happy with the service. "The Prime Minister travels on the special purpose aircraft all of the time and is very happy with the outstanding level of service provided by the dedicated members of the 34 Squadron," the spokesman said.
Air force flight attendants are paid between $47,000 and $68,000 a year and are required to display a high degree of courtesy and discretion and be able to work unsupervised.
Don't spare the rod
Overwork, large classes and poor pay are issues that worry new teachers. But according to a recent Australian Education Union survey of teachers across Australia, the other issue at the forefront of their minds is classroom behaviour. The 2008 survey, which drew 1545 responses, ranks disruptive students second on a list of 11 issues - rating 66.1 per cent, compared with 68.5 per cent for concerns about workload, 62.9 per cent for pay and 62.6 per cent for class sizes. Of even more concern is that the figure on behaviour reflects a jump of more than 10 per cent compared with the 2007 survey. At the secondary level, the issue is ranked number one, with a rating of 71.4 per cent.
Victorian school leaders also see disruptive students as a serious issue. The president of the Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals, Brian Burgess, recently criticised the Brumby Government for weakening the power of schools to deal with the problem.
Australian teachers and principals are not alone in expressing anxiety about the damaging effects of classroom misbehaviour. In Britain, a recent teacher survey found that 45.5 per cent of those interviewed said challenging behaviour was a daily event and nearly two-thirds agreed that student behaviour had grown worse since they had started teaching.
Disruptive behaviour does not just undermine learning; equally damaging is its effect on teacher morale and wellbeing. According to one newspaper report, cases of stress leave for Victorian teachers have risen from 125 in 2006 to 170 in 2008. Beyond the cost of WorkCover claims, many qualified and committed teachers leave the profession early because of the anxiety and stress caused by disruptive students. It needs to be noted, too, that many beginning teachers are also concerned about aggressive and demanding parents, with 86.5 per cent saying that their training had not adequately prepared them for dealing with what many teachers describe as the angry parent syndrome.
What's to be done? At a time when teachers are told that they must solve society's problems - from drug and alcohol abuse to sex education, self-esteem and wellness training, road safety, diet and, following Black Saturday, bushfire prevention - it's time to say enough is enough.
Parents are primarily responsible for raising their children and for instilling discipline and respect for others. It should be no surprise that children who are indulged, spoilt and turned into prima donnas at home cause disruption at school. So-called helicopter parents - the ones always hovering around, interfering and giving advice - should realise that they need to stand back, give children responsibility and allow teachers and schools to set and enforce their rules free from interference.
Based on the AEU beginning teachers' survey, it is clear that pre-service teacher education needs to be more effective in equipping teachers to cope with classroom realities. When asked whether their training had prepared them to deal with particular groups of challenging students, such as those from non-English speaking backgrounds, those with disabilities and those from dysfunctional backgrounds, nearly 70 per cent said "no".
Inquiries into teacher education have recommended that more time be given to practical classroom experience, with less emphasis on educational theory and more on what constitutes effective, research-based classroom practice.
Most baby boomer teachers my age will remember the '70s and '80s, when formal discipline went out the window - along with the strap and school inspectors - and classroom rules were negotiated, teachers were called by their first name and a student's rights had priority over those of the group.
One response to unruly behaviour, advocated by Britain's Office for Standards in Education, is a return to traditional discipline and a more authoritarian school environment. Comprehensive schools in disadvantaged areas have received positive reports after taking up such an approach. In drawing a clear line between life on the streets and what is accepted in the classroom, schools have banned hoodies and gang colours, introduced formal assemblies, clear rules that are enforced quickly and consistently, and strict uniform regulations. Many inner-city US schools have also turned behaviour around by enforcing strict rules and by promoting a school culture that rewards effort and success.
Compare such approaches with what takes place in many Australian schools, where discipline procedures are convoluted and bureaucratic. It's often assumed that teachers are at fault and parents are only too willing to take their children's side in any dispute. In one notable example of how difficult it is to enforce discipline, a Victorian teacher failed to intervene in a schoolyard fight between a group of girls, most likely because of what would have happened if he had manhandled one of them.
Research shows that, along with a rigorous, properly defined curriculum, teachers are the most important factor in successful learning. To be effective, teachers need to be well paid, well resourced and to be given the power to maintain discipline in the classroom.
Australia's new Leftist government is trying to hide the renewed flow of illegals
The previous conservative government stopped the flow of illegals arriving by boat, to widespread public approval. Abandonment by the new government of the policies reponsible for that has seen the flow resume, with boats now arriving roughly weekly -- and the boats concerned are getting bigger, with more people aboard. In fear of public opinion, the present government is resorting to the usual Leftist kneejerk reaction: secrecy
FIFTY Sri Lankans found stranded on a Torres Strait reef have been flown to Christmas Island and are being investigated by Immigration officials. Secrecy cloaked the identity of the group as officials declined to confirm if they were fishermen, asylum seekers or from a boat linked to a people-smuggling syndicate.
Officials confirmed both a border control plane and Customs vessel had been tracking their boat through the treacherous Warrior Reef when it ran aground. But it has not been confirmed which direction they were travelling or why authorities were so closely monitoring the movements of the vessel.
It is understood a specially charted plane was last night dispatched to Horn Island to transfer the group, reportedly Sri Lankans, to Christmas Island detention facility.
Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus yesterday confirmed Customs officers detained the group on Warrior Reef, about 65 nautical miles north-east of Thursday Island. On Christmas Island they will have health, security and other checks to establish their identity and reasons for travel.
Getano Lui, from Yam Island, the island closest to the Warrior Reef passage, confirmed secrecy had shrouded the rescue mission.
Some more details here.
Too many cooks in Australia's legal immigration broth
Too many foreign cooks are spoiling the broth for locals seeking jobs in hospitality, says a Monash University study. New figures show that the annual number of overseas students who did cooking courses in Australia and then gained permanent residency had more than tripled to 3250 in just two years. This compares with only 2300 Australians who completed cooking apprenticeships in 2007. The Monash report, to be released today, says many of the private operators that are providing the one-year courses have poor standards and are an easy route for immigration.
Thousands of students, mainly from India, attend cooking schools in Melbourne as part of an international student boom worth $11 billion to Australia. So competitive is the industry that overseas students are stopped on city streets and offered laptops and discounted fees to change schools. In leaflets obtained by the Herald Sun, agents for the schools boast of their success in getting residency visas while offering weekend classes with no exams.
The Monash report, The Cooking-Immigration Nexus, was written by migration experts Dr Bob Birrell and Dr Ernest Healy, and labour market researcher Bob Kinnaird. The authors said that despite the Rudd Government's moves to tighten the skilled migration program, it was failing to stem the rising tide of foreign students trained as cooks in Australia.
While cooking had been removed from the list of critical skills needed here, foreigners with minimal work experience could still be sponsored by employers, they said. "Employers have an incentive to take advantage of the relatively low wages and conditions former overseas students will accept in return for a permanent residence sponsorship," the report said. The report is published in the latest issue of People and Place, the journal of Monash's Centre for Population and Urban Research.
Thursday, April 02, 2009
In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG doesn't like the idea of a big Australian mining company being sold to China
A statement by Viv Forbes, Chairman of the Carbon Sense Coalition
The Carbon Sense Coalition today claimed that the Emissions Trading Scheme would eat the heart out of regional Australia by destroying jobs in mining, processing, construction, farming, forestry, transport and tourism.
In a submission to the Australian Senate Economics Committee, the Chairman of “Carbon Sense”, Mr Viv Forbes, said that the mis-named “Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme” had nothing to do with carbon or pollution - “it is essentially a cap and a tax on carbon dioxide, the harmless, colourless natural gas that sustains all life on earth”.
“To cut man’s emissions of carbon dioxide, we need to curb electricity generation, cement manufacture, mining, smelting, refining, all forms of transport, farm and earth moving machinery, all farmed animals, forestry and construction. In return they would have us believe that the inland will survive when these once vibrant industries are replaced by feral forests feeding on carbon credits, vast mobs of kangaroos, regiments of becalmed wind towers, treeless tracts of ethanol crops and deserts of solar panels.
“California and Spain have proved that the war on carbon dioxide will kill real jobs faster than fake green jobs can be created. At the same time, the silly claims that alternate energy can provide continuous, economical and reliable power will encourage neglect of Australia’s key reliable low cost electricity source - coal power.
“When the lights go out, industry migrates to Asia and our power bills soar, it will be too late to prevent great harm to our economy, our jobs and our life style.
“The global warming hysteria has passed its zenith. The recession is already cutting industrial emissions, and natural cycles are cooling the weather. And the flimsy scientific basis for the hysteria is being demolished daily by a growing army of sceptics.
“Depopulating the outback is not a sensible policy for any Australian Government. The Senate should refuse to pass this dangerous and unnecessary legislation.”
The detailed submission from the Carbon Sense Coalition can be found here.
The above is a press release from Viv Forbes [firstname.lastname@example.org], Chairman, The Carbon Sense Coalition
Bettina outrages the feminists with some home truths again
I knew her father, Heinz Arndt, the economist. A very realistic guy. Bettina seems to have inherited that. I am glad that she seems to be firing on all cylinders again after the tragic death of her beloved husband, Dennis Minogue. Part of her strength probably comes from the fact that she was a "Daddy's girl" when she was a child. As she has rightly said: "There's nothing like growing up with a dad who adores you, you know". There's a great interview with her here
The sex therapist Bettina Arndt's latest book The Sex Diaries has been selling like hottie-cakes, with 10,000 off the shelves in the first three weeks. But it's not just book sales that are up. There may be an Arndt-led recovery of bedroom hanky panky if wives heed her message that their poor deprived husbands deserve more sex.
Based on the bedroom revelations of 98 Australian couples over six to nine months, it has lifted the lid on the unspoken topic of men and women's biologically mismatched sexual desire. From the Hindustan Times to the E Yugoslavia website, Arndt's exhortation to women to do their "wifely duty" and beef up the sex supply, has certainly been a headline grabber. "It simply hasn't worked to have a couple's sex life hinge on the fragile, feeble female libido," says Arndt. "The right to say 'no' needs to give way to saying 'yes' more often."
Of course she has been excoriated by feminists for saying that much marital disharmony might be overcome if women just "put the canoe in the water" and start paddling, even if they don't feel like it. "Bettina Arndt rape cheerleader" was one furious blog response. "F--- you, Bettina Arndt," was another. Eva Cox of the Women's Electoral Lobby launched a counterattack, claiming that it's men's own fault they aren't getting enough sex, because they don't do their fair share of housework. "After an evening of organising kids, dinner, the shopping, the washing, the homework, etc, maybe [women] are too tired to want sex."
It's an old excuse. As Arndt says, any time men complain about something, even in the anonymity of a sex therapist's book, feminists hit back with the housework furphy. The fact is, when you add up in-home and out-of-home duties, men work just as many hours as women, and sex has very little to do with it.
The latest ABS social trends survey, released last week, found that women do almost twice as much housework as men - 33 hours and 45 minutes a week. But while men might not do as much vacuuming and ironing, they spend a lot more time than women working outside the house in paid jobs - an average of 31 hours and 50 minutes a week, compared with women's 16 hours and 25 minutes.
In other words, men and women do about the same amount of work in total - about 50 hours a week each. It's called division of labour and it has long been the negotiated settlement of marriage.
Men have tried to up their share of housework - by 8 per cent - since 1992. But it doesn't seem to have increased their share of sex, judging by The Sex Diaries. In her chapter "Laundry Gets You Laid?", one of Arndt's diarists describes her husband as the "domestic God", yet their libidos are still worlds apart.
Another diarist, Mary, 42, has put her husband on sex "starvation rations" until he does more housework. But, she admitted: "[My husband] argues that even if I were a lady of leisure with a maid and housekeeper and no need to work … I still wouldn't be interested in sex. I deny deny and deny, but deep inside I have to admit there is a chance he might be right."
Housework is just one of the excuses used by women to fend off their partner's advances. Only 10 per cent of Arndt's female diarists had higher sex drives than their partners and her book is full of the anguish of the other men, whose wives have just lost interest.
Arndt said yesterday that female libido is so fragile it is easy to find excuses not to have sex. But desire is a decision. Women "have to make a decision to put sex back on the to-do list because if you allow these other things to swamp your sexual interest your relationship will be in real trouble".
Of course, "resentment is a passion killer", and unequal share of household duties has long been high on a woman's list of resentments. "But it strikes me as being so unfair that women feel entitled to voice their complaints and demands of a relationship, yet a lot of men have at the absolute top of their wants and needs more sex and it's been totally ignored. "How can we justify simply shutting up shop or forcing a man into a life spent grovelling for sex?"
The picture Arndt gets from her male sex diarists is in large part a lament for love denied. They love their wives but desperately need the intimacy they used to have. They feel cheated. "I am totally at a loss as to what to do," writes Andrew, a 41-year-old diarist, married for six years, with two children. He and his wife used to have sex every day but are down to once every five or six months. "I do love her and I think she loves me but I cannot live like a monk. "What makes women think that halfway through the game they can change the rules to suit themselves and expect the male to take it?"
Arndt is not suggesting women have sex against their will, but to heed new research that shows they may still enjoy sex even if they didn't crave it in the first place. Mismatched desire need not spell the end of a couple's sex life.
The other side of the equation is women's guilt at their own lower sex drive. Understanding that male and female sex drives are different was the key to rapprochement in the bedroom, she said. "It's all about walking in each other's shoes. Most of the women are upset that they don't want sex. It's not a deliberate thing … but we have to find a way around it if we have marriages lasting 40 years."
Since the book was published, Arndt has been inundated with emails and messages from frustrated men. But she has also touched a nerve with women. The day after Arndt appeared on the ABC's Lateline to promote her book, a friend told her that every woman in her tuckshop group had sex with their husbands.
Another Queensland police goon
Court told police officer bashed tourist, shoved hose in his mouth. Lucky the guy survived. Mulrunji Doomadgee didn't
A FORMER Queensland police officer allegedly bashed and kicked a handcuffed tourist unconscious before nearly drowning him by jamming a fire hose into his mouth. Former senior constable Benjamin Thomas Price, 32, yesterday faced Proserpine Court for committal on six counts of assault on three victims.
Police whistleblower Constable Bree Sonter broke down in tears as video of the alleged attack outside Airlie Beach police station was shown to the court, The Courier-Mail reports.
The emotional father of the alleged victim stunned the court as he stood and yelled: "You're a brave man Price, I hope you get a fire hose jammed up your arse in jail."
Timothy Steele, 24, a plasterer from NSW, suffered a broken nose, black eyes, a head wound, hearing problems, memory loss and lack of sensation in his arms and hands after his arrest in the popular Whitsundays tourist town on May 24 last year. He told the court he was trying to break-up a fight between two mates when he was capsicum sprayed by Sonter. It is alleged Price led the handcuffed Steele to a police car before saying "watch your head" and smashing his face into the vehicle, knocking him unconscious.
Price allegedly dragged Steele from the car outside Airlie Beach watchhouse, repeatedly punched him and "kicked him with his boots" in the face, breaking his nose.
CCTV video footage from the police station shows a dazed, heavily bleeding Steele being dragged into an alley beside the watchhouse. It shows the handcuffed man being punched in the head before having a fire hose jammed into his mouth, where it was held for up to 90 seconds as another officer watches.
Steele screams and groans in agony and blood can be seen sheeting down the concrete path as the policeman stands on the handcuffs, pressing his hand into the back of the man's neck, forcing his head into his lap in a brutal spine lock.
"I felt like I was going to drown," Steele told the court. "He jammed the hose into my mouth. I couldn't breathe. I was coughing and spluttering blood. It was pretty scary. It went on for a long time. "I called him a pussy. He knocked me about. I was pretty dazed, I'd had a boot to my face, my nose was broken. I was choking on my own blood, I felt like I was drowning."
Constable Sonter, now based at Sandgate, broke down as she told how she could hear Steele screaming for help. "I could hear Price yelling 'You like that?' and then a smack sound, it sounded like a punch, and Steele went quiet," she told the court.
The strongly built former officer, who now works as a tree-cutter, also allegedly repeatedly punched another man in the face during an argument about urinating in public. He also is accused of assaulting tourist Renee Tomms. Price, who has not yet entered a plea, is represented by Queensland Police Union barrister Steve Zillman.
Leftist government can't let go of its bureaucrats
The Bligh Government has baulked at adopting radical proposals to get rid of hundreds of statutory authorities and other public bodies despite being told the move would immediately save $18 million. An independent review of more than 450 government organisations has recommended that 218 should be abolished, sold or merged with other bodies. Bodies slated for abolition include the Queensland Water Commission and Tourism Queensland.
The review, commissioned by Premier Anna Bligh last year, insisted its proposals were in the public interest. But Premier Anna Bligh has stopped short of endorsing the recommendations, citing the impact it could have on jobs. She has instead ordered her ministers to consider its implications and report in a month. "It is also a report which proposes some extremely radical and dramatic changes," she said. "In that light, while all recommendations will be considered, I don't anticipate all will be adopted."
Chaired by Griffith University professor Patrick Weller and former senior bureaucrat Simone Webbe, the review urges the Government to change the way it sets up statutory authorities and boards. It said the Government should stop paying members of several advisory councils and argues that lower-tier water authorities should be transferred to local government.
The review said initial direct savings would be more than $18 million - a "grossly conservative" estimate. Some government bodies suffered from "jurisdictional overlap" while others had lost their relevance, it said.
The review targets a range of minor organisations and boards and urges the Government to transfer the Queensland Water Commission's functions to the Department of Natural Resources and Water. Tourism Queensland should also be dumped as a statutory authority and its work taken over by departmental officers, the review says.
Ms Bligh said most of the authorities and boards targeted by the review did not employ staff, but some did. "Jobs are now and will remain my Government's first priority in considering these recommendations," she said. Ms Bligh said she expected the Government to decide within a month whether to adopt the recommendations.
Victim's grandpa says kill all crocodiles
THE family of a girl tragically killed by a saltwater crocodile wants to see widespread culling of the killer reptiles in the Northern Territory. Briony Goodsell, 11, was taken by a croc while swimming with her seven-year-old old sister Beth and two friends at Black Jungle Swamp near their Lambells Lagoon home in Darwin's rural area last month.
Her grandfather Winston Anspach, who was the last person to see her before she rode off on her bike for a swim, told the Northern Territory News yesterday he wanted every crocodile within 100km of Darwin shot dead. And he said he would be the first to volunteer to hit Top End waterways armed with a gun.
"Let's kill all the bastards," he said. "You can't have wild animals walking up the main street." "But that seems to be the views of our so-called experts when they say this is the Territory and we should learn to live with crocodiles. "We shoot kangaroos and emus and they are on our coat of arms, so why not do it to our crocs?" Mr Anspach said the cull should happen yearly.
Since young Briony's death, the long-debated and contentious issue of crocodile culling in the Northern Territory has been back on the agenda. A Northern Territory News poll showed that almost 60 per cent of the 200 Territorians who responded supported a cull. But experts, tourism operators and crocodile farmers favour an education program and say crocodiles are an "economic asset" and a reason why tourists visit the NT.
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
Hey Kevvy! Babies are future taxpayers, you know. That's why politicians kiss them. You need as many as you can get -- and middle class ones will probably yield more tax revenue eventually. And middle class mothers are going to be a lot less enthused about conceiving if you are going to push them into grotty and uncaring public hospitals. Middle class women can be very skittish about pregnancy decisions. They like to be treated with care and concern before, during and after childbirth.
And is class-war really in your best interests? Middle class people have got a lot of votes, you know. They outnumber the workers these days, in fact
PREGNANT women and those using IVF may have to pay up to $2000 more for their medical care under proposed Budget cuts that will slash middle-class welfare. The Rudd Government is considering a crackdown on the $300 million-a-year Medicare Safety Net scheme that helps more than 1.5 million sick and pregnant with their health costs. The scheme refunds 80 per cent of a person's medical bills once they spend more than $555 out of their own pocket. The threshold is $1111 for wealthier families, The Daily Telegraph reports.
The scheme's cost has blown out by more than $600 million, with studies showing it pays up to 63 times more money to the wealthy. Almost half the taxpayer money paid out in the scheme goes towards obstetrician and gynaecologist fees. Payouts to obstetricians and gynaecologists has increased by more than 400 per cent since the net was introduced in 2004.
To rein in the ballooning costs, obstetricians and gynaecologists have proposed the Government cut the patient refund from 80 per cent to just 66 per cent for pregnant women and those using IVF. The move would cut the rebates available to pregnant women from about $4000 to $3300. Women using IVF to conceive could have their rebates slashed by as much as $2000, from $9000 to $7000.
National Association of Specialist Obstetricians and Gynaecologists vice-president Dr David Molloy told The Daily Telegraph doctors recognised some control was needed on the scheme. His organisation wanted a "soft cap" rather than a means test. "One thing we don't want is a clumsy Budget night edict that will hurt patients," he said.
Human Services Minister Senator Joe Ludwig last week made it clear the Government was looking at changes to the safety net in next month's Budget. He told the Senate there was some suggestion the funding for obstetrics "is not being dealt with well". "We would take a look at how to crack down on that, because ... a report did highlight, particularly in the obstetrics area, that there are problems," he said. A spokesman for Health Minister Nicola Roxon refused to comment on Budget speculation yesterday.
Emma Keen, of Mittagong, gave birth to daughter Madeline on Saturday at North Shore Private Hospital in Sydney. Despite having private health insurance, she paid the gap on obstetrician fees and scans. "It's not cheap having a baby. Any bit you can get back helps," she said. Mrs Keen guessed she had spent thousands out of her own pocket. "You do hit the threshold pretty quickly," she said.
Is this more of Australia's "caring" socialist government at work?
They only care in response to publicity. Note that the lady seems to have had extensive contact with the government welfare agency over the matter but it took newspaper interest before they suddenly "discovered" that they could help her
THE wife of a man in hospital in a coma was told by Centrelink she would have to divorce him if he was to receive the full disability support pension. Paul Dodd requires around-the-clock care after suffering a brain injury on Christmas Day, 2007. He fell down a London stairwell on his honeymoon.
His wife Megan has spent the past year at her husband's Royal Brisbane Hospital bedside praying for the slightest movement in his body, all the while pleading for assistance from a government she feels "robbed" by. "On top of the grief of losing him, on top of the endless paperwork, the finances, and the responsibilities of guardianship, the one thing you think you could rely on is that if he needs a full pension that he would get it from Centrelink," Ms Dodd said yesterday.
But a Centrelink representative last week told Ms Dodd her job as a community fundraiser placed her over the income threshold that would allow Paul to receive a full pension. According to the Centrelink income test effective from March 20, the Dodds' combined income would need to be less than $240 a fortnight for him to receive a full pension.
As a married man, Mr Dodd receives between 30 and 40 per cent of the full pension, which helps cover the daily hospital costs. Ms Dodd had counted on Mr Dodd's full pension to pay for permanent aged-care accommodation.
She said she needs her job to pay the mortgage on their modest Brisbane flat. "We came to the end of the line and the Centrelink man told me my only option was to divorce Paul," she said.
A Community Services spokeswoman said there were provisions in social security law that allowed a member of a couple to be treated as single in special circumstances. Centrelink has now contacted Ms Dodd and is reviewing her situation.
More of that "drought" that the Warmists (such as Tim Flannery) were predicting a year or two ago
FLOODWATERS raging through the New South Wales north coast have forced the evacuation of people from at least 100 properties in Coffs Harbour and left thousands of other residents stranded. At some Coffs Harbour homes, water reached chest height, with the town receiving 370mm of rain in the 11 hours from 9am (AEDT) yesterday. "This has resulted in rapid rises in Coffs Creek approaching the levels of the record November 1996 flood,'' State Emergency Services spokesman Phil Campbell said.
The SES received calls for help from 400 people throughout the day. About 30 people trapped by floodwaters in homes or while travelling in motor vehicles had to be rescued. "The focus for the SES tonight is the protection of life and some delays in responding to non-life threatening calls is being experienced,'' Mr Campbell said yesterday. He recommended people shelter in their homes for the next six hours, "as travel through fast-flowing, deep floodwater during the dark is extremely dangerous".
Those who had been evacuated from their homes were sheltering at the Coffs Harbour RSL centre.
At Bellingen, south of Coffs Harbour, Mr Campbell said major flooding was likely to occur on the Bellinger River overnight. "That will result in the town being isolated for two to three days,'' Mr Campbell said. About 1700 residents would be isolated, he warned, while a further 1000 residents living upstream of Bellingen in the Darkwood and Kalang areas would also be affected. He said evacuations were also likely at Macksville, south of Coffs Harbour, on the Nambucca River.
The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) said while there was a chance of heavy rain in the region today, it did not expect it would be as heavy as yesterday's downpour. At Boambee, south of Coffs Harbour, 149mm of rain fell between 1pm and 2pm yesterday. A BoM spokesman described it as a "one in a 100-year occurrence''. The highest rainfall was at Red Hill, west of Coffs Harbour, which received 380mm of rain in the 11 hours from 9am. About 240mm of the rain fell in the three-hour period between 1pm and 4pm.
Animalistic NSW government department
Dogs are allowed to travel on Sydney buses - transit officers got it wrong
In February last year, Pema the border collie watched from on board a near-empty bus heading into Sydney as her owner, Eedra Zey, was dragged off by police, thrown to the ground, handcuffed and arrested for refusing to get off the bus with her dog. She was travelling without incident, with a valid ticket issued by the bus driver who clearly saw her dog.
But the very next day the State Transit Authority and the Transport Minister revealed what few of its own drivers and transit officers seem to know - dogs and other pets are allowed on buses. The police dropped their charges, but not the transit authority.
But State Transit still issued Zey with an infringement notice for 'having animal on bus' and dragged the matter before the courts. State Transit even confirmed the driver had allowed Ms Zey and Pema on to the bus.
Finally, the matter was determined by the court and Ms. Zey was found 'not guilty'.
Read Eedra Zey's comment on the matter here. She should sue the b*stards. She seems to be a bit of an activist so maybe she will. Police who make the law up as they go along are deeply offensive.
How new labour laws will kill jobs
AFTER returning from the G20 summit in London, Kevin Rudd should hit the pause button on Julia Gillard's second round of workplace re-regulation. Otherwise, the Rudds will not want to get sick outside standard business hours. Their local chemist could be shut because of punishing new penalty rates imposed by Gillard's award "modernisation".
Before he left for overseas, Rudd was pinned down on the ABC's AM program on how pushing up the cost of labour through the new workplace legislation and the separate award modernisation would protect jobs. The Prime Minister had no answer. Gillard since has conceded that "there is a negative relationship between minimum wage increases and employment" and that "there is more reason to be concerned" about this as the economy slides into recession. The "biggest thing" on the Fair Pay Commission's agenda should be jobs, she says.
Until now, the FPC set up by John Howard has lifted the minimum wage in line with price inflation. Gillard's call for a "considered increase" from the FPC's scheduled July decision appears to mean a real cut to the minimum wage, possibly compensated by tax offsets for low income earners in the May budget.
Gillard talks of the FPC's decision as being important for "low-income Australians". But most of the 140,000 workers on the $543.87 federal minimum weekly wage are not in low-income households. They're typically students or second income earners. And most of the 1.3million working Australians on all minimum wages adjusted by the FPC decisions are paid considerably more than the $14.31 an hour federal minimum. They're onaward pay scales that stretch beyond $40 an hour and even into annual six figures.
This is the award system that Gillard has ordered the Industrial Relations Commission to modernise as it morphs into Fair Work Australia and as Howard's FPC bites the dust come July.
Unique to Australia, the award system is a sediment of compromises over countless industrial disputes stretching back more than a century. By one reckoning, there are 4053 different awards, containing 4000 pay scales and 105,000 job classifications, along with all sorts of detailed rules about penalty rates, meal breaks, overtime and loadings. The Striptease Industry Conditions Award provides a $20 loading for employees required to expose "nipples, buttocks or genitalia" in any "parade representing the employer's business".
But rather than relax the grip of the shambolic old award system and pay-scale structure, which the Fair Pay Commission planned to do, Gillard's exercise will tighten it. The new simpler to manage grid of pay scales, loadings and sundry conditions on Australian businesses and the 10.8 million people they employ will be reinforced into something more solid and more downwardly inflexible.
The exercise aims to structure awards around industries, largely reflecting the history of coverage disputes between the monopolistic trade unions that pay most of Labor's bills. But there will still be occupational awards across industries when occupational unions are institutionally strong enough, such as for metal maintenance workers, nurses and clerks. Emerging new industries such as call centres, web design and biotechnology will be more easily roped in through "common rule" and a catch-all award.
Rather than fashion flexible working arrangements around evolving business dynamics, the exercise inevitably reflects the mindset of the old system. So-called hard-won gains - such as the peculiar Australian award condition that workers must be paid 17.5 per cent more when they take annual leave - cannot be surrendered when times change. Instead, a union beachhead of higher pay and conditions wrung out of one vulnerable business or industry through collectively bargaining must be consolidated so it can be spread to the rest of the award system. And the new Fair Work Australia will run award test cases every few years, perhaps on maternity pay or sex "discrimination", which will insert new minimum award conditions to be obeyed by collective bargains.
Gillard's impossible decree that modernisation cannot cut employee conditions or push up employer costs predictably is producing the default position of levelling up. Casual employment has been the great escape from the system, particularly for service industries. Levelling up to the metal trades standard will impose a higher economy-wide casual loading of 25 per cent, which prices a lot of casual work out of business.
Two weeks ago, this column explained how the restaurant trade would be forced to operate under the "modernised" award designed for the more unionised hotel or pub industry, including penalty rates of up to 275 per cent for serving food on public holidays.
The IRC relented on its first bid to rope the pharmacy industry into the modern retail award based on the conditions won in big department stores. But the levelling up for the new Pharmacy Industry Award 2010 will mean an end to the modest penalty rates that until now have applied for casual pharmacy assistants and that have allowed many chemists to remain open outside standard business hours.
First, the new award will impose the new standard 25 per cent casual loading on top of full-time wages, which themselves will increase by up to 250 per cent for public holidays. For casuals, Saturday work after 9pm will attract a 150 per cent casual loading; Sunday work 200 per cent and public holidays 312.5 per cent.
Much of the pharmacy price structure is set by government regulation, reducing the scope to pass on such labour-cost increases. This will increase the pressure on chemists not to open at night, weekends and public holidays.
Gillard's department lamely claims that "the flexibilities and simplifications available through modern awards and the institutional framework should have a positive effect on business costs", whatever that means. But the new pharmacy award requires any "emergency" changes to a part-time pharmacy assistant's roster be made in writing 48 hours in advance. And it requires that any work done in excess of part-time rostered hours be at least time and a half.
Just as it has done for executive pay and maternity pay, the Government should put the Productivity Commission on to assessing what this award modernisation exercise and the in-the-bag Fair Work legislation will do for job creation and unemployment. That may give Rudd some answers.