Looking at Australian politics from a libertarian/conservative perspective...
R.G.Menzies above

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Two of my ancestors were convicts so my family has been in Australia for a long time. As well as that, all four of my grandparents were born in the State where I was born and still live: Queensland. And I am even a member of the world's second-most condemned minority: WASPs (the most condemned is of course the Jews -- which may be why I tend to like Jews). So I think I am as Australian as you can get. I certainly feel that way. I like all things that are iconically Australian: meat pies, Vegemite, Henry Lawson etc. I particularly pride myself on my familiarity with the great Australian slanguage. I draw the line at Iced Vo-Vos and betting on the neddies, however. So if I cannot comment insightfully on Australian affairs, who could?


30 April, 2013

Antisemitic students at Uni NSW

BDS action at UNSW has turned ugly, with anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denying material appearing on a Facebook page opposing the opening of a Max Brenner chocolate shop on campus. Postings on a Facebook page promoting today's protest have attacked "Jews and Jew lovers" and said the figure of six million Jews murdered by Nazi Germany was an exaggeration.

PRO-PALESTINE student activists will protest outside a chocolate shop on the campus of a Sydney university, claiming it has links to alleged Israeli war crimes.

Tuesday's rally at noon (AEST) has been organised by Students For Justice in Palestine (SJP) UNSW, with 175 people indicating on the group's Facebook page that they will attend.

The group says the Max Brenner brand is owned by the Strauss Group, a corporation which sponsors the Golani and Givati Brigades of the Israeli Defence Force.

"These brigades have committed war crimes against Palestinians in Gaza and are involved in Israel's continual ethnic cleansing of Palestine," the page says.

"Students and staff of conscience demand that the Max Brenner be shut down! We don't want companies that endorse the Apartheid state of Israel and it's Apartheid practices."

In response to the campaign, a rival Facebook page has been set up called Defend Max Brenner at UNSW that includes a petition under the heading "Don't let them take our chocolate".

The rival pro-chocolate store group says they are students who believe Israeli businesses should not be targeted because of their national origin.

They say Max Brenner Chocolate is Australian-owned and most UNSW students support the store being on campus.

By Tuesday morning, the SJP Facebook had 387 "likes" while 335 people had "liked" the pro-Brenner page.


PM's speech paves way for bad news


I GUESS the Prime Minister regards herself as a bit of dab hand at economics, although presumably some loyal staffers wrote the speech she delivered yesterday at the Per Capita forum.

Speech writers are often wont to show off a bit. But when it comes to speeches about economics and budgetary policy, my advice to them is - don't.

Take the reference to Keynes changing his mind when the facts change. A more appropriate reference would have been to Keynes's firm advice that the tax share of GDP in a country should never exceed 25 per cent. Oops, we already have.

And the notion that this government is somehow truly Keynesian because it believes in delivering fiscal surpluses on average over the economic cycle is obviously some kind of joke.

This government will not be delivering any sort of fiscal surplus any time soon, let alone over the course of the economic cycle. And, by the way, that little homily about John losing his income bonus did not make any sense at all.

There were a few other howlers in the speech. Where are Finland, Norway and Chile in the chart on net government debt? And forget resource-rich Canada, with the US as its major trading partner - check out resource-rich Chile, with its high rate of economic growth and budget surpluses.

And, by the way, automatic stabilisers are supposed to work on both the downside and the upside. With economic growth around trend, we would not expect automatic stabilisers to be significant at this point in the cycle.

The economic message is completely garbled - we are doing really well, much better than most other developed economies, but the budget is in the ditch and it is not our fault that we overestimated revenue.

The real purpose of the Prime Minister's speech was to prime us for some bad news come budget night. You know the sort of thing: nothing is off the table, sacrifices will be expected of everyone - individuals, companies, institutions.

The trouble with this sort of shot-across-the-bow comment by the Prime Minister is that it demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the incidence of higher taxes and imposts. Just because a particular party, say a company, pays a tax, the burden of the tax may well fall on other parties. A higher tax burden on companies will reduce the real earnings of workers.

Moreover, if some of the measures being contemplated are introduced - a reduction in the diesel fuel rebate or a cut to accelerated depreciation rates - the mining boom will be coming to an end sooner than this government anticipates.

There are two important messages that the government should heed.

First, the way in which fiscal consolidation occurs is extremely important and it should not be done on the run. Spending cuts are preferable to tax increases in order to avoid perverse effects on investment and work effort.

Secondly, this is not the right time to be introducing two major spending initiatives - the ill-conceived Gonski spending and DisabilityCare.

I expect the government to ignore both messages.

And who ever wrote "our opponents and their friends flaunt the bitter language of the cut throat and the brandished axe" should really look for another job.


The truth on the problem laid bare, but no solution

Gillard and Swan have tried everything else. Now they're trying honesty.

A year ago they locked in permanent increases in payments to families and Australians on welfare worth $1 billion a year to be funded by "spreading the benefits of the boom".

They made no mention of the possibility that the boom wouldn't last, whereas the extra payments would continue for ever.

The legislated increase in lightly taxed superannuation contributions starting in July will cost the government a fortune by the time it is complete at the end of the decade. It was to be funded by a mining tax, one that leading economist Ross Garnaut said on Monday was deeply flawed and might never raise much money.

The national disability insurance scheme - eventually set to cost $6 billion a year - was approved with not a whisper how it would be paid for.

As revenue began to fall well short of the forecasts in October the government fudged things, producing a budget update that attempted to make up the shortfall by one-offs such as making some quarterly company tax payments monthly and hoovering up money in unclaimed bank accounts.

All the while its official line was that nothing much was wrong. The budget was still on track for a surplus.

Until December when Swan admitted the jig was up and told the truth about the futility of cutting for cutting's sake, merely in order to announce a surplus (a view endorsed in the past fortnight by his shadow on the other side, Joe Hockey).

Now the Prime Minister has laid bare the whole truth. The easy days of Mining Boom Mark I are over and will not return. Company tax reached "an astonishing 5.3 per cent of gross domestic product" in the final year of the Howard government. It is now 4.5 per cent. Capital gains tax was 1.5 per cent. It is now 0.4 per cent.

Normally low inflation might be welcome, but right now it is hurting profits, weighing on investment plans and weighing down the company tax take. Normally strong overseas confidence in Australia would be welcome, but right now it is keeping the dollar high and further denting company profits and investment plans.

The Prime Minister has levelled with us. She hasn't said what she is going to do.


See what public thinks on same-sex marriage

Gerard Henderson

The media in Australia is obsessed with same-sex marriage. It is far from clear, however, that this is a priority for many Australians living in the suburbs and regional centres - far away from the inner city where journalists tend to be domiciled.

Take Channel Ten's Meet the Press last Sunday, for example. Queensland mining entrepreneur Clive Palmer, who has stated an intention to form a revised United Australia Party, was a guest.

Palmer agreed to take questions from the panel. First up was presenter Kathryn Robinson who commented: "Mr Palmer, we'd like to get an idea of what policies your party will stand for … Gay marriage, where would your party stand on that?" Palmer dodged the question, declaring that "all social issues are going to be issues of conscience". It is doubtful that many Channel Ten viewers would regard same-sex marriage as a priority issue.

At the ABC, presenters and reporters tend to embrace same-sex marriage with much the same conviction as Southern Baptists in the United States believe in the Second Coming. It's a matter of faith. Commentator Greg O'Mahoney said on Sky News recently that there was no "coherent convincing counterargument" to same-sex marriage. Those who hold a different view are incoherent, apparently.

Amanda Vanstone, the ABC's token conservative presenter who presides over the tellingly named Counterpoint program, seems to be in the same-sex marriage cart. The former Howard government minister is on record as criticising Tony Abbott's refusal to give Liberal MPs a conscience vote in the lead-up to the 2013 election.

Journalist Steve Dow, whose book Gay: The Tenth Anniversary Collection has recently been released, appeared on ABC News 24's The Drum on April 19. It was one of the many debates on the ABC where everyone agrees with everyone else.

During the discussion, Dow acknowledged that the gay movement's support for same-sex marriage has been a recent development. He added that gays have "gone from quite a radical critique of the whole institution of marriage" to support for same-sex marriage in just 10 years.

And herein lies the problem. Australia is a socially conservative nation. In 2002 the radical Australian-born gay activist Peter Tatchell opposed the very concept of "the nuclear family", depicting it as a bourgeois institution. Yet earlier this year he condemned Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott for not supporting same-sex marriage.

It's one thing for Tatchell and many of his fellow activists to change their position. It's quite another for them to expect that the rest of society should immediately alter their views, or simply accept that same-sex marriage will be imposed by legislation.

A decade ago, certain words had clear meanings. A marriage was a union between a man and a woman. A married man had a wife. And a married woman had a husband. Moreover, children had certain expectations, whether or not their parents were married. A child had a father who was male and a mother who was female.

Not any more. On RN Breakfast earlier this month, former US Democratic Party politician Barney Frank told Fran Kelly about the views of his "husband". Then there is the matter of children.

According to reports, Elton John's partner, David Furnish, is cited as the mother on the birth certificate of their second child. This is a frequent demand by sections of the gay community. If it prevails, it is likely that in a decade or more the same problem will arise, as with adopted children in the past. Namely, there will be a yearning by teenagers and adults alike to know who both their biological parents are.

Same-sex marriage advocates see themselves railing against the old-fashioned views of some Christians, including many Catholics. This overlooks the fact that there is considerable opposition to same-sex marriage in the Muslim and Hindu communities as well as among socially conservative non-believers.

When the Marriage Amendment Bill was debated in the House of Representatives last year, it was opposed by three prominent Labor MPs from Western Sydney - Chris Bowen (an atheist), Tony Burke (a Catholic) and Ed Husic (a Muslim).

In the current issue of The Spectator, John Laughland documents the growing opposition to same-sex marriage in France, particularly in provincial areas. If significant social change is to be imposed on Australians at relatively short notice, it would make sense to test community attitudes. After all, in 1977 a plebiscite was conducted on what should be Australia's national song. Many Australians regard the concept of traditional marriage as important as the words of the national anthem.


29 April, 2013

Gillards's big-spending budget in trouble

Collapsing revenue from lower company profits has blown a $12 billion hole in the federal budget this financial year, Prime Minister Julia Gillard will reveal on Monday.

What she will categorise as a "significant fiscal gap" has forced a Hobson's choice on the government as it crafts the budget to be delivered on May 14: either trim or delay expensive recurrent programs, including the $14 billion disability insurance scheme and the $6 billion school education reforms or, hand down an even larger deficit in place of what only months ago was confidently forecast to be a small surplus.

Faced with a near unnavigable pre-election scenario, Ms Gillard will choose the latter path, explaining that big social spending represents "wise investments that will make us a stronger and smarter nation". She will use a significant economic speech in Canberra to frame the problem, setting out the scale of the shortfall according to the latest Treasury forecasts.

Her address as part of the Per Capita Reform Agenda Series will outline the sharp revenue decline resulting from the contraction of so-called "nominal gross domestic product", where companies are continuing to produce goods and services and are maintaining sales but are doing so at lower prices and thus for lower profits.

Declaring the challenge for Australia to respond to "the huge reductions in revenue growth over the next four years", Ms Gillard wants to prepare voters for the bad news, while laying the political groundwork for a new era of deficits extending beyond the out years of the budget.

As recently as October 2012, Treasurer Wayne Swan was sticking to his surplus promise, forecasting a tiny but politically significant surplus of $1.1 billion.

In a budget preview on April 18, ANZ economists examined a range of scenarios and tipped a probable deficit of $16.6 billion this year, as part of an overall plan to reach a

$2.2 billion surplus by 2015-16. The bank said this would allow Australia to maintain its AAA credit rating and increase net debt only slightly to peak at 10.5 per cent of GDP over the coming five years.

Ms Gillard will blame the deficits on the long-term revenue writedown from lower company profits.

"Those things add up to business making less profit than planned (and) that puts pressures on our stable and resilient economy," she will say.

She will explain that the shift from higher to lower ratios of revenue appears to be structural, a feature of the persistently high dollar, a soft global environment and increasingly competitive international markets.

"That's the big challenge for the nation in this budget - and it defines the decisions the government's confronting as we put the budget together.

"The bottom line for the budget is this: the amount of tax revenue the government has collected so far this financial year is already $7.5 billion less than was forecast last October.

"Treasury now estimates that this reduction will increase to around $12 billion by the end of the financial year." Economists have warned of a horror deficit next month with some suggesting it could be $19 billion.

But with the pre-budget period notorious for disinformation as governments try to make things seem worse than they are so as to get positive critiques on the night, some voters may see Ms Gillard's warnings in this vein.

The economy has stormed back to centre stage as the election gets closer, with both sides eager to wind in expectations and neither prepared to predict when the national balance sheet will be back in the black. One argument Ms Gillard will put is that the problem is not one of spending but purely of how much money is flowing into Canberra.

"Put simply, spending is controlled," she will say, "but the amount of tax money coming to the government is growing much slower than expected. As we make those decisions, let me be crystal clear about what we will and won't do.

"We won't, during this time of reduced revenue, fail the future by not making the better school funding, and school improvement will not be jeopardised.

"Our nation cannot afford to leave children behind or to leave our nation's future economy limping behind the pack, unable to attract the high-wage, high-skill jobs of the future … DisabilityCare must not be jeopardised."


Windsor calls for gay marriage referendum

Clever! Referenda are almost always lost in Australia

Australians would vote in a referendum on gay marriage as soon as September under a radical proposal by independent MP Tony Windsor, supported by the Greens and other crossbenchers.

Mr Windsor will call on Prime Minister Julia Gillard to take the issue of same-sex marriage "out of the hands of politicians" and let the public decide on election day - September 14.

Fairfax Media has learnt the government is set to announce that a referendum on recognising local government in the constitution will be held on election day, at a cost of $80 million.

But Mr Windsor, whose deal to support the minority Labor government included the promise of a local-government referendum, will call for a second question, on marriage equality, to be included.

As New Zealand and France finalise same-sex marriage laws, Mr Windsor said the message he got from Australians was to "let us have our say and get it away from you idiots [politicians]".

"Polls on gay marriage say it's what the population wants. A way to resolve it is through a referendum," he said. "It's a bit like the gun debate in America - the politicians appear to be out of step with the people."

He said it was up to the public to force the issue. "You get a million people on Facebook and Twitter saying they want a referendum and it will catch fire. The politicians would have to listen," he said.

Mr Windsor, who voted against the most recent same-sex marriage bill, said a civil union ceremony he attended last year had been "possibly the most sincere and meaningful occasion" he had witnessed and, as a result, his opposition had softened.

"If it came down to my vote [in Parliament] I'd have to have a really hard think about it. But that ceremony had an impact on me. I'd probably vote for it," he said.

Greens leader Christine Milne said she was "certainly in favour" of a referendum. "I've been saying for some time that both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott are on the wrong side of history with this."

Independent MP Rob Oakeshott said he favoured a plebiscite question attached to the local-government referendum, to allow politicians to "read the tea leaves".

"It would lower the temperature of the political debate and would provide some back-up support to any politician who takes this thing on in future," he said.

George Williams, a constitutional lawyer, said that in his view a referendum would be better than a plebiscite because any law change that stemmed from a plebiscite - which he described as a "giant opinion poll" - could still be open to a High Court challenge.

A referendum - which needs the support of a majority of people in a majority of states - could allow a line to be inserted in the constitution clarifying that a marriage can involve partners of the same sex.

Ms Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott are tied to positions against same-sex marriage.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the most appropriate way to consider such an amendment was through a conscience vote in Parliament since any change to allow same-sex marriage would occur by amending the Marriage Act, not the constitution.

Mr Abbott, whose sister Christine Forster is lesbian, has sought to shelve the matter as an election issue, promising Liberal MPs a conscience vote after September.

Political experts say Mr Abbott will be desperate not to "muddy the waters" of an election he wants to fight purely on Labor's alleged failures.

Former Liberal minister Peter Reith chided Mr Abbott for giving his in-principle support for the local-government referendum, saying Mr Abbott's "one priority is to terminate the worst Labor administration in living memory".

In return for their support for the minority Labor government, the Greens and Mr Windsor extracted a promise for a referendum on local government. Local Government Minister Anthony Albanese has been trying to lock in the support of the states since taking over the portfolio from Simon Crean.

Recognition of local government has become a more pressing concern since a successful High Court challenge to the Commonwealth's school chaplaincy program raised fears that schemes such as the $3.5 billion Roads to Recovery program could be challenged.

An announcement on the local-government referendum is expected within days.


Melbourne doctor's anti-abortion stance may be punished

A MELBOURNE doctor who refused to refer a couple for an abortion because they wanted only a boy has admitted he could face tough sanctions.

Dr Mark Hobart fears he could be punished for refusing to give the Melbourne couple a referral after discovering they were seeking an abortion because they didn't want to have a girl.

By refusing to provide a referral for a patient on moral grounds or refer the matter to another doctor, Dr Hobart admits he has broken the law and could face suspension, conditions on his ability to practice or even be deregistered.

But he was willing to risk punishment in pursuit of principles. He said he did not believe any doctor in Victoria would have helped a couple have an abortion just because they wanted a boy.

"I've got a conscientious objection to abortion, I've refused to refer in this case a woman for abortion and it appears that I have broken the rules," he said. "But just because it's the law doesn't mean it's right."

The Sunday Herald Sun yesterday revealed the couple had asked Dr Hobart to refer them to an abortion clinic after discovering at 19 weeks they were having a girl when they wanted a boy.

Victoria's Abortion Law Reform Act 2008 specifies the obligations of registered health practitioners who have a "conscientious objection" to abortion.

Under the Act, if a woman requests a doctor to advise on a proposed abortion and the practitioner has a conscientious objection, he or she must refer the woman to a practitioner who does not conscientiously object.

"That is the letter of the law," he said. "It leaves me in limbo. "It's never been tested ... it is a very complicated area."

Medical Practitioners Board spokeswoman Nicole Newton said doctors were bound by the law and a professional code of conduct.

"The board expects practitioners to practise lawfully and to provide safe care and to meet the standards set out in the board's code of conduct," she said.

Another doctor who was brought before the Medical Board in January for airing his views against abortion was cautioned and warned he could be deregistered if it happened again.


I'm backing Tom!

Controversial bookmaker Tom Waterhouse has met with his lawyer to discuss a defamation action against John Singleton after his remarks about the fitness of More Joyous before and after the All Aged Stakes at Randwick on Saturday.

Waterhouse said he was disappointed after Singleton alleged he had advised friends of Singleton that More Joyous "had no chance” in the race, and at the complete breakdown of the relationship between his mother Gai and Singleton, a friendship that had spanned over 30 years.

"John has known mum for a long time and for him to say those things about her was extremely disappointing and upsetting,” Waterhouse said. "I don't know if an apology will be enough in this situation. I have spoken to my lawyers about it.”

Waterhouse said he did not know if he would have to front the stewards when the inquiry into the spat continues on Friday afternoon.

"I was consistent with what I said about the race in all my interviews leading up to the race, and never said or told anyone that More Joyous couldn't win. In fact, I backed the horse,” Waterhouse said. "I lost $300,000 on the race.”

On Sunday morning, rugby league immortal Andrew Johns addressed a Fairfax report that suggested Waterhouse had told him More Joyous couldn't win.

Speaking on Channel Nine's Wide World of Sports, Johns said that although he and Waterhouse had discussed horses on Friday night, Waterhouse had not told him More Joyous had a problem. Johns said he backed the champion mare himself.

In an interview on TVN, Waterhouse initially denied he had spoken to Johns about More Joyous but, when pushed by Bruce Clark, admitted they had discussed the race.

Singleton, who wore a microphone as part of a television promotion for the All-Aged Stakes, said in a number of interviews on Channel Seven and TVN that he had been informed by close friends that Tom Waterhouse was saying More Joyous couldn't win.

The drama of situation was played out on live television as Singleton and Waterhouse argued in front of jockey Nash Rawiller before the race when giving instructions.

Singleton's fury only grew when More Joyous put in one of the worst performances of her career, coming second to last in the All Aged Stakes, won by All Too Hard.

Singleton indicated it was the final straw and all his horses would be leaving the Waterhouse stable because "there were too many conflicts of interests”. His horses in the Waterhouse stable were picked up at dawn on Sunday and taken to his Strawberry Hill farm on the Central Coast.

Singleton repeated the claim when stewards opened an inquiry into the incident that was played out in front of nation-wide audience on television.

"I was told this morning by a friend of mine, a close friend, who is [an ex] group 1 jockey that he was with Tom Waterhouse, Gai's son and bookmaker, last night with close friends of mine that are internationally known figures," Singleton said in the stewards' room.

"Tom Waterhouse advised them last night that the horse had no chance. She had problems and that surprised me because I intended to have a six-figure sum bet on the horse because my advisers said it was a certainty."

Tom Waterhouse took to television for a series of interviews defending himself and his mother.

"No one works harder than mum and John knows that. It was unbelievable for him to say those things about her because he knows her so well,” Waterhouse said.


28 April, 2013

Students face weekend detention and community service in crackdown on behavioural problems in Queensland schools

SATURDAY detentions and community service will be handed out to unruly children in the biggest shake-up of school discipline since the banning of the cane.

Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said the measures were part of his Government's bid to crack down on behavioural problems in Queensland state schools.

A ban on detentions of more than 20 minutes at lunchtime or 30 minutes after school will also be lifted and work is under way to fast-track the exclusion process. It can take principals up to 25 days to exclude a child.

"This is about reducing the number of exclusions by giving principals more tools to nip poor behaviour in the bud before it escalates," Mr Langbroek said of the new measures, which are expected to be in place by January.

"I reckon some are going to get a shock the first time the principal says 'well, you're in for lunch' or 'I expect you to be here on Saturday morning'."

The move is part of the Newman Government's $535 million education reforms and comes after figures released earlier this month showed Queensland schools handed out more than 64,000 suspensions and exclusions last year.

The number of exclusions have jumped more than 50 per cent since 2008, from 804 to 1331 in 2012, the figures showed.

Mr Langbroek said schools would also be encouraged to partner with councils and community groups to enable problem students to undertake community service.

"It gives students a different perspective and maybe helps them to learn a bit more respect for others," he said of the community service interventions.

"The principals can decide exactly what it is they are going to do."

Teachers will be paid for the extra time they may need to spend supervising children handed a Saturday detention but Mr Langbroek said the cost would be covered within the department's existing budget.

"It's not going to be like The Breakfast Club. We don't expect there to be a lot of Saturday detentions happening around the state," he said.

Principals will also be encouraged to establish Discipline Improvement Plans or contracts of student behaviour with parents.

While the government is handing schools more power to discipline their students, Mr Langbroek said they would be audited this year and next to ensure the powers were not being abused. He also expected the number of exclusions to fall.

"We want to give the principals more tools . . . but we also need to make sure they are doing it correctly," he said.

The number of alternative learning centres for students with complex behaviour needs will also be expanded but Mr Langbroek said it was yet to be determined how many extra centres would be rolled out.

The Queensland Teachers' Union has called for more positive learning centres.

Queensland Secondary Principals' Association president Norm Fuller said earlier this month he would welcome "greater flexibility around student detention", but it is unknown if he would support Saturday detentions.

Mr Langbroek said he hoped the state's principals and teachers would embrace the changes.


Education: NSW Premier's bad decision on a bad policy was bad politics too


O'Farrell's decision to sign up to Julia Gillard's Gonski deal - indeed, to be the first major player to do so - tells us he has no grasp of education policy, he's poorly advised and he takes the zeitgeist and Sydney Morning Herald editorials far more seriously than they deserve.

It's all of a piece with his recent posturing on the question of same-sex marriage: he simply hasn't thought the issues through and expects to be rewarded by the electorate for his delinquency.

It may be that the easiest way of holding on to power in NSW is to be a rather cleaner and more competent clone of state Labor, but it's short-term thinking and the public deserves better.

There are three compelling reasons why NSW should not have agreed to the Gonski proposal. The first of them is fiscal prudence. There is just not enough money to go around and at heart most people know that it is an unaffordable scheme. It gives the teachers' union what they want, but whether it can deliver what school-age kids most need is a very different question.

Sometimes the facts speak for themselves. Anyone who has been paying attention to the debate about education knows that in concentrating on reducing class sizes, rather than boosting teacher salaries, Labor has backed the wrong horse.

It led to hiring a lot more teachers, which swelled the union's revenue base and impressed some parents. However, it also meant a lot of the extra teachers who'd been recruited were either not very bright or were in other ways unsuitable, which goes a long way towards explaining why literacy and numeracy standards have been going backwards, despite all the money ploughed into schools in the past 20 years.

What's more, hiring extra staff meant states couldn't afford to pay an extra $30,000 or thereabouts to give committed teachers with real vocations a proper professional salary. It is a vicious circle, in which the students most likely to volunteer to take up teaching are the dopiest, most complacent and least ambitious.

The second reason O'Farrell should not have embraced Gonski is that there are far better ways to improve school performance. Gonski provides the Prime Minister with opportunities for multiple photo-ops in schools with smiling kids, but does nothing substantial to reform the system.

Greater accountability at local school level is a proven winner in raising education standards. The Barnett government in Western Australia has been exemplary in this regard. It also bears repeating that in the private sector students achieve excellent results without the state system's fixations on class sizes and "student-centred" learning.

Finally, it is a fundamental mistake to hand more control over schools to the commonwealth. Gillard is of the dreamy-eyed, Whitlamite generation, scorning the Hawke-Keating tradition and determined to create her own Medibank or national rail system, an institutional legacy. This means diminishing state responsibilities and entrenching commonwealth power. It's been a trend since Federation. All the more reason not to cede control over one of the few important areas of influence the states have left to them.

This was a bad decision on a bad policy, and bad politics to give Gillard a victory at a time when the government is increasingly seen as marking time before it gets put out of its misery.

Non-Labor premiers need to be banding together and holding firm against a reckless government that now seriously endangers the country's credit rating and its long-term interests.


Software pirates: An Australian police force!

NSW Police incurred a $1.8 million legal bill defending itself against a multinational software company that sued for wide-scale copyright piracy, figures obtained under government information access laws show.

Software company Micro Focus alleged in 2011 that the NSW Police Force, Ombudsman, Police Integrity Commission, Corrective Services and other government agencies illegally used its ViewNow software, which is used to access the intelligence database known as COPS.

The company alleged police and other agencies were using 16,500 copies of its software on various computers when police were only ever entitled to 6500 licences. The group initially alleged $10 million in damages but later increased this to $12 million after reviewing the results of a court-ordered, $120,000 KPMG audit of the NSW Police Force's computer systems.

The police force maintained during the court proceedings that it had paid for a site licence that entitled it to unlimited installations of the software for all of its officers.

Despite this, it settled the matter out of court last year for an undisclosed sum. The other agencies previously settled the matter out of court, also for undisclosed sums.

No internal documents were handed over to Fairfax Media as part of its government information access request.

Darren Brand, Senior Sergeant co-ordinator at the NSW Police information access and subpoena unit, denied a request for documents relating to how much was paid to Micro Focus as part of the settlement, and why the matter was settled out of court.

Mr Brand did however divulge that no one was sacked as a result of the legal action by Micro Focus and the legal costs for the case totalled $1,829,709.29.

"To put these costs in context, Micro Focus has claimed as much as $12 million in damages," he said.

Mr Brand said there was a stronger public interest against releasing all of the information requested. He said it would "breach" the NSW Police Force's obligation to maintain the confidential terms of the settlement.

Mr Brand also believed the release of that information "could result in further legal action against [the police force], which would incur further expenditure of government funds".

But Sydney piracy investigator Michael Speck said it "beggars belief" that the NSW Police Force had continued to pursue the case even after all other government agencies had settled.

"One can only assume [the police force's settlement] was motivated by ready access to the public purse," Mr Speck said.

"They have settled the case after fiercely resisting it on commercial terms that include the settlement being confidential. You'd have to wonder how the confidential settlement sits with the obligation that police have to properly investigate and report on alleged misconduct."

Mr Speck said the public deserved to know if police had properly investigated the matter internally, if they had taken steps to ensure something like the matter never happened again, and if action would be taken against the individual who allegedly set it on the path of software piracy


Australian research suggests that tea is good for blood pressure

It is hard to reconcile the claims in the article below with Prof. Hodgson's actual research findings, as published in 2013. The first article of the year here showed no difference in day/night variability in BP but the second article, later on in the year here found that blood pressure was slightly less changeable at night among tea drinkers. It looks like Prof. Hodgson squeezed his data until he got what he wanted. The data underlying the two contradictory articles appear to be the same!

Furthermore a 2012 article, also by Prof. Hodgson, here showed a long-term difference between tea drinkers and controls of between 2 and 3 mmHg. Totally trivial, in other words, close to the error of measurement.

The claims below are BS, to put it plainly. Prof. Hodgson could throw away his teapot with no adverse consequences for his health

You might have thought you were simply satisfying a thirst in that most British of ways. But drinking three cups of tea a day may also stabilise your blood pressure, researchers say. It not only reduces blood pressure, but also minimises the variability of readings taken at night.

Experts say the benefits of tea are largely due to the flavonoid content - antioxidant ingredients that counteract cardio-vascular disease.

Now wide variations in blood pressure are also recognised as an important risk factor compared with readings that show little difference over a 24-hour period.

Professor Jonathan Hodgson of the University of Western Australia said: `There is already mounting evidence that tea is good for your heart health, but this is an important discovery because it demonstrates a link between tea and a major risk factor for heart disease.

`We have shown, for the first time to our knowledge, that the consumption of black tea can lower rates of blood pressure variation at night time.'

A high blood pressure reading is one that exceeds 140/90 millimetres of mercury (mm Hg).

The first figure, the systolic pressure, corresponds to the `surge' that occurs with each heartbeat.

In the latest study 111 men and women consumed three cups of black tea daily or a flavonoid free, caffeine containing beverage for six months.They had systolic blood pressure between 115 and 150 mm Hg.

The rate of blood pressure variation was assessed at three time points, on day one and at three and six months.

At these three time points, black tea consumption resulted in 10 per cent lower rates of blood pressure variability at night time than the flavonoid free drink.

These effects were seen immediately on the first day of tea drinking and maintained over the six months.

The study team believe coffee boosts the effects of the drug.

As the caffeine content of the two beverages was the same, the improvement in blood pressure variability would appear to be the result of a black tea component other than caffeine, says a report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

This is likely to be the flavonoid content, say the researchers, whose previous work found drinking three cups of tea daily led to a cut in blood pressure of between two and three mm HG.

Although black tea was drunk in the study, other research suggests adding milk does not affect the benefits.

Dr Tim Bond, from the industry-backed Tea Advisory Panel, said `High blood pressure is a well-recognised risk factor for cardiovascular and total mortality. Traditionally the level of blood pressure has been equated with risk but the variability of blood pressure is now also thought to contribute to risk.

`Black tea and its constituent flavonoids are increasingly associated with improvement in blood pressure and cardiovascular health. The regular consumption of black tea has been shown to lower blood pressure.

`With its flavonoids, black tea packs a powerful punch with many health benefits particularly for the heart and recent studies show the flavonoids work their magic whether or not we choose to add milk. Drinking four or more cups of black tea each day is quite simply very good for us.'


26 April, 2013

Australian Defence Force disciplines Reserve Intelligence Officer for discussing Islam

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has charged an Army Reserve Intelligence Officer, Bernard Gaynor, for discussing links between Islam and terrorist activity.

The charges were laid today, despite an internal investigation by the ADF’s Investigative Service finding that there was no basis for disciplinary action.

Mr Gaynor says that the charges are proof that political correctness is hampering the ADF's ability to fight against Islamic violence.

"It is outrageous that the Australian Defence Force is charging me for discussing Islam," Mr Gaynor said.

"In the last week, ASIO has confirmed hundreds of Muslim Australians are joining violent Islamic groups in Syria and a radical Australian Islamic cleric has been linked to the Boston bombers."

"Yet the Australian Defence Force is sending a message that intelligence officers cannot discuss Islam in any way, shape or form, unless they pass judgment that it is a nice, peaceful religion."

"How the hell are you supposed to have an objective view of Islam if you are not allowed to examine links between Islamic beliefs and terrorist activity?"

"This kind of stupidity will lead to a misunderstanding of why threat groups targeting the Australian Army conduct violent activity and, at worst, could result in the death of Australian soldiers."

"It also explains the logical inconsistency between fighting a war against people who espouse violent Islamic beliefs while at the same time having an immigration policy that allows people with the same ideology to settle into Australia."

"It begs the question: what, exactly, have Aussie Diggers been shedding their blood in Afghanistan for over the past decade?"

"This question is especially vexing considering that the Afghan government’s constitution is based on Sharia Law and it has laws that allow the execution of people who convert from Islam. The Afghan President has even called for the Taliban to run for parliament.”

"With laws and views like that, Afghanistan will continue to be a hotbed of Islamic terrorism long after Australia’s military commitment ends.”

Mr Gaynor was also charged for bringing the ADF into disrepute for pointing out that it paraded with various groups conducting sexually-explicit activity at the 2013 Mardi Gras in front of children.

"It saddens me that the ADF believes marching with groups that conduct sexually-explicit activity in front of children is ok but that it is somehow disreputable to point this out,” Mr Gaynor said.

"However, the ADF hierarchy have shot themselves in the foot on this one. If, by pointing out the unacceptable nature of ADF participation I have brought the ADF into disrepute, those who approved and marched in this parade are guilty of a far worse offence.”

"I will defend all charges and I am confident that I will be acquitted of them all,” Mr Gaynor said.


Dandenong Hospital nurses may take action

NURSES may take industrial action over unresolved safety concerns at Dandenong Hospital's emergency department since a 2011 state inquiry into the problem.

Australian Nursing Federation state spokesman Paul Gilbert says a patient recently bit a "chunk" out of a nurse's breast, the wound requiring plastic surgery. Two weeks ago, a nurse was threatened with a knife.

During a night shift on March 29, a senior nurse allegedly tackled an aggressive male intruder "shaping up to him" in the supposedly secure treatment cubicles.

The nurse, who has served at Dandenong Hospital for 16 years, was immediately disciplined and demoted from his supervisory and triage duties after the incident.

Mr Gilbert said the hospital's internal review of the incident on April 19 found the nurse acted reasonably, found a security breach and staff lacked training to calm potentially violent situations.

"The nurse has been made a scapegoat," Mr Gilbert said. "The hospital has criticised him for not following a Code Grey policy that doesn't exist. He shouldn't be criticised; the hospital should be ensuring a safe workplace."

At a union meeting last week, the hospital's nurses called for their colleague's reinstatement and a properly run Code Grey policy protocol - an emergency management response to a threat from violent patients or visitors.

The union claims the lack of protocol is noted in one of 12 recommendations from a 2011 state inquiry report into hospital violence and security arrangements that have not been implemented at the hospital.

Mr Gilbert said Monash Health, which runs Dandenong Hospital, was the only hospital network in the state not to have clear Code Grey protocols. He said there had been no "beefing up" of security since the inquiry.

"The security remains the worst we've seen. There's no security guard inside the department. They place security in an area where they can't see 90 per cent of the department's cubicle area.

"The hospital's own report [on the March 29 incident] shows organisational problems but there's been no acceptance of these problems by the management, only blame for the nurse."

At the state inquiry, a Dandenong Hospital emergency nurse submitted her and colleagues were bitten, punched, slapped and had objects thrown at them by patients.

"They pull their IVs out and throw bloodstained cannulas, sharps - any kind of weapon they can get their hands on, such as chairs - at the nursing staff."

A spokeswoman for Monash Health rejected the union's claims about the March 29 incident.

She said it was inappropriate to comment further because the incident was being investigated internally and by Fair Work Australia.

Victorian Emergency Physicians Association member and emergency specialist George Douros said emergency staff would feel safe if there were adequate numbers of specifically trained security personnel in the department.
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Allan Whitehead, president of Victorian Emergency Physicians Association, said emergency doctors were disappointed in the lack of government funding to improve hospital security since the inquiry.

Opposition health spokesman Gavin Jennings said the state government should re-invest the $21 million set aside for its abandoned proposal for armed guards in hospitals.

"The Labor party thought [armed guards] was a bad idea but if you're going to invest the $21 million it could be used for additional security staff not armed but trained to support the staff, or for training and protocols for hospital staff."

A spokeswoman for Health Minister David Davis did not respond by deadline.



Three current articles below

New paper finds global sea levels will rise only about 5 inches by 2100

A new peer-reviewed paper by sea level expert Dr. Nils-Axel Morner concludes that Australian government claims of a 1 meter sea level rise by 2100 are greatly exaggerated, finding instead that sea levels are rising around Australia and globally at a rate of only 1.5 mm/year. This would imply a sea level change of only 0.13 meters or 5 inches by 2100. Dr. Morner also finds no evidence of any acceleration in sea level rise around Australia or globally.

From the conclusion of the paper:

In view of the data presented, we believe that we are justified to draw the following conclusions:

(1) The official Australian claim [2,3] of a present sea level rise in the order of 5.4mm/year is significantly exaggerated (Figure 3).

(2) The mean sea level rise from Australian tide gauges as well as global tide gauge networks is to be found within the sector of rates ranging from 0.1 to 1.5 mm/year (yellow wedge in Figure 3).

(3) The claim of a recent acceleration in the rate of sea level rise [2,3,12] cannot be validated by tide gauge records, either in Australia or globally (Figure 3). Rather, it seems strongly contradicted [19,21,24,39-41]

The practical implication of our conclusions is that there, in fact, is no reason either to fear or to prepare for any disastrous sea level flooding in the near future.
Present-to-future sea level changes: The Australian case

By Nils-Axel Morner & Albert Parker

We revisit available tide gauge data along the coasts of Australia, and we are able to demonstrate that the rate may vary between 0.1 and 1.5 mm/year, and that there is an absence of acceleration over the last decades. With a database of 16 stations covering only the last 17 years, the National Tidal Centre claims that sea level is rising at a rate of 5.4mm/year.We here analyse partly longer-term records from the same 16 sites as those used by the Australian Baseline Sea Level Monitoring Project (ABSLMP) and partly 70 other sites; i.e. a database of 86 stations covering a much longer time period. This database gives a mean trend in the order of 1.5 mm/year. Therefore, we challenge both the rate of sea level rise presented by the National Tidal Centre in Australia and the general claim of acceleration over the last decades.

Related: NOAA 2012 report finds sea levels rising at less than half the rate claimed by the IPCC


Businesses don't want carbon tax: Abbott

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says businesses will be better off without a carbon tax, as power companies warn the coalition's climate policy will be tough to implement.

Power companies say the coalition's alternative "Direct Action" policy will be more difficult to run than Labor's carbon pricing mechanism, which Mr Abbott has vowed to repeal if elected prime minister.

The Energy Supply Association of Australian supports an emissions trading scheme (ETS), and says falling electricity demand will force the coalition to review its climate change policy if elected, The Australian Financial Review reports.

A number of business groups, including Wesfarmers Ltd and the Australian Industry Group, have recently called for the carbon tax to be scrapped and replaced with an ETS with a floating carbon price.

Mr Abbott said no business wanted to pay more tax than less.

"Obviously, every business that is currently paying the carbon tax, either directly or indirectly, will be better off without it," he told reporters in Victoria.

Scrapping the carbon tax and four agencies associated with it would make "life more affordable and more simple for everyone", he added.

The coalition insists its climate policy uses the market to tackle global warming via a carbon buyback approach that rewards innovation and initiative while meeting Australia's climate targets.

Its Direct Action Policy is designed to directly funds activities that reduce CO2 emissions - known as abatement - at the lowest possible cost.


Business bogged down by a dud carbon tax

Greg Hunt

AUSTRALIANS are being dudded by the carbon tax and the crash in the European market last week confirms it.

Sadly, the consequences are felt in lost jobs and increasing power prices while Europe heads in the other direction.

And here is just one example. Last Thursday morning I met with a cafe owner and the owner of a small local supermarket just south of Ulladulla. Both said the 15 per cent increase in their electricity prices due solely to the government's carbon tax was coming straight out of their pockets because they couldn't pass on the increases.

So in order to try to cut costs, the cafe owner had reluctantly let one young staffer go and was instead coming in at 5.30am and staying late into the evening to make up the gap.

The other had deferred hiring a staff member and was increasing his already long hours.

These are the real consequences of the carbon tax for people's lives - working longer and laying off staff - that the Prime Minister and Treasurer have ignored. Now however, they must finally take their heads out of the sand and acknowledge the real world impact of the carbon tax.

With the collapse of the European carbon price, to what The Economist called junk bond status, the Australian carbon tax is now about six times higher than the European price. While the European price has plummeted to $3.50, the Australian tax is $23. And while the European price is plummeting, Labor has locked in two more carbon tax rises. So the carbon tax goes up again on July 1 and then again next year. Two simple messages come out of this.

Firstly, the Australian tax is completely out of line with the rest of the world. Secondly, Treasury's own modelling assumes the carbon tax is set to soar to $37 per tonne by 2020. In the meantime the government has spent this money - in the same way it spent the mining tax before it was received.

Either government modelling is correct and we will be even more out of line with the rest of the world, or the carbon tax will face a multi-billion-dollar black hole and the deficit will get much worse.

The government's own figures show the carbon tax doesn't even reduce our emissions. At the cost of $9 billion a year it doesn't even achieve its policy objective.


25 April, 2013

The diggers know reality

Brisbane Anzac Day dawn service crowds pack Anzac square

THOUSANDS of people have gathered in the darkness to pay their respects to the past and present Australian service men and women.

Up to 18,000 people filled ANZAC Square in Brisbane's inner city. All but about 100 ignored the invitation to beat the crowd and watch the event live on screens in King George Square.

Bundled in jumpers, spectators congregated on Adelaide St near the Anzac Shrine of Remembrance for the 4.28am service - the precise time the Anzacs landed at Gallipoli almost a century ago.

Sarah Hussey made the trip from Rochedale South with her husband and two sons as she felt it was important to "keep the memory alive". "My grandfather fought in World War 2 and my husband's father went off to the Borneo War. We've been to the marches before but this is the first time we have all come to the dawn service," she said.

In her address, the Governor of Queensland Penelope Wensley reminded the crowd that Anzac Day was, in the midst of sorrow, to "celebrate the Anzac spirit" 98 years after the legend was born on the shores of Gallipoli. "It is curious - and, perhaps to outsiders, unusual - (that) mix of sorrow and regret, pride and celebration," she said.

She went on to say that with each new conflict, the Anzac spirit has "grown and strengthened," with those standards carried on by our current defence forces in the War on Terror and peace-keeping.

"Good humoured tenacity in the face of adversity . . . always camaraderie and mateship . . . and taking that and blending it into a powerful and motivating force," she said.

She quoted a war correspondent: "They were men their countries could ill afford to lose, but they set for all time a standard of conduct for all Australian and New Zealand soldiers."

At 5am, a hush fell over the crowd as a bugler sounded the Last Post. Children clasped onto their parent's hands as all paused to remember.

As daylight broke, wreaths to commemorate the fallen were laid around the Eternal Flame in the Shrine of Remembrance.

As a young helicopter crewman, Dennis Olsen OAM was posted to the Malaya border in 1965 , "where the communist terrorists had made it up to".

The 72-year-old said he has attended many ANZAC services since and was glad that the level of public involvement and recognition has swelled in the last decade.

He said his lost mates would be at the forefront of his mind.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard laid a wreath at the dawn service in Townsville and will attend the garrison city's Anzac Day march this morning.

At 4.07am, the crowds were told over the loud speaker that Anzac Square had reached capacity and were re-directed to King George Square for the simulcast.


Qantas to fight claim Aboriginals removed

Qantas says it will not tolerate behaviour that could compromise passenger safety after facing legal action for allegedly kicking a group of Aboriginal men off a plane.

The eight men were on their way home to Kempsey, on the NSW mid-north coast, from an indigenous leadership program in Cairns, three years ago.

They claim they were thrown off the plane before it left Sydney, and are suing Qantas for damages, accusing the airline of false imprisonment.

The airline would not comment on specifics of the case but confirmed it would defend the claims in court.

It also denies any discrimination.

"Qantas has a zero tolerance policy towards behaviour it believes could compromise the safety of anyone on our aircraft," Qantas said in a statement. "This policy is applied equally to all passengers."

The men were allegedly locked in a bus parked on the tarmac for an hour-and-a-half, before being escorted back to the terminal.

It's alleged the men were told they could not travel as a group and would have to catch separate flights, in pairs, the following morning.

A hearing for the case is set to take place in a Sydney court in August.


Violence forces Victorian schools into lockdown

VIOLENT students, abusive parents, custody battles, trespassers and police operations are locking down Victorian schools.

Last year, there were 73 lockdowns at 67 Victorian state schools, seven more than in 2011.

There was a lockdown at one school every three school days in 2012 - a 59 per cent increase since 2008.

Aggressive behaviour was the No.1 problem for schools, resulting in 45 lockdowns, data obtained under Freedom of Information showed.

Police operations were the next largest category, resulting in 10 lockdowns.

Confidential information obtained by the Herald Sun shows the most alarming cases that led to lockdowns at public schools last year were allegations:

A PREP student physically assaulted several staff and students;

A SEVEN-year-old student threatened staff and students with a knife;

A STUDENT stabbed a staff member with a fork;

A MALE approached a grade 2 girl in school toilets;

A PARENT made threats against the principal over the phone;

A PARENT was assaulted by her partner outside the school grounds; and

A STUDENT climbed on the roof and threw objects at staff.

A swarm of bees, a kangaroo, a gas leak, loiterers, trees falling on staff cars and a house siege also locked down schools in 2012.

Already this year, schools have gone into lockdown after claims a grade 3 student struck a principal with a shovel and a man was found in a schoolyard taking photos.

The Department of Education said during a lockdown students were required to stay indoors, with windows and doors locked and staff posted at key locations.

Department figures previously published in the Herald Sun reveal that in 2008, there were 46 lockdowns, 38 in 2009 and 53 in 2010.

Department spokesman Stuart Teather said the lockdown process was a pre-emptive strategy often used when the risk level was not fully known. "Lockdowns can be implemented in cases where it turns out there is no actual risk at all," he said.

"Every school has an emergency management plan and a lockdown can be implemented as part of that plan to immediately secure the school from potential or perceived threats. They are not exclusively the result of incidents that occur within schools and can be implemented on police advice."

Opposition education spokesman Colin Brooks said the Government was losing control of student safety. But Ashley Gardiner, a spokesman for Education Minister Martin Dixon, described the claims as "ridiculous".


24 April, 2013

They're determined to get young Tom

A new code of conduct will stop advertising of live odds during play, but still allows bookmakers, such as Tom Waterhouse, to advertise odds during breaks and before play starts.

Live betting odds are set to be banned during sports broadcasts after the industry's peak body, Free TV Australia, said it would draft a new code of practice.

In a move that would restrict the ability of bookmakers like Tom Waterhouse to promote odds during matches, the new code aims to bans commentators and guests from promoting live betting odds during play and for 30 minutes before and after play.

It was designed to "reduce and control the promotion of live odds during the broadcast of live sporting events", FreeTV said in a statement this morning.

However, the code does not restrict promotion of live odds for other sports events that occur at the same time, such as interstate matches, and allows live odds to be advertised during breaks.

Commercial radio has already drafted a new code that is awaiting approval, and subscription television is expected to released a draft code shortly.

According to Free TV's draft code, which is open to public comment until May 20, the ban does not cover live horse, harness and greyhound racing.

It also does not cover any contracts signed before May 27, 2011, or material that is incidental to coverage, such as advertising around on barriers around a field.

Further, live odds can be advertised in commercials during scheduled breaks, such a tea breaks in cricket, half time in rugby matches and breaks between each quarter of an AFL match.

Live odds can also be advertised if play has been suspended for rain or if players "are yet to enter the field or area of play".

However, commentators cannot promote live odds at all during play, or scheduled breaks, or 30 minutes before and after play starts.

The proposed code also bans the promotion of live odds that are directed towards children, that portray "betting as a family activity", that promote betting on live odds "as a way to success or achievement" or that associate betting on live odds with alcohol.

And all promotions for live odds must conclude with a responsible gambling message.

"The proposed amendments to the code reflect an agreement reached between the government and commercial radio, commercial television and subscription broadcasters to reduce and control the promotion of live odds during the broadcast of sporting events," FreeTV stated.


Tom shoots back here

Black who raped toddler NOT a 'dangerous sexual offender'?

The leniency given to a person with dark skin had nothing to do with it, of course

The attorney-general has lost an appeal to have a man who raped a toddler as an act of revenge classified as a dangerous sexual offender.

Hans Lester Watt raped the three-year-old girl when he was drunk in order to get back at the girl's grandmother who he claimed had insulted his dead mother.

On the day of the 2001 incident, the girl went missing from her grandmother's Mornington Island home where she had been playing alone. Her grandmother found the 42-year-old raping the child in another house.

She was so seriously injured in the attack that she was hospitalised and needed surgery.

Watt, who was found to have a low IQ, was sentenced to 11 years' jail for the crime.

And last year, ahead of his release, the attorney-general's office applied to have him classified as a dangerous sexual offender, which would mean his detention could be extended or he would be released with a supervision order.

However, the court found the circumstances of the rape were "unique" and one of the three psychiatrists to examine him said Watt represented a low risk of re-offending if he did not drink, and that risk rose to "moderate" if he consumed alcohol.

The judge was not satisfied there was an unacceptable risk Watt would reoffend and did not put him on a supervision order.

The attorney-general appealed the decision on the grounds the judge had ignored psychiatrists' advice but the Supreme Court upheld the original decision...

One of the psychiatrists who examined Watt said his best chance of rehabilitation was in a dry Aboriginal community.

In dismissing the appeal three Supreme Court judges agreed the initial judge had made the right decision to not classify Watt as a dangerous sexual offender.


Woman driver wants to have her cake and eat it too

She wants to do a man's work but then complains because she is not up to it

COMCAR driver Lynette Prater says she is still suffering from a shoulder injury she suffered carrying eight heavy bags for Defence Minister Stephen Smith while the senior cabinet member sat and waited in the car.

The workers' compensation authority Comcare refused to pay out for the injuries Ms Prater says she sustained while lugging the heavy bags of the Labor minister 15 months ago.

Mr Smith's office says the minister has no memory of the event and that he or his staff would usually offer to help lift their bags and heavy document cases.

According to papers lodged in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), the then 49-year-old COMCAR driver picked up the minister at Canberra's RAAF Fairbairn airfield late on the night of November 20, 2011, as Mr Smith disembarked from a VIP flight.

Ms Prater's official incident report recalls; "Mr Smith came out and had two small silver cases with him, I then went to pick up the cases, they were extremely heavy and I could only manage to take one up to the car, he said he had a few more cases.

"Mr Smith put something else in the boot and then went and sat in the car, whilst I loaded the remaining cases in the boot." When they arrived at Parliament House, Ms Prater was left to unload the cases from the vehicle.

"Arriving at the basement Mr Smith went and got a trolley for him to take the cases inside and left me to take them out of the boot unassisted," the report reads. "Left arm a bit tingly, I put this down to being a sore muscle."

The driver said she hoped the severe pain that developed in her shoulder after the incident would go away, but when she was diagnosed with a muscle tendon sprain she claimed for workers' compensation. Her claim was denied by Comare, which cited the delay between sustaining the injury and lodging the claim.

Now Ms Prater, who has not returned to her job and says she cannot afford to have her injury treated privately, is fighting Comcare's decision in the AAT with the case listed for a conciliation conference.

She told Fairfax that she accepted the task when it became clear she was expected to lift the minister's bags on her own. "I just shrugged my shoulders and thought 'oh well, I'm going to have to do it'," she said.

A spokesman for Mr Smith said he had not been aware of the issue until questioned by Fairfax.

"The minister and his staff regularly travel with secure briefcases and assist in the movement of them, without the need for a request for assistance."


Testing times for education

There's a case for INCREASING class sizes

IN 1902 Frank Tate became head of Victoria's Department of Education and established a reputation as a progressive reformer. He argued primary school class sizes should be reduced from the usual 60 or 80 to about 50 to improve the quality of education.

"The best progressive opinion at the time was that 50 was acceptable, and obviously classes were typically bigger than that," renowned Australian historian John Hirst tells Inquirer.

"In the 1950s, in my first year at Unley High, I was in a class of 60," he adds.

In Australia today, class sizes have fallen by almost two-thirds since then, the culmination of a worldwide trend fanned by teachers unions swelling their ranks by propagating the fallacious argument that smaller classes improve education outcomes.

"Class-size reduction has been a costly policy that has not translated into a commensurate improvement in overall student outcomes," the Productivity Commission concluded in a report in May last year, which canvassed ways to improve teacher quality without spending a cent.

Andrew Leigh, federal Labor MP for Fraser, studied expenditures and outcomes at Australian schools between 1964 and 2003, during which time class sizes fell by about 40 per cent, and found "no evidence that the test scores of Australian pupils have risen over the past four decades, and some evidence that scores have fallen".

Undeterred, Julia Gillard's latest plan to boost school resources by an extra $14.5 billion across the next six years, based on recommendations by the 2011 Gonski review, will most likely help fund smaller classes still.

The Prime Minister's 1100-word press release, which stressed the huge increase in public spending without explaining how it would improve standards, said only the new funds "would pay for specialist teachers and modern resources".

Andrew Coulson, director of the Centre for Educational Freedom in Washington, DC, sympathises with Gillard's plan, "but the evidence shows we tend not to get what we pay for in education", he tells Inquirer, pointing to a new chart that tracks large increases in real per-pupil spending on government schools alongside stagnant changes in educational outcomes.

"Employment doubled in the public schools without improving student achievement," he says. "If the US went back to the pupil-teacher ratio of 1970, taxpayers would save $200bn annually.

"Successive Australian governments increased the real per-pupil cost of public schooling faster than any other nation during that period and its educational achievement also fell," he adds, referring to a landmark 2000 international study that compared expenditure on schooling and student performance from 1970 to 1994 across 22 OECD countries.

Far from extra spending leading to better outcomes, the study by Erich Gundlach et al concluded "the quality of schooling output tends to have declined in those countries with the highest increase in the relative price of schooling".

The gobsmacked academics politely concluded "educational resource allocation is mainly determined through rent seeking, and not through competitive markets".

As federal opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne points out, education spending, even accounting for inflation, has increased by 40 per cent during the past decade. Even before the new funding announcement, federal spending on schools has been growing four times faster than student enrolments.

The relentless rise in public spending on schools, ever smaller classes and constant or even dwindling outcomes are inextricably linked.

In NSW 64 per cent of the $10bn spent annually on government schools comprises wages for teachers, rising to 77 per cent when school administrators are included. The smaller the classes, the more teachers are required for a given student population.

Analysis by Inquirer estimates that lifting the average primary and secondary class size from about 23 to 27 -- about where they were in 1980 -- would save the NSW government more than $1bn a year, easily more than enough to cover the extra funding the Prime Minister proposes to be spent in that state.

Perhaps worse than the financial cost is the potential slump in teaching quality. Class sizes cannot be reduced in a vacuum.

"Lowering class sizes lifts the number of teachers but inevitably reduces the average quality of teachers because state governments will have to pay individual teachers less because public funding typically can't keep pace," says Moshe Justman, a professor of economics at the University of Melbourne specialising in education. Lower wages for teachers lessens the attractiveness of the profession to other workers.

The economic corollary of lower class sizes and vastly higher real spending is a systematic and intentional assault on labour productivity in one of the fastest growing sectors of the Australian economy. This is perverse, given the relentless national conversation about lifting productivity.

Teaching is not alone; a similar trend is evident in childcare, wherever tighter child-staff ratios have a similar effect.

Declining productivity in teaching is to some extent inevitable, a product of massive increases in productivity throughout the rest of the economy. Teachers -- like concert pianists, butlers and hairdressers, and unlike workers in manufacturing -- are little more productive today than they were a century ago, but their wages still need to rise to attract people to these professions. Swapping chalk and blackboards for pens and whiteboards does nothing to lift standards.

Australian students' flagging performance in global league tables -- dropping between 2000 and 2009 in mathematics and literacy -- prompted the Gonski review.

But Justman points out Australia dropped down the international standardised test rankings mainly against Asian countries. "Asian nations (which are poorer to begin with) typically spend less on education as a share of their national income, but their curricula attach a great deal of importance to standardised tests," he says. "They have larger class sizes and stricter discipline," he adds.

Justman says the PM's focus on global rankings is narrow anyway.

"Becoming one of the top five countries in global PISA rankings is probably as relevant a goal for the future of Australia's economy or society as regaining the dominant position it once enjoyed in international tennis," he says.

If spending ever more on education and reducing classsizes have been so wasteful, why does the trend continue, even accelerate? In 1958 Kim Beazley Sr, a future education minister in the Whitlam government, observed: "The publications that we receive every month from the teachers, especially that of the NSW Teachers Federation, are nothing but propaganda about money; there is never anything in them that would improve a teacher's technique."

Teachers unions in Australia and worldwide have been astonishingly successful at hoodwinking the public into thinking smaller classes matter. The recent "I give a Gonski" campaign in Australia, complete with little, hapless children fitted out in campaign garb, tug at the heartstrings of politicians and parents alike. Who wouldn't want to help the children and support a better education?

Gundlach et al conclude: "The structure of decision-making and the incentives within the education sector have to be changed in order to improve productivity." This is also what our own Productivity Commission recommended last year. It said teachers' strict remuneration structure needed to be freed up to pay those with rarer skills (such as maths and science), for instance.

"Money plays only a small role in creating high-performance organisations," says a senior management consultant for private and public organisations, who prefers not be named.

"In education, as much as in other areas, how you evaluate performance, how you set targets, how you make people accountable for outcomes, how people interact with their boss and how people are coached and mentored is usually far more important than how much money is sloshing around the system," he says.

"Schools can only do so much; ultimately family background, discipline and culture play a huge part," says Justman.

All Australian governments will soon be grappling with grave fiscal challenges as public spending spirals upward at an increasing rate, while revenues flag.

However popular shovelling more taxpayer money at schools may be, governments soon may have to think about how to lift the productivity of schools as they do in other sectors.


23 April, 2013

Crackdown on unions in Qld.

THE Newman Government's war with unions has hit workers' desks with a proposal to ban the display of political messages during election periods.

New laws will also give the Director-General of Justice and Attorney-General the power to investigate unions with maximum penalties for "dishonesty" lifted from $22,000 to $340,000.

The legislation will restrict union access to government offices, force union officials to ballot members on any political expenditure above $1000 and make unions declare political affiliations in any advertising.

Salaries paid to a union's top 10 officials will have to be made public along with details of any gifts or hospitality provided.

A ban on political posters or stickers on public servants' desks is also being considered, with offenders to face disciplinary action.

Together Queensland union state secretary Alex Scott said it highlighted the "paranoia of the LNP" about what happens in an election campaign.

But Premier Campbell Newman made no apology for the union crackdown saying officials should have to meet the same standards as others in public office.

"I think it's fair to say, it's very similar to public money when you're receiving contributions from your members (and) you should have to comply with standards of openness and accountability," Mr Newman said.

He cited allegations against Federal MP Craig Thomson, a former Labor member accused of misusing union funds, as justification for tougher laws.

Mr Thomson has repeatedly denied the claims.

Mr Scott said he also wanted to improve union transparency but most of the legislative changes appeared to be more about reducing public servants' access to industrial representation, and providing "financial obstacles" at a time they were protesting privatisation plans.

"It would be very inappropriate for department officers such as the Attorney-General's Director-General to interfere with (union) activities," Mr Scott said.

Together was planning to escalate its public service pay rise campaign by targeting the "one person who can give it to them", Premier Newman.

"That is why we will campaign in public sector workplaces and the electorate of Ashgrove to force the Premier to stand by his word and deliver a pay increase for public servants," Mr Scott said.

Last month the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission found it did not have the authority to grant an interim pay rise of 2.35 per cent for the state's 60,000 core public servants. Together is appealing.


A win for individual responsibility

A court decision to award a morbidly obese man more than $350,000 from his doctor because the GP failed to refer him to a weight-loss clinic or send him for lap-band surgery has been overturned on appeal.

Emmanuel Varipatis, a Manly GP, said he was relieved the Supreme Court ruling had been overturned.

The medical fraternity had been concerned that holding doctors legally responsible for their patients' failure to shed weight would become an "intolerable burden".

The case involved Luis Almario, a Colombian-born revolutionary who once stood for state parliament.

He was in the care of Dr Varipatis from 1997 to 2011. The court found in February that Dr Varipatis had been negligent in not sending Mr Almario, 68, to an obesity clinic or arranging for a surgeon to assess his suitability for gastric-band surgery. Mr Almario weighed 140 kilograms and was 154 centimetres tall. Justice Stephen Campbell found Mr Almario had terminal liver cancer as a result of liver disease linked to his obesity and awarded him $364,000.

A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal has dismissed the judgment. It found the evidence of GPs did not suggest a doctor was obliged to do more than "take reasonable care" of a patient by advising weight loss - which Dr Varipatis had done. "The duty of care stopped short of requiring an exercise in futility."

Medical insurer Avant, which led the appeal, said the original decision had caused significant concern in the industry because it might have forced GPs to "practise defensively".

Dr Varipatis told GP industry journal Medical Observer he felt exonerated but was sorry for Mr Almario's state of health: "I realise that he and his family will be very disappointed and upset right now."

Mr Almario, of North Parramatta, has been given less than a year to live and is being cared for at home by his wife. His solicitor did not return calls.


A Coalition government would look to change national history curriculum

THE FIRST education priority of a Coalition government would be to rip up the current national history curriculum and restore Anzac Day to its "rightful" place of respect.

Shadow Education spokesman Christopher Pyne said if Tony Abbott wins the September 14 election, rewriting aspects of the curriculum that present "a black armband view of Australia's history" would immediately commence.

"The coalition is committed to revising the national curriculum, its appropriateness and its implementation," Mr Pyne told News Limited.

"History is what it is. We should know the truth about it and we shouldn't allow it to colour our present and our future."

A national curriculum was introduced in 2011 for English, Science, Maths and History, with the remainder of the syllabus currently being reviewed by the Australian Curriculum and Assessment Authority under Federal Government plans to implement all subjects in 2016.

Critics say a trend towards political correctness sees history classes place undue emphasis on indigenous culture, Asia and sustainability, with Anzac Day mentioned in the context of other national days such as Ramadan and Buddha Day.

"This would be a priority for us. The coalition doesn't have a black armband view of Australia's history," Mr Pyne said.

"Having a robust curriculum is a priority of the coalition, alongside principal autonomy parental engagement and quality teaching."

Dr Kevin Donnelly from the Education Standards Institute says the current curriculum downplays the impact Anzac Day and the Gallipoli legend have had on forming an Australian identity.

"Australia and our character is ignored in the history document, because it's all about diversity and difference and multiculturalism and different perspectives," he said.

"It's a very one sided, politically correct view of Australian history and I would argue we need to get back to a stronger sense of what has made Australia a unique nation."

Mr Donnelly said it was ironic Anzac Day was underplayed in classrooms at a time when increasing numbers of young people were travelling to historic battlefields in Turkey and France to commemorate the event and more children than ever were taking part in dawn services.

"Young people are wanting to affirm that sense of us being uniquely Australian and celebrating the heroic ethos, yet it is being all but ignored in schools," he said.

A spokesperson for ACARA denied Anzac Day was underplayed in the curriculum.

"History students have opportunities to learn about Anzac Day and Australia's experiences in wartime at the following year levels: 3,6, 9 and 10 and in the senior secondary subject Modern History," ACARA said in a statement.


NSW urged to follow Qld's lead in building up gas industry

A FAILURE to embrace coal seam gas has prompted the Federal Opposition to accuse the New South Wales Government of destroying its major economic hope.

Speaking to an energy conference in Sydney on Thursday, Opposition spokesman for resources Ian Macfarlane said the state had to follow Queensland's lead in building up the industry.

Mr Macfarlane also criticised NSW for imposing too many restrictions on the gas sector.

He reportedly told the conference how NSW had dithered while Queensland had thrived.

"Instead of drilling 1000 wells each year, (NSW) built just one well in two years," he said.

Mr Macfarlane said the NSW government needed to spruik the industry and warn the public of potential job losses.

NSW has imposed stringent restrictions on the emerging CSG sector in the state after fierce opposition, particularly along its northern coastline.

CSG opponents claimed victory after two major gas companies Metgasco and Dart Energy stalled plans to develop in the region.


April 22, 2013

Abbott says no need for Gonski funding reforms

Coalition leader Tony Abbott says the federal government’s proposed education changes are too expensive and unnecessary because there is no fundamental problem with the way schools are funded.

Mr Abbott said the changes were too costly in the current budget context and that many things could be done to improve education without spending "vast dollops of new money".

"In the absence of anything which is clearly, dramatically better and affordably, dramatically better, I think we are better fine-tuning the existing system rather than trying to turn the whole thing on its head,” Mr Abbott told Sky News on Sunday morning.

Mr Abbott listed greater autonomy for principals, higher teaching standards and a smaller education bureaucracy as some of the cheaper changes that could be made.

But Mr Abbott said he would maintain the changes to university funding which the government announced earlier this month as a way of paying for the increased money that it wants to give to primary and secondary schools.

"I don’t think anyone should expect those cuts to be reversed," Mr Abbott said.

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, told Fairfax Media that Mr Abbott was locking children into "being left behind".

"Mr Abbott stands for cuts to school funding. In backing the current funding system he is backing children being left behind and trapped in schools without resources to give them a great education," Ms Gillard said.

"He is also backing our nation falling behind the educations standards of our region and losing the high-skilled, high-paid jobs of the future to Japan, Korea and China."

Ms Gillard failed to reach agreement with the states and territories last Friday about the $14.5 billion education package based on the recommendations of a taskforce headed by Sydney businessman David Gonski.

Ms Gillard wants state governments to increase education budgets by three per cent a year in exchange for a 4.7 per cent rise in federal funding.

After Friday’s meeting state leaders expressed concerns about giving the Commonwealth a bigger say in education while some are worried the proposed new funding model gives greater weight to independent and Catholic schools.

The Queensland Premier, Campbell Newman, said Ms Gillard could have made a deal on Friday. "In my view because she is refusing to properly negotiate, she actually pushed people away," Mr Newman said.

Ms Gillard will put her plan directly to parents and principals this week in a bid to create a groundswell of support for the Gonski reforms.

Ms Gillard has given state and territory leaders until June 30 to sign up to the new funding deal.

Mr Campbell said schools would not support Ms Gillard’s plans because they were worried about an additional layer of bureaucracy being imposed on them.

"They are unacceptable and I know when teachers and principals know what Julia Gillard wants them to do, that they will not be as keen on the whole matter unless that is sorted out," Mr Campbell said.

On Sunday, Mr Abbott also said he was working with the Department of Finance to cut the pay of his director of policy, Mark Roberts, who last week threatened to "cut the throat" of the not-for-profit Australian Indigenous Education Foundation, by cancelling its funding, if the Coalition were elected in September.

Mr Abbott said he did not believe Dr Roberts deserved to be sacked but that he had "paid a price" for his "unacceptable" behaviour.

Mr Abbott also repeated his statements from last week when he said he was prepared to consider giving Coalition MPs a conscience vote on the issue of gay marriage after the federal election.


Canberra Cyclists told to learn etiquette

The alternative seems to be broken glass on cycle paths

MORE Canberra bike riders need to learn cycling etiquette, says the ACT's minister in charge of bike paths.

Territory and Municipal Services Minister (TAMS) Shane Rattenbury said some cyclists were using City Walk in Civic like it was a speedway.

"Some people are using City Walk as a time trial zone - it's not the area to pick up speed," Mr Rattenbury said. "It's the place where you slow down.

"I think cyclists in Canberra need to improve their etiquette. "I've seen them not slowing down in pedestrian zones and running red lights."

The Greens MLA made the comments while explaining driver and pedestrian behaviour could also be improved.

He said this could be done by education and by encouraging more people to cycle in Canberra.

"I lived in the Netherlands for 4½ years when I didn't own a car and that's really informed my thinking. "Even car drivers are cyclists there," he said. "That changes the way they treat cyclists, they know how much room to give cyclists."

Educational cards will soon be used in Canberra to remind pedestrians about certain rules, such as not walking in dedicated cycle lanes in Civic.

Mr Rattenbury was answering questions put to him by followers of The Lycra Diaries, a community Facebook page set up by The Canberra Times.

After being asked about whether more street sweepers could be sent down Adelaide Avenue, the minister, a cyclist himself, complained about glass being thrown into Canberra's cycle paths.

"There's an extraordinary amount of glass on cycle lanes in Canberra," he said.

"It's hard to believe it's not put there deliberately. I won't ride down Northbourne Avenue on a Sunday. Because of the glass I have to change my route."

Some tweaks will be made to the recently opened Civic Cycle Loop, such as dashed white lines for cyclists at some sets of lights and minor route alterations to avoid jams between pedestrians and bikes.

Mr Rattenbury said every two weeks he asks TAMS staff about the progress of fixing the cycle path next to Morshead Drive, near Duntroon, which was washed away at the start of 2012.

A red bridge from Belconnen will be used to replace the washout, probably by the end of this year, but will be painted grey to fit in with its surroundings.


Climate queries? Ask a paleontologist

by Des Moore

The attempt to portray a picture of ever-rising temperatures continues despite the absence of supporting evidence. It is typified by frequent references to purported and much-repeated "records”, such as "the hottest start to April for eight years” and the supportive claims of "experts” with Nobel Laureate awards in a science, but not necessarily ones awarded for achievements in climate climate science.

For example, The Age recently ran a letter from Professor Peter Doherty denying a pause in temperature increases and arguing that a sceptical Spooner cartoon was based on misinformation. Doherty argued that climate scientists are not likely to make errors because they could be subjected to claims of scientific fraud. The professor, it should be noted, won his 1996 Nobel for advancing understanding not of climate or meteorology but the human immune system. (for Spooner's response to Doherty, see the bottom of this column)

About a month ago Quadrant Online published my analysis of published temperature data, compiled with help from physicist Dr Tom Quirk, showing that the global average recorded a fall in February. The latest data (see the chart below from John Christy, University of Alabama at Huntsville, and drawn from satellite data) shows there was no change in March and confirms there has been no substantive change in annual global average temperatures between 2002 and 2012. I also pointed out that there has been no change worth noting in the 16 years from 1998, while adding that account needs to be taken of the effects attributable to the "high” El Nino activity of that year.

For Australia, following the fall in February, there was an increase in average temperatures in March, but the increase did not fully offset the February fall, and the March level could scarcely be described as "high” (see the chart below). As I have previously pointed out, the failure in recent years to witness a coincidence of temperature and emission increases – supposedly the basis of the scientific consensus -- is nothing new, also having been evident in earlier years.

It remains the case that, while there was an increase in average temperature in the Australian summer (defined as December, January and February), whether that summer temperature was a recent "record” depends on the data source used. Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) data shows that the average temperature in the summer just passed was fractionally higher than in previous summers of the past 25 years or so, while satellite data shows the average was lower than a number of previous summers (see the chart below).

In my earlier Quadrant analysis I drew attention to the Angry Summer report of March 4 by the government’s Climate Commission and to one of the false claims by its head, the paleontologist Tim Flannery, who said: "If you look at the whole Earth system, you can see that strong warming trend”.

Earlier this month the Commission published yet another report with the following heading and introduction:

"THE CRITICAL DECADE: Extreme weather

How quickly and deeply we reduce greenhouse gas emissions will greatly influence the severity of extreme events our children and grandchildren experience. But due to additional greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the climate system now contains significantly more heat compared to 50 years ago. The severity and frequency of many extreme weather events are increasing due to climate change. Extreme weather has always occurred.

This means that all extreme weather events are influenced by climate change.”

The way in which the phrase "climate change” is used here is, of course, nonsensical: extreme or other weather events must reflect some change in climate. The question is what is causing the change? More substantially, is there evidence that extreme weather events have increased over the past 50 years? If so, does this reflects increased emissions of greenhouse gases?

The IPCC published a report in March 2012 on "Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation”, but this did not advocate quick and deep reductions in greenhouse gases. While it concluded that "climate change has led to changes in climate extremes such as heat waves, record high temperatures and, in many regions, heavy precipitation in the past half century”, it also noted that while "some extreme weather and climate events lead to disasters, others do not”. The report suggested that "policies to avoid, prepare for, respond to and recover from the risks of disaster can reduce the impact of these events and increase the resilience of people exposed to extreme events”. In short, its authors advocated policies of adaptation to climate change, rather than the urgent reduction of emissions.

"The main message from the report is that we know enough to make good decisions about managing the risks of climate-related disasters. Sometimes we take advantage of this knowledge, but many times we do not,” said Chris Field, Co-Chair of IPCC’s Working Group II, which together with Working Group I produced the report. "The challenge for the future has one dimension focused on improving the knowledge base and one on empowering good decisions, even for those situations where there is lots of uncertainty,” he said.

"The IPCC released the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) of the report in November, 2011. The full report ... provides the basis for the key conclusions first presented in the SPM. It offers a greater understanding of the human and economic costs of disasters and the physical and social patterns that cause them. It enables policy-makers to delve into the detailed information behind the findings to examine the material on which the IPCC based its assessments.”

In adopting an adaptation approach to extreme weather problems, the IPCC report on extreme weather is clearly not on the alarmist track being followed by the Climate Commission. Could the Commission be accused of committing scientific fraud?

It claims to have been "established to provide all Australians with an independent and reliable source of information about the science of climate change, the international action being taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the economics of a carbon price”. It also claims to be "made up of experts from a range of fields relevant to climate change and is not subject to Government direction. The Commission is also supported by a Science Advisory Panel.”

A case can clearly be made that, at the very least, the Commission is not a reliable source of information even by the low standards of the IPCC. The status of the Commission was discussed last Sunday in an interview by Andrew Bolt with Professor Bob Carter (the transcript can be found here), who pointed out that none of the Commissioners is an expert on climate science.

The best that might be said of their expertise is that they make fit correspondents for the letters page of The Age, which perhaps says even more than their lack of credentials about the degree of seriousness with which their utterances should be taken.

FOOTNOTE: In the following day's Age, Spooner took Professor Doherty to task:

"I am concerned as to why Professor Peter Doherty (Letters, 8/4) does not consult the authorities relied on by the IPCC when lecturing deniers about global warming since 1997. I refer him to an interview with Professor Phil Jones, the director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (BBC, 13/2/2010); James Hansen, the head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in his paper of March 28, 2013; the UK Met office (Hadcrut 4) graph published 24/12/12 and acknowledged by none other than Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC (Graham Lloyd, The Australian, 22/2/2013)".

None of these sources oppose the possibility of dangerous climate change but they all confirm there has been no statistically significant increase in annual global temperatures for between 12 and 17 years. If carbon dioxide emissions have risen about 8 per cent for the last 16 years, why haven't temperatures risen in line with all the computer model projections?

John Spooner, The Age


Accused but not charged, Rolf Harris is struggling says his wife Alwen Hughes

ROLF Harris's wife has spoken about her husband's distress and devastation at being placed under suspicion by police for sexual offences.

Alwen Hughes, Harris' partner for 50 years, has reportedly told friends of sleepless nights for both of them since Harris was first interviewed by police from Operation Yewtree last November and had his computer seized and was then formally arrested and bailed last month for undisclosed "suspicion of sexual offences".

No charges have been laid.

"My poor husband, it's terrible we've been really worrying about it," the Sunday Mirror has reported, quoting what a friend of Ms Hughes, a Welsh born artist, has said.

"He's really suffering. We've both been having sleepless nights over it all."

Harris has been nowhere to be seen at his river-front home in Berkshire west of London for a number of weeks but a number of friends of the couple visited Ms Hughes at the property in the village of Bray yesterday.


April 21, 2013

Were Boston Marathon bombers followers of Harry Potter-hating Australian sheik and pro-al-Qaeda preacher?

A YouTube page reported owned by one of the Boston Marathon bombers reveals that they may have been followers of two radical Muslim sheiks - one who preached against the 'corrupting evils of Harry Potter' and another who advocates for al-Qaeda in their native Chechnya.

A user called Tamerlan Tsarnaev - the name of the alleged bomber killed in a shootout with police in Boston last night - has posted several videos of sermons of fundamentalist sheiks.

One video is from Abdel al-Hamid al-Juhani, a Russian sheik who reportedly preaches a form of Salafist Islam that is usually associated with al-Qaeda.

Al-Juhani is 'is an important ideologue for al Qaeda in Chechnya and the Caucases,' Mary Habeck, a professor at Johns Hopkins University who studies radical Islam, told the Daily Beast.

He also posted a video about 'The Black Flags From Khorasan,' which Habeck said is shorthand for al-Qaeda.

The other holy man that Tsarnaev's YouTube page advocates is Sheik Feiz Mohammed - an Australian-born Lebanese preacher whose fundamentalist teachings include condemnations of Harry Potter for teaching paganism. Tsarnaev posted a video of the sermon on his YouTube page. He later labels Harry Potter an idolator and an enemy of Allah.

Tsarnaev also posted a video of Sheik Feiz Mohammed teaching that Muslims are not good followers of the faith if they don't adhere to all of the Sunnah - or rulings of Islamic scholars. These rules are not listed in the Koran.

He has also urged his followers to behead the Dutch politician Geert Wilders, for his campaigns against Islam in the Netherlands, according to a Dutch newspaper.

Tsarnaev and his younger brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who are both from the Russian breakaway region of Chechnya, are believed to be behind the bombing that killed thee people and left dozens maimed and at least 170 injured.


Green laws set to jeopardise mining work

MAJOR mining and resource projects could be delayed indefinitely and existing projects seriously impacted if Federal Government environmental laws were passed by Parliament, leading businesses have claimed.

The Federal Government has announced changes to the laws, which will allow it to intervene in developments where there is a significant impact on groundwater like the Great Artesian Basin.

But resource companies complained that the laws were so prohibitive that if they were in force today, they would still be waiting for approvals that were granted for the LNG projects in Gladstone and were approved in 2010.

In a submission to a Senate committee investigating the changes, QGC said the amendments could mean its existing project could be radically amended by future approvals.

It said the changes could even mean the currently lawful exploration for gas could become unlawful and the environmental impact statement process could be delayed by another two years.

It would also mean an "ongoing and unlimited information loop".

"Even though the QCLNG project has already been referred to the Federal Environment Minister and approved, any amendments to the project and any complementary project required to feed the already approved LNG trains will be caught by the Bill," QGC said.

"The Bill does nothing to protect proponents from the risk that conditions may be imposed in the context of an amended approval, which might necessitate changes to how existing production activities are carried out," QGC said.

"Supply planning will now need to factor in the likelihood of substantial delays in approval and the impact of a change from adaptive management."

BHP Billiton said the changes could also impact its existing operations.

"Given the large number of approvals, licences and permits that relate to mining operations and the frequency that these are renewed, amended or extended, the practical outcome will be that current operations will very quickly no longer qualify for prior authorisation exemption," the company said.

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said if the resource companies believed that the current processes had captured community confidence "then they have been living under a rock".

"Australia's water resources are among our most vital natural resources and it is important that we ensure they are protected," Mr Burke said.

"The proposed amendments will ensure that coal seam gas and large coal mining developments must be assessed and approved under national environment law, if they are likely to have a significant impact on a water resource.

"Realistically, whenever I have made a decision on coal seam gas, the Australian public would expect that we are taking into account all the impacts on our precious water resources."


The academics who hate free speech

by John Speer

The Labor Government’s recent abandonment of Senator Stephen Conroy’s proposed media-regulation laws has brought an end to the greatest assault on free speech in Australia yet attempted. However, the battle is nowhere near over and it rages on in the most trivial of places.

For an an example of just how determined the left is to silence those with whom it disagrees, consider the recent experience of the the Melbourne University Liberal Club. The MULC is a conservative student organisation that represents a clear minority in the political ecosystem that prevails on campus. Whilst not being directly affiliated with the Liberal Party, the club has adhered to and promoted the values of liberalism since 1925.

In the University of Melbourne’s Orientation Week in February of 2013, the MULC did as it has always done, and set about promoting itself to attract new members. Orientation Week has traditionally been our biggest recruitment drive of the year. In addition to manning our allocated booth at the Clubs & Societies Expo, we also set up a number of stalls around the Parkville campus. These stalls are generally decorated with various Liberal Party corflutes [plastic signs], publications, stickers, and various other promotional giveaways.

Merv Bendle's submission to a Senate panel looking into academic freedom

This year one of the corflutes, kindly donated to us, originated from the 2001 federal election campaign. This particular corflute pictured then-Prime Minister John Howard and his quote "we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.” On one particular day of O-Week, The Club displayed this corflute proudly at our stall, a reminder of one of the Howard government’s most successful policies.

Within minutes of displaying this corflute, members of the MULC were approached by university academics who believed it to be ‘racist’ and ‘disgusting’. In addition to this, they insisted we had no right whatsoever to display it at our stall. Senior members of The Club explained that whilst they were free to hold those opinions, we were perfectly within our rights to voice our own beliefs and display a piece of official election material.

With the debate ending rather quickly, our stall was soon approached by the University of Melbourne’s security staff, who stated they had received "complaints” about the corflute. They then ordered the MULC booth off campus.

After it was explained that all present were both MULC members and students of the university, thus having a right to be present on university grounds, the security staff then attempted to remove the corflute from the grounds of the university.

Upon members reminding them that the corflute was the MULC’s private property, they placed it back on the stall.

In a desire not to inflame the situation, MULC members transported the stall off campus and onto public property in order to continue our membership drive.

Whilst this incident may seem trivial, it typifies the difficulties and harassment experienced by conservative and libertarian student organisations. The mentality of the left in the practice of freedom of speech, equating to "I don’t want to see it therefore it can’t be displayed”, is arrogant and abusive. We might also call it absurd, if not for the chilling glimpse of the totalitarian mindset determined to crimp and control all conversation and thought on campus.

And remember, it was not left students who complained about our display but academics, who should be dedicated to the free and unfettered discussion and dissection of ideas.

Not only do such attempts to gag fly in the face of the right to free speech and freedom of expression, they demonstrate the unwillingness of the left on campus, and generally everywhere, to adhere to the basic principles of democracy. I am drawn to a quote from Voltaire’s biographer, Evelyn Beatrice Hall, and often attributed in error to the philosopher himself. It is this: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

Whilst the fight for freedom of expression and speech may be at a temporary ceasefire in Canberra, it continues to escalate in the tertiary institutions of this nation.


Bureaucratic defamation

A RETIRED Territory cop and sailor was shocked to discover a federal government database had 40-year-old convictions for assault and rape on his rap sheet - despite not having a blemish on his record.

Dallas Graetz, 63, said NT Police documentation proved he had no criminal history.

But the ex-navy petty officer said he received an email from the Australian Electoral Commission - where he works as a casual - asking him why he hadn't disclosed his criminal record.

"I just thought it could have been a speeding fine or something," Mr Graetz said.

"I phoned the commission and they told me that a criminal history check done by CrimTrac had revealed I had been sentenced to three years jail for assault and 10 years for rape.

"I said: 'I must have been a very busy boy' - I was in the navy from 1966 to 1981 and 13 years of that was apparently spent in jail. I then rang my wife and told her to be careful because there was a rapist in the house."

But all jokes aside, Mr Graetz said it was concerning that there was paperwork floating around the government "branding me as a convicted rapist".

CrimTrac is run from the Attorney-General's department in Canberra and collects records from every state and territory to keep in a central database.

Mr Graetz, who was with the police force for more than two decades after his navy service, said CrimTrac had the convictions recorded in Bairnsdale, in eastern Victoria, in 1975 and 1977.

But he said he was working at HMAS Coonawarra, in Darwin, during that time. "It's a really bad stuff-up," Mr Graetz said.

He said his full name, date of birth and place of birth were correct but the convictions were not his.

Mr Graetz said the AEC called him last night to apologise for the error.

He said CrimTrac had also apologised and amended his record in the database. But he still wants to know how the error occurred in the first place.


Justice system unfair: poll

QUEENSLANDERS believe the justice system is unfair and inconsistent, and they disagree with criminal matters being settled in secret.

More than 2000 readers of The Courier-Mail responded to an online poll yesterday about the fairness of the state's legal system after two criminal cases were highlighted.

The details about a mother who was fined $400 for a crash that killed her teenage daughter are on the public record but the circumstances behind the criminal charges being dropped against Wallabies star Kurtley Beale will remain confidential because he and his victim underwent mediation.

Beale was charged with allegedly striking a bouncer outside a Brisbane nightclub in June.

Eighty-one per cent of respondents - or 1749 voters - said they did not believe the legal system was fair, transparent and consistent.

Two-thirds of 1778 online readers said the details of mediation should not be confidential and 83 per cent of 1662 voters disagreed with laws that ensured confidentiality if a perpetrator paid a victim after the process of mediation.

Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said the Government was considering ways to make the justice system more open and transparent, including naming and shaming laws under the Youth Justice Act.

" Since changes to the legislation in 2002, the publication of identifying information relating to children has occurred only three times," Mr Bleijie said.

Queensland's top judge Paul de Jersey said the majority of the public did not understand how court processes worked but the judiciary strived to increase the public's awareness.

Chief Justice de Jersey defended mediation, especially for minor offences, but acknowledged the importance of the principle of an open court.

"I am not surprised that negative assessments are made where a complaint has effectively been determined behind closed doors with public knowledge of the process withheld," Justice de Jersey told The Courier-Mail.

"If following a mediation the police inform the court that the prosecution offers no evidence, the court proceeding cannot go any further.

"The open-court principle is critically important (and) I expect that if people were asked about their confidence in the justice system by reference to cases which have actually proceeded in court, a much more positive result would arise.

"That would especially be so if those who were surveyed had actually sat in on court proceedings to an appreciable extent," Justice de Jersey said.


April 19, 2013

Like it or not, capitalism is the best way to help Australia grow and prosper as a nation

It might seem a trifle strange to some that the Labor Party describe people on incomes of $100,000 or more as "fabulously wealthy". Perhaps they have both forgotten that despite each of them earning twice that amount they nonetheless gave themselves a very hefty raise so they now collect about three times that or more. So now they are fabulously, fabulously, fabulously wealthy.

To add insult to injury, they declared moves they were making to shore up an out of control budget were really about making superannuation fairer. That might have been tolerable with some serious changes to superannuation but alas that was not to be.

It is no secret people at the top-income end of town have for some time been delighted - and perhaps even felt a little guilty - they have been able to take advantage of some superannuation opportunities introduced in the latter years of the Howard government. I do not have access to Treasury data, but anecdotally it seems these rules have ended up in practice being far more generous than intended. Quite why Labor hasn't chosen to limit these opportunities prospectively one can only be left to ponder. I think they should have.

I say prospectively because it has long been recognised that retrospective legislation is a bad thing. Instead Labor has, yet again, embarked on a "we'll attack the rich" campaign. This is just dumb, outdated politics. For starters when you keep attacking the truly wealthy they just take their factories, income, capital elsewhere. And the associated jobs disappear.

Like it or not, the capitalist system has been the greatest generator of income to lift people all over the world out of poverty. Under it some will get much richer than others. Without it the only ones who will get richer are the dictators and leaders. Constantly demonising those who end up richer just undermines, indeed attacks, the system itself.

If people make their money out of working harder, taking risks and being smarter we should celebrate their achievement. Attacking them as the hated "rich" is nothing more than the politics of envy.

The range of individuals and groups who survive off the capitalist system, even become enormously wealthy through it, and yet never say anything to defend it is a constant source of fascination to me. As an example of this one might look to the entertainment industry, where rock stars and movie moguls acquire mega wealth and yet all too few would ever defend capitalism.

Opponents of the capitalist system, with all its faults, have struggled to come up with something better. That's why they hang around in capitalist countries being critical rather than migrating to a place where socialism rules and things are much better. Maybe if such a nirvana existed they would head off to enjoy the fruits of their ideology. The trouble is the ideology when put into practice just doesn't bear fruit.

On the other hand, supporters of the system seem all too complacent. Every system needs support, replenishment and renewal. Sadly, every system has internal enemies as well. In the case of capitalism it is the shonks, crooks, cheats and ripoff merchants. Left alone, they will reproduce like a cancer.

Trouble starts brewing when people make money and few, if any, can see the fairness. There's no pretending that a profit means anything other than you are charging more for something than it cost you. Someone is paying more because you are providing what they want, or need, when and where they want or need it, at a price they are willing to pay. That's fair, because to achieve that requires skill, investment, effort and risk. That's the system.

Nonetheless, one can't help but get a sense that the population at large is uneasy at what they perceive to be a growing number of people making gains and even windfall ones, unfairly. The capitalist market place may well have delivered millions from poverty but, more and more, millions see it as the vehicle through which they will be ripped off. Caveat emptor (buyer beware) is as a principle fair enough. Sadly in today's world, people feel they have to exercise much more than normal, reasonable vigilance, otherwise they will be done over.

Let's take just a few examples. Confidence in the financial services sector is not what it could or should be. Product bundles in telecommunications have become so complex many mum-and-dad consumers just give up and stick with their current supplier. There is a growing sense that some chief executives and board members, while improving the shareholders' assets, have disproportionately improved their own positions.

Realistically, we accept that in all walks of life there are bad apples. We understand that the business community is not immune from that.

We should also understand that every time a bad apple gets away with a misdeed another cancer cell is implanted in the capitalist system.

My proposition, then, is this: to attack and undermine the capitalist system by setting "the rich" up as the enemy is dumb. To fail to deal with any cancer within is equally dumb, or dumber.


Council ban clouds Anzac Day memorial

Nillumbik Shire Council has caused fury by demanding Diggers pull down a banner promoting Anzac Day. Source: Supplied

A COUNCIL has caused fury by demanding that Diggers pull down a banner promoting Anzac Day.

The Montmorency-Eltham RSL got permission from a private land owner to erect the banner at the corner of Main Rd and Bridge St in Eltham.

But Nillumbik Shire Council gave the RSL 24 hours to pull it down.

"They told us they don't like signs on the corner," RSL sub-branch spokesman Alan Field said. "It's very disappointing and we are all up in arms over it.

"I was in disbelief when they told us. The council is not there to serve the community but there to punish us."

Victorian RSL branch chief executive Michael Annett said Anzac Day commemorations should be encouraged.

"It's disappointing that the Anzac Day ceremony is not allowed to be promoted, given other events are regularly advertised there," he said.

The dawn service in Nillumbik Shire attracts a crowd of more than 1000.

Mayor Cr Peter Perkins said council encouraged locals to attend by promoting the service on its website.

"Temporary signage and banners ... contravene the existing policy, which aims to protect the special significance of the Eltham gateway and its visual amenity," Cr Perkins said.

He said the decision would not be changed. The RSL had put banners in other areas where signs were permitted.

Nick McGowan, federal Liberal candidate for the seat of Jagajaga, said events had been advertised at the corner for at least 20 years and the council stance was shameful.

"This is what happens when bureaucratic stupidity takes over from common sense," he said. "It is a sign that encourages people to attend Anzac Day and I don't think anyone can object to that."


Queensland branch of the Medical Board of Australia faces axe

About time

THE State Government has taken an axe to the Queensland Board of the Medical Board of Australia, accusing it of putting Queenslanders at risk by allowing incompetent doctors to continue practising.

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg issued the 10 board members with a formal notice to "show cause" why they should be allowed to continue in their role.

They have 14 days to reply to a six-page legal letter which also accuses them of being "much more lenient in relation to medical practitioners than other regulated practitioners".

Mr Springborg said the board also ignored some cases and allowed "untenable" delays in investigating serious complaints.

The show-cause letters went to board members identified as acting chairman Dr Christopher Kennedy, associate professor David Henderson, associate professor Warwick Carter, Professor Richard Hays, Dr Nicola Murdock, Professor Tarun Sen Gupta and "community members" Fiona Chapman, Michael Clare, Peta Frampton and Terence Selva.

Mr Springborg acted after two reports tabled in Parliament revealed a "disturbing picture" of a complaints system that was broken.

A series of articles in The Courier-Mail highlighting the failings of state and federal watchdog agencies prompted two government inquiries.

Mr Springborg said the latest inquiry found that 363 of 596 files examined were not handled in a manner that was timely, appropriate or complied with legislative objectives.

The ousting of the board will be a triumph for former medical board investigator and whistleblower Jo Barber, who raised the alarm in The Courier-Mail last year.

She accused the board of shielding doctors and covering up complaints.

Her accusations sparked an inquiry by the Crime and Misconduct Commission which ended with lawyer Jeffrey Hunter recommending charges against six doctors he believed were criminally negligent.



by Peter Smith

Nobody with a life outside of "Greensville” cares very much anymore about climate change, earlier known as global warming. Do you even hear it now being discussed over cafe lattes in Balmain? No, you don’t. Only Tim Flannery and his alarmist ilk care. But political parties in Western democracies, as we have learnt to our great cost on the immigration front, have a life of their own, distant from the populace.

They have great moral purposes to pursue. Therefore governments of whatever complexion continue to pour billions of dollars of borrowed funds into schemes and businesses to support the production of inefficient energy. Nothing like this has happened before. We know that because industrial progress has largely been unremitting; built on cheap and progressively cheaper energy. Going backwards has not heretofore been favoured, if for no other reason than nasty nations, insistent on making progress, would have taken advantage, and invaded and subjugated their more primitive neighbours. And we know that because it regularly happened.

Is it possible that governments have collectively lost their senses? Yes, it is, when plagues of locusts or other pests in future years might effectively ground the ethanol-dependent US fleet and Air Force. Ditto here, if the Katter Party, aka, the Ethanol Party, has its way.

The risk to alarmists is that governments will catch up with the climate insouciance of their electorates and stop wasting money. Among other things, money will be saved by sacking people like Flannery and removing all of those research grants directed towards proving the undisprovable, which is that climate change does indeed exist and will eventually engulf our grandchildren in the most horrible of fates. Only research grants based on climate propositions which potentially can be shown to be false, in Popperian fashion, will be left standing; and few in number they will be.

What to do? The answer chosen by the alarmists is to become more alarmist in the hope of panicking the common man and woman or, at least, raising them from their torpor.

Hence we had Mr Flannery spruiking the latest report of the Climate Commission. He spoke of the angry summer; of 123 records broken; of it all taking us into new climate territory; and so on into what the PM might call hyper-bole. I don’t want to comment on this except to say that in Sydney I thought it was a very mild summer. Those who want a less personal, more scientific, debunking of Flannery’s flannelling might care to look at an excellent article in The Australian by Murray Salby, professor of climate at Macquarie University. He shows conclusively, so far as I can tell, as a non-scientist, that the summer just gone was unexceptional.

What does this all mean? In my view it means that alarmists seemingly have little affinity with the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. This doesn’t mean that carbon dioxide is not warming the planet and thereby laying in store future grief. It means that snake-oil salesman are pushing the line and lessening our ability to find the truth. Let me give an instance from Flannery’s performance on the ABC’s 7.30 program.

Leigh Sales referred to figures showing that global temperatures had plateaued for the past 15 years or so. Flannery could have said, as did Dr Rajendra Pachauri when similarly challenged, that 15 years was too short a period to draw a conclusion or he could have tried to give some possible scientific reasons why the effect of CO2 emissions was being offset. Instead he chose to say that temperatures had not plateaued, but had continued to rise, when the temperature of "the oceans, the air and the land” are taken together. This is pure and simply sophistry at its most blatant and disgraceful. How can anything this man says be taken seriously after this?

If I were to suspend a solid body in a pan of water over a fire, the water would gradually heat as the hot air rose and transfer its heat to the surface of the solid body and, in turn, to the innards of the solid body. If I were to extinguish the fire I would expect the temperature of the whole mass of water and the solid body to continue to rise for a while. This is only my schoolboy physics or is it common sense?

In any event, the point at issue is not whether the temperature of the water and land are rising but whether CO2 emissions are materially heating the atmosphere. If the atmosphere cools or remains at a constant temperature for long enough in the face of rising CO2 emissions, it will be difficult to maintain the view that man-made global warming is a problem requiring the expenditure of billions of dollars and a resort to wholesale reliance on inefficient and unreliable green energy.

What is at stake is much too important to be the plaything of vested interests, fools or charlatans on either side of the argument.

According to Professor Salby, who I referred to above, the mean temperature in Australia in January this year was lower than in two previous Januaries during the time since 1979 when (accurate) satellite measurements have been available. And he notes that the summer from December to February "is even less remarkable”. If this is so, and it is surely verifiable, how can this summer be evidenced as being particularly untoward and "angry”?

We need people of objectivity and moderation in the climate arena, not snake-oil salesmen, if we are ever to get at the truth and put in place whatever practical and cost-effective action might possibly be called for; if in fact any such action is required.


April 18, 2013

They're out to get Tom

Tom is too popular for them

CONTROVERSIAL bookie Tom Waterhouse's firm is the latest gambling giant to face court over strict Victorian laws banning offers of rewards to customers who open a betting account.

The company is accused of offering to match new punters' initial deposits of up to $200 at Caulfield in February last year, the latest in a string of prosecutions by the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation.

But the court action has sparked calls for tougher penalties from anti-gambling campaigners, who have likened the current maximum fine per charge of $2817 to "a slap on the wrist with a limp lettuce leaf".

Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce chair Rev Tim Costello said penalties should reflect the serious consequences of problem gambling -- like broken marriages, crime and bankruptcy. "Because the social impacts are so serious and affect the entire community, the sanctions should be serious," Rev Costello said.

Victorian InterChurch Gambling Taskforce chair Mark Zirnsak said the current maximum penalty was no more than a parking ticket for the thriving gambling firms. He said that due to the jurisdictional difficulties of imposing loss of licence penalties on online agencies, penalties needed to make breaking the law unprofitable.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon called the penalties "pathetic" and said the only dilemma faced by bookmakers would be whether to "laugh all the way to the bank or the commentary panel".

Waterhouse -- the son of champion racehorse trainer Gai Waterhouse -- was recently barred from offering opinions during sports broadcasts after a parliamentary hearing in March found he was blurring the lines between bookmaker and commentator.

Last year, online agency Sportsbet was fined $3000 for offering free bets of between $100 and $200 to new customers upon signing up.

A magistrate found four charges of offering inducements proven against the company and six charges proven against its subsidiary, International All Sports Ltd, which was fined $4500. But last month, the fines were halved on appeal.

VCGR said prosecutions of Betezy, Betfair and Tom Waterhouse were under way.


Tough luck for those who rely on government for health care

LARA Harris just wants her tonsils out. But the 12-year-old has been told she must wait until November to have them removed despite having missed more than five months of school in the past 14 months.

Lara has enlarged tonsils which she said had caused her constant head and stomach aches, along with prolonged bouts of tonsillitis.

On Sunday night she was rushed to Flinders Medical Centre by ambulance because she was struggling to breathe and had a major respiratory infection.

"I've just been really sick and I can't really do anything ... it's really painful," Lara said.

Lara was first diagnosed with tonsillitis in November 2011 and has had regular recurring bouts in the months since.

The Huntfield Heights youngster has missed more than five months of school and has had to stop exercising because she gets too exhausted.

"I miss sport. I used to play basketball and other sports and do dance, but I had to stop," she said.

Lara's mother, Kym Harris, said November was too long to wait for her daughter to get her life back.

"I am just really frustrated. Her tonsils have been closed together since January," she said.

Mrs Harris was originally told that it would take a few months before her daughter's tonsils could be removed at the Women's and Children's Hospital.

"I was happy to wait for a while because I didn't realise how much it would affect her health," Ms Harris said. But she has since been told the earliest time her daughter could have her tonsils out would be November.

The family first contacted former Opposition health spokesman Martin Hamilton-Smith in October last year. He wrote to then Health Minister John Hill, but is yet to receive any response.

Opposition spokesman Rob Lucas said the family should expect a response sooner. "Clearly Lara is suffering in agony," he said. "At the very least there should be some sort of response about whether or not something can be done."

In a statement, a spokeswoman for SA Health said Lara would undergo surgery within 12 months because she was classified as non-urgent.

"Sometimes, patient's conditions change in which case the person should be reassessed," the spokeswoman said.


America's National Public Radio visits a Warmist experiment in Australia

And the experiment makes it look like coral reefs will be in trouble if the much-foretold global warming ever arrives. Would Warmists ever get any other result?

In real-life, however, corals survive well in a whole range of temperatures. Australia's Great Barrier reef stretches over 1600 miles roughly North to South, including temperate zones and near-equatorial zones. It is one vast natural experiment on the effect of temperature variation on coral growth. And guess where in those 1600 miles corals grow best? The warmest part!

So the Warmists on the reef fiddle around with fishtanks and ignore the reality just out the window. What a joke! But reality never has suited the Green/Left. It's a sad commentary on a lot of people but, basically, you have to be a crook to be a Warmist

Scientists have been worried about coral reefs for years, since realizing that rising temperatures and rising ocean acidity are hard on organisms that build their skeletons from calcium carbonate. Researchers on Australia's Great Barrier Reef are conducting an experiment that demonstrates just how much corals could suffer in the coming decades.

As we burn fossil fuels - we're talking about oil, gas and coal - carbon dioxide builds up in the atmosphere. Now, there are debates about how quickly that is changing the global climate, but there is no question that billions of tons of carbon dioxide have soaked into the ocean. That's making waters more acidic, which puts some ocean ecosystems at risk, particularly coral reefs. We sent NPR science correspondent Richard Harris to Australia's Great Barrier Reef to look into these consequences. His first stop was a research station on Heron Island.

RICHARD HARRIS, BYLINE: Heron Island is surrounded by a reef that is home to sea turtles, sharks, rays, brilliantly colored fish, and hundreds of other species. The spectacular scenery draws snorkelers from around the world. The island also hosts one of the world's major coral reef labs, run by the University of Queensland, and research there shows that the reefs are in trouble. Scientist Sophie Dove plunges her arms into a tank the size of a kettle drum.

SOPHIE DOVE: OK. We'll start with the plates. Uh-huh.

HARRIS: She and research assistant Annamieke van den Heuvel are weighing chunks of coral.

ANNAMIEKE VAN DEN HEUVEL: Two hundred and forty-six point nine.

DOVE: Do you want to just check the zero when I take this away?

HARRIS: Dove has recreated a simplified version of the coral ecosystem in a dozen large tanks.

DOVE: And so in each tank here we basically - I can lift up the lid - this is one of our - this is our present-day tank, if you like.

HARRIS: The water temperature and the carbon dioxide levels match the conditions on the present-day reef.

DOVE: We've got little mushroom corals, fungia, brain corals, stylophera pistolata there. It's a very common coral around the world. We've got these corals that look like bunches of flowers. They're called lobophelia.

HARRIS: The corals in this tank look healthy. And as she weighs them, she seems that they've been growing since she transplanted them here nearly a year ago. Then she opens the next tank.

DOVE: We'll hop from present day, and the next one along here is the worst of the future with a thing we call business as usual or do nothing tank.

HARRIS: Dove is pumping much warmer water with lots of added carbon dioxide into this tank. This is what the world's oceans are likely to look like later in this century when the schoolchildren visiting this island today reach middle age.

DOVE: And as you look into here, it looks quite different, as you will see.

HARRIS: Oh yeah.

DOVE: OK. So there's lot of this slimy, yucky mess(ph) of cynobacteria.

HARRIS: Clumps of black gunk swirl along the surface of the tank.

DOVE: We find that cynobacterial (unintelligible) tend to do really well in the future. The slippery slope to slime seems to be the way to go.

HARRIS: Not so for the coral. Most of it has either died or turned white, which means the organisms that live inside the coral have moved out.

DOVE: So as you see, the future is not a great place. Here's - the needle(ph) coral is underneath here. It's gone. And there's really not very much left alive.

HARRIS: In all there are four sets of tanks here: the healthiest coral are in a tank that simulates pre-industrial conditions. The present day tank looks almost as good, but the coral looks progressively worse in tanks with increasing carbon dioxide and temperature.

DOVE: We can make this a little bit (unintelligible)...

HARRIS: Now, plenty of small-scale experiments in the lab have shown that corals suffer in hotter waters and in more acidic conditions. This experiment puts those two threats together, since that's what the reefs of the future will face. Dove tries to be dispassionate about her findings, but the site touches the human chord.

DOVE: I feel pretty sad when I look into this. You know, I look at the others, the control tank, and I think, well, that would be nice if we could at least stay like that.

HARRIS: But doing so would mean civilization would have to stop burning fossil fuels immediately. That's not going to happen. Instead, once the carbon dioxide concentrations get high enough in the ocean, the stony structure of the reef actually starts to dissolve. That's bad news for the vibrant life that lives on the reef.

DOVE: There's no reef building going on here. It's reef dismantling that's going on here. Maybe some fish can survive in this type of environment, but I think we're going to lose a lot of the fish capabilities, you know, for fishing and everything. So people who are trying to live off what the reef offers them, this is going to be much harder. From a tourist's point of view, I don't imagine this is something that tourists would feel that attracted to come and see.

HARRIS: And as the reefs erode, they will offer less protection from the storm surges generated by the typhoons that sweep ashore here in Australia and throughout the South Pacific.

ANDREAS ANDERSON: Millions of humans are dependent on the reefs today.

HARRIS: Andreas Anderson is a reef scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego. He says increasing ocean acidity is a big threat to the millions of people who depend on the fish that in turn depend on the reef. He says experiments like the one on Heron Island suggest the reefs face bad times ahead later in this century, but the weakness of studies like this is that they change conditions for the corals in one sudden shock.

ANDERSON: So what we don't really understand is, you know, how quickly will this happen, to what extent will it happen. Will organisms be able to acclimatize or adapt to this over a longer time scale?

HARRIS: The best case is that the change will be slow.

ANDERSON: If it breaks down very rapidly, we are definitely in big problems. But if it takes thousands of years, then, you know, perhaps it's not so bad.

HARRIS: Sophie Dove knows no experiment is perfect, but hers is designed to look for hints that corals can adapt to their new circumstances, and she doesn't see any sign of that. We will have more definitive answers soon enough because this experiment isn't simply confined to tanks at research stations - it's playing out on every coral reef in the world.


This post also up on Coral reef compendium

EU Carbon Collapse Deals Blow To Australian Climate Policy

[Australia's Labor Government] will revise down its carbon tax revenue estimates following a crash in the European carbon market, at a likely multi-billion dollar cost to the federal budget.

The EU’s carbon price sank to 2.55 euros ($A3.24) in trading overnight, as legislators rejected a proposal to save the market from collapse.

The federal budget currently assumes a $29 carbon price in 2015, when Australia’s carbon trading scheme is linked to the EU carbon market.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet told the ABC: "We will continue with our plans to link with the European emissions trading scheme from 1 July 2015, which is still over two years away.

"But this year’s budget, as is usual practice by Treasury, will include a revised forecast for a carbon price in 2015-16 in Australia.”

He said the carbon revenue slump "is another way the global financial crisis has hit the budget”.

Much of the revenue from the carbon tax is pumped out into the economy in the form of household compensation.

The EU carbon price peaked at nearly 30 euros in 2008, but an abundance of permits and weak demand for electricity as a result of the European recession has pushed down the price down.
Yesterday, the price dropped below 3 euros before recovering partially to 3.20 euros.

Opposition climate action spokesman Greg Hunt said the fluctuating carbon price in Europe showed Australia would be linking its scheme to a "deeply unstable” system.

Australia’s carbon tax was five and a half times higher than the European tax, and completely out of step with the rest of the world, he said.


April 17, 2013

Conservative Qld. government rolls back Greenie tree-clearing laws

THE largest rollback of environmental protection in Australia's history is under way as the State Government waters down vegetation protection laws.

If an amendment Bill passes through Parliament in its current form, it will become legal to clear regrowth habitat for koalas, endangered mahogany gliders and cassowaries.

This is despite a written commitment from Premier Campbell Newman to conservation group World Wildlife Fund before the last election, saying he would "retrain the ... current level of vegetation protection".

WWF spokesman Nick Heath said yesterday there was no record of any government winding back laws to such a degree. "This is a clear breach of Newman's commitment," he said.

"If the amendments pass, 700,000ha of endangered forest could be cleared. This would accelerate the extinction of animals in regrowth areas."

Mr Cripps, who will make a speech to the Rural Press Club today entitled "Taking the axe to Queensland's tree clearing laws", said amendments supported agricultural growth, while retaining environment protections.

"Twenty years of Labor Government had allowed the pendulum to swing too far towards extreme green policies at the expense of jobs in rural and regional communities," he said.

Before laws were introduced in 1999, more than 750,000ha a year was cleared, mostly for pasture. This was reduced to 77,590ha in 2009-10.

Greens spokeswoman Larissa Waters said amendments weakened rules to allow some farmers to assess their own clearing.


Australia 'most comfortably racist' country, says ignorant British blow-in

If he had talked to police in Sydney's Middle East Crime squad he would have known why Australians are leery of Lebanese Muslims

A BRITISH comedian who will soon host hugely popular program The Daily Show has branded Australia the "most comfortably racist" place he had been.

English reporter John Oliver, who has worked as a correspondent for the influential Comedy Central show created by Jon Stewart, has spent the past few days filming in Australia.

Oliver, who will present the show later this year while regular host Jon Stewart directs a film, says in The Bugle podcast that the country is a "coastal paradise surrounding a rocky hell".

"Australia turns out to be a sensational place, albeit one of the most comfortably racist places I've ever been in. They've really settled into their intolerance like an old resentful slipper," Oliver said.

"You can say what you like about Australian racism, it is undeniably specific. I had a couple of Australians - more than one - complain to me about all the Lebbos in the country, referring apparently to the Lebanese. Who the f-- is annoyed by Lebanese people?

"In a way you have to admire the attention to detail. Not just all those Arabs, but the Lebanese."

However Oliver also lavishes praise on Australia during the undoubtedly tongue-in-cheek podcast.

"Australia is a sensational place and it really begs the question: why the f-- did we make that our penal colony when its nicer than where we live? We should have said to criminals at the time 'you're all staying here, we're off to go live in paradise'."


Attitudes to Australia in India

This journalist must be aware that almost all the attacks on Indian students have been by African refugees. Telling Indians that would materially alter their perceptions of Australians. But political correctness is strong in both India and Australia so the Indians will probably never find out

It's nearly four years since a flinty Indian farmer named Kulbhushen Sharma looked me in the eye and asked a probing question: "Why are our people being attacked in Australia?"

I was Fairfax Media's correspondent in India at the time and had just finished interviewing Sharma about a water supply crisis in north India. In the big Indian cities, television news bulletins were awash with reports about students being assaulted in Australia. But Sharma's question proved the issue was resonating in remote villages as well. Like tens of millions across the subcontinent, he had watched dramatic reports about the attacks. His question illustrated how deeply the negative perceptions of Australia, created by the attacks, had infiltrated Indian society.

Most Australians don't realise the scale of the Indian media's reaction to the student attacks.

The issue featured in the news for months and many reports implied the attacks were racially motivated. Things changed for Australians, like me, who lived in India during that period. Previously cricket had been the first thing routinely discussed when I met a local. But after the media blitz it was the "racist attacks."

The crisis strained relations between the two governments and had a profound effect on Australia's image in India. Bloggers even started calling for tit-for-tat attacks on Australians in India.

So are Indian suspicions of Australia starting to fade?

A new opinion poll of Indian attitudes to Australia, released on Wednesday, presents a mixed response to that question. Overall, Australia is well-liked in India despite all the bad press. The survey, conducted for the Australia-India Institute and the Lowy Institute for International Policy, found Australia ranked in the top four countries towards which Indians felt most warmly. Only the United States, Japan and Singapore ranked higher among the 22 nations surveyed.

Indians feel warmer towards Australia than towards European countries or big developing nations like China, Brazil and South Africa. Australia's political and social systems provided a much more popular model for the Indians surveyed than those in Britain.

Despite occasional tensions on the cricket field (it seems the game does help) three-quarters of the Indians surveyed said cricket helps the two countries grow closer. There's no doubt India - home to 17 per cent of the world's population - would not be nearly as interested in Australia - with 0.32 per cent of the global population - if not for our mutual interest in cricket.

But when respondents were asked about how safe they thought Australia is for Indians, the findings were much more negative. Indians are not convinced Australia is a safe and welcoming place for them. An extraordinary 62 per cent said Australia was a dangerous place for Indian students. Also, most Indians apparently accepted those media reports that suggested the violence against students in Australia was motivated by prejudice - 61 per cent of respondents believe that attacks on Indian students were mostly caused by racism.

A number of well-informed Indians I know linked the student crisis to the White Australia policy, the anti-immigration rhetoric of the One Nation party, the wrongful imprisonment of Indian-born doctor Mohammad Haneef, and political controversies over asylum seekers and unauthorised arrivals. This may be contributing to the pessimistic view of Australia as a welcoming country.

The survey results are in keeping with a dramatic slump in the number of Indian students coming to Australia in the wake of the attacks. Higher education visas issued to Indian students plunged by 71 per cent between 2007-08 and 2011-12, a report by the Australian Council for Educational Research found. The high dollar, stricter visa conditions and competition from education offerings in other countries also contributed to the fall. The slump has cost our universities and colleges hundreds of millions of dollars in lost student fees. But the survey showed a significant majority of Indians still believe Australia is a good place to be educated and a narrow majority think the security of Indian students here is better than it was a few years ago. Given the chronic shortage of Indian university places, the number of Indians studying in Australia is likely to gradually rebuild.

The opinion poll suggests Indian attitudes towards Australia are complex. Fears about the safety of Indians in Australia, and lingering concerns about racism, are balanced by an array of positives.

Australia and India should be the best of friends. We share Westminster-style democracy, the English language and, of course, cricket. Add to that fast-growing trade ties, and the nations have the foundations for a relationship unique in Asia.

But the damage inflicted on Australia's reputation by the student crisis lingers.

Indian perceptions of Australia are still dogged by the events that prompted Sharma to ask me those tough questions four years ago.


Swiftian satire hits the ALP

An article published by a Liberal Party-aligned think tank that advocates killing off the poorest 20 per cent of Australians as a way to get the budget back on track has been described as a "disgraceful rant" by Treasurer Wayne Swan.

A "modest cull of the enormously poor" has been suggested by right-wing business lobbyist Toby Ralph in a tongue-in-cheek opinion piece written in reaction to the federal government's attack on the "fabulously wealthy" through superannuation taxes.

"In contrast to the fabulously rich, the enormously poor make little useful contribution to society," wrote Mr Ralph, a long-time Liberal Party campaign strategist.

"They consume more than they contribute, putting tremendous strain on the national budget.

"A modest cull would strike at the root of our fiscal dilemma. If the least productive 20 per cent of citizens were decommissioned it would directly release a recurrent $25 billion, which would almost cover overspending by the Gillard government between now and September 14th, assuming Mr Swan maintains his long-term average rate of profligacy.

"This bold initiative would rid us of indolent students, hapless single mums, lower-order drug dealers, social workers, performance artists, Greenpeace supporters and the remaining processing personnel in our collapsing yet heavily subsidised manufacturing industries."

Mr Ralph's bloody prescription for national economic recovery was written strictly as satire, he told Fairfax Media, saying "some people want to be offended".

The article ends with a suggestion that the government could recoup the $900 million it will gouge from the rich in super taxes by simply spending within its means for six days - but "that's clearly just daft", he wrote.

That has not stopped critics, including Mr Swan, questioning the wisdom of Menzies House publishing the article.

Menzies House was founded by Liberal senator Cory Bernardi, recently sent to the backbench over his comments on same-sex marriage leading to legalised bestiality.

Menzies House stemmed from Senator Bernardi's Conservative Leadership Foundation but he has since insisted he has no active role or editorial influence over it.

Chris Browne, a long-time employee of Senator Bernardi, resigned as editor-in-chief of Menzies House after an anonymous article was posted describing Joe Hockey as incompetent and a stain on the Coalition's reputation as a good economic manager.

Mr Browne was replaced by Tim Andrews, executive director of the Australian Taxpayers' Alliance and a former vice-president of the NSW Young Liberals.

Mr Andrews said of the article: "It's a satire in the tradition of Jonathan Swift's 'A Modest Proposal' and, as such, I do not see any cause for persons to be offended."

The 1729 essay suggested the impoverished Irish could ease their economic troubles by selling their children as food for the rich.


April 16, 2013

Gillard is a heartless bitch

By diverting billions into her NBN white elephant she has condemned to death hundreds of people who might have been saved had the money been spent on upgrading our dangerous roads

The death of Margaret Thatcher demonstrates the double standards among sections of the left. In Britain, Thatcher-haters are running an online campaign to push the song Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead to the top of the charts. Apparently it's acceptable to brand Britain's first female prime minister, and its longest-serving leader in the 20th century, as a "witch".

In Australia the word usage has been even more offensive. Last Wednesday The Age ran an opinion piece by Michael Lynch. He wrote that "for everyone who painted her [Thatcher] as a dynamic moderniser … there was another who regarded her as a heartless bitch". Lynch made it clear that he was in the latter category.

So it seems it's OK to use the "b" word with respect to the conservative Thatcher. This would be unacceptable - and properly so - if such a term of abuse was used against a leading social democratic politician like Julia Gillard.

And then there is the act of celebration. When Q&A presenter Tony Jones announced on the program last week that Thatcher had died, visiting academic Brooke Magnanti immediately interjected: "And me with no champagne". It is understandable why the likes of Magnanti want to criticise Thatcher and her legacy. However, it is scarcely a triumph when a political enemy dies at the advanced age of 87.

Thatcher's death has ushered in a moment of fool-headedness among the left. Eco-catastrophists, who warn about global warming, have condemned Thatcher for presiding over the closing of dirty and inefficient coal mines in northern England and Wales in the 1980s. Yet it was these closures which made it possible for Britain to meet its emission targets under the Kyoto agreement.

Then there are the leftists who have depicted Thatcher as a war-monger because in 1982 she refused to accept the invasion of the Falkland Islands, which is British territory, by Argentina. This despite the fact that, at the time, Argentina was ruled by a corrupt right-wing junta.

Glenda Jackson, former actor and now left-wing Labour parliamentarian, used the time allocated in the House of Commons for tributes to Thatcher to declare: "The first prime minister denoted by female gender. OK. But a woman? Not on my terms." So, according to Jackson, Thatcher was not a woman because she did not fit a leftist feminist stereotype.

Thatcher was admired by many because she stood up to the communist totalitarian dictators in the Soviet Union, to General Galtieri in Argentina, to Colonel Gaddafi in Libya, to the violence-prone thugs who ran the Provisional Irish Republican Army at the time and job-destroying militant union leaders.

On Insiders last Sunday, David Marr referred to Thatcher as a "notorious racist". There is no evidence for this. She was a strong supporter of the rights of Asians in Hong Kong and of Muslim Bosnians in the former Yugoslavia. Thatcher may have been right or wrong on the efficacy of imposing sanctions on South Africa during the apartheid regime. But she worked hard privately to get Nelson Mandela out of prison and he visited Thatcher at 10 Downing Street to express thanks for her efforts on his behalf.


Welfare tragic for aborigines, says black activist

And he really is black. unlike the white "Aborigines" that the Australian media usually favour

ABORIGINAL leader Noel Pearson says welfare entitlement has been "a tragic disability" for his people.

Mr Pearson has backed comments by indigenous academic Marcia Langton that a sense of entitlement had poisoned Aboriginal society. "It's been a tragic disability," he told ABC TV on Monday.

"The flipside of the opening up of the doors of citizenship to our people, was the provision of welfare. What should have been provided was opportunities to engage in ... the mainstream economy." Australia was now "reaping that tragedy".

He also echoed Professor Langton's statements about mining being a quiet revolution for indigenous people.

"The revolution she is talking about is one that is absolutely tectonically happening," he said, adding that it was a strange irony.

Mr Pearson reflected on his "bitter" negotiations with Rio Tinto in his early years of work in the Cape York and how the changed paradigm was now creating a new Aboriginal middle class.

"We've got to embrace Aboriginal success," he said. "Money and materialism shouldn't be an anathema to Aboriginal people."

He said indigenous people needed to be striving for a better life.

"We still haven't gotten out of the mindset of Aboriginal people being the poor, benighted victims in Australian society," Mr Pearson said.

Mr Pearson is frustrated his far north Queensland Cape York welfare reform trials had not been able to achieve home ownership for any indigenous people in the trial communities.

"There are complexities of home ownership on Aboriginal land involving tenure," he said.

"Many of the Aboriginal people in these communities earn full-time wages, work for adjacent mining companies, but they can't own a home on their own land."

The federal government was yet to heed his message that the focus on social housing should move to home ownership, Mr Pearson said.

The trials, under way in Coen, Aurukun, Mossman Gorge and Hope Vale, aim to restore local indigenous authority and improve living conditions and the local economy.


Going, going... Gonski?

NOT one state has committed to the Federal Government's plan for education reform.

While some states have indicated in principal agreement to the national plan, noe of the premiers hve said they would sign up at Friday's Council of Australian Government's meeting.

This is despite the Commonwealth's offer to double every dollar spent by the states to reach a targeted increase of $14.5 billion over the next six years.

Labor premiers have joined a chorus of criticism over how the Gonski reforms are being implemented, as Western Australia insists it will reject the proposed changes.

With no national agreement, the Government will negotiate with individual states to implement the reforms, a situation the Federal Opposition describes as a fiasco.

"The idea that we would have different states being treated differently by the Commonwealth is anathema to anyone in education sector and to the coalition and if the Prime Minister continues down that track she will demonstrate that she has finally lost the plot," said opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne.

Mr Pyne also confirmed that if agreement were reached at COAG, the Coalition would not repeal any changes to education funding should it win Government.

A national agreement is increasingly unlikely, however, Labor Premier Jay Weatherill saying yesterday that he believed South Australia deserved a bigger share of the funding and that "there's been no deal done".

"This negotiation about Gonski and whole range of other issues is a very substantial discussion and it is not concluded," Mr Weatherill said.

"There is a long way to travel and we will be protecting South Australia's interests in those negotiations."

The premiers of Queensland, NSW and Victoria remained uncommitted and said any increase in education funding would mean cuts to their state budgets.

Outspoken Liberal Premier Colin Barnett said the "grossly unfair" proposal would see a reduction in spending on schools in Western Australia.

Dr Ken Boston, former director general of the NSW Department of Education and one of the five member Gonski Review panel, said even if Western Australia opted out of the agreement, the state would be able to sign up to it later.

"We never envisaged that every state had to adopt it at the same time," Dr Boston told News Ltd.

Meanwhile, universities have continued their criticism of Government plans to move $2.3 billion from tertiary education and $500 million in tax breaks for education expenses into schools funding.

Universities Australia Chief Executive Officer Belinda Robinson warned the deep cuts would likely deter disadvantaged students - those whom the Gonski review is seeking to support - from taking up tertiary studies.

"It will make it more difficult for some students," Ms Robinson said of the cuts which include scrapping scholarships for poorer students.

"It's going to affect those students who are probably most needy of having some support of being able to take themselves on this higher education path."


Another triumph of multiculturalism

The surname suggests Lebanese or North African Muslim origin

CAR dealer Carl Halloumi could possibly be the worst driver in NSW.

Halloumi, 42, from Northmead in Sydney, has racked up so many traffic infringement notices, he is not only banned from driving cars in NSW for 45 years, he is not even allowed to sell them.

Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe said Halloumi's driving record combined with a breach of his wholesaler's licence had prompted him to take the extreme step.

"(Wholesale) licence holders are expected to act with integrity, honesty and professionalism ... and adhere to the law and its regulations," Mr Stowe said. "Fair Trading had no choice but to proceed with disciplinary action and cancel his licence and certificate."

Mr Stowe said Halloumi, whose car dealing licence has been cancelled until 2017, had first come to Fair Trading's attention as a result of a complaint alleging he had tried to sell a motor vehicle to a member of the public without holding an accredited motor dealer's licence.

"Halloumi was authorised to sell or exchange motor vehicles with persons who are financiers or holders of a motor dealer's licence," Mr Stowe said. "Not members of the public."

Car sellers have previously called on the government to overhaul the "weeping sore" of the luxury car tax after it was revealed luxury motor vehicle buyers were posing as wholesale car dealers, buying prestige vehicles without paying tens of thousands of dollars in luxury car tax.


April 15, 2013

South Australian stores Foodland, IGA to get troubled food maker Spring Gully out of a pickle

Makers of Beerenberg tomato sauce, Bickford's lime cordial, Spring Gully mustard pickles etc.

Coles and Woolworths are the oligopolists of the Australian grocery trade so largely have monopsony powers. It may therefore not be economically irrational to support products not offered by them

FOODLAND and IGA are mobilising to support troubled Spring Gully Foods as independent grocers operating under "The Mighty South Aussies" banner rally to help the family-owned SA company in its hour of need.

The brands, which represent more than 200 stores in South Australia, will dramatically increase their volume of Spring Gully products to help boost the fortunes of the 67-year-old SA firm which has gone into voluntary administration.

Foodland chairman Roger Drake told the Sunday Mail the independent chain will also flex its promotional muscle by putting Spring Gully products on the cover of their latest catalogue.

"Spring Gully products are walking off the shelves and I like to think it is because the public is supporting a quality South Australian company," Mr Drake said.

"As chairman of Foodland I have taken the onus to increase our volume of product and we will also put it on the front of our catalogue.

"We are owned by South Australian families and want to help another South Australian family company. We will buy whatever stock they need to help them out and won't be increasing margins."

IGA committee chairman Joseph Romeo said the stores would help with displays and specials to try to help Spring Gully survive.

"A lot of our customers say they shop with us because we are South Aussies, and I believe people will get behind Spring Gully because they are a quality SA company," he said.

Wholesalers Metcash which supplies the Foodland and IGA has also swung its support behind the community rescue.

In a bonus for shoppers and Spring Gully, Metcash will cut its margins so Spring Gully receives the usual price for its products, but the retail price will be cheaper.

The Foodland/IGA move comes as the public floods social media urging fellow shoppers to buy Spring Gully.

Spring Gully, the award-winning family-owned company - founded in 1946 - entered voluntary administration on Thursday with debts estimated at more than $3 million after losing contracts with Coles and Woolworths that saw turnover plummet.

Managing director Kevin Webb thanked Foodland and IGA for their support and said the fate of the company and its 43 staff is largely in the hands of shoppers.


Gillard is missing the point about class warfare

Today's poll confirms that the Gillard government remains on track to lose the election due in 153 days. It also shows that one of its main escape plans is not working.

The government thought it was onto a winner when it decided to pitch the old concept of "soaking the rich". It turns out to be wrong.

In a striking finding in the latest Fairfax-Nielsen poll, most voters oppose the government's proposal to increase the tax on superannuation earnings of the people the government called "the very wealthiest".

Specifically, 1400 respondents were asked: "Do you support or oppose increasing taxation on personal superannuation accounts holding $2 million or more?" Fifty-two per cent opposed the policy; 45 per cent supported it. Why?

Pollster John Stirton suggested: "It's the aspirational idea - 'I might have $2 million in my super one day'." One instructive detail was that the idea was not only opposed by older people. Former Labor leader and Gillard cabinet minister Simon Crean said last week of Gillard's election strategy that "she's gone the class warfare".

If so, the Nielsen poll finding strongly suggests that it's failing. This suggests that former prime ministers, Labor and Liberal alike, Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and John Howard were more politically astute than the current prime minister. These former leaders, who collectively presided over a generation of economic reform, all have said that class warfare, or envy-based politics, is dead in Australia.

Under the old economic structure half the workforce was fated to forever remain as employees in manual labour. Under the new structure, blue collar workers are much freer to follow trades as independent contractors.

That is, blue collar workers are no longer limited by union-negotiated wage rates but free to become small business people.

The old barriers have dissolved and the Hawke-Keating changes took Australia "very much in the direction of a classless society", as Crean remarked. Only 18 per cent of Australia's workforce is now unionised; 19 per cent is self-employed.

The Gillard government has missed the point. As Keating said in 2005: "The Labor Party has given up the middle-class, middle-ground, sole-employer, self-employed, small-business voter that Bob Hawke and I generated for it." We see the newest example in Gillard's education plan, increasing funding for schools by taking it from universities. This again plays on the old class concept, that the "working class" will support more school funding while seething with resentment at the pretentious elitists in universities.

But the "working class" family is as keen as any other that the kids get a university education.

The evidence is that Gillard is playing a losing game on an outmoded construct.


Women "having it all"

If boozing and marriage breakdowns is part of "all"

In a seismic shift from a decade ago, family lawyers say more men are pointing to their wives' excessive drinking and drug use when filing for divorce, with an increasing number of husbands being awarded sole custody of their children because of it.

Senior family lawyer at Slater & Gordon, Heather McKinnon, said about 30 per cent of the firm's cases before the Family Court involved substance abuse.

Of these, about half now related to the female partner, something that was "practically non-existent" 10 years ago.

"That's a really huge shift in my lifetime in the job," she said.

"Dads that have applied to have children living with them are now succeeding in about half the cases, and that's because there's deficits in the mother. I think this is a very serious shift."

Ms McKinnon points the finger at so-called "Sex and the City syndrome" - the normalisation of binge drinking among teenage girls and young women that carries through to adulthood.

"If you go to any social setting in a capital city or a large regional town on a Friday or Saturday night you will see young women at the bar downing shots - that is a generational change," Ms McKinnon said.

"Girls are at an early age starting to abuse alcohol, they drink heavily through their twenties and by their early thirties they've become fully-fledged alcoholics. They don't stop drinking when adolescent experimentation is finished."

Neither is the problem restricted to the poorer classes as it once was; two of the four cases Ms McKinnon currently has before the Family Court involve professional women from middle to upper class families.

Head of family law at Armstrong Legal, Peter Magee, agreed there was a growing problem and said court cases may only be scratching the surface.

"Allegations of mums abusing substances is on the rise, but only a fraction of the allegations would ever play out in court," he said.

"You need to have a case that is so strong to say 'I need the kids to live with me', before we will raise it."

The 2010 National Drug and Alcohol Household Survey shows that while men overwhelmingly drink more than women, the number of women aged 20 to 29 drinking at risky levels increased between 2007 and 2010, while girls aged 12 to 17 outdrink boys by one-and-a-half per cent.

Relationships Australia counsellor Denise Reichenbach said drinking was becoming a more common way for women to deal with stress.

"What we often hear about is people who drink get more aggressive so anger can come into it, violence can come into it," she said.

"The children often feel quite responsible for the parent who is drinking as well, and the level of concern for that person gets really high."

There were 48,935 divorces granted in Australia in 2011, with the average age of divorcees falling between 40 and 44.

The number of divorces across the country has fallen nearly 12 per cent in the past decade.

Hit US TV comedy-drama Sex and the City ran from 1998 until 2004 and followed the very social lives of a group of four women - three in their mid-thirties and one in her forties - in New York.

It was widely popular in Australia and re-runs still air on pay-TV.


More multiculturalism at work

DISGUSTED comedy fans stormed out of Melbourne's Hamer Hall when visiting American comedian Tracy Morgan let fly with a sexist rant on stage at the weekend.

An outpouring of anger hit social media after Morgan's two sold-out shows on Saturday night, with guests urging others to boycott future performances citing extreme misogyny and lack of humour.

The controversial comedian has a huge following as the star of hit TV show 30 Rock and was performing at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival as part of a national tour.

His expletive-riddled show was saturated with offensive material about women and graphic sexual references, leading to about 50 people walking out and many more to express their revulsion and demand refunds.

Sue, who was at the show, said the performance "went beyond the gutter".

"It was all sexually related. He said he was a pervert and this is the sort of stuff he liked and then it went on from there,” Sue told 3AW radio.

"It was like a horrible experience.

"He went everywhere, he discussed disabled people having sex, what his experiences were, everything he discussed was just disgusting."

Leading women's rights campaigner Melinda Tankard Reist said she was appalled degradation of women was still considered entertainment.

She said her action group, Collective Shout, would campaign against Morgan's remaining shows in Australia.

"We have government-funded campaigns to stop violence against women and yet this behaviour continues in mainstream popular culture," she said.

"What message is he sending to other men?"

Herald Sun journalist and comedy reviewer Megan Miller, who was at the show, said it was "truly awful" and full of "old lazy jokes".

"I'm up for crass and non-politically correct, but this was just disgusting and not at all funny," she said.

UK comedy guide Chortle has described Morgan as a "pathetic dinosaur with ideas (and jokes) that the civilised world has left behind".

Many international comedians are paid to perform in Melbourne as "guests" of the festival.

But Morgan was here with independent entertainment company Live Nation.

Festival director Susan Provan said she was not aware of the outrage surrounding Morgan's Melbourne shows.

But she defended his inclusion in the festival.

"Tracy Morgan is a very high-profile comic with a huge fan base so is an appropriate participant in a broad-based international comedy festival," she said.

"His solo stand-up is very different from the character we see on TV in 30 Rock and his controversial material has been widely reported on," Provan said.

Morgan's Melbourne publicist, Hannah Watkins, said ticket sales to Morgan's show came with clear warnings about language and subject matter.

After performing in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, Morgan's only remaining shows are in Perth today and tomorrow.


April 14, 2013

Short arse

But not short of bull

The rifle the Chinese navy honour guard is carrying is an SKS

A corrupt organization

Two more reports below about crookedness at Australia's largest scientific research organization, the CSIRO. An earlier report was covered on this blog on 11th. The Green/Left have no committment to truth and honesty. "There is no such thing as right and wrong" is their gospel. So they eventually destroy anything they get control of. And given their support for global warming and persecution of any kind of dissent, it is clear that the Green/Left now run the CSIRO. See here and here and here and here and here

CSIRO faked documents, whistleblower tells court

A senior CSIRO manager who blew the whistle on the alleged illegal use of intellectual property by CSIRO was forced out of the country's peak scientific body after senior staff convened "sham" job selection panels and faked an official document in an attempt to mislead him, a court has heard.

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal made a damning assessment of the internal workings of the national science institute and criticised two senior executives for giving unreliable evidence in court. One of those men is group executive Calum Drummond, whose position sits one rung below CSIRO's chief executive.

But despite the tribunal's dramatic castigation, the boss of CSIRO, Megan Clark, told a Senate estimates committee in February there would be no internal investigation of the matter, nor any disciplinary action taken against the two senior staff.

CSIRO's treatment of Martin Williams, a highly successful former business manager, may not have been unique. An investigation by the Herald has found that in some sections of the organisation, bullying is rife. In February, the CSIRO announced an independent inquiry would review claims of bullying and harassment, chaired by the former Commonwealth ombudsman Dennis Pearce.

In the case of Mr Williams, whose job "was to keep scientists out of jail" by ensuring contracts were legally vetted, things began to unravel in mid 2008 when the CSIRO division he worked for merged with two others and he found himself without a position.

But instead of following normal procedures to redeploy Mr Williams - a deputy of the former Textile and Fibre Technology division who brought in more than $53 million of research funding over a decade - senior staff gave him conflicting advice, disregarded company policy and convened "sham" selection panels, the tribunal heard.

In one instance, a senior manager, Damien Thomas, sent an email to Mr Williams that the tribunal's Deputy President James Constance concluded was "deliberately false".

The affair left Mr Williams with a severe mental illness and unable to work: "The bullying completely destroyed my health," Mr Williams said.

In a 10-day hearing last year, his case against the Commonwealth's workplace insurer, Comcare, exposed CSIRO's woeful redundancy process.

Deputy President Constance found the "inconsistent and at times ill-considered" advice given to Mr Williams by senior staff a significant contributor to his illness. He made no findings on the panel selection process.

"I am satisfied that the conflicting advice was a result of insufficient care being taken in the management of Mr Williams' situation or of a deliberate intention to mislead Mr Williams," he said.

He also found Dr Drummond, the former head of the merged division, now group executive of manufacturing, materials and minerals, an unreliable witness.

A spokesman for the CSIRO, Huw Morgan, said the tribunal's findings related to the witnesses' poor memory of the events and were not a reflection of their professional conduct.

Mr Williams' duty to authorise CSIRO partnerships could put him at odds with the organisation's scientists, including several researchers he alleges "fell into contract" with the Victorian government using intellectual property not owned by CSIRO.

Mr Morgan said while a funding proposal was submitted to the government, a partnership was never approved or agreed to.

Mr Williams, who has not been able to work since September 2008, said the CSIRO had transformed from a benevolent organisation into a ruthlessly competitive workplace, that was burdened by pressure to generate income.

"I got nothing. I got worse than nothing."


CSIRO accused of more shabby tactics

In late 2004, Sylwester Chyb was teaching at the prestigious Imperial College in England when the award-winning entomologist was presented with an exciting opportunity - becoming a molecular cell biologist at Australia's peak scientific body.

Urged by CSIRO to accept the position and promised he would lead a team working towards discoveries in the area of his specialty - insect neurobiology - Dr Chyb saw a bright future in Australia.

But within days of uprooting his family in 2005 and moving to Canberra, things began to fall apart. Now the eminent scientist is taking the CSIRO to court, accusing it of bullying, deception and breach of contract. "It was the biggest mistake of my life," Dr Chyb said.

His experience is the latest revelation in a Fairfax Media investigation into the workings of Australia's peak science organisation, which has revealed evidence of serious mismanagement and questionable practices.

There were clear warning signs even as Dr Chyb negotiated his contract. According to his statement of claim, shortly after his final interview, Dr Stephen Trowell, an official in the same division, invited him for a coffee at the CSIRO Discovery Centre at Black Mountain.

"I had never heard of Stephen Trowell, but he claimed to be working in my area," Dr Chyb recalled. "He said, 'Don't worry, if you're unsuccessful, then you can work for me."'

It was only years later Dr Chyb discovered that his appointment had been recommended by external reviewers to the CSIRO to overcome Dr Trowell's perceived shortcomings.

Dr Trowell's comment was troubling because it would have been a significant demotion for the Oxford and Cambridge-educated scientist. After he raised his concerns, the contract Dr Chyb signed had another scientist identified as his line manager. Despite this, Dr Chyb's statement of claim in the Federal Court says that on his first day of work he discovered that Dr Trowell was indeed his boss and would remain so until midway through the following year.

It was a portent of what was to come. He became increasingly upset at what he perceived to be a campaign against him and he contributed to the tension with what he acknowledges was direct language. The funding promised for long-term research into insect chemoreception he says largely never materialised.

In mid-2009 his division bosses refused him permission to accept a publishing deal for a groundbreaking book on the Drosophila, or fruit fly, which is a widely used laboratory model organism. He was not allowed to work on it even in his own time.

In the end it was the breakdown of Dr Chyb's relationship with Dr Trowell that led to his departure. It was only years later that he discovered an external review by international science leaders had made a frank assessment of Dr Trowell's scientific standing.

"The committee considers that although the leader has a track record of patenting and as a CEO of a start-up company … he does not have as much credibility as the committee feels necessary," the document said.

"The addition to this group of Dr S. Chyb, a researcher with a good publication record and interest in insect gustatory receptors is seen as a positive development."

In April 2009 Dr Trowell accused Dr Chyb of intimidating a younger scientist; he was forced to formally apologise a few days later for an email he circulated containing the allegation.

At the end of the year a misconduct investigation was sparked, which led to Dr Chyb's departure. He had been accused of trying to profit from the accommodation allowance CSIRO gave a recruit - he had moved into a studio flat Dr Chyb and his wife owned - but Dr Chyb had expressly sought permission for the transaction. Now CSIRO is relying on this allegation as part of its defence against Dr Chyb's legal claim.

While he was defending that accusation Dr Chyb discovered a discrepancy in the money budgeted for his researcher's relocation on a document which carried his signature. Dr Chyb was sure he had never signed it.

And he was right. An external investigation commissioned by CSIRO found his signature had been electronically forged on to the page.

The investigation against Dr Chyb over the researcher's stay never eventuated. Instead, CSIRO made Dr Chyb's position redundant.

"They painted a picture of no-compromise, blue-sky science," he said. "But [I] ended up working … on very applied projects. There would be no way I would give up my permanent job for that."

Dr Chyb's court hearing is set down for later this year.


Great Green fallacy revealed

Opposition to the proposed natural gas processing hub near James Price Point in Northern West Australia, was NOT widespread in the area concerned.

A DAY after Woodside's decision to abandon its $40 billion Kimberley gas plan and a month after Colin Barnett's emphatic win in the west, a key tenet of an extraordinary environmental campaign can be exposed for what it always was - a great Green lie.

The battle over Woodside's facility at James Price Point was turned into middle Australia's cause celebre by rock stars and Green royalty such as Missy Higgins, John Butler and Bob Brown.

While environmentalists will today be celebrating news that Woodside has all but walked away from the proposal, they can't escape the election result that should finally kill the false notion that the majority of Kimberley residents - including thousands of indigenous Australians - did not want the project to go ahead.

Consider this: in the lead-up to the March 9 election the Greens threw everything they had at the remote seat vacated by Labor's retiring Carol Martin, the first indigenous woman to be elected to an Australian parliament.

Martin, along with the Kimberley Land Council, the Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Cultural Centre, and the Kimberley Language and Resource Centre, which represents the 29 tribal groups across the region, backed the project because they believed it would break the cycle of indigenous welfare dependency, particularly in tourist town Broome, and create jobs.

Year after year organisations and identities such as Environs Kimberley, WWF Australia, the Wilderness Society and the Australian Conservation Foundation claimed the majority of locals did not want the project in their backyard (despite it being 60km north of Broome) and that the original consenting vote among traditional owners was somehow corrupt. However, three of the four parties - the Liberals, the Nationals and Labor - supported James Price Point. The Greens, standing alone, made no apologies for their stance.

Liberal Jenny Bloom picked up 25.7 per cent of the primary vote, Michele Pucci of the Nationals 18.4 per cent, Labor's Josie Farrer 26.7 per cent and the Greens' Chris Maher secured 23.5 per cent. So seven out of 10 people eligible to vote supported a party that wanted the project to go ahead. That is about as comprehensive a vote of support as any proponent of the development could wish for.

The green rhetoric that worked so effectively in the faraway east had the complete opposite effect closer to the action in the west.

According to Newspoll, Green support slowly evaporated, from 12 to 8 per cent, as their Kimberley campaign evolved in the six months to March. On election day they were punished and now hold just one (upper house) seat in the WA parliament, down from five a few years ago.

While Woodside says the green campaign had little to do with its latest announcement, it's hard not to think that in some way it did.

As for the Greens, they must decide whether their role was worth their current political irrelevancy. And the wishes of the local indigenous population for a brighter future have again been shattered.


Wood heater link to heart, lung diseases

But it's "sustainable"

Hundreds of thousands of Australians are endangering their health by the regular use of wood heaters at home.

About 1 million homes regularly use wood-burning heaters, despite links to heart and lung disease. Health and environment experts are calling on the federal government to better regulate their use.

In a submission to a Senate inquiry into the impact of air quality on health, a Launceston lung specialist, James Markos, said there was no safe threshold for the fine particle pollution that resulted from wood-burning heaters, just as there was no safe threshold for exposure to tobacco smoke.

Along with irritating existing conditions such as asthma and emphysema, studies had found that prolonged exposure to wood smoke was an "important environmental risk factor" in fatal heart or lung disease or lung cancer, he said.

At particular risk were those with lung disease, children, older people and those who lived in valleys, where smoke could get trapped.

The inquiry, which holds its first hearing on Tuesday, comes as the Council of Australian Governments environment council released a discussion paper on national action to reduce emissions from wood heaters.

According to the paper, wood heater emissions are a "significant" contributor to particle pollution in Australia during winter. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has found 10 per cent of homes used wood heaters as the main source of heat. This adds up to about 1.1 million wood heaters around the country, with about 25,000 new ones sold each year.

While state governments and local councils have introduced schemes to reduce wood heater emissions and a review of the Australian standards for emissions is now under way, an Edith Cowan University adjunct professor, John Todd, has told the inquiry a national taskforce was needed.

The environment consultant argued that there had been little change in wood heater technology for 30 years, and the government should invest in research to produce cleaner-burning heaters. "This is a national problem," Dr Todd said.

The Australian Medical Association said the "big issue" was that the exact impact of wood smoke on health was not being measured. Its president, Steve Hambleton, said that even though average air quality was monitored in Australia, it needed to be checked in specific pockets.

The Australian Home Heating Association already has a proposal to change the national standard for wood heaters, to reduce the particulate matter per kilogram of wood burnt, from 4 grams to 2.5 grams. General manager Demi Brown said owners could also minimise smoke if they used their heaters correctly.

Ms Brown said that governments needed to better enforce compliance standards for wood heaters. She said her organisation had notified state environmental protection authorities several times about heaters for sale that were not certified, or that differed from their certified design. They received no reply or follow-up, she said.

But she noted that wood heating emitted fewer greenhouse gases than other forms of home heating, and provided a warmth no other energy source could rival.

Parliamentary secretary for sustainability Amanda Rishworth said the government was participating in the inquiry and would respond to its findings.


Time for next generation Disability Benefits reform

The recent reforms in the United Kingdom’s welfare system have so far led to 878,000 people being taken off the British equivalent of Australia’s Disability Support Pension (DSP). Hundreds of thousands of people are now off welfare because they chose not to have their eligibility reassessed after the Cameron government decided to reassess the eligibility for everyone on disability benefits.

Australia’s government introduced tougher eligibility requirements in early 2012, resulting in the total number of people on DSP drop from 831,000 in December 2011 to 824,000 in February 2013. The DSP costs around $15 billion a year to fund.

Australia’s relatively modest fall, while welcome, is largely the result of reducing the number of new entrants to the DSP rather than moving people off it.

When the Gillard government introduced the tougher eligibility criteria last year, it chose not to reassess existing recipients en masse – unlike the UK government.

Mission Australia chief Toby Hall said about 350,000 to 400,000 people on DSP are capable of re-joining the workforce. Most of these people can work at least 8 hours a week; however, because there are no participation requirements for the DSP, these DSP recipients don’t even have to look for work.

There is enormous untapped potential here. Already, 75% of the economic benefits of the NDIS are contingent on DSP reform, and we need to start looking at the next generation of DSP reform now.

Some of the more ambitious reform proposals suggest carving out those people on DSP who have a partial capacity to work and placing them on a new benefit similar to Newstart. Reforms along these lines would include modest participation requirements and provide a number of incentives to make it easier for more people to move off welfare and into work.

Over the last few years, the government has made it substantially tougher to get onto the DSP. To ensure future prosperity, it is essential to make it easier to get off the DSP.


April 12, 2013

Australia's car industry doomed says former Ford boss

Good riddance! It was an initiative of the Chifley Labor government that has always needed propping up

FORMER Ford boss Jac Nasser says Australia's automotive industry is doomed.

Mr Nasser, who had a 33-year career with Ford, including three years as its chief executive in Detroit, said "it would be a very sad day for Australia" if it no longer built cars, "but unfortunately it looks like it could be inevitable".

"I was optimistic or hopeful two or three years back, but the signs look more onerous now," he said.

Mr Nasser, now the chairman of mining giant BHP Billiton, also warned the supply base of Australia's three car makers was intertwined and it would be very difficult for any to survive if one car maker closed.

"As soon as you have a reduction in the scale of domestic manufacturing ... you end up potentially with a subscale supplier infrastructure, and once that happens I think it's a domino effect," he said yesterday.

Mr Nasser said a high Australian dollar, high costs, excessive global car-building capacity and weak Japanese and European currencies were all dragging down the local industry.

He said it was disappointing that Australians were not more patriotic about their car-making industry and the government did not spend a lot on it compared with its global rivals.


Lawyers for victims of the 2011 floods in Brisbane and Ipswich are on track to file class action suit by year's end

About time. It has all been a big whitewash of obvious negligence so far. People died in the flood, let it not be forgotten

LAWYERS representing thousands of Brisbane River flood victims are expected to file one of the largest class action lawsuits in Australian history against the state's dam operators before the end of the year.

It still has not been determined what court will be used or even which state the case will be filed in.

Maurice Blackburn lawyers, with litigation funding from IMF, are continuing to build their case against Wivenhoe Dam engineers, alleging they were negligent in their handling of releases during the January 2011 flood.

The class action could seek up to $1 billion in damages or more.

So far, 4800 flood victims have registered an interest in joining the lawsuit, with about half signing documents making them Maurice Blackburn's clients.

Last week, the law firm asked flood victims to provide photos showing extensive flood damage.

In the next few months, Maurice Blackburn will hold a series of meetings to update flood victims on how the case is progressing.

The no-win, no-fee case is being funded by IMF, a private litigation fund that has already spent more than $1 million on experts to prove many homes would not have flooded, or would have flooded far less, if dam operators had managed flows more prudently.

The Newman government has publicly shown no interest in settling the dispute. The government says the dam operators acted responsibly and intends to fight a negligence claim.
Damian Scattini addresses the crowd

Maurice and Blackburn lawyers principal Damian Scattini addresses the crowd at a public meeting for a proposed flood class action against the State of Queensland on behalf of thousands of victims of the 2011 floods. Picture: Sarah Marshall

Flood victims, who will have to pay 20-30 per cent of any winnings to IMF, see the lawsuit as their last hope for flood compensation.

They will have to prove actual damages and deduct payouts they have received from insurance or charity.

Critics see the lawsuit as a money grab that could prove costly to taxpayers.

Maurice Blackburn went public with their case in January, holding a press conference where it released colour-coded maps showing specific areas its experts said should not have flooded, or flooded as badly, if operators had acted properly.

The law firm said the dam operators held back water too long over several days of heavy rainfall, panicked and flooded Ipswich and Brisbane.

Maurice Blackburn was criticised for errors in their maps, but said they weren't responsible for them. It said the inaccurate maps were meant to be educational or illustrative, not as evidence.

Residents who live in coloured areas wrongly alleged to have flooded said their property values were harmed by the release.


Qantas stays halal despite social media uproar

Qantas is weathering an attack on social media over its decision to ditch food containing alcohol or pork on its European flights through Dubai.

The decision, made out of respect for Islamic beliefs, follows the new partnership between Qantas and Emirates that came into effect on March 31.

Some of the less offensive comments on social media included the airline being referred to as "Al-Qantas" and "the flying Mosque-a-roo". "No pork or pork products, announcements in Arabic, no alcohol … who owns Qantas?" asked one user.

Qantas said on Tuesday it would not change its decision, despite the barrage of negative responses, many of them racist and some calling for the airline to be black banned.

It said alcohol was still being served on flights, but not used in food preparation.

"Our inflight catering reflects the cultural and regional influences of the international destinations that we fly to," the airline said in a statement.

Despite the pasting on social media, a spokesman said the reaction from passengers flying the route had been "positive".

The menu, written in Arabic and English, includes chicken and fish in economy, while business passengers are feted with lamb cassoulet, chicken schnitzel and even a mezze plate that the menu says is "inspired by Emirates".

"The feedback from customers on-board has been fantastic … we do have a good reputation for the quality of our food, compared with other international airlines."

However, the airline had to moderate comments on its Facebook page. "In line with our social media policy we have removed some of the inappropriate comments," the spokesman said.

Qantas' menu changes are nothing new. For years, the airline has flown to Jakarta without pork or alcohol in its inflight meals. It is common practice for airlines flying to such destinations to do the same. Those airlines include Emirates, Etihad, and Virgin Australia.


A boy, 6, removed from his siblings while in foster care as a baby will now be returned to that family

Typical heartless and immobile bureaucracy

A SIX-YEAR-OLD boy removed from his siblings in foster care as a baby will now be returned to that family in a case that will be referred to a state inquiry.

The Child Safety Department's handling of the case has been criticised by a social worker and a tribunal for delays in reuniting the siblings.

The boy had been living with two of his siblings in a foster family for a few months in 2008 when he was taken away at night, with little notice, and put with a different foster family, a tribunal has heard.

The department made the move in an attempt to make it easier for the boy to be reunited with his parents, Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal heard.

But after two family reunion attempts failed, the boy was left with the second foster family in a regional Queensland town and not quickly returned to his siblings, as promised.

Although the department has no problem with the care he has been receiving and the boy has been happy, it decided in April last year to return him to live with his siblings, two hours away.

The boy's current foster mother had appealed to QCAT for the past five years, saying he had formed a strong bond with her family and had the right to a safe, stable living environment.

"Our family has been the only stable thing in (the boy's) life from such a young age," she said in a submission to the tribunal.

However on March 12, QCAT confirmed the department's decision to remove the boy and return him to live with his siblings.

The tribunal found that while the boy would be upset about being taken away from the foster family he knew, it was best for him to be raised with his young siblings and their carers.

However the members agreed with a social worker's criticism of the department for failing to reunite the boy with his siblings earlier.

Sibling contact had been "significantly adversely affected", the social worker said.

The decision will be referred to the Communities and Child Safety Minister and the Carmody inquiry into child protection.


11 April, 2013

Crooks at Australia's largest scientific research organization

No wonder they support global warming

The CSIRO has duped one of the world's biggest pharmaceutical companies into buying anti-counterfeit technology which could be easily compromised - passing off cheap chemicals it had bought from China as a "trade secret" formula.

The Swiss-based multinational Novartis signed up two years ago to use a CSIRO invention it was told would protect its vials of injectible Voltaren from being copied, filled with a placebo and sold by crime syndicates.

Police and drug companies are battling counterfeiters who are selling fake medicines that have killed hundreds of people. Last year Interpol seized 3.75 million units of fake drugs and arrested 80 people.

The invention sold to Novartis to protect against such counterfeit attacks - a microscopic chemical powder painted on the neck of its Voltaren ampoules - was being marketed by DataTrace DNA, a joint venture of CSIRO and DataDot Technology, a publicly listed company.

But a Fairfax investigation has established that CSIRO officials and Datadot executives misled Novartis about the technology in order to close the deal, after receiving explicit internal warnings the Novartis code could be easily duplicated.

Now, hundreds of millions of Voltaren ampoules across the world could carry the easily compromised DataTrace product. The injectible version of the drug is not approved for use in Australia.

Three months before the deal was signed, the scientist working on the technology, Gerry Swiegers, issued a last caution against proceeding. "The code which has been offered to Novartis may not be fit for purpose … because the code material is commercially available from a variety of vendors," Dr Swiegers wrote to DataTrace in March 2010. "If there is a serious counterfeiting threat to the Novartis ampoules, then this code risks being quickly and easily cracked in a counterfeiting attack. Serious questions could then be raised, especially if the successful counterfeiting attack resulted in injury or death."

But the deal went ahead anyway in July 2010. And despite having promised to supply a unique tracer code, DataTrace issued Novartis cheap tracer it had bought in bulk from a Chinese distributor.

The bulk tracer had been earmarked for low-risk applications with no real security concerns. But when DataTrace sold it to Novartis, it said the formula was a trade secret, and Novartis is believed to have been contractually forbidden from trying to identify its make-up.

Asked in general about industry practice, Jeff Conroy, the chief technology officer of Authentix, a rival company, said it was common "to require either a non-disclosure agreement and/or a non-reverse engineering clause when supplying a security material". It would be "very typical" to not disclose the precise material used in the tracer.

Had Novartis reverse-engineered the tracer potentially in breach of its contract, it would have been able to identify its components and check whether the phosphor formula was available elsewhere. In fact, at least two firms were selling the identical material to hundreds of firms around the world.

Damning internal documents seen by Fairfax show DataTrace and some of the most senior officials at the CSIRO knew that Novartis was being misled in a deal believed to be worth $2.5 million.

On August 7, 2009, Greg Twemlow, the DataTrace manager who engineered the deal with Novartis, emailed CSIRO managers Peter Osvath and Geoff Houston with this subject line: "Proposed answer to the question, 'is our Tracer code commercially available'."

"This is how we propose to answer the question if it's posed. We want everyone answering consistently. Answer: The CSIRO will make your Novartis codes using their Trade Secret methods and I'm sure you'll appreciate the importance of secrecy for Novartis and all of our clients. Having said that there may well be a possibility that aspects of the code could be simulated with commercially available products."

But it was much more than a possibility. Mr Twemlow himself confirmed this was the case in a "highly confidential" paper he prepared for a January 2010 DataTrace meeting attended by CSIRO officials. "We currently source end-product, ie we deploy the product as purchased by us for our clients," it said.

A leaked email list from one of the potential suppliers of the phosphor, a British company called Phosphor Tech, "indicates that many hundreds of companies could be buying the same materials we use for Tracers".

"The key question from our clients has generally been, 'Do we make our own Tracers?' Our answer has always been that CSIRO handles this."

Mr Twemlow himself understood the risks, according to internal company correspondence. "Greg, when we talked just before Xmas [2009] you indicated that if we used Chinese lamp phosphors in high security applications, then it would be 'only a matter of time' (your words, not mine) before the system would be copied and compromised," Dr Swiegers wrote in January 2010.

"The lamp phosphors were meant for bulk applications, not high security ones. This is especially significant in pharmaceutical applications where counterfeit pharmaceuticals could have serious safety implications (life-and-death implications)."

Mr Twemlow said on Wednesday he was bound by confidentiality agreements but that "it was a detailed and complex proposal to a large company … I was the sales guy." He said the final decision on the transaction was taken by others." Dr Swiegers, who was retrenched from CSIRO after a bitter falling-out, has since been agitating for reform of the peak scientific body.

Counterfeiting was such a serious commercial and public health risk that Novartis went to extraordinary lengths to ensure DataTrace and CSIRO had security measures in place to prevent the code from being cracked.

In April 2010, Dr Osvath completed a Novartis questionnaire guaranteeing the "protocols" CSIRO would employ "for secure freight logistics … with appropriate security measures".

The next month he sent an email to Mr Twemlow and others regarding an $8000 quote to create a "secure lab" at the organisation's Clayton campus in Melbourne. The money was spent installing a wall and security access readers on the lab doors - features which may have assisted in convincing Novartis that its tracer code could not be compromised.

"I was wondering whether it would also suit DataTrace's purposes, to have signage on the door, identifying the area as a 'DataTrace Lab'," he wrote. "While it will be used for other purposes … it might be useful for you, and not stretching the reality too far."

In fact, a team of auditors from Novartis had already visited Australia to check on the company's claims. In August 2009, the team visited CSIRO's Clayton campus and was given a series of presentations by the company, including one by Dr Osvath on "CSIRO: secure supply and support for DataTrace DNA/Novartis project".

In July 2010 DataTrace announced a five-year deal with an unnamed pharmaceutical company to the stock exchange.

Just three months after the deal was announced to the market, CSIRO sold its 50 per cent stake of the company, worth $1.3 million, for 8.93 per cent of DataTrace's parent company, DataDot Technology.


Australian public schools abandoned by wealthy families

I wonder why? It wouldn't have anything to do with the collapse of discipline in State schools, would it?

WEALTHY families are deserting the public education system, with poorer students making up double the number of wealthy children at Australia's government schools.

This privilege exodus is most pronounced in high school, with more than 75 per cent of the highest earning families enrolled in independent and Catholic schools, according to analysis of 2011 census data.

The research shows a dramatic social shift during the past 25 years, with low and high income families equally represented at state schools in 1986.

"In contrast, a quarter century later in 2011, the differences are very marked: the government sector has almost twice the proportion of students from low income families relative to the proportion from high income families," said report author Barbara Preston.

In some states (Tasmania and South Australia) the proportion of students from low income backgrounds in government education is as much as four times higher than that of wealthy families.

Separate analysis of data from the My School website shows that not only do private school students attract 25 per cent more income than their public counterparts, they enjoy a higher rate of increase in government funding.

Private schools also outperform the other sectors and enjoy smaller class sizes than government schools, which have seen an increase in the student to teacher ratio.

The research also confirms the middle ground held by the Catholic education system, which has more wealthy than poor students, but mainly caters for children from medium income families.

Education experts agree higher concentrations of disadvantaged children hurt student performance, with a "drag down" effect felt across the school.

The report comes during intense focus on school funding, with the Federal Government struggling to push through its Gonski reform package at next week's COAG meeting.

"These findings highlight the importance of delivering funding reform to the address disadvantage and deliver money to where its needed most," said Angelo Gavrielatos, president of the Australian Education Union, which commissioned the report.

There are also stark differences across Australia, with wealthier states far more likely to enjoy a better social mix in their schools.

Tasmania and South Australia have the lowest family incomes and the widest social disparity, with Tasmanian school students more than two and a half times as likely to have low family incomes as high family incomes.

Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory have the highest overall family incomes and the least social disparity.

New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland sit near the average, with around twice as many poor students than wealthy kids at public secondary schools.

The report also states access to high speed broadband is a significant advantage for students, and enjoyed by 94 per cent of students from high income families compared with just 68 per cent of lower income government primary school students.

To be released publicly today by the Australian Education Union, the research analysed census data from more than a million students whose families provided information about schooling and income in the 2011 census.

Family income was defined as low (less than $1249 a week), medium (between $1250 and $2499), high (more than $2500) and very high (more than $5000).


Leftist do-gooders condone violence and impose apartheid on blacks

Leftists are always trying to gloss over the fact that Australian Aboriginal communities are extraordinarily dysfunctional by civilized standards. Leftists don't care about the suffering of Aboriginal women and children.

At what point does autonomy slide into apartheid? Do the rights of a culture outweigh those of its people? Why can't we talk about this?

The Aboriginal war memorial in Canberra is a small bronze plaque pinned to a rock in scrubby bush, 10 minutes - a universe - from official Australia's pompous mausoleum and inscribed with words you have to squat to read.

It's almost like deliberate symbolism: "We tolerate you blacks but, basically, what goes down in the bush, stays in the bush."

We are people of conscience. Every week we're shocked by another Indian rape, sharia stoning or fresh evidence that the German people "must have known".

As Anzacs we stand (and fall) for decency and truth. A fortnight hence we will honour the fair go, the level ground, the open heart, the unforked tongue and the clear eye. So we like to think.

Yet there is a snake writhing in our midst that we cannot bring ourselves to see or even name.

To the pack rapes, genital mutilation, arranged marriages, wife beatings and routine child sex at the heart of our continent we turn a blind, terrified and - truly - conscience-stricken eye. A recent Sydney Institute talk by academics Stephanie Jarrett and Gary Johns laid it bare. Indigenous violence, they argued, is not "our" fault. Although alcohol-exacerbated, it is endemic to pre-contact indigenous culture.

They are not the first. Many distinguished writers including Peter Sutton, Louis Nowra and Nicolas Rothwell have documented these horrifying stories, supporting observation that goes back to the First Fleet's Watkin Tench. These writers had nothing to gain. They must have known they'd be reviled by their own demographic, so it's hard to impute motives other than frankness.

In Another Country (2007) Rothwell wrote that "a pathology of violence, pornography, promiscuity and sexual abuse has taken hold", in remote indigenous communities. The book shone with a love of Aboriginal people and culture, yet Rothwell was accused of being an assimilationist-sympathiser.

The same year, English teacher Jenness Warin and UNSW mathematician James Franklin wrote a paper entitled Aboriginal Communities: Why the Trade in Girls and Other Human Rights Abuses Remain Hidden. Warin was accused of trying to empty Aboriginal lands.

Also in 2007, Nowra wrote Bad Dreaming, his unflinching omnibus of misogynist violence and routine child rape in central Australia. Reviewers, although shocked, continued to blame European impact and insist that Nowra's white-male view was inherently skewed.

What, does rape look different if you're brown? Does it feel different? Matter less? Is that what we're saying?

Reviewer Jan Richardson voiced the standard view. Rather than seek the root of violence, she argued, we should try to improve indigenous men's grasp of capitalism, hoping that "social inclusion and … positions that bring men the kind of esteem and authority they earned when their cultural milieu was unhindered by a foreign philosophy might promote fulfilment and reduce anger". Our fault, our responsibility.

But Nowra's question - whether indigenous male violence was intrinsic to pre-contact tribal culture - is core, and should shape our entire policy approach to indigenous development.

If violence is endemic, self-determination emerges as an error of tragic proportions.

White liberalism habitually sees all criticism of indigenous culture as right-wing racism. This effects a self-censorship that is profoundly racist - talk about anything, just not this - and, argue Jarrett and Johns, breathtakingly cruel.

We've had the stories. With a care and acuity one can only wish was more typical of academia, Jarrett and Johns array the evidence. Sadly, it is compelling.

Alice Springs politician Bess Nungarrayi Price, who writes the foreword in Jarrett's Liberating Aboriginal People from Violence (Connor Court Publishing 2013), was raised in traditional culture and has the scars to prove it. "Men had the power of life and death over their wives," she recalls. "Young girls were forced into marriage with older men."

Jarrett documents many current instances of the "customary rape of young women (often as part of a group deflowering ceremony) and sexual abuse of children".

Official statistics show black-on-black violence to be three times higher in remote communities than urban, and four times higher against women than men. Hospitalisation for family-related violence is 30 times more likely for an indigenous person than a non-indigenous.

There's also paleopathology showing that cranial injury from attack was almost four times higher, pre-contact, in women than in men.

It's not just booze. Indigenous alcohol consumption is falling, but the violence rises. Men who are peaceable in the city revert to routine violence in remote cultures. Women who are young and successful in the city return to tribal culture, becoming trapped in violence and coercion.

Therefore, argues Johns in Aboriginal Self-Determination, the Whiteman's Dream (Connor Court Publishing 2011) current "self-determination" policies are not only massively wasteful - throwing billions of dollars into a black hole of impossible service provision in remote areas - but condemn women and children to lives of unconscionable brutality.

They could be wrong. This could be a massive conspiracy. There could be other explanations of the damaged skulls, the violence, the abuse.

If so, these counter-arguments should be put. Instead, we have emotion, ridicule and snide personal attack.

The Monthly's John van Tiggelen wrote a snarky, gossipy review dissing Jarrett ("tremulous", "slightly posh"), her PhD ("human rights before cultural rights"), Johns ("a Howard man"), their publisher ("a bush operation") and their audience ("white-haired white men"), as though ipso facto outing their secret belief that, in his words, "once a savage, always a savage".

But to talk truthfully of violence is not to undermine Aborigines. Two centuries ago white Australia was also violent and abusive. It is the rule of law that dragged us out, protecting weak from strong.

And that's the crux. Endemic or not, this violence is illegal. Condoning as "customary law" what we would never countenance for ourselves is not autonomy. It's apartheid.

As Price notes, "the best thing about acknowledging … our own traditional forms of violence is that … we can fix ourselves. We don't need to be told what to do by the white man."

So let's have the discussion without the ridicule, since if it can't be discussed, it can't be fixed.


Aboriginal scholar off to Cambridge

Notice how black she is

TASMANIAN Sarah Lynn Rees is among just four people to win a 2013 Charles Perkins Scholarship for indigenous Australians.

Sarah will start post-graduate studies in architecture and urban design at Cambridge University later this year.

A descendant of Dolly Dalrymple and the Plangermaireener people in Tasmania, she grew up in Hobart before achieving first-class honours in a Bachelor of Environments, majoring in architecture, at the University of Melbourne.

The 23-year-old now works for Melbourne's Jackson Clements Burrows Architects and was thrilled to be named a recipient.

"My research proposal was on the concept of nomadic housing and indigenous culture," Sarah said.

"It's still four more years of study and experience to become a registered architect, but I'd become the eighth indigenous person to be an architect in Australia. There are only seven."

Sarah attended MacKillop College at Mornington and Rosny College.

British High Commissioner Paul Madden announced the scholarships in Canberra today. Worth $50,000 a year, they are designed to assist post-graduate studies at Oxford and Cambridge.

In 1966, Dr Perkins became the first indigenous Australian man to graduate from university. [Charlie Perkins was not much more Aboriginal than I am. He had a nose like a tin-opener and yellow skin -- and no lips at all!]



10 April, 2013

Abbott accuses Government of 'surrender' on boat arrivals

The Federal Government has reacted angrily to an accusation from Opposition Leader Tony Abbott that it has "surrendered" in the battle to curb boat arrivals.

Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare has ordered an investigation into how a boat full of asylum seekers apparently slipped past Customs surveillance before sailing into Geraldton in Western Australia yesterday.

This morning Mr Abbott told commercial radio that the latest arrival was a "disaster". "It just gets worse and worse all the time and I think effectively the Government has kind of surrendered," he said.

"And the problem with surrendering on boat people is that in the end it discredits the whole of our immigration program."

The boat which arrived in Geraldton was carrying 66 Sri Lankans who said they wanted to get to New Zealand. Their rickety fishing boat, with a 'Deutsche Bank' logo painted on the side, was intercepted just 100 metres off shore after locals alerted authorities. They had spent 44 days at sea.

It was the first case in five years that an asylum seeker boat had reached the mainland.

But Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor accused Mr Abbott of "acting hysterically". He said 19 boats managed to reach the mainland undetected during the years of the Howard government.

"If you're looking at any benchmark then every Immigration Minister during the Howard years should have resigned," he said.

"The difference is the then-Opposition was not acting hysterically and calling this a 'surrender' as the Leader of the Opposition has. "Last week we had Tony Abbott talking about our economy and comparing it with Cyprus and today he's talking about surrendering. "He is not fit for prime ministership."

Mr Clare also rejected Mr Abbott's view that the Government had "surrendered", saying the language was "not helpful". "It's indicative of the bigger problem with this debate," he told ABC radio's AM program.

"The political parties have been fighting about this now for more than a decade, and it's politics that has poisoned this debate."

Mr Clare said Border Protection Command had advised him that the boat travelled an unusual route from Sri Lanka.

"Their initial advice is they believe the vessel travelled directly from Sri Lanka to Geraldton, which meant that it travelled in a way that is south of the main surveillance area, south of where most of our planes and patrol boats are focused," he said.

"All of our patrol boats and our surveillance aircraft are targetted at the north west where 99 per cent of vessels arrive and are intercepted.

"I've asked customs and border protection to review the circumstances of this case and advise me whether there needs to be changes to the way in which we patrol the seas in the north west."

But Mr Clare brushed aside questions relating to the cost of possibly patrolling further south. "All of the early advice to me is that this is highly unusual," he said.

"We'll interview the people on the boat to see what their motivations were but 99.9 per cent of vessels that are intercepted are heading either to Cocos Island, Christmas Island or Ashmore Island.

"People do that because they're seeking the shortest trip possible."


School behaviour contracts get tougher

TOUGH new behaviour contracts will be introduced in Queensland public schools from next year as part of the state's new $535 million education reforms.

Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said the contracts would be a more stringent version of current behaviour plans.

Mr Langbroek has pledged to give principals more power to crack down on misbehaving students with figures released this week revealing 64,324 suspensions and exclusions were handed out last year. He said parents would also be called on to play a greater role in their children's education.

"We do have a contract about behaviour at the moment which people sign off on when they join a school. We are looking at making it a lot more stringent," Mr Langbroek said.

It is yet to be determined exactly what the contracts would involve. Schools are expected to be given a choice as to whether or not they use them, but they still have to have a behaviour plan in place as well.

Mr Langbroek said the contracts would be partly modelled on a version being used in a North Queensland school which has seen student performances soar.

Cairns West State School principal Michael Hansen said the academic success guarantee contracts, in place at his school since 2008, compelled parents to ensure their children had a 95 per cent attendance rate.

In exchange, the school guaranteed their child would meet or beat year-level benchmarks in literacy and numeracy, he said.

And it is working.

While discipline was not part of the contract, Mr Hansen said the work his teachers were doing with parents and students had helped improve behaviour as well. Grattan Institute school education program director Dr Ben Jensen said discipline was a significant issue in classrooms, but it was also important to focus on good learning behaviour.

"A bigger issue is understanding that any sort of improvement in learning and teaching over time is a behavioural change process," he said.

"We have a problem in Australia that we focus too narrowly on just learning outcomes and not also on learning behaviours."

The Newman Government's reforms also include bonuses for top-performing teachers and principals, scholarships and the deployment of master teachers to schools identified as in need of extra help to lift student performance.

The Queensland Teachers' Union has called on teachers to rally outside Parliament House on April 17 against the plan. It is also considering further action in a meeting on April 15.


Qld. Premier threatens to walk away from Federal school deal

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman says he will refuse a new Commonwealth funding deal if it means some schools in the state will be worse off.

Premiers and chief ministers will travel to Canberra next week for Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meetings.

Top of the COAG agenda will be discussions surrounding the Gonski review into education.

Mr Newman has reaffirmed he will not sign up to the Federal Government plan unless there are changes.

"While they continue to put forward proposals that would disadvantage 100 schools at least, we just simply can't agree to those sorts of things," he said.

Mr Newman says the ball is in the court of Federal Education Minister Peter Garrett.

"We will say fine we don't need your money if it comes with those sorts of unaccepatble outcomes," he said.

Mr Newman says the outcome of COAG will not affect his $535 million schools plan announced yesterday.


Union corruption: Former HSU boss on money-laundering charge

Former union boss and Labor Party president Michael Williamson has been charged with another two fraud and corruption offences.

The former national president of the Health Services Union (HSU) was already charged with 48 offences, including fraud and corruption.

Today, charges of money laundering and cheating or defrauding were added to that list.

Williamson, 59, was excused from appearing in the Downing Centre Local Court.

His bail conditions were tightened, and he is now banned from contacting Crown witnesses except through his lawyers.

Court documents allege that between December 12, 2006, and February 15, 2010, Williamson "facilitated the fraudulent preparation, submission and payment of Access Focus Pty Ltd invoices with intent to defraud" the HSU.

Under the money laundering charge, Williamson is accused of receiving $600,000 between December 12, 2006 and February 15, 2010, knowing the money was proceeds of crime.

The matter returns to court on 18 June.

Williamson resigned from the HSU late last year amid allegations he misused more than $500,000 during his time at the union.

His resignation came less than two weeks after a leaked report into the union's internal workings alleged Williamson engaged in nepotism by funnelling union funds to himself and his family.

The report, by Ian Temby QC and Dennis Robertson, detailed allegations of multi-million-dollar instances of nepotism, mal-administration and cronyism.

It said Williamson had a salary of almost $400,000 and alleged five members of Williamson's family were among the union's best paid employees.


9 April, 2013

Federal government urged to release true cost of NBN (National Boondoggle Nonsense)

COMMUNICATIONS Minister Stephen Conroy has admitted making a false claim about the National Broadband Network as he tried to defend the project over allegations it faces massive cost blowouts.

Senator Conroy told ABC Radio this morning that the Coalition was a "fact-free zone" but wrongly claimed the NBN's corporate plan was audited by the Auditor-General as he attempted to justify its price tag.

The Coalition estimates the final price tag of the NBN could more than double to $90 billion-plus, and that it will take an extra four years to complete.

The claims are made in the Coalition's broadband policy, obtained by The Daily Telegraph, which Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull has promised will be released soon.

The NBN Co last year released a revised corporate plan which admitted to a $1.5 billion cost blowout in the capital cost of the project - to $37.4 billion - with a total cost to taxpayers of $44.1 billion.

But, using modelling from key telcos and finance industry analysis of the NBN Co's 2012 corporate plan, the Coalition has estimated the project will take four years longer to finish and potentially cost an extra $45 billion to complete.

Senator Conroy told the ABC that the coalition was relying on misleading statistics and data to try and create a scare campaign against the project.

"We have nearly a million homes under construction at the moment," he said.

"The corporate plan, audited by the Auditor-General, is produced each year, and what you're seeing in that corporate plan is $37.4 billion is the cost of building the NBN - not, as today the Coalition is claiming, $90 billion. I mean, the Coalition are a fact-free zone. They don't have any facts to support these claims."

But Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull tweeted: "The NBN Co's corporate plan has NOT been audited by the auditor general.

"Conroy's statement that it has been is false and he knows it."

An Australian National Audit Office spokesman confirmed the office had not audited the corporate plan. "We audit the financial statements so the expenditures of NBN are properly recorded," he said. "While we make reference to the corporate plan, we don't audit the corporate plan."

Senator Conroy told Sky News this afternoon he had made mistake and mis-spoke, meaning to say the annual report and not the corporate plan. "I meant to say the annual report," he said.

Senator Conroy told the ABC of the $90 billion price tag alleged by the opposition: "They have no analysis behind these claims; no analysis or facts behind $90 billion, no analysis or facts behind 2025 as a finish date. They're just making false claims about the National Broadband Network."

It comes as Prime Minister Julia Gillard denied the cost for the National Broadband Network will blow out to more than $90 billion.

Asked if the figure is in the ballpark of what the major infrastructure project will eventually cost Ms Gillard responded simply: "no”.


Penis size does matter to Australian women: study

THE eternal question of whether penis size matters has been probed by a team of international scientists who, after questioning 105 Australians, found that, yes, women do find larger men more attractive.

What's more, prehistoric women who could see the sex organs of their scantily clad male counterparts may have helped influence the evolution of larger genitals in men by choosing to mate with partners who were bigger.

Researchers said they decided to tackle the topic because past studies had offered conflicting answers, and may have been sullied by asking the women too directly.

"Since penis size is a sensitive subject. It's hard to determine whether females lied or 'self-deceived' in their responses," said lead author Brian Mautz, a postdoctoral researcher in evolution and sexual selection at the University of Ottawa.

So they embarked on a new type of study, using computer-generated images of generic male figures with varying heights, body shapes and flaccid penis lengths.

A sample of 105 Australian women were asked to view 53 of these life-sized robot-like pictures, which rotated so they were visible at different angles.

The women - all heterosexual - were not told they were participating in a study about penis size. They were simply asked to rate the figures according to sexual attractiveness. Their answers were collected anonymously.

Researchers found that women rated tall men with long penises as the most attractive.

The women also tended to gaze longer at the larger men. But not too long - each rating was made in about three seconds.

But how big is best? On that question, researchers were, er, stumped.

"We didn't find an ideal (ie 'most attractive') penis size or height," Mautz explained.

"The attractiveness scores were still increasing at the largest values for these traits."

The findings were published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal in the United States, called the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The results "directly contradict claims that penis size is unimportant to most females," and also hint at why human males tend to have relatively larger genitalia when compared to other primates, the study said.

"Our results show that female mate choice could have played a role in the evolution of the relatively large human male penis," the authors wrote.

"Before clothing, the non-retractable human penis would have been conspicuous to potential mates."

The study did not get into the racial background of men and whether that may affect penis size, but it did document the ethnicity and age of the women it was studying for hints about whether penis size mattered.

More than 70 per cent of the women were of European origin, 20 per cent were Asian and seven per cent were from elsewhere. Their average age was 26.


Queensland Government spending up big to improve teaching

AN army of "master teachers" will be deployed across the state as part of a $535 million drive by the Newman Government to improve Queensland's school performance.

Premier Campbell Newman yesterday unveiled his education reform plan, including a $50 million teacher bonus pool, which he says will help lift standards across both state and independent schools with annual performance reviews to ensure changes are being made.

The top-performing teachers could earn bonuses of more than $5000 while principals will be treated more like CEOs and placed on performance-based contracts.

About 300 "master teachers" - considered at the top of their field - would also be hired on six-figure salaries and deployed across the state to help poor-performing schools pick up their act.

Those teachers will be contracted to a school for three years and armed with up to $75,000 in funding for resources to boost numeracy and literacy.

Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said those teachers would provide invaluable support and knowledge.

Mr Newman said the extra funding would kick in from 2015 with $100 million allocated to private schools but where that money will come from is yet to be revealed.

A spokesman for the Premier ruled out asset sales.

Mr Newman said the plan would ensure the best quality teachers. "To get better outcomes for our kids we've got to have the very best teachers and school principals and we need to provide appropriate support for them," he said.

Mr Newman said principals and deputy principals currently employed could choose to go on a performance-based contract but from 2016 new principals and deputies would be hired on the contracts.

Mr Langbroek said teachers would also undertake annual performance reviews and receive a ranking of one to three.

That ranking will be reviewed before those with the highest rankings receive a bonus of either 4 or 6 per cent of their annual wage.

Up to 200 scholarships a year will be offered to high-performing teachers to undertake a Masters degree. Principals and deputy principals will also be offered scholarships.

The announcement comes a week before Mr Newman is due to fly to Canberra to fight with the Commonwealth over its Gonski plan and just hours after state education ministers rejected other Federal Government school reforms.

But Mr Newman denied the new scheme was his answer to the Commonwealth's own better schools program.

"Whatever happens next week Queenslanders know there is $535 million extra over the next five years to look after our kids because we are looking after our teachers," he said.

Mr Langbroek said his plan to give principals more power when it comes to discipline would also form part of the new proposal.


Schools need discipline back

EDUCATION experts have backed State Government plans to get tough on unruly schoolchildren who continually flout the rules.
The Courier-Mail yesterday revealed state school pupils were abusing the system, with 64,324 suspensions and exclusions last year.

Education Standards Institute director Kevin Donnelly said the "politically correct" system of discipline in state schools was not working.

"A lot of the approach at the moment is very new-age and politically correct, and we need to go back to a more disciplined sense of how teachers control the classroom and how children act in the classroom."

Dr Donnelly said state schools were tied up in red tape and some disciplinary measures were more of a reward for students than a punishment.

"In government schools you can have kids who are consistently a problem, consistently misbehave or wag school, and often it takes too long for the problem to be dealt with because of regulation and red tape," he said.

Dr Donnelly said parents were also part of the solution, and needed to play a bigger role in teaching their children respect for authority.

Child psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg said children had to know there were "real consequences to the choices you have made".

Dr Robyn Gillies, from the University of Queensland's School of Education, said schools had to teach continually misbehaving students better ways of behaving.


8 April, 2013

Asylum seeker flood highlights weakness in Malaysia people swap deal, opposition says

MORE than 800 asylum seekers - the amount the government wanted to send to Malaysia under its people swap deal to stop ongoing arrivals - have arrived in Australia in only a week.

Authorities yesterday reported two more new boats over the weekend, capping an extraordinary week-long period when 12 boats were intercepted between March 31 and April 6.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison yesterday seized on the arrivals to claim they showed the Malaysia solution cap would expire too easily given the frequent flow of boats.

In the latest arrival, a boat carrying 56 people was helped on Saturday after seeking assistance east of Christmas Island.

Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare also confirmed yesterday that another boat carrying 86 people also sought assistance northwest of Christmas Island on Friday afternoon.

"Border Protection Command has now transferred the passengers from both vessels to Christmas Island, where they will undergo initial security, health and identity checks and their reasons for travel will be established," he said in a statement. "People arriving by boat without a visa after August 13, 2012, run the risk of transfer to a regional processing country."

Calls to Mr Clare's office about the amount of arrivals in the past week were not returned last night.

Mr Morrison said the continuing arrivals and Labor's insistence on championing the Malaysia solution showed it was time "for this government to go".

"People smugglers, cashed up from five years of profit under Labor, would have always easily overwhelmed the 800 cap on the Malaysia people swap deal and now they have shown they can do it in just one week," he said.

"Labor would rather cling to policy failure than immediately act to restore the full suite of Howard Government policies that got the job done."

A total of 37 boats arrived during March after 16 in February and 10 during the quieter monsoon season in January.

Since the government announced its offshore processing policy backflip in August, a total of 233 boats have arrived carrying almost 14,000 people.


Improved China ties

AUSTRALIAN and Chinese currency will be traded in China for the first time under a deal to be announced by Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

And a major tourism and investment campaign will be run in Shanghai in late 2014 to take advantage of China's booming middle class and fast-growing economy.

Under the currency agreement, the Australian dollar will be directly convertible into Chinese yuan, easing costs for mining companies and other global industries.

China only has deals of a similar kind with the United States and Japan.

"This reflects the rapid growth of our bilateral trade and the value of two-way investment - and it also creates opportunities for new financial integration," Ms Gillard will tell the China Executive Leadership Academy in Shanghai on Monday.

"This is good news for the Chinese economy and good news for the Australian economy."

Ms Gillard said she hoped the deal would advance China's policy of greater internationalisation of its currency.

The prime minister is in Shanghai leading Australia's largest political delegation, which includes Foreign Minister Bob Carr and Trade Minister Craig Emerson.

She said Australia Week, hosted by Shanghai in the second half of 2014, would further boost Australia's reputation as a world-leading destination and a valuable tourism, trade and investment partner.

Events will include contemporary performing and visual arts, a gala dinner in Shanghai and meetings with potential Chinese investors.

It will coincide with Tourism Australia's Greater China Travel Mission, which attracts more than 120 Australian tourism operators.

A record 625,000 Chinese visited Australia during 2012, up 16 per cent on the previous year.

Ms Gillard on Sunday held her first official meeting with Xi Jinping, who became China's president in March.

She also spoke at the opening of the Boao Forum on Asia.

The Australian delegation will head to Beijing on Monday night.


Bad students get away with flouting rules, as figures show 64,324 suspensions and exclusions from the state's schools last year

UNRULY schoolchildren are abusing the system as teachers struggle to crack down on bad behaviour, Queensland's Education Minister says. John-Paul Langbroek said he was appalled at the latest figures which showed there were 64,324 suspensions and exclusions from the state's schools last year.

Mr Langbroek accused some students of "playing the system to suit" and attracting multiple suspensions because they knew that teachers and principals were limited in what they could do to deter their violent, abusive and disruptive behaviour.

"I know that's happening at schools. I want to stop it," he said.

Mr Langbroek said teachers were only allowed to hand out maximum lunchtime detentions of 20 minutes or after-school detentions of 30 minutes.

And while principals have the power to exclude students, the process takes up to 25 days. Even then, parents are able to lodge a final appeal with the director-general.

Mr Langbroek said he believed principals and teachers were fighting with one hand tied behind their backs.

"Principals and teachers can be confident that we are not just going to tinker at the edges," he said of his discipline reform plan.

"We want perpetrators to know that we're serious about making sure that principals have got autonomy to run their schools, and students who get in the way . . . they can't use the system."

New figures show there were nearly 400 more suspensions, exclusions and mature-age student enrolment cancellations in state schools in 2012 compared with 63,936 in 2011. Exclusions increased about 30 per cent to 1331, up from 1030 in 2011.
Bad students get away with flouting rules

Queensland Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek John-Paul Langbroek said he was appalled at the latest figures which showed there were 64,324 suspensions and exclusions from the state's schools last year.

The majority of suspensions and exclusions, about 34,911, were handed out for physical or verbal and non-verbal misconduct.

Drug, cigarette and alcohol-related misconduct accounted for about 3200 disciplinary absences.

Five students were deemed to be so bad they were excluded from all state schools in Queensland.

The figures come as the Newman Government puts the finishing touches on its plan to overhaul state school discipline, handing principals more power to crack down on misbehaviour.

But the Queensland Teachers' Union has called for the Government to focus instead on providing support to teachers and to reoffending students to help them change their ways.

QTU president Kevin Bates said while some students were attracting multiple suspensions and knew how to work the system, he believed they needed greater support to curb that behaviour.

"As a teacher, there are those students that you know are probably out there looking for reasons to be sent away from school," he said.

"They're the ones you tend to work that much harder to keep in the school context because that's where they are going to get the support they need."

He called for the Government to increase the number of positive learning centres for students around the state.

The way students are disciplined has continued to evolve, with corporal punishment now only adopted in some private schools.

But Australian Primary Principals Association president Norm Hart said he believed there was less tolerance of misbehaviour in schools now than there used to be.

"I think students are subject to more discipline than they used to be," he said.

Mr Hart said principals generally preferred to work with the families of misbehaving students to teach them a better way of dealing with their problems.

"But in the end we need to make sure that schools are safe places for everybody and that includes other students," he said. "Sometimes kids have to be either suspended or excluded but that is only used as a last resort.

"If these figures are increasing, then perhaps there's a message there about the way Australian society is changing and the way that children are acting out their emotional issues."


New tool to catch lawless drivers

It takes just a ride around the block in this all-seeing, all-dancing police car to realise you would be off your rocker to indulge in road rage or even allow yourself to get very, very, cross while behind the wheel.

This is because every second motorist out there appears to be a Mad Max throwback who cruises around listening to Motorhead while munching on methamphetamines.

But the frightening thing is it is virtually impossible to pick the law-abiding from the loon-bags without high-tech assistance.

The trick, you quickly learn, is to ignore the obvious. The most unlawful may not be the tradie in a hot ute with a slobberer in the back (that would be the blue heeler, not the apprentice) but those driving everyday sedans.

Behind the wheel is Road Policing Enforcement Superintendent Dean McWhirter, who is trialling the Bluenet Automatic Number Plate Recognition car that can scan thousand of plates an hour.

It has a large video terminal visible to both driver and front passenger, front and rear cameras and four number plate trackers on the roof that can be set in any direction.

It is to police what Thunderbird 2 was to International Rescue - a high-tech gizmo that has the capacity to make a huge difference. The car is blue, bright and obvious. And yet the woman who pulls up next to us at the lights continues to gasbag on her mobile.

Go figure.

The computer system has Victoria Police and Sheriff data downloaded so any plate scanned is instantly checked to see if the vehicle is suspect.

Within 30 seconds we get the first ping - a Subaru parked outside Media House turns out to be unregistered (it is probably owned by a gin-swilling photographer).

We sweep around to South Melbourne and the extremely well-heeled Middle Park, where a disturbing number of residents seem to think the payment of fines is a discretionary spend.

Certainly any socio-economic stereotyping quickly goes out the power window. "One of the highest hit rates we have had is in an operation in Toorak Road," says the good superintendent.

Sort of Sam Newman's "Street Talk" in reverse.

Our best guess is the machine that goes ping fires up every 40 seconds, notifying police of a potential suspect vehicle.

There is the polite lady in a late-model VW behind us who appears to be a law-abiding driver until the machine says the registered owner owes the Sheriff $923.

There is a parked late-model Volvo that is unregistered with $3771 in fines owing, and a Mazda 3 whose owner is $11,000 down the toilet.

In a run of eight parked cars, four are unregistered or owned by unlicensed drivers.

One is a top-of-the-range Audi registered to an unlicensed driver who also owes $2000 in fines. Maybe that's why he can't afford to take the bus.

As we cruise around, the side camera checks every parked car and provides a photo of ones that are recorded as of police interest.

According to Superintendent McWhirter, the ANPR car "is like having another set of eyes, it has fantastic potential". So much so that another four units are likely to be on the road later in the year as part of the pilot project.

With the new technology, when police pull over a car they will know much about the owner before they even reach a dead stop.

As all systems are connected to the police database, they know if the owner is licensed, has a criminal record or a history of violence. This can be particularly important when police work one-up in the country.

In the prototype car the forward camera is activated as soon the police emergency lights are engaged and automatically records any police pursuit.

It records any interaction between police and motorist. "This can be an important tool to protect members from false complaints," Superintendent McWhirter says.

It will also protect motorists from any copper with an anger management problem, as the knowledge the incident is being recorded can take the edge off even the shortest temper.

The data provided by this ANPR car, along with 10 similar devices that can be set up on any road in Victoria, has exposed a massive problem. There is a dangerous number of illegal drivers out and about who are prepared to roll the dice, believing they won't get caught.

Well, the odds are shortening.

Last year police scanned 2.3 million plates and recorded 36,700 detections.

In one case they pulled over one car registered to a driver who had lost his licence. He was found to be sitting in the passenger seat, which was good. Unfortunately the bloke behind the wheel had never had a licence, which was bad.

The ANPR unit pinged a car with the wrong plates down on the peninsula. Turned out he had been driving daily for the past six months using stolen plates on his unregistered car. A stickler for detail, he had even made a matching false registration sticker to complete the sham. He was a resident of nearby Safety Beach.

You can't make this stuff up.

In other jobs they intercepted a family-friendly Toyota Tarago in Docklands after it was pinged with stolen plates. A search found the smiling occupants were not on their way to the Spanish doughnut van for a snack or to stare at the stationary Southern Star Ferris wheel. Inside the car, police found imitation handguns, balaclavas, bolt cutters and other items used in a Braybrook armed robbery.

In Heathcote, the all-seeing camera suggested the Holden Commodore towing the big boat in front should be fitted with an alcohol interlock device.

A quick check showed not only was the device not fitted, the car was unroadworthy and there were drugs and weapons on board.

And the boat was stolen.

Another ping in Richmond found an unlicensed driver behind the wheel and a stack of counterfeit money in the boot.

You lose your licence when you accrue 12 demerit points. Police found one zombie in a combi driving around with 34. He was just 20 years old.

In one operation in Bendigo, police pulled up 10 unregistered cars every hour.

Police have only started to explore the potential uses for the new system that may one day be in every police car. A sweep of a pub car park can record patrons' number plates to be checked if spotted on the road hours later.

Serial drink-drivers, burglars, or bail jumpers could be targeted with the system.

"Our aim is to have this sort of technology available to as many police as possible, as it will open up a suite of enforcement options," says Superintendent McWhirter.

Police and the Sheriff's office regularly conduct joint operations, often in shopping centre car parks, where fine evaders can find their cars clamped until the debts are paid. This does nothing for the state of the offender's bank balance nor the condition of the Neapolitan log thawing in the supermarket trolley.

"This technology has dramatically increased the effectiveness of the Sheriff in identifying people with outstanding warrants across Victoria," Sheriff Brendan Facey says.

And for those who say such technology is just another revenue-raising gimmick, let us consider the facts. Unlicensed drivers are way over-represented in car crashes - and why would that surprise anyone?

Selfish, stupid and criminal motorists who think the law doesn't apply to them are much more likely to ignore the road rules. And those who are caught are given minimal punishment.

Let's make this clear, those who continue to drive after their licences are cancelled are really guilty of contempt of court and yet are treated no worse than misguided jaywalkers.

As Road Policing Assistant Commissioner Robert Hill points out, 10 per cent of fatal collisions involve unlicensed or unauthorised drivers.

He makes no apologies for using every resource he can find to deal with the road toll, pointing out that Victoria has fallen from first to 12th in the world ratings for road safety (while local police are still internationally recognised as world leaders).

The figures are stark. Drive for more than 20 minutes in Melbourne and you will inevitably come within a car length of a motorist who shouldn't be there.

"These people have had their licences removed for valid reasons and yet choose to continue to drive. They are a danger to themselves and other road users and it is our job to identify them," he says.

Static red light and speed cameras snap around 18,000 unregistered vehicles a year and police are finding up to 1500 unlicensed drivers each month. Police are issuing an infringement notice for an unregistered vehicle every 12 minutes.

Which confirms what we already know. There are more nuts out there than in a squirrel's retirement fund.


7 April, 2013

A success story about educating Aboriginal youth?

It probably is a success story but one look at the kids concerned (below) will tell you that none of them are Aboriginal -- just whites hitch-hiking on the Aboriginal gravy train. Do the politicians think we are all blind?

Some real Aborigines

If you stroll around the Central West town of Dubbo, you're likely to find posters featuring some smiling young Aboriginal faces. "Look at me now!" they say. There's the medical student Khyarne Biles. There's the apprentice spray painter, the dancer, the hairdresser, the bank trainee, the teacher. All graduated from Dubbo College, the local state high school, which is proud to parade its many indigenous success stories.

They are an inspiration to children such as Celeste Smith and Warren Dodd, both 17 and among the college's current crop of Aboriginal HSC students. Only two years ago, neither had dreamt of attending university. Smith was disengaged, making it to class only 20 to 30 per cent of the time. Universities were places for other people, not Aboriginal kids like her.

Then she and Dodd met Sally Nelson, the youth and transition officer at Dubbo College. "She told us we were good enough for uni," Dodd says. Nelson made quite a habit of telling them. Now both hope to be at university next year, Dodd in social work and Smith in equine studies. "I'd be the first in my family to get to uni," Smith says.

Of the 42 indigenous students who completed year 12 last year, Nelson is proud to say she knows what all but two of them are doing now. "They're at uni or in TAFE or in full-time work," she says.

The poster children of Dubbo are also an inspiration to Victor Dominello, the NSW Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Dominello is a big fan of the pioneering work at Dubbo College, which used federal funding to hire Nelson five years ago as part of a program that intensified careers advice, mentoring and work placement for its indigenous students.

On Friday, Dominello launched a new Aboriginal affairs policy, one he says is a "fundamentally different" approach to addressing indigenous disadvantage. For a start, he wants to get away from that very word - to "shift the rhetoric from disadvantage to advantage". He believes we need to build on the many strengths in indigenous communities, to celebrate "the wonderful Aboriginal culture and the contribution it makes to our collective Australian identity".

The new policy came packaged in a glossy brochure with the title OCHRE - for Opportunity, Choice, Healing, Responsibility, Empowerment. It promises "culture and language nests" that will revive five indigenous languages now on the endangered list; economic "opportunity hubs" that will provide a path from school to sustainable jobs; the empowering of local communities, so they decide what services they need - and are made accountable for them; and a rigorous system of measuring the successes or shortcomings of these initiatives.

The plan is to build a continuous language stream from preschool to the HSC and on to TAFE and university, to enhance indigenous identity and pride, and to give children a powerful reason to go to school. But these nests will need to blaze the trail, prove themselves, then become models for other towns to follow.


Australians like knowing they can speed - even if they're not allowed

At the risk of being corny, I think it is all down to the inverse relation between car size and penis size. I drive a Toyota Echo, myself

Australians are addicted to high-performance vehicles, buying more per capita than any country in the world.

Despite some of the strictest speed enforcement in the world and a move towards greener cars, Australian drivers have developed a taste for muscle-bound models from European manufacturers.

Australia has the second highest concentration of high-performance BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes, and is also at the peak for powerful offerings from blue-collar brands.

Christian Mellor, 34, bought a high-performance, V8-powered Mercedes-Benz AMG coupe in March. The pharmaceuticals executive did so with the blessing of his wife, despite their insurance company considering her too young to drive the car.

Mr Mellor's choice of wheels has been popular, with more than 1200 Australians taking delivery of AMG machines in 2012. His car, a C63 AMG coupe, is a $150,000 hot rod equipped with a 6.2-litre V8 engine.

Mr Mellor said that the thrill of owning such a car lay in knowing its potential, and not using 336 kilowatts of power every time the lights turn green.

"I've been good with my licence, I haven't had a speeding fine in the last four or five years. There's too much traffic to get into trouble," he said.

Glen Fuller, an assistant professor in journalism and communications at the University of Canberra who specialises in car culture, said Mr Mellor's experience was similar to thousands of car enthusiasts.

"It's about what your car looks like it could do, as opposed to what it actually can do," Dr Fuller said. "The vehicles signify an excess of potential … it's about having the potential, that's why speedometers go up to 250km/h rather than 110km/h."

Dr Fuller said the psychology behind fast cars was complicated, as it does not make sense to buy a car with a performance far exceeding what can legally be used.

"It's not about the performance per se, it's about the cultural dimension people are tapping into, people buying high-end European cars like Audis and BMWs are getting into a certain social milieu."


The reef that regenerated: Researchers find corals in Northern Australia healed themselves in just 12 years

Greenies are always talking about things that they think will "damage" reefs but reefs turn out to be pretty good at looking after themselves

A coral reef in Northern Australia severely damaged by warming seas has managed to completely heal itself in just 12 years, stunned researchers have found.

The team found that being left alone to breed on its own was key.

The discovery raises hope that other damaged reefs could 'regenerate'.

The new research shows that an isolated reef off the northwest coast of Australia that was severely damaged by a period of warming in 1998.

It was hit by coral bleaching, caused by higher water temperatures that break down the coral's symbiotic relationship with algae that provide food for coral growth.

However, the team found Scott reef has regenerated in a very short time to become nearly as healthy as it was before.

What surprises scientists, though, is that the reef regenerated by itself, found a study published Thursday in the journal Science.

James Gilmour and colleagues studied the Scott system of reefs on the edge of Western Australia’s continental shelf, which lost 70 to 90 percent of its corals to a climate-induced bleaching event back in 1998.

The researchers found that, although the corals’ reproductive abilities were reduced by the bleaching, coral cover still increased from 9 percent to 44 percent across the entire system in just 12 years.

The team say the finding is surprising because researchers have assumed that recovery from such bleaching events depends upon the delivery of larvae from other, nearby reef systems.

But, the Scott system of reefs is located 155 miles (250 kilometers) from the mainland or any other reefs.

So, Gilmour and his team suggest that herbivorous fish, which remained abundant in the undisturbed Scott system, even after the bleaching, kept microalgae in check and allowed coralline algae to thrive.

This set of conditions in turn provided a suitable substratum upon which young corals could establish and grow., they claim.

The study suggests that reef systems can recover using local sources of larvae, especially when fish are plentiful and human activities, which have been shown to slow coral recovery in the past, are limited.

At first, the reef grew slowly, mostly through the enlargement of existing coral colonies. But to really recover, the coral needs to sexually reproduce, creating sperm and egg that form embryos that then land on the ocean floor and grow into adult corals, if all goes well.

These larvae can survive for hundreds of miles, swept along by ocean currents, and colonize new areas under the right circumstances.

Larvae floating in from other reefs could have helped the reef, had it not been so isolated.

But amazingly, after about six years, the surviving corals matured and began to reproduce, creating even more new colonies than before the bleaching. 'They recovered, and the larvae they produced settled and survived, at much higher rates than is often reported,' Gilmour said. By 2012, the reef was basically back to its old self.


Greens braced for tough fight in Senate poll

Greens leader Christine Milne admits the party faces a tough fight in the September federal election to hold the balance of power in the Senate, with the possibility that senators Sarah Hanson-Young and Scott Ludlam will lose their jobs.

Speaking before her first anniversary as Greens leader next Saturday, Senator Milne predicted the election would be an uphill battle for the party.

"There's no doubt this is going to be a tough election for us … The tide is rushing in for the conservatives" at both federal and state levels, she said.

Dismissing recent poll results that put the Greens' lower house vote at 10 per cent - down slightly from the record 11.8 per cent primary vote the party gained at the 2010 election - Senator Milne said the election would not be about "numbers".

"It's about us holding the balance of power and holding our sitting members," she said.

"Scott Ludlam and Sarah Hanson-Young will be fighting it out with a conservative for the last seats [in Western Australia and South Australia]."

Amid the complex balance of power calculations, Senator Milne said Opposition Leader Tony Abbott needed only two more seats to gain control of the Senate.

While the Greens did not want to see an Abbott government in Canberra, the "overwhelming odds" were that the Coalition would easily win the election, she said.

But she said that if her party maintained the balance of power in the Senate, there would be opportunities for the Greens under the Coalition, despite their differences on big-ticket policies such as climate change and asylum seekers.

There was more likelihood of influencing the Coalition on gay marriage than staunchly Catholic elements of the Labor Party, Senator Milne said.

She pointed to her time leading the Tasmanian Greens from 1996 to 1998 when they supported a Liberal minority government and secured gay and gun law reform.


5 April, 2013

Tax freedom at last

This Sunday is Tax Freedom Day! It is the day when Australians stop working for the government and begin working for themselves. It is the point in the year when the average Australian has theoretically paid off their annual debt to the government, and is able to keep the fruits of their labour henceforth to spend however they choose.

A Tax Freedom Day on 7 April means that roughly 26% of the wealth created by each working Australian throughout the entire year is sacrificed to pay for government services.

This year compares rather well against recent years. Throughout the 2000s, Tax Freedom Day has on average fallen on 19 April, which implies that Australians today are working less for the government and more for themselves.

This is a comforting statistic, but it is not the whole story.

The real impact of government largesse is not how much it taxes but how much it spends, for any shortfall in revenue creates a deficit which must be serviced in the future. Deficits mean higher taxes and less economic freedom for Australians.

We should recall that Treasurer Wayne Swan recently complained of collapsing commonwealth tax revenues since the Global Financial Crisis. What has happened in recent years is that tax revenue has declined, but spending has not declined simultaneously. Instead the government has recorded consistent deficits since the 2007-08 financial year.

If we were to calculate Tax Freedom Day according to spending, the situation would become more ominous. Government spending amounts to 34.5% of GDP, implying that Tax Freedom Day would fall on 7 May. Australians are, in fact, working over four months to pay for their government.

The trend towards greater government spending needs to be reversed. The CIS recently launched a campaign aimed at reducing the size of government. The campaign, called Target 30, provides practical and pragmatic solutions to reduce government spending to below 30% of GDP within the next ten years.

Should our ambitions be achieved, Tax Freedom Day under a balanced budget would fall on 21 April. This is an important and attainable goal that would reduce the tax burden on working Australians and ease their cost of living pressures.


Cure for a bloated public sector

Reckless government spending is imposing a burden on future generations. The plain fact is that spending across all three levels of government is exceeding $500 billion a year and, while some of this spending is necessary, a lot of it isn't.

The TARGET30 campaign recently launched by the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) has identified areas of waste where government spending is ill targeted (such as welfare for wealthy families) or inefficient (such as welfare for wealthy corporations, aka industry assistance) - and there is more inefficiency and waste yet to be identified.

The growth trend in Australia's public spending is unsustainable. We need to look only at southern Europe to see what happens to countries with bloated, unsustainable public sectors. And while apologists for big government allege that the number of public servants has remained steady in recent years, this does not mean Australia's public sector isn't bloated. Employee-related costs have increased markedly over recent years despite improvements in information technology and electronic/virtual service delivery. In the past four years, workforce costs have grown 31 per cent across state, federal and local governments.

Since the launch of TARGET30, there have been predictable complaints that the CIS is proposing "savage cuts" (by Andrew Leigh, federal member for Fraser) in a "shrill tone" (by Nadine Flood, national secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union).

On the contrary, TARGET30 is not a slash-and-burn campaign; it simply asks people to consider what they really need government to provide. Put another way, "we as a community need to look at what services and infrastructure we want" - precisely what Flood says is necessary.

We need to address these issues now. The federal government's Intergenerational Report 2010 predicts that Australia will face increasing budgetary pressures, with an expected fiscal gap of 2.75 per cent of gross domestic product by 2050.

The government cannot continue its reckless spending habits if taxpayers want to receive essential government services in health, welfare and education.

Improving efficiency and productivity in the public sector workforce is a crucial element of TARGET30 and is necessary to ensure we can sustain a social safety net for our ageing population.

The NSW Intergenerational Report 2011-12 predicted that the NSW fiscal gap could be entirely closed if productivity growth in the public sector was raised just 0.5 per cent above the economy-wide average.

While some cuts to the public sector workforce are necessary, we do not advocate wholesale abolition of departments for ideological reasons. Productivity improvements will not arise simply from cutting public sector numbers or imposing blunt efficiency dividends.

Meaningful change needs to be instituted within the culture of the public service that recognises and rewards good staff and allows poor performers to be removed. Promotion based on time served must stop. Pay and conditions must be made comparable to the private sector.

Australia went through an extraordinary period of productivity growth in the 1990s and early 2000s as a result of micro-economic reforms such as deregulation of the labour market. Today, fewer than half of all non-government workers are under awards or collective agreements, yet only 3 per cent of government workers have the flexibility of an individual agreement.

Only the unions benefit from resisting structural changes to improve productivity. Resisting change certainly doesn't benefit the public; increasingly, it isn't even benefiting public sector workers.

For example, performance-based pay would enable good teachers to receive greater remuneration consistent with the enormous benefits they provide. Yet teachers unions have opposed any moves in that direction.

Unions could be part of the solution, using the expertise of their members to design appropriate performance indicators. Instead, they are part of the problem.

Governments cannot shy away from worthwhile reform because a small cohort of public servants and union members would be worse off.

Governments must be more transparent about the true cost of public services, including the administration costs of running government programs. Taxpayers can then make meaningful choices about what services they are willing to pay taxes for. People value "free" services far too lightly.


Haters out in force to greet a successful Australian: Rupert Murdoch

Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle’s car was stopped by protesters in fiery scenes outside a dinner hosted by News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch on Thursday night.

Police dragged protesters from Mr Doyle’s vehicle after they beat on the car’s bonnet and sides while chanting "shame, Doyle, shame".

As Mr Doyle’s car drove away, a phalanx of police forced protesters from the street outside the venue, the National Gallery of Victoria, using a rugby-style maul.

Earlier, about 40 protesters forced their way into the venue, delaying the start of the event and forcing some of Australia’s corporate elite to wait on the footpath.

Guests attending the dinner, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of right-wing thinktank the Institute of Public Affairs, ran a gauntlet of protesters including a man wearing a cape and a mask depicting Mr Murdoch as the devil.

Inside, attendees included Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, Cardinal George Pell, Ten Network executive Russell Howcroft and News Corporation’s Australian head, Kim Williams.

Australia’s richest person, Gina Rinehart, was seated between Mr Murdoch and Robert Thomson, the global head of News Corporation’s newspaper publishing division.

Mr Murdoch, whose family has a long association with the Institute of Public Affairs, was the guest of honour at the $495-a-head dinner while Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt served as master of ceremonies.

At the event, Victorian Premier Denis Napthine welcomed Mr Murdoch back to Melbourne. "In this room are business leaders and community leaders who share a belief in the freedoms that the IPA espouses," he said. "That is to your credit and to the credit of Victoria and Australia."

He said he was "very very proud to be a member of the IPA" and shared its values.

Mr Napthine said Victoria's finances were the envy of the other states. "We see as the cornerstone of our work as a government good, sound economic management," he said. "We will make sure that we deliver ongoing sound economic management."

He congratulated the Institue on 70 years of achievement defending freedom of speech and economic rights.

Bolt told guests it was strange that protestors had tried to stop them from "meeting and talking" in defence of freedom.

He said the institute, which received "zero" in government funding, defended human rights, including freedom of speech.


Bottom up and entrepreneurial, not top down bureaucratic health reform

It is good to see that the need for productivity improvements in the health sector is starting to receive policy and media attention.

Discovering cost-effective ways to deliver health care is essential to address the financial burdens that rising health costs associated with the ageing of the population are set to place on government budgets.

Unfortunately, many are wedded to the idea that the best way to achieve efficiencies is for the government to develop ‘new models of care.’

The well-rehearsed theory – which featured heavily in the rationale for GP Super Clinics and in the report of the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission – is that the chronically ill should be kept well and out of expensive acute hospital beds.

This can allegedly be achieved through the provision of coordinated primary care delivered by GPs, nurses, and allied health professionals, in the belief that chronic conditions can be ‘best managed in the community…to prevent complications arising’ that necessitate hospital admissions.

But as this paper details, the evidence that coordinated care has reduced use of hospitals (particularly by elderly chronic disease patients) is ‘weak at best.’

This finding was supported by a 2012 report by the United States Congressional Budget Office that examined 34 coordinated care demonstration programs run by the US Government, which found, on average, little or no effect on hospitalisation.

There are a range of reasons why even ‘promising pilot programs’ are not successfully replicated when translated into larger population-based interventions. An excellent list (drawn in part from the work of Megan McCardle) is in John Goodman’s recent book on market-based health policy.

The reason most pertinent to health reform is that coordinated care programs are examples of ‘top down’ reform. They involve health bureaucrats and central planners in charge of the funding purse strings mandating what frontline health providers do and how they do it.

This is the antithesis of the process by which efficiency is increased in the rest of the economy. In other sectors, independent providers, driven by competitive incentives and market-disciplines, discover innovative ways to deliver higher quality goods and services at lower cost, which they can market to their customers.

This begs the obvious question – how do we unleash the entrepreneurial spirit in health?

Contestability – creating real buyers and sellers of health services – is the key. Creating a contestable health system is one of the main arguments for transforming Medicare into an insurance voucher system along the lines of the Medicare Select proposal.

If all Australians were free to choose with whom they insured their health, health funds would aim to contain costs and attract members by providing access to the best quality care at the most efficient price.

The competitive pressures would encourage health entrepreneurs to enter the market and find better, more cost-effective ways to treat chronic illness in order to win service contracts from health funds.

Reforming health from the bottom up, not the top down, is the only way to achieve more efficient outcomes. The theory that assisting chronic patients to avoid having to go to hospital will only become a reality if the right market incentives are put in place in the health sector.


4 April, 2013

Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in Brisbane ahead of Great Barrier Reef campaign

The "threat" posed by coal mining is entirely imaginary. Coal has been mined for decades with no link to the reef established. Greenpeace just like mucking around in boats

THE new Rainbow Warrior docked in Brisbane's today, for the first time in 30 years, as Greenpeace prepares to launch its Queensland tour.

Berthed at Portside Wharf, the ship will be open to the public for tours later this week, as the environmental group readies for a new Great Barrier Reef campaign.

Greenpeace CEO David Ritter said its arrival has come at an important time as coal expansion threatens to destroy Queensland's reef and waterways. "If we want to stop coal barons destroying the Great Barrier Reef and all the jobs associated with it, we need to act now," he said.

Mr Ritter invited Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke and Premier Campbell Newman to come aboard and discuss concerns for the sustainability of the reef. "We are down here on the boat if Campbell Newman or Tony Burke would like to come down for a chat," he said. "They need to know it is simply not okay to destroy and industrialise the Great Barrier Reef."

Greenpeace has expressed anger at the Queensland government's support of a revised expansion of the controversial New Acland coal mine in the state's southwest, after previously announcing the mine's third stage would not go ahead.

But despite renewed plans for coal expansion, Mr Ritter said it was never too late for action. "I can't look my children in the eyes and say it's too late," he said.

"It's never too late. The decision is in the state and federal government's hands to say it's not too late to save the world, it's not too late to act."

Mr Ritter was tight lipped about plans to actively stop coal expansion in North Queensland but did not rule out any direct action as long as it was done so peacefully.

"Greenpeace always tries to directly prevent environmental harm. We don't shy away from that, but it is always done peacefully. It's hard wired into our team, peace is in our name," he said.

The Queensland campaign will kick off in Townsville on Friday when they rally support among local community members to put a stop to coal mining.


Conservative leader forecasts job loss for prominent Warmist if the Coalition wins power at Federal Election

TONY Abbott has signalled he will sack Climate Commissioner Tim Flannery if he is elected as prime minister in September.

The Opposition Leader, who has vowed to dismantle the Climate Change department and merge it with the Environment Department in government, said he did not see the point of paying Professor Flannery around $180,000 a year for his views which were already public knowledge.

He said if elected as prime minister on September 14 and given the opportunity to revoke the carbon tax a whole range of climate change bureaucracies would also be axed.

"I suspect we might find the particular position you refer to might go with them," Mr Abbott told 2GB’s Ray Hadley when asked about Professor Flannery.

"It does sound like an unnecessary position given the gentlemen in question gives us the benefit of his views without needing taxpayer funding."

Professor Flannery, who penned the popular climate change book The Weather Makers, was appointed as Climate Commissioner in February 2011.

The 2007 Australian of The Year gets a salary of $180,000 for the three-day-a-week role.

Establishing the independent climate commission was a 2010 election commitment by Labor. It was originally slated to cost $5.6 million over four years.

Mr Abbott's comments come as Climate Change Minister Greg Combet says a new report warning Australia will soon face more extreme weather should serve as a warning to those who think action on cutting greenhouse gases can wait.

The report from the Climate Commission says climate change is already increasing the intensity and frequency of extreme weather like heatwaves, fires, cyclones, heavy rainfall and drought.

The report entitled Critical Decade: Extreme Weather, released on Wednesday, says the global climate system is warmer and moister than 50 years ago, with the extra heat making extreme weather events more frequent and severe.

[Note the carefully cherry-picked period. Had they chosen 15 years ago or 80 years ago there would have been no change. Warmists are SUCH frauds]

In response to the report, the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council warned that while they had experience combating extreme weather events, people cannot expect emergency crews to protect their communities from increasingly intense fires and floods.

Mr Combet said climate change was no longer a problem for future generations to solve, as the impacts were already being felt.

He said the scientific advice was that this was the critical decade to act, and effective policies now would determine the severity of climate change experience for years to come.

"Increasing greenhouse gas emissions is like loading the dice for more extreme weather events in the future," he said in a statement.

The past summer was Australia's hottest, capped by the longest and most extreme heatwave on record.

The southern part of the country - including key food-growing regions - is becoming more drought-prone while the northwest is getting wetter.

Chief climate commissioner Tim Flannery has warned that while one-off events do occur, record-breaking weather was becoming more common as the climate shifts.

The independent commission's report draws on the latest research and observations from bodies including the CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology and Australian and international universities.

Mr Combet said it was time for Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to "pull his head out of the sand" and listen to the advice of the experts.

It was time he was held accountable for his "reckless views" on climate change, and called on to explain how he'd propose tackling global warming.

"Australia needs responsible leadership and sound policies on climate change, not opportunistic scare campaigns and negative politicking," Mr Combet said, adding the coalition's Direct Action policy had been criticised by scientists, economists and business experts.

A survey released on Wednesday by the World Wildlife Foundation of nearly 1300 people nationwide showed 72 per cent believed humans were contributing to climate change.


Incompetent government hospital kills baby

A THREE-month-old baby who contracted bacterial meningitis and later died should have received antibiotics much earlier, a Sydney inquest heard.

Elijah Slavkovic was admitted to Pambula Hospital, on the NSW south coast, on April 24, 2009 after his parents noticed he was feeling unwell.

It was the beginning of an ordeal in which he was transferred first to Bega Hospital then to hospitals in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne, where he succumbed to his illness six weeks later.Kenneth Maclean, a paediatrician and geneticist, told Parramatta Coroners Court he agreed with the decision to transfer Elijah, but antibiotics should have been administered at Pambula.

"There was a small window where antibiotics could and should have been administered, but even then that is no guarantee of success," Dr Maclean told the inquest yesterday.

He said the decision to transfer Elijah to Bega from Pambula created a delay in the management of his condition, which had then not yet been diagnosed.

"It creates a delay and in this instance it was not a transfer from a hospital to a specialist paediatrician. I consider it to be a transfer between two emergency departments."

Dr Maclean said, in his view, it was imperative a paediatrician be consulted at the earliest opportunity when a sick child presented with symptoms of sepsis.

He also said there was a reluctance among hospital staff to call for help.


Ambos in trouble for putting patients first

The bureaucacy knows best, apparently

PARAMEDICS say they have been threatened with disciplinary action for taking critically ill patients to the nearest hospital rather than following orders to divert to other facilities.

Under new rules, hospitals can no longer go on bypass - where ambulances are forced to drive on when emergency departments are full.

The Queensland Ambulance Service communications centre is responsible for where the sick and injured are taken under a system called "load distribution".

Front-line paramedics say it is bypass by another name and some have opted to take critically ill patients to the closest hospital when they believed longer trips presented a threat to patient health.

In a letter to QAS Commissioner Russell Bowles, the Australian Paramedics Association complained that operations supervisors had reprimanded paramedics.

"We have had reports from members that after they have made a clinical decision to transport critically ill patients to the closest medical facility and been granted access by the hospital, these officers have been threatened with disciplinary action," the letter from secretary Craig Bindley states.

"We have advised them to lodge a grievance for conduct that can only be described as bullying."

The most recent case outlined was at the Prince Charles Hospital, where treating paramedics were allegedly told they did not have the right to transport a sick patient to the closest hospital if they had been directed to bypass.

In a reply to Mr Bindley, acting commissioner David Eeles said it was inappropriate to endorse and encourage members to not follow directions given to them as employees of QAS.

"Any deviation from MEDAI (Medical Emergency Department Access Initiative) or lawful and reasonable directions given to QAS staff may be dealt with by clinical review or disciplinary processes and accordingly your advice to staff would unnecessarily place them in the position of breaching the Code of Conduct," he said.

A QAS spokesman said there had been no recorded instances in which a paramedic had been reprimanded for ignoring the direction of the operations centre.

However, an incident report from an operations supervisor seen by The Courier-Mail shows the department is taking a hard line on breaches, with staff being officially warned in southeast Queensland.

The Courier-Mail on Saturday revealed inconsistent QAS front-line staffing. It highlighted a case in which a man died after he had to treat himself for 15 minutes when ambulance dispatchers wrongly classified his injuries as non-life threatening.


3 April, 2013

Victorian hospitals get badly needed money blocked by Gillard in power-play

TEN Victorian hospitals will receive $30 million from the Federal Government today, more than a month after it reversed health funding cuts.

Major hospitals are reopening beds and revising surgery lists after Health Minister Tanya Plibersek committed to return $107 million following a protracted funding dispute with the state.

She took the unusual step of bypassing the State Government by refusing to reimburse it directly and requiring each hospital to sign an agreement before the funding was paid.

Ms Plibersek's spokesman, Simon Crittle, said $30 million would appear in hospital bank accounts today, a second round of payments would be made tomorrow and the remainder would be made when the agreements with hospitals were finalised.

Royal Melbourne Hospital executive director Diane Gill said it would reopen Ward 9 West's 16 beds from Monday week, boosting surgery capacity.

Western Health chief executive Associate Professor Alex Cockram said it would revise waiting lists on the clear understanding that funds would be reimbursed. But she said it was not possible to fully reverse the impacts of the funding cuts within such a short space of time.

Up to 1000 patients will be affected, a reduction of 270 before the reimbursement announcement was made.

Peter MacCallum spokeswoman Emma Liepa said it had not lifted its bed closures, but patients who needed beds were getting them.

Austin Health spokeswoman Tessa Young said after submitting the required paperwork before Easter, it expected to get the money "any minute".

Despite this, elective surgery at the hospital's Surgery Centre remained closed for two weeks because staff had taken leave to help reduce activity. Elective surgery at the Heidelberg campus was operating at 70 per cent capacity.

Alfred Health spokesman Corey Nassau said it expected to receive the funds this month, and had not closed operating theatres.

Royal Children's Hospital spokeswoman Vanessa Whatmough said the "process (of receiving the money) was under way", but jobs losses would not be reinstated.

It came after Health Minister David Davis wrote to Ms Plibersek demanding urgent payment.

He said the payments had been delayed unnecessarily and that full-page newspaper advertisements spruiking the payments were being investigated by the Commonwealth Auditor-General.


Labor's talk against LEGAL immigrant scheme 'disgraceful and racist': Murdoch

A lot of the immigrants concerned are Chinese

Media magnate Rupert Murdoch has denounced the Gillard government's rhetoric on the skilled foreign worker visa program as "disgraceful and racist".

The News Corporation chairman took a swipe at the federal government's promised crackdown on the 457 visa scheme and promoted the importance of immigration while visiting the Northern Territory on Tuesday.

In a speech in Sydney's west last month, Prime Minister Julia Gillard declared the government had a plan "to stop foreign workers being put at the front of the queue with Australian workers at the back".

The government announced a series of measures it said were needed to close loopholes and prevent "rorting" of the 457 visa scheme by unscrupulous employers, but business groups and the opposition denied abuse was widespread.

Mr Murdoch told Sky News on Tuesday the way the government was talking about the visa scheme was "pretty disgraceful and racist".

"I'm a big one for encouraging immigration; I think that's the future and a mixture of people, just look at America. It's just fantastic," he said.

"You have difficulties [with] the first generation of migrants sometimes if there's too many from one area, but they meld [in] a couple of generations and it leads to a tremendous creativity in the community."

Senior ministers have previously brushed aside claims of racism, saying the government's position was simply that the 457 visa scheme should be used to meet only genuine skill shortages with positions that could not be filled by Australians.

The Greens recently accused the Gillard government of dog-whistling over the 457 visa scheme crackdown.

But Greens leader Christine Milne said on Tuesday the Murdoch-owned newspapers across Australia had been using the same kind of language about asylum seekers. "If he [Mr Murdoch] is big on the creativity that immigrants bring to a community then he should tell his editors to take that view to asylum seekers," she told Sky News.

Mr Murdoch's trip to the Northern Territory included a visit to the offices of one of his newspapers, the NT News, and meetings with business and political leaders.

An arm of Mr Murdoch's News Corporation, News Limited, publishes papers including The Australian, Daily Telegraph and the Herald Sun.

Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury dismissed Mr Murdoch's comments on Tuesday afternoon, saying there was "nothing racist about standing up for jobs and job opportunities for Australians".

"What we have seen have been many examples and many instances of abuses and rorts in this area," Mr Bradbury told reporters in Sydney.

"We think it's absolutely essential that we crack down on those rorts and those loopholes."

Mr Murdoch's comments on the 457 visa program rhetoric are not the first time he and his company have clashed with the Gillard government in recent weeks.

His newspapers led a ferocious campaign against Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's ill-fated media regulation proposals, which failed to garner enough parliamentary support last month. Fairfax Media, owner of this website, also opposed the media reform plans.

Billionaire James Packer last month used a speech to the Asia Society to warn politicians from all parties against sending xenophobic messages overseas.

"Some of the recent public debate does not reflect well on any of us. Even worse, it plays on fears and prejudices and is completely unnecessary. We are all better than that," Mr Packer said.

Mr Packer's speech came after the government and the Coalition traded blows in recent weeks over the increase in overseas workers on 457 visas in Australia and the arrival of more boats carrying asylum seekers.


DPP won't appeal WA death driver Christopher Caddick's sentence

PROSECUTORS won't appeal against the sentence of a man who has avoided jail despite killing an 81-year-old wheelchair-bound woman while driving unlicensed and with alcohol in his system.

Christopher Ryan Caddick, whose P-plate licence was suspended, was convicted of causing the death of wheelchair-bound Joan Woodcock, 81, when his Holden Commodore careered into the back of a Mercedes van last March at Ocean Reef in Perth.

Mrs Woodcock, a passenger in the van driven by her husband, was thrown through its side window onto the road.
WA's District Court heard Caddick, 24, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.036 at the time - over the limit for a probationary driver - and had five previous convictions for drink-driving.

But despite his record and the fact he was driving on a suspended licence at the time, Judge Ronald Birmingham imposed a suspended jail term.

WA's Department of Public Prosecutions today confirmed they had decided not to appeal against the sentence because there was not a high prospect of winning an appeal.

The trial last year heard Caddick had drunk two cans of pre-mixed vodka before attempting to overtake three vehicles on Ocean Reef Road north of Perth, colliding with Mrs Woodcock's vehicle on the wrong side of the road as it tried to turn right at an intersection.

While Caddick was not speeding, and the alcohol in his system was not said to have been a contributory factor in the crash, the jury still found his dangerous driving caused Mrs Woodcock's death.

Caddick was not entitled to drive at the time because of non-payment of fines and had admitted to a drink-driving offence two months earlier.

Following the sentencing last month, Mrs Woodcock's daughter Joanne said the family was still trying to make sense of the sentence.

"She got a death sentence and he got a suspended one," Ms Woodcock said.


W.A.: Anti-booze wowsers take it a step too far

Alcohol is a difficult subject to have an un-emotive public discussion on as it brings out the best and worst in all of us.

Australia is a country that likes its grog, which is exactly what anti-alcohol crusaders and born-again wowsers Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan and Professor Mike Daube are on the warpath over.

Both these blokes are good people who have contributed significantly to the betterment of this state, however on this issue I think they have taken one step too many.

A nation that once revered the big drinking bloke, the ABS tells us that we have changed by sobering up and we've reduced our alcohol intakes.

The National Preventative Health Task Force on which Professor Daube sits also reinforces the view that alcohol intake is falling and they expect it to fall further in coming years.

Despite the wowser-based negativity – we know that moderate use of alcohol actually provides health benefits, but we also accept that, used improperly, alcohol causes harm. Alcohol is a difficult subject to have an un-emotive public discussion on as it brings out the best and worst in all of us.

The dilemma of alcohol is enjoying a good wine in a good restaurant with good friends, or being in a good pub enjoying a few beers and listening to a good band, or the family BBQ with a few tinnies are things that no thinking person wants to end. On the other side are the abuses, deaths, violence (both domestic and public), the civil disorder and stupidity, which are all things that thinking people do want to end.

Just how to do it is the question we grapple with; and I am far from convinced that the path chosen by the wowsers is the best one.

It came as no surprise when the Police Commissioner on radio 6PR supported his case by quoting federal research that 75 per cent of the public believe we have a problem with alcohol and it is getting worse.

The default position in public debate in Australia is that people think things are always getting worse. Laws should be changed on evidence, not belief; and when changing laws that affect us all there is a clear obligation on those seeking change to demonstrate the need for change.

History tells us that restrictive hours lead to more problems than they solve and the same can be said for excessive price increases. Making laws tougher and tougher, restricting the rights of good people to control a few malcontents has gone about as far as it can go without forcing good people to simply disregard the law.

The late Herb Graham, (my uncle) was the liquor licensing head honcho in the 1970s who grappled with these complex issues; his view was that the availability of alcohol in a family and suburban setting was a beneficial thing. Moving away from big booze barns and nightclubs had worked elsewhere and there was no reason why it shouldn't work here.

Tavern licenses, licensed restaurants, bottle shops and Sunday Sessions came out of his deliberations, as did the end of gallon licenses. While there is no definitive answer to these issues, those initiatives were successful in reducing the alcohol related carnage of his time.

Now that parties are illegal in WA, the major difficulty for the police seems to be the appalling and inexcusable excesses of the moronic nightclub scene. Clearly it is a question looking for an answer – but where to look for an answer?

Nowhere better than the cops themselves; in his Annual Report, the Superintendent of Police on 8 March 1878 said: "If the cases of drunkenness in the towns were examined it would be found that this vice was in the main confined to a certain number of habitual drunkards who are constantly being locked up from year's end to year's end.

The Temperance Associations throughout the colony, in their efforts to abate this vice, are certainly to be commended where they confine themselves to inculcating temperance, and do not mar the good they are doing by a fanatical attempt to induce people to abstain altogether from fermented and spirituous liquors."

This was good advice from a cop to the wowsers 136 years ago; the problem now is that the cops have turned into the wowsers. The advice, however, is still valid and maybe it is time they took it.


2 April, 2013

Racist rant: tourists abused on Sydney bus

Resentment over "boat people" from the third world inviting themselves in with nothing effective being done about it by the Labor government is mostly bottled up but you have got to expect it to burst out somewhere. All these incidents are quite recent

A passenger on a Sydney bus managed to grab the end of an aggressive racist rant on camera, after no one stepped up to stop the man verbally attacking Asian tourists.

A group of Asian tourists have been subjected to a racist rant on a Sydney bus that was filmed and posted online by a female passenger.

Heidi, who asked for her surname to be withheld, pulled out her phone and started filming the latter part of the rant on Easter Saturday after she told the abusive man to get off the bus to no avail.

In the video, a Caucasian man yells at a middle-aged man and woman of Korean appearance about the Japanese bombing of Australia during World War II and calls the pair "f---ing bastards".

Before the camera started rolling, the man yelled racist taunts such as, "Do you f---ing speak English?", "Japanese c---s" and "why did you come to Australia?", predominantly at the woman, Heidi said.

The racist rant shocked Heidi, a 30- year-old office worker of Chinese descent, so she and another passenger told the man to get off the bus and started filming.

However, she said she was even more shocked at what came next.

"We didn't receive any support from the other passengers," she said.

"Some told us to sit back down and be quiet and everyone just looked really blase. No one did anything about it. In fact, two girls sitting next to me thought it was funny and burst into laughter."

"I said 'why is it funny? It's offensive, we should do something about it'."

She said the two women who laughed at her, one of whom can be heard on the video speaking to a friend on the phone, were of Aboriginal appearance.

"The fact that the Aboriginal girls found it funny that a white male [was] telling another racial group to get out of the country because they don't belong here really puts the icing on the cake," she said.

The incident happened at 7.30pm on Easter Saturday at Town Hall on the 470 route from Circular Quay to Lilyfield.

The State Transit Authority has been contacted for comment.

Heidi said she didn't see what provoked the man to start abusing the Asian tourists but it started midway down the bus and continued as the man got up and alighted at the front.

At one point, the Asian man apologised to the abusive man in an attempt to pacify him but it only seemed to further enrage him.

"The only thing I could think of at the time was to film it," Heidi said.

The incident is the latest in a string of racist rants on public transport to be filmed or shared on social media.

In March, a video filmed on a Perth bus showed a woman verbally abusing another woman, who she refers to as Chinese, for speaking in another language.

In February, ABC newsreader Jeremy Fernandez tweeted about being called a "black c---" who should "go back to his country" by a female passenger on a Sydney bus. He was told by the bus driver to move seats but refused to.

In November last year, footage of a racist attack on a French woman on a Melbourne bus went viral after she was called a dog by male passengers, threatened with having her breasts cut off and told to "speak English or die".

Heidi said she had seen a viral video of the Melbourne incident and felt like the scene she witnessed on Saturday was the "Sydney sequel".

"It felt really surreal," she said. "It upsets me when Asians (or any other racial groups for that matter) are the targets of racist abuse. But it disgusts me more when we get told we shouldn't stand up for what's right."


Widow accuses Queensland Ambulance Service of covering up botched response

The operators involved should be fired

A BRISBANE widow says the Queensland Ambulance Service has tried to cover up the botched response to an emergency callout to her critically injured husband.

Margaret Gibb says she only learnt vital details about the day her husband Shane Gibb died by reading a Right to Information probe into ambulance bungles in last Saturday's The Courier-Mail.

Until that story detailing the response to her husband's death, Mrs Gibb said she had received only a four-page report from the Queensland Coroner, in which she was addressed by an incorrect surname.

Mr Gibb, 59, died in February 2012 after he was crushed while fixing his four-tonne truck in his Brighton driveway, in Brisbane's north.

The QAS took 40 minutes to get the ambulance to the address, only three minutes' drive from the nearest ambulance station.

"A lot of things they left out that I didn't get told. I didn't find them out until I read your paper," Mrs Gibb said yesterday.

The Courier-Mail was unable to contact the Gibb family because the information received under the RTI process had all personal details removed.

"It was like they tried to cover things up to save them money, to pretend that it didn't happen and hope it all went away. I never heard anything from the QAS - no apology, no admission. It was as if there was no problem at all," Mrs Gibb said.

"I should have been contacted about these issues and I should have received an apology."

The Department of Community Safety last night admitted that the QAS failed to follow normal procedure by meeting the family. The Department apologised for the "unintentional oversight".

The Coroner said Mr Gibb's injuries "were considered to be unsurvivable" but he was conscious, talking and even joking with a neighbour while waiting for the ambulance.

But a communication mix-up led to the job being coded as non life-threatening and a nearby paramedic could not be reached on a pager for almost 10 minutes.

The paramedic was not called by phone despite being at the desk.

Meanwhile, Mr Gibb, who was pinned by the truck, had a massive heart attack while his teenage son watched. Brad Gibb, now 15, misses his father and is reluctant to discuss what he witnessed.

"He could have had a fighting chance if the ambulance had arrived sooner," Mrs Gibb said. "He would have been in the (operating) theatre by (the time he had a heart attack).

"I used a pager in the '80s. Why aren't they using a mobile phone? It's so archaic, isn't it?"

Zane Gibb, 21, said he always had questions about his father's death and was glad the truth was finally coming out.

"It's been in the back of my mind that people have survived these injuries before. There also was a huge time gap in the way they responded," he said.

"We're not in a rural area, it was a real mess up. This is an example of something that needs to be fixed. We're in the 21st century. I just hope it doesn't happen to other people."

The Coroner's letter summarised some of the QAS failures but Mrs Gibb did not receive more than 40 pages of documents from the QAS internal investigation, which are public record but were labelled "confidential" by the QAS.

"They didn't want anyone to see it obviously," Mrs Gibb said. "They didn't hand it out."

The QAS investigation showed a hungry dispatcher wanting to go on a meal break and not allowed to eat at her station had improperly coded the incident as non urgent and sent an ambulance from a distant station without lights flashing.

Mrs Gibb said it was appalling the dispatcher was so poorly trained not to know what was life-threatening.

"People need to know what they are doing if they are taking calls," she said.

Other communication breakdowns, faulty equipment and excuses made her question the soundness of the QAS management. Ambulance worker units already have flagged poor morale and a bureaucratic culture that blames the line staff when things go bad.

"It sounds really incompetent, a really amateur show. They are putting lives at risk," Mrs Gibb said. "It makes me quite angry."

QAS Commissioner Russell Bowles, who admits to a "litany of errors" that make him not proud of the way the case was handled, claimed his agency wasn't hiding anything and had fixed the things that caused the errors.

He said QAS had referred the death to Queensland Health Quality and Complaints Commission and the Coroner as required.

The loss of her husband's income as a truck driver has created financial difficulty for the Gibbs, but QAS has offered nothing in the way of compensation for its mistakes.

Mrs Gibb said she might ask a solicitor to see if there was a case for negligence.

In a statement, the Community Safety department said there were "shortfalls" in the QAS performance in the man's death but no cover-up.

"The QAS has and continues to maintain a very transparent approach to aspects of quality assurance."

Community Safety Minister Jack Dempsey has continually declined interviews.


Bit by bit, Gillard fails to deliver on her promises

We're all paying for Labor's childish spending choices

Amanda Vanstone

My husband is one of those crazy guys who really, really likes cars. On holidays overseas he experiences genuine pleasure seeing hordes of flash cars that we might see only rarely in Australia.

His current desire is to own some sort of turbocharged Bentley that looks a bit like a Batman car to me. Alternatively, a Rolls-Royce. In my less-caring moments I take a cue from The Castle and tell him he's dreaming.

Lately my position seems a little selfish and uncharitable. So, just this once, I will take a leaf out of Julia Gillard's songbook. My husband Tony will be ecstatic when I announce with an air of determined generosity that he can have the car of his dreams and there will be no argument. He will be incredulous when he hears that the car will be a gift from me. And when I hand over a little parcel with a key ring and some keys, he will be champing at the bit to find where I have placed the vehicle so he can jump in for a quick spin.

That's where there might be a bit of trouble. I will have to explain that he is getting the car in bits, piece by piece, because I obviously do not have that kind of money sitting around doing nothing. It is hard to imagine he will be enthused by the promise of some tyres next month, the engine next year and the body somewhere further down the track. He will feel cheated. He will be annoyed at what he will see as a stupid joke.

But this is what our Prime Minister does to us regularly. She, like all of us, would like to see a much better deal for people affected by disability. So she announces she will deliver it. She paints herself as the hero of the disability sector. Except she doesn't have the money. What makes it worse is she knows it.

It is a bitter pill for people who really do need some good news. Similarly, Gillard will seek to paint herself as the hero of education. Again, realistically, she just cannot deliver. She has neither the money nor the likelihood of having the power.

I think the electorate will be very unforgiving of a Prime Minister who appears to think she can fool most of the people most of the time.

As the budget approaches, voters will no doubt recall the promises last year of, finally, producing a surplus.

Various financial houses are predicting a deficit of $10 billion, $15 billion or even $20 billion.

It's a confusing message from an apparently confused government. We are told the economy is in great shape. That leaves many voters wondering why we can't balance the books. Every voter and every family understands that every now and then money has to be borrowed. What they don't understand is why this government keeps borrowing and borrowing and spending and spending.

From Treasurer Wayne Swan there will be the same tired excuses. He might suggest commodity prices have fallen and appear oblivious to the fact everyone else has understood from day one the reality of commodity price fluctuations. It is as if the Treasurer expects us to believe that price fluctuations, unexpected natural disasters and all the other variables that might affect the budget are somehow new-found difficulties that he is managing masterfully. If only that were true. Every government has to handle these variables.

My granny didn't have much of a formal education but, like many people, she learnt from life. She knew you had to live within your means and that wise people put something away for a rainy day.

She understood that the best time to fix your roof is while the sun is shining and she knew that while it was fair enough to borrow money, in the end you could not keep spending more than you earned.

Oh that Wayne Swan had lived her life and learnt those lessons.

He seems to think, like a kid in a lolly shop, that all his problems are the fault of those who are simply not giving him enough money.

As kids grow up they come to grips with having to make choices that fit their budget.

The Treasurer's problem is the government's clear inability to make spending choices that fit our budget. It either takes more from voters, perhaps by raiding superannuation, or it borrows from the next generation. Fortunately, the voters, according to the pollsters, have probably wised up to Gillard and her coterie of ministers who promise everything, mess up the implementation and borrow the money from our kids.

You might ask why Gillard and her ministers seem to care not one jot about the mess they have created. The answer is simple. They are beholden to a few old-time bully-boy unions. That's where they get their power within the Labor movement.

Our political leaders kowtow not to us but to a movement riddled with corruption, bullying and a fair dose of misogyny. That's why we are seeing the reinvention of the old divide-and-rule tactics. A quick dose of class warfare and the politics of envy makes them feel powerful. It is standard old-time union stuff. "We will take from the rich and give to the poor" makes them feel like Robin Hood.

Smart unionists and decent Labor people realised long ago how outdated, counterproductive and stupid this sort of thinking is. They must look at Labor today and weep.


Who are the frauds here?

The most humble shop in Double Bay is also one of the most successful. It is a money-spinner, a magnet for fakes, a miniature Palace of Lies.

The store announces its presence with only a sandwich-board sign on the pavement. It does not have a shop-front. It is on the second floor, with access via a stairway. It trades seven days a week, discreet but thriving. On most weekdays a FedEx van pulls up outside and disgorges box after box of designer clothes, handbags, shoes and luggage. Upstairs, these goods will sell at a fraction of the price at the brand-name stores in Westfield. If you know how to ask.

Among the labels coming out of those trucks are Prada, Armani, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Dior, Jimmy Choo, Fendi, Gucci, Versace, Hugo Boss, Zegna, Ferragamo, Burberry and Hermes.

As every brand-conscious woman knows, a big-name handbag carries a big-time price tag, but at this store what would cost $400 at a brand-name store will cost about $80 on New South Head Road. The shop is run by Russians who import fake branded goods from China and Indonesia.

The store has even been known to offer the Hermes Birkin Bag, which sells for about $10,000, and can sell for much more, for $300, complete with a "certificate of authenticity". At that price the authenticity is either fake or stolen.

Yet when Australian managers were contacted by an irate Double Bay shopkeeper, managers at Gucci, Versace, Armani, Prada and Jimmy Choo all expressed a lack of interest.

Recently, a large shipment of Jimmy Choo products - shoes, bags, wallets, sunglasses - arrived at the New South Head Road store and were priced at discounts of between 75 and 90 per cent, the standard discounts offered at the store. When a manager at Jimmy Choo was alerted to this her reaction was indifference.

With no effective interception by customs at Sydney Airport, and passivity by the brands, it is no wonder that the trade in bootleg brands is thriving in Australia. The store on New South Head Road is so successful it also operates as a distributor. Every day a woman arrives in a BMW to pick up stock for other outlets.

The operation in Double Bay is like a miniature version of Luohu Commercial City, the five-storey shopping mall in Shenzhen, China, on the wrong side of the tracks from Hong Kong. After visiting, and buying, a few years ago I called it the Palace of Lies, where everything is fake and no one tells the truth.

The blatancy of the trading in Double Bay, and elsewhere, raises questions about the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, which the Herald has buffeted recently with revelations of pockets of corruption and drug-dealing at the grassroots of the service plus chronic under-resourcing.

That counterfeit designer goods are flowing into the country through a customs sieve can be added to the list of dysfunctions in the federal government's overall border protection operations.

The shortfall in intercepting counterfeit goods has been partly picked up by the NSW Department of Fair Trading, which, with the NSW Police, recently raided a warehouse in Belfield, in south-western Sydney, where police seized large quantities of handbags, shoes, clothing and accessories. They arrested Gabi Zayout, described by the Department of Fair Trading as an important figure in the counterfeit trade.

Monday is a big day in combating the counterfeit trade. From April 1, a new law reverses the burden of proof when suspected fake goods are seized. Previously, when customs or police intercepted what they suspected were counterfeit goods no legal action could be taken unless the company which owned the brand commenced court proceedings. Without such proceedings the goods had to be released back to the importer. This always placed an onerous burden on legitimate businesses, which, given the high and slow cost of justice, often declined to pursue court actions.

As from Monday, when customs or police seize goods which they believe to be counterfeit, the onus will lie with the importer or distributor to prove they are not fakes. Without such proof, customs will destroy the goods.

This will be bad news to people who love cheap designer brand fakes, but the reform cannot come too soon for legitimate businesses. In Double Bay, at least four fashion stores have folded since the Russian operation started on New South Head Road. The women's clothing store immediately below the store went out of business a month ago.

What muddies these waters is that designer products may look similar to the famous brands but on closer inspection have subtle differences which may be enough to differentiate them from the real thing. Here the law remains ambiguous.

You may also ask, if goods can be sold at a fraction of the price of big-name brands and still earn a profit, that means the big-name brands are over-priced merchandise? Well, yes. But have you seen the rents that Frank Lowy and his boys charge in Westfield shopping malls?

Perhaps the indifference to fakes by the big brands can be attributed to this: Hermes International has a market value of €28 billion ($32 billion). Its stock has risen from €70 to €270 in the past four years and the maker of Birkin bags is trading at a massive multiple of 44 times earnings, which means fat profits are expected to flow. Similarly, the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy fashion and wine conglomerate has a market value of €68 billion, its share price has risen fivefold from €25 to €125 in four years, and it is trading at a rich multiple of 20 times earnings.

Perhaps that's why they couldn't be bothered. While so many small fashion retailers struggle to survive.


1 April, 2013

Animal Health Australia wants cattle dogs used to the minimum

Alert eyes that don't miss much above. They're amazing dogs

THE iconic Aussie cattle dog has been brought to heel, under new animal welfare rules that could see farmers jailed for cruelty.

Animal Health Australia (AHA) has told sheep and cattle farmers the use of dogs and electric prods "should be limited to the minimum necessary".

Sheep dogs with a habit of biting must be muzzled - as well as cattle dogs rounding up calves. The AHA wants public feedback on its plans for the first national animal welfare standards for cattle and sheep.

Farmers would be fined and possibly even jailed for deliberate cruelty, under the proposed rules to come into force next year.

Livestock must be given adequate nutrition, water, space and "social contact" with other animals.

Cattle Council animal health and welfare adviser Justin Toohey yesterday said stressed cattle produced tougher meat.

"The drover's dogs are part of the family but there has been a trend to move away from dogs for cattle," he said."It's not such a big issue mustering in open paddocks, but in yards the dogs can go a bit ballistic.

"You can get dogs biting the hocks and I've seen dogs swing on the tail and bite off the brush."

AHA spokesman Kevin de Witte said dogs biting sheep and cattle was "always an issue". "Essentially we're using a predatory species to herd a prey species," he said.

"If you've ever seen a sheep dog trial it's a beautiful thing to see, but dogs that are not under control and bite or bark constantly are no longer really acceptable."

Sheepmeat Council chief executive Ron Cullen said a good sheepdog was "worth a couple of good men". "The dog uses its eye and its bark, and knows how to stand and push," he said.

Working Kelpie Council vice-president Barbara Cooper said few farmers used the Australian cattle dog, a mix of collie, dingo and "a dash of dalmatian".

"The cattle dog is a severe biter," she said."He was developed when the sheep were wild, and was a necessary part of the pioneering situation.

"But now the cattle are handled regularly and don't require a severe biting job, so most of the livestock management is kelpies or border collies."

The AHA is a non-profit company set up by the federal, state and territory governments, and farming and animal welfare groups. Its proposed guidelines state that cattle and sheep must be kept safe from extreme weather, drought, fires, floods, disease, injury and predation.

Farmers must not fire metal pellets at cows during mustering, and must not use electric prodders "in an unreasonable manner".

"A person in charge must have a dog under effective control at all times during the handling of cattle (and) ensure a dog is muzzled when moving calves less than 30 days old that are without cows," the guidelines state.

"A person in charge of a dog that habitually bites sheep must muzzle the dog while working sheep."

Toni Gardiner, who has been a registered cattle dog breeder for nearly 20 years, said public feedback on the national standards will help dogs.

"Any person being cruel to an animal, whether they are farmers or not, should be jailed for animal cruelty," she said.

"It is up to the owner/handler to ensure that they have chosen the right dog and that it is fully trained for the job intended."


Health Minister promises shakedown for investigating complaints of negligence by doctors

SOME doctors facing criminal negligence allegations had complaints made against them up to a decade ago but were allowed to continue practising.

Queensland Health sources confirmed there had been delays of some years in investigating botched surgeries that maimed and killed patients in private and public hospitals across Queensland.

Some doctors were allowed to keep practising with restrictions on the surgery they could perform.

Others who drew complaints were allowed to keep working under supervision.

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg yesterday vowed a major shake-up of health watchdogs after The Sunday Mail revealed incidents involving six doctors are among 23 cases referred to police.

Mr Springborg said Queensland would no longer tolerate delays caused by cases being shuffled between federal and state agencies.

He said the cases were "disturbing" and cast a shadow of the fine work being done by most doctors and nurses.

"Many of these cases came to light shortly after the Newman Government came to power," Mr Springborg said. "We are not going to tolerate a situation in Queensland where cases are not fully resolved."

Mr Springborg won the backing of the Australian Medical Association. Queensland president Dr Alex Markwell said it was regrettable some complaints "fell through the cracks".

A review of government agencies handling patient complaints was necessary to maintain confidence in the profession, she said.

"The AMA is currently preparing a detailed response to the range of options being assessed by the Health Minister to ensure such matters can be addressed openly, transparently and efficiently in the future," Dr Markwell said.

The criminal negligence accusations cross many fields of medicine.

Several patients allegedly suffered unnecessary amputations and another was left a quadriplegic after a surgeon failed to detect a neck injury.

One patient is believed to have died in an operation later found to be unnecessary.

Most of the accusations are against doctors at Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Toowoomba, Gympie and Cairns.

The review of the cases was sparked by Queensland Health whistleblower Jo Barber, a former detective, who said serious complaints against doctors were often covered up by government agencies.

Mr Hunter also confirmed Ms Barber's claims that doctors with mental health and drug problems were still permitted to treat patients.

One doctor alone faces accusations over 11 cases relating to procedures including angioplasty, a procedure to widen blocked blood vessels.

Another faces multiple charges relating to breast enhancements and facelifts.


Crean would fight superannuation tax

DUMPED cabinet minister Simon Crean says there is widespread discontent in the Labor caucus over a potential plan to raid superannuation contributions and earnings in the May budget.

Mr Crean, who was integral in bringing on last month’s leadership showdown between Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd, said this morning he would oppose any moves by his own party to tax superannuation retrospectively.

"I don’t have a problem if we are going to improve adequacy going forward,” Mr Crean told ABC News 24.

"But we have got to draw the line if there is any attempt to tax retrospectively what people have accumulated because that is tantamount to taxing people surpluses – your surpluses – to fund our surplus. "That’s not on.”

Asked if a lot of people within the Labor caucus shared his concern over potential changes to superannuation by Wayne Swan in the May 14 budget, Mr Crean responded: "They do”.

"I am not too sure at this stage what it is that is being proposed by those in the cabinet that are speaking about this, what I urge them to do is frame this debate sensibly,” he said.

Speculation has mounted that Labor plans to raid the superannuation contributions and earnings of wealthy Australians in order to help pay for some of its key policies like the Gonski education reforms and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Two weeks ago Mr Crean sat in cabinet as Regional Australia minister. He was sacked by Ms Gillard after publicly calling for a leadership spill between her and Mr Rudd.

Last night Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said he couldn’t guarantee an incoming Coalition government would repeal any changes to superannuation.

He said his party would oppose such changes but if passed they may not be able to be repealed immediately.

"What we can’t do is solve all the problems that this bad government has created overnight,” Mr Abbott told Sky News.

"There are many things that this government has done that we don’t like but it will take time to repair the damage that this government has done.”

Asked by News Limited this morning if he would consider crossing the floor if the superannuation changes came to a vote in parliament, Mr Crean said he was not getting ahead of himself.

"I have never threatened to cross the floor on any issue and I am not going to start now,” he said.

"Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s frame the argument on the debate.”

Mr Crean wouldn’t say if he had received any feedback from Julia Gillard or Wayne Swan over his comments on superannuation.

"I’ve said what I have so say, so let’s just leave it at that,” he said.

The government has been accused of engaging in class warfare over retirement savings, with the opposition warning Labor is planning a "sneak attack" on super funds in the May budget, The Australian reports.

Trade Minister Craig Emerson on Sunday said his party had no plans to lift taxes on the superannuation of ordinary Australians but that super savings of the "fabulously wealthy" should be debated.

"People who are fabulously wealthy gaining effectively an advantage by putting their money into superannuation and being taxed at 15 per cent, where the everyday Australian may be facing a tax of 30 per cent, I think does enliven a debate," he told Sky News on Sunday.

"We are not seeking to impose new taxes on the superannuation accounts of ordinary Australians. "But there is a legitimate debate about the very top end."


Tony Abbott reaffirms oppostion to gay marriage despite daughters' pleas

TONY Abbott is standing firm in his opposition to gay marriage despite his two youngest daughters urging for the practice to be legalised.

Mr Abbott last night said he would not allow a conscience vote on gay marriage while ever the official party position was against it.

"Coalition party policy is that marriage is between a man and a woman,” the Opposition Leader told Sky News on Sunday night.

"Now, if future party rooms decide that it is no longer party policy, well then, obviously, there won’t be a whipped vote, but it will be up to future party rooms to determine what the policy is.

"While it’s party policy there’s no question of a conscience vote. It only becomes a free vote if there is no policy on the subject.”

Mr Abbott’s daughters Bridget, 20, and Frances, 21, gave an interview to News Limited last week and said they hoped and prayed the issue of gay marriage would be legalised.

They said their view was cemented by seeing their aunt, Mr Abbott's youngest sister, Christine Forster fall in love with her partner Virginia Edwards.

Frances said being in the design community "where there is quite a large gay population" had illustrated "at the end of the day it is is equal."

"Dad and I have had a few discussions about it," Frances said.

"I believe it is inevitable, I believe by the time our generation gets into power I hope and pray something is done about marriage equality and gay rights."

Bridget added: "I just think being gay is a lot more accepted and open for our generation. Chris and Virginia are a completely normal couple. They're exactly the same as Mum and Dad except they happen to both be women."

Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome said the issue of gay marriage could be a breakthrough election issue this year.

"It certainly was in the US election,” Mr Croome told ABC News 24 this morning.

"It will be the same in Australia. If either of our national leaders were to move forward on this issue it would be a big plus for them electorally. It would appeal to younger voters and it would certainly, for Julia Gillard, galvanise the Labor party in support of her.

"So I can’t see why they wouldn’t support this issue.”


Postings from Brisbane, Australia by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.) -- former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party.

Most academics are lockstep Leftists so readers do sometimes doubt that I have the qualifications mentioned above. Photocopies of my academic and military certificates are however all viewable here

For overseas readers: The "ALP" is the Australian Labor Party -- Australia's major Leftist party. The "Liberal" party is Australia's major conservative political party.

Again for overseas readers: Like the USA, Germany and India, Australia has State governments as well as the Federal government. So it may be useful to know the usual abbreviations for the Australian States: QLD (Queensland), NSW (New South Wales), WA (Western Australia), VIC (Victoria), TAS (Tasmania), SA (South Australia).

For American readers: A "pensioner" is a retired person living on Social Security

Two of my ancestors were convicts so my family has been in Australia for a long time. As well as that, all four of my grandparents were born in the State where I was born and still live: Queensland. And I am even a member of the world's second-most condemned minority: WASPs (the most condemned is of course the Jews -- which may be why I tend to like Jews). So I think I am as Australian as you can get. I certainly feel that way. I like all things that are iconically Australian: meat pies, Vegemite, Henry Lawson etc. I particularly pride myself on my familiarity with the great Australian slanguage. I draw the line at Iced Vo-Vos and betting on the neddies, however. So if I cannot comment insightfully on Australian affairs, who could?

On all my blogs, I express my view of what is important primarily by the readings that I select for posting. I do however on occasions add personal comments in italicized form at the beginning of an article.

I am rather pleased to report that I am a lifelong conservative. Out of intellectual curiosity, I did in my youth join organizations from right across the political spectrum so I am certainly not closed-minded and am very familiar with the full spectrum of political thinking. Nonetheless, I did not have to undergo the lurch from Left to Right that so many people undergo. At age 13 I used my pocket-money to subscribe to the "Reader's Digest" -- the main conservative organ available in small town Australia of the 1950s. I have learnt much since but am pleased and amused to note that history has since confirmed most of what I thought at that early age.

I imagine that the the RD is still sending mailouts to my 1950s address!

I am an army man. Although my service in the Australian army was chiefly noted for its un-notability, I DID join voluntarily in the Vietnam era, I DID reach the rank of Sergeant, and I DID volunteer for a posting in Vietnam. So I think I may be forgiven for saying something that most army men think but which most don't say because they think it is too obvious: The profession of arms is the noblest profession of all because it is the only profession where you offer to lay down your life in performing your duties. Our men fought so that people could say and think what they like but I myself always treat military men with great respect -- respect which in my view is simply their due.

The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody. And I have NO investments in oil companies, mining companies or "Big Pharma"

UPDATE: Despite my (statistical) aversion to mining stocks, I have recently bought a few shares in BHP -- the world's biggest miner, I gather. I run the grave risk of becoming a speaker of famous last words for saying this but I suspect that BHP is now so big as to be largely immune from the risks that plague most mining companies. I also know of no issue affecting BHP where my writings would have any relevance. The Left seem to have a visceral hatred of miners. I have never quite figured out why.

Although I have been an atheist for all my adult life, I have no hesitation in saying that the single book which has influenced me most is the New Testament. And my Scripture blog will show that I know whereof I speak.

A delightful story about a great Australian conservative