Sunday, August 31, 2008

Traditional fried breakfast a cancer risk?

Another volley in the puritanical war on fried foods below. It is all speculative (epidemiological) nonsense that has been contradicted by the double blind studies. See e.g. here and here

It has been called a "heart attack on a plate" but now the traditional Australian fry-up has also been branded a cancer risk. Experts claim those who regularly tuck into a fried breakfast with the lot have a 63 per cent increase in the risk of bowel cancer. Data from the World Cancer Research Fund warns that eating 150g of processed meat a day - equivalent to about two sausages and three rashers of bacon - increased the chance of diagnosis by two-thirds.

According to the charity, the evidence was so strong we should avoid eating these foods as much as possible. And it wasn't a matter of all or nothing, they said. Even a sausage a day could increase the risk by a fifth. The extra calories can also lead to obesity, which is linked to six types of cancer - including bowel and breast cancers - as well as heart disease.

Apart from smoking, excess weight is considered the biggest cause of human suffering from disease. Bowel cancer is the second most common in Australia, after prostate cancer. In 2005, there were about 14,237 new cases - 7765 in men and 6472 in women. The cancer kills more than 4000 Australians each year, claiming 80 lives a week - almost three times the national road toll.

Professor Martin Wiseman, medical and scientific adviser for the WCRF, said: "For some people, having a fry-up with bacon and sausages might seem like a good way to start the day. But if you are doing this regularly, then you are significantly increasing your risk of bowel cancer."

But food experts say you do not have to say goodbye to your favourite breakfast because simply changing the way the food is cooked can transform a coronary platter into a nutrient-packed plate. Dr Tim Crowe, senior lecturer of nutrition at Deakin University, said poaching eggs, adding cancer-fighting tomatoes and ensuring you don't over-cook meat can reduce the risk. He also said the findings did not mean people should avoid meat altogether. "Red meat is an important part of a healthy diet because it contains valuable nutrients - it's the processed stuff you need to be careful of," he said.


Public hospitals counting chairs as beds

The State Government has been accused of fudging hospital bed figures in the troubled health system by including chairs and other furniture. The 2008-09 State Budget, released in June, said there were 10,234 beds in Queensland public hospitals. But what it didn't reveal is that almost 14 per cent of those beds are not beds at all. Figures obtained by the State Opposition show that 1370 so-called beds included chairs, trolleys, cots, stretchers and lounge suites. Sources said some patients admitted to hospital never got to lie in a bed - instead they spent hours sitting in a chair, sometimes being treated there.

Liberal National Party Deputy Leader Mark McArdle slammed the Government for playing with the figures, and claimed the number of proper beds had been cut. The Opposition health spokesman said the fine print in Queensland Health Budget documents revealed the picture on alternative beds. "This Government has been caught out deliberately fudging the true number of public hospital beds by changing the definition of 'bed'," Mr McArdle said.

In the Budget papers, in Queensland Health's service delivery statement, it records a new measure of the "number of available bed and available bed alternatives for public acute hospitals". In notes, it says the "Queensland Health Data Dictionary defines an 'available bed' as a bed which is immediately available to be used by an admitted patient if required and an 'available bed alternative' as an item of furniture, for example, trolley and cot, non-recognised beds occupied or not, which is immediately available for use by admitted patients". Further documents revealed that "available bed alternatives" included a "number of items of furniture (eg trolleys, chairs, cots, non-recognised beds, etc)".

Health Minister Stephen Robertson said the Beattie-Bligh Government had consistently recorded alternative beds in its figures and never hid them from the public. Mr Robertson said there were 1370 available bed alternatives as of June 30 and of those, 1246 were renal dialysis and chemotherapy chairs. Others included day surgery chairs, day therapy chairs, discharge lounge/transit lounge chairs, emergency department chairs, trolleys and stretchers, and non-neonatal cots. He disagreed that it was misleading the public to identify these as beds. "I don't think the thousands of people coming into our major hospitals every day for renal dialysis or chemotherapy would agree with that," Mr Robertson said. He said the figures were kept that way to remain consistent with all hospitals and other states.


Mathematics and science teachers to get university tuition fee relief

A move in the right direction but it does nothing to deal with the major problem that is keeping men out of primary teaching: Fear of false child abuse accusations

Mathematics and science graduates who choose careers in primary teaching will have their HECS repayments halved under new government initiatives to raise numeracy standards in schools. Graduates who take up primary school teaching positions, bringing their specialist expertise, will now be eligible for a 50 per cent refund on their HECS-HELP repayments for up to five years, Education Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced yesterday. This would amount to an individual benefit of up to $1500 a year for five years.

The HECS exemption marks an extension of the Government's existing $625.8 million package of incentives to lift the number of maths and science students and graduates entering teaching at primary schools. The initiative is in response to alarming figures revealed in the preliminary National Report on Schooling in Australia for 2007, which indicated that while 93.2 per cent of year 3 students achieve numeracy benchmarks, this declines over the ensuing primary years. By Year 5 the percentage of students meeting numeracy benchmarks falls to 89 per cent and by Year 7 it is 80.2 per cent.

The National Numeracy Review, released in July, concluded that systematic teaching of numeracy in the early years of schooling, in maths lessons and across the wider curriculum, was essential if these trends were to be reversed. The measure builds on the Government's investment of $40.2 million in 29 literacy and numeracy pilot projects in schools across Australia. "We must act urgently to improve our children's performance in maths and encourage those with aptitude to go on to study it," Ms Gillard said. "Literacy and numeracy in the primary years are crucially important to ensuring all students participate in education and make a positive transition to work and learning in adult life. "Students who do not achieve the minimum standards in literacy and numeracy are least likely to stay on through secondary school or to end up in further study and employment."

Already from January 1 next year, new students in maths and science will have their HECS contributions reduced. For a new full-time student, this could mean a reduction from $7412 to $4162 in 2009, at a Government cost of about $562.2 million over four years.


Childcare for babies is 'abuse', says author Mem Fox

"Babies have much higher levels of stress in childcare." This is indeed what the research shows. Cortisol (stress hormone) levels among young children spending long periods in institutional care are often disturbingly high

Putting babies into childcare is a form of abuse, leading children's author Mem Fox claims. Fox, a children's literacy advocate and author of the best-selling Possum Magic, said she believed society would look back on the trend of allowing babies only a few weeks old to be put into childcare and wonder, "How could we have allowed that child abuse to happen?".

"I just tremble," she said. "I don't know why some people have children at all if they know that they can only take a few weeks off work. "I know you want a child, and you have every right to want a child, but does the child want you if you are going to put it in childcare at six weeks? "I don't think the child wants you, to tell the honest truth. I know that's incredibly controversial."

She said a Queensland childcare worker had told her earlier this year: "We're going to look back on this time from the late '90s onwards - with putting children in childcare so early in their first year of life for such long hours - and wonder how we have allowed that child abuse to happen". "It's just awful. It's awful for the mothers as well. It's completely heartbreaking," Fox said. "You actually have to say to yourself, 'If I have to work this hard and if I'm never going to see my kid and if they are going to have a tremendous stress in childcare, should I be doing it?' "Babies have much higher levels of stress in childcare."

Fox, 62, who has a daughter Chloe, 38, said parents were sometimes distracted by "the trappings" of having a baby, such as designer clothing and decorated nursery. "When they have the good house, the good car, the good job - we're talking about very advantaged people - they have everything and they think, 'Now we need a baby which we can dress up and make look perfect'," she said. "But do they realise that a child needs love more than anything else in the world? It needs love, time and attention."

A Federal Government census of childcare services released this year found 757 children were attending long daycare services for at least 60 hours a week in 2006. A further 9426 children were in care for between 50 and 59 hours a week. An Australian study that measured levels of the stress hormone cortisol in more than 100 children in childcare found children in centres with lower standards became more stressed throughout the day.


Citizenship test overhaul

A bipartisan approach seems important for this so it is appropriate for the Labor party to have its input. The present test was largely written by one man: John Howard

AUSTRALIA'S citizenship test set-up by the Howard government is set for a major overhaul after a review found it to be flawed and discriminatory. Richard Woolcott is the head of a committee commissioned to review the test said the 2006-document needs reform, News Ltd reports. The committee is believed to have forwarded its opinion to Immigration Minister Chris Evans in a report. The standout recommendation would be that the present test is flawed and seen by some as intimidatory and needs substantial reform,'' Mr Woolcott told News Ltd.

While Mr Howard continually defended the test, it faced much criticism for including questions which opponents claimed focussed too much on historical knowledge and the English language. "Many of the (review) submissions thought that the standard of English required was too high and discriminated against non-English speaking migrants, of which there are of course an increasing number,'' Mr Woolcott said.

The committee received 170 submissions from members of the public and has forwarded 32 recommendations to the government. Mr Woolcott declined to comment on what those recommendations are. Senator Evans' office confirmed receiving the report and a spokeswoman said it is being considered.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

How the people of NSW were sold out

By Morris Iemma, Premier of NSW

I never thought I would be running an article by Morris Iemma but on this matter he is right. A Labor government puts a huge effort into privatization and is then stymied by pissant "conservatives"

The Leader of the Opposition this week committed the single biggest act of economic vandalism ever witnessed in this state. For the benefit of five minutes of political glow, Barry O'Farrell has stolen NSW's future prosperity - in a $20 billion daylight robbery. And let's be clear - it was the decision of Barry O'Farrell's Liberal-National Party to oppose energy reform that has put NSW on credit watch. My Government does not control the Upper House. We need support from the Opposition and minor parties to get our reforms through.

I worked hard to secure their support for reform. We commissioned reports by independent experts and we spent time developing detailed responses. Eventually, I thought we had their agreement. As Mr O'Farrell told reporters on May 8 this year: "If these conditions are met, clearly it has our support." It wasn't just me who thought this signalled support for energy reform. Peter Debnam also thought this was the case and resigned as energy spokesman. So in good faith the Government worked with the Opposition to enable the independent Auditor-General to review the proposed transaction under agreed terms of reference.

When the Auditor-General's report was received last week, the Government was right to act and recall Parliament - especially given Mr O'Farrell's earlier commitments. Then, this week, in an act of treachery, Mr O'Farrell threw away the opportunity to provide new sources of baseload electricity at no cost to the taxpayer. He is the one who has violated the public interest in a cynical political game.

In doing so, he destroyed any shred of economic credibility on the other side of politics. The Liberal-National Coalition had 12 months to weigh up the most important economic reform this state has faced for a generation and they failed. I won't pretend that this issue did not test our party and its beliefs. But every member of my team made their decision based on their integrity and what they felt was right.

In contrast, Barry O'Farrell started by putting the sale of retail in his budget policy to help fill some holes, then said he supported reform subject to five tests being met. But when the tests were met and the crunch came, he opted for cheap populism and changed his position. Even allowing for the usual cut and thrust of politics, that's an extraordinary step. It was also telling that the Nationals were first to declare their opposition to the sale - which effectively suggests Mr O'Farrell has handed a right of veto to his country cousins. And when he signals his submission using the most vital, and the most overdue, economic reform in 30 years, the state will feel its effects for years.

Treasury has already estimated the value of the Coalition bastardry at $20 billion. This is made up of as much as $8 billion in forgone transaction proceeds and in the absence of private investment, up to $12 billion in funding that NSW taxpayers will now need to spend on baseload generation.

Standard & Poor's has put us on credit watch because of the Coalition's treachery. The last time this occurred was in 1991, under Nick Greiner. And when the economy was tested, Mr Greiner went to then opposition leader, Bob Carr, for support. Mr Carr put aside political differences, put the economy first, and voted with the government of the day.

I have said many times that I will not let the lights go off in NSW on my watch. I am also committed to retaining our AAA rating so we can continue to access low-cost borrowings to fund our massive infrastructure program. However, there will be tough decisions. I have commissioned a mini-budget to restructure the state's balance sheets in light of this decision. We will need to re-assess our spending and our programs in light of the Opposition's sell-out. I will also do whatever we can to ensure enough power for NSW's future jobs, growth and investment.

We have developed an alternate strategy to keep the lights on, but let me be absolutely clear: our way forward is a second-best solution. But we still need to fulfil our responsibilities and do what is right. That is the challenge for all political leaders when critical policy tests are faced. They need to set aside their own political fortunes, ignore the temptation of the low road, and make a serious decision on behalf of their constituents.

I will not turn my back on the difficult decisions, but I make no apologies for saying this: the Leader of the Opposition will be held accountable for his actions. History will show that August 28 2008 will forever be marked as the day the Leader of the Opposition chose to rat on the people of NSW.


An evil "child safety" bureaucracy

'Starved' girl, 'bashed' toddler given back to abusive black parents. If they had been white kids, their parents would have never have seen them again

Two Queensland mothers - one charged with almost starving her infant girl and the other with bashing her toddler son's head against a wall - have had their children returned to them as they await trial. The Bligh Government yesterday confirmed both parents, who live on Cape York, have been granted custody of their children since they were charged in the past two months.

Queensland's Child Safety Department approved the move to reunite the children, in one case against the protests of police prosecutors, The Weekend Australian reports. In the other case, police were unaware that the child had been returned to her mother until informed yesterday by The Weekend Australian. Police and carers have privately expressed their disgust and frustration at the decision which, in both cases, involves the children undergoing weekly checks by health authorities.

A spokesman for Child Safety Minister Margaret Keech yesterday said she could not comment on the two latest cases because of privacy issues. A spokeswoman for the Queensland Police Service yesterday confirmed that prosecutors in the Cooktown Magistrates Court this month had opposed the return of a two-year-old boy to his mother after she had been charged. The 42-year-old Cooktown mother faces a count of assault occasioning bodily harm after she allegedly picked him up and bashed his head against a wall on June 14. The spokeswoman said police were unaware that the one-year-old girl had been returned to her mother. The infant girl was reunited on August 19, several months after she was removed suffering malnourishment. It is understood the child also had scabies and weighed in at just 7kg - well below the average weight of a child at that age - when she was removed.

Her 34-year-old mother from the indigenous community of Lockhardt River appeared in court on August 21 on a charge that she had failed to provide the necessities of life. The Cooktown woman will reappear in court next week, with the Lockhardt River woman due to face a committal hearing in the Cairns Magistrates Court in late October.

Late yesterday, Queensland's Child Safety Department issued a statement to The Weekend Australian saying it also could not comment on specific cases. But the statement detailed policy in relation to "cases such as these" in which child safety officers assess the risk to a child by taking into consideration previous history of abuse or neglect and a parent's willingness to work with the department to ensure their safety.


Federal Keystone Kops clear Haneef at last

More than a year after a terrorism charge against him was dropped and more than $8 million later, the Australian Federal Police have finally confirmed they have cleared the Indian doctor Mohamed Haneef as a suspect in last year's terrorism attack on Glasgow airport. In a short statement released to the media yesterday afternoon, the AFP confirmed it had informed Dr Haneef's solicitor, Rod Hodgson, the federal Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, and the Home Affairs Minister, Bob Debus, that Dr Haneef was "no longer a person of interest". "The AFP has concluded its active inquiries, although some longstanding overseas inquiries are yet to be fully resolved," the statement said. "At the present time, there is insufficient evidence to institute proceedings against Dr Haneef for any criminal offence'.'

Mr Hodgson said Dr Haneef was "extremely happy" to hear the news and confirmed that his client would seek compensation and an apology from the Government. But he did not indicate if he wanted to return to Australia.

Dr Haneef, a registrar at a Gold Coast hospital, was arrested at Brisbane Airport on July 2 last year as he tried to leave Australia on a one-way ticket to India after Kafeel Ahmed, the brother of his second cousin, Sabeel Ahmed, drove a burning Jeep packed with gas cylinders into Glasgow airport on June 30.

Dr Haneef was held for 11 days without charge under Australian terrorism laws before being charged on July 14 with "intentionally providing support to a terrorist organisation" by giving Sabeel his SIM card, which police alleged was involved in the failed bombing plot. Dr Haneef was granted bail by a Brisbane magistrate on July 16 but just hours later the then immigration minister, Kevin Andrews, cancelled his 457 work visa, ensuring he remained in detention. Dr Haneef returned to India.

Charges against Dr Haneef were dropped on July 27 after it was revealed the SIM card was in Liverpool, nowhere near Glasgow airport when the airport attack occurred. It was revealed that the crown prosecutor had incorrectly alleged during the Brisbane bail hearing that the SIM card had been found in the Jeep at Glasgow airport.

In December the full bench of the Federal Court ruled that Dr Haneef was free to return to Australia after it rejected Mr Andrews' appeal against a decision to reinstate his visa. The court found the law did not allow the Government to revoke a visa on character grounds simply because a person had an "association" with an unsavoury individual.

During a Senate estimates hearing in February the AFP commissioner, Mick Keelty, revealed that more that 600 security officials had worked on the Haneef case and the related British bombings investigation, which cost more than $7.5 million. By May the figure had risen to $8.2 million. The return for the effort was the one charge against Dr Haneef, which was subsequently dropped.

An inquiry into the AFP's handling of the investigation is underway and due to report to the Government on September 30. Mr Keelty has so far refused to make public unclassified sections of the AFP's submission to the inquiry, arguing that he did not have the permission of British police to do so. This is despite the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation releasing in full its submission saying it had no evidence linking Dr Haneef to a British terrorist plot.

The Greens leader, Bob Brown, said the Government should invite Dr Haneef back to Australia. He also said the former prime minister John Howard should apologise to Dr Haneef.



This sort of thing has been a subject of debate worldwide for some time and is now getting a good airing in Australia. Three articles below

School may backflip on cartwheel ban

An Australian school which recently banned its students from doing cartwheels, somersaults and other gymnastics during recess is reviewing the decision after parents and students got all bent out of shape.

The school, in the coastal town of Townsville in Queensland state, told students they could not perform any acrobatics such as handstands outside class because they were a safety hazard.

"The school is actually reviewing this," a spokesman for the Queensland state's education department said Wednesday. A statement by Education Queensland released Wednesday said the decision had been taken "in the interests of the safety of all students as well as in recognition of the school's physical environment."

But it added: "The school will work with its parents and citizens' committee and the school community to ensure an appropriate balance between student safety and their right to engage in gymnastic activities."

The school had classified gymnastic activities a "medium risk level 2" danger to children when performed in class. But Australian media said parents shocked by the ban also discovered that other popular sports such as cricket, tennis and soccer also had the same risk classification but were not banned.


School sued over tiggy

CHILDREN are suing schools for hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages for injuries caused while playing games such as tiggy [tag]. Nearly 100 lawsuits were filed against the State of Queensland for injuries suffered by schoolchildren in the last financial year. One child is asking the court to award her $280,000 plus interest after she hurt herself playing tiggy (chase) in the schoolyard when she was six. Another launched a lawsuit last month claiming more than $136,000 for an injury she says she suffered while high jumping during a Sunshine Coast school carnival.

The revelation that schoolyards are becoming fertile ground for litigation follows public outcry over the banning of cartwheels, handstands and somersaults at a north Queensland school and admissions by Education Minister Rod Welford that fear of legal action was partly behind the decision.

The case involving tiggy centres around an incident at the Bribie Island State School in 2004. Documents filed in the District Court of Queensland say the now 10-year-old girl tripped on a metal bar "comprising part of the playground equipment" during her lunchbreak. It is alleged she suffered a shortening of her right leg, disuse osteoporosis and a deformity at the neck of the right femur as a result of the fall and then inadequate medical treatment by Queensland Health.

The girl claims through her legal representative that she was not supervised adequately and the playground equipment was not safe. A notice to defend filed by the State of Queensland denies many of the allegations.

A claim for more than $136,000 was filed in the District Court last month on behalf of a girl who was eight when she allegedly injured her lower left leg and ankle during an athletics carnival at the Kuluin State School on the Sunshine Coast. The girl's foot allegedly landed between two cushioning mats during the high jump, striking the ground. The claim states the now 12-year-old has an altered gait as a result of her injury and "has since undergone hospital, surgical, medical and para-medical treatment".

The State of Queensland filed a notice of intention to defend on August 11, denying that the consequences of the incident were caused by a breach of common law duty or negligence.

State schools are not the only ones subject to claims. The St Margaret's Anglican Girls School trust is being sued over an alleged injury suffered by a Year 8 student on July 20, 2005, while skipping on concrete during a physical education class. Kerin and Co Lawyers solicitor Stuart Wright said a settlement had already been reached in the case, filed in the District Court of Queensland last month. The amount was confidential. St Margaret's Anglican School deputy principal Cynthia May said it was compulsory for all staff to be trained in first aid and there was a full-time nurse on duty at the school. "We make every effort to minimise risk for the girls," she said yesterday.


Lunchtime games ban turns children into wusses: experts

SOMETHING has crept under the skin of top child and adolescent psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg. An ambassador for the federal youth suicide prevention program MindMatters and a founding member of the National Centre Against Bullying, the Melbourne-based practitioner is generally unflappable despite his daily diet of teen angst and hurt. Yet a Townsville school's banning this week of a few allegedly unsafe gymnastic pleasures - handstands, cartwheels and somersaults - appears to have galled him.

"It's all part of this 'wussification' syndrome that we're seeing in contemporary Australia where schools have been forced to bow to the great god of occupational health and safety," Dr Carr-Gregg said. "We have schools in Victoria which have banned birthday cakes with candles on them because the children might burst into flames and where soccer has been banned during recess because the kids might be hit in the face by the ball. "Children are not accessories to dress up and keep behind glass. If we continue to cloak them in cotton wool and outsource their development to lawyers we will have a bunch of kids who are almost frightened of the world. This is very serious."

Deadly serious, according to Rob Pitt, director of the Queensland Injury Surveillance Unit. Like Dr Carr-Gregg, he believed adventurous play was a critical tool in teaching children how to appraise risk - with resulting injuries usually minor. "When you do something that's a little bit on the edge, the (lessons) are learnt before you get to an age when the toys you're playing with can potentially kill," he says. "If they haven't learnt appropriate risk-taking before they're in charge of a motor vehicle, the consequences are often fatal."

Not that Dr Pitt would class cartwheels among dicier high jinks. As well as running the QISU, he is director of the Mater Children's Hospital emergency department, which sees 42,000 patients a year. He said injuries from handstands and cartwheels "just don't turn up on our radar".

Townsville's Belgian Gardens State School principal Glenn Dickson continued to keep his public silence after mum Kylie Buschgens hit the headlines on Tuesday with claims that her daughter Cali, 10, was banned from performing cartwheels during breaks. But the cartwheels, handstands and somersaults ban will continue until at least October. The school's Parents and Citizens Association vice-president Jan Collins said about 40 to 50 parents and teachers attended their monthly meeting on Wednesday night and moved to set up a committee to discuss the ban.

Education Minister Rod Welford was slow to react, saying playground rules were a matter for individual schools. It is understood some Queensland public primary schools outlaw tree-climbing and contact games such as Red Rover. By the following day, Mr Welford had entered the wider debate, shifting blame to parents by contending it was their "mollycoddling" that had put schools on a defensive footing in case of lawsuits.

Education Queensland released figures showing that last financial year 93 compensation claims involving students allegedly injured at school or during school activities were brought against the State Government. They included a (now) 10-year-old girl who allegedly suffered a leg deformity and osteoporosis from tripping over play equipment in a game of tiggy at Bribie Island State School in 2004. The girl is seeking more than $280,000.

In reality, the paternalism stunting the liberties of modern children is all-pervasive: at once, cultural and institutional. It's there in the anxiety-ridden "helicopter parents". "Hovering over their children keeping the germs away and making sure that they're safe," explained Australian Council of State School Organisations president Jennifer Branch.

And it's underscored by skittish bureaucracy, the likes of which severed an incident-free, 57-year tradition by outlawing the Grand Carousel from this year's Ekka. A state workplace health and safety inspector speculated children could be crushed beneath sets of prancing timber hooves.

Dr Carr-Gregg was concerned all the fussing would usher in a generation of children who struggled to self-identify as adults "because we're pausing the DVD of their development". They would lack decision-making ability, independence and other life skills. Moreover, they would be low on that key survival ingredient - resilience. "If you extend this ludicrousness to its logical end, no child will ever learn to ride a bicycle because they might fall off," Dr Carr-Gregg said. "What's next? Are we going to ban the pencil because of the risk of RSI? "An essential part of growing up is exposure to the fact that life isn't always fair. "When things do go wrong, children can pick themselves up, start again and learn from the negative experience. "Because we're (sheltering) them from that, I'm seeing 12- and 13-year-old kids who are just normally sad because their dog's died or their parents have divorced. And they're running off to GPs looking for anti-depressants because they think they're depressed."

Educators like University of Queensland physical education professor Richard Tinning point out that scaling a tree or negotiating a climbing frame is a natural instinct and has benefits for honing motor co-ordination, building muscle and exploring boundaries. "But schools have increasingly sanitised the playing environment for kids, taking out a lot of the monkey bars in order to protect from litigation," Professor Tinning said. "As a result, if kids do any physical activity, it's usually not involving their upper body. Most kids today couldn't hang and support their weight."

Ironically, West Australian Ian Lillico, an internationally renowned expert on boys' education, strode into Townsville yesterday as part of a professional workshop tour for teachers and school administrators. He labels the cartwheel curb "rubbish" and says, especially for boys, broken limbs and various playground scrapes are often worn as a badge of honour.


Friday, August 29, 2008


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG does not think very highly of the un-conservative conservatives in the New South Wales parliament.

Arrogant architects who think they know what's best for other people

Regardless of what the people themselves want, of course. NOTE: 1). This is just a regurgitation of the failed American "Smart Growth" strategy. 2). Low quality houses throughout the metropolitan areas are already often torn down and replaced by apartment blocks -- so that people who are willing to live in apartments can do so almost anywhere they choose

AUSTRALIA'S big cities are being urged to ban outer suburban housing estates to cut urban sprawl and be more like London and Rome. The nation's peak architectural body wants Australian cities to focus on boosting their inner and middle suburbs' density rather than release land in outer areas, to become more sustainable.

The Royal Australian Institute of Architects' new urban design policy also pushes for greater regional development, which in Victoria would mean more people to living and working in cities such as Geelong or Ballarat. However, Victoria's peak housing developer group says a move away from outer suburbs would cripple the economy and hurt families who were calling for more housing in affordable areas.

RAIA president Howard Tanner said increasing urban density to maximise efficiency and sustainability of infrastructure was the only way forward for Melbourne and Sydney. "You have got people encouraged to buy a block of land way out of the city and they are having to travel for three hours a day to commute. That's not sustainable," he said. Mr Tanner said a roads-based city like Los Angeles was seeing infrastructure crumble, and Australian cities would do better to aim for the city models of London and Rome. "People there live in town houses or terrace houses, the houses are never one-storey and you have got the population that lives closer to the city," he said. "We have to curtail land subdivisions at the extremities of the city. The other option is to put in some very fast trains to regional centres. Somewhere like Geelong could be an attractive destination for working and living."

Victoria's housing estate developers are represented by the Urban Development Institute of Australia, and executive director Tony De Domenico said banning estate developments on Melbourne's fringe was unrealistic and blinkered. "The population is still growing and there's a demand for these properties," Mr De Domenico said. "It's near impossible to dictate to the market what should happen. The thing that's keeping Victoria's economy very competitive compared to the mining states is we are very competitive in housing." Mr De Domenico said RAIA members should spend more time in outer suburbs and see what people wanted.

Victorian Council of Social Service policy manager David Imber said a sweeping ban on outer-suburban estates was wrong.


Surgery freeze call over public hospital beds crisis

A ban on elective surgery is being called for as a desperate solution to the chronic shortages of public hospital beds in Queensland's health system. Frustrated emergency specialists have called for a two-week statewide ban on surgery to free up beds. The situation is so critical at hospital emergency departments some patients are forced to sit in waiting rooms for more than 24 hours before being admitted.

Australasian College for Emergency Medicine Queensland chairwoman Sylvia Andrew-Starkey said: "We try really hard not to put elderly people in chairs ... but we've had a situation recently where we've had to put elderly people with pneumonia in chairs for 12 hours or so because we didn't have a bed. "It's awful. It's the worst it's been for years. We're powerless to do anything."

In the past fortnight, some of the state's largest public hospitals - including the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, the Princess Alexandra and Logan - have been forced to go on bypass and redirect ambulances to other facilities because they could not cope with the numbers of patients needing a bed.

In the state's north, a backlog of trolleys and people filled the corridors at Townsville Hospital yesterday as 23 patients waited to be transferred from the emergency ward to beds. Australian Medical Association North Queensland president Dr Sam Baker said Townsville Hospital was overcrowded and in "meltdown" and backed calls for a suspension of elective surgery. "We've got no beds," Dr Baker said. "Staff are being pushed to the limits. It is a bottleneck. It is a shambles. And it is only going to get worse."

Queensland hospitals are so overcrowded that private facilities have also been redirecting patients. "We haven't been able to get a private patient into a private hospital for weeks - they're full too," said Dr Andrew-Starkey, who is based at the RBWH. Freezing elective surgery for a period would free up beds for other patients, taking pressure off emergency departments which are stretched during the traditional winter flu season. "The system needs resetting," Dr Andrew-Starkey said. "I'm not sure suspending elective surgery for a week would be enough. It might take two."

Specialists admit a freeze on elective surgery is a radical step, given lengthy public hospital waiting lists. Queensland Health Minister Stephen Robertson said an elective surgery freeze was unnecessary, but individual hospitals might need to suspend elective surgery from time to time to cope with emergency department demand. "What I do expect is hospital management to make decisions on a daily basis about what is in the best interests of providing safe patient care," Mr Robertson said. "If that means they've got to temporarily suspend elective surgery, then unfortunately, if that decision is made in the interests of patient safety, I support that. I would rather that not be the case, but that's the reality of the very busy times we are experiencing at the moment."

Townsville Hospital staff were yesterday forced to set up makeshift wards in X-ray waiting rooms and lounges. Ten operations were postponed, feeder hospitals at Ingham and Ayr were full, and every nursing home bed in the north Queensland city was occupied. It is the fourth "code yellow" - a complete lack of beds - activated by the hospital in the past two months. Townsville Hospital Acting Director of Medical Services Dr Isaac Seidl said they were working to reduce the likelihood of "ramping" where patients wait outside in ambulances.

Mr Robertson said the situation in Townsville had been exacerbated by 22 nurses calling in sick with "flu-like symptoms", with another 49 off on sick or family leave the day before.



PATIENTS have fallen off trolleys in overcrowded hospital emergency wards which overworked doctors describe as the worst they have experienced. The Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital's emergency department was in "gridlock" yesterday, forcing hospital administrators to redirect ambulances to other facilities for more than two hours, The Courier-Mail reports. As the bypass was declared, 22 patients were sitting in chairs in an overcrowded corridor. Some had been waiting more than 24 hours to be admitted, with no guarantee when a bed would become available.

Australasian College for Emergency Medicine Queensland chairwoman Sylvia Andrew-Starkey said hospital emergency departments were at crisis point. "People don't get fed properly, people get sleep deprived. The staff get frustrated as well. It leads to a whole snowball effect," she said. "I can give you three instances of elderly people falling out of trolleys because they were confused. They should never have been on trolleys in the emergency department." "Increasing the amount of time that patients spend in an emergency department leads to deaths," she said. "The number of long-stay patients in Queensland emergency departments has skyrocketed in the last couple of months."

Health Minister Stephen Robertson said the State Government was moving towards "quarantining" hospital emergency departments from elective surgery to alleviate problems. Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg said the "entire health system in Queensland is in danger of collapse".


University not always the path to good money

Young Aussies are turning their backs on a university education to take advantage of the huge salaries flowing from the resources boom and skills shortage. Heading straight into the workforce and getting on-the-job training is an attractive proposition in boom towns where newcomers can walk into huge money. "Particularly in Queensland and Western Australia we're seeing many school leavers heading straight out to the mines and putting university and tertiary education on the back burner," says Peter Carey, National President of the Career Development Association of Australia.

Recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows the average mining salary tops $100,000 a year - that's $1939 gross a week, or $800 a week more than the average worker. Trades are no different with the skills shortage meaning big bucks are available sooner rather than later. Construction workers' wages jumped almost 8 per cent last year to an average of $1140 a week. These pay rates compare to graduate earnings which range from as low as $35,000 for pharmacy graduates up to $51,887 for engineers.

Traineeships and "earn while you learn" apprenticeships is one way to get ahead. "With the way of the world today people need to work to survive and TAFE and traineeships often provide more work-ready skills than universities," Mr Carey said. "Student debt and poor workforce planning is influencing a move towards more practical learning," he said.

Eddie Dobosz from Apprenticeships Australia believes traineeships are no longer only an option for those who can't get into university. "A lot of people want to do training that gets them to the top quickly and furthering your skills later on in your career, via a degree is always an option," he said. The latest ABS data indicates enrolments in TAFE courses have increased by 4 per cent over recent years with practical learning undergoing a revival.

The average university graduate is $8500 in debt when they leave university. According to ABS data, over 1.2 million people pay for university via FEE-HELP or HECS with 6 per cent owing more than $20,000.

So where does a degree matter? If it's law, accounting or engineering you're looking into then you've got no choice but to hit the books, says Andrew Williams, general manager at LINK Recruitment. "However sales, commerce and business are professions more competitive driven than reliant upon an employee's tertiary education," he said Assessing what's important to you and where you want your career to go is the most important thing when it comes to choosing where to study, says Mr Williams. "Depending on where you want to be, a university degree may not be necessary," he said.


Rudd following Howard on welfare

HOW very un-Laborlike, said one Labor MP in response to the Rudd Government's proposal to introduce legislation this week that would tie welfare payments to the responsibility of parents to ensure their children attend school. Not all Labor MPs are on side, it seems. The Rudd Government is about to discover that tough love is a tough policy. Nay-sayers wedded to the failed idea that compassion comes in the form of unconditional welfare will be out in force to kill off Labor's embrace of mutual responsibility.

Where, one must ask, have these Labor MPs been? Welfare reform that matches rights with responsibilities was endorsed long ago by the Centre-Left in the US under Democratic president Bill Clinton and in Britain under Labour prime minister Tony Blair. They proved that linking rights to responsibilities was not some nasty conservative agenda to punish those most in need. It is an idea that crosses the political divide for the simple reason that it works, whereas past policies of passive welfare have failed.

So credit where it's due. Kevin Rudd is right to point out that an education revolution depends on children attending school. Education Minister Julia Gillard says there could be up to 20,000 Australian children who are not at school, with Families Minister Jenny Macklin suggesting that at least 2000 children are not enrolled at school within the Northern Territory.

Though it's a case of Labor-come-lately for some in the ALP, the Rudd Government's plan to tackle the problem of truancy by setting up trials in six NT communities and in Western Australia before a national roll-out deserves unequivocal praise.

For too long, welfare has been seen as an unfettered right, without any attendant responsibilities. The rights-based culture that emerged in the 1960s and `70s failed, in particular, an entire generation of indigenous people. Many of them are lost. Uneducated and untrained, relegated to the dysfunctional fringes, they will never have a chance of entering mainstream society. Now, the children of that generation risk being lost too unless policies encourage parents to accept responsibility for their children. Accordingly, Labor's belated acknowledgment of past policy failures is to be applauded.

But let's also pay tribute to those who got us to the point where a Labor government in Australia is ready to instil responsibilities into the welfare equation. Howard haters, shut your eyes and stick your fingers in your ears. Here it is. By tackling the old orthodoxy of no-responsibility welfare, John Howard fundamentally realigned our thinking on this issue.

Sure, we watched welfare reform unfold in the US and Britain. But in Australia the Rudd Government is proposing to link welfare to parental responsibility after a decade of conservative rule that did the hard yards on welfare reform.

Encouraged by The Australian, which provided an early and continuing platform for genuine debate about these critical issues, what was once the accepted left-wing orthodoxy has been challenged and found wanting by a more questioning mindset. Not so long ago, if you raised questions about welfare you would be labelled as mean-spirited. If you raised those questions about welfare in relation to indigenous people, you were mean-spirited and racist. Back then, orthodox thinking was framed around the virtues of Aboriginal welfarism, apologies, treaties and separatism.

By tackling that PC-infected entrenched orthodoxy, the Howard government legacy is one that has paved the way for Labor's present policy. Under Howard, the first steps to address indigenous disadvantage were premised on practical reconciliation: on outcomes, not politics. Symbolism was eschewed as demonstrably counterproductive to solving disadvantage and passive welfare uncovered as poison. When critics shouted about racism, Howard did not flinch. His government challenged mindless policies such as the Community Development Employment Program, which allowed able-bodied indigenous people to work for a few hours a week in return for full welfare.

As a reminder of that fundamental shift, it's worth remembering that Noel Pearson once derided the Howard government as "racist scum" and said Howard was "totally useless to the nation". That was before Pearson's epiphany that greater individual responsibility, not indigenous victimhood, was the way to address disadvantage and dysfunction within indigenous communities.

Today, indigenous leaders such as Pearson and former ALP federal president Warren Mundine are daily pushing the frontiers for more sensible indigenous policies that promote education, training and work as the solution to Aboriginal dysfunction. They recognise that welfare reform must escape the shackles of left-right labels. After all, as The Australian said last Friday in an editorial, Ben Chifley's vision of a Labor light on the hill did not involve "putting an extra sixpence in somebody's pocket". Chifley's 1949 call was about empowering people.

Rudd is on that path. His proposal for a 13-week suspension of welfare as a last resort for parents who do not ensure their children attend school is premised on the state providing the right signals to encourage parents to do the right thing by their children. As Gillard said, a child who misses large slabs of schooling is set up for failure for the rest of their lives.

Sadly, so many on the Left remain cemented to past policies predicated on the role of the state rather than the power of individuals. Critics immediately labelled Rudd's plan as a "blunt instrument". They prefer to point the finger of blame at anyone except parents. Blame the system. Blame the schools, they say. Australian Greens senator Rachel Siewert described Labor's policy as "crazy thinking in the 21st century from a government that's supposed to be committed to social inclusion".

Yet genuine social inclusion must mean encouraging people to take responsibility for their own lives. Those who view individual responsibility with suspicion necessarily view human potential with equal suspicion. Their paternalism is based on an inherently defeatist view of human ability and aspiration. It entrenches social exclusion and human misery, and ensures the only outcome of their paternalism is the continued existence of their own handout-premised industries.

The importance of the Rudd Government finally confronting the unprogressive consequences of the so-called progressive mindset cannot be underestimated. The Howard government was always going to be attacked by so-called progressives as launching a right-wing ideological crusade in its efforts to encourage greater personal responsibility.

The Rudd Labor Government can, depending on the strength of its conviction, bring many of these critics to a quiet halt by following Howard and showing courageous leadership aimed at moving the national conversation on disadvantage in more sensible directions.

The fear is that this will be some will-o'-the-wisp Labor policy that flickers with hope but can never be realised, either because Labor is not serious about the policy or because it falls victim to old Labor types still wedded to the past.


Thursday, August 28, 2008


Four current articles below:

Sign of the times or just climate porn?

By Christmas Eve in 2012, no rain has fallen in Sydney for more than 200 days and, despite its new desalination plant, the emerald city has run out of drinking water. The effects of climate change have created the conditions for a ring of bushfires that surround the city, but authorities don't have enough water to put them out.

This is the plot synopsis for the Nine Network's new tele-feature experiment called Scorched, which will screen nationally in prime time on Sunday night. Promoters have hailed the production a "major television event" with an all-star cast, fake news broadcasts from authentic Nine newsreaders and a comprehensive supporting website. "Mother nature is on the warpath. It's armageddon," the publicity kit modestly proclaims. Media previews have described the plot as "scarily plausible". Director Tony Tilse claims the idea of a city running out of water is "basically a true story, but it just hasn't happened yet".

Oh, really? Perhaps what is more scarily plausible is that the producers of the program didn't bother to speak to Sydney Water or the Sydney Catchment Authority before going to air. They would have discovered that even in the worst-case scenario, Sydney already has enough water in its huge network of catchments to meet demand until 2014. The city's new desalination plant will come on line by 2010 and will be able to supply 15 per cent of Sydney's demand, but has been designed to quickly double its capacity to a half-billion litres of water a day.

Scorched is the headline act in a wave of climate porn to hit Australia in coming weeks. In 2006, Britain's Institute for Public Policy Research reviewed media, government and activist reporting of climate change and found it to be confusing, contradictory and chaotic, leaving the public feeling disempowered and uncompelled to act. Most notable was the tendency to use alarmist language, or climate porn, which offered "a thrilling spectacle but ultimately distances the public from the problem". Scorched producer Kylie Du Fresne says the telemovie is not meant to be seen as a documentary, but admits "we were interested in blurring the lines between fact and fiction".

A water disaster of this magnitude is like being run over by a steamroller. It's possible, but only if you do nothing. Sydney Water spokesman Brendan Elliott says the plot is "truly a work of fiction". Given it's Sydney Water's primary job to make sure the city doesn't run out of water in the face of population growth and climate change, it's not surprising they have a range of strategies to keep moving in the face of the steamroller. These include desalination, increased water recycling and increased conservation programs.

Water Services Association chief executive Ross Young says he is concerned the show might spark a wave of panicked callers to water authorities on Monday morning. "It's very important that the program is clearly labelled a drama and not a documentary," he tells The Australian. "Even though the chances of climate change are significant, there are processes in place to manage the consequences. "The bottom line is our cities are not going to run out of water."

Climate porn is the latest manifestation of infotainment that flourishes in the no man's land between fiction and nonfiction: dramas loosely based on factual events and the communication of often credible and important ideas and theories sexed up with an extra dose of dramatic licence. On October 30, 1938, Orson Welles caused panic across the US when he broadcast a dramatisation of the H.G. Wells novel The War of the Worlds. Like Scorched, the radio broadcast used simulated news broadcasts to create an aura of authenticity; some of the program's six million listeners thought there was a Martian invasion in progress.

Climate disaster movies date back to the release of Soylent Green in 1973. The dystopian science-fiction film is set in a severely over-populated and overheated (as a result of climate change) New York in 2022 facing chronic food shortages. Charlton Heston plays a detective who discovers to his horror that the newest food substitute (Soylent Green) is made by reprocessing dead people.

Then in 1995, Kevin Costner starred in the box-office flop Waterworld, a kind of climate-change crisis meets Mad Max movie set in a futuristic Earth where the polar ice caps have melted and the few survivors sail around or live on floating islands, inevitably fighting with each other.

The most explicit climate porn may well be the 2004 blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow. Released two years before Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, it grossed 10 times more at the box office. Melting ice sheets and glaciers caused the Altantic Ocean currents to stop suddenly, plunging the entire northern hemisphere into a deep snap-freeze. The film was derided by most climate scientists and highlighted the real problem with creating drama about the effects of climate change: in reality the changes are not sudden, but slow and insidious. In a review, US paleoclimatologist William Hyde observed: "This movie is to climate science as Frankenstein is to heart transplant surgery."

But even a genuine attempt to explain the science, such as An Inconvenient Truth, sailed close to the wind at times in order to sustain the level of drama in what is basically a 90-minute lecture. In one example, Gore made much of the devastating impacts of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans as a portent of increased natural disasters caused by a warming climate.

The main cause of New Orleans' flooding was a poorly maintained system of levees holding back the Mississippi River and surrounding lakes. But holding this aside, scientists are still arguing over whether Gore's claim is actually true. Despite predictions to the contrary, the two subsequent hurricane seasons on the US Atlantic coast were well below average. Climate porn is not just confined to the cinema.


Another prominent Australian scientist predicts global cooling - Dr Ken McCracken

Climate change has been the most important and complex issue on my plate in 15 years as a science and technology correspondent for The Canberra Times. So an appropriate topic for a farewell commentary for this newspaper is an emerging scientific debate with the potential to complicate the already difficult relationship between scientists and politicians on this issue.

The effect of the sun's activity on global temperatures has loomed large in arguments from climate change sceptics over the years. Several Russian scientists have argued that the current period of global warming is entirely due to a cycle of increased solar activity. NSW Treasurer Michael Costa is understood to be among a small group of Australian politicians and other opinion-shapers to embrace this notion.It is wise to be sceptical of many Russian scientists and all politicians, so I have given this ''solar forcing'' explanation of global warming little credence until I attended a forum at the Academy of Science earlier this year and heard it from a scientist of undoubted integrity and expertise in this area.

A former head of CSIRO's division of space science, Dr Ken McCracken was awarded the Australia Prize the precursor of the Prime Minister's Science Prize in 1995. Now in his 80s, officially retired and raising cattle in the ACT hinterland, he is still very active in his research field of solar physics.McCracken is adamantly not a climate change sceptic, agreeing that rising fossil-fuel emissions will be a long-term cause of rising global temperatures.

But his analysis of the sun's cyclical activity and global climate records has led him to the view that we are entering a period of up to two decades in which reduced solar activity may either flatten the upward trend of global temperatures or even cause a slight and temporary cooling.

In a paper given in 2005 to a ''soiree'' hosted by then president of the Academy of Science, Professor Jim Peacock, McCracken said the sun was the most active it had been over 1000 years of scientific observation. This made it inevitable that its activity would decrease over the next two decades in line with historically observed solar cycles. ''The reduced 'forcing' might compensate, or over-compensate, for the effects of the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases,'' he said. ''It is likely that there will be a cessation of around 20 years in the increase in world temperature, or possibly a decrease by 0.1 [degrees] or more.''

I put this to Dr David Jones, head of climate analysis for the Bureau of Meteorology's National Climate Centre, whose overarching judgment is that the warming effect of fossil fuel emissions is an increasingly dominant factor on global temperature to the extent that it will not be slowed by lower solar activity.

After an email conversation, Jones said he and McCracken are in general agreement but differ on emphasis and one key judgment. ''Natural solar variability is potentially important, but the climate history and physics tell us that the probability of this factor sufficiently cooling the planet to offset the enhanced greenhouse effect is distinctly remote,'' Jones wrote.

The main point of disagreement was McCracken's view that the rate of global warming could be eased or reduced by a fall in solar activity. ''I have never seen a credible paper published using a climate model that shows this,'' Jones wrote. He points to recent data which indicates that global temperatures are probably rising faster than previously thought, raising the urgency of calls from climate scientists for political action to reduce emissions.

Yet any uncertainty over the sun's influence creates a lever that climate sceptics and developing nations will seize upon to stall such action.If McCracken is wrong and temperatures continue to climb during a decade or two of low solar activity, the need for emissions reductions will be dramatically reinforced. However, if temperatures do not rise over this period, steeling the political will for such action by all nations will be much more difficult.

The dilemma for the science sector is a classic: how to communicate uncertainty.As McCracken rightly observed in 2005, a lull in temperature rises would provide a wonderful opportunity for political and technological effort to gain the initiative in the fight against climate change by turning global emissions around and thus hopefully avoid worst-case warming scenarios when the sun's fires stoke up again mid-century.

But he also noted the risk that mainstream climate science, led by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, would be seen by its critics and others to have been ill-informed at best or misleading at worst, diminishing its credibility and eroding political commitment to emission reductions.

McCracken believes science should be upfront. ''I believe that we must state firmly that a cooling is possible in the near future, but that the warming would then resume 10-20 years hence,'' he said via email. ''It will be very hard to argue for public trust if we say nothing about the possibility, and then try to argue our way out after it happens. Using an Aussie rules analogy, that would be like giving the climate sceptics a free kick 10m in front of goal.''

Australia is definitely entering a footy finals period, and the Earth may be entering a period where human-induced global warming slows temporarily. Many scientists will not be comfortable to consider this possibility, and even less comfortable that journalists canvas it, because in good faith they want nothing to deflect efforts to combat global warming.

However, I have always aimed to tell readers what they deserve to know, not what they may want to hear or what governments, scientists or interest groups would prefer they were told. This has earned me brickbats and bouquets over the years, as it should do, and as I expect it will on this occasion.


More "contradictions" in the Greenie religion

Hybrid batteries spark waste fears. Old Marxists will know what I mean by "contradictions"

AUSTRALIA has no ability to environmentally dispose of the batteries from the Toyota Camry hybrids whose production has been championed by Kevin Rudd. Labor in Victoria, where the cars will be built, has conceded a "current hole" in the nation's recycling policies means there is no capacity to environmentally dispose of the nickel-metal hydride car batteries from the 10,000 hybrid cars to be produced by Toyota every year from the start of 2010.

Victorian Environment Minister Gavin Jennings appeared to concede that the hybrid Camry batteries, which can weigh more than 50kg and cost several thousand dollars, "may ultimately end up within the waste stream". The admissions prompted Opposition claims that Victoria would be faced with tens of thousands of used hybrid car batteries over the next decade, with no sustainable way of disposing of them. "The Government is busy basking in the benefits of this policy while leaving the environment to pick up the tab," said Liberal MP Andrea Coote.

In June, the Prime Minister and Toyota president Katsuaki Watanabe announced in Japan that Toyota Australia would produce 10,000 petrol-electric hybrid Camrys a year at its Altona plant in Melbourne from 2010. Mr Rudd promised Toyota $35million from its new Green Car Innovation Fund, a figure immediately matched by the state Labor Government.

Under questioning in state parliament last week, Mr Jennings said he was happy Ms Coote had "been astute enough to pick up what might be a current hole in the resource efficiency capability of not only Victoria but also the nation". Mr Jennings said he welcomed "encouragement to deal with a whole-of-life issue concerning products that may ultimately end up within the waste stream". He said the current volume of hybrid Camrys, given that production does not start until 2010, was "very low in terms of the Australian marketplace". The state Government would look at ways of tackling the issue. "I am happy to look at local-based regulation and market mechanisms, but also harmonisation with other jurisdictions across the nation, to try to make sure we have the appropriate investment and regulatory environment, whether that be most appropriate in state or national jurisdictions," he said.

Ms Coote said the Government was "clearly more focused on collecting accolades than the environmental issues associated with their policy". "In the next decade, Victoria will be faced with tens of thousands of dead hybrid car batteries, with no environmentally sustainable way of disposing of them," she said.

But Mr Jennings said the Opposition criticism showed it was opposed to the production of environmentally friendly cars. "I want Victoria to lead the way nationally in developing a clear framework for identifying when and what products require recycling at the end of their use, including car batteries, and the most appropriate market or regulatory approach to achieve that," he said.

According to Sustainability Victoria, rechargeable batteries, including nickel-metal hydride, are collected by a waste disposal company. Australia does not have the technology and services required to recycle these batteries, so they are processed overseas by a French company that "specialises in the recovery of nickel and cadmium to a strict environmental standard".

The federal Government is considering its response to former Victorian premier Steve Bracks's review of the automotive industry, handed in earlier this month. Ford, one of three companies that manufacture cars in Australia, yesterday pressed its case for a delay in tariff reductions in a private meeting at Parliament House between its global chief executive, Alan Mullaly, and Mr Rudd. Mr Mullaly was invited to make a presentation to Mr Rudd by Industry Minister Kim Carr during his visit to Detroit in June.

"The judgment was it was a good opportunity to visit Australia and to discuss what is being considered in terms of the future policy arrangements applying to the industry and the perspective of a key participant," Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries chief executive Andrew McKellar said yesterday.


"Renewables" a Mirage

Press release from Viv Forbes, Chairman of the Carbon Sense Coalition. []

The Carbon Sense Coalition today accused governments and media of spreading myths on the ability of "renewables" to supply Australia's future electricity. The Chairman of "Carbon Sense" Mr Viv Forbes said there was no chance that wind, solar, hydro and geothermal could supply 20% of Australia's electricity by 2020 without massive increases in electricity costs and severe damage to Australia's industry and standard of living. "The belief that we can go further and eliminate coal from our energy supply is a dangerous delusion."

Wind and solar suffer three fatal flaws which no amount of research dollars, climate junkets, green papers, government gifts, carbon taxes, ministerial statements or imperial mandates will change. The first fatal flaw is obvious even to children at school - no wind turbine or solar panel anywhere in the world can supply continuous power. Power from wind turbines varies with the wind speed, stops when the wind drops and they have to be shut down in strong winds, storms or cyclones. Solar power stops at night or when it is cloudy, and solar panels only supply maximum power around midday, in summer, in the tropics.

The output of both wind and solar varies or shuts down with little warning; this causes big problems in maintaining stability in large power grids. Thus any power grid with more than 10% supplied by wind and solar will risk sudden blackouts or damaging fluctuations. To maintain stable power requires that every kilowatt of solar or wind is shadowed by standby power (preferably gas or hydro) ready to switch on to full power in a very short time. The capital and operating cost of these standby facilities should be added to the real cost of "green power".

The second fatal flaw with wind and solar is that the supply of energy is very dilute, so a large area of land is required to collect significant power. This causes extensive environmental and scenic damage and very large transmission and maintenance costs.

The third fatal flaw of wind and sun power is that only a few places are ideally suited to collect significant quantities of energy, and these places are often far from the main centres of population. Solar power is best collected from places like the Tanami Desert in Northern Territory, and wind power is best collected from places in the path of the Roaring Forties, such as King Island and Western Tasmania. It will be a long time before either of these sites is connected by high voltage power lines to Penny Wong's desk in Canberra or the PM's Lodge in Sydney.

Wind power is useful for providing stock water and moving sailing ships; using solar hot water heaters makes good sense; and solar energy (combined with harmless carbon dioxide from the air and minerals from the soil) provides the primary resources for all farming, forestry, fishing and grazing industries. But neither wind nor sun will supply economical and reliable base load electricity to big cities or industries.

Hydro power can provide low cost stable energy providing it is backed by a large dam in a reliable rainfall area. Finding such spots where approvals could be obtained in a reasonable time frame is almost impossible in Australia. Hydro will not keep the lights on for a growing population.

Natural gas and coal seam gas are hydro-carbon fuels which produce the same two "greenhouse gases" as coal and oil - water vapour and carbon dioxide. They too will be crippled by Emissions Trading and carbon taxes. When the Luddites realise that gas is also a non-renewable carbon fuel, it too will be taxed and regulated to death. It is not a "renewable" and it is less abundant than coal. It is far too valuable to be mandated for base-load electricity generation or city hot water systems.

This leaves geothermal. Geothermal makes good sense in places like New Zealand and Iceland with big areas of active volcanic rocks at shallow depth. But in an old, quiet, cooling continent like Australia, hot rocks are rare and deep. Here it is a totally unproven power source likely to have very high costs for exploration, development, transmission and water. It is worth investigating by people prepared to speculate their capital, but geothermal will not prevent the power brownouts on the horizon unless someone abandons the misguided "crucify carbon" campaign.

With nuclear power and oil shale banned, and plans to tax coal, oil and gas out of existence, man is headed back to the "green" energy sources of the Dark Ages - muscles, horses, firewood and sunshine. But without carbon fuels to bring heat, light, food, transport and water to our large cities, many people will not survive the transition to green nirvana, especially if the current global cooling trend continues.

Rapper Snoop Dogg's Australian tour in doubt again

Even the Rudd government is having second thoughts about letting this criminal garbage into the country

AMERICAN rapper Snoop Dogg's Australian tour is in jeopardy as the Federal Government investigates his criminal history. The rapper, whose real name is Cordozar Calvin Broadus Jr, applied last month for a visa to Australia for a planned tour in October with fellow hip-hop star Ice Cube.

The immigration department last week gave provisional approval for the visa, but the tour once again seems in doubt after the department today said it was carrying out a full assessment of Snoop Dogg's character before granting a visa. An immigration department spokesman said the provisional approval was given after a preliminary assessment of Snoop Dogg's character. "That process is in line with the procedures established by the previous government on the consideration of visa applicants,'' he said.

"Mr Broadus has not been granted a visa, there are further steps required beyond character assessment before a visa is granted. "The department has now decided to do a full assessment of the character of Mr Broadus.''

The immigration department said it was making a more thorough assessment of the rapper's character in response from victims of crime groups, but said each application was assessed on its merits. "Community complaints have no effect on the grant or otherwise of a visa. Each application is assessed individually on its merits,'' a spokesman said. "As a result of public concern and interest, the department has decided that in fact we will be undertaking a more thorough assessment of Mr Broadus' character. "However, the decision on the granting or refusal of a visa application is made on the individual merit of the case consistent with the legal criteria for the class of the visa.''

Snoop Dogg withdrew his application for a visa to Australia last year when he failed to pass the character requirements for a visa, after pleading no contest to gun and drug charges in the United States.


FOI investigation into Sydney public hospital conditions

A Seven News investigation has revealed hospital blunders have led to dozens of serious injuries or deaths. Secret internal documents detail the errors in Western Sydney hospitals, and outline a two year review of investigations into blunders that can mean the difference between life and death. 61 people have died following serious mistakes over the past two years. The reasons for these deaths have until now been kept under wraps, because the information is not made public. Those reasons include surgical material or instruments left inside patients, procedures performed on the wrong patient or wrong body part, and incorrect diagnosis.

Furthermore, a report in 2006 led to a raft of recommendations, but 40 percent of them were ignored, and 20 percent were implemented after serious delays.

Warren Anderson's 16 year old daughter died after a bungled treatment for a fractured skull. "Vanessa should have been walking out of that hospital totally healthy," he said. He added, "Change the system that killed my daughter to make it a safe system. That's the apology I want from Reba Meagher." Health Minister Reba Meagher wouldn't comment, but she apologised to Mr Anderson.

Shadow Health Minister Jillian Skinner said, "I'm shocked with the extent of these deaths, given the government has denied them, is not reporting them, is failing to come clean with the extent of problems in our hospitals."


Rudd determined to push through school accountability

The Howard agenda lives! Curriculum reform seems to have dropped off the agenda but we must be thankful for small mercies, I guess

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is preparing for an all-in brawl with the states and unions over his plan to test schools and sack underperforming teachers. Mr Rudd has outlined his policy to rank schools across the country to give parents the ability to compare the performance of different public schools. Under the scheme, schools continuing to underperform after an injection of funds would be expected to take radical steps to lift their game - such as sacking the principal and teachers, or merging with another school. "There may be a bit of argy bargy on the way through but I think it's time to do this," Mr Rudd told Fairfax radio today. "We're prepared to have an argument if that's necessary ... you can't simply allow our kids to be in schools which are consistently underperforming."

Education Minister Julia Gillard has defended the plan to sack underperforming principals and teachers, saying it would be worse to do nothing. Asked if it was a smart move to sack teachers when they were in such high demand, Ms Gillard told ABC radio: "What's not smart is having underperforming schools year after year, decade after decade, not even measuring it, not even recognising it's happening and not even doing anything about it." The Government wanted transparency in school performances and was prepared to bring new resources to make a difference to disadvantaged schools, she said.

Under the plan schools would only be compared with other schools with a similar student population and if there were differences in performance outcomes between comparable schools, then they could be addressed. "What you should measure is if you've got like student populations ... and you can see one school that's rocketing up the attainment level and the other school that's falling behind, then you can go into this school and say; `What's happening here? What are the teachers doing? What's the principal doing? What are the parents doing that's making a difference?," Ms Gillard said. "You can take that best practice to the school that's falling behind."

Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson, a former education minister, said the laws minced legislation introduced by the Coalition government. The test for Mr Rudd was to use the laws to withhold funding from schools that did not provide information on student and school performance, he said. "The real challenge for Mr Rudd is ... will he now withhold funding from those state government and non-government schools that do not comply?" Dr Nelson said. "Mr Rudd has the power now to withhold money from states that have not complied with this, and the challenge for him is will he do so."


Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Once again climate issues lead today's posts. Three current articles below

Tim Blair has a laugh at the Warmists

I've fallen for an older woman. The oldest, in fact. Mother Nature, in the form of planet Earth, is about 4.5 billion years old. Way older than even Madonna. She's not exactly a looker, either, what with her girth of 40 million metres and mass of 12 billion tonnes. Frankly, Nature's the type of unconventional gal that Mt Isa's mayor John Molony might have been thinking about when he invited "beauty challenged" women to seek love in his female-needy town. Planet Earth doesn't just have stretch marks. She's got planar rock fracture fault lines all the way from South Australia to South America.

But she's also pretty hot. And getting hotter, if certain scientists and politicians are to be believed. Hot girls always attract bad press, and Mother Nature is no exception. Last week this saucy sphere was blamed for the death of Colette the whale. "Nature must be allowed to take its course," reported the Los Angeles Times. Closer to home, the Batemans Bay Post Star wrote: Nature is cutting its losses. So terribly cold! Reading these Colette-killing slurs, you'd almost think Mother Nature is just a kind of nebula-formed sun-orbiting Roberta Williams with tectonic plates. But to me she's much, much more than that.

Looks aren't everything. A sense of humour is sexy, and Mother Nature has the cutest joke sensibility since Dorothy Parker. Just like Parker - the celebrated New York writer and wiseass - Mother Nature reserves her cruellest jokes for those who seek to be closest to her. She's irresistible, this massive mother. When then-PM of Britain Tony Blair tried to cozy up to Mother Nature in 2005, he was repaid with chilling scorn. "Why does it always snow when I'm going to talk about global warming?" asked the puzzled PM, following a series of cursed commentaries. That's just the way Mother Nature rolls, Tone.

Ask Al Gore about it. Al's been trying to love it up with Ms Earth for years, but he routinely cops a wet and cold slap to the chops for his trouble. In 2004, Gore delivered a speech on global warming in New York City. Instead of welcoming his help, Mother Nature turned on one of the coldest days in the city's history. Gore was ridiculed even more than usual, which is one hell of lot of ridicule.

Thereafter, no matter where Gore takes his global warming message, awful cold seems to follow. He appeared in Australia two years ago for a series of global warming talks and somehow provoked snow in November. Mother Nature hates a suck-up. To this day, wherever unseasonable cold strikes, someone online will immediately ask: Is Al Gore in town?

Poor Tim Flannery. He's one of Mother Nature's most dedicated suitors, yet the elderly orb makes fun of him at every chance. She appears to single him out for special cruelty. On June 11, 2005, the ABC reported Flannery's prediction that the ongoing drought could leave Sydney's dams dry in just two years. Two years later, to the very day, the ABC ran this news item: "Sydney's largest dam, Warragamba, has received 43mm of rain since Thursday, while the region's smaller dams got a better soaking, including the Upper Nepean which got 108mm." The torrent of rain was so great that water restrictions have been lifted.

Flannery also predicted deadly dam-drying doomspells in Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth. In every city, great dam-filling rainfall followed. Five months ago, for example, Flannery announced: "The water problem is so severe for Adelaide that it may run out of water by early 2009." Mother Nature's response was 15 rainy days in a row beginning on July 30, the longest stretch since 1891. Even if no more rain falls, Adelaide's dams (now 61 per cent full) won't run dry until August 2010, going by current useage rates. This is what Old Lady Nature does to people who like her. Ain't she wicked?

The latest case of Mother meanness is so beautiful its almost transcendent. Earlier this year a film company shot a global warming-themed telemovie in Sydney. Scorched - starring Georgie Parker, Cameron Daddo and Vince Colosimo - is meant to depict events in 2012, when there has been no rain for 240 days and the whole place is toast. So the production crew went out looking for hot, horrible locations. Cue Mother Earth and that playful sense of humour. "It began raining in Sydney and didn't stop," reports online movie mag Urban Cinefile.

Scorched director Tony Tilse couldn't believe it. "Unfortunately, it was like Ireland," he said. "Everything became green, the trees were blossoming." How dreadful. Mother Nature had one more trick up her ample sleeve. Noting that Scorched goes to air on August 31, Mother turned on our coldest August in a decade. Folks tuning in to this heatwave horror show will be shivering as they watch, and not because of fear. Who knows what this cosmic comedienne will get up to next? Like the lady herself, you can bet it will be big.


Greenies trying to make new power station a 'white elephant'

The proposed federal emissions trading scheme would turn a $750 million Chinese-backed Victorian power station into a taxpayer-funded white elephant, according to legal advice. Lawyers acting for a coalition of environment groups have told the state and federal governments that the HRL-Harbin plant would not be eligible for assistance under the ETS, costing its backers $50million a year in pollution charges.

The two governments have pledged $150million for the Latrobe Valley plant in the hope it can eventually be configured for carbon capture and storage. The 400MW plant was approved by the Brumby Government on the eve of the release of the Garnaut report into climate change, but legal advice says it has missed the deadline for compensation. Lawyers from the Environment Defenders Office found that under the Rudd Government's proposal for an ETS, only existing coal-fired plants would win compensation, with the cut-off date set at June 3 last year.

"The HRL proposal will not meet the eligibility criteria for compensation as a 'strongly affected industry' even on the most generous assumption as to the cut-off date," their advice says. Mark Wakeham, the campaign director of Environment Victoria, which commissioned the advice, said the lost compensation rendered the plant uneconomic. "If the carbon price is just $20 a tonne, which is at the lower end of what is likely, HRL would have to buy $50million worth of carbon pollution permits a year just to operate," he said. "This is likely to make the project uncompetitive against renewable energy and gas-fired electricity generation."

Amid the warnings over the HRL plant's future, gas giant Santos has announced a 500MW, $800million power plant in Victoria, which could be doubled in capacity by 2020.

Environment Victoria is sending the legal advice to potential financiers of the HRL-Harbin plant. The plant uses gasification and drying technology to reduce CO2 emissions by about 30per cent compared with a conventional brown coal station. Even accounting for this, Environment Victoria said it would produce up to 2.5 million tonnes of CO2 a year. It would have to buy permits for this output unless geosequestration emerges as a viable option by its 2012 completion date. Premier John Brumby conceded in an interview with The Australian this month that Victoria, and the rest of the world, faced some major problems if geosequestration did not work. It is believed trials of the technology in natural gas cavities in the state's west are showing promising results, but commercial application is some time away.

HRL, a Victorian company that was formed out of the remnants of the former State Electricity Commission, would not comment except to say: "The rules for and the level of assistance under the draft Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme are not yet finalised." Harbin is a massive Chinese-based manufacturer and operator of coal-fired power stations.



A PHENOMENON of the increasingly tense debate on the Rudd Government's carbon policies is the unwillingness of the protagonists to quantify the risk for Australian workers.

The headline-grabbing Business Council statement on companies endangered by the proposed approach does not do so. Nor have its previous statements on the issue. Rudd Government ministers, not surprisingly, do not do so, although their frequent assurances that the policies will be economically responsible are a dog-whistle attempt to signal to workers (voters) that their interests are in mind. No trade union statement, even those expressing concern, does so. Not even leading federal Opposition spokesmen, Brendan Nelson, Malcolm Turnbull and Greg Hunt, attempt to quantify how many jobs might be in the firing line.

The environmental activists, who have been quick to rail against the BCA and other critics of carbon charges, naturally never mention this point, although they will try to claim job opportunities for their radical programs. The Greens are in the van of trying to paint over the economic threats by claiming that lost jobs in energy-intensive industry will be replaced in "clean" businesses. They bolster this by pointing to the high voter concern about global warming and support for programs that will deliver abatement.

However, recent polling by Essential Media Communications showing that 72 per cent of the people it interviewed supported the introduction of emissions trading also showed that half of those polled admit they do not know what it is.

It would seem a fair guess that these voters also don't know that Australian energy-intensive firms in the firing line of high carbon charges directly employ more than 165,000 people in the food and beverage industry, 64,000 in textiles, clothing and footwear, more than 162,000 in pulp and paper making and printing, 35,000 in non-metallic minerals production, more than 2000 in liquefied natural gas processing, about 100,000 in the petroleum, plastics and chemicals industries, more than 141,000 in metals production, 195,000 in manufacturing of equipment and machinery and about 60,000 in other factories.

This adds up to 924,000 workers and is a Howard government calculation used and accepted earlier this decade in talks on greenhouse gas abatement with both business and environmental non-government organisations. It is now several years out of date. The energy-intensive manufacturing sector claims that the total number today is actually about 1.1 million.

These are people directly employed by trade-exposed, energy-intensive companies. Many more are the beneficiaries of jobs that flow from the output of these TEEI companies. The large plastics business Qenos, for example, says in its submission to Ross Garnaut that it employs 800 people in Melbourne and Sydney and its products are the key material for downstream manufacturers employing another 10,000.

There is no way of knowing how many of these jobs - direct and indirect - will be lost under a high carbon cost regime, but recently announced redundancies in Australian manufacturing are a guide to how difficult it is for local businesses to compete against lower operating costs overseas. What's missing in the Australian carbon debate is the upfront acknowledgement of the big extra risk inherent in driving up power and gas bills that make up a substantial part of energy-intensive firms' operating costs.

None of the claims by the environmental movement and others about what a costly energy revolution could deliver in new jobs exceeds about a quarter of a million people, and this over a much longer time frame than the next few years, which is when new carbon taxes would affect existing businesses, especially those vulnerable to global cost pressures.

In this context, it is interesting to reflect on the views of Ian Macdonald, Minister for State Development, Energy, Minerals Resources and Primary Industries in NSW, who has the largest energy and energy-intensive constituency after federal ministers.

In a virtually unreported meeting with trade-exposed industries in Sydney in June, Macdonald said: "The wrong (emissions trading) policy framework could be disastrous for the economic prosperity of this state and the country." He told 150 industry participants in the meeting that it is of concern to the NSW Government that they could be forced to carry substantial extra costs when there are a number of other factors causing upward pressure on electricity prices and, he said, it was looking as if emissions trading could double power prices in the eastern seaboard electricity market.

NSW manufacturers, the largest factory sector in the country, employ more than 300,000 people, contribute $31 billion to the national economy and earn $10 billion annually in export revenue. "I shudder to think how the wealth and job-creating industries of NSW will cope," Macdonald told the meeting. The Rudd Government, he warned, "has to devise the scheme carefully so as not to send the economy in to freefall".

Macdonald's argument is that, while an emissions trading scheme is necessary to help drive Australia's greenhouse gas abatement, "it must not cause havoc to wealth-creating industries."

The task force the states employed in 2006-07 to study emissions trading, Macdonald pointed out, highlighted the importance of providing adjustment assistance to energy-intensive, trade-exposed industry.

If the core issue, as Macdonald told the meeting of trade-exposed industries is "jobs, jobs and more jobs", then the present advertising campaign to sell federal greenhouse gas policies is more about misleading and deceiving the public than helping it to make an informed judgment. A company behaving like that would be in breach of the Trade Practices Act.


Aussie men eating more meat pies

Note for American readers: Most pies sold in Australia contain minced or cubed meat, not fruit. The meat pie is Australia's national food. I LOVE meat pies and eat them frequently -- both for breakfast and for dinner

DOWNTRODDEN blokes are biting back and sending meat pie sales soaring. One of Australia's biggest pie maker, Patties, has announced a 10 per cent jump in sales and says fed-up men are fuelling the surge. "Blokes are sick of being told what they can and can't eat," Patties marketing manager Mark Connolly said. "They've had a gutful of it and are going back to living by their own rules. "If they feel like having a pie and a few beers, they'll have a pie and a few beers."

Patties holds over half the Australian market for pies, sausage rolls and pasties. Its brands include Patties, Herbert Adams and the iconic Four'N Twenty range. The Melbourne-based firm reported an 8.6 per cent overall profit rise in the 2007-08 financial year. Pie sales were slightly down the year before, in a fall blamed on unusually hot weather.

The success of its blokiest brand, Four'N Twenty, follows an advertising campaign ridiculing salads. Mr Connolly called meat pies "the nearest thing we've got to a national cuisine". He said strong sales at supermarkets were matched by a 10 per cent jump at sporting venues, despite a constantly growing range of alternatives. "Pies keep selling and selling," Mr Connolly said. "At the end of the day they can't move the more trendy stuff."

Road worker Grant Dye said there was nothing better than a hot pie on a cold day. "A good meat pie is chunky and nice and tender," Mr Dye said. "It doesn't worry me what brand it is as long as it's nice and fresh."

Spotless, which caters for the Melbourne Cricket Ground, said pies were only one of a broad range of food options now, but remained a staple seller. Any growth in sales would reflect the growth in attendances, a spokeswoman said. "There are more people going to venues and more events held at the MCG. "If it is due to anything, it would be due to the increased patronage."

But Mr Connolly said tradition and tighter economic times were also factors. But it was more about manpower. "They're not that complicated. They just want to be left to their own devices," Mr Connolly said.


Tasmanian hospitals festering, warns doctors' boss

ACUTE staff shortage in the Launceston General Hospital's emergency department is part of a problem festering across the entire hospital system, the Australian Medical Association says. Outgoing AMA state president Haydn Walters said hospitals appeared likely to suffer across-the-board staff shortages, making them extremely expensive to run - and warned that the state's health bureaucracy needed to become more doctor friendly.

Prof Walters said the department was about 10 years late in realising that doctors were not ratbags who needed to be kept in line. He said the LGH risked following the Mersey and Burnie hospitals, reliant on $2500 a day specialist locums and overseas-trained doctors - and parts of the Royal Hobart Hospital were also at risk. Prof Walters said doctors were voting with their feet.

His criticism of the department's "can't-do culture" was rejected by Health and Human Services Department secretary David Roberts. Mr Roberts, who was lured to Tasmania from the UK in January, said he was impressed by the department's innovative "can-do culture". He said he had witnessed a long hard slog of reform in the UK that enabled its hospitals to get a grip on similar emergency department problems. He said a key innovation in emergency departments - already embraced by LGH doctors - was a new acute physician's role where doctors were trained to deal with a broad range of medical problems, not unlike a general practitioner.

Mr Roberts said he had an open door policy, regularly meeting with doctors and nurses: "Doctors are coming with ideas on how we can reform ... I'm pleased to back them." Mr Roberts said Prof Walters' gloom and doom scenario - and his view that North-West hospitals had become dependant on locums - was wrong, but conceded the Mersey hospital had struggled. "It will pick up," he said.

Mr Roberts said apart from some hard-to-fill posts, Tasmanian hospitals were not having major difficulties recruiting doctors. "Our doctor shortage is not as severe as some of the mainland states," he said. [THAT'S a consolation!]

Prof Walters said the ranks of doctors who were committed to living and working in Tasmania for the long term, continued to thin. He said among those bearing the brunt of the LGH crisis were interns - doctors just out of medical school who were feeling exposed and vulnerable - as a growing number of experienced professionals who supervised them voted with their feet. Prof Walters, also from the UK, said he had nothing against overseas-trained doctors, but for the sake of stability and cost control, they needed to be balanced by local doctors.

He will step down in two weeks to begin a sabbatical.


Wee Andy gets the boot

Hurrah! The far-Left and bright-Green Scot is fired at last. Somewhere the penny has dropped: Aiming your paper at only half the audience is not the way to maximize circulation.

The Age's editor-in-chief Andrew Jaspan has been replaced one day after Fairfax Media announced 550 jobs would go at its Australian and New Zealand operations.Senior deputy editor Paul Ramadge will step into Mr Jaspan's role as acting editor-in-chief until a permanent choice made, the company said in an internal email.

"The company has decided that for this next critical stage of The Age we would have fresh editorial and executive leadership," said Don Churchill, chief executive and publisher of Fairfax's metropolitain and community publishing.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pathetic NSW conservatives wavering on privatization

Any conservatives worthy of the name support privatization of government businesses. So why is the NSW opposition not enthusiastically supporting privatization of the NSW electricity industry? The letter below from the NSW Labor party treasurer (Michael Costa) is full of good conservative thinking. It is as much a credit to a nominally Leftist writer as it is a condemnation of the alleged NSW conservatives

There is no question the Government does not have the numbers in the upper house in its own right to pass its electricity restructuring bill. If the legislation is to go ahead it must have the support of the Opposition. Barry O'Farrell said on the weekend his decision would be based on his party's "philosophical beliefs [and] what's in the best interests of the state". On these two criteria alone the Opposition will be supporting the Government.

Stripping away all the noise and drama that has surrounded this debate, at its heart has always been one fundamental challenge: how do we deliver the additional electricity generation the experts have said we need and need soon, without hindering our ability to provide other crucial infrastructure or cripple the state's finances? The Government's strategy - a strategy that has now been debated for 12 months - meets this challenge.

The Government's plans to reform the NSW power industry have now undergone no less than four inquiries, which started with Professor Anthony Owen's identification of a looming shortfall of baseload power. His report said $15 billion would need to be spent to meet the state's power needs if the Government retained ownership of the industry. The most recent review, last week's report by the Auditor-General, gave the process a tick and warned that any further delays would endanger energy security.

A rural community impact statement established there will be benefits from the Government's reforms in terms of jobs and investment in rural and regional NSW and that the consumer protections in place ensured there would be no adverse effects on the community. Both the Auditor-General's report and the rural community impact statement were requirements of the Opposition. But the Opposition's initial reaction to these reports shows them scratching around for excuses to avoid stating a position, none of which stand up to scrutiny.

They have raised the Auditor-General's suggestion that a reserve price be set for the transactions. The calculation of retention values - that is, the cost of keeping the businesses in Government hands - involves discounting estimated future dividends, tax equivalents and any future equity injections or capital returns under state ownership. The reserve price follows on from this. The Government will, of course, have this figure. But it should be pointed out Treasury's transaction strategy already sets out that retention values are to be calculated for each of the businesses before calling for expressions of interest.

The Opposition is also ignoring the $15 billion we would need to spend on the state's power needs - by carrying out the Government's plans the state is already at least $15 billion ahead. No excuse there, Barry.

On market timing, the Auditor-General makes the point that no one is able to predict what future market conditions will be. Indeed his report says there is no guarantee conditions will not deteriorate further. But it also points to the successful privatisation program of power assets being carried out in Singapore. The first sale of a Singaporean generator has been successfully undertaken for $3.2 billion, which was more than 50 per cent debt funded. On the basis of strong investor interest, the Singapore Government is set to continue with its sale of retail and generation assets. Yes, current market conditions are challenging, but the Singapore experience shows that the world hasn't stopped. No excuse there, Barry.

The Auditor-General's report does not recommend the lease of generators be delayed until the Commonwealth's emissions trading scheme (ETS) legislation is passed, as the Opposition tried to argue last week. The Auditor-General did recommend the generation transactions not take place "until ETS details are known". That will happen at the end of the year with the release of Senator Penny Wong's white paper, after which a generator will be placed on the market. The Auditor-General says there is "no evidence to question this approach". No excuse there, Barry.

The Opposition is right to point out that the obstacles to reform encountered 10 years ago have already cost the state billions of dollars. This makes it even more important that we act now before taxpayer value is further eroded. On the basis of the overwhelming evidence in favour the assessment should be easy, yet the Opposition is struggling to come to a final decision.

That this issue has been difficult for Labor, with its public sector union base, is obvious. But O'Farrell has no such political constraints, other than a lack of political courage. If he fails this test the Government will, as it must, seek other ways to keep the lights on in NSW. But the price of O'Farrell's folly would be readily apparent, and would run into billions of dollars.


Breast milk bank closes doors due to lack of funding

There's billions for Greenie nonsense but nothing for tiny babies in danger of death??

QUEENSLAND'S only breast milk bank has run dry after a government funding failure which has put babies' lives at risk, midwives claim. The Gold Coast-based bank was one of only two in Australia set up to help save the lives of sick and premature infants unable to get milk from their mothers. It operated with financial donations and volunteer help for 18 months at Tugun's John Flynn Private Hospital, but has been forced to close after promised federal funding never materialised.

Milk bank director and midwife Marea Ryan said funding for the milk bank was committed by the Howard Government after a federal parliamentary inquiry into breast feeding last year. But after the change of federal government the money never made it to Queensland, leaving babies and mothers "in limbo". "It's very upsetting and frustrating because we get requests for milk every day," Ms Ryan said. "We need a milk bank for babies who can't get their nutritional needs met by their mothers. Donated milk can prevent serious infection in babies, save lives and greatly improve health outcomes." Ms Ryan said one of the biggest killers of premature babies, necrotising enterocolitis, could be prevented by feeding babies donated breast milk instead of formula.

Gold Coast mother Lisa Nielsen volunteered to help the milk bank after being forced to feed formula to her seven weeks' premature first child, Isabel, now 2, while waiting for her milk to come through. Ms Ryan said federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon and state counterpart Stephen Robertson were hopeful funding could be found.


Party balloons banned -- for the "environment"

The simple magic of helium balloons has been popped - councils all over Sydney are banning them. One kill-joy council ranger even attempted to stop a toddler playing with a balloon at a local festival. The bureaucrat from Canada Bay Council threatened a priest handing a helium balloon to two-year-old Lewis Sylvester at the Five Dock Ferragosto festival last week. The ranger rounded on the priest with the terse warning: "I've already told you once. You can't hand out those balloons, it's an offence."

Lewis's father Phil Sylvester, a 2GB radio producer for the Chris Smith program, couldn't believe his ears. Canada Bay is among the increasingly officious councils that have outlawed helium balloons. Marrickville and Willoughby have banned them while Manly and Waverley have gone a step further and banned both helium and regular balloons. Sutherland Council, meanwhile, provides their own biodegradable balloons at events.

Under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act it is an offence to release 20 or more "lighter than air" balloons at the same time, with a fine of $200 for an individual and $400 for a corporation.


Storm over 'ghost' public hospital wards

VICTORIAN Health Minister Daniel Andrews is at the centre of a growing political storm over claims that hospitals have been falsifying patient records to win government funding. The State Opposition, the Australian Medical Association and an independent health policy institute have expressed dismay at Mr Andrews' refusal to investigate the claims, which are believed to involve some of the state's leading public hospitals. "This is an unconscionable state of affairs and must be investigated," Australian Health Policy Institute director Stephen Leeder said.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon last night intervened in the row, warning that evidence of "fudged" patient data would be of serious concern to the Government as it negotiates new funding agreements with the states and territories. Mr Andrews last night was refusing to launch an investigation, repeating that he did not believe the allegations.

The row erupted after The Age revealed that Victorian hospitals had been accused of manipulating patient data, creating "phantom wards" and inconsistently measuring waiting times to meet State Government benchmarks for bonus payments. A survey of 19 emergency department directors by the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine found almost 40% of hospitals had been "admitting" patients when they were, in fact, still languishing in emergency department waiting rooms, corridors or on trolleys. The "virtual wards" were used purely for "creative accounting", the doctors said.

Similar allegations about NSW hospitals falsifying patient data to rort funding were investigated by the NSW Health Department last year and have been referred to the state's Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Australian Medical Association president Rosanna Capolingua said allegations of hospitals acting fraudulently should be investigated to ensure new health care agreements were not rorted in the same way. Dr Capolingua said benchmarks should not encourage rorting that would undermine efforts to improve the health system. ''We need to make sure there is transparency, honesty and no perverse incentives in the benchmarks," she said.

Professor Leeder of the Health Policy Institute said the Victorian emergency doctors' claims could be more widespread than thought and must be investigated by the State Government. "If you do not have a person going around checking on what people are doing when they are recording and coding information, all evidence suggests there will be errors, random, systematic and perverse," he said.

Opposition health spokeswoman Helen Shardey said the allegations must be investigated to ensure Victoria's health system was measured properly and did not jeopardise its position under the new health care agreements. "It's extraordinary that a health minister would not want to investigate this immediately," she said. "It displays ignorance and it says he does not trust the people running our hospitals."


Bulls**t Watch - Rising Sea to Drown 600,000 Australian Homes

A real sea-level rise of a few centimetres becomes a prophesied rise of metres! Comments below from rural publication "Agmates"

The Courier Mail and ABC radio continues on with its Climate Change scare mongering and hence register on our Bulls**t Watch. The headline screams “Homes at Risk from rising sea”. in todays Courier Mail. Online the headline reads: “Sea level rise from climate change ‘underestimated’.”
“THE speed at which the climate is changing has been significantly underestimated, with thousands of Australian homes potentially at risk from rising sea levels, a conference has heard.
Ports, harbours and airports situated near the ocean are also vulnerable to the immediate effects of climate change, said keynote speaker Jo Mummery. Preliminary modelling has found that if there is a rise in sea levels, 269,505 houses could be at risk in NSW and 2,875 houses in the NT.”

And again on ABC Radio: “Australian expert says sea levels to rise four metres”
“Dr Jo Mummery, from the Department of Climate Change, told the delegation that if sea levels rose just one metre - exclusive pockets of the Gold Coast would be completely washed out. She says if water enters a 200 metre buffer zone almost 559,000 residential buildings would be affected across the country.”

In both the Courier Mail Report and the ABC they quote:
“The head of the climate change unit at the Australian National University and science adviser to the federal Government, Professor Will Steffen, says he believes the scientific community is underestimating the speed at which the climate is changing. “The evidence over the past 12 to 18 months suggests that we have underestimated how fast this aspect of the earth’s system can change,” he said.”

Are you alarmed yet? Don’t be - Below is a graph showing actual sea level rises from 1991 to 2005.

And in the last 12 months sea levels have actually fallen almost 10mm.

Since global warming plateaued in 2001 sea levels have risen just 5mm or so in 7 years. Even the alarmist IPCC reports predicts sea levels will rise 50cm by 2100.
Here is a graph of sea level changes over the last 24,000 years. The graph shows that sea levels in Australia have risen 20 metres or so in the last 8,000 years.

And in the last 128 years they have risen less than 20cm.

It’s difficult to take scientists seriously who make such outlandish predictions of sea levels rising 1-4 metres in the next 90 years. Those claims immediatley register on the Agmates Bulls**t meter.


Monday, August 25, 2008


The looming destruction from foolish government climate policies is still focusing a lot of minds in Australia. Today's offerings lead off with three articles on climate issues -- and a cartoon to check out

Zeg on climate

In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG almost feels sorry for Kevvy Rudd -- seeing the pickle that his climate follies have got him into.

High costs of Rudd's climate policies not being acknowledged

You can't blame politicians for being wary about levelling with the voters. From Norman Tebbit's exhortation to the unemployed in Thatcher's Britain to get on their bikes to Malcolm Fraser's observation that life wasn't meant to be easy, unpalatable truths don't go down so well. And that was in the class-bound politics of the 1970s. Now, in the era of post-materialism, the politician's tendency to avoid being the bearer of bad tidings has become more pronounced.

Labor is still basking in the glow of ratifying the Kyoto Protocol and burnishing its environmental credentials while pushing ahead with the task of introducing emissions trading in 2010. But there is a growing disconnect between the politics and the policy of climate change. The Rudd Government is eschewing telling Mr and Mrs North Ryde what saving the planet will mean for them.

Emissions trading will reach into every nook and cranny of the economy, changing the prices of all manner of goods and services with flow-on effects for incomes and jobs. Yet so far this has been largely a business story as industry groups have highlighted the economic impact of the design choices cabinet is pondering. The Government has avoided broader debate by promising to cut the fuel excise to offset the impact of emissions trading on petrol prices for at least the first three years of the scheme. Thus has the vital issue been (temporarily) defused. This was probably the political price that had to be paid for introducing emissions trading.

But the pity is that it shows the Government is unwilling to tell voters how they will have to change their behaviour if they really want to save the planet. Let's dig a bit deeper into petrol and cars to illustrate the magnitude of these changes. The Government is likely to adopt a target of reducing Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent of 2000 levels by 2020. Passenger vehicles in Australia emitted 42.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent gases in 2006. A "20 by 2020" target would require their emissions to be cut to 33.1 million tonnes by 2020.

The amount of greenhouse gases pumped into the atmosphere by car owners depends on how far they drive and how efficient their cars are. To get emissions down to 33.1 million tonnes by 2020 by driving less would involve everyone with a licence today getting on their bikes for one in every five kilometres and everyone who reaches driving age from today hitch-hiking. In fact, distances travelled in cars will rise as population and incomes grow. The Department of Climate Change projects that the distance travelled will increase by 20 per cent by 2020.

So will the target be met from driving more fuel-efficient cars? The average fuel efficiency of cars on Australia's roads in 2006 was 11.4 litres for every 100 kilometres. Taking into account the projected increase in distances travelled, arriving at the 2020 target by driving more abstemious vehicles would require improving average fuel efficiency to 6.7 litres per 100 kilometres. That would be the equivalent of replacing every one of the 14 million cars on the roads now with a Toyota Yaris.

We hear a lot about people turning to smaller cars because of high petrol prices. Yet in the past couple of years, average fuel efficiency of Australian cars has deteriorated. The department's projections - which assume a slowdown in the rate of growth in distance travelled, modest improvements in fuel efficiency and modest falls in petrol prices - show that if we continue with business as usual passenger vehicles will emit 49.3 million tonnes in 2020. That will be 20 per cent higher than 2000 levels.

Under the Government's emissions trading scheme there will be a limit on overall emissions. If cars overshoot the target, other sectors will make deeper proportionate cuts. The price of carbon will rise until it becomes cheaper to cut emissions. Economists reckon every 10 per cent rise in petrol prices will see car owners reduce their fuel consumption by 4 per cent in the long run. Petrol prices are already up 40 per cent since 2002. If we are to rely on prices alone to achieve the cuts in fuel consumption needed to meet the 2020 target, petrol prices will need to go up another 15 per cent.

The bottom line? Get on your bike. Or pay more. Saving the planet wasn't meant to be easy.


Check the climate facts before you believe the climate prophecies

By Jennifer Marohasy (An expert on water issues in the Murray/Darling system)

When Nicholas Stern released his influential British government report on the economics of climate change in October 2006, it said that the east coast of Australia had suffered declining rainfall. In the same year, the Howard government pledged an additional $500 million to stop the trend of rising salinity in the Murray River.

Three claims have been repeated so often they are accepted as fact: global temperatures are rising, we have less rainfall and so water is becoming scarce, and salinity in the Murray River is rising.

Of course there is the old adage: lies, damn lies, and then there are statistics. But we can keep it simple and just consider data from observations of the real world and from the most reputable institution since records began for the particular issue in which we are interested. It is important to not confuse real-world data (also known as observational data) with output from computer models because computer models generate scenarios that may or may not come true.

Observational data on rainfall for the entire east coast of Australia is available from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology with yearly averages for all the sites back to 1900. But, contrary to the Stern report, this chart does not show declining rainfall; rather, it indicates that rainfall was very low in the early 1900s, that there were some very wet years in the late '50s and early '70s, and overall the trend is one of a slight increase in rainfall during the past 107 years. Stern got it wrong, perhaps because he was confusing output from computer models with the real-world data. There are a lot of computer models that foretell dire environmental catastrophe that may not eventuate.

Rainfall data for the Murray-Darling Basin is also available from the Bureau of Meteorology. The overall trend is one of increasing rainfall since 1900. The past few years show below-average rainfall for the region and indeed there has been drought. The low river inflows have been exacerbated by more groundwater pumping, more plantation forestry, including in the upper Murrumbidgee, and more salt interception schemes along the Murray River.

Salt interception schemes evaporate water to trap the salt. In the '80s, computer models predicted that Adelaide's drinking water soon would be too salty to drink because of declining water quality and rising salinity levels in the Murray River. Measurements of salinity are recorded from many different sites along the Murray River, including at Morgan, which is immediately upstream from the offshoots from Adelaide's drinking water. The data from Morgan enables us to get an idea of how salt levels are trending in the real world, as opposed to computer-generated scenarios.

Concerns with salinity have resulted in levels being tested from the '30s. Salinity levels rose dramatically during the '70s and peaked at Morgan in 1982, which was a drought year. Then the Murray-Darling Basin Commission implemented a catchment-wide drainage management plan and started building salt interception schemes, and since then salinity levels have more than halved.

Measuring global temperatures is much more contentious than measuring salinity or rainfall. Issues include how to combine the data from all the weather stations across the globe and the data is usually presented as a temperature anomaly rather than, for example, just a global average. A temperature anomaly is derived from the average temperature for a specific but arbitrarily defined period and usually emphasises the extent to which temperatures have increased. The Bureau of Meteorology relies on the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in conjunction with the Hadley Centre of the British Met Office for its information on global temperatures. This information is available on the internet going back as far as 1850 and shows the deviation from the period 1961 to 1990.

But when global temperatures are presented just as a simple average with a vertical axis that spans the range of temperatures experienced in a place such as Ipswich (west of Brisbane) during a single year, the global rise in average temperatures is not that obvious because the mean temperature since 1850 has increased by less than 1C.

The data from the CRU is generally accepted as accurate by those who subscribe to the idea that carbon dioxide is driving dangerous man-made global warming. In contrast, many sceptics of man-made global warming argue that the only reliable measure of global temperatures is from satellites.

Ross McKitrick from Canada's University of Guelph argues that 50 per cent of global warming measured by land-based thermometers in the US since 1980 is due to local influences of man-made structures, also known as the urban heat island effect. There also have been issues with the additions and losses of weather stations; for example, many weather stations were lost in places such as Siberia with the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Thermometer temperature data has been collected in the polar regions only since the '40s and calculating the mean temperature at the poles is still difficult.

James Hansen, from the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has explained the general difficulty of measuring surface temperatures. "Even at the same location, the temperature near the ground may be very different from the temperature 5 feet (1.52m) above the ground and different again from 10 feet or 50 feet above the ground," he says. "Particularly in the presence of vegetation (say in a rainforest), the temperature above the vegetation may be very different from the temperature below the top of the vegetation. "A reasonable suggestion might be to use the average temperature of the first 50 feet of air either above ground or above the top of the vegetation. To measure SAT (surface air temperature) we have to agree on what it is and, as far as I know, no such standard has been suggested or generally adopted."

Given these difficulties, an alternative is to use temperature data from satellites. Since 1979, orbiting satellites have measured temperature in a completely different way from the traditional method of using thermometers. The satellites measure microwave radiation and the research focus has been on getting a broadly representative measure of lower atmosphere temperature.

The satellite data is available only since 1979, but it does give a good overview of how global temperatures have been trending during the past 30 years. Global temperatures peaked in 1998, associated with an El Nino warming event, then dropped quite dramatically before stabilising for a few years and dropping again recently. The satellite data on global temperatures indicates we presently have a global cooling, not a global warming, trend.

Many scientists, environmental activists and politicians have staked their reputations on the idea that global temperatures are going to keep steadily rising, so it is not surprising that they are ignoring the past few years of data from the satellites. But the stakes are very high. The Australian Government is planning to introduce an emissions trading scheme, also described as a carbon pollution reduction scheme, on the basis that that carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels is contributing to dangerous global warming.

Many people assume that such a drastic action is premised on good evidence establishing a proven causal link between anthropogenic carbon dioxide and global warming. But it is not, instead relying on computer models, claims of a scientific consensus and the belief that global temperatures continue to creep higher and higher. Many false claims are made about the state of our environment on an almost daily basis but, because most Australians are illiterate when it comes to science and maths, they are mostly just accepted.

Most Australians rely on television and newspapers for information about environmental issues. If this reporting incorporated some charts, in the same way business reporting does as a matter of course, then there might be at least some quality control. But, ultimately, good policy is going to require that a much larger percentage of Australians having a higher level of scientific literacy. The alternative is important policy continuing to be decided on hearsay rather than evidence because you just can't trust the environmental advocates. Indeed, they may care more about the environment than the truth.

Many people want to save the environment, but few people are confident of interpreting a chart or graph of scientific information on, say, water quality or global temperatures. So, when it comes to environmental issues most Australians just believe what the experts say. After all, people who care about the environment are the good guys, caring and trustworthy.

Furthermore, when it comes to issues such as global warming, we are told there is a consensus, that most scientists agree about most things and this should make us feel even more secure believing what they tell us about the sorry state of planet Earth. But who should check what the experts are saying about environmental issues, and at what point? When it comes to business issues, whether interest rates or commodity prices, we are shown charts, hard data, and people who are interested in the business issues would expect no less.

Environmental issues are very much like business issues: they are about numbers and trends. For example, business analysts are interested in whether the price of oil is going up or coming down and Al Gore tells us that global temperatures are going up. But if your next stock investment depended on what Gore was telling you the business market was doing, wouldn't you also seek information from other sources to be sure?


No, you are not all going to die from warming

By Andrew Bolt

I doubt any shire in Australia has tried as hard as Mornington Peninsula's to terrify ratepayers about global warming. The shire has even sent all residents a booklet, Climate change: What we are doing about it (no link), that warns that many of them could die from global warming over the next few decades:
Average annual temperature will rise by up to 3.5 degrees by 2070, placing greater stress on elderly residents and those living in older homes with inadequate insulation. The increased incidence of exteme heat days and heat waves, in conjuction with a growing and ageing population in the peninsula, has the potential to contribute to significant mortality in future decades...

Potential impacts: Ability to affect entire population, especially elderly and infants; 27,000 elderly, 8000 infants and young people; Increased mortality and morbidity in vulnerable groups.

You don't often come across scaremongering so brazen - or so wildly and irresponsibily exaggerated. Let me try to reassure the poor residents. Let's note, for a start, that that global temperatures haven't actually risen over the past decade. Let's note also that by 2070, we'll be so much richer that we can afford at the very minimum air-conditioners for everyone to save them from this allegedly apocalyptic heat.

But there is one more thing to consider. I had to go to hospital on Thursday and found the waiting time for treatment had blown out to hours. Reason? Winters, not summers, and cold, rather than heat, is what makes us sickest and most fills our hospitals. And we should fear global cooling far more than global warming: Some data? We are more likely to die in winter of temperature-related diseases:

Some data? We are more likely to die in winter of temperature-related diseases:
Bi, P., Parton, K.A., Wang, J. and Donald, K. 2008. Temperature and direct effects on population health in Brisbane, 1986-1995. Journal of Environmental Health ...

Bi et al. report that "death rates were around 50-80 per 100,000 in June, July, and August [winter], while they were around 30-50 per 100,000 in the rest of the year, including the summer," ... (T)he researchers further note that "it is understandable that more deaths would occur in winters in cold or temperate regions, but even in a subtropical region, as indicated in this study, a decrease in temperatures (in winters) may increase human mortality."

We are more likely to die of heart failure in cold weather :
THE winter months bring more than colds and flu, according to research showing people are more likely to suffer heart failure in the chilly season. A team of researchers examined the seasonal differences in hospital admissions and deaths in 2961 patients with chronic heart failure in South Australia over the past decade, and found a striking trend.... "(D)eaths in those diagnosed with heart failure were higher in winter and lowest in summer."

A recent New Zealand study confirms it's chilly days, not warm ones, that are deadliest to the old and very young:
From 1980-2000 around 1600 excess winter deaths occurred each year with winter mortality rates 18% higher than expected from non-winter rates. Patterns of EWM by age group showed the young and the elderly to be particularly vulnerable.

So global warming could actually cause fewer deaths from temperature-related illness:
In a review article published in the Southern Medical Journal, Keatinge and Donaldson (2004) of Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of London begin the main body of their text with a clear declaration of the relative dangers of heat and cold when it comes to human mortality: "cold-related deaths are far more numerous than heat-related deaths in the United States, Europe, and almost all countries outside the tropics, and almost all of them are due to common illnesses that are increased by cold.".

So what are the implications of global warming for human mortality? Keatinge and Donaldson state that "since heat-related deaths are generally much fewer than cold-related deaths" - and, we note, are comprised primarily of deaths that typically would have occurred a few weeks later even in the absence of excess heat - "the overall effect of global warming on health can be expected to be a beneficial one." As an example, and even including the early heat-harvesting of naturally-expected deaths, they report that "the rise in temperature of 3.6øF expected over the next 50 years would increase heat-related deaths in Britain by about 2,000 but reduce cold-related deaths by about 20,000."

And residents around Melbourne and such coastal areas actually have little to fear, according to a huge study Climate and mortality in Australia: retrospective study, 1979-1990, and predicted impacts in five major cities in 2030, that even had the alarmist CSIRO involved:
We conclude that the 5 largest Australian cities exhibit climate-attributable mortality in both summer and winter. Given the scenarios of regional warming during the next 3 decades, the expected changes in mortality due to direct climatic effects in these major coastal Australian cities are minor.

Bottom line: more Mornington Peninsula residents are likely to die of fright from their shire's propaganda than are likely to die from global warming. Shame on the shire.


Prominent surgeon accused of botched work

Only 12 years late

A PROMINENT surgeon accused of performing botched, incompetent and unethical operations over more than a decade could face disciplinary action. Toowoomba surgeon Darryl Wayne Bates is also accused of engaging in dishonest behaviour. The Medical Board of Queensland has referred Dr Bates to the Health Practitioners Tribunal alleging a pattern of misconduct by him.

Board documents filed in the District Court of Queensland reveal Dr Bates, who is on the Toowoomba and Darling Downs Medical Association executive committee, was found in an audit of patients by St Vincent's Hospital, Toowoomba, and the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons to have performed "suboptimal" surgery as far back as 1996.

In one operation it is alleged "a loop of intestine was mobilised from the pelvis and left without blood supply and attachment to the gut". The patient, who deteriorated and required further treatment at the Toowoomba Base Hospital, was found to have a 1cm-wide cut in their mid-small bowel by another surgeon.

Further incompetence allegedly took place between August 2003 and September 2005 in four cases at Toowoomba's St Andrew's Hospital, which filed a complaint against Dr Bates to the medical board. On August 14, 2006, he signed an undertaking to have restrictions placed on him by the medical board and later that month was told his conduct was being referred to a Professional Conduct Review panel. He is then alleged to have carried out four operations in January and February this year, contrary to his agreed restrictions.

When contacted by The Courier-Mail, Dr Bates deferred comment to his solicitor Harry McCay. Mr McCay chose not to provide a statement to The Courier-Mail. A directions hearing into Dr Bates's case has been set down for September 1 in the Health Practitioners Tribunal.


Girls, 14, 'rolling condoms on to plastic penises'

EXPLICIT sex-education lessons in WA schools are upsetting Muslims and Catholics. Prominent WA Muslim imam Abdul Jalil Ahmad called the lessons, where girls as young as 14 are rolling condoms on to plastic penises, "pornography in the classroom''. Peter Rosengren, editor of the Catholic Church's The Record newspaper, said such lessons were indicative of society's over-sexualisation of children.

A female Year-10 student from Rossmoyne Senior High School sparked the controversy after coming home distressed, following her participation in a class, as part of the Australian Medical Association's Dr Yes program. The 15-year-old's father, Axel Cremer, was furious his permission had not been sought. "It's outrageous,'' Mr Cremer said of the program, that is taught by medical students to about 10,000 children each year at about 150 public and private schools statewide. "My concern is the ethical standards and moral values of an education system that believes it has the right, without my permission, to get my daughter to put condoms on plastic penises.''

Rossmoyne principal Leila Bothams wrote to Mr Cremer, saying the school would have contacted him, but she had been unaware the program was being run for Year 10s.

Mr Cremer, who is a Muslim and whose daughter is also Muslim asked how many other parents statewide had not been consulted. He said the issue was not religious, but was about moral values. His other non-Muslim daughter was also outraged. Mr Cremer acknowledged students needed to know about sexually transmittable diseases and unwanted pregnancies, but said there were other ways to teach this.

Imam Ahmad said the lessons were "completely evil'' and should be banned by the Government. "That's pornography in the classroom,'' he said. Secular philosophy about sex education was problematic because it only focused on preventing pregnancy and disease, when it should also involve morality.

Mr Rosengren said as a husband and a father he also believed there should be consultation with parents. Issues within sex education -- relationships, intimacy, trust, fidelity and gender -- were the most important aspects of people's lives.

Education Department deputy director-general Margery Evans said the content of the program was consistent with the department's health and physical education syllabus and there were no plans to change it. It was "regrettable'' offence had been caused. But the ``isolated incident'' should be seen in context of thousands of students who had benefited from the program over its 10-year operation. AMA federal president Rosanna Capolingua said demonstrations were necessary because condom failure was often due to a lack of understanding about how they were used


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Climate response must protect jobs: Getting too far ahead on an ETS is bad economic policy

An editorial from "The Australian":

It is neither desirable nor remotely feasible, Ross Garnaut wrote in his interim report in June, "to seek to lower the climate change risk by substantially slowing the rise in living standards anywhere, least of all in developing countries." As Professor Garnaut noted, Australians would not accept such an approach. This is why the Business Council of Australia's "real world" analysis of the economic consequences of the Rudd Government's proposed emissions trading scheme is so effective and devastating.

It reveals that even with the Government's proposed compensation, three firms of the 14 companies that opened their books to Port Jackson Partners for the analysis would face a carbon cost so high they would close. Four others would be forced to review operations to remain viable after losing between 32 per cent and 63 per cent of pre-tax earnings. Many potential investments would be canned.

The companies, with annual revenues ranging from $90 million to more than $3 billion, are in cement manufacturing, petroleum refining, steel making, sugar milling and zinc and nickel refining. On average, the ETS would reduce their pre-tax earnings by 22 per cent, with the worst-affected suffering a 136 per cent reduction. The ETS will apply to 1000 Australian companies, each producing more than 25,000 tonnes of carbon pollution a year.

The ramifications of the BCA analysis are clear. Giving more compensation to trade-exposed high-emitters to stop them going broke or taking their businesses and jobs off shore would reduce the amount of compensation available to others. But without it, new investment and business growth would be decimated and unless remedied, growth in living standards would be substantially slowed - precisely the scenario Professor Garnaut acknowledged was unacceptable.

The analysis for the electricity generating sector, too, is sobering, warning that a 10 per cent emissions reduction target by 2020 involves a "major risk" to power supply and a lift in retail prices of 25 to 40 per cent.

It is hardly surprising, overall, that the report canvasses the notion that a less ambitious 2020 emissions target may be required. The Australian has argued consistently that a small nation such as Australia, emitting just 1 per cent of the world's greenhouse gases, is powerless alone to change global warming. This is why it would be foolish to jump ahead of the world in cutting emissions and compromising living standards.

At the same time, we need to assure the world of our willingness to co-operate in international efforts. The 2010 start-up of the ETS is one way of doing so. Another would be a broad-based carbon tax levied on fuel producers, sooner rather than later, at a realistic level, while concurrently gearing up for an eventual ETS to start at the same time that the world's largest industrial nations - including the US, China and India - introduce similar schemes.

Former Labor leader Mark Latham, writing in The Australian Financial Review this week, canvassed the benefits of the Government levying a carbon tax on fuel producers. The advantages, Mr Latham said, would be: "It is comprehensive in coverage and immediate in impact, as companies pass on the new costs to consumers." In its paper, the BCA canvassed a fixed carbon price of $10 to $20 a tonne. Some senior figures in the Government agree, at least in private, that this would be a more prudent approach than a more extravagent plan that would be rich in green symbolism but poor for the economy.

Opinions polls, including Newspoll, have showed consistently that a majority of Australians is prepared to pay more for energy, including petrol and electricity, to help curb global warming. Given this sentiment, a carbon tax with as few exemptions as possible would spread the economic impact of cutting emissions as broadly as possible, standing the best chance of protecting jobs and growth.

The BCA report acknowledged as much. A fixed carbon price of $10 to $20 a tonne, it argued, until an effective global agreement was finalised, would avoid the problem of trade exposed intensive industries investment needing to be outside a cap until there is a world scheme. It would also addresses the issue of potentially volatile emission prices.

There is also merit in the BCA's call for a more modest target for reducing emissions by 2020. A goal of a 10 per cent reduction from the 2000 level instead of the 2010 level might be more realistic, or even a target of holding them steady at 2000 levels.

While the ACTU and environmental groups dismissed the BCA concerns, the Rudd Government cannot afford such irresponsibility. The Government cannot go it alone on climate change without business, and it knows it. Wayne Swan has promised close scrutiny of the BCA's case. The Treasurer must also take on board the concerns of the Minerals Council of Australia and the warnings from the natural gas, cement and petrol refining sectors about the potential impact of the ETS. The ETS was the preferred option in the Government's green paper, but it does not preclude alternatives, including a simple, low-level carbon tax and waiting until our major trading partners adopt an ETS. Achieving a sound balance between climate and economic protection has emerged as the Government's big test.


Opinionated young Leftist emptyhead wises up about Israel

Rose Jackson, the former campaign manager for failed Labor candidate George Newhouse, has retracted anti-Zionist statements she made in 2006 as she attempts to clinch a seat on a Sydney local council with a large proportion of Jewish voters. The 23-year-old law student, who is the daughter of award-winning ABC journalist Liz Jackson, said two years ago she opposed Zionism because it calls for the creation of a Jewish state, "and I think all governments should be secular". "No Jewish, Islamic, Christian states anywhere in the world, just good, robust, secular democracies," Ms Jackson said in an email to an online chat group. "By speaking out on behalf of the Palestinians and Lebanese people, we can give voice to those that some governments and media would wish to silence."

But this week, as Ms Jackson prepares to run on the ALP ticket for Waverley Council in Sydney's east, which is home to a significant Jewish population, she admitted her comments, made when she was president of the National Union of Students, were "naive". "Looking back, I think I just bought the prevailing polemic on campus at the time that Israel was some sort of quasi-theocracy. Having explored the subject more deeply since then, I understand this is nonsense," she told The Australian Jewish News this week. "I realise I just misunderstood. Obviously, the state of Israel is not a state for the Jewish religion, but a homeland for the Jewish people.

"It's a really robust democracy; there are plenty of non-Jewish people in Israel who have full citizenship rights. "If there is discrimination, it's no worse than what would happen in Australia or America or anywhere else. I completely support Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state."

The chief executive officer of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Vic Alhadeff, said that while some of Ms Jackson's previous comments were "unfortunate", she had acknowledged that they were based on misunderstanding and she deserved credit for clarifying her remarks. "It would have been very easy for Ms Jackson to go along with the anti-Semitism of the far Left when she was president of the NUS," Mr Alhadeff told The Weekend Australian. "Instead, she chose the politically unpopular and risky path of speaking out against the anti-Semitism of the far Left, and she deserves credit for that."


Deadbeat public hospitals

Public hospitals are threatening the livelihood of small businesses across New South Wales by failing to pay their bills. Suppliers have been forced to suspend services or pursue legal action until tens of thousands of dollars worth of outstanding invoices are paid. Companies struggling to recoup unpaid bills range from a bakery, hardware store, taxi service and dairy supplier to fuel stations, a tyre dealer, software supplier, grower's market and confectioners. Medical providers - including pharmacists, physiotherapists and psychiatrists - have also been left as much as $40,000 each out of pocket.

Hospitals in the Greater Southern, Greater Western, South Eastern Sydney Illawarra and North Coast areas have among the biggest debts. "Most hospitals never pay their bills for months and most of the suppliers are too scared to create problems because they are threatened with losing their contracts," a NSW Health source said.

Belinda and Wayne Morrison, owners of Bels Gordon St Bakery in Port Macquarie, have supplied the town's hospital for nine years. But, in the past six months, the hospital's unpaid invoices have mounted to as much as $7000. "We are a small business and we do need cash flow," Mrs Morrison said. "It's frustrating having to chase money - especially when I give them goods and they get money back on the same day." The buns and cakes that her bakery supplies are sold at a profit by the hospital's cafeteria. "They sell them for quite a healthy profit." she said.

NSW Opposition health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner said the Government had an obligation to pay bills on time. "It's the lowest of the low for a big government agency to make suppliers hold out for payment of services and goods that they have supplied," she said. "It's mean and it's jeopardising some of those small businesses that have to pay their bills and staff on time - they struggle to stay afloat."

The Sunday Telegraph has learned of a case in which a fuel station refused to fill up area health service vehicles in the South Eastern Sydney Illawarra area because of unpaid hospital bills. Colin Richardson, managing director of Global Direction software suppliers, suspended services to Dubbo Base Hospital's pathology service in May after accounts of more than $22,500 were unpaid. "Now we have put them on pre-pay so they pay in advance," Mr Richardson said.


Australian teens' risky drinking "linked to" infertility

But not shown to CAUSE infertility -- as Queensland's Nick Martin points out -- deflating a finger-wagging American puritan

Heavy drinking by females in their teens and 20s may reduce their chances of motherhood later in life, new research has found. Previous studies have linked teenage drinking with risky sex and early motherhood. Now a study of Australian twins has shown that alcoholism in women resulted in later childbearing. The study by Washington University's school of medicine analysed the drinking habits and reproductive histories of two groups of Australian twins, born before and after 1964.

Researchers found female alcoholics in both groups had children later in life - a trend not repeated in male alcoholics in the groups. In the first group, comprising people born before 1964, 64per cent of female alcoholics had children compared with 78per cent of other women. In the second group, 38per cent of alcohol-dependent women had children, compared with 49per cent of other women. The study confirmed increasing alcoholism in women. Only 4per cent of women met the criteria for alcohol-dependency in the group born before 1964, compared with 15per cent for the group born after. The study did not consider what amount of alcohol consumption affected fertility.

Lead researcher Mary Waldron, of Washington University, said the study, to be published in Alcoholism: Clinical And Experimental Research in November, served as a warning against excessive alcohol consumption. Previous research examined risks to teens or adults but not both, Professor Waldron said. "Our findings highlight a risk associated with [alcohol dependence] in women that is not widely recognised - a risk that has assumed increasing importance given the increased rates of alcohol misuse by women, and particularly young women. "Young women who drink alcohol may want to consider the longer-term consequences for later childbearing. "If drinking continues or increases to levels of problem use, their ability and opportunity to have children may be impaired."

Nick Martin, a professor at Queensland Institute of Medical Research who took part in the study, said the links between alcohol and fertility were not conclusive. "This was about women with persistent drinking problems," Professor Martin said. "The observation is that they will have less reproduction and delayed reproduction. "While the affect may be hormonal, women with alcohol-dependency probably don't make good partners - that's another possible explanation. I think we have to consider the direct behavioural consequences of alcohol too."


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Couple flee to avoid compulsory medical treatment

Another case of DOCS (child welfare agency) harassing good parents over minor infractions while ignoring feral parents. Decent people are a lot easier to deal with, you see.

And the record of compulsory medical treatment is not at all good. The medical wisdom of today is often the iatrogenic disaster of tomorrow. Take the example of compulsory blood transfusions for Jehovah's Witnesses. It was eventually discovered that JWs had a higher survival rate WITHOUT transfusions than did people who got transfusions. As a result, use of transfusions is now much more guarded than it once was.

Fear of vaccines is widespread and objections to it should be regarded as a basic civil liberty in my view. How would YOU like people coming and injecting into you something you did not want? I myself know of no proven harm done by vaccines but people should be allowed to make up their own minds in such a contested area. I have myself had Hep B vaccinations

A Sydney couple are in hiding after the Department of Community Services (DoCS) took out a court order to have their three-day-old boy vaccinated against hepatitis B. The parents, from Croydon Park, fled their home on Thursday to avoid police and DoCS officers after refusing to have their son vaccinated at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. They told Fairfax newspapers they believe aluminium in the vaccine can cause him more damage than contracting the disease.

The infant's mother, who is from China, was diagnosed with hepatitis B several years ago, but both parents believe the illness, which can cause liver cancer and cirrhosis, can be managed more effectively than any potential neurological damage from the vaccine.

Vaccinations are not compulsory in Australia but it is NSW Health policy that babies born to hepatitis-B mothers are given the immunoglobulin within 12 hours of birth. The treatment is followed up with four more doses of the vaccine over six months.

The father, a financial adviser, is seeking an injunction against the court order. He told Fairfax doctors and midwives on the post-natal ward told him he and his wife would be arrested and they would lose custody of their child if he left the hospital without being vaccinated.

The Supreme Court order, obtained by DoCS, states the baby must be vaccinated by midnight on Thursday but the father is adamant they will stay on the run indefinitely.


Crooked medical journal

Refuses to print urgent warning to save embarassing medical bureaucrats

A taxpayer-funded medical journal has been accused of suppressing criticisms of flaws in patient medicine handouts that could have fatal consequences for thousands of Australians. The criticisms in a paper by five medical specialists reveal that alleged problems with the official advice for the drugs Cortate and Hysone are still unresolved, more than a year after the concerns were first publicised.

In the case of Cortate -- like Hysone an essential treatment for people with Addison's disease and some other hormonal conditions -- the consumer medicine information (CMI) handouts still advise patients not to take the drug if they have an uncontrolled infection. The paper by the five specialists says this is "dangerously incorrect" and patients taking the drug in fact need to double or even treble their dose to avoid serious illness. "If followed, such advice could lead to life-threatening consequences within 24-36 hours for some thousands of Australians who depend on glucocorticoid replacement," the paper says.

But the journal Australian Prescriber, part of the government-funded National Prescribing Service, faces claims it "nobbled" attempts to alert medical experts to the issue "to avoid a few red faces in Canberra", after it refused to publish the paper. The journal and its editor, John Dowden, may also face accusations they breached internationally accepted publishing procedures, by allegedly sending the five experts' paper to the Therapeutic Goods Administration for comment before the journal had decided whether to accept it. The TGA not only has ultimate responsibility to ensure CMI leaflets are accurate, it is entirely funded by fees charged to drug manufacturers.

In its response to Australian Prescriber, the TGA's national manager Rohan Hammett said a "careful review" of the CMI should allay any concerns over misinformation. The advice in Cortate's CMI regarding infections was not misleading, Dr Hammett said, because this appeared beneath a sub-heading "Before you take Cortate" -- which Dr Hammett said indicated it was only relevant to patients starting the drug, not those already on it.

The lead author of the rejected paper, Jim Stockigt -- a professor of medicine at Monash University -- said the approach of Australian Prescriber had been "amazing", and the journal had "fought tooth and nail to prevent dissemination" of concerns. "It's my feeling that this submission may have been suppressed or nobbled to avoid a few red faces in Canberra and to preserve the impression that all is well with Australian pharmaceutical product and consumer medicine information," Professor Stockigt said. "For those who depend on adrenal replacement for their survival, it is simply dangerous nonsense for the advice 'Do not take Cortate if you have an uncontrolled infection' to remain on the books."

In a letter to Professor Stockigt, Dr Dowden said the paper had been rejected because it was referring to letters printed in other publications a year earlier, it was not related to an article in Australian Prescriber, it was too long, allegations were included in the paper and an "external review did not support all the interpretations made in the correspondence".

After the paper's rejection Professor Stockigt consulted the British-based Committee on Publication Ethics for its views on Australian Prescriber's actions. The COPE's chairman, Harvey Marcovitch, replied that Australian Prescriber had either breached confidentiality by sending the paper to the TGA or, alternatively, the journal had "breached fundamental rules on the potential conflict of interest of reviewers".

A spokesman for Australian Prescriber said the journal had "robust and ethical editorial processes". "The decision not to publish in this case was made by the editorial executive committee and a full explanation was given to the authors," the spokesman said. "The committee stands by this decision."


School choice is 'guesswork' says Federal education boss

Julia Gillard says parents have no guarantee their child's school meets a minimum standard of education, acknowledging that choosing the best school is little more than guesswork. In an interview with The Weekend Australian, the Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister said parents choosing a school for their child were forced to rely on rumour and prejudice, rather than being able to make a decision based on facts. "A lot of guessing goes into the decision and there should be more objective information," she said. "Giving full information to people would mean that they can actually know what's going on and, rather than judging individual schools or school systems on the basis of myths, rumour, prejudice or perception, people would have the facts,"

Ms Gillard called on the states and territories to agree to greater transparency of school results and features. Inspired by the changes made in New York City by the education chancellor Joel Klein, Ms Gillard is proposing schools make public as much information as they can, from the qualifications of their teachers to comparing their students' performance and improvement against groups of similar schools.

One of the features of the New York system is that schools consistently failing to meet benchmarks are closed, giving parents confidence that their child's school is meeting expected standards. Asked whether parents could have the same confidence in Australian schools, Ms Gillard agreed they could not. "I'm not sure that is the case at the moment. Perhaps as worrying as that statement is, from the point of view of being the federal Education Minister, I couldn't tell because the amount of information that's available doesn't enable me to make that judgment in a meaningful way," she said. "So I think the more information that's available to parents, the better. "People will still make choices for a wide variety of reasons."

Speaking at his Manhattan office yesterday, Mr Klein said he and Ms Gillard spoke at length about the need for federal governments to set clear national standards in education. "There should be very strong national standards and national assessments so we can say what it actually means to graduate from a high school, rather than letting each state set its own benchmark," he said. "Australian children are going to have to compete with kids all over the world, so the opportunity to set really strong standards and make the information about them transparent to parents, to educators, to everybody, seems to me to be a very intelligent central government function."

He conceded that letter grading of schools, while important, was not fundamental to the transparency process. "Put it this way, if she (Ms Gillard) were to make everything transparent, showing progress, tying it to meaningful national assessments but without putting a letter grade on schools, she would have accomplished a great deal," he said. "I think the power of letter grades is that they focus the mind. But data and information will also focus the mind, and you never want the best to be the enemy of the good."

Ms Gillard envisages a system in which schools report their students' achievements and the progress they are making, which would be compared with a group of peer schools with a similar student population. She said school reports should also include the staffing numbers and qualifications, welfare indicators about the students and how it defines its mission. The Government is still determining how to report student and school achievement, whether as performance bands or levels of proficiency as in New York.

"Peer grouping methodologies are very important to enable genuine comparisons of like with like," she said. "We know that kids across the nation go to schools with a set of abilities and challenges and we know that schools that cater for disadvantaged communities tend to be working with more students who need extra assistance."

Ms Gillard said the purpose was not to shame schools and students, but to identify those in need of extra assistance, and share the methods used by the most successful schools. "What's got a negative reaction from many around the place is the sense that was pushed very strongly by the Howard government that all of this was going to be about raw scores," she said. "School leaders and schoolteachers I think would respond well to feeling there is going to be an objective measurement and understanding of the nature of the particular task they face."

The New York system is underpinned by giving schools resources, giving the principals the autonomy to spend them, and then hold the principals accountable for meeting their own goals. Schools must set goals each year and are expected to show an improvement in their students every year, so that even the top-performing schools will not receive the highest rating if their students show no improvement. Schools failing to meet benchmarks year on year are restructured or closed while those that perform well receive financial rewards.

Ms Gillard ruled out a system of rewards and penalties in Australia and said the Government was looking to direct extra resources to the areas of most need. "We're looking at a model about supplementing resources to make a difference for disadvantaged schools rather than a rewards-based model," she said. "One would be in a better position to work out which schools need extra assistance, a better position to then measure the difference that the extra assistance and implemented programs make. That evaluation would enable us to identify and spread best practice."

Ms Gillard said bringing greater transparency to school performance and characteristics would confer greater accountability in the system, and motivate schools to improve each year. "I do think transparency of information in and of itself will spur people to do better and they will all want to be seen to be doing better," she said.


Cholesterol drug linked to cancer deaths

Australian health authorities say they will review new information raising possible safety concerns about a popular cholesterol-lowering medication. The US Food and Drug administration says a clinical trial has linked the drug Vytorin to cancer deaths. In the study, a larger percentage of patients taking the drug died of cancer, compared to those on the placebo.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration says it will review the new information and determine whether action is required in Australia. The company that makes the drug is cooperating with American authorities. It is reported as saying the findings are likely to be an anomaly. A spokesman says patients on Vytorin should continue to take their medication and if they are concerned, they should speak to their prescribing doctor.


A new Greenie excuse for protecting old houses

In rather devious reasoning, The National Trust calls for 'wasted energy' demolition tax

The National Trust in South Australia is calling for a tax on the energy it says is wasted when a building is knocked down. Ian Stephenson from the National Trust says pre-1920 buildings have a thick wall mass and therefore a lot of stored energy, making them energy stable. He says research shows that if these buildings are demolished, it will take 60 years to get the energy equation back to zero. "They should probably be introducing a tax for energy waste - if you want to knock a building down, if you want to waste that energy, then you have to make a payment for it," he said.

But the Property Council's Nathan Paine says introducing such a tax would have negative repercussions for people looking to buy a house. "If we suddenly introduce significant increased costs on new homes, that will actually drive houses to an unaffordable level and that will actually lock another generation out, so we actually have to look at this in a holistic sense," he said.


Friday, August 22, 2008


Rudd's zeal in the Warmist religion has forced lots of Australians to look closely at what he proposes. And they are not "going gently into that good night". Three current articles below

Warmist nonsense 'a company killer'

The nation's peak business group has joined the growing chorus across Australian industry warning the Rudd Government that local companies will close and move offshore unless it fundamentally rethinks its proposed emissions trading scheme. A "real world" analysis of the impact of the Government's plans - based on 14 companies that opened their books for the Business Council of Australia - revealed that even with the Government's proposed compensation, three firms would face a carbon cost so high they would close.

The future of a further two of the 14 companies - drawn from hard-hit sectors such as aluminium refining, cement manufacturing, petroleum refining, steel making, sugar milling and zinc and nickel refining - would be extremely bleak.

The companies, with annual revenues ranging from $90 million to more than $3 billion, revealed their confidential financial data to BCA consultants Port Jackson Partners on the basis that their identity would remain secret. But the research shows that, on average, the companies' pre-tax earnings would be cut by 22 per cent. The worst affected would suffer a 136 per cent reduction in earnings.

The Labor Government plans to introduce an ETS by 2010, forcing big polluters to buy permits to cover their greenhouse gas emissions. "Our research tells us the Government's plans would have significant and unintended consequences for business ... we don't believe the Government intended to design a scheme to achieve the outcome of businesses and jobs moving offshore, but that would be the outcome of the Government's plans," BCA president Greg Gailey said. "We want to ensure that industry plays its part but that the cost is kept at a level which allows them to stay in Australia, rather than move to a less demanding jurisdiction."

The BCA analysis follows a call from the Minerals Council of Australia this week for the Government to consider auctioning only 20 per cent of emissions permits. Also this week came warnings from the liquefied natural gas, cement and petrol refining sectors about the potential impact of the ETS. Wayne Swan said he had "taken on board some of the criticisms" industry had made during consultation over the Government's ETS green paper, but the Treasurer added that "at the end of the day, we've got to understand there is not a bottomless pit of money here".

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said she was "open to discussion of different methods of allocating" compensation to industry. Under its existing proposal, a handful of big emitters exposed to international competition could receive some of their permits for free.

But the BCA wants the Government to completely ditch the formula by which it proposes to compensate some companies that cannot pass on a carbon price to customers, saying it is both inadequate and unfair. Instead, the BCA proposes a compensation formula that would be on average far more generous to its members. It says the 1000 Australian companies required to buy emission permits should be required to buy them until they had paid between 3 and 5 per cent of their gross income, after which they should receive their permits from the Government for free. They say this would still cost the companies on average about 10 per cent of their profits, but this cost would be fixed rather than rising to "unsustainable" levels with an increasing carbon price.

The Government has been adamant that it must limit the proportion of permits given away to trade-exposed industries to 30per cent to avoid putting impossible burdens on the rest of the economy, including households, and to make sure it reaps sufficient revenue to pay compensation to families and businesses.

According to Port Jackson director Rod Sims, who undertook the research, the BCA's alternative compensation model would meet its 30 per cent target at a carbon price of $20 a tonne. The proportion of free permits required would rise to 44 per cent if the carbon price rose to $40 a tonne and the Government, rather than the trade-exposed companies, bore the increasing pain. But the BCA is recommending that the Government not allow the carbon price to rise to those heights until an international agreement is reached, saying it must either set a path for emissions reductions so gentle that the price is kept at between $10 and $20 a tonne, or else fix the permit price at those levels.

The Climate Institute chief executive John Connor warned the Government against succumbing to the business push for "climate protectionism". "Serious questions need to be raised why the Government should transfer billions of dollars of taxpayers' revenue to businesses who have known an emissions trading scheme was coming over a decade ago," he said. The Australian Conservation Foundation said the BCA plan was "totally irresponsible". "Polluting industries that have spent the last decade doing little or nothing to prepare for a carbon-constrained economy should not get a free kick," said executive director Don Henry.


Rudd thrown an emissions time bomb

AUSTRALIA'S business leaders have thrown a political time bomb into the Rudd Government's lap. Business rejection of the Government's emissions trading system model has lethal consequences. It signals that Australia is moving into dangerous territory for individual corporates, the economy and investor confidence. The analysis unveiled yesterday by the Business Council of Australia says the Government's ETS green paper "leaves too much scope for uncertainty for business to continue to invest in existing and new facilities".

This warning constitutes a degree of commercial threat dangerous for any government to ignore. It is contained in the commissioned report by Port Jackson Partners on the application of the green paper's ETS to 14 businesses across Australia's trading sector, the first such corporate analysis. This was led by former federal government senior economist Rod Sims. Its sharpest conclusion projects the Rudd model to 2020, assumes a $40-a-tonne carbon price and concludes that corporate boards "will be unlikely to invest while such outcomes are possible". The graphic shows a series of financial disasters.

The Rudd Government's response to climate change now becomes a diabolical challenge. It is trapped between its political pledge to price carbon to alter investment flows and this business analysis showing that under Rudd's model, a range of Australian-based companies will struggle to stay viable, facing hefty profit declines, a crippling of new investment and significant carbon leakage offshore at Australia's economic cost. The Government will rely upon the imminent Treasury modelling to quell such concerns.

The BCA document demands assessment for its three different messages. First, it argues the proposed ETS with its compensation mechanism is untenable. Second, it proposes an alternative model, different in conception. Third, it offers an overview of Australia's climate change strategy that finishes, in effect, suggesting a carbon tax is probably the best way forward. In its concluding overview, the report supports either a modest abatement target until global deals are done or the alternative of a fixed carbon price of $10 to $20 a tonne, meaning there would be no annual cap pending a global agreement. It leans towards the de facto carbon tax option.

The analysis for the electricity generating sector warns that any 10 per cent emissions reduction target by 2020 involves a "major risk" to power supply, a lift in retail prices of 25 to 40 per cent and stretches to the limit investment capacity in alternative energy. It suggests that a lower 2020 emissions target may be required.

The business community also insists that any ETS must see the removal of all retail electricity price caps and abolition of the renewable energy target scheme. While Kevin Rudd and senior ministers are attached to their green paper ETS model, such support will be severely tested by this document. The BCA analysis rejects the formula under which 30 per cent of carbon pollution permits would be issued for free.

It finds the threshold mechanism based on tonnes of emission intensity in relation to revenue is "quite simply, the wrong starting point". This is a problem not of numbers, but of design. The analysis finds the green paper compensation "is inadequate and contains significant anomalies". Businesses with average profits and modest emission intensities of 500 to 2000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per million dollars of revenue "will face significant profit declines". Anomalies are such that firms at 1490 tonnes per million dollars of revenue get no compensation while firms at 1500 tonnes per million dollars of revenue get 60per cent of their permits free.

The BCA wants an entirely new compensation model. It seeks 90per cent compensation for trade-exposed companies. It proposes full compensation above a threshold defined as 3 to 5 per cent of industry value added. And it wants permits issued outside the national cap to allow for growth in trade-exposed industry in the absence of a global carbon price. This will strain government-business ties to the limit.


Business leader pushes nukes

QUEENSLAND will need nuclear energy more than any other state in Australia, former Telstra chief and nuclear physicist Ziggy Switkowski said last night. Mr Switkowski, who chairs the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, launched the Australia Nuclear Association Queensland in Brisbane last night.

He said the need for cleaner energy was more urgent in Queensland because of the state's population growth. "Queensland's economy is booming; its appetite for electricity is growing faster than any other state in Australia," he said. "It's going to have to make decisions earlier than other states in terms of what the next generation of power plants are going to be. "Given 90 per cent of electricity comes from fossil fuel and in the future we can't use fossil fuels, at least not to the same extent, the creation of this group to stimulate an objective debate about nuclear power makes a lot of sense."

The ANAQ has five corporate members including stockbroking firm ABN AMRO Morgans and 13 individuals ranging from lawyers to engineers. Association secretary Kate Holmes said the aim was to crank up the nuclear debate but she did not see the association as a lobby group. "Nuclear energy has been going for 50 years but not many people know much about it," the Brisbane lawyer said. "The idea is to be an education forum to help educate people on the pros and cons of nuclear energy."

Dr Switkowski said nuclear power was used in 31 countries and Australia would soon have to look at it as a viable alternative to fossil fuels. He said the ban on uranium mining in Queensland was contentious. "There is no logic I can see for Queensland to not develop uranium reserves," he said. The former chief executive officer of Telstra was appointed by the Federal Government to chair an inquiry into the viability of nuclear power in Australia in 2006.


Teacher merit to be recognized -- maybe

Teachers in NSW schools will no longer be equal in status from today when they are invited to apply for new professional standards that will elevate them above their colleagues, putting the state and federal governments under greater pressure to provide them with extra financial rewards. Teachers who apply for the new standards will be assessed by independent inspectors who will observe them in the classroom and interview their colleagues and parents.

As part of their assessment, teachers will be required to prove they are successful in student behaviour management and effective in their communication with parents and the school community in student reports. They will be required to present examples of their teaching programs and pupils' work to demonstrate they are making a difference to student learning. Their principal, a colleague and someone they have mentored will be asked to act as referees.

It will be the first time teachers have faced outside professional scrutiny since the Education Department disbanded its school inspectors' unit 18 years ago. A survey commissioned by the Australian Education Union earlier this month suggested that more than half the public school teachers in Australia would qualify as "outstanding". [Forgive me while I laugh!!]

The NSW Institute of Teachers developed the new standards in consultation with teachers over a three-year-period and will place the applications online today. The standards are likely to influence the Federal Government's approach to rewarding quality teachers because the model is based on a broad series of measures that are not directly linked to student results, as had been proposed under the Howard government's controversial performance pay model.

The Business Council of Australia recently called on governments to spend an extra $4 billion on salaries to lift the pay of top teacher to at least $100,000.

NSW teachers will be asked to pay a preliminary application fee of $60 and a total of $550 to qualify for the status of "professional accomplishment" and $650 for "professional leadership". Until now, those seeking promotion have been forced to leave the classroom and move into administration positions to increase their salary above the current cap of $75,352. The acting Education Minister, John Hatzistergos, said the new standards represented the first step in establishing a "rigorous and credible process for identifying the state's most excellent teachers". "If teachers want to link higher level skills and professional recognition to higher pay then we would readily examine that as part of our wages negotiations," he said. "The Rudd Government has also indicated it is interested in developing proposals to reward higher level teaching and we'd welcome input by the Commonwealth in this debate."

Tom Alegounarias, who heads the NSW Institute of Teachers, the professional body which accredits teachers and teacher training courses, said the standards had been developed independent of employers and industrial matters. "It is agreed that some teachers are simply outstanding," he said. "We are simply concerned that the best teachers be recognised. "The key to this system is that we actually identify the best teachers. Our emphasis is that the process is credible to both teachers and the community."

The president of the NSW Primary Principals Association, Geoff Scott, said his association supported the new standards, particularly because they did not link teacher performance directly to student results. "We would like to be involved in investigating and discussing the idea of higher levels of accreditation as something that could be recognised by additional pay," he said. "It is critical for the Government to put new money in for this, because if there is no new money, some teachers will be paid extra at the expense of others."

Irene Gargoulo, a teacher at Wiley Park Public School with 11 years experience, said the new standards were a great opportunity for teachers who wanted to remain in the classroom and be acknowledged for their hard work and dedication. Her colleague Anne Barnett, who has been teaching since 1976, said she was not put off by the application fee for the new accreditation. "It is like being in any kind of professional organisation," she said.

However, the president of the NSW Teachers Federation, Maree O'Halloran, said the State Government was insulting teachers by requiring them to pay a fee to gain official recognition. The federation is preparing to negotiate a new salary agreement with the Government and has as its first priority guaranteed pay increases for all teachers. Ms O'Halloran said the NSW standards would cause confusion among teachers because national standards were also being developed by the Federal Government.

The president of the Australian Education Union, Angelo Gavrielatos, said the union's proposal for seeking further recognition for quality teaching was dependent on additional funding. "We have clearly stated that it is contingent on funding and the funding is not there," he said. "Where's the money?"


Picture books no place for 'f' word

HAVEN'T we progressed a lot as a society in such a short period of time? Only 33 years after Graham Kennedy was forced off air for making crow noises that sounded remarkably like the "f" word, the Children's Book Council of Australia has named as its Picture Book of the Year a book riddled with "f" words and nobody has batted an eyelid. What a tragic reflection on our society that is.

Since when did we reward picture books for phrases such as - "if you do it again ya little black arsehole, you're goin' t' be in the f*&^#n' river" or "Jesus Christ he even pissed himself. You f*%$#n' dirty little animal".

News organisations could not print in full the words that are contained in Matt Ottley's Requiem of a Beast but the Children's Book Council didn't see it as an impediment to honouring it with the coveted award. This is a mind-blowingly arrogant decision which surely flies in the face of accepted community standards when it comes to appropriate reading material for children. The Children's Book Council maintains that picture books may be for more mature readers with national president Bronwen Bennett agreeing the winning book is "not a comfortable or happy reading experience". "But it has been recognised for its artistic excellence and the brilliance of the story, and we are an awards for literary merit," Bennett is quoted as saying.

There is no doubt that Matt Ottley's work has important things to say in what is a confronting tale that combines themes of mental illness, suicide, the stolen generations and mistreatment of Aboriginal Australia. But the book contains no warning about language on its cover and no indication about its content -- all that's there now is a large gold sticker naming it Picture Book of the Year. Well-meaning parents will see that as a gold-plated endorsement of the book.

Unfortunately the Children's Book Council has a long history of bestowing gold-plated endorsements on books that can at best be described as "important" and "worthy" but rarely as "popular" or "engaging to children". Time and time again its winning books are dark, depressing and confronting. On its website it argues that "we live in a less than perfect world, and authors, illustrators and publishers are perhaps reflecting our society". It goes on that "books provide a means of generating thoughtful discussions about issues and fears".

So because people swear there's nothing wrong with putting it in a picture book? There's everything wrong with it. Children may well be exposed to foul language from many quarters but to include picture books in that list is to normalise it to a level that surely most parents would not be comfortable with. If the language used by Ottley would not be tolerated in the school playground it should not be tolerated in books in the school library.

This is a book that will be debated and analysed. Its themes will be the subject of countless essays and class discussions. It is not a book that will be treasured and read and re-read until its pages are dog-eared and its words are known by heart. That is surely the measure of what makes a great picture book. Let's keep the language of the gutter in the gutter and aspire to something higher for our children.



In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG does not think much of how the politicians have involved themselves in Sydney's whale calf problem.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Australia's welcome to the Great White Fleet helped to forge a strong bond

By Donald C. Winter, Secretary of the US Navy

In the United States, as we honour the 100th anniversary of the Great White Fleet, Americans are learning about the US Navy's historic achievement in sending a fleet of 16 battleships around the world. They are also learning about Theodore Roosevelt's role as godfather of this mission, and about the many positive consequences of his audacious idea. Given that the US Fleet's reception in Australia was considered one of the highlights - if not the highlight - of the world tour, many Australians might be interested to know more about Theodore Roosevelt's historic contributions to the US-Australia relationship.

Roosevelt, before becoming US president in 1902, was assistant secretary of the navy. Roosevelt was at the time already a famous naval historian, having written the definitive work on the War of 1812. He was a passionate believer in the value of a navy in defending a nation's interests, exemplified in a speech at the US Naval War College on June 2, 1897, where Roosevelt noted that "far from being in any way a provocation to war, an adequate and highly trained navy is the best guaranty against war".

As president, Roosevelt put his ideas into action. He pushed Congress relentlessly to build up the navy, convinced America's role in the world would largely depend on its ability to defend its interests using naval power. In 1907, he conceived the idea of sending the fleet on a round-the-world cruise. Those battleships - whose hulls were painted white - became known as the Great White Fleet.

One of the important objectives of the world tour was to develop relationships with other navies. It was envisaged as a diplomatic outreach to foreign lands, particularly countries such as Australia and Japan, where US Navy ships had seldom gone before.

The Great White Fleet's engagement with Australia - which included port visits to Sydney, Melbourne and Albany in August and September 1908 - was particularly successful. The reception its sailors and marines received was so overwhelming that they came back to the United States with a deep and abiding affection for the Australian people.

Australians opened up their arms and their hearts to their American guests - even commemorating the event on Australian postage stamps. One recent author wrote that Australia's interest in the visit of the American fleet of battleships was so intense that half the population of Sydney "remained awake the entire night, and thousands upon thousands of them long before night was over were on their way to the hilltops outside the city limits, where they massed seemingly in unbroken lines to view the spectacle. Estimates of the number of spectators vary from 500,000 to 650,000."

This experience in diplomatic outreach to Australia set the stage for a century of closer ties and warm relations between the United States and Australia. I have been told that the visit played a very significant role in persuading the Australian and British leadership that it was time for Australia to begin building a navy.

To the extent that America's Great White Fleet played a role in spurring the expansion of the Royal Australian Navy, I am pleased that we had such an impact. We believe that the RAN and the US Navy's global operations have served the interests of both of our nations - in war and in peace. Since the US Navy's historic visit to Australia, a series of significant events have expanded our ties and deepened our relationship, particularly between our two navies. Additional bonds of friendship were forged between us during the Battle of Coral Sea in May 1942, and they continued to strengthen as the war progressed in the Pacific.

We have learned that we can always count on the Aussies, and the Aussies can always count on us. This has proved true during the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and operations Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

On behalf of the US Navy, I would like to thank the Australian people for the extraordinary hospitality you showed us 100 years ago, and which you have continued to show us over these many years. We enjoy a unique relationship with the RAN, and it is one we cherish. May the bonds of friendship between our Navies and our Nations always be strong and based on mutual respect.


NSW: The State of corruption

In 1998 the lid was lifted on the corrupt world of NSW railways, revealing that supplying prostitutes could win you a contract, fake medical certificates signed by a dead doctor would get you a day off work, and you could claim overtime while playing golf. Ten years later it seems little has changed in RailCorp and the stench of corruption is slowly engulfing the NSW public sector.

In past 12 months the Independent Commission Against Corruption has held inquiries into three State Government agencies - the Roads and Traffic Authority, RailCorp and the Department of Housing; the NSW Fire Brigades has joined the list this week. The commission has begun investigating claims that the former brigade project managers Christian Sanhueza and Clive Taylor awarded $6 million in contracts between 2005 and 2007, using fake tenders to give contracts to shelf companies controlled by Mr Sanhueza. Contracts were then sub-contracted to cheaper building firms, allegedly netting the pair almost $2.5 million.

Ken Phillips, the director of the work reform unit at the Institute of Public Affairs, said the NSW public service was "rotten to the core". "The governments in Victoria, South Australia and Queensland are pretty clean governments but NSW has never got over the rum rebellion," Mr Phillips said. "NSW is very tribal and you have a mates culture in NSW that does not belong in any other state, which leads to an acceptance of sanctified corruption."

The fire brigade allegations are the latest to tarnish the public service and follow ICAC uncovering $22 million in fraudulent RailCorp contracts being awarded, including $3 million in kickbacks to rail staff, in one of the biggest investigations in the commission's history. The inquiry, the seventh corruption investigation of the NSW railways since 1992, also revealed a welding manager defrauded RailCorp of $4.28 million and a contracts officer helped herself to $650,000. They were among eight people recommended for prosecution. RailCorp was also under the corruption spotlight last year when it was discovered that an engineer, Said Marcos, awarded air-conditioning contracts to his mates, landing himself at least $710,000.

But the problems are not confined to the railways. In January this year, the commission investigated a state housing official, Douglas Norris, who took bribes to let people jump the public housing waiting list. He also allowed homes to be used by drug dealers. It emerged that Mr Norris operated a bribes-for-accommodation scheme with alleged drug dealers and other housing tenants who acted as middlemen. Tenants paid between $500 and $700 for a bedsit or between $1500 and $1700 for a two- or three-bedroom flat.

And last year a Roads and Traffic Authority registry manager, Paul McPherson, was investigated by the commission after he provided at least 100 motorists the answers to their L-plate licence tests and gave advance warning of the route of their driving tests. False email records were also created to allow migrant New Zealanders to obtain NSW drivers' licences as part of the scam.

At least 12 public servants or contractors are facing criminal charges for their roles in various corrupt activities, and so widespread is the problem in RailCorp that the massive bureaucracy is struggling to implement the internal reforms required to fix its problems. In a parliamentary inquiry into ICAC last month, the commissioner, Jerrold Cripps, said RailCorp had "flooded" the commission with work yet the Government was often extremely slow or had failed to implement the recommendations handed down by the commission. "The perception is that we keep exposing it and nothing happens," Mr Cripps told the inquiry.

The former Liberal premier Nick Greiner established the anti-corruption commission 20 years ago to stop the "half-hearted and cosmetic approaches to preventing public-sector corruption". At the time Mr Greiner said: "We have seen a minister of the Crown jailed for bribery; an inquiry into a second, and indeed a third, former minister for alleged corruption; the former chief stipendiary magistrate jailed for perverting the course of justice; a former commissioner of police in the courts on a criminal charge [and] . a disturbing number of dismissals, retirements and convictions of senior police officers for offences involving corrupt conduct."

Yesterday Mr Greiner said the commission appeared to be doing a good job but both sides of politics often "hid behind" its investigations rather than addressing potentially damaging problems.

The Opposition Leader, Barry O'Farrell, said the corruption allegations in the public service would continue as long as the Government failed to be transparent and allowed "people to operate in the shadows". "It unfairly sullies the name of every public servant and unfairly casts a shadow over the whole of the NSW public service," Mr O'Farrell said.


Climate awareness really goes awry! 'Too cold' for global warming torch relay

Who says that Mother Nature doesn't have a sense of humor? First we have an August 14 report from the Lithgow Mercury in Australia announcing a Climate Torch relay to draw attention to the importance of global warming:
The Olympic torch relay might not have made it to our part of the world but tomorrow Lithgow will share in another torch relay of global importance. And you are invited to take part.

An organisation called GetUp! has arranged a Climate Torch relay from Hassans Walls lookout to Queen Elizabeth Park as part of a nation-wide campaign to focus even more attention on the impact and urgency of global warming. A spokesman said that through GetUp! the community has an opportunity to show the nation's leaders how important the issue is to the man and woman in the street. "By taking part in this Australia wide campaign the people of Lithgow can show the rest of the country that we are prepared to stand up - and walk -for what we believe in," she said.

Anyone who can't make it to Hassans Walls for the start is welcome to join in anywhere along the route to the park.

The Climate Torch was designed by the same people who designed the Olympic Torch. "It is solar and wind powered, just in case the pollies need a hint, and people power will get it to its final destination in Canberra," she said.

Climate events coordinator Richie Merzien said Lithgow had been chosen to be part of the relay because of its unique environmental significance.

So how effective was this relay in stressing the importance of global warming? You can get an idea of how it turned out by reading the August 19 headline of the same Lithgow Mercury: "Too cold for global warming relay." Here is their report on actual relay field conditions as written by Len Ashworth:
Climate change may be THE hot international issue of the moment but enthusiasm for the cause clearly wanes on a freezing Friday afternoon when the campaign moves to a mountain top where the wind chill factor is below zero.

This was perhaps the predictably disappointing outcome when the GetUp! climate change lobby group organised an enviro torch relay from Hassans Walls Lookout to Queen Elizabeth Park to focus public attention on the issue.

Ironically, global warming would probably have been welcomed by the handful of hardy souls who turned up to lend their support to the campaign on one of the coldest Lithgow days of this or any other year.

It is unknown if Al Gore was one of those carrying the global warming relay torch in the freezing weather.


Dark green barbarians

By Craig Emerson (Craig Emerson is the Minister for Small Business in the Rudd Government)

When we look around the world and find that prosperity is rising strongly in some countries but not in others, seekers of the secret formula for success ask why. Lots of temporary causes come into play: oil discoveries, tourism fads such as safari experiences and even countries setting themselves up as tax havens. But these passing influences don't really tell us what overall government policy approaches will give a country its best chance of success in the prosperity stakes.

Since about 1990 a new body of economic thinking has attributed rising prosperity to the development and application of new ideas. These new growth theorists point out that if the history of the human race were represented by the length of a football field, then living standards were basically unchanged for the entire length of the field other than the last 5cm before the far goal line. But over that last few centimetres, living standards have increased astronomically.

This period of rapidly improving living standards began with the Enlightenment in Europe in the 18th century. New ideas were encouraged and a critical mass of thinkers and inventors was achieved. Enlightenment thinkers repudiated the mysticism and superstition of pre-Enlightenment Europe, advocating instead personal freedom, open, competitive markets and scientific endeavour.

David Hume, one of the Enlightenment figures, and a close friend of Adam Smith, summed up with his statement that a wise man proportions his belief to the evidence. Isaac Newton understood the cumulative power of ideas when he said: "If I have seen farther it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." James Watt's steam engine ushered in the Industrial Revolution and the rest, as they say, is history.

Deadly diseases were conquered and life expectancy increased. Yes it was a blood-stained 5cm, fouled by slavery, the exploitation of child labour, two world wars, state-sponsored mass starvation and genocide. Yet through the period living standards rose inexorably.

But now mysticism and superstition are making a comeback. Their revival began in the '80s with attacks on economic rationalism. Rational economic thinking was condemned in favour of economic irrationalism: ongoing protectionism, deficit financing by printing money, maintaining airlines and banks in public ownership and expanding the role of the state in the commercial world through clever devices such as WA Inc and the Tricontinental merchant bank.

By the '90s, economic irrationalists had declared competition as the new heresy, attacking the Keating government's National Competition Policy which is estimated to have increased household incomes by $3500 per annum. Twenty-first century mysticism and superstition is finding expression in the big environmental debates. Deep green extremists yearn for a return to a pre-industrial society, before the Enlightenment when faith and dogma prevailed over rational thinking and evidence-based science. In this gentle agrarian society (absent environmentally destructive hard-hoofed farm animals), human beings are tolerated, as long as they leave no carbon footprint. These deep-green crusaders have declared their opposition to coalmining even if emerging technologies were to reduce its emissions to zero, since coal is regarded as an ugly reminder of an industrial society.

Governments of Europe and the US have draped a green cloak of respectability over their farm-subsidising biofuels policies that divert massive amounts of food grain into the production of ethanol. In the name of saving the Earth from ecological disaster, these brutal policies have been responsible for an estimated 70 per cent of the sharp increases in world food prices over the past few years, plunging an extra 100 million people into poverty.

Recycling, we are told, is a good way to do our bit saving the environment. Anyone questioning the environmental benefits of recycling is branded a heretic. In some cities, up to 80 per cent of glass collected for recycling actually ends up in landfill because the cost of separating the different colours of glass is too high. But we feel good.

As director-general of the Queensland environment department in the early '90s I inquired into the life-cycle benefits of container deposit legislation. Glass bottles destined for reuse need to be many times the thickness of those that are melted down or disposed of in landfill. We discovered that by the time account was taken of the energy and water costs of collecting, transporting and washing the bottles, reuse of bottles was bad for the environment. We dared not release the results of the study for fear of being howled down as environmental vandals.

Recycling of some materials makes good environmental sense but of others it does not. Recycling proposals should be evaluated on the basis of good scientific evidence and not pursued simply because they make us feel good.

Consumer magazines such as Choice have begun to expose as greenwash the claims companies make about their products in an attempt to cash in on environmental ignorance. A bottle of air freshener is claimed to be biodegradable, but only the cardboard packet is. Products are promoted as being CFC-free, a true but irrelevant claim since all CFCs were banned in the late '90s. Some items are said to be made from renewable forest products, as if some species of trees are non-renewable.

Free-range chickens and organic fruit are good. But watch out for the next innovation: free-range fruit. Can you imagine the advertisement featuring dancing fruit trees all singing in harmony: "give me land, lots of land 'neath the starry skies above, don't fence me in." And remember, when you're told a product is 90 per cent fat-free, they're really telling you it's 10 per cent pure fat. The message is clear: irrationality sells and any questioning of spurious environmental claims is an act of heresy. It's time for an Australian Enlightenment, where once again reason and facts prevail over mysticism and ignorance.

Criticised for changing his mind on monetary policy during the Depression, John Maynard Keynes retorted: "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"

An Australian Enlightenment would demand the best available facts as a basis for public debate and public policy making. It would find no place for hired guns: any business consultancies that are willing to distort the facts to suit the requirements of their commercial clients and to promote them on the basis of the result of computer modelling. In computer modelling the enduring truth applies: garbage in, garbage out.

Self-serving consultants who change their assumptions to suit their clients do a great disservice to any endeavour to raise evidence-based policy over policy based on faith and superstition. One of the Enlightenment figures enthused that an army cannot defeat a good idea.

An Australian Enlightenment would restore ideas to the place they have occupied over the last 5cm of the football field: creating prosperity and raising living standards, including those of the most vulnerable in our society.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Get Aborigines off reservations to pick fruit?

I know Aborigines and I can't see it. Some might but not many. On the reservations (Sorry: "Communities") they're too used to "sit down money" (welfare). There are already unemployed Aborigines in the local area and the need for pickers has been well advertised so if they want the work, why don't they just roll up at the farm gate? Other local Aborigines do. And note that Kimberley Land Council represents an area that is on the other side of the continent from where the pickers are needed

The powerful Kimberley Land Council says a Federal Government plan to import Pacific Islanders to pick fruit in rural communities is "shameful". The council has thrown its weight behind Opposition indigenous affairs spokesman Tony Abbott, who says Aborigines will feel cheated when they see Pacific Islanders being paid to pick fruit while they languish on welfare.

But at Orange World Mildura, where this season's crop will rot unless more seasonal labour is found, Joe Scopelliti is not so sure. Looking around his orchard, he sees Turks, Greeks, Vietnamese and Australians. Tongans have pruned his vines.

As for Aboriginal people? "You just can't seem to find them," he says. "If you're telling me they want to work, I'll give them a go," he says. "Why not? I'll employ anyone, so long as they are willing to work."

With an overall unemployment rate in the Mildura area of 8 per cent and 31 per cent of indigenous people in the area not in the labour force, Aboriginal workers Orion Hunt, 22, and Nathan Taylor, 24, share the sentiment. Both have worked as pickers in the past, although Mr Hunt now works for the Mildura Aboriginal Corporation. "It's no good," he says. "Those jobs should go to local people."

In an unlikely political union, Mr Abbott has joined ALP powerbroker Warren Mundine in attacking the Government's proposal to import 2500 workers from Tonga, Vanuatu, Kiribati and Papua New Guinea to fill seasonal shortages.

While Mr Mundine considers it "bizarre" that his Government would jet in overseas workers when thousands of Aboriginal people were unemployed, Mr Abbott describes it as an "exercise in folly". "The kind of money which employers are putting up to bring them in and repatriate them would be much better invested in getting local Aboriginal people a start in the local economy," Mr Abbott told The Australian yesterday.

"The fact that we've got a substantial pool of unemployed people who are our immediate ongoing responsibility makes this an exercise in folly because obviously, if any of these Pacific Islanders are working nearby high-unemployment Aboriginal towns, the local people are going to feel cheated."

Kimberley Land Council boss Wayne Bergmann accuses the Government of taking "the easy option" instead of investing in its most disadvantaged citizens. "My frustration in all this stuff is the inept failure of government to actually engage," Mr Bergmann said. "To hear that the Government are proposing to bring in more overseas workers when Aboriginal people are disadvantaged in the workforce is shameful."

Yet the notion of there being a large, waiting and willing supply of Aboriginal fruit pickers within easy reach of the Murray orchards is a moot point along the river. At the Mildura Aboriginal Corporation, chairman Sid Clarke agrees it is silly to fly overseas workers into areas where unemployment is well above the national average. "I can't understand them importing people from other places when you've got really high unemployment in your town, be it Aboriginal, white, or what," Mr Clarke said.

Two hours up the river at Robinvale, Gary Letts from the Murray Valley Aboriginal Co-operative insists Aboriginal people are already heavily employed as fruit pickers and demand for workers is outstripping supply. At Turnbull Orchards in Mooroopna, near Shepparton, office manager Karen Marsden says Mr Mundine is wrong to suggest there are large numbers of unemployed Aboriginal people near fruit-growing areas who could be offered jobs. "Every season we get Aboriginal people here picking fruit for us," she said. "Any person who comes in looking for work gets put on."

The idea of flying seasonal workers into the Murray-Goulburn area is not new. In 2005, Noel Pearson championed a scheme under which Aboriginal people from Cape York were brought in to pick fruit in the Murray-Goulburn area. Mr Pearson then raised the same question Mr Mundine raises now. "In a place like Robinvale, thriving industry, not enough workers, they should be supplied from within Australia," Mr Pearson said. "If we've got a work shortage in places like Cape York and they've got a worker shortage down here, we should provide the workers."

As Mr Mundine put it: "If you're going to fly people from the Pacific islands, what's wrong with flying people from Cape York, for instance. Or Karratha, or Melbourne, or Sydney, or Brisbane, or Nhulunbuy." He says there was a time when Aboriginal people would travel hundreds of kilometres for seasonal work, but they had been "weaned out" of these jobs over the past 30 years "and now we can't get back into real jobs".

The Rudd Government hopes its three-year trial of bringing in 2500 Pacific islanders can be rapidly increased to 25,000. In announcing the program, Agriculture Minister Tony Burke said farmers were "sick to death of watching their fruit rotting on the vine because they couldn't get a worker there to pick". The National Farmers' Federation is backing the scheme. Acting chief executive Denita Wawn says Australians will not be displaced by seasonal workers and that more "barriers" needed to be removed to enable Aboriginal people to successfully move to where seasonal jobs are.

Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith yesterday said the scheme would be determined by demand and Australians would always be offered work first. "The requirements that we will put in place will ensure that if there is an Australian, or someone based in Australia, who is ready, willing and able to work in the horticulture industry, then they'll get the jobs first," he told Macquarie Radio in Sydney.


The Australian government could well fall for this one

Kevvy Rudd likes lots of immigrants and he is a dedicated Warmist so he might grab this idea as another feelgood gesture

Over one hundred non-governmental organizations from across the Pacific Islands region have written a letter to the leaders of Australia and New Zealand urging them to change their immigration policies in response to climate change. The open letter -- addressed to Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark -- calls for increased permanent immigration as well as resettlement services and reduced carbon emissions.

Damien Lawson of Friends of the Earth Australia feels that Australia and New Zealand need a new immigration category for people forced to resettle because of climate change. "Ultimately there needs to be recognition in our immigration program that there are people already in the Pacific being displaced because of climate change, people having to leave small atolls and islands because of sea level rises," he said. "We think there needs to be a special category in our humanitarian program that recognises the displacement caused by climate change," he added.

Lawson stated that low lying nations such as Tuvalu and Kiribati are already facing rising seas and vioelent storms. He said that the region could expect sea levels to rise several meters this century.


Doomster Flannery washed out again

By Andrew Bolt

Alarmist of the Year Tim Flannery really should stay out of the predictions business, unless he's just rehearsing a comedy act. Four years ago, there was his prediction for Perth:
Speaking last night at the State Government's Sydney Futures forum, Dr Flannery warned of a city grappling with up to 60 per cent less water. As temperatures around the world warmed by 2 to 7 per cent, Sydney could glimpse its future by looking at the devastating impact that global warming had already had on Perth. "I think there is a fair chance Perth will be the 21st century's first ghost metropolis," Dr Flannery said.

Perth's dams have reached their highest July level in eight years, despite WA's gas crisis causing the closure of the Kwinana desalination plant at the start of the month. Above-average rainfall in the major catchment areas since April has meant that the dams are about 34 per cent full. Weather Bureau spokesman Glenn Cook said that the high dam levels were due in part to good winter rain last year...

Three years ago there was his prediction for Sydney:
He also predicts that the ongoing drought could leave Sydney's dams dry in just two years.

The available storage as at 3 p.m. Thursday, 7 August 2008 was 66.0 %.

Flannery's latest city-scare? It's for Adelaide, and given five months ago:
The water problem is so severe for Adelaide that it may run out of water by early 2009.

Instead? Let Tim Blair give you the soggy news and the healthy dam readings. We've seen Flannery's sort before, of course:
And so around the chorus ran
"It's keepin' dry, no doubt."
"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"Before the year is out."


Climate balance from a major TV show!

A turning point in the debate: 60 Minutes is suddenly not so sure man is heating the world to hell, after all. And it won't have been reassured by Kevin Rudd's shaky grasp of the evidence in spruiking his carbon tax:
PM KEVIN RUDD: But economic cost (sic) of not acting is massive, it's through the roof. Think about food production, the Murray, think about the impact on tourism in QLD, no more Barrier Reef, Kakadu, no more Kakadu. Think about the impact on jobs, it's huge.

Actually, even if Rudd really thinks warming will wipe out the Barrier Reef and Kakadu (neither of which show any sign of going anywhere), he is deceiving viewers by suggesting his carbon tax would make the slightest difference to the climate. Indeed, the only impact will be on jobs - as in costing them, and not, as he claims, saving them.
TARA BROWN: How certain are you that mankind is the cause behind global warming?

PM KEVIN RUDD: Well, I just look at what the scientists say. There's a group of scientists called the International Panel on Climate Change - 4000 of them.

No, it's actually called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And no, there are not 4000 IPCC scientists. Try 2500, instead. Rudd is lucky that this exaggeration wasn't picked up by Brown. What's more, a number of those 2500 don't stand by the IPCC conclusion on man's effect on the climate. Many others were not even consulted over the report's bottom-line finding.
PM KEVIN RUDD: ... And what they (IPCC scientists) say to us is it's happening and it's caused by human activity.

Actually, even the IPCC report admits doubts, saying it's only 90 per cent sure humans are responsible for most of the warming in just the 25 years until 1998. But a token alarmist is then rolled on to preach doom:
DR TIM FLANNERY: Stop burning coal and other fossil fuels and stop putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere because that is what is warming the atmosphere and that is what's driving the changes.

I wouldn't rely on anyone with Flannery's record of alarmist inaccuracies. And in this case thousands of scientists disagree, actually. 60 Minutes, to its credit, finally talks to some of the "thousands" it agrees are there:
PROF. RICHARD LINDZEN: We need CO-2. It's not a poison, it's not a pollutant. It's essential for life on earth. I mean how much are we going to depend on people's ignorance in order to produce panic?.

DAVID EVANS: (There's no evidence that carbon emissions cause any significant warming at all...

And reporter Tara Brown even dares mention the Medieval Warm Period:
TARA BROWN: Perhaps nowhere in the world is there more compelling evidence against the man-made carbon dioxide argument than Greenland. Long before the Industrial Age, the Vikings lived here and happily grew wheat and vegetables. It was known as the `Medieval Warm Period' and temperatures were even hotter than they are today.

But, wait, there's more:
TARA BROWN: So statistically, in the last seven years, the flattening and perhaps even slight cooling of temperatures - is that significant?

DAVID EVANS: Yes, yes it is significant. Once it gets up to five years or so it's really quite significant. Whatever was driving the temperatures up has taken a break for a while and meanwhile carbon emissions have continued and the level of carbon in the atmosphere has gone up about 5% since 2001, yet we see no more warming.

But back to Rudd, who can't have counted on being corrected mid-scare by Brown:
PM KEVIN RUDD: Here's a measurement which people should just sit back and pay a bit of attention to - the 12 hottest years in human history have occurred in the last 13 years. That's a fact.

TARA BROWN: It's not my position to correct you Prime Minister but Ive been told that in fact during the middle ages the global temperatures were two to three degrees warmer than now. Certainly we've had the hottest 12 years in recent history but the planet's been a lot hotter.

PM KEVIN RUDD: Well, I stand by what the International Panel of Climate Change Scientists have had to say. There will always be argy-bargy about elements of the detail.

Where the world has been hotter in human history is now just "elements of the detail" to Rudd? And is he not even familiar with this debate over dodgy IPCC claims, and what it says about the IPCC on which he relies so heavily? And still Brown hasn't finished sowing doubts:
TARA BROWN: But one thing climate scientists agree on - if global warming is caused by CO-2 emissions then the CO-2 will leave a distinct signature their computer models predict a big red hotspot above the equator. The problem is thousands of weather balloons equipped with some very sophisticated thermometers have measured the temperatures in the atmosphere to test the theory, and guess what, no hotspots.

DAVID EVANS: There's no hotspot, there's no hotspot at all. It's not even a little hotspot and it's missing. We couldn't find it.

Sadly, Brown then goes on to quote for no clear reason previous 60 Minutes stories which preached alarmism over drought and Chernobyl, and waffles on without quite finding the courage to admit they swallowed green scares whole. But there is this rally near the end:
PM KEVIN RUDD: The key thing is, how do you bring carbon pollution down in an economically responsible fashion? And having looked at all the detail this is the best way forward.

TARA BROWN: But if you believe the sceptics, and carbon dioxide isn't to blame for global warming then we face massive change for no good reason.

DAVID EVANS: Isn't it a bit dopey to wreck the economy for a purely theoretical reason when the alleged symptom, warming, stopped six years ago.

To conclude: 60 Minutes has dared to contradict the global warming "consensus", and its own record, to present fairly the growing evidence that supports the scepticism of thousands of scientists. That puts it ahead of the media curve - certainly ahead of the ABC. And having this done on the country's most-watched current affairs show marks a significant turning point in the debate. 60 Minutes, for one, will now have a vested interest in saying "we told you". Rudd, already at sea with the evidence, should be very, very nervous.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A weird view of Australia from hate-filled Leftists

To obtain a glimpse of two different views of Australia start at Circular Quay where the First Fleet came ashore in January 1788. The crowd is invariably busy on weekdays and relaxed at the weekend. It's usually a fun place to be and, right now, the newspapers on sale there toast the successes of the young Australian men and women at the Beijing Olympics. However, not very far away, alternative views prevail.

The 16th Biennale of Sydney is under way. A major venue is the Museum of Contemporary Art. The artwork on the MCA proclaims such messages as "200 Years Of White Lies". This suggests that the history of European settlement in Australia is based on wilful calumny. It also indicates that left-wing alienation is alive and well and on show in contemporary Australia. The biennale is funded by grants from the Australian and overseas participating governments - in addition to corporate support. All the governments backing this festival of contemporary art are democracies. The theme is "Revolution - Forms That Turn".

Step inside the MCA and there, hanging from the ceiling, is an artwork titled A civilizacao occidental e crista (Western Christian Civilisation) by the Argentinian Leon Ferrari - depicting a crucified Christ attached to a US F-107 fighter aircraft. This is presented as a critique of Western civilisation. But what about the double standard involved? It is impossible to imagine the MCA would show an artwork which showed the prophet Muhammad attached to, say, an Iranian missile.

Move to level three and there is a collection of fine photographs by Yevgeniy Fiks of various places where members of the Communist Party of Australia have worked and met in Sydney since the early 1920s. This work essentially praises the party and such communist operatives as Eric Aarons and Rupert Lockwood. There is no mention of the fact that, up to the 1960s, CPA functionaries were allied to Lenin, Stalin and their heirs in Moscow and were committed to overthrowing Western democracies and replacing them with communist totalitarian regimes.

One photo at the MCA depicts a CPA building which was raided by police in 1940. Reference is made to the fact that the Communist Party was banned in the early years of World War II. But no reason is given, perhaps to prevent embarrassment. So let's state the facts. The party was banned circa 1940 because it supported the (then) pact between Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union and, consequently, opposed the Allied war effort. The CPA only began to support the war effort in mid 1941 when Germany unilaterally broke the Nazi-Soviet pact and invaded the Soviet Union.

Not far from the MCA, the British-born Nigel Jamieson's play Gallipoli is showing at the Sydney Theatre. This is yet another version of the familiar left-wing interpretation of World War I. The theme is set early in the first act. It is 1914 and Imperial Germany's leader Kaiser Wilhelm wants to invade Belgium. Jamieson's solution? Let him. And France? Well, according to the playwright, that seems OK, too. As long as the Allies, including Australia, do not go to war to support Belgium and France. Or to oppose Germany and its Ottoman Empire ally.

Last month Jamieson told the journalist Elissa Blake that his straw-bale bush house is "pretty much carbon neutral" and contains a compost toilet. How about that? In any event, there were emissions aplenty in Gallipoli, as the playwright-director sought to re-create the conditions of the Dardanelles campaign in 1915. Technically, the play is a great success. But its message is the familiar they-all-died-in-vain line. Sure, the Dardanelles campaign was a military debacle. But it was devised with the best of intentions - namely, to help reduce the killing on the Western Front.

The only real hero of Gallipoli is the Turkish military commander Ataturk. Jamieson maintains that in 1915 Australia decided "to invade a Muslim country who posed no threat to us". He attempts, unsuccessfully, to draw comparisons with Australia's involvement in the Coalition of the Willing in Iraq nine decades later. Even to the extent of (gratuitously) showing a photo of a military funeral for one of the Australian fallen from a recent conflict. Jamieson seems unaware that Australia joined others in invading the Ottoman Empire in 1915 because it was an ally of Imperial Germany. That's all. Moreover, he does not seem to know that very few, if any, German historians today would support his interpretation as to why World War I began.

The prevailing criticism of the West and Western democracies - on show at the MCA and in Gallipoli - is also evident in the initial response in the media to the conflict between Russia and Georgia. Quite a few journalists, particularly on the ABC, were quick to blame the Western ally Georgia and/or the United States. For example, on Radio National's Late Night Live its presenter Phillip Adams and his left-wing regular guest Bruce Shapiro pointed the finger at the US for Russia's evident aggression in the Caucasus. It's as simple as that, apparently.

The contrast between the views of the alienated intelligentsia and the majority of Australians are seldom more evident than at times of international events. Witness the hyperbolic claim by Germaine Greer in her essay On Rage that "Australians are now becoming aware of the dire plight of their island continent, and the utter bleakness of its future". Witness Barrie Kosky's bizarre assertion on the 7.30 Report that "the absolute soul" of democratic Austria can be located in the basement where Josef Fritzl allegedly imprisoned and raped his daughter. And rejoice that most Australians following the Games are oblivious to such alienated nonsense.


Firemen sent to a talk shop, leaving fire engine unmanned

There's no limit to the stupidity and irresponsibility of bureaucracies

FIREFIGHTERS have accused the State Government of risking lives by plundering rostered crews to make up a shortfall for corporate training. Queensland Firefighters Union secretary Mark Walker yesterday described the situation as "outrageous and dangerous" after the Maroochydore station's high-rise fire engine was left idle when its crew was sent to Brisbane to meet paid corporate obligations. Crews from the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane and the Gold Coast were all being affected.

LNP spokesman on emergency services Ted Malone said the practice was "worse than mismanagement". "The Department of Emergency Services is risking people's lives by taking firefighters off the front line to do corporate training which is not high in urgency," Mr Malone said.

One firefighter with more than 10 years' experience said yesterday that the community was being "ripped off" by the situation and he felt he was letting his workmates down as well.

Mr Walker said that because two Sunshine Coast firefighters were called to Brisbane to conduct corporate training yesterday the whole northern region, from Caloundra to Bundaberg, was left without high-rise fire-fighting capability. If a fire had broken out in a high-rise building a truck would have had to be sent up from Brisbane or there would have been a scramble to locate firefighters on their days off - meaning delays of several hours. Mr Walker said the situation had arisen because of stalled pay negotiations between the Government and the state's 2000 career firefighters. The Queensland Fire Service has a commercial arm that contracts firefighters to outside businesses to provide services such as training, usually employing them on their days off.

Queensland Fire Service Commissioner Lee Johnson said yesterday that operational overtime was authorised at Maroochydore to enable the station to be fully staffed. "In this particular case, of the two officers deployed to the Whyte Island Training Centre, only one was able to be replaced by a day worker, despite all attempts to find a replacement for the second officer on overtime," he said. "Contingency plans are in place in the event of unexpected leave. This entails contacting available trained staff and seeking support from neighbouring areas."


Prominent conservative says Oz must go nuclear

AUSTRALIA must embrace nuclear power to cut greenhouse gases, argues a Liberal [Party] frontbencher who warns coal-fired power generation is deadlier. In the strongest pro-nuclear remarks since former prime minister John Howard left politics, Coalition trade spokesman Ian Macfarlane says Australia "must get real" on nuclear energy to tackle climate change. "If we are serious about reducing global greenhouse emissions, the nuclear option is one we cannot ignore," the Queensland Liberal MP will say in a speech tonight.

Mr Macfarlane's comments will be seized on by the Rudd Government, which believes the Coalition harbours a secret plan to resurrect Mr Howard's nuclear framework. They will not be welcomed by sections of the Liberal Party - including senior frontbenchers - who also believe nuclear is political poison.

In a mining speech in Brisbane tonight, Mr Macfarlane will argue the Government "must include" nuclear in any future base-load energy mix. He will argue that nuclear must be "among the first options worthy of consideration" as Australia decides the best way to tackle climate change. "The biggest gains in cutting greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation in the shortest possible time and at the lowest cost and least economic risk will come from nuclear power," Mr Macfarlane will say. "It's a black and white answer. Or should I say black and yellow answer. Clean coal and yellowcake - we must include nuclear in our future base-load clean energy mix."

The Coalition's position on nuclear power has been confused since the election, when Labor ran an effective scare campaign on the prospect of 25 nuclear reactors. Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson appeared to shift position on the volatile issue in December - but some other frontbenchers believe nuclear should remain on the table. Other Liberal MPs, such as Opposition defence spokesman Nick Minchin, are very cool towards nuclear power, believing it is politically unpopular.

Mr Macfarlane says deaths from nuclear power generation "are less than half a percent of the total" of deaths attributed to the coal-fired power sector.


The germy one's rant is racist, says black academic

Grievance is all the germy one is good at

Marcia Langton has delivered a stinging rebuke to Germaine Greer, describing her views as outdated and simplistic and condemning the feminist for a "cleverly disguised" racist attack on Aboriginal people.

Writing in The Australian today, Professor Langton dismisses Greer's claims that Aboriginal men suffer a rage they "can't get over" and urges the expat academic and author to read more history. "Taken as a whole, her arguments are racist," says Professor Langton, the chair of Australian indigenous studies at Melbourne University. "They are also just plain wrong."

Greer says in her provocative essay published this month, On Rage, that the loss of land, women, language and culture over 200 years has caused a rage among indigenous men that is at the core of problems in Aboriginal communities. She also asserts that indigenous women who supported last year's intervention in Northern Territory Aboriginal communities will be seen as colluding "with the enemy".

But Professor Langton - herself a target of Greer's criticism - says most Aboriginal women who have fallen victim to the "anarchy and violence" endemic in some communities have welcomed the intervention. "What the children who have been victims of violence and abuse will make of all of this in the future, we cannot know," she writes. "But they will surely wonder why a feminist of such fame as Greer has come to the defence of those who destroyed their innocence and damaged their sense of self."

Professor Langton accuses Greer and her publisher of "attention-seeking" behaviour, distracting from genuine efforts to ensure a dignified future for indigenous children. This goal does not interest Greer in the least, she says. Professor Langton also backs the views of Cape York indigenous leader Noel Pearson and Perth-based indigenous human rights lawyer Hannah McGlade, who say perpetrators of violence should take responsibility for their actions. "We are not in the mood for failed leftist excuses for the rising levels of homicide, femicide and suicide," Professor Langton writes.

"Dr Greer's panoply of protest slogans deployed as social theory was dismissed long ago by the research and policy community as incapable of explaining the present day levels of huge disparities in life expectancy, morbidity and mortality rates and other socio-economic indicators. "While the 'burden of history' is acknowledged in much of this work, the everyday suffering in communities at risk is caused by a multiplicity of factors ... all more complicated than Dr Greer would have us understand."

Greer's essay has been criticised by the first Aborigine elected to the NSW parliament, Fair Trading Minister Linda Burney, who asked how the British-based academic was qualified to make her assumptions. "I think it's quite presumptuous to say that you know what is happening in the minds of Aboriginal men," Ms Burney told The Australian.

Greer was in no mood to discuss her claims when approached by The Australian at the launch of the essay in Sydney last week. But she told the ABC's Lateline program that the rage she identified among Aboriginal men could lead to the "annihilation of black communities". "All I'm saying is that unless we deal with the pathology that underlies it we won't get anywhere," she said. "We won't actually stop the violence. We may even cause it to escalate."

At the launch of the essay, former NSW premier Bob Carr endorsed Greer's work as "one of the most powerful pamphlets ever written in Australia". He added: "I had hoped there would be some hope at the end of Germaine Greer's essay."


Monday, August 18, 2008

Judicial appointments controversy in South Australia

As I believe Henry Kissinger once said: "If only both sides could lose". In South Australia, the lawyers want to appoint the judges but the government insists that it will.

Political appointments to the U.S. Supreme court have produced judicial dictators with little respect for the actual law that they are supposedly enforcing so that model is thoroughly on the nose. They found, for instance, a right to abortion in the constitution, when the word "abortion" in fact appears nowhere in that document.

On the other hand, appointments to the High Court of Australia have generally reflected the views of the legal fraternity rather than being obviously political and the result there has been law that arouses little controversy. So I am afraid I do come down on the side of the lawyers on this one -- particularly since the government has made clear that its appointments will not be wholly merit-based but will in part be based on what is between the legs of the appointee.

If it weren't for political intervention, the legal fraternity would appoint only "good old boys" to the judiciary, at the expense of women, non-Christians and members of ethnic minorities. In an escalating dispute between South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson and the legal fraternity, he told The Australian the state Government would continue to appoint judges, crushing hopes for an independent board to handle the appointments. "I really don't think religious minorities, be they Jewish, Muslim, Orthodox, Hindu, Sikh or others, would have much chance under the system of a judicial appointments committee, because they would be turned down on most occasions on the grounds they are not the most meritorious appointment," Mr Atkinson said.

"It would be argued there is always a good old boy more deserving. The only way broader consideration would come into judicial appointments is because the Government appoints them - otherwise it would be a closed shop."

The Law Society of South Australia has called for an independent board, arguing that the Government had failed to maintain national standards by refusing to create independent bodies for law reform and police integrity, and an independent commission against corruption. Funding is in place to appoint three extra District Court judges, one by the end of this month and two next financial year. It is hoped the additional judges will help clear a backlog of trials.

But prominent Adelaide lawyer Lindy Powell QC said the views of the Government on appointing women had been "slow-moving". There are 55 men and 22 women holding positions in the supreme, district and magistrates courts in South Australia. "The consciousness of the need to have women properly represented on the judiciary, I think those views have developed about as quickly in government as they have on the bench," Ms Powell said. "I think the views of government are mirrored in the views of the judiciary. "I don't think it (an independent board) would have made any difference, quite frankly."

She rejected claims the legal fraternity pushed for "boys' club" appointments. Regardless of who appointed the judiciary, it was imperative to have wide consultation to appoint on merit. Ms Powell supported forming an independent body to appoint judges and magistrates.

Law Society of South Australia Criminal Justice Committee chairman George Mancini said Mr Atkinson had misunderstood the calls for independence. "I didn't think affirmative action was an approach to an appointment," Mr Mancini said. "I thought it was merit-based."


Activists want moratorium on kangaroo shoot

Kangaroos being "wiped out"??? What bulldust! You can see them hopping about the streets of some Brisbane suburbs early in the morning. And Brisbane is a big city. There are millions of kangaroos in country areas. And they do well in zoos too. You can walk among them lying lazily about in Brisbane's main zoo (Lone Pine). Children feed them there. The famous picture below is generally titled "Not now kid"

ANIMAL rights activists want the Federal Government to impose a moratorium on kangaroo shooting, saying they are might be wiped out in some areas. Australian Society for Kangaroos co-ordinator Nikki Sutterby said yesterday that 73 million kangaroos had been killed by the kangaroo industry since 1980. Most had been turned into pet food and sports shoes.

She alleged a further 14 million pouch joeys had been bashed to death or decapitated and seven million at-foot joeys had been orphaned and left to die a slow death from stress, starvation and exposure. "This, combined with years of intense drought, floods and bush fires, has seen red kangaroos, western grey kangaroos, eastern grey kangaroos, wallaroos and euros plummet to densities of less than five per square kilometre or quasi extinct across most of Queensland, NSW and South Australia," Ms Sutterby said. "These species are now at risk of extinction in these states if the commercial industry is allowed to continue."

Ms Sutterby said an investigation of data, including the Murray Darling Report on kangaroo densities, showed that 'roo numbers were under pressure. Further interpretation of state government data from NSW, Queensland and SA showed kangaroo densities were less than two per square kilometre across more than half the states. "We have grave fears for the future existence of kangaroos and the fact that these state governments have already set commercial kill quotas at 12 to 20 per cent of the population for the next four years," she wrote to Environment Minister Peter Garrett.

A spokesman for Mr Garrett rejected the suggestion of a moratorium or that the species were in danger of extinction, saying quotas were adjusted annually depending on scientific advice. "Populations will fluctuate naturally," he said. "That's why the states survey regularly and quotas are adjusted according to sustainable harvests."


Queensland Health bureaucracy to be "slashed"

Only a minor reshuffle, unfortunately. No employee becomes unemployed as a result of it. Bureaucracies generally would survive a nuclear winter

An entire level of Queensland Health's bureaucracy will be abolished in an effort to make the controversy-ridden department more efficient. Queensland Health Minister Stephen Robertson and director-general Mick Reid today announced the department's three health areas would be abolished. The northern, central and southern areas were created in late 2005 following a review of the department by consultant Peter Forster after the Bundaberg Hospital scandal.

However, Mr Robertson and Mr Reid denied their abolition was a deviation from the recommendations of the review. "I would see this as very online with what Forster recommended," Mr Reid said. "He recommended a flatter structure, greater performance, greater accountability, increased transparency and ensuring that the majority of our $8.5 billion (budget) is directed at clinical services."

The responsibilities of the area managers will now fall to the state's district managers who will report directly to Mr Reid. Under the restructure the number of health districts will also be cut from 20 to 15, through the merger of several southeast Queensland districts. "This will allow larger and better resourced districts to deliver local health services and important hospital building programs," Mr Robertson said.

Mr Reid said all district manager positions would be made vacant and existing district and area bosses would be able to apply. The restructure will mean the loss of about 50 jobs, including more than a dozen public relations staff, and a saving of about $5 million a year, which will be directed to clinical services. However, there would be no forced redundancies, he said.

Mr Reid, who started in his current role about two months ago, said his recent tour of health services had convinced him the area structure should be abolished. "More than anything people are saying to me there is confusion and some lack of clarity which can be rectified and there needs to be a decision as to where the accountabilities lie," Mr Reid said. He said some staff may be unhappy with the restructure but most would not notice any change....


'Rudd's carbon tax bad governance,' says agricultural scientist

The Rudd government's carbon pollution tax is based on non-scientific and theoretical computer modeling and does not make good governance at a time of rising inflation, global food shortages and increasing export uncompetitiveness due to rising cost and freight pressures. That's the view of agricultural scientist John Williams - a researcher, author and educator who is studying for a PhD at the University of Melbourne.

Mr Williams said there are `strong and powerful counter-arguments' to the theories on global warming and carbon trading that are not being fully considered. Drawing on a chorus of disbelief from a growing number of scientists, Mr Williams said "there is no proof that carbon dioxide is causing or precedes global warming". "All indications are that the minor warming cycle finished in 2001 and that Arctic ice melting is related to cyclical orbit-tilt-axis changes in earth's angle to the sun."

Yet in the government's pursuit of a carbon trading scheme, Mr Williams said there was likely to be economic distortion, higher costs, investment disincentives and taxpayer-funded subsidies. He says any carbon trading scheme is likely to have a heavy impact on agriculture by:

Causing economic distortions, such as favouring imports over export industries (despite huge government subsidies to exporters which will attract World Trade Organisation [WTO] attention).

Penalising resource industries (and Australia's comparative advantage).

Compensating road transport, thereby discriminating against less-polluting rail transport.

Replacing highly productive cropping farmland in high-rainfall zones with tree plantations, reducing cropping agriculture and confining it to the less fertile lower-rainfall areas at a time of global food shortages and rising food prices.

Discriminating against animal industries which comprise one of the most successful Australian export industries.

Discriminating between farmers based on soil type.

Discriminating against consumers, who will bear the brunt of the costs through higher energy and food costs.

Mr Williams says the likely outcome of these economic distortions will be:

Increasing export uncompetitiveness at a time of record global shipping freight rates.

A worsening trade deficit which will necessitate persistent high interest rates to attract balancing foreign capital inflows.

Reduced investment in energy and rail industries.

Coal demand decreasing, which will lower prices and provide signals to buyers that the resource boom may be over;

Depressing rural communities even further, as long-term tree investment cannot replace short-term crop revenue cash-flows; and

Increasing cost pressures boosting prices and inflation for consumers already encountering economic difficulties.

He says shifting animals from pasture to higher protein feeds will exacerbate food shortages and higher prices. "As more than 80pc of Australian exports are price-taking commodities, any carbon emissions cost is going to be borne by the domestic producer and exporter, and require large compensation under any carbon trading scheme," Mr Williams said. "This compensation will be seen as a producer subsidy under WTO guidelines at a time when Australia is supposed to be leading by good example in freer trade for the rest of the world."

He said governments worldwide had spent $50 billion on global warming research since 1990, with no evidence that carbon emissions caused global warming. "All this cost is borne by taxpayers yet where exactly are the benefits beyond normal pollution control regulations?"

He also questioned what incentive there was for farmers to increase organic carbon in the soil, only to sell it off as carbon credits and become managers of it for someone else. And he asked what would happen if soil carbon levels dropped due to drought, fire, flood or crop rotations. "Farmers could be forced into bankruptcy by having to refund money they do not have."

He said increased rural land values caused by demand from industries seeking carbon credits through forestation programs was only going to distract farmers from producing food, cause uncertainty in investment decisions and entice them to seek short-term property sale benefits.

Rural towns would also struggle from a lack of money (from reduced production revenues) and decreased investment at a time when farms are being replaced by long-term forests. "To introduce a new high-cost system based on fear and feeding off superstition does not make good fiscal governance when there are serious economic distortions, measurement difficulties, investment disincentives, potential carbon market liquidity problems and a low probability of achieving any benefits in energy reduction or environment improvement," Mr Williams said. "Without a similar cost scheme for Australia's major export competitors, the outcome could be economic suicide for exporters in terms of loss of international competitiveness."


Sunday, August 17, 2008


Conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG has a new toon up about bank interest rates.

Arrogant regulator to cause taxpayers MORE pain

And the crooked bitch mainly responsible is still in her job!

A class action against the federal Government is set to be launched next week after the $55million payout to Pan Pharmaceuticals founder Jim Selim. The Government could be liable for another multi-million-dollar payout because of the action taken by the Therapeutic Goods Administration in 2003 to cancel Pan's licence. The Weekend Australian has also uncovered further evidence of what occurred in the lead-up to the decision to cancel Pan's licence - including a senior TGA officer shredding notes taken at a crucial meeting.

Mr Selim claimed the government had breached its duty and abused its power of public office, and his Federal Court case was settled on Thursday in his favour. More than 300 people lost their jobs, shareholders lost tens of millions of dollars and hundreds of businesses were affected by Pan's closure in 2003.

In January that year, people reported hallucinations and vomiting as a result of taking travel sickness drug Travacalm. The TGA then investigated Pan and meetings were held to decide what action to take. On April 23, 2003, the TGA organised for an expert advisory group to decide whether the public was at "imminent risk" of death, serious injury or serious illness from Pan's products. It was a statutory requirement that the government believed this "imminent risk" existed before it could take the action to cancel Pan's licence. The EAG was later to report back to the TGA that there was no "imminent risk", although it did find there was a lack of confidence in the quality of Pan's products.

Pages of notes taken by the members of the EAG were later taken by the TGA and destroyed at the direction of senior bureaucrat Fiona Cumming. Dr Cumming is the director of the office of complementary medicines. At the same time, the EAG was meeting at the Qantas Club at Sydney Airport to discuss the risks of Pan's products, media officer Kay McNeice was in the TGA's Canberra office putting the finishing touches to a media release - announcing the cancellation of Pan's licence.

Although the notes of the EAG's deliberations were destroyed, lawyers were able to unearth a transcript of the meeting, which had been recorded at the behest of the TGA. "We don't have much evidence do we," one member noted. "We're having trouble getting to 'imminent risk'," said another. The findings of the EAG did not justify an immediate suspension of Pan's licence, a proposition agreed to in court by the TGA's director of the office of devices, blood and tissues Rita Maclachlan, who spent several days being cross-examined by Mr Selim's barristers. Immediate suspension meant Pan could not dispute the issue in the courts, a fact the TGA was aware of.

Ms Maclachlan, second in command at the TGA, was also present when then health minister Kay Patterson and prime minister John Howard were briefed in late April. "Why didn't you speak up and say, 'Look, even though it's not my call ... we are about to implement the largest recall in the history of the Western world, unlawfully, because we are going to deny the company its statutory requirement to natural justice'. Why didn't you say that?" Mr Selim's barrister, Justin Gleeson SC, asked. "I don't have a recollection, Mr Gleeson" Ms Maclachlan replied.

When Ms Maclachlan gave evidence that she was concerned that one batch of Pan products - manufactured in August 2000 and not part of the 2003 recall - could cause severe allergic reactions in the public, the judge hearing the case, Arthur Emmett asked a few questions of his own. "You weren't prepared to recall this product back then but that was the reason you were going to call the other 6000 products back (in 2003)?" "I don't have a particular recollection as to what happened with this product," Ms Maclachlan replied.

"But you've just told me ... that you were concerned that this product was still out in the community," Justice Emmett said. "You didn't take any steps to have it recalled? I just find that quite unbelievable." Ms Maclachlan declined to comment yesterday.


Global Warming: Solving an Environmental Problem or Creating a Social Crisis?

By William Kininmonth of Melbourne, Australia. William Kininmonth is a former head of Australia's National Climate Centre and a consultant to the World Meteorological Organization. Kininmonth points out that it is only unrealistic figures fed into climate models that produce worrying projections

Prevention of dangerous climate change, particularly through implementation of a national carbon pollution reduction scheme, has emerged as a primary policy objective of the Rudd government. The rationale for the policy is the scientific assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its computer-based projections of global warming. We are told by the IPCC `consensus of scientists' that continued burning of fossil fuels, and a range of other industry activities that increase the concentration of `greenhouse gases' in the atmosphere, will lead to dangerous climate change, possibly passing a `tipping point' causing `runaway global warming'. What does this all mean, really?

The IPCC's most recent assessment attempts to be helpful to the casual enquirer by having a series of explanations for `frequently asked questions', or FAQs. The first FAQ is `What factors determine earth's climate'? We are informed that, on average, the earth emits 240 w m-2 of radiation to space and that this equates to an emission temperature of -19oC. The earth's temperature, however, is about 14oC and the -19oC temperature is found at a height of about 5 km above the surface. To quote the IPCC: "The reason the earth's surface is this warm is the presence of greenhouse gases, which act as a partial blanket for the longwave radiation coming from the earth's surface. This blanketing is known as the natural greenhouse effect".

This explanation by the IPCC is clearly misleading, if not wrong. The inference that the greenhouse gases are acting like a blanket suggests that they are increasing the insulating properties of the atmosphere. However, the main gases of the atmosphere are oxygen and nitrogen, non-greenhouse gases, and they are also excellent insulators against the conduction of heat (like a blanket); adding additional trace amounts of carbon dioxide will have no appreciable impact on the insulating properties of the atmosphere.

In its third FAQ, `What is the greenhouse effect?' the IPCC comes to the nub of the issue but provides a different and equally misleading explanation. "Much of the thermal radiation emitted by the land and the ocean is absorbed by the atmosphere, including clouds, and reradiated back to earth. This is called the greenhouse effect". According to the IPCC's global energy budget, the surface emits 390 W m-2 of radiation and the energy radiated back to the surface is 324 W m-2. It is difficult to see how an ongoing net loss of longwave radiation energy from the surface of 66 W m-2 can lead to warming! Indeed, we are all aware that between dusk and dawn the earth's surface cools.

The IPCC has not explained in a scientifically sound and coherent way, how the `greenhouse effect' is maintained. The greenhouse gases do not increase the insulating properties of the atmosphere and the back radiation does not warm the surface. The IPCC explanation of the greenhouse effect is obfuscation and, even to the mildly scientific literate, reflects ignorance of basic processes of the climate system.

How then do we explain to people who are going to be affected by reactionary government policies what are the greenhouse effect and its enhancement by additional carbon dioxide?

A credible explanation has no need for smoke and mirrors. The energy flow through the climate system is predominantly by way of four stages: 1) absorption of solar radiation at the surface; 2) conduction of heat and evaporation of latent energy from the surface to the atmospheric boundary layer; 3) convective overturning that distributes heat and latent energy through the troposphere; and 4) radiation of energy from the atmosphere to space. We will see that it is the characteristics of convective overturning that keep the surface warmer than it would otherwise be.

The Kiehl and Trenberth (1997) global average energy budget of the earth is used by the IPCC and is a useful starting point for explanation of the establishment and maintenance of the greenhouse effect. Of the 340 units of solar radiation entering the earth's atmosphere, 67 are absorbed by the atmosphere and 168 are absorbed at the surface. There is thus an ongoing source of solar energy available to the atmosphere and the surface. At the surface there is a net accumulation of radiation energy because the incoming solar radiation (168 units) exceeds the net loss of longwave radiation (66 units).

In the atmospheric layer there is absorption of 417 units (390 of emission from the surface, less 40 that go directly to space, plus absorption of 67 of solar radiation) and an emission of 519 units (324 back to the surface and 195 direct emission to space). The net effect of the interaction between the greenhouse gases and radiation is a tendency to cool the atmosphere because it is continually losing energy.

Overall there is a dichotomy, with radiation processes firstly tending to warm the earth's surface and secondly tending to cool the atmosphere. Air is an excellent insulator against conduction of heat and will not transfer heat through the atmosphere, as is necessary for energy balance. Also, the thermodynamic properties of air (potential temperature increases with height) ensure that turbulent motions of the atmosphere will mix energy downward, not upward as required.

The process for transferring energy from the surface to the atmosphere, necessary to achieve overall energy balance of the climate system, was explained by Herbert Riehl and Joanne Malkus (the latter better known as Joanne Simpson) in a 1958 paper, On the heat balance of the equatorial trough zone (Geophysica). Riehl and Malkus noted that boundary layer air, rising buoyantly in the protected updraughts of deep tropical convection clouds, converts heat and latent energy to potential energy. Away from the convection, compensating subsidence converts potential energy to heat.

What is implied in the Riehl and Malkus model is that deep tropical convection, and the transfer of energy from the surface to the atmosphere, will not take place without buoyant updraughts within deep convection clouds. That is, there is a need for the temperature of the atmosphere to decrease with altitude and that the rate of decrease of temperature must be sufficient to allow buoyancy of the air ascending in the updraughts. From well-known thermodynamic laws, the rate of decrease of temperature must be at least 6.5oC/km to allow the buoyancy forces of convection to overcome the natural stratification of the atmosphere.

The climate system will come into energy equilibrium when temperatures are such that the net solar radiation absorbed is balanced by the longwave radiation to space. At equilibrium, the greenhouse effect (ie, that the average surface temperature of 14oC is greater than the -19oC blackbody emission temperature of earth) is an outcome from the need for convective overturning of the atmosphere.

Additional warming of the surface will come about when the greenhouse effect is enhanced. The fundamental question is how much warming will additional greenhouse gas concentrations cause and will it be dangerous?

An increase in the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration reduces the emission of longwave radiation to space and increases the back radiation at the surface. An increase in back radiation adds energy to the surface, which will further warm the surface. However there is a constraint on the surface temperature rise because of the commensurate increase in rate of energy loss from the surface: both the rate of infrared emission and the rate of evaporation of latent heat increase with temperature.

The increase in radiation emission from the surface can be calculated from the well-known Boltzmann equation and is 5.4 units/oC at 15oC. The earth's surface is mainly ocean or freely transpiring vegetation and evaporation will increase near exponentially with temperature according to the Claussius-Clapeyron relationship and is 6.0 units/oC at 15oC. According to the IPCC, the radiative forcing from doubling of carbon dioxide concentration is 3.7 units. The actual surface temperature increase is derived from the ratio of the radiation forcing (3.7) to the natural rate of increase in surface energy loss with temperature (5.4 + 6.0). The direct surface temperature rise from a doubling of carbon dioxide is therefore 3.7/(5.4 + 6.0) = 0.3oC.

A 0.3oC global temperature increase towards the end of the 21st century from a doubling of current carbon dioxide concentration is not obviously dangerous. However, what also needs to be taken into account is the positive feedback. A warming of the surface temperature will cause a warming of the overlying atmosphere, an increase in the water vapour concentration (another naturally occurring greenhouse gas), a further increase in back radiation, and an incremental increase in surface temperature. Each successive incremental surface temperature increase will cause another incremental temperature increase through the positive feedback amplification.

The amplification follows standard mathematical treatment and, as long as the ratio r is less than unity, the gain is given by [1 / (1 - r)]. Here r is the ratio of natural increase in back radiation with temperature (4.8 units/oC - estimated from a standard radiation transfer model) to the natural increase of surface energy loss with temperature (as previously, 11.4 units/oC). The natural gain is 1.7 and increases the surface temperature rise from a doubling of carbon dioxide concentration from 0.3oC to 0.5oC.

A 0.5oC increase in global temperature over the coming century is within recent short-term temperature variability and is less than the apparent global temperature rise of the past century. Moreover, both the direct forcing of surface temperature and the amplification gain are tightly constrained by the magnitude of the natural increase of surface energy loss with temperature increase. It is not immediately apparent how `runaway global warming' could come about with such a constraint.

A fundamental question arises as to why the IPCC global temperature projections for doubling carbon dioxide concentration, based on computer models of the climate system, lead to estimates of about 3oC, or about six times the above estimate.

A clue to the conundrum can be found in published descriptions of the performance of the computer models used in the IPCC fourth assessment. Isaac Held and Brian Soden, writing in the Journal of Climate (2006) note that the rate of increase of evaporation in the computer models, on average, only increases at about one-third of the rate expected from the Claussius Clapeyron relationship. Additionally, Frank Wentz and colleagues, writing in the journal Science (2007), have confirmed the under-specification of evaporation increase with temperature and, from satellite based observations, have determined that global evaporation does indeed comply with the Claussius Clapeyron relationship.

It is clear from the above formulation of the surface temperature rise and the associated amplification gain that each is sensitive to the specification of evaporation increase with temperature. Substitution of the average evaporation specification of computer models into the formulation will boost the projected temperature rise from the above expected value of 0.5oC to 1.5oC, the lower end of IPCC projections. When the specification of evaporation increase with temperature is very low, as in the more extreme models, then the feedback amplification gain increases to a value of about ten; the temperature sensitivity of the computer model becomes highly exaggerated and model would likely simulate the behaviour of runaway global warming. The behaviour, of course, is false and arises only because of the significant under-specification of evaporation.

Despite the many claims that the IPCC projections of human-caused global warming are sound, the consensus of climate scientists and that the science is settled, there are disturbing shortcomings to both the essential explanations and to the computer modelling. The shortcomings are disturbing because the projections and their associated predictions of diabolical impacts on environmental systems are the only rational justification given for wholesale government restructuring of our industrial base and lifestyles.

This is the first time in human history that there has been a conscious move at the national level to discard the tools that have underpinned security, wellbeing and comfort. We are deliberately abrogating energy usage from proven and widely available sources on the basis of a perceived environmental threat which is poorly articulated and substantiated only by recourse to obviously deficient computer modelling. Why am I reminded of Charles MacKay's 1841 tome, "Extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds'?

More here

Irrigating crops is "Terrorism"??

Trust a Leftist to debauch language. Ironic -- but entirely to be expected -- that it is in fact government regulations that inhibit farmers from reducing their water use

South Australian Premier Mike Rann yesterday declared that anyone "treacherously" diverting water from the Murray-Darling system illegally would be committing "an act of terrorism against the Australian people". The Premier's tough talking followed moves by the competition watchdog to boost water trading after a referral from federal Water Minister Penny Wong. "A key part of the Rudd Government's plan to address the challenges faced in the Murray-Darling Basin is making the water market more efficient so water can move to where it brings the most benefits," a spokeswoman for the minister told The Weekend Australian.

While Mr Rann refused to comment on specific allegations, the Queensland Government came under fire for permitting the construction of a large dam and diversion channels along the Paroo River, regarded as the Murray-Darling Basin's last free-flowing river. A spokesman for the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Water said approval for the works had been granted before a moratorium on harvesting water from the Paroo was declared in 2001.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has issued a position paper and is seeking submissions on rules governing fees imposed for terminating water contracts. "Some irrigation infrastructure operators impose high termination fees on farmers who elect to sell their water and terminate water delivery rights," ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said. "High termination fees prevent farmers from realising the market value of their water entitlements and deter trade in water." The ACCC paper proposes a cap on termination fees of 11 times annual access fees, falling to eight times annual access fees by 2015.

The move was welcomed by John Williams from the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists. "We must have free movement of water," he said. "Any of these issues of restricting the trade means that there isn't a full trading opportunity across the states." His remarks were echoed by the Australian Conservation Foundation's Paul Sinclair. "When they signed up to the national water initiative, governments talked about the need for open trade," he said. "Things like these fees are an impediment to that trade." ....

Opposition water spokesman John Cobb warned that exit fees were a direct response to the Government's "ad hoc" water buybacks, saying irrigation infrastructure operators were trying to protect their assets.


Record Immigration Adds to Australian Housing Woes

Real estate experts warn Australia faces an acute shortage of affordable housing as immigration reaches record levels. There are estimates that Australia needs to build an extra 40,000 new homes a year simply to cope with current demand. Australia opens its doors to about 300,000 new migrants next year as part of a plan to address a chronic lack of workers. That means the country will see its highest immigration flow in more than 60 years. An army of temporary and permanent settlers will be granted visas as part of a government effort to sustain a decade-and-a-half of economic growth.

There are three major strands to Australia's migration program: skilled workers, family reunions and humanitarian migrants. The skilled component is at unprecedented levels, with qualified migrants being recruited in vast numbers from traditional areas including Britain and New Zealand, as well as emerging nations such as China and India. In demand are accountants, engineers, computer professionals, health care workers and many workers in skilled trades, such as construction workers.

Such an influx of new migrants puts pressure on Australian society and has helped create a housing crisis as demand for inexpensive accommodation in major cities outweighs supply.

Demographer Bernard Salt says Australia is struggling to cope with the expanded immigration program. "During calendar 2007 the Australian continent added 332,000 people," Salt said. "Never before in our history have we added that number of people to our population base. 330,000 people per year is a rate and pace that we're not really comfortable with. We're used to growing at the 220, 230,000 per year. Our systems, our infrastructure, our culture can cope with that. We're un-used to traveling at this pace."

Thousands of Australians find it hard to buy or rent affordable homes, a problem exacerbated by decade-high interest rates, increasing land prices and taxes. The government recently began a program to add 50-thousand rental properties for low-income earners to the market. Real estate experts, however, say it will take at least four years before such measures help make housing more affordable. They say an average wage earner in Australia will struggle to buy an apartment or house in a country where housing inflation has been rampant in recent years, although does show some signs of easing.

The rental market, however, remains strong; a shortage of properties led to double-digit rent increases in the past year.


Saturday, August 16, 2008


Cairns is the centre of one of Australia's major resort areas. There is a constant stream of planes landing with loads of tourists at Cairns International airport. The planes seem to roar in every ten minutes or so during the day. So you would think that health services there would be at a standard to create a good impression of Australia. Sadly, it is not so. And note that Cairns Base Hospital serves an area approximately the size of England -- in addition to treating tourist mishaps. Four current articles below

Paramedics dangerously overworked in Cairns

Twenty-four hour shifts and bullying are among a rash of new complaints outlined by stressed ambulance officers. Following a series of exclusive reports by The Cairns Post, more Queensland Ambulance Service paramedics yesterday came forward to detail the staffing shortfalls and other problems plaguing the service across the Far North.

They said overworked staff were sometimes too tired to even fill in their time-sheets properly at the end of shifts that extended to 24-hours in smaller centres with an overnight on-call component. "Everyone's being flogged to death but what choice do you have when there aren't enough staff and you've got a moral obligation to the community?" one paramedic said. Others told of a culture of bullying when complaints were made to management.

The paramedics who rang The Cairns Post yesterday said they felt compelled to speak out before a patient's life was "put on the line". Their complaints come after revelations this week that a student paramedic was left in charge of the entire Cardwell region for seven hours on Monday. The nearest qualified paramedic was more than 40km away in Tully.

Their concerns also follow the death last month of a Cairns World War II Digger who waited more than two hours for an ambulance to come from Kuranda the day he died. One paramedic described that situation as a "regular problem", saying he knew of a recent case where a Code 1 job outside the Cairns casino needed to be responded to by Kuranda and another less serious case where Gordonvale's unit had to be sent to Yorkeys Knob.

Queensland Ambulance Service's new Far Northern assistant commissioner Peter Cahill denied there was a shortage of ambulance officers and said he had not been briefed on any bullying issues. Mr Cahill said he would look into incidents if he had firm evidence. But he said the Far North region had a good record for response rates, with 50 per cent of Cairns and coastal region cases being responded to in 7.4 minutes, which was under the state average. He conceded 24-hour shifts were a long-standing practice for smaller stations but said staff were only on-call overnight for emergencies.

Opposition spokesman Ted Malone called on Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts to "stop covering up staff shortages".


Cairns paramedics told to put names to complaints

Given the well-known bullying of paramedics by management, this is just stonewalling

The Queensland Ambulance Service will only investigate allegations by paramedics that they are being overworked and bullied by superiors if staff are willing to come forward. The bosses say they will also only investigate alleged unsafe work practices where students were put into positions alone without trained paramedics to back them up if officers will put their names to the complaints.

The response comes after revelations that a student paramedic was left in charge of the Cardwell region for several hours earlier this week. The Weekend Post has since been inundated with calls from paramedics, students and people in senior QAS roles, voicing concerns over practices they believe are "putting lives at risk". But all fear being named, saying they will be sacked or moved on.

"If we are given instances where people felt intimidated or they believe they are going to be sacked I would like to know about them," QAS deputy commissioner Russell Bowles said. "Apart from gross misconduct I have never seen anyone sacked.'' But one highly placed person in the service said there were often directives from the State Government banning staff from speaking out. QAS assistant commissioner Peter Cahill said he would investigate any incident raised through formal channels


Cairns ambulance bosses say sorry for wrongful and fatal delay

Ambulance bosses admit a series of blunders may have contributed to the death of World War II digger Bob Mutton and have apologised to his family. An investigation into the circumstances surrounding the Changi prison camp survivor's death found a series of "operational deficiencies", including an unacceptable response time. Staff involved will be officially counselled.

The inquiry was launched after an exclusive report in The Cairns Post revealed Mr Mutton waited more than two hours for an ambulance. Releasing the outcome of the investigation yesterday, Queensland Ambulance Service deputy commissioner Russell Bowles told The Weekend Post: "It is very unfortunate and I am sorry that it happened and my heartfelt condolences go out to Mr Mutton's family."

On the day Mr Mutton died in late July, it took almost an hour for the first ambulance to be dispatched to his Cairns home after his doctor called to report the 88-year-old was struggling for breath. That ambulance was diverted four minutes into the job. After another 71 minutes, an ambulance arrived from Kuranda before taking him to Cairns Base Hospital where he later died. At the time, ambulance bosses blamed delays in reaching the war veteran on the number of ambulances delivering patients to Cairns Base Hospital. But the investigation found crews were in fact available to respond to Mr Mutton.

The investigation found the initial call was classified correctly but it was not actioned correctly. It also found there was an unacceptable initial response time and diversion, and that standard procedures were not followed when responding to calls made by Mr Mutton's doctor. "Standard operating procedure required a response to this case within 20 minutes," Mr Bowles said. "This did not occur as it took paramedics two hours and five minutes to respond.''

Mr Bowles added: "While some crews were waiting to admit patients at CBH, there were other resources available that should have been redirected. "Mr Mutton's case was urgent enough to require the attendance of one of those crews."

Mr Bowles said while some of the staff involved had been debriefed on the incident, others would soon be and they would be "officially counselled regarding this matter''. "We are human. We do 60,000 cases a year and now what we have to do as these cases come up is - and we don't always get it as right as we want - is not to have a witch-hunt," he said. Mr Bowles said as a result of the incident he had also directed the assistant commissioner Peter Cahill to reiterate to all staff the importance of following QAS policy and procedures. He said the QAS was trying to contact Mr Mutton's family to take them step-by-step through what happened on that fateful day.


Two-day emergency department stay in Cairns public hospital

Cairns Base Hospital is again at bursting point, with patients being kept overnight in the emergency department because of bed shortages. Cairns Private Hospital has also been near capacity for the past two weeks, and has been forced to turn away some patients transferred from state facilities. Both hospitals have blamed the flu season and an ageing population for the capacity problems.

Victorian grandmother Lynette Thompson, who is visiting family in Cairns, said she was kept in the emergency department at Cairns Base for two days because staff were unable to find her a bed. The 72-year-old said while she had nothing but praise for hospital staff, she "did not dream the doctors could not find me a bed" in the main part of the hospital. Despite having private health cover, and the best efforts of doctors at Cairns Base, she said no bed could be found at the private hospital either. "I was absolutely horrified there was nowhere to go," Ms Thompson said.

Ms Thompson, who is from Ballarat and spends about two months in Cairns each year visiting her three sons, said she was "appalled" by the situation. "We would never consider living here permanently as we have such good health care in Ballarat and Melbourne."

Both Queensland Health and Ramsay Health said the reasons for the ongoing capacity problems were the ageing population [And that could not be planned for??] and the flu season. Ramsay Health boss Mark Page said Cairns Private had not turned away any booked patients but there had been cases in the past few weeks when it had been unable to accept some transfer patients. "All five operating theatres are also operating at capacity," he said.

A Queensland Health spokesman said no patients requiring admission had been turned away from Cairns Base Hospital. "However, once admitted to the emergency department, some patients may experience a delay in being transferred to a ward due to a shortage of beds in the main hospital at the time they are admitted," he said.

Cairns Base Hospital executive director of medical services Dr Kathleen Atkinson said the hospital had implemented a number of strategies to cope with the rush. She said those strategies included more efficient discharging of patients who were ready to go home and the transfer of patients who were no longer acutely ill, but still needed to be in hospital, to a smaller, rural health facility. Dr Atkinson also urged people to consider if a visit to their general practitioner was more appropriate for their condition than presenting at the emergency department and to undertake health precautions such as having a flu vaccination.


Taxpayers' money to Multinationals??

Carmakers in line for an EXTRA $2 billion of the readies -- on top of what they get already. It's hard to believe that this is a Labor Party government. It is certainly clear that it is an economically illiterate government

AUSTRALIAN carmakers will get $3.5 billion in government assistance over the next decade - $2 billion more than currently anticipated - but will be forced to compete with cheaper imported cars under recommended changes likely to form the basis of the Rudd Government's new plan for the sector. The long-awaited automotive review from former Victorian premier Steve Bracks said the Government should ignore pleas from the car industry, unions and state governments for continued tariff protection and proceed with scheduled tariff cuts from 10 per cent to 5 per cent in 2010. That reduction would cut between $1500 and $2000 from the cost of the average imported family car.

But Mr Bracks said the Government should achieve its stated goal of ensuring a future for struggling Australian carmakers by promising generous new cash grants and by paying them for longer. Mr Bracks told The Weekend Australian his plan would leave the industry - which employs 65,000 people, predominantly in Victoria and South Australia - "better off overall than had we recommended a freeze in the tariff".

The car industry has benefited from a long series of generous "adjustment schemes" since tariff barriers began to be dismantled in the mid-1980s, but Mr Bracks insisted this should be the last time it put its hand out for "transitional assistance". He said he was recommending assistance for five years longer than previously envisaged, but "our clear recommendation is that this should be all that is required".

Industry Minister Kim Carr, who will use the review as a major input to the new car plan he will take to federal cabinet within weeks, said "no one got their wish list" from the Bracks plan, but he was confident that by 2020 the policy would result in "an Australian car industry that is greener, more responsive to the demands of the market, employs more people and exports more".

Kevin Rudd also made it clear he was supportive of more assistance to the industry. "I say to everyone loud and clear that we are long-term believers in industry in Australia, long-term believers in industry policy in Australia, long-term believers in manufacturing in Australia, long-term believers in the automobile industry in Australia," the Prime Minister said.

The big carmakers and the unions welcomed the proposed financial assistance, but demanded the Government also slow the pace of tariff reductions. "In the time between Mr Bracks finalising this report and it being made public today, the Doha Round of trade talks has collapsed," Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries chief executive Andrew McKellar said. "That changes one of the key assumptions in this report, and we think the Government should rethink and adopt a phased or staged approach to tariff reductions."

GM Holden managing director Mark Reuss said there was concern within GM Holden, and parent company General Motors, that reducing the tariff from 10 per cent to 5 per cent in 2010 as planned would outweigh the benefits of new programs in the review.

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union federal secretary Ian Jones also argued against cutting tariffs ahead of trading competitors.

Mr Bracks recommended a new Global Automotive Assistance Scheme to provide carmakers with grants worth $1.5 billion between 2010 and 2015 and another $1 billion to be paid between 2016 and 2020. This would replace the already-legislated Howard government scheme, which would have provided import duty credits worth $1 billion between 2010 and 2015, with no further assistance proposed after that date.

Mr Bracks also recommended the Rudd Government's $500 million Green Car Fund be available from next year and have its funding doubled to $1 billion, if it proved successful. Under another option, which he did not recommend, the green car funding would remain at the current $500 million. Mr Bracks proposed the Government set aside between $60 million and $80 million from its new fund to help pay for restructuring and redundancies for car component makers, estimating that one-third of Australia's 200 component makers were in financial difficulty.

Mr Bracks wants Australian car makers and component makers to export far more of what they produce. Mr Bracks has also targeted his recommendations towards a "greening" of the Australian industry. He said the Government should run a competitive selection process for the Green Car Fund. He called for the taxation review by Treasury head Ken Henry to rework the controversial fringe benefit tax on company cars, which rewards those who drive further, and said the Government should increase to $2000 the rebate for LPG units fitted to new cars.


Unashamed Fascism from the Warmists

A wet dream about police action to enforce Warmism below. The authors are Anthony Bergin, director of research programs at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) and Ross Allen, an "independent researcher". We read: "ASPI is an independent, non-partisan policy institute. It has been set up by the government to provide fresh ideas on Australia's defence and strategic policy choices". The "fresh" ideas below go back to Mussolini in the 1920s. Musso was a Greenie too

AFTER the release of the Rudd Government's green discussion paper on climate change last month, eyes are focused on how business and the community will be affected by the mitigation costs of climate change. But there has been little attention given to climate change and its implications for Australian policing. As the principal domestic security actor in Australia, with 44,000 officers, the eight police forces that serve this country need to think harder about how climate change may affect their core business.

Most Australian senior police officers haven't considered climate change to have much relevance for their work. The notable exception is Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Keelty, who suggested last September that climate change could eclipse terrorism as the security issue of the century.

Climate change could have wide-ranging implications and challenges for Australia's police. New legal regimes are required to manage carbon markets and these will require compliance and enforcement. Compliance under the carbon pollution reduction scheme will involve liable entities monitoring and reporting emissions at least annually.

The Government proposes establishing an emissions trading regulator as an incorporated body with a high degree of operational independence. The regulator will have its own investigation and enforcement mechanisms, and trading activities could be covered by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. Detailed compliance and enforcement arrangements are to be developed, but the regulator and ASIC may wish to invite police involvement to investigate criminal breaches of the scheme once legislation has been defined. This will require police to develop knowledge and competencies on the use of emissions trading for money laundering and fraud.

But we may have expectations of law enforcement agencies that they're not in a position or resourced to deliver: large-scale fraud has proven to be resource intensive, particularly when the territory is uncharted. The possibility of a "green shoe" brigade emerging as the scheme begins can't be discounted. The financial scale of emissions trading and the proposed future linkages to existing international carbon trading schemes suggests the AFP will need to explore what opportunities exist for criminal activity, particularly where emission trading intersects with world financial markets.

While we may be confident in the capabilities of Australian policing and our regulatory institutions, there's cause to be concerned that Pacific Island states will be vulnerable to criminal activity associated with carbon markets. They don't have the capacity to handle large and complex investigations.

We may see changes in the type, rate and frequency of crimes as our climate alters. Anecdotal evidence suggests that weather does encourage particular types of criminal behaviour, such as changes in domestic violence patterns, a rise in drunkenness and associated anti-social behaviour, especially in the aftermath of disasters.

A key risk is that climate change could push already vulnerable pockets of communities further into hardship. The drought, for example, is changing the demographic make-up in areas affected by water availability. Lower socio-economic groups are relocating into drought-affected towns because the cost of living is cheaper. This could create a vicious cycle of poor economic prospects and associated social ills, including increases in personal and property crime rates. If drought conditions continue we may see increases in a range of water thefts. Crimes of opportunity will increase with more climate-affected natural disasters: if custodial sentences are given to looters this will have obvious implications for our prison system.

Climate change may have implications for police budgets; responding to a higher frequency of weather-induced disasters will divert already scarce resources from core police business. Climate change may contribute to regional events that require police to act in complex emergencies. Australian police could provide, for example, a security presence at refugee camps or at key transit areas in regional countries to help manage any potential mass movement of people. More climate refugees or climate migrants could pose problems for community policing, possibly leading to changes in the rates and types of crime that police forces will have to confront.

In vulnerable areas, police will need to play an active role enhancing community preparedness by educating the public in disaster-response protocols. The co-operation between state police and the military will need to improve to aid the Australian civil community in times of traumatic environmental stress.

In the face of increasing numbers of state police involved in responding to disasters, police agencies will need to consider the physical and psychological effects of climate change on their personnel. The emotional trauma of dealing with affected communities in natural disaster areas could have a psychological effect on some officers when they return to normal duties.

Australian police forces will also need to take on board the lessons from recent natural disasters and start a process to climate-proof their infrastructure and address redundancies in systems to adapt to climate change. Our police officers may have to face more environmental protest groups challenging governments to go further in climate change mitigation and adaptation. Law enforcement bodies would want to avoid aggressive and heavy-handed approaches in responding to this potential problem.

Police will need to adopt a "low carb" approach to daily business; like other large organisations in Australia, police agencies will have to contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. There has been little planning to make existing police infrastructure more energy efficient. Police fleets still largely consist of petrol-guzzling vehicles that are out of touch with efficiency trends and spiralling fuel costs.

Australia's police should bring together in a national information hub present knowledge and future thinking on climate change and its implications for law enforcement. Understanding the criminal implications of drought conditions would be an obvious starting point. Australia's police forces should co-operate with research bodies to develop risk assessments of locations likeliest to be affected by climate change as part of a multi-agency strategic approach to climate change adaptation.

While it's unlikely we will see climate-change squads in our police forces in the near future, the release of the Government's green paper provides the opportunity for Australian police officers to start considering how they will need to adapt to the challenges posed by the severity and effect of climate change.


Laugh of the day: Moronic "health" warning

Crazy health warning over Chinese erection drug Nangen Zengzhangsu. Why the warning? Because it contains sildenafil. Sound bad? LOL! Sildenafil is just the chemical name for Viagra!

The [South Australian] Health Department has warned men to avoid a Chinese drug for erectile dysfunction because it can cause heart attacks or strokes in vulnerable users. Chinese medicine Nangen Zengzhangsu can contain prescription-only drugs and is not commonly available in Australia, but can be purchased overseas or ordered online. It contains the drugs glibenclamide, used to treat diabetes, and sildenafil, which is used to treat erectile disfunction and should not be used by people with heart problems. The side effects of sildenafil range from sudden cardiac death, heart attack or stroke to headache and abnormal vision.

"Sildenafil should not be used by individuals taking any type of nitrate drug, due to the risk of developing potentially life-threatening low blood pressure," said SA Health's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paddy Phillips.

Glibenclamide can cause dangerously low blood sugar levels if used inappropriately, causing dizziness, confusion, vomiting, loss of consciouness or fitting. Canadian health authorities issued a similar warning in June, following an alert from the Hong Kong Department of Health early this year. SA Health only issued the warning yesterday, after a 60 year-old South Australian man suffered an adverse reaction to the drug.

According to the Canadian authorities, it can also be sold under the product name Sanbianwan, Jiu Bian Wang, Tian Huang Gu Shen Dan, Zui Xian Dan Gong Shi Zi, and Power Up. "Anyone who has this product is advised not to use it and to consult their medical practitioner if they have any health concerns related to its use," Professor Phillips said. "Patients taking any kind of alternative medical treatment should be aware of what the medication contains and the potential side effects involved and should inform their doctor they are taking the product."


Friday, August 15, 2008

"Health" Nazis kill valuable horse

More "safety" insanity

A $200,000 racehorse which survived the deadly Hendra virus has been put down this morning after being declared a health hazard. Officers from the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries sedated the prized thoroughbred, called Tamworth, before administering a lethal injection just after 10am. The gelding's owners were not present when vets put down Tamworth at the Redlands Veterinary Clinic. The two-year-old gelding was put down despite surviving the deadly Hendra virus that claimed four other horses at Redlands Veterinary Clinic. The horse's body now will be taken to a secret location, understood to be at Gatton, to undergo tests so scientists can find out more about Hendra virus. [Wouldn't a LIVE horse provide more information?]

Biosecurity Queensland chief veterinary officer Ron Glanville insists there was no other option but to put down the horse. But owner Warren Small remains unconvinced that his horse is a threat and is even willing to quarantine himself with Tamworth so the horse can assist with research into the mystery virus. "If they haven't got anyone with enough guts, I'm prepared to risk myself to do it," he said. "Hendra virus is going to come back again and again and again because it comes from bats, and there's millions of bats and they're a protected species. We need to know a lot more about it." Mr Small has no access to compensation under existing workplace, health and safety legislation.

The Hendra Virus Expert Committee - chaired by the department's principal veterinary officer, Simon Bewg - on July 15 recommended the state's first horse to survive the virus be kept alive and monitored for 12 months. Meeting minutes obtained by The Courier-Mail reveal the committee found the decision a low-risk option that would also produce the best scientific outcomes.

Dr Glanville said a national body known as the Consultative Committee on Emergency Animal Diseases overruled the recommendation. "It was overturned on the basis not enough is known about the virus to be sure the horse will not pose a threat to human health. Quite simply it's just not worth the risk," Dr Glanville said.

Premier Anna Bligh yesterday backed the decision to destroy the racehorse, which is the only one of five horses at the clinic to be infected with the virus and survive. "This is being done as part of a national agreement about protecting the entire equine industry from outbreaks of this kind," Ms Bligh said. "There is a very serious concern that this horse could have a relapse of this disease."


Conservative High School students suffer from 'left bias'

Victoria's curriculum is left-wing and is pressuring students to conform to the politically correct views held in school texts and by teachers to enhance their chance of academic success, a Melbourne tutor has warned. In a submission to a federal inquiry into academic freedom, Mark Lopez argues that - in year 12 English in particular - students with non-left views face "additional challenges" and are often disadvantaged if they "cross the teacher's bias".

Dr Lopez, a humanities tutor of 18 years, told the Senate inquiry that, in part, he set up his tutoring business to tackle issues of ideological bias, teacher quality and the "subjective" assessment of students' work. "The problem of bias is much worse than many assume," he said in his submission. He said he had no doubt that students who presented conservative arguments or interpretations were at a disadvantage because teachers were more likely to be critical of their work if they felt the student's argument was "politically incorrect".

His concerns are likely to spark a culture wars debate not seen since 2006 when then education minister Julie Bishop criticised "left-wing ideologues in state governments", describing some subjects as "straight from Chairman Mao". In his submission, Dr Lopez referred to an article he wrote for conservative journal The IPA Review in which he said many texts selected for the VCE English reading list had been chosen in response to the "contemporary political concerns of the politically correct left". "What is concerning is that the effect of this ideological uniformity emanating from the texts is the unstated but evident message that what is politically and socially important is what the Left perceives to be important," he argued.

Dr Lopez said the Victorian text list should be cut from more than 30 to 20, with 10 selected by the "non-left" and 10 by the left. School English departments would have to choose a variety. Dr Lopez told The Age bias was evident in subjects such as history, geography and politics.

His concerns are echoed by conservative education consultant Kevin Donnelly, who warns in his submission that some students left school "culturally illiterate and ethically challenged" because they were denied the opportunity to study history or literature "in any systematic or balanced way". Dr Donnelly said education should be balanced, impartial and disinterested - but he said a lot of students were taught a politically correct view, rather than a balanced view. "There are serious consequences for young people in terms of not getting a balanced education," Dr Donnelly told The Age. "One of them is that a lot of young people don't have a strong moral compass."

Dr Donnelly said a charter of academic freedoms, raised in the inquiry's terms of reference, was worth exploring. However he said it should not be government controlled but overseen by an independent board. The inquiry was launched following a private motion by Victorian Liberal senator Mitch Fifield. Submissions are due today, with a final report expected by November.


Carbon tax on Australian cars?

Every Australian new-car buyer would be hit with a carbon tax based on the car's greenhouse gas emissions, under a proposal to the Federal Government by luxury car maker Mercedes-Benz. The brand argues it is time to get serious about CO2 emissions and follow the global move towards emission-based taxation. That would mean a $1250 price rise on the top-selling Holden Commodore in the first year and about $750 on a Toyota Corolla. Mercedes put its carbon tax proposal in a submission to the Senate inquiry into the proposed rise in the luxury car tax from 25 to 33 per cent.

The company argues its proposal, which would raise more than the target of $400 million over three years for the luxury car tax, was not just a counter proposal to negotiate a rethink on the Budget proposal. "It's based on good public policy," said managing director of Mercedes-Benz Australia, Horst von Sanden. "It is time to get everyone thinking about CO2 and exhaust emissions. We have simply moved past the point where we can ignore it. Money is a very good pressure tool and people are not doing enough about it. "We acknowledge the Government has the right to look for new revenue streams but we decided instead of just arguing against the tax we should come up with a new proposal."

Most major car brands have presented arguments against the luxury car tax rise and have been joined by industry bodies, including the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries. Mercedes-Benz compiled its carbon-tax proposal with a staged introduction which would more than offset the potential gains from the luxury car tax. It also believes the downturn in luxury car sales since the end of June means the proposed increase could easily be wiped out.

Mercedes says the carbon tax, similar to one in Britain, must be introduced to force buyers and car makers to think green. The company believes the threshold should be set at 119g of CO2 per kilometre, with a gross polluter level set at 200g. Many luxury and performance cars produce more than 300g. "Some politicians might doubt us at the moment but it is a genuine approach to finding a solution to the biggest challenge the automotive industry will face for the next 10 to 15 years," Mr von Sanden said.

Mercedes offsets the emissions of every car it sells for the first six months by 115 per cent and is pushing hard for greener models, including a plug-in electric Smart car from 2010. The Senate hearing outcome is expected on August 26.


Poor public hospital treatment of kids with heart complaints

DOCTORS have called for an independent investigation into the State's pediatric cardiac service, it has emerged. The move follows a nurse's claims of "dangerous and potentially fatal" work practices. The service transferred from Brisbane's Prince Charles Hospital to the Mater Children's in May to prepare for the transition to the planned Queensland Children's Hospital in 2011.

Queensland Health has received a copy of a letter by a nurse who moved with the unit to the Mater, raising serious concerns about the quality of services being provided there, including unsafe workloads and "archaic" equipment. The nurse, who has since resigned, complained about poor staffing numbers and a lack of experienced nurses at the unit since the move. "We frequently had an increased, unsafe workload," she wrote. "It became increasingly difficult to give effective and quality care to each of my allocated patients and their families, many with very high needs.

The nurse said the unit's team leaders at the Mater were frequently required to look after patients, removing their ability to help other staff. "With such a large percentage of staff rostered on any given shift being fairly inexperienced in cardiac care, this is a dangerous and potentially fatal consequence," her letter says. The nurse said despite the heavy workloads, unit staff not uncommonly were required to look after non-cardiac patients, regardless of staffing levels or experience.

Australian Medical Association Queensland president Chris Davis, who has also received a copy of the letter, called for an independent investigation into the unit, expected to perform about 350 procedures a year. "It seems to me reading that letter, we're looking at a very experienced nurse and she has blown the whistle," he said. "One assumes that she's done it, as is always the case, to make sure that the interests of patients are protected."

Queensland Health Minister Stephen Robertson said he was concerned by the issues raised in the letter. He said Queensland Health staff would talk to the Mater Health Services about those concerns. The pediatric cardiac service's director Graham Nunn, a heart surgeon, said he expected the Mater unit to quickly achieve national recognition as a centre of excellence. He said the ward was staffed appropriately, using acceptable benchmarks, according to the number of patients, and the equipment was "brand new". "Approximately twice the numbers of surgical cases per week are being treated at the Mater Children's Hospital than before the service transferred from The Prince Charles Hospital," Dr Nunn said.


Thursday, August 14, 2008


Conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG has a new toon up about a recent ludicrous legal situation in Australia.

Vengeful regulator costs taxpayers $55 million

The TGA does not like alternative medicines generally and they were particularly cheesed with this guy because they had lost previous legal battles with him. So they used faults in a few of his products as an excuse to shut down his entire business -- even though there was no evidence of problems with over 200 other products. The fact that they had been too lazy to do any inspections in response to earlier complaints would also have counted against the TGA. The big damages payout is clear evidence that the TGA is a typical bureaucracy: At once lazy and irresponsible in the use of its powers. Since they control all access to drugs in Australia, new and less capricious management for them would seem urgent

The former chief executive of Pan Pharmaceuticals will get $55 million in compensation from the Commonwealth government, after the Federal Court found a government agency had been negligent. Jim Selim was the chief executive of Pan Pharmaceuticals, which went into liquidation in 2005, owing some $180 million after faulty batches of its travel sickness remedy Travacalm resulted in at least 87 adverse reactions and 19 hospitalisations. Symptoms included psychotic episodes, hallucinations and blackouts.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) suspended Pan's licence and ordered the immediate withdrawal of 219 of its products. After Pan pleaded guilty to 24 charges relating to defective medication, Mr Selim launched legal action, claiming the TGA had pursued a vendetta against him and Pan.

Today, Justice Arthur Emmett congratulated legal counsel for reaching a settlement in a case he said could have continued for several more weeks. "I see no reason why the court shouldn't act in accordance with the wishes of the parties,'' Judge Emmett said. He made an order confirming the settlement, which will see $50 million compensation paid by the Commonwealth to Mr Selim and an extra $5 million for legal costs, to be paid within 28 days.

Outside the court, Mr Selim said he was thankful for the result but he was still waiting for a public apology from the TGA for its actions, which he said had come at great personal cost to himself.

Source. More background here

A hugely corrupt government railway

The NSW railways have long been notorious -- in part because aggressive unionists have resisted reforms

A welding manager who defrauded RailCorp of $4.28 million and a contracts officer who helped herself to $650,000 are among eight people recommended for prosecution as the Independent Commission Against Corruption begins to release findings from one of the biggest investigations in its history. The corruption watchdog has recommended criminal charges against three former RailCorp staff and three rail contractors. Two accomplices face perjury charges. They face up to seven years in jail. By the time the nine-week hearing ended in May, $19 million in "work improperly allocated to contractors" had been identified, as well as $3 million in kickbacks to RailCorp staff.

Corruption was so widespread at the troubled rail network that the inquiry was forced to draw to a close despite a torrent of allegations about other scams. So many employees and contractors appeared before the hearings that ICAC has taken the unusual step of staggering the release of its findings over several months. The commissioner, Jerrold Cripps, QC, has withheld the core corruption prevention recommendations until all the findings are made public. "The same corruption issues have arisen in several previous ICAC investigations into RailCorp," the ICAC reports say. "To deal with these serious issues, the final report in this series will canvass all of the corruption prevention issues raised during the various segments of the current investigation."

Yesterday's reports focused on scams set up by the former contracts relationship officer, Renea Hughes, and the head of welding in the "metropolitan south" area of the network, Allan Michael Blackstock. Hughes manipulated the computerised contracting system to funnel work to Kuipers Excavation, run by William and Kim Kuipers, against whom ICAC has also made corrupt findings. Of the $650,000 that Hughes scammed from her former employer, she pocketed $366,000. On top of this, she submitted $115,137 in false wage claims that were paid in full by RailCorp, and most of this money, she told the inquiry last year, was spent on poker machines. The Kuipers received $123,109 as part of the scam which relied on false and padded invoices that Hughes authorised.

The Herald revealed last year that RailCorp management had been specifically warned about Hughes in a January 2004 internal corruption report for manipulating the invoice system in a separate scam involving a tree-lopping company. But she was never disciplined. Instead she retained a promotion she was given midway through the internal inquiry, and went on to defraud RailCorp of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Blackstock and his accountant, Youssef "Joe" Madrajat, a Justice of the Peace, were found to have set up a welding company, Precision Wirefeed Welding, specifically to take advantage of Blackstock's capacity to authorise welding contracts. They used second mobile phones, registered in false names, and hid assets and company titles under the names of relatives to avoid detection over several years. Blackstock received more than $1.3 million and Madrajat more than $1.1 million during the life of their covert deal. Blackstock was so awash with cash that he paid down his mortgages and bought two investment properties. He paid for furniture, a Toyota Landcruiser and even a $32,000 fibreglass boat with cash. "There remains a substantial amount of cash unaccounted for, which was apparently spent on shopping, restaurants, holidays and gambling," the ICAC reports say.

Blackstock also covered up two serious rail safety breaches. One involved a train narrowly missing one of the Precision track workers, and the use of high-voltage electrical equipment on live tracks that were not properly certified for safe use.

The inquiry was the seventh corruption probe into the NSW railways since 1992.


Some Australian universities highly rated

I have a large and ornate document issued to me by the University of Sydney

Australia now has three universities in the top 100 as measured by Shanghai Jiao Tong University, with the University of Sydney joining the Australian National University and the University of Melbourne. However, the number of Australian universities in the top 500 dropped from 17 to 15.

ANU dropped slightly, from 57 to 59, in the world university rankings, while Melbourne continued its relentless climb, jumping six places to 73 in the otherwise fairly stable top 100. Sydney University leapt into the top 100 for the first time, at 97. Vice-chancellor Michael Spence said it was "very pleasing" that three Australian universities were ranked in the Jiao Tong top 100. "It is an indication of the strength and quality of Australian higher education that we perform so well in world class competition," he said.

Down the ranks, which were not specified outside the top 100, the University of Adelaide dropped from the second to the third 100, while James Cook, Tasmania and Wollongong universities moved up from the fifth 100 to the fourth 100, according to an analysis by the country's leading commentator on Jiao Tong, Melbourne University professor of higher education Simon Marginson. The University of New England and Murdoch University fell just below the cut-off line for the last 100 this year, while Griffith University also fell not far below the cut-off line.

While criticism of the Jiao Tong methodology is common, it attracts attention and cachet simply because it meets the need for a global performance measure. The US retained its stranglehold on the rankings, with four of the top five universities: Harvard, Stanford, the University of California at Berkeley and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are first, second, third and fifth respectively. Britain's University of Cambridge was in fourth place.

According to Professor Marginson, Jiao Tong placements increasingly are seen as an important measure of a nation's economic health and competitiveness. He told the HES that while he would like to see an Australian university in the top 50, having three in the top 100 - and six in the top 200 - compared well with European countries of similar population and wealth, such as The Netherlands. However, Australia was well behind Britain and our top universities lagged behind those of European countries such as Switzerland, whose best was at equal 24, France (42), Denmark (45), The Netherlands (47), Sweden (51) and Germany (equal 55).

Australia also was significantly behind Canada, whose best universities - the University of Toronto at equal 24 and the University of British Columbia at 35 - were stronger. The most striking improvement was shown by China: the number of Chinese universities in the top 500 increased from 25 to 30 last year.

"In (the) future we can expect to see Chinese universities bulking larger in the top 200 and then the top 100, as the hyper-investments in (research and development) of the past 10 years begin to bear fruit in stellar research performance," Professor Marginson said. On the present trajectory, China was on course to become the world's second largest knowledge economy.

In contrast, Australian universities operated in what Professor Marginson described as a hyper-scarce funding environment, where the top institutions sustained research performance by squeezing teaching resources and other facilities, which was a highly undesirable trade-off. "Full funding of research, currently under discussion, is very important because it means research no longer has to be subsidised from resources generated by local and international students," he said.

Professor Marginson noted that in the US, Canada and Britain, full funding of research sustained significantly stronger performance. The US comfortably retained its position as the country with the largest number of universities in the top 500, although the total fell from 166 to 159, according to analysis by Melbourne University's Centre for the Study of Higher Education. Next came Britain, with 42 universities in the top 500, followed by Germany with 40 (down from 41), Japan 31 (down from 33) and China 30 (up from 25).

The Australian Technology Network recently proposed that the performance of Australian universities in world rankings should be a part of formal performance benchmarks.


More global cooling: Abnormally cold winter in Southern Queensland

It's not your imagination. This is shaping up to be Brisbane's coldest winter in years with minimum temperatures about four degrees below average. So far this August Brisbane has averaged 7.4 degrees in the morning compared with 11.4 degrees at the same time last year. Bureau of Meteorology senior forecast Vikash Prasad said the long term average for August was about 10 degrees. "We're certainly seeing some cooler temperatures associated with the dry south-westerly airstream," Mr Prasad said.

This morning was no different with the mercury sinking to 6.5 degrees in the City and just 2.8 at the Airport. But farther west it was much colder with Amberley reaching a freezing -2.1 degrees, Oakey -3.6, Warwick -4.5 and Applethorpe a bone rattling -5 degrees.

Mr Prasad said the clearing of yesterday's cloud cover contributed to the colder morning. "There's still a bit of high cloud about but with the cloud clearing forward we'll probably see similar temperatures tomorrow as well," he said. Although the cold snap was expected to continue across inland parts, coastal areas should see slightly warmer minimums from next Monday or Tuesday as the winds changed from south-westerly to south-easterly. "That means there's more onshore flow and it should increase the moisture in the air a little bit," said Mr Prasad.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Stupid bureaucrats want to destroy a unique horse

They should be using his blood to gather lifesaving antibodies -- but bureaucrats are incapable of dealing with unusual circumstances. They have their rules and that is that. Intelligent thought or human decency not allowed. Thank goodness for an owner who loves his neddies and is prepared to fight for them. If the ever-protesting animal-lovers want to do some good for a change, they could try picketing these bureaucratic tyrants

A $200,000 racehorse that contracted the deadly Hendra virus at Redlands Veterinary Clinic while it was being treated for an eye injury is now the subject of a legal battle over its future after it miraculously survived. The Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries is insisting the two-year-old gelding be destroyed but co-owner and breeder Warren Small wants to race the horse, Tamworth, again - or have him used for research.

Mr Small had threatened to sue the DPIF if it moved to put his horse down. He said he had also offered to sell the DPIF the horse for research into the little known virus.

Biosecurity Queensland Chief Veterinary Officer Ron Glanville said the organisation was simply following national guidelines on emergency diseases.


Another Leftist writer misrepresents the facts about the "Stolen Generation"

The "Stolen Generation" is a myth that Leftists need in their campaign to denigrate Australia and inflate their own pretences to virtue. Comments below by Andrew Bolt

NEVER mind the facts. To too many arts academics, what counts is the right-on ideology. Today's example: Melbourne University academic Mark Davis. Davis has a new book, The Land of Plenty, which Melbourne University Press claims is a "lacerating dissection" of conservatives and which it published without bothering to correct even the most obvious howlers. Two in particular interest me.

Howler A: "A low point was a Bolt-penned beat-up that appeared on the front page of the Herald-Sun (sic) to discredit the Aboriginal leader Lowitja O'Donoghue with the incorrect claim that she had falsely claimed to be stolen . . ." First, the background: O'Donoghue was for years our most famous "stolen generations" member, a co-patron of the National Sorry Day Committee. "I was two years of age when I was taken from my family," she declared. "I am from a stolen generation."

But she wasn't. As I showed in 2001, she'd been abandoned by her parents. She even admitted she wasn't stolen and had misused the word: "(My father) didn't want to be straddled with five kids . . . I don't like the word stolen and it's perhaps true that I've used the word loosely at times." So O'Donoghue herself confirmed the truth of my claim. So on what evidence does Davis now dismiss it as "incorrect"? Answer: None at all. It just should be wrong, I guess.

Howler B: "Bolt challenged Robert Manne to produce a list of, first, 10, then a hundred, then a few hundred instances of child removal. Manne responded with a list of 250 names, but Bolt remained unmoved." First, I did not challenge Professor Manne, our top "stolen generations" propagandist, to produce first 10 names and then set the bar higher, as if he'd met each challenge I set. For two years now, and as recently as last month, I've asked for just 10. And I'm still waiting for Manne to name just 10 of the 25,000 children he says were stolen to save them not from harm, "but from their Aboriginality".

While Manne did on his third try give me 250 names, Davis is wildly wrong to suggest they were of "stolen" children. In fact, half the names were of children from the Northern Territory who'd been sent to institutions for schooling or care, often by a parent. What's more, the Federal Court found there was no evidence of a policy in the NT to steal children for racist reasons, and Manne does not identify a single child to show why they were the exception that was stolen.

His other names are of children rescued in Queensland a century ago after a court declared them neglected. They include, for example, Topsy, who was 12, fatherless and syphilitic; Dolly, about 13, seven months pregnant and working for nothing on a station; and Harry Brown, a 12-year-old working for whites who chained him up. Again, Manne does not show why a single child on his list was not likewise saved, but stolen because they were black.

So Davis is wrong again, but when I asked him to defend his error he said he had "no interest in getting into a slanging match about numbers stolen". Not now that he has no proof. If this is what passes for scholarship at Melbourne University, God help us.


South Australian public hospital 'to refuse' referred patients

Patients referred to specialist clinics at Flinders Medical Centre will be denied appointments unless they are classified as high priority under a plan to reduce staff workloads, the Public Service Association says. Under the proposal that the PSA yesterday said was being considered by hospital management, only the most urgent cases would be booked into outpatient consulting clinics. To make an appointment, patients need a referral from an emergency department or their GP or medical specialist. Those referrals are then triaged by senior medical staff.

The PSA's chief industrial officer, Peter Christopher, said clerical staff had been told the hospital was examining "how to manage the workloads" because an internal funding request for two extra administration workers was still being negotiated. "Patients who don't fit the highest priority category simply won't get booked into any of the clinics to see the specialists they've been referred to when they present," he said.

Southern Health chief executive Cathy Miller said it was not an official policy but advice to staff from some hospital managers on how to cope with increased demand. "That's one way of categorising patients, but there are other interventions and approaches you can use in managing the workload," she said.

The clinics' administration staff, including ward clerks, last month introduced work bans in protest over "extraordinary" workloads. The work bans and limitations were suspended after a fortnight, but Mr Christopher said they could be "back on within a week or so". But Ms Miller said an extra staff member had been temporarily assigned to the clinics.

Opposition health spokeswoman Vickie Chapman said PSA members were frustrated because the long-running dispute had not been resolved. But a spokeswoman for Acting Health Minister Jay Weatherill said demand for services was rising across every city hospital.


Ambulance insanity: Paperwork more important than patients

Up to eight paramedics were doing office jobs in Cairns' regional headquarters on Monday when a student paramedic was left in charge of the entire Cardwell area, a Queensland Ambulance source has said. The source told The Cairns Post an increasingly "top-heavy" ambulance service was to blame for causing a "potentially life-threatening" situation.

Queensland Ambulance Service Far Northern assistant commissioner Peter Cahill yesterday described Monday's rostering of an unqualified paramedic to a seven-hour solo shift in the Cardwell district south of Tully as "not ideal". "But our regular officer called in sick 20 minutes before the shift and it put us in a situation where we needed to find someone very quickly, we tried a number of staff members and the officer available to assist us was the student paramedic," Mr Cahill said after receiving a briefing on the incident.

The worried Queensland Ambulance source, who did not want to be named, said there were "any number" of qualified paramedics working in off-road jobs from management to training on Monday. The source said several were officers-in-charge whose positions had included on-road duties until about six months ago. "We're short-staffed but we're also top-heavy and for one-off occasions qualified people could cover a position," the source said.

Mr Cahill confirmed the student paramedic usually worked under supervision. He said other ambulance officers would have "been doing their roles at their stations". "We have certain numbers of staff to meet demand at certain stations. When these staff are busy doing their work, it is sometimes a bit tricky to relocate them," he said.

Ambulance Employers Association's Bob Lackey described Monday's situation as risky for both the student paramedic and the public with the nearest paramedics 44km from Cardwell at Tully. Emergency Services defended the student as one who has worked with the QAS for more than two years and is expected to be an advanced care paramedic by December.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tell-all report cards to rate schools

Surprising sense from a Leftist

The Rudd Government is on a collision course with Morris Iemma and teachers' unions who say its push for transparent report cards that identify test results, class sizes, teacher qualifications and even the wealth of students' families will lead to unfair school league tables. The federal Minister for Education, Julia Gillard - having met the chancellor of schools in New York, Joel Klein - says Australia can learn from his methodology of "comparing like schools with like schools to measure differences in school results". A former lawyer criticised for his lack of education credentials, Mr Klein has stirred the ire of New York teachers with his focus on standardised testing and links between student results and teacher performance.

Ms Gillard has distanced herself from criticism from the NSW Government and teaching unions who warn her approach will name and shame disadvantaged schools. Rather, Ms Gillard said yesterday, teaching excellence should be identified and rewarded and high standards expected of all students, rich or poor. "We're not talking about anything as simplistic and silly as league tables," she said at the Australian Council for Educational Research annual conference. "But we are talking about parents and the community understanding what kinds of students are in schools, their socio-economic status, the number of indigenous students, the number of students with disabilities, because that obviously means the schools have special needs."

Researchers have linked low performance at school to social disadvantage, with less able richer children overtaking more able poorer children by the age of six. Apart from investing in early learning and rewarding quality teaching, Ms Gillard said a spotlight was needed on schools needing extra help. "The aim should be to robustly ascertain what mix of capacities and needs children are bringing to their school," she said. "We need this information in order to understand what schools, in turn, should offer to these students, and how governments and communities working together can support schools to do so.

"As a nation, we should then be tracking attainment, knowing that we are in the powerful position of comparing like schools with like schools. If two schools have comparable school populations but widely varying results, we would be able to ask the question why and ascertain the answer. "We should be able to identify best practice and innovation, and work systematically to ensure that they are spread more widely. We should be able to especially assist those schools that need it. Specifically we should be identifying excellent teaching and excellent school leadership. We must expect high standards of every child."

However, a spokesman for the acting NSW Minister for Education, John Hatzistergos, said enough information was already available to help identify struggling students in need of help. "There is considerable concern with proposals to excessively 'tag' students and schools with various labels for little purpose," he said. "NSW is responsible for the welfare and education of its students and is committed to the constructive application of the outcomes of assessment in all its forms."

The Premier, Morris Iemma, said it would be difficult to rank schools around Australia. "It's like hospitals; it's the rules around that [ranking], because if you're going to stand in a hospital - and it's a similar example with schools - like Westmead and compare it, for example, with a small district hospital, like Canterbury, and then attempt in some way from the straight statistics that appear on that list to rank those two hospitals, you would not be comparing like with like."

The president of the Australian Education Union, Angelo Gavrielatos, said the learning priorities of students would not be addressed by a "divisive sideshow on league tables". "Raising overall student performance and addressing underachievement requires investment," he said. "Teachers know it and parents know it. "Public schools nationwide require an immediate $1.4 billion per annum to raise retention rates to 90 per cent and a further $1.3 billion per annum to ensure that all primary school-age children reach the minimum benchmark scores for literacy and numeracy."

The principal of SCEGGS Darlinghurst, Jenny Allum, said students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9 had completed the first round of national literacy and numeracy tests in May, but no results had yet been made available to help schools diagnose any learning difficulties in students.

The federal Opposition's education spokesman, Tony Smith, said: "Already Julia Gillard has failed the first test in refusing to release the individual results of the national literacy and numeracy tests until the end of this year. The whole reason the Coalition government introduced these tests was to provide parents and schools with information in a timely fashion so parents could get help straightaway."


Education unions oppose choice

Like the little Stalinists they are

The Australian Education Union has reacted angrily to plans to move towards a voucher-like scheme, which would give students the power to choose between private training providers and public ones such as TAFEs. AEU federal president Angelo Gavrielatos warned yesterday the union would launch a community campaign to head off any such changes, accusing federal Labor of continuing the "failed policies" of its Coalition predecessor. "Vouchers represent an attempt to commodify education and an abrogation on the part ofgovernment for ensuring planned provision of education," he said.

The Weekend Australian revealed on Saturday that the Rudd Government could use its reform of federalism to encourage its state Labor counterparts to introduce competition into vocational education. Victoria has already released plans to make public and private training bodies bid for students, prompting the AEU to declare the shift "the biggest threat to TAFE" in the state's history.

Education Minister Julia Gillard said yesterday the Government was in intensive discussions with the states and territories on the best ways to deliver vocational education and training. But she said training providers should not be the ones to decide what should be available. "Rather, the structure and funding of VET has to give students and industry the power to get providers to respond to their needs," Ms Gillard said.

She said future reforms would, however, not be modelled on the previous government's voucher system, since cut by Labor, which offered young Australians up to $3000 for vocational training. "There are a number of ways of achieving this reform, but an ill-thought-through, badly implemented voucher program like the Howard government's Work Skills vouchers isn't one of them," Ms Gillard said.

Martin Riordon, chief executive officer of TAFE Directors Australia, which represents TAFE and technology institutes, said vouchers were one of the financing options being discussed by governments. While he was yet to see the details of the proposal, he said it was important any reform was accompanied by a funding boost. "The last voucher system was trialled but it really was both poorly targeted and inadequately funded," Mr Riordon said.

"We are just keen to see that, in the next commonwealth and state agreement that comes in force in July next year, whatever funding agreement is ultimately agreed that there's a lift in training funding." Ms Gillard is also negotiating with the states and territories on school funding and yesterday told ABC's Insiders program she was "very assertively" challenging them to open up their schools to public scrutiny.

In a speech to the Australian Council for Educational Research conference in Brisbane today, she will call for school-by-school data on student populations, their socio-economic mix and development status to be made available nationally. "If two schools have comparable school populations but widely varying results, we would then be able to ask the question why and ascertain the answer," Ms Gillard said.


A great emergency call system

This woman is lucky to have received treatment after two 000 calls for help were directed to the wrong cities. Manunda worker Lance Laverty saw the woman lying beside Anderson St with her head in the gutter about 11.45am on Saturday. He called 000 twice but still had to flag down passing police to get the woman help.

The "stuff up" comes just weeks after a World War II Digger died after waiting more than two hours for an ambulance. "She (the woman) had now been laying in the sun for about 40 minutes," Mr Laverty said. "Imagine if that lady was elderly and having a heart attack or a stroke, what the consequences may have been."

Mr Laverty said he tried to phone Cairns police but eventually hung up and called 000, which transferred his call to Beenleigh police [about 1,000 miles South of Cairns].

"I observed what appeared to be three young men hovering around another person lying on the ground," he said. Mr Laverty said he was reluctant to approach the men, fearing a confrontation, so decided the best action was to call police. After waiting 15 minutes for police to arrive, Mr Laverty again called 000 but was this time transferred to Townsville. [about 200 miles South of Cairns].

"I do not blame the police or QAS, all praise on these people and all other emergency service workers at the coal face, but I blame the system that we keep being told is the best in the world," Mr Laverty said.

A police spokesman last night said when a 000 call was received at a police communication centre experiencing a high volume of emergency calls it was transferred to an available call-taker at another police communications centre. This was the reason calls were diverted from Cairns. The woman was taken to Cairns Base Hospital but her condition is not known.


Property buyers not worried by global warming

The threat of rising sea levels caused by climate change is not putting off cashed-up Australians from spending big on blue-chip beachfront property. Real estate agents say that dire predictions about the hungry sea swallowing up coastal suburbs seem to be falling on deaf ears. Demand for high-end beach property is holding up despite overall market softness due to a slowing economy and tanking share market. Buyers are either ignoring the experts or don't believe them.

A record was set on the Central Coast when a deceased estate in Pacific Dr, facing Wamberal Beach, offered for the first time in 70 years, sold for $6.2 million. Another picture-perfect beachfront home at Narrabeen, earmarked by scientists as the Sydney suburb most vulnerable to rising sea levels, sold last month for $4.03 million -- 20 per cent up on the price it fetched three years ago.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report predicts sea levels will rise between 18cm and 59cm over the next 92 years, and another 10cm to 20cm if ice sheets melt faster. For every centimetre the sea rises, scientists say, the beach retreats 1m -- so, by the end of the century, the worst-case scenario is that properties within 80m of the beach will be under water.

But real estate agent Jack Elsegood, an expert in northern beaches property, said there was no sign buyers were worried. "They understand there is a threat but, while it exists, it's not going to be in their lifetime or maybe even in their children's,'' he said.

Oceanographer Dr John Hunter, from the Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre in Hobart, said some people did not to want to face the problem. "People want to live by the sea and a lot of them will take these risks,'' he said. "They'll accept them, hoping a solution can be found. (They think) perhaps a sea wall can be built.'' Dr Hunter said it was wrong to think the problems posed by rising sea levels were years away. [Even though sea-levels have stopped rising recently?]


Monday, August 11, 2008

New push for censorship

"Privacy" is a great smokescreen for protecting crooks. Publicity is almost the only weapon against many abuses by government and others

Australia's top news organisations are readying for a showdown if the Australian Law Reform Commission recommends tough new privacy laws today, as expected. The commission's report could have significant ramifications for news reporting, especially on the lives of well-known people. Justin Quill, a media and litigation lawyer and director of law firm Kelly Hazell, said a privacy law would most affect magazines that specialised in reporting celebrity news, followed by shows such as A Current Affair and Today Tonight and then other news services.

Gilbert + Tobin partner Peter Leonard expected the immediate effect of a privacy law would be "more cautious reporting around the personal life of celebrities". For example, he said much of the reporting of former AFL footballer Wayne Carey might be disallowed if a privacy law existed. "It could have a significant chilling effect on the reporting of the private lives of celebrities," Mr Leonard said.

In its newsletter last week, Gilbert + Tobin said the ALRC's report was expected to recommend "the most significant changes to the Privacy Act in the 20 years of its existence". "There is a strong expectation that Special Minister of State Senator John Faulkner will commit the Government to act on the ALRC's recommendations, and that he will introduce relevant legislative amendments in the foreseeable future," it said.

The Right to Know Coalition, which represents Australia's top media groups, including News Limited, publisher of The Australian, on freedom of speech issues -- is against a privacy law. "Protection of privacy needs to be balanced against the public interest in allowing the free flow of information and upholding freedom of speech," a spokesperson said. "It has not been demonstrated that existing privacy protections fail to achieve this balance."

The Right to Know Coalition argued a statutory right to privacy would restrain the media's ability to keep the public informed. "The ALRC has failed to demonstrate a breach of privacy by the media is not already dealt with by existing laws, such as defamation and surveillance laws or self-regulation by the media," it said. "The law would be irrelevant to ordinary citizens in whom the media has no interest. It would be open to abuse by irresponsible claimants who would clog our already over-burdened courts. "Such a law would simply allow rich people to employ lawyers in a bid to avoid scrutiny of their wrongdoing."

Fairfax Media general counsel Gail Hambly said the evidence in Europe, where a privacy law existed, was that it was only used by high-profile people. "It allows the rich, powerful and celebrities to manipulate their images in the way they want them manipulated, rather than having some transparency," she said. Ms Hambly said she was recently at a conference on the issue in Britain where an attendee made a sound suggestion. "They said privacy laws would be OK on the whole if anyone with a PR agent was exempt from taking an action," she said.

Mr Leonard believed there could be some advantage to introducing a privacy law. "I think it may be a sensible development for the media as it would mean the defamation laws don't get stretched to be used as a substitute for proper protection against invasion of privacy." He said if there was a new privacy law it needed to feature restraints such as acknowledging legitimate public interest.


Balancing competing rights requires trade-offs

COMMENT from law Professor James Allan

How would you balance the rather vague, amorphous notions of a "right to respect for one's private life" and a "right to freedom of expression"? Both these concepts are nebulous enough, and they sound emotively attractive enough, that they finesse disagreement. Put differently, everyone would say that he or she is in favour of both rights. "Yep, I like the idea of a right to privacy and yep, I like the idea of a right to freedom of expression."

Of course, any ideas articulated in those sort of indeterminate terms will only finesse disagreement for as long as they remain moral abstractions. As soon as you ask more specific questions -- where should we draw the line when it comes to campaign finance rules or hate speech provisions -- all the feel-good agreement evaporates. You have smart, reasonable, nice people disagreeing. You have lots and lots of moral "dissensus".

The same goes for any right that is phrased as an indeterminate moral abstraction, which is to say all the rights in any bill of rights. But there's a different problem that sometimes gets overlooked. You see, any list of moral abstractions-cum-rights will give rise to real life situations where those rights conflict with each other. One right can be relied on to point one way and a different right to point the other way. Take the following scenario. (And who can resist making use of it?) Start with the president of the body that oversees Formula One car racing, one Max Mosley.

Make him someone who enjoys sado-masochistic orgies with hookers, lots of hookers, five to be precise. Let there be some question of whether the bondage clothes worn by the women looked like Nazi uniforms. Throw in one of the big British tabloids. And just to round it off, let that president be the son of Sir Oswald Mosley, the politician and baronet who founded the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s. Now what if one of the five hookers had been paid by the tabloid secretly to video this bondage session? And the tabloid then published it, along with a very racy headline I'll leave you to imagine.

Of course the above scenario has recently played out in fact in London. And the man at the centre of the bondage video (at least one supposes he was at the centre, though with six people involved, who knows?) decided to sue the tabloid. The regular law of defamation wouldn't work because Max Mosley admitted that the main parts of the story about his long-time involvement in these sort of S&M sex sessions were true. And truth is a defence to defamation proceedings. So instead he decides to sue by relying on the new statutory bill of rights, which incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights into English law.

The case boils down at its simplest to how to balance two of the articles. Article 8 grandly guarantees the "right to respect for one's private life". Article 10 protects the "right to freedom of expression". Neither right is meant to be absolute. Reasonable limits apply, though of course talk of "reasonable limits" is itself just another vague, amorphous notion that masks disagreement. What counts as a reasonable limit and when is itself a massively contentious issue about which people disagree.

Anyway, I'm betting that readers will split pretty evenly on this. A lot of you will think this is just bedroom conduct (OK, a bedroom decorated as a dungeon conduct) that really isn't anyone's business save Mosley's and the five hookers. It's not as though the tabloids aren't a pretty distasteful lot themselves. And we know they're out to sell, sell, sell those papers. And talk of their acting in the public interest can reek of hypocrisy, let's be honest.

On the other hand, I'm betting there are also lots of free speech types out there who think this is in the public interest. The stuff caught on film was true. People are clearly interested because they buy millions of papers to read it. And if we start restricting the reporting of this sort of case, what about when Jeffrey Archer does roughly (sorry, no pun intended) the same sort of thing and lies? Or what about when newspapers want to reveal the goings-on of former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards? Doesn't a privacy law start to look like it has the potential to squash stuff that suits an awful lot of people in important positions (jobwise I mean)?

Well, the judge sided with the right to privacy crowd and awarded Mosley $120,000, plus his legal costs (which may be another million or so pounds). That's a pretty hefty disincentive to publish in future.

I, personally, would have preferred it if the free speech side of the argument had prevailed. I'm a wannabe American [Prof. Allan is a peripatetic Canadian] in my attachment to wide open, vigorous free speech. I think good consequences for society follow from forcing people to have thick skins. And (as the Mark Steyn saga in Canada shows) a lot of well-intentioned limits on free speech collapse into elites telling the rest of us what we can and cannot say. If we're going to err, I'd err every time on the side of letting you say what you feel like and leaving it to others to rebut you.

Worse than that, though, far worse, is how this came to pass in Britain. Did they have a big debate about where to strike the balance between privacy and free speech concerns? Did they have select committee hearings around the country, or the kind of informed second-reading debate that preceded the liberalisation of abortion laws in Britain? Nope and nope.

In fact there isn't any privacy law in Britain. Or rather, the law that exists flows from the top English courts interpreting the European Convention on Human Rights. It flows from a bunch of unelected judges telling us how they, the judges, happen to think society ought to balance these two rights. The issue was never addressed by Westminster. It's yet another example of the far-reaching -- and if you like to make these decisions yourself as a voter, then the negative -- effects of a bill of rights.

When proponents of bills of rights are trying to sell these things they only ever deal in vague, feel-good generalities. They never tell you that you're signing over these sort of "how to balance privacy against free speech" decisions, and a myriad others, to the judges. And why is that remotely attractive? As Max Mosley might say, "Beats me". [Very good, James, very good]


Government intervention in grocery sales??

By Henry Ergas

Another day, another Australian Competition and Consumer Commission backflip. Only weeks ago, ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel told the ABC's 7.30 Report that "there would be very few observers in the marketplace that would say to you, 'Coles and Woolworths are not vigorously competing against each other."' Now, in a somersault worthy of an Olympic gold medal, Samuel has concluded that "the grocery market is workably competitive. That term is used to describe a market in which competition exists but it is definitely not as competitive as it should be."

This statement stands 40 years of Australian competition law on its head. Since 1976, workable competition has been the touchstone of Australian competition law. Recognising that perfect competition is rarely, if ever, of this world, the then Trade Practices Tribunal, in a decision repeatedly endorsed by the Federal Court and the High Court, determined that workable competition is pretty much as good as it gets: simply put, a workably competitive market is one that is doing exactly what we want markets to do.

Of course, the ACCC chairman is free to define words as he wishes. As Humpty Dumpty famously said, "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less." But what Samuel is doing is redefining the benchmark at which government intervention is justified. Until now, it has been widely accepted that where markets are workably competitive, governments should let them be. Samuel wants to push that boundary back, extending the oil slick of intervention that began with FuelWatch.

It is true the interventions proposed for retail grocery are far more light-touch than those involved in the FuelWatch scheme. Indeed, they look like the interventions governments make when they know that they really shouldn't intervene at all.

This is especially so with the GroceryChoice website. The trouble with GroceryChoice is that there is no simple way of comparing prices between supermarkets in a manner that will be of much use to individual shoppers. Supermarkets carry tens of thousands of individual products; there are innumerable issues of comparability between products, accentuated by differences between stores in their reliance on own brands; for many products, especially fresh produce, quality matters greatly and varies between retailers in ways difficult to measure; prices fluctuate daily and weekly, all the more so as a result of specials, promotions and mark-downs; and consumers differ greatly in their shopping baskets, so comparisons informative for one are of no value to another.

But even putting myriad practical considerations aside, it is reasonable to ask why taxpayer dollars should be used for this purpose. What is the market failure that GroceryChoice is intended to correct? Samuel has been clear on this point. Launching the site, he declared that "before today, (consumers) didn't have any information". Lack of consumer information supposedly reduces the pressures on stores to compete, perpetuating what the ACCC describes as muted price competition.

The problem with Samuel's claims is that even going on the ACCC's own report, they have no basis in fact. Far from lacking price information, the report finds that consumers are deluged with material advertising prices and that "a significant number of consumers do use the prices of specific items to choose the grocery store they will visit". As a result, the ACCC concludes, "the majority of consumers either compare prices on a limited range of products shortly before visiting the store, or compare prices over a longer period of time".

Indeed, retail grocery consumers are uniquely well placed to make price comparisons. Grocery shopping is a repeat activity that accounts for a substantial share of household expenditure. Shoppers are frequently exposed to prices and have incentives to invest in being well-informed. Additionally, most shoppers buy regularly in more than one type of store: say, doing a large shop at a main chain and then topping up with purchases from an independent. They therefore observe prices across outlets and can switch their purchases in line with changes in competitiveness.

As if all this were not enough, the ACCC's own theory about why price competition is muted relies on consumers being both well-informed and willing to switch. The theory says that no chain has an incentive to cut prices as its competitors will readily observe that cut and follow suit to avoid losing customers. But if customers are poorly informed and hence unlikely to switch, as Samuel claims, no such loss of customers would occur and price-matching would be irrational.

This is not to suggest the ACCC's claims about muted competition are correct. In fact, the ACCC finds that promotions are extremely frequent, especially on items that consumers regard as significant. Moreover, quite unlike what would happen in a cosy oligopoly, there is little sign of the main chains following each other's prices up; rather, prices that are above those of a main rival get cut. This asymmetry in price response, together with the speedy pass-through into prices of changes in costs, suggests a market that is strongly competitive, rather than one trapped in oligopolistic price rigidity. Last but not least, there is vigorous competition on location, quality, range, layout and convenience.

No less questionable are the ACCC's strident criticisms of Metcash, the main wholesaler to the independents. Metcash, the ACCC implies, acts as a monopolist, undermining the independents' ability to compete. This is fanciful. Metcash arose from mergers that were approved precisely because they would create a wholesaler large enough and capable of exercising sufficient discipline over retail outlets to achieve scale efficiencies and reverse the precipitous decline in the independents' market share. This is what Metcash has done and has every incentive to do.

The best that can be said is that though the analysis on which it is based is shallower than a Murray dam [good one, Henry], GroceryChoice does not seem as harmful as FuelWatch. But surely the public can expect better of the competition regulator. Is the ACCC really incapable of looking at a market without wanting to tinker with it? Why wouldn't the ACCC give frank advice that gimmicks such as GroceryChoice merely waste taxpayers' money?

The ACCC is vital to our economic future; it is important that, like the Productivity Commission, it acts with rigour and independence. Until it does, governments will view it as a soft touch, sure to come up with solutions that are as superficial as they are politically convenient. If the present ACCC allows itself to be reduced to that, it will not only have failed the Australian community but also undermined, perhaps fatally, the standing that the careful and patient work of its predecessors so successfully allowed it to acquire.


Another misguided welfare scheme

Arnhem Land leader Galarrwuy Yunupingu has called for the abolition of the federal Government's longstanding Aboriginal employment scheme, labelling it a welfare trap that is "killing Aboriginal people". Heated debate about the future of the Community Development Employment Projects, currently under review by the Government, dominated the annual indigenous Garma festival which wraps up tomorrow in East Arnhem Land.

Mr Yunupingu sparked furious debate among academics and those working in the Aboriginal service industry yesterday when he labelled CDEP a "weapon" that had been used to trample Aboriginal people's rights and deny them access to the real economy. The employment project -- founded in the late 1970s and designed to be a welfare-to-work transition scheme -- was premised on the belief that "money spoils blackfellas", Mr Yunupingu said at an economic development forum at the festival yesterday.

"CDEP is one hell of a weapon to take Aboriginal people's rights," Mr Yunupingu said. "It's a killer. It's worse than bashing women, it's worse than bashing children, it's worse than drugs. "I would like to take every dollar of CDEP and build a training school and give skills to our people for their future."

He was backed by Aboriginal academic Marcia Langton, Melbourne University's chair of Australian indigenous studies, who said CDEP should be "absolutely dispensed with" and replaced by proper training for indigenous people. Professor Langton said the CDEP scheme, under which Aboriginal people can work up to 16 hours each week and get paid an average of $240, had become a welfare trap.

In contrast, the research director at the Australian National University's Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy, Jon Altman, said labelling CDEP wages "sit-down money" was insulting and misrepresentative. While he agreed CDEP was not working in many instances as an indigenous training program, he said abolishing it would disempower communities and jeopardise indigenous cultural programs. The Government last month lifted a moratorium on CDEP instituted by former indigenous affairs minister Mal Brough. Its review into the future of CDEP is due to report in October, but it has indicated its new-look CDEP will not be instituted until July next year.

Jenny Macklin attracted praise for being the first indigenous affairs minister to visit Garma, which is in its 10th year. She camped with her staff at the festival site and held private talks with Mr Yunupingu, Cape York leader Noel Pearson and Labor politician Warren Mundine. "It is very significant that she was able to camp with us," Mr Yunupingu said. "There is a real minister for you."


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Rudd's climate castle is built on sand

A large part of the justification that Rudd has offered for his climate adventures is a CSIRO report on how global warming (if it ever happens) would affect Australia. The CSIRO is a greatly respected scientific research body but its funding depends on political favour and has often been threatened. So political expediency is not of course beyond them. You can get all sorts of answers out of climate models (which is why the IPCC reports the results from many of them) so if the CSIRO people know what the government wants, why not choose a model that gives it to them? Below is one summary of the CSIRO report (from July 6):
The Federal Government has released a report into the link between drought and climate change, which it says will trigger major review of drought policy. The report is by the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO and is the first of three commissioned by the Government.

The report warns that extreme conditions previously thought to occur once in every 20 to 25 years, could become as frequent as every one or two years. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has told ABC1's Insiders the report paints a very disturbing picture about the future of droughts in Australia. "When it comes to exceptional or extreme drought, exceptionally high temperatures, the historical assumption that this occurred once every 20 years has now been revised down to between every one and two years," he said. "Exceptional circumstances drought conditions ... will occur twice as often and with twice the area of droughted parts of Australia included. "Now this is a serious revision of the impact of climate change on drought."

Recently, however, an examination of the assumptions behind the CSIRO report has been done by Dr David Stockwell, a modelling expert. Excerpt:
"Therefore there is no credible basis for the claims of increasing frequency of Exceptional Circumstances declarations made in the report. These results are consistent with other studies finding lack of adequate validation in global warming effects modeling, and lack of skill of climate models at the regional scale..

Except in the few cases noted above, the model simulations have no resemblance to patterns of observed droughtedness in the last century. We conclude the models have failed internal validation and no further testing is warranted."

In other words, those wonderful "models" the CSIRO relied on don't give an accurate picture of what has actually happened in the past. And if they can't get the past right, how can we expect them to get the future right?

A recent article in the Hydrological Sciences Journal also found that climate models had no validity in portraying the climate of regional areas (such as Australia). The one thing we can test about such models is how accurate they are in "back-predicting" the past -- and they fail utterly. The journal Abstract:
On the credibility of climate predictions

By D. Koutsoyiannis et al.

Geographically distributed predictions of future climate, obtained through climate models, are widely used in hydrology and many other disciplines, typically without assessing their reliability. Here we compare the output of various models to temperature and precipitation observations from eight stations with long (over 100 years) records from around the globe. The results show that models perform poorly, even at a climatic (30-year) scale. Thus local model projections cannot be credible, whereas a common argument that models can perform better at larger spatial scales is unsupported.

Source (H/T Agmates)

Kids defy food fanatics

Children are defying a junk-food ban in school canteens by smuggling in fattening snacks and selling them to classmates. Frustrated teachers reveal they are powerless to stop many children who bring unhealthy treats from home in their bags. ``I've even seen them selling chocolates to their classmates at school. It's almost like they're dealing drugs,'' said a teacher from a prominent Perth southern suburbs public school.

Education Minister Mark McGowan conceded he could not halt the junk-food flood, even though the Government stopped it from being sold in canteens last year. ``What students bring to school in their lunchboxes is not covered by the canteen policy,'' he said. ``And we can't police what foods children bring to school. If teachers notice a particular child selling junk food on the side, I encourage them to alert the school principal. ``We as a Government can only do so much. It is important parents keep a close eye on their child or children to make sure they are doing the right thing.''

Obesity was a serious issue, which was why the Carpenter Government required all public school canteens or food services to have healthy menus, Mr McGowan said. A healthy canteen menu, combined with the required two hours of exercise a week for Years One to 10, were great initiatives. ``But parents also need to come on board in the fight against obesity. This is not the sole responsibility of the Government,'' he said.

Rob Fry, president of peak parent group the WA Council of State School Organisations, said parents should realise they were ``killing their kids'' with bad food. They should pack healthy lunches, or pre-pay for canteen meals, so children had no cash for junk.

WA State School Teachers Union general secretary David Kelly said teachers could contact parents if they were concerned about certain students. But parents and schools had to work together to address obesity. The southern suburbs teacher said: ``When they banned junk food from canteens it came back into school with a vengeance. They just started bringing their own from home, like chips and chocolates. ``I'd love to be able to confiscate it. But we're not allowed to take food off kids because they can just say `mum gave me this for lunch'.''

Another southern suburbs teacher said: ``Most teachers I know are all for the ban. But there's no use having a ban if you can't stop them from bringing it to school. ``Some kids are selling it to their mates, which would be funny if our kids weren't so fat. ``But you can't really say anything to your students these days. They swear at us in the classroom and get away with it, so this would be hard to stop.''

Another teacher said healthy canteen food had great potential to help children who weren't getting good food at home and it was a pity the situation had deteriorated to this. Canteens have a ``traffic light'' system banning ``red'' items such as soft drinks, confectionery, deep-fried foods, chips, chocolate coated ice-creams and cakes. [All of which are completely harmless -- or we would all be dead]


Old lady waits 40 hours in public hospital corridor for surgery

A 40-hour wait for emergency surgery has made health the most important West Australian election issue for pensioners Cathy and Arthur Wardle. Mrs Wardle, 73, arrived at Royal Perth Hospital's emergency department with gallstone pains at noon last Saturday. She did not have surgery until Monday afternoon.

Most of her time was spent waiting on a trolley in a hospital corridor. "I was calm and collected until a nursing co-ordinator told me I was privileged to be lying in a corridor," Mrs Wardle said. "It's not good enough what is happening to people in our hospitals."


A dubious fate for many well-intended charity donations

Donations given in good faith in Australia sometimes fall into the wrong hands

CHILDREN with distended bellies, villages destroyed by earthquakes, a bandaged infant lying in a makeshift hospital bed recovering from bullet wounds. These are images used by some humanitarian organisations to promote their fundraising campaigns.

Hezbollah supporters carry models of weapons in Lebanon. Security experts say donations to some charities end up funding such banned groups. But such images of human tragedy tell only part of the story. The rest is often lost in translation from the moment people dip into their pockets for a good cause to the time their money reaches its destination. In reality, funds raised for good causes sometimes have a way of taking other routes.

The most dangerous route delivers the money to the hands of Islamic terrorists to bankroll their suicide bombings and other deadly campaigns. It's a route that continues to dog Western security agencies, which are attempting to significantly curb, if not stop, terror financing through charity organisations. Two of Australia's most prominent Islamic charities -- Muslim Aid Australia and Human Appeal International -- are being investigated for their alleged links to Palestinian terrorist network Hamas.

MAA was raided by the Australian Federal Police last month following The Australian's revelations of the group's connection to humanitarian aid body Interpal, which is proscribed by Australia and the US for its alleged terror links. While the MAA and HAI, both Sydney-based humanitarian organisations, have denied having any terrorism connections, they have brought into focus questions about whether charity groups have hidden agendas and the extent to which terrorist organisations go to exploit the finances of such bodies.

And for Australia, the second most generous nation among the 30 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development member countries, such questions are demanding an answer, especially to put at ease the minds of Australian donors, who in 2006-07 raised more than $750 million for overseas aid through local non-profit charity networks.

National security expert Carl Ungerer says it is difficult to determine whether money raised by charities for humanitarian aid in developing countries is being used for terrorist operations or for the manufacture of things such as rockets and suicide vests. He says compounding such difficulty is that some proscribed groups such as Hamas and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah have humanitarian offshoots that are not banned by Australia. And even if authorities can prove that Australian-raised funds reach such groups, they must be able to prove the money is being used for non-humanitarian purposes.

"There's a leap of faith in distribution of funding anywhere in the world that you're going to have the outcome that you hope will occur," says Ungerer, from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. He says it must also be remembered there are some Australian Muslims who do not believe that Hamas or Hezbollah -- organisations that do not separate the pool of money between their humanitarian and military wings -- are terrorist organisations. "Hezbollah and Hamas are not only considered resistance groups in the Middle East but ones (that) do charitable work that governments won't do," Ungerer says. "The Lebanese Government in southern Lebanon is really nonexistent. It really is Hezbollah that is first on the ground after any sort of natural or political conflict."

Ungerer's words are a sobering reminder of the declaration of support for terrorist groups by Australia's most senior Muslim spiritual leaders. At a 2006 rally during the Hezbollah-Israeli war, Australian Sunni Muslim spiritual leader Fehmi Naji El-Imam praised the militants as "freedom fighters". In June last year, The Australian revealed that Shia Muslim spiritual leader Kamal Mousselmani openly declared his support for the Iranian-backed terrorist group. And former mufti Taj Din al-Hilali was investigated by the AFP last year following revelations that he gave $US10,000 ($10,986) of Australian-raised funds to an accused terrorism supporter in Lebanon in 2006. Hilali was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Hamas, which has claimed responsibility for numerous terrorist attacks and suicide bombings in Israel, was proscribed in Australia on November 9, 2003. Hezbollah was banned in Australia on June 5, 2003.

Senior Muslim leader Ameer Ali admits there are some local Islamic charities that need to be more accountable and transparent about the way their Australian-generated funds are spent overseas. He says the Muslim charity sector -- which benefits from followers of Islam being obligated to give alms, or zakat, under sharia law -- also needs to be more active in assuring its donors that their money is reaching its intended destination. "Zakat is commendable and encouraged," says Ali, a former Howard government adviser on Islam. "But what happens is that sometimes some charity organisations can take advantage of this. And nobody knows where that generated money goes to. So it is possible that some of this money may end up in the wrong hands." ......

More here

Guest worker scheme cut back

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has dramatically scaled back plans for a controversial Pacific 'guest worker' scheme amid fears of a community backlash. The Coalition has already raised concerns over the radical immigration plan, allowing Islanders to work in rural communities for up to seven months. But with unemployment on the rise, the Rudd Government has halved the number of participants to just 2500 over three years. Only three countries - Tonga, Kiribati and Vanuatu - will be involved in the "pilot" scheme, although the Government is keen to sign up Papua New Guinea.

Senior Government sources confirmed Cabinet had adopted a "safety first" approach, following concerns it could trigger a backlash from "Pauline Hanson-type forces". The Prime Minister will announce the scheme in the next few weeks ahead of meeting with Pacific leaders on the tiny island of Niue on August 19. It is expected to get off the ground later this year, although the Government may hold back until 2009.

Islanders will be granted special visas of up to seven months, paid award wages and put to work in areas where labour shortages are most acute. This is likely to include areas of northern Victoria, southern NSW and northern Queensland. New Zealand has been trialling a similar "guest worker" scheme this year, although it has about 5000 temporary workers from five Pacific nations.

The Coalition is warning that even a small number of Pacific Islanders on these special visas could displace domestic labour. "Does Australia want unskilled labour coming in from a number of Pacific Islands given there are half a million unemployed in Australia already, and a projection (of) a further 134,000 unemployed people?" Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Andrew Robb asked.


Saturday, August 09, 2008

A stream of QANTAS faults: When will it ever stop?

If all this does not indicate the need for a complete overhaul of maintenance procedures, I do not know what would. The story immediately following the first article below may, however, indicate that the penny has at last dropped

QANTAS has grounded another jet due to technical problems with passengers enduring a seven-hour delay at Sydney Airport. San Francisco-bound flight QF73 was due to depart at 1.55pm (AEST) but its takeoff has been pushed back until 9pm. A Qantas spokeswoman said routine pre-flight checks had picked up a "minor technical issue that required rectification" but would not say what the problem was. She said passengers were advised of the delay before checking in.

The incident is the latest in a recent run of setbacks for Australia's national airline. Yesterday a Qantas jet was grounded in Melbourne because of noise from an air-conditioning fault. The Canberra-bound Boeing 737 jet returned to the terminal and passengers were transferred to another plane, finally leaving Melbourne 90 minutes later, just before 1pm (AEST).

Last week, a domestic flight was forced to return to Adelaide after a wheel bay door failed to close.

A Qantas Boeing 767 flight turned back to make an emergency landing at Sydney airport on August 2 after a hydraulic fluid leak was discovered.

On Monday, a jet was grounded for almost three hours after a technical fault was discovered in a pre-flight inspection at Sydney airport.

The spate of problems started last month when an explosion ripped a hole in the fuselage of a Qantas jet en route from Hong Kong to Melbourne, forcing an emergency landing at Manila.

Qantas chief executive Geoff Dixon said this week that the airline's reputation had been tainted by the incidents and Qantas had to work hard to retrieve its good name.


Qantas cancels overseas maintenance check

QANTAS has shelved plans to send two 737 planes to Malaysia for heavy maintenance checks. The decision was made while the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) investigated the airline over a series of incidents in recent weeks, including the emergency landing of a Melbourne-bound jumbo in Manila when a two-metre by four-metre hole was blown in its fuselage. The airline faced another maintenance problem yesterday. Flight QF107 was prevented from flying to Los Angeles because a screw needed to be replaced.

The airline's decision to send its 737s to Malaysia for maintenance checks has come under intense scrutiny after the first plane sent there two months ago came back with 95 defects. It was grounded in Melbourne on Thursday because of noise from an air-conditioning fault. Malaysia Airlines issued a statement yesterday defending its checks and calling Australian reports on defects unsubstantiated.

Two other planes were earmarked for heavy "C" checks - a regular procedure lasting more than a week, in which engineers have to check most of the airplane's parts - in Malaysia. But the airline's monthly maintenance schedule put out last week showed the planes were rescheduled to be checked at Tullamarine in Melbourne. As a result, checks on two other planes that were to take place at Tullamarine will now take place at Avalon in Victoria, and two planes that were to be checked at Avalon will be sent to a third party, John Holland Aviation Services, in Tullamarine. "We don't know why it changed, but it's likely tied to the fact that CASA are yet to finish their investigation [into maintenance procedures]," a source said.

The executive general manager of engineering at Qantas, David Cox, confirmed the maintenance work will now be done in Australia. "We only have overflow heavy maintenance work undertaken overseas," he said. "We explored options for checks on two 737-400 aircraft. Once space became available at our Tullamarine facility, the decision was taken to have the work done there."

A CASA spokesman said the decision was made by the airline and was not the result of an order made by the authority. He confirmed that the airline has regulatory approval to conduct maintenance checks at the Malaysian base but investigations into the aircraft that returned from that facility earlier this year were continuing. "It's too early to say whether [the aircraft's grounding in Melbourne] was related to the maintenance check in Malaysia or not," the spokesman said.

The senior general manager of Malaysia Airlines, Mohammed Roslan Ismail, defended the checks in a statement yesterday, saying Qantas had 12 personnel attached to its maintenance team. "All the highlights were rectified, to the satisfaction of the Qantas team, before aircraft delivery to Australia," he said. "With regards to the 'string of faults' that were reported in the media, [Malaysia Airlines] investigated and established that these were unsubstantiated. "This is based on the fact that all these aspects were originally checked and found to be free from defect during the maintenance check and test flight, with the concurrence from the Qantas team."


The two sides of the global warming debate

The story below from "The Australian" gives a much more comprehensive account of the realist view than one normally sees in a major newspaper

Has global warming stopped? The question alone is enough to provoke scorn from the mainstream scientific community and from the Government, which says the earth has never been hotter. But tell that to a new army of sceptics who have mushroomed on internet blog sites and elsewhere in recent months to challenge some of the most basic assumptions and claims of climate change science. Their claims are provocative and contentious but they are also attracting attention, so much sothat mainstream scientists are being forced torespond.

The bloggers and others make several key claims. They say the way of measuring the world's temperature is frighteningly imprecise and open to manipulation. They argue that far from becoming hotter, the world's temperatures have cooled in the past decade, contrary to the overwhelming impression conveyed by scientists and politicians. As such, they say there should be far greater scepticism towards the apocalyptic predictions about climate change. Even widely accepted claims, such as that made by Climate Change Minister Penny Wong that "the 12 hottest years in history have all been in the last 13 years", are being openly challenged.

"She is just plain wrong," says Jennifer Marohasy, a biologist and senior fellow of the Institute of Public Affairs. "It's not a question of debate. What about the medieval warming period? The historical record shows they were growing wine in England, for goodness sake; come on. It is not disputed by anyone that the Vikings arrived in Greenland in AD900 and it was warmer than Greenland is now. What Penny Wong is doing is being selective and saying that is a long time ago."

But selective use of facts and data is fast becoming an art form on both sides of the climate change debate now that real money is at stake as the West ponders concrete schemes to reduce carbon emissions. So what is the validity of some of the key claims being made by these new blogger sceptics? Their first claim is that the most basic aspect of climate change science - the measurement of global warming - is flawed, imprecise and open to manipulation.

The earth's temperature is measured using land-based weather stations - in effect, a network of thermometers scattered unevenly across the globe - as well as via satellites and ocean-based weather sensors. There are four agencies that measure the world's temperatures and each has different methodology and produces varying, although not dramatically different, results.

Sceptics accuse climate change believers of always quoting the agency that shows the highest level of warming, the US National Aeronautic and Space Administration's Goddard Institute for Space Studies run by prominent climate change scientist and activist James Hansen. An independent study by Yale University in the US shows GISS says the earth has warmed by 0.025C a year during the past eight years while the other best-known measurement agency, London's Hadley Centre, says it warmed by only 0.014C a year during the same period. Not surprisingly, the Hadley figures are the most quoted by climate change sceptics while the GISS figures are most popular with climate change believers.

David Evans, former consultant to the Australian Greenhouse Office, says Hansen's GISS is unreliable because it is the only measurement agency that relies almost wholly on land-based data instead of satellites. "Land-based temperature readings are corrupted by the urban heat island effect," he says. "Urban areas encroaching on thermometer stations warm the micro-climate around the thermometer due to vegetation changes, concrete, cars and houses." As such, he alleges that the GISS figures - which are enormously influential in the climate change debate - are "hopelessly corrupted" and may even be manipulated to suit Hansen's views on global warming.

A group of weather buffs in the US also has attacked GISS's methodology, putting together an online photo gallery of US weather stations at website that shows some thermometers situated next to asphalt runways and parking lots where they would pick up excess warming.

But GISS says the distorting impact of this urban warming is negated because data from these stations is modified to remove these effects and give a true reading. Hansen acknowledges there may be flaws in the weather station data because temperature measurement is not always a precise science. But he says this does not mean big-picture trends can't be drawn from the data. He says: "That doesn't mean you give up on the science and that you can't draw valid conclusions about the nature of earth's temperature change."

Hansen has been infuriated by the attacks on GISS by climate change critics. Last year Canadian blogger and retired businessman Stephen McIntyre exposed a minor mistake in Hansen's figures that had caused GISS to overstate US temperatures by a statistically small 0.15C since 2000. Sceptics were energised. "We have proof of man-made global warming," roared conservative American radio host Rush Limbaugh. "The man-made global warming is inside NASA."

Hansen struck back, saying he would "not joust with court jesters" who sought to "create a brouhaha and muddy the waters in the climate change story".

What the bloggers have succeeded in doing is to highlight that measuring climate change is an evolving science. But their success has been at the margins only. So far they have failed to prove that these discrepancies negate the broader core arguments about the trends of global warming.

However, the second argument being put forward by blogger sceptics is more accessible to the public and therefore is having a greater impact. They argue that, contrary to the impressions given about global warming, the earth's temperatures have plateaued during the past decade and may have cooled in recent years. This, they argue, should not be happening when carbon emissions are growing rapidly. This was not what the climate change modellers predicted. Their conclusion therefore is that carbon emissions are not the driver of warming and climate change and that the earth is not heading for a climate change apocalypse caused by greenhouse gases.

"All official measures of global temperature show that it peaked in 1998 and has been declining since at least 2002," says climate change sceptic Bob Carter, a science adviser to the Australian Climate Science Coalition. "And this is in the face of an almost 5 per cent increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide since 1998. Spot the problem?"

A careful analysis of global temperature graphs from each of the measurement agencies confirm that - despite variations between them - there has not been any notable warming since 2000. Depending on which graphs you use, global temperatures since 2000 have been more or less flat. Some, such as the GISS data, show a modest rise, while others show negligible movement and even a small fall in recent years.

Sceptics like to use graphs that date from 1998 because that was the hottest year on record due to El Nino influences and therefore the temperature trends for the decade look flattest when 1998 is the starting point. But ultimately this is a phony war because most mainstream scientists do not dispute that global temperatures have remained relatively flat during the past decade. Where they differ with the sceptics is on how this outcome should be interpreted.

"The changes in temperature over the past 10 years have basically plateaued," says Andy Pitman, co-director of the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of NSW. "But scientists did not anticipate a gradual year-by-year warming in temperature. What matters is the long-term trend. This outcome does not change any of the science but it does change the spin climate deniers can put on it."

The sceptics are having a field day with this trend. The IPA's Marohasy says: "In the last 10 years we have seen an increase in carbon dioxide levels yet temperatures are coming down. That, if anyone looks at the actual data, is not disputable. Carbon dioxide is not driving temperatures because there are other important climatic factors at play."

Most scientists are adamant that any assessment of climate change based on only 10 years of data is not only meaningless but reckless. "From a climate standpoint it is far too short a period to have any significance," says Amanda Lynch, a climate change scientist at Melbourne's Monash University. "What we are seeing now is consistent with our understanding of variability between decades. If we hung about for another 30 years and it kept going down, then you might start to think there is something we don't understand. But the evidence at this point suggests this is not something we should hang around and wait for."

Climate change scientists say we must go back much further than the past decade and pay attention to the longer-term trend lines that run through the temperature data and clearly trend upwards. Lynch says other factors beyond temperature are also relevant. "In the last 10 years there has been a catastrophic and massive Arctic sea ice retreat. We've seen glacial retreat, permafrost thaw and ocean thermal expansion, so temperature is not the whole story."

But the sceptics are undeterred. "It is widely alleged that the science of global warming is settled," says the US-based Science and Public Policy Institute. "This implies that all the major scientific aspects of climate change are well understood and uncontroversial. The allegation is profoundly untrue ... even the most widely held opinions should never be regarded as an ultimate truth."

Matthew England, from the Climate Change Research Centre, describes the latest blog war by climate change sceptics as an amazing phenomenon. "Climate change is a robust area of science and there is plenty that is still being debated and new discoveries are still being made," he says. "It is a topic (that) will keep attracting different opinions from enthusiasts and from bloggers. They are a minority but they are proving to be a very vocal group."


Need for tax cuts identified

Treasury chief Ken Henry has handed the Government a political time bomb with a report presenting a case for slashing company and capital gains taxes. Treasury's review of the Australian tax system shows there is little scope for lowering personal income tax, as the nation's total tax on wages isalready well below the average of OECD industrialised countries. But it says taxes on "investment capital" - including company tax, capital gains and property taxes - are the highest in the world. "It is a surprising result in a globalising world with increasingly mobile capital flows for a small, open economy to have the highest weight given to the taxation of capital income," says the Treasury discussion paper released yesterday.

The Government ordered Treasury to conduct the review following its 2020 Summit in April, hoping it would allow it to go into the 2010 election with a comprehensive tax reform package. However, the tax review shows the area in most urgent need of reform is cutting the disincentive to foreign investment, which carries no votes.

Wayne Swan stressed that the report released yesterday was just a discussion paper, saying he would not be commenting on any of the issues it raised. However, he made it clear he did not agree with all the report's observations. "I don't necessarily find thateverything in this paper gels with everything that I have said on tax in the past, and that is as it should be," the Treasurer said. Dr Henry indicated that Treasury was aware the report would not be accepted by everyone. "Some of those observations will no doubt be controversial," he said.

The review's terms of reference explicitly asked it to consider the balance between the taxation of labour income, investment and savings returns and consumption, although not the GST. Tax specialists said yesterday the cost of correcting the punishing tax on capital would be extremely high. Australian School of Taxation director Neil Warren said that getting rid of dividend imputation and lowering the company tax rate from the current level of 30 per cent would help to make Australia more competitive. "But you will hurt everyone who has put savings into superannuation and all those small businesses that are accumulating franking credits," he said. "That could be tricky politically."

Treasury quotes OECD figures showing that when former treasurer Peter Costello cut the company tax rate from 36 per cent to 30 per cent in 2001, it gave Australia the eighth-lowest tax rate in the developed world. But while Australia has stood still, the rest of the world has moved on, and its tax rate is now the 10th-highest, and well above the OECD average of 26.6 per cent. Dr Henry said yesterday that Australia had highly profitable companies and that the share of the economy going to company profits was at a record high. However, he said this did not explain why Australia raised more of its tax from capital than other countries.

Australian Taxation Institute tax director Michael Dirkis said the drive to lower company taxes was being led by Europe, where many nations did not mind imposing high levels of personal income tax. He said nothing would be gained by a "revenue-neutral" cut to company tax, which was paid for by getting rid of business allowances. "The alternative for the Government is do the unpopular thing of shift the tax burden to the community and lower the tax rate on the corporate sector," Dr Dirkis said.

The paper did not identify high effective marginal tax rates as a key area for reform. It also steered clear of several contentious areas, with no mention of negative gearing and little discussion of state taxes. And while it has been barred from looking at GST, it found that Australia raised about the same share of its total income from consumption taxes as other countries.

Dr Dirkis said that, given the difficulty of cutting company and other capital taxes without raising the burden on individuals, the Government would be tempted to focus on reducing the complexity of the tax system. As they prepare their submissions to the review, business groups are likely to use Treasury's initial findings to argue for more favourable treatment.


The unpopular voice of reason on industry protection

Logic versus vested interests but the vested interests seem to have the ear of the Labor party government

A key government economic adviser has launched a scathing attack on Labor's industry policy, railing against a "new protectionist" push for extra assistance and slower tariff cuts for car, textile and other manufacturing industries. Productivity Commission chief Gary Banks has rejected arguments by Kevin Rudd and his Industry Minister, Kim Carr, that Australia must act to protect its manufacturing base. And as the Government prepares to release special reviews into car and textile industry assistance, Mr Banks has insisted the economy would be better off by billions of dollars a year if the Government proceeds with scheduled plans to wind back tariffs and government payments.

In a speech that has deeply angered the Government, the Productivity Commission chairman also criticised Labor's recent decision to give Toyota a $35 million grant from its $500 million green car fund, which he said would neither help innovation nor cut greenhouse gas emissions.

He also attacked the Government's commitment to a "mandatory renewable energy target" - to encourage power sources such as solar and wind - and its promise to compensate electricity generators for the loss of asset value under its new emissions trading regime.

The Government controversially decided not to get the Productivity Commission to conduct its car and textile reviews, instead setting up "expert panels" with secretariats in the Industry Department - a decision Mr Banks said was unprecedented and meant the Government ran the risk of not being "properly informed". Senator Carr said yesterday "the Productivity Commissioner appears not to understand that these reviews are not reviews of tariffs but are in fact much broader than that". Senator Carr has received, but has not yet released, a report from former Victorian premier Steve Bracks into the automotive industry.

Some sources suggest the report will recommend proceeding with the scheduled cut in tariffs on imported cars and components from 10 per cent to 5 per cent in 2010 but will argue for a continuation, in some form, of the Automotive Competitiveness and Investment Scheme, which is worth $2.8billion over the five years to 2010 but is scheduled to be phased out by 2015. Mr Rudd has promised "a new car plan" as a result of the review.

Senator Carr has said Australian carmakers require a "level playing field" with the substantial industry assistance offered by other carmaking nations. He repeated yesterday that in achieving this outcome "tariffs remain a second-order issue".

But Mr Banks, who was appointed Productivity Commission chairman by the Howard government, said arguments about a "new world order" were really "old wine in new bottles", like the discredited arguments for protectionism in the past. "As illustrated by the latest reviews of auto and TCF (Textile, Clothing and Footwear), ongoing pressures from globalisation and emerging exporters, exacerbated by exchange rate appreciation caused by the mining boom, have been prompting calls for new measures to provide relief against imports or other assistance," Mr Banks said in a lecture at the University of Queensland on Wednesday.

He cited Productivity Commission findings that current car industry protection costs consumers and taxpayers $2 billion a year, or $300,000 a year for every car industry job. He said that slowing tariff reductions or offering new financial assistance could make industries less innovative because they were shielded from global pressures. He said the Government's response to the two reports and a separate review of its broader industry assistance was critical and would "effectively set the course for industry policy and its contribution to Australia's economic future".

A spokesman for Wayne Swan said the Government "listens closely to the Productivity Commission's views, but at the end of the day we will take our decisions in the national interest". The Prime Minister voiced his support for the manufacturing sector by saying he did not "want to be the prime minister of a country that doesn't make things any more".

Senator Carr has said he is determined to ensure a future for manufacturing. But Mr Banks said "manufacturing should not be seen as having any special place - maintaining any particular industry should never be an end in itself". Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries chief Andrew McKellar said the speech was "a reflection of the Productivity Commission's ongoing struggle to define its relevance".


Friday, August 08, 2008

Rudd's "Grocery watch" is a farce too

Joining "Fuel Watch" in absurdity. Typical of government services. And the Left want the government to control more and more of our lives??

It has 20 per cent of the grocery market share but you won't find independent grocery chain IGA on the Federal Government's new Grocery Choice website. The chain of independently owned grocery stores has 1300 outlets nationwide, and 60 "Supa Stores" - which compete directly with the grocery giants Coles, Woolworths and Aldi - in NSW. But they have been lumped in with "independents" on the ACCC's Grocery Choice website launched on Wednesday.

IGA said their Supa Stores price matched the cheapest price on offer by Coles, Aldi and Woolworths on the top 2000 grocery lines. The deluge of complaints since Grocery Choice was launched forced the Government last night to admit the online system was inadequate and needed to be refined. Consumer Affairs Minister Chris Bowen admitted the $13 million grocerychoice website failed to meet all shoppers' needs to save money on groceries.

A mini-shop by The Daily Telegraph of bananas, shaved honey leg ham and fresh chicken breasts in Doonside found that IGA was cheaper overall than Coles or Woolworths. A kilo of bananas, a kilo of fresh chicken breasts and a kilo of shaved honey leg ham came to $27.94 at IGA Supa Store Doonside; the same basket of goods cost $28.87 at Coles Doonside and $32.39 at Woolworths Marayong.

Budget-conscious mother of three Kylie Thompson said she travelled an extra 4km each week from her home in Blacktown past her local Coles and Woolworths to Doonside to shop at the IGA Supa Store there because it was "much cheaper". "We've shopped everywhere looking for the cheapest place to get our food and this is it," she said. "Even when they don't have specials on, it's heaps cheaper here."

Supa IGA chairman Michael Daly said the Grocery Choice website was a "complete waste" of taxpayers' money because it was too general. He was joined by Southern Sydney Retailers' Association president Craig Kelly, who said the website was "misleading" and called for it to be "abandoned immediately". "Every day it remains operational, the GroceryWatch website is only causing an embarrassment to the Government and making the ACCC a laughing stock, completely discredited in the eyes of the public."



The Howard government made a big issue of declining educational standards but lost power before it could do much. Education problems remain, however, with the vested interests of Left-dominated government teachers entrenched against any reforms. Three recent articles below

Second-ranking government universities fear private competition

Lobby group Innovative Research Universities warns against allowing increased competition from private providers, and demands protection for existing public sector institutions in its in its submission to the Bradley higher education review. "We argue against applying a pure market model to universities - they are critically important to this country. We don't want to see the risk of market failure, as happened in the case of ABC childcare, effecting universities'' IRU executive director Lenore Cooper told HES.

IRU consists of six predominantly suburban and regional institutions, Flinders, Griffith, James Cook, La Trobe, Murdoch and Newcastle. Macquarie University vice chancellor and outspoken reform advocate Steven Schwartz took his institution out of IRU in June. IRU cautions against competition from private providers, arguing that further deregulation would "drive greater homogenisation" in higher education as all providers focused on low cost courses in high consumer demand and that student fees would rise.

Endorsing a 2006 Labor Party policy document the lobby argues that the "special role of public universities'' should be preserved and that "pure market-base forces are not the solution to current funding shortfalls''. "The opening up of Commonwealth supported places to private providers, which are driven by the need to maximise profits for owners and shareholders will inevitably result in those providers moving into the most profitable market niches,'' the submission states.

IRU also rejects further deregulation of student fees suggesting that study costs would either rise or if the market was price sensitive that "regional and outer metropolitan universities'' would lose income due to community pressure to offer a full range of courses at low fees. This would be "a recipe for lowered quality and financial decline''.

And the organisation also opposes research concentration, suggesting that it would be anti-competitive, and that its long term impact would be to "lock institutions into their existing profiles, stifle innovation in research and to deprive many Australian regions of the research support that is required to stimulate regional development''.

However the lobby also suggests that institutions undertaking insufficient research could lose their university status. "IRU's view is that a university must be able to demonstrate research strength in a number of areas. If an institution did not do enough research - it could elect not to be a university and thus not to compete for research funds. This would depend on how much research government specified was necessary for an institution to qualify as a university," Cooper said.

IRU proposes fine tuning the system to reduce the number of discipline clusters used by Canberra to allocate student funding and an end to what IRU says is the unfair subsidy of private providers which allows their students access to publicly supported loans while public universities are barred from offering full fee places to domestic undergraduates. The lobby also called for specific funding to increase university access for disadvantaged Australians in its submission. "There has been enormous change in the last decade and there will continue to be plenty of change but we don't want dramatic change,'' Cooper said.


Call for standards in testing Year 12 of school

One of the nation's leading education researchers has called for national minimum standards in fundamental skills that all students must meet before qualifying for their Year 12 certificate. Australian Council for Educational Research chief executive Geoff Masters said Year 12 certificates should come with a guarantee that students had achieved minimum standards in some basic skills.

At an ACER research conference next week, Professor Masters will propose minimum levels be set for fundamental skills including reading, writing, numeracy, science, civics and citizenship, and information technology. "Most students can complete 13 years of school and be awarded a senior certificate without having to demonstrate minimally acceptable levels of proficiency across a range of fundamental areas," he said yesterday. "Some things are so fundamental we should expect all students to achieve at least a minimum standard by the time they leave school."

Professor Masters said the available evidence suggested that many students leave high school without possessing these fundamental skills. He said the results from international tests run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development showed that 13 per cent of Australian 15-year-olds perform at a minimum baseline, below which students are considered atrisk of not having the basic skills to work or participate in thecommunity. While there is no data on how many Year 12 students graduate without those basic skills, Professor Masters said there was no evidence suggesting that proportion would decrease between Year 9 and Year 12.

In fact, it was unlikely struggling students of that age had received the assistance they required to meet such benchmarks. Professor Masters said a national debate was required about the level at which the standards should be set and how the assessment should be conducted. He envisaged a system under which students could demonstrate they had reached the minimum standards earlier than Year 12 if they felt ready. The assessment could take the form of a national or state-based external exam or an online exam or use teachers' regular assessments where appropriate.

Professor Masters said the current certificates were based on assessing students' knowledge in subjects. "If someone is doing maths in Years 11 and 12, then you can be pretty confident they're going to pass a numeracy test," he said. "But not all students study maths or science, for example, in those years and there's no way of knowing what they understand."

Professor Masters said the standards should be set as part of a national consultation, but outline a minimum level of skill required in everyday life, such as reading and filling out job applications. The system should also report a range of proficiencies in the basic skills to give employers and others a sense of what students could achieve. "We should set the standard at the level we hope everyone should reach by the time they finish school," he said. "There's always a risk that standards are set too low and that the focus is then just on achieving low standards so there needs to be levels beyond a minimally acceptable standard."

Other skills that could be considered were employability skills nominated by employers, such as planning, organisation and teamwork. But Professor Masters said assessing these skills was more complicated than the straightforward tests used in literacy and numeracy.


Postmodern path to student failure

POSTMODERNISM is hobbling Australia's best and brightest university students by locking them into narrow, prescriptive and politically correct ways of thinking and using language. The domination of postmodern theory, especially in humanities courses, is setting up a generation of students for educational failure, University of NSW professor Gavin Kitching argues in a book to be published this week. Based on an analysis of all honours dissertations written by politics students at the university over 23 years, Professor Kitching concludes that the students had abused their intelligence in writing their theses.

In the book, The Trouble With Theory, he says even the best students produce radically incoherent ideas and embrace the "extraordinary proposition" that language uses people rather than being a tool manipulated by people. Professor Kitching, who describes himself as being politically left-wing, said postmodernism had become identified with being left-wing.

"It's postmodernism as intellectual radicalism - if you're on the Left politically you have to believe in all of this," he said. "There are other traditions of being left-wing which respect the facts, which don't believe the world is simply what we believe it to be, that think if you're going to make political arguments, you have to have evidence to support them. I want to reinstate that kind of rigorous, realistic Left liberalism."

Professor Kitching, a professor of politics and fellow of the Australian Academy of Social Sciences, argues that postmodernism locks students into inflexible and emotionally manipulative definitions of words in a way that ignores the nuanced nature of language and often defies common sense. This means that terms like terrorist, asylum seeker and gay are used to create stereotypes and not simply to refer to a group of people or to challenge the stereotype. He argues that postmodernist theory does "active intellectual damage" to able students and clouds their thinking. "Postmodernism is addling the brain and wasting the time of some our brightest young people," he says.

In an interview with The Australian, Professor Kitching said the book was not a critique of postmodernism but looked at the educational cost of theory in teaching. "This book is about what a group of intelligent students think postmodernism is," he said. "You could say they don't have it right, they don't understand it, they haven't grasped it. But if this is what they think postmodernism is, if it has led them to argue in these ways, then it's educationally damaging irrespective of whether they have it right or not." Professor Kitching analysed theses that achieved a distinction or high distinction. While they were only those in the school of politics, he said his experience as an external examiner and discussions with colleagues showed the problems ran through history and sociology.

From his analysis of the theses, Professor Kitching said students were captive to a form of linguistic determinism that held that language forces people to think in certain ways. Students equate the way language is used with the meaning of words, so that the word "terrorist" always means a person using extreme violence for political ends, and anyone called a terrorist is actually a terrorist. But he said such thinking excluded sentences such as: "Calling these people terrorists distracts attention from the justice of their cause. "They have a very narrow idea of how we use words.

"(They believe) words have given meanings, and these meanings have certain biases or prejudices. If you use words, you have to accept the biases or prejudices - you're stuck with them. That you can use words ironically is not something they can take seriously. "Clearly that's not true. We use words to refer to things, but we can refer to them ironically, we can refer to them sarcastically, doubtingly, aggressively."


Reversal of government baby policy coming?

Anybody who takes notice of government propaganda has only himself/herself to blame. Australians are a skeptical lot fortunately. At least the previous government put its money where its mouth was in its pro-baby propaganda. THAT had an effect

Forget those plans to have a third child for the country because further increases in the birth rate could harm the economy, the nation's productivity watchdog has warned. A major analysis of the nation's increasing fertility rate said it was at its highest level for 25 years - but the Productivity Commission yesterday warned further increases may aggravate rather than solve the problem of the ageing of the population. This is because it will shift women out of the workforce while they care for babies, depressing labour supply and reducing the taxation base as our population ages, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The small number of extra babies born would make little difference to the rate of population ageing, the commission said. And the women having the babies would be exacerbating the financial impacts on the government of the ageing of the population because the tax breaks offered to parents to have children occur up front, while the cost savings of a bigger working population and bigger tax base from extra children are deferred until they are of working age.

The commission's views were of particular interest as next month it is expected to hand down a much anticipated report into whether the nation should adopt a paid maternity leave scheme. It found the $5000 baby bonus, which is expected to be rolled into any new paid maternity leave scheme, had had only a partial role in lifting the fertility rate. The baby bonus represented only a 1 per cent reduction in the lifetime costs of a first child, which would cost its parents at least $385,000 over its lifetime. "Any significant fertility effect from the bonus would suggest the presence of short-sightedness by parents about the lifetime costs of raising children," the report said.

The commission said the Family Tax Benefit payments, averaging around $5000 per family per year, were more likely to have had a bigger impact on lifting the national fertility rate. These payments cut the cost of children by 8 per cent a year and the generosity of these benefits increased significantly after 2000. More than 285,000 births were registered last year, the highest level in 25 years. The commission said this was mainly a catch-up effect as women deferred childbirth to later in life. "Having reached older ages, they are now having these postponed babies," it said.

The fertility rate would be even higher but for the effects of high house prices and better educated women, the commission said. More highly educated women can earn good money if they work rather than stay at home to care for children and this had depressed the birth rate. The higher cost of housing meant it took longer to afford a house, which has delayed child-bearing.


Qld. health boss caught misrepresenting hospital waiting lists

Nice to have such a bright spark running the public hospitals

HEALTH Minister Stephen Robertson has been caught massaging hospital waiting list figures as his department fails to treat the sickest patients in time. Mr Robertson bungled his attempt to laud the latest quarterly public hospital report card for elective surgery waiting lists as a significant achievement. The report showed Queensland Health treated a record 33,732 patients during the June quarter, up from 28,416 for the same period last year. However, the number of patients stuck waiting on lists grew from 34,454 to 34,703.

Having used the annual change to show the record numbers treated, Mr Robertson then moved the goal posts and used the quarterly change for category breakdowns. The number of category one patients not receiving surgery within 30 days had blown out by 35 per cent, from 188 to 254 patients, over the year.

Mr Robertson repeatedly claimed the list was decreasing but was eventually forced into an embarrassing backdown. "Oh, I beg your pardon. There has been a slight increase in cat ones," Mr Robertson said of the 35 per cent rise. "Yes, it has slightly gone up."

The report also showed the Princess Alexandra Hospital and Royal Children's Hospital as among the most under pressure with list backlogs. Opposition health spokesman John-Paul Langbroek said it was not good enough for the sickest patients to wait for more than two weeks longer than they should. "Queensland Health is continually failing to meet these (doctors') time recommendations for surgery," he said.


Thursday, August 07, 2008


The looming costs of Rudd's climate mania are focusing a lot of minds in Australia at the moment. Five recent climate articles from Australia below

Emission Trading Scheme paints Rudd Government into a Corner

Lord Christopher Monckton has written to Australia's Climate Change minister Penny Wong warning that pressing ahead with an Emissions Trading scheme will see Labor thrown out of office.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's new Labor Government in only 9 months has painted itself into a corner with its proposed Carbon Reduction Scheme that it may never get out of. In it's first 9 months in office Australia's economic condition has deteriorate form arguably the strongest it's ever been to talk in todays press of it quickly sliding into recession. Fuel prices, Interest rates and food prices have all soared whilst consumer spending, house prices, private and business borrowings and confidence has plummeted.

While Australians were flush with wealth and money they might have been keen for the good of the environment too endure the extra costs (read tax) that an emissions trading scheme would impose on them. However no populace that is struggling financially to pay a mortgage will accept an environment tax with very dubious environmental benefits. Mr Rudd may well learn first hand that committing to a scheme that hobbles ones own economic growth is indeed only the prerogative of a wealthy society.

He may learn why it is folly for him to believe that he can ever convince developing nations like China & India with their millions of people just emerging from a lifetime of poverty to stymie their economic growth with a carbon emissions scheme.

Increasing world wide media coverage that there is no evidence that CO2 emissions are linked to climate change coupled with the fact that whatever actions we take as a nation are meaningless unless the big emitters like China, India and the US take similar action is starting to permeate into the Australians conscious. In fact if we were to cut our emissions to zero tomorrow China's growth in extra emissions alone would make up our CO2 reduction from the global balance in just 270 days.

Lord Christopher Monckton is chief policy advisor to the Science and Public Policy Institute. Below is a copy of an email he sent to Australian Climate Change Minister Penny Wong.
Dear Senator Wong,

Greetings from Scotland! One of your constituents, Mr. John Cribbes, has asked me to drop you a short email about emissions trading and "global warming".

I have recently conducted some detailed research into the mathematics behind the conclusions of the UN climate panel on the single question that matters in the climate debate - by how much will the world warm in response to adding CO2 to the atmosphere? My research, published in Physics and Society, a technical newsletter of the American Physical Society this month, demonstratres that the IPCC's values for the three key parameters whose product is climate sensitivity are based on only four papers - not the 2,500 that are often mentioned.

Those four papers are unrepresentative of the literature, in which a low and harmless climate sensitivity is now the consensus.

Therefore I should recommend extreme caution before any emissions-trading scheme is put in place. Such schemes will damage Australia's competitiveness, perhaps fatally; they are prone to corruption in that they incentivize over-claiming by both parties to each trade and by the regulator; they are addressing a non-problem; and, even if the problem were real (as a few largely-politicized scientists persist in maintaining), adaptation as and if necessary would be orders of magnitude cheaper than emissions trading or any other attempt at mitigating the quantities of carbon dioxide that we are (harmlessly) adding to the atmosphere.

Therefore I strongly urge you to reconsider your support for this or any emissions-trading scheme. I have read the Australian Government's paper on the proposed scheme, and the science in it is, alas, largely nonsense.

Politically, of course, the fatal damage that emissions trading will do to the Australian economy will greatly favour the enemies of the free West, which is why I, as an ally, have locus standi to approach you.

Climatically, your emissions-trading scheme will not make any significant difference. There are many other environmental problems that are real: I recommend that the Australian Government should tackle those.

As for the climate, it is a non-problem, and the correct policy approach to a non-problem is to have the courage to do nothing. Similar warnings are being sent to other legislators worldwide by those of us - now probably in the majority among the scientific community, not that one should do science by head-count - who have studied climate sensitivity and have found the UN's analysis lamentably wanting.

The UN's predictions are already being falsified by events: global temperatures have been falling for seven years, and not one of the climate models relied upon so heavily and so unwisely by the IPCC predicted that turn of events. If you introduce an emissions-trading scheme, when it transpires that the scheme and its associated economic damage had never been necessary - and it will, and sooner than you think - you and your party will be flung from office, perhaps forever. It is, therefore, in the long-term vested interest of your party to think again.

Monckton of Brenchley


Global Warming Religion Eroding Human Rights

Have you ever noticed that the champions of global warming are not scientists. Al Gore (ex politician), Nicholas Stern (economist), Ross Garnaut (economist) Kevin Rudd (diplomat / politician). Oh it's it a fact that 2,500 ICCP scientist have formed a consensus that humans are causing global warming. However Arthur B. Robinson, president and professor of chemistry at the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, is one of 31,000 scientists who have signed a petition to disagree.
"Robinson said that in recent years the U.N. and a group of 600 scientists, representing less than one percent of the scientific population, reached a "consensus" that global warming is happening. This has never been done before, Robinson insists.

Dennis Avery, Director for the Center of Global Food Issues at the Hudson Institute, agrees with Robinson. "Nobody can do science by a committee. You do science by testing," said Avery. "To me it is appalling that an international organization of the stature of the U.N. would ignore the evidence of past climate changing."

The signers of Robinson's petition, including 9,000 Ph.Ds, all have one thing in common. They believe that human rights are being taken away.

Thats an interesting proposition and one that Australian Farmers have already experienced first hand. Arthur Herman a historian and author in a great article in today's Australian agrees:
"IT has been a tough year for the high priests of global warming in the US. First, NASA had to correct its earlier claim that the hottest year on record in the contiguous US had been 1998, which seemed to prove that global warming was on the march. It was actually 1934. Then it turned out the world's oceans have been growing steadily cooler, not hotter, since 2003. Meanwhile, the winter of 2007 was the coldest in the US in decades, after Al Gore warned us that we were about to see the end of winter as we know it.

Yet believers in man-made global warming demand more and more money to combat climate change and still more drastic changes in our economic output and lifestyle. The reason is that precisely that they are believers, not scientists. No amount of empirical evidence will overturn what has become not a scientific theory but a form of religion.

Of Superstition and Enthusiasm, describes how even in civilised societies the mind of man is subject to certain unaccountable terrors and apprehensions when real worries are missing. As these enemies are entirely invisible and unknown, like today's greenhouse gases, people try to propitiate them by ceremonies, observations, mortifications, sacrifices such as Earth Day and banning plastic bags and petrol-driven lawnmowers.

Fear and ignorance, Hume concludes, are the true source of superstition. They lead a blind and terrified public to embrace any practice, however absurd or frivolous, which either folly or knavery recommends."

Now think about the Australian farmers who have had their property rights taken from them with the tree clearing bans so Australia could meet its Kyoto obligations, without a cent of compensation!

Both articles go into detail how human rights will be sacrificed to the alter of the climate change religion. Well worth a read.


Bullsh*t Watch: The winner is Graham Readfearn

In the tradition set by the Rudd Government with Fuel Watch, Grocery Watch, Water Watch we are launching Bullsh*t Watch. Todays Bullsh*t award goes to Brisbane's Courier Mail Journalist Graham Readfearn for his article: "Call to Act by Pioneer on Climate".

American Scientist Professor Gene Likens is speaking at the invitation-only presentation at Griffith University's Nathan campus. The presentation is on problems being faced around the globe with drought and climate change. He and other like minded people, that is climate change believers will be delivering their message to policymakers and politician including Queensland Minister for Climate Change Andrew McNamara, National Water Commissioner Chloe Munro and water commissioners from Queensland and NSW.
"Does the climate change problem exist? Yes," Professor Likens said. "The scientific consensus is so strong and so universal - there are just a handful of doubters on this. "Yet (those doubters) get such high media attention and a lot of support."

That statement lit up my "Bullshit" metre straight away. Would the "handful of Doubters" the good professor is referring too be the 31,072 AMERICAN Scientist including 9,021 PhD's who signed this petition:

The Courier Mail's Graham Readfearn would have to live under a rock to have not know that this petition exists. But wait - it gets better, turns out Graham Readfearn is none other than the author of The Courier Mails own Green Blog. It is a classic. His profile reads -
"Graham Readfearn

Environment blogger Graham Readfearn sorts the green from the green-wash and the eco from the no-go - one climate-friendly posting at a time. Green news, views and the odd shot-down eco-skeptic."

This guy is a rabid greenie, supporter of WWF (World Wildlife Foundation), Greenpeace etc, just have a look at his first article - 100 months left or try this classic - How much is enough - Eco-sinner? No mention in the paper's byline that Graham Readfearn is a rabid one eyed greenie - no the bi-line would have the average reader believe that is is just an unbiased major newspaper reporter, searching for the truth and writing a balanced article. Apparantly Not. Shame on the Courier.

What the good Readfearn also forgets to tell us is that the good professor Likens is an ecologist - not a climatologist.


Rudd's carbon scheme ignores less destructive alternatives

Co-founder of Access Economics Geoff Carmody warns that Australia's emissions trading model cannot work, that it is misconceived and that it will damage Australia's economy with almost no prospect of solving the global problem. In an alternative climate change policy document provided to The Australian, Carmody warns that as the Rudd Government's model becomes apparent, "expect the strength of the adverse reaction to multiply".

Carmody argues the Rudd model is untenable. The early evidence is the demand for compensation from the trade-exposed industries, notably on the export side, liquefied natural gas, steel and aluminium. He says such demands are symptoms of a deeper problem, the flaw that will also see the system exploited "as a stalking horse for more general protection".

Carmody tells The Australian: "I have never felt so concerned about a single policy issue in my professional life. The reason is because it is being fundamentally misconstrued. Under the model, by being a 'good global citizen' Australia, by its own actions, loses competitiveness against countries free-riding on our efforts. These countries gain from being slow to act (or not acting at all) as production shifts to them, their imports decline and their exports increase. The architecture of the policy is misconceived."

Pointing to the failure of the Doha trade round, Carmody says: "If we cannot cut a deal on global trade liberalisation where even unilateral action confers benefits on most if not all countries, what chance do we have of cutting a deal where such action confers zero or negative benefits and we only gain if we all move together? The answer for Australia is: none whatsoever. Welcome to the world of Kyoto post-2012. "Commercially, the US, China and India (and others) are unlikely to act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions based on an emissions trading system production-based model. Recession, or even slowing economic growth, make such expectations laughable. Jobs are already being lost. "No more losses will be acceptable for promotion of distant climate change objectives."

Carmody argues for a new model. In its construction he assumes the majority scientific view on climate change and he assumes that nations will not move together on mitigation, rejecting the phony optimism of global co-operation. He proposes three main reforms to achieve a viable Australian model.

The first and most pivotal is to have a policy target based on consumption of greenhouse gases, not their production, thereby excluding the export sector, whose output is consumed abroad. "Australia can only control its consumption of emissions," he says. "Attempts to control Australian production are likely to drive it offshore with less stringent or no policy controls over emissions.

"In a world where all countries acted together to deal with greenhouse gas emissions, it wouldn't matter whether we targeted production or consumption. But, realistically, we assume countries will not act together. In this situation the difference between production and consumption is crucial."

A target based on production includes exports but excludes imports. A target based on consumption includes imports but excludes exports. This means a production target "sets up incentives to shift local production, economic activity and employment, whether for exports or for import competition, offshore".

Consider what this means. For Carmody, it not only hurts Australia's economy. It promotes evasion of the true aims of climate change policy by "diverting production, employment and trade to countries not acting in the same way to curb greenhouse gas emissions production". He argues, by contrast, a consumption target "largely or wholly" eliminates incentives to shift production offshore. That is, because it is trade neutral, it achieves the aim of policy by focusing the emission reduction effort in the host nation.

Carmody appreciates that targeting production has a long history in environmental economics. But this needs to be revised in relation to climate change. "It cannot work, or work very well, in a world where producers can relocate production to where it's most cost-advantageous," he says. He argues it is folly to think poorer nations won't switch to cheaper sources of supply than Australia once we impose a serious carbon price. It is also folly to think that Australia itself won't switch its own spending to cheaper emissions-intensive imports.

Within weeks of the green paper there is much talk about exemptions for steel, aluminium and LNG exports. There is talk about the problem on the import-competing side for cement and manufacturing. Such concerns, Carmody says, "carried to their logical and equitable conclusion would carve out all exports and all import-competing local production".

The real cure for this problem is a consumption target. He says it is better at delivering emission reductions and better at minimising dislocation and job costs. Carmody says: "Imagine the uproar if John Howard had proposed a GST that hit exports and exempted imports instead of the other way around. Effectively, that is the starting point for the current Government. This seems to be a policy no-brainer."

His second reform is to entrench the philosophy that Australian action should neither lead nor lag the world. The sensible stance for Australia is to reduce emissions in line with the developed nations. But how should this be delivered? Carmody says Australia must not base its policy on anything that other governments say. That would be a mug's game. History shows the pledges of some governments are "meaningless or worse". Australia should base its actions on what other nations do. That means a carbon price set as a weighted average of developed nations' existing carbon prices.

This would guarantee Australia was making the same average effort as other developed nations. Such a mechanistic formula, once agreed, would eliminate any need for annual reviews by government or parliament with the "diabolical" political problems this would cause. The price adjustment could be made by Treasury or the Reserve Bank of Australia.

Carmody's third main reform is to ensure that price does change energy consumption behaviour. That means there is "no justification" for compensation for higher prices. He accepts the political reality that some compensation will be given to the needy but says in this case the least worst method is tax relief or transfer payments. "One thing seems certain," Carmody concludes. "If, as the Government asserts, 'failure is not an option', then neither is failure of policy design." The risk with Rudd's model is that it becomes "an exercise in cosmetics while still imposing new costs on our industry".


"Climate change" blocks development in Victoria

THE threat of rising sea levels has persuaded a tribunal to refuse a housing development in South Gippsland. The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal said it was "reasonably foreseeable" that climate change would affect the allotments, which could be flooded and storm-damaged. It is believed to be one of the first cases in Australia where climate change has been given as a reason to refuse a coastal development.

In their joint judgment, VCAT's deputy president Helen Gibson and member Ian Potts said the relevance of climate change to planning was at an "evolutionary" stage. But they said they could not ignore the preliminary view of CSIRO scientists that the Grip Rd area of coastline near Toora would experience storm surges and potential flooding. Ms Gibson and Mr Potts said the CSIRO studies were sufficient to show rising sea levels would change the shape of Victoria's coastline. "In the present case we consider increases in the severity of storm events, coupled with rising sea levels, create a reasonably foreseeable risk of inundation of the subject land and the proposed dwellings, which is unacceptable," they said.

In their judgment, they stressed they did not adopt predictions of a 0.3m rise in storm surge levels within 100 years because the claims had not been rigorously tested. "There is a general consensus that some level of climate change will result in extreme weather conditions beyond the historical record that planners and others rely on," it said. "It is no longer sufficient to rely only on what has gone before to assess what may happen again in the context of coastal processes, sea levels or for that matter inundation from coastal or inland storm events." The risk of damage to the coastline was a relevant matter to consider in a planning decision, they said.

Ms Gibson and Mr Potts said that apart from coastline concerns the six allotments, each 2ha to 4ha, were in a farming zone and were not reasonably linked to agriculture. The planning appeal was lodged by Gippsland Coastal Board against a decision by the local shire council to grant permits for the houses.


The South African influx

Last time I was there I got the impression that just about ALL white South Africans would now leave if they could. There are certainly a LOT of them in Australia already. I know a few. South Africa is a very dangerous place for everybody these days

Like many countries around the world, South Africa is experiencing a "brain drain" of skilled workers who are migrating to better working conditions around the world. According to the Financial Mail, Australia and Canada are attracting more South African skilled workers than ever, creating a skills shortage in South Africa's economy that has been coined its "Achilles heel".

The news provider has been told medical specialists and higher-end management comprise the biggest groups of skilled South African emigrants. Since 2000, the number of South African emigrants has risen from 18 per cent to 40 per cent, leaving a massive gap in the South African workforce.

The Australian Government is also desperate to fill skills shortages and have opened its doors to skilled workers willing to move to Australia. Figures released from the Australian High Commission in Pretoria showed that last year, approximately 4,000 South Africans moved to Australia, and 15,000 more visited the country on an Australian tourist visa.

Marketing Manager for Pentravel David Randall said this year flights from South Africa to Australia increased by 30 per cent. He added that the increasing demand for South African immigration to Australia has resulted in Pentravel securing a special immigration fare with Qantas, Australia's national airline. "It is not only the sales of one-way fares that have increased, but tickets for people making exploratory visits to Australia," said Randall.

The regional manager for an immigration agency in South Africa said most of his clients were Afrikaans seeking a better lifestyle in Australia because it provides higher wages, low crime rates, employment equity, and a stable government.

Charles Luyckx, joint CEO of removal company Elliott International, said many of the migrants were taking advantage of the skills shortage in the mining industry in Australia. Under the General Skilled Migration program, overseas workers can apply for an Australian skilled migration visa if they intend to work in an industry considered to have a skills shortage. The Australian Government is currently campaigning for more foreign workers to apply for jobs in the mining industry, particularly in South Australia and the Northern Territory so the country's main source of GDP can support the continually expanding export economy.


Political defeat for bureaucratic "safety" nonsense

Premier jumps to the rescue of banned carousel

PREMIER Anna Bligh will intervene after a bureaucratic decision to bar an antique merry-go-round from this year's Ekka met a popular backlash. Ms Bligh said the Grand Carousel - which was deemed a potential hazard by a Workplace Health and Safety Queensland inspector - was an Ekka institution. She said she had been on the carousel with her own sons and it would be a pity to lose it. "I was surprised to see that decision and I will be asking some questions about the basis for it," Ms Bligh said.

The 120-year-old carousel, which has thrilled children at the Ekka every year since 1951, is currently operating three days a week at Melbourne's Southbank Promenade, owner John Short said. It has been deemed safe by inspectors from WorkSafe Victoria and WorkCover NSW. But the WHS Queensland inspector found children risked falling off the carousel horses and being crushed under their stirrups. He insisted the carousel would be prohibited from the Ekka unless it underwent a substantial redesign, which Mr Short was unwilling to carry out.

Readers flooded The Courier-Mail website with posts ridiculing the notion a merry-go-round could be a safety hazard. "There isn't that many young children-friendly rides at the EKKA and now there is even less. Arrrrrgh!!!" wrote Tracy of Brisbane on


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

ZEG on Rudd's "Grocery Watch"

Conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG has a new toon up portraying Kevvy as a shonky wristwatch salesman


Zeg also comments on the latest attack on Peter Costello by Paul Keating

Fears southeast's koala population could disappear within 20 years

"Fears"! How awful! Must not have fears. The fact that Koalas are in plague proportions in some other parts of Australia (such as Kangaroo Is.) and are being "culled" is not mentioned, of course

Southeast Queensland's koala population could be wiped out within 20 years unless urgent steps are taken to save the iconic animal. A new report warns hundreds of koalas are dying each year because they are losing their habitat, getting attacked by dogs or hit by cars. Premier Anna Bligh yesterday revealed tough measures would need to be taken to save an estimated 20,000 koalas living in the southeast including possibly banning dogs in new housing developments or forcing existing dog owners to fence or kennel their pets overnight. The Government may also look at lowering speed limits around koala habitats and building tunnels under major roads so koalas can move between habitats. A taskforce including the RSPCA, local councils, developers, conservation groups and koala experts will be set up to recommend a rescue plan to the Government.

But the move was immediately blasted by conservationists who said it would do little to boost the number of koalas. Australian Koala Foundation's Deborah Tabart OAM said dogs and cars were not the lead killers of koalas as the Government suggested. "The post mortems of 700 koalas earlier this year showed koalas are now starving to death due to loss of food and the disease rates are going up," she said. "These (proposals) will do nothing for koalas; it's meaningless."

Ms Tabart said the state was simply panicking ahead of a Federal Government review of its koala strategy. A report released by the Government yesterday, which was commissioned by the Environmental Protection Agency and the previous Caboolture, Pine Rivers and Redcliffe councils, found a 46 per cent decline in the number of koalas in Pine Rivers over the past six years.

Ms Bligh conceded the Government had not done enough in the past to protect koalas, with several measures considered but rejected by previous ministers. "It would be a great tragedy if we stood by and let the koalas of southeast Queensland be wiped out," she said. "We face total loss of koalas within 20 years. We need to take on issues that in the past we have felt were too tough on residents ... frankly we've been too cautious and it's time to take tougher action ... doing nothing is not an option."

LNP sustainability spokesman Dave Gibson said the plans would anger responsible dog owners being unfairly targeted because the Government had approved too much development near koala habitats.


Stupid judge wants a jury to decide without them being allowed to see the scene of the crime

Sparking understandable rebellion from the jurors

A JURY has today been discharged at the murder trial of Gordon Wood, who is accused of throwing his model girlfriend Caroline Byrne off a Sydney clifftop. In discharging the seven women and five men today, Justice Graham Barr said the evidence showed there had been "misconduct" from one or more of the jurors. He concluded one juror had telephoned a journalist last Thursday to say some jury members planned to have a private night inspection of the death scene of Caroline Byrne. The judge added such a visit would be contrary to his specific instructions given at the start of the NSW Supreme Court trial last week.

Wood, 45, has pleaded not guilty to murdering 24-year-old Ms Byrne in June 1995 by throwing her over the cliff at The Gap, in Sydney's east. The trial began on Monday last week and the jurors were taken to The Gap on Wednesday when they inspected various sites, including the ledge from where the crown contended Wood had thrown Ms Byrne.

The trial did not sit on Friday, but Justice Barr said he was informed last Thursday afternoon that a radio journalist had received a phone call that morning from a woman who said she was a juror. The woman said some jurors were planning to visit The Gap that night and that there was a woman on the jury who was a "bully", who had already made up her mind about Wood's guilt. The judge said he arranged for a court official to phone each of the jurors to tell them that no such visit should take place.

Yesterday, the judge heard evidence from 2GB broadcaster Jason Morrison who detailed the off-air conversation, which he said he had tried to stop by telling the person to contact the judge. Each of the jurors gave evidence separately before the judge but all denied calling a journalist, knowing anyone who had called a journalist, or knowing of a plan for a private viewing at The Gap. Despite the crown's submission that the call was a hoax from "a malevolent member of the public", the judge concluded the caller was a juror.


Antique merry-go-round banned by insane "safety" bureaucracy

Banned from Brisbane's "Ekka" (Annual rural show) even though it has been proven safe for 100 years

The dead hand of bureaucracy has killed off an Ekka institution. The Grand Carousel, an antique merry-go-round that has thrilled thousands of youngsters for more than half a century, has been barred from this year's Ekka over fears children might be crushed under the hooves of its timber horses. Even though it is considered safe in other states, the objections of a Workplace Health and Safety Queensland inspector have led to the Grand Carousel's 57-year link with the show being severed.

With the 133rd Ekka under way tomorrow, other safety inspectors were yesterday absorbed in the potentially hair-raising task of testing thrill rides such as the Sky Walker and Insanity. But controversy surrounded a far more pedestrian ride.

John Short, whose father Lesley first brought the Grand Carousel to the Ekka in 1951, has been forced to leave his "flagship" operating on the banks of Melbourne's Yarra, where it enjoys the approval of Victorian WorkSafe inspectors. It is understood the Queensland inspector's concerns were triggered last year when he observed a primary school-aged child who appeared "unsteady" in the saddle. He concluded a child who fell off could be crushed under the rising and falling horse or roll off the carousel platform and hit their heads.

Brian Bradley, an engineer who carries out inspections for amusement ride operators, said the inspector had "concocted a potential hazard". "Bear in mind there's an operator in the centre of the ride who watches it going around, there's an attendant on the side of the ride, who is able to jump on as it's moving without any problem," he said. "You've also got the parents to hold their two or three-year-olds on a horse, riding for nothing, just for safety precautions. (Nothing) has ever happened in the 100 years the ride's been operating but because this particular inspector had a bright idea that it could happen and made an issue of it, the ride won't work in Queensland again."

The inspector warned the RNA in February that Mr Short would be issued with a prohibition notice on the ride unless he carried out substantial alterations, including a new barrier. Mr Short described the request as "ridiculous". "He wanted me to redesign the whole thing and I'm not willing to do that to a 120-year-old machine," he said. Mr Short turned instead to a modern alternative, the Space Carousel. "It hasn't got the charm or nostalgia of the Grand Carousel, but nothing does," he said.


Useless watchdog hands rape inquiry back to the people responsible for facilitating it

QUEENSLAND Health will investigate itself over events surrounding the alleged rape of a nurse, raising concerns over the probe's independence. The Crime and Misconduct Commission has referred the case back to the department, despite alleged bungles involving top bureaucrats and even Health Minister Stephen Robertson. The five-month probe centres on major failures surrounding the alleged rape of a nurse on Mabuiag Island in February, 16 months after a damning accommodation security report was completed and ignored. A nursing manager allegedly told the nurse to return to work after the incident and a police officer allegedly refused to help because it was raining.

The case erupted in State Parliament when the Opposition revealed Mr Robertson, pictured, had tabled only a sanitised version of the security report. The Courier-Mail also revealed the former district manager blamed by the State Government for ignoring the audit claimed he was transferred to Cairns at the time.

Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg yesterday raised serious concerns about the independence of the investigation. "The CMC shouldn't be involved in minutiae but, given Queensland Health actually denied the first version of the report existed in the first place, one has to wonder about the transparency now," Mr Springborg said. "Are we going to get the truth?"

Mr Robertson had lauded the referral to the CMC on March 13, saying the matter would be investigated by "an external and independent organisation". "(This is) the quite proper course to be taken in such circumstances where there is conflicting information about what happened and who was responsible," the minister told State Parliament.

Mr Robertson yesterday said the probe would now be done by his department's Ethical Standards Unit and reviewed by the CMC. "The ESU is headed by a former senior investigator of the CMC," he said. "At every stage, this investigation has been overseen and monitored by the CMC to ensure public confidence and transparency in the process."


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

More on Queensland's latest dangerous doctor

Hundreds of patient files are being reviewed after a damning report into a foreign-trained doctor found he performed surgery beyond his capabilities. The Health Quality and Complaints Commission report found Egyptian-trained doctor Abdalla Khalafalla was allowed to operate on patients at the Mackay Base Hospital without supervision despite "red flags" over many years about his competence.

Dr Khalafalla worked in Mackay from April 2004 to August 2006. An audit of 1000 unsupervised surgical procedures he performed between 2001 and 2006 has been launched in the wake of the HQCC probe. Queensland Health said the audit would include operations he performed in Townsville, Mount Isa, Proserpine and Mackay.

Dr Khalafalla's contract was terminated in August 2006 after the Medical Board of Queensland deregistered him, but the board acted only after former Nationals MP De-Anne Kelly raised the matter in Federal Parliament.

Health Minister Stephen Robertson said Dr Khalafalla, believed to be living in Victoria, was unlikely to face criminal charges. But he admitted the case raised similar questions about clinical practices to that of Indian-trained surgeon Jayant Patel. "There have been incidents where clinicians have not reported where they have witnessed harm to a patient as a result of another surgeon conducting his or her work," Mr Robertson said.

Cabinet meanwhile endorsed a plan yesterday to introduce mandatory reporting by doctors if they saw patients being harmed by colleagues. "We cannot allow these circumstances to keep going on where doctors witness harm, serious harm on some occasions, and not have it reported," he said. The two-year HQCC investigation found the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons supported Dr Khalafalla's appointment in Mackay despite receiving notifications about his competence dating back to 2002.

It said a review of his surgical performance at the Mackay hospital in September 2005 found six out of 26 cases involved a "potentially dangerous technique". The review found two of the patients could have died if action had not been taken and recommended a national reporting system for tracking the performance of registered health professionals.


Incompetent doctor report 'like reliving nightmare'

THE former head of an inquiry into former surgeon Jayant Patel says a report handed down yesterday into another Queensland surgeon was like "reliving a bad nightmare". Barrister Tony Morris, QC, headed the initial 2005 inquiry into Dr Patel, the former director of surgery at Bundaberg Base Hospital now on manslaughter charges, before stepping down five months later over claims of bias.

Queensland's Health Quality and Complaints Commission (HQCC) yesterday released the results of a two-year investigation into surgeon Abdalla Khalafalla, who allegedly performed at least 27 major operations beyond his credentialled level of skill. Egyptian-trained Dr Khalafalla, who has previously worked in Townsville and Victoria, worked at Mackay Base Hospital from 2004 to 2006. In August 2006, former Nationals MP De-Anne Kelly outlined to Federal Parliament four cases where Queenslanders allegedly were injured in operations conducted by the unsupervised doctor and the HQCC began its investigation.

Mr Morris said today he had read the report and found it "absolutely terrifying". "It's like reliving a bad nightmare," Mr Morris told ABC radio. "You read the report and it's almost a complete replication of what happened in Bundaberg. "And the really terrifying part is it's still the same attempt by the bureaucracy to say 'It's not our fault - let's blame the doctors'. "But Queensland Health are to blame and the only change I've seen is that the bureaucrats are now smarter about how they get back at whistleblowers." He said the health department needed to be rebuilt from scratch.

Health Minister Stephen Robertson said the commission's report dealt with issues that occurred two to three years ago and improvements had been made. "They (the commission) do make the observation that the changes made would have gone a long way to stop this thing that happened in Mackay from occurring again," Mr Robertson said. He said it was unfair to blame health bureaucrats. "What occurred in Mackay was a doctor not being properly supervised by who? Not a bureaucrat, a senior doctor," Mr Robertson said. "That senior doctor was reporting to another senior doctor."

An audit is under way into all cases of major surgery performed by Dr Khalafalla at Mackay Base Hospital without direct supervision. The Government is also proposing new laws to force doctors to report cases of patient harm by colleagues. Dr Khalafalla is living in Victoria but is no longer registered to practise. The commission report has been passed on to Victorian and other authorities around Australia.


Comment from a political reporter:

QUEENSLAND Health Minister Stephen Robertson has put in a woeful performance in the wake of the damning Health Quality and Complaints Commission report into how the department handled allegations of incompetence against surgeon Abdalla Khalafalla. Yesterday I wondered how the Government was going to spin its way out of trouble on this one. Robertson has provided the answer _ blame the doctors. Surely with an 69-strong army of PR flacks at Queensland Health, he could have come up with a better line.

More "security" imbecility

Frail old lady evicted from her wheelchair

BRISBANE Airport has been asked to explain why it made an 86-year-old woman stand while her wheelchair, walking stick and shoes were searched by security officers. John Tscheppera said his 86-year-old mother-in-law was selected for a random scan as she went through security before a flight to Cairns with her two daughters last Thursday.

He said she was made to get out of her wheelchair and take her shoes off while her wheelchair, shoes and wooden walking stick were swept with a security wand. "My mother-in-law is 86, she's most of the time wheelchair-bound," he said. "She's frail, bent over and anyone with half a brain could look at her close up and see that she's old, frail and needs nurture, a lot of TLC. "To subject an 86-year-old to something like that is a bit over the top."

Mr Tscheppera said the family wanted an explanation as to why such a thorough search was carried out. He said he understood the need for airport safety but it should have been obvious his mother-in-law posed no threat. Comment was being sought from Brisbane Airport.


Little support for recent immigration changes in Australia

Less than a quarter of people believe Australia's policies toward asylum seekers in recent years have been too tough, a poll has found. Under changes unveiled by Immigration Minister Chris Evans last week, asylum seekers and visa overstayers will now be detained only if they are judged to pose a risk to the community.

But the new Essential Media poll suggests the softer approach may be unpopular. The poll found just 24 per cent of people believed detention policies have been too tough, while 34 per cent thought they were "about right'' and 28 per cent thought they were not tough enough.

Asked about the Rudd Government's decision to increase Australia's refugee intake to 13,500 people a year, 52 per cent of people said they thought the number was too high. A quarter of people said the number was about right, while just 6 per cent said the number was too small.


Monday, August 04, 2008


Conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG has just offered his take on the leadership speculation in the Liberal party.

Queensland police say they're unable to fight gangs

Too busy doing paperwork

POLICE say they are losing the fight against youth violence but the Government refuses to acknowledge the existence of organised teen gangs. The Courier-Mail has documented up to a dozen named gangs on the Gold Coast alone. They are tightly knit groups identified by colours and tattoos, with some linked to criminal adult gangs. Other parts of Brisbane have their own versions of American gangs the Bloods and the Crips, or have gangs named after their suburbs or ethnic groups.

Two police officers admitted to The Courier-Mail the "grubs have control of the streets" because of understaffing. "Most police divisions struggle to put two cars on the road each shift and those crews can have up to 30 jobs backed up on their call sign when they start duty," one two-decade veteran said. Another officer said he was "trapped in the station doing paperwork". "I would love to be on the road for any entire shift to catch crooks," he said.

Online readers of The Courier-Mail claimed Police Minister Judy Spence, who has said there is no evidence of organised youth gangs, was out of touch. "What planet is she on?" wrote one reader. "Her only answer to every issue is to pretend it's not happening," another reader said. More incidents of youth and gang violence were revealed by residents, including attacks on vehicles by dozens of youths in Clontarf and Deception Bay.

Opposition police spokesman Vaughan Johnson said the Government had no real plan for dealing with youth violence and was in denial about gangs. "We need more police presence where young people are active," he said. "These youth gangs should be home in bed. Police have got to have the power to get them home where they belong." He also doubted claims there were no statistics on youth gang violence. "They have the statistics but they don't want them released because they are embarrassing," he said.

Premier Anna Bligh yesterday said there were no easy answers to tackling the problem of youth violence and gangs. She said the Government had set up a youth violence taskforce and it would continue to consider ways to target the problem. "I'm concerned by advice from the Police Commissioner that what we're starting to see in relation to youth violence is firstly younger teenagers involved, secondly more girls involved in this sort of activity and thirdly a higher likelihood that some sort of weapon, particularly knives, being involved," she said. "These are difficult issues for our police, they involve responsibility from our schools, from parents and from the community and a law enforcement response."

MEANWHILE, on Surfers Paradise beach, two girls cooling their aching feet in the surf after a night of clubbing are bashed and robbed by an all-girl teenage gang. At Elanora and Main Beach, homes are trashed by youths from the Palmy Army, South Side Soldiers and Keebra Crew teen gangs. In the Currumbin Valley, a man's ears are cut off, allegedly by Lone Wolf bikie gang members who have graduated from, or have links to, notorious Tweed Coast youth gang, the Coomicub.

Coast gangs once were comprised of relatively innocent bodgies, widgies or surfies. But like other urban areas of Australia, the Gold Coast has seen an upsurge in gang activity in recent years. In the border towns of Tweed Heads and Coolangatta, the Coomicub has become notorious for violence after a string of incidents in and around southern Gold Coast nightspots over the past two years. The gang took its name from a local rap band. Many members bear a distinctive 'C' tattoo and wear shirts and jumpers featuring the word Coomicub emblazoned in gothic writing. Last year some members of the gang were arrested over fights in Coolangatta and Palm Beach and a wild clash with the Palmy Army at the Palm Beach surf club. Police believe many senior Coomicub members have graduated to become Lone Wolf bikies.

Members of a group of about a dozen children and teens who savagely attacked off-duty police officer Rawson Armitage and his girlfriend Michelle Dodge at Coolangatta late last year were believed to have gang links. Gold Coast police said the problem lay with the parents of gang members, many of whom they claimed were "druggies and deadbeats themselves".


Teachers union has proposed a national system of performance pay

Unusual for a teachers' union. "All teachers are equal" is their usual mantra

The teachers union has proposed a national system of performance pay that would restructure the profession to pay the best teachers more money to stay in the classroom. The Australian Education Union is calling on the Rudd Government to fund a national system of accomplished teachers that would assess teachers against a published set of standards and pay them at least $100,000 a year. The system would be voluntary and insert a new salary band for classroom teachers above the existing wage scale, which most teachers top in their first eight or nine years.

Federal president Angelo Gavrielatos said a new career structure was required to move away from the current system under which teachers are forced to leave the classroom and undertake administrative positions to achieve further pay rises. "This is a two-step process in giving professional pay for teachers," he said. "First we need to ensure as a country that we have a competitive professional salary to attract teachers in the numbers required to ensure a qualified teacher in front of every single classroom, no matter where it is in the country. "Beyond that, I restate our preparedness to negotiate a framework that further recognises and rewards demonstrated teaching skills, knowledge and practice."

Primary school teacher Anthony Atkinson welcomed the plan to recognise the profession's best performers and to give new teachers a guide to what is expected of them. Mr Atkinson, who is in his second year of teaching at Merri Creek Primary School in Melbourne's inner suburbs, said the system would focus attention on the professionalism of teachers. "I like the idea of having a set of standards that are a way of recognising things when still in the classroom," he said. "Anything that gives you a roadmap for your professional development ... is definitely going to be helpful."

The union proposal is based on a report commissioned from Educational Assessment Australia at the University of NSW, which developed a set of standards for assessing teachers as accomplished performers. The report looked at professional standards developed by the teacher registration bodies in each state and territory to compile a set of about 100 indicators for measuring the quality of teaching practice.

The majority of questions dealt with standards of teaching and practice, curriculum and programming, lesson planning and content, assessment and reporting, implementation of teaching practice, professional development, and participation in the school community. The EAA study sought to indicate the proportion of teachers who met the accomplished teaching standard, and found half the 1833 surveyed teachers met 57 per cent of the criteria.

Education Minister Julia Gillard said the AEU report was timely and would add to the work being done by governments to improve rewards, incentives and career structures for teachers. "Better ways to reward quality teaching certainly need to be developed and any reward system needs to be based on transparent standards for assessing teachers," she said. "We need to find ways of valuing teachers who are teachers of excellence because we want to keep the best teachers in front of classrooms."

Opposition education spokesman Tony Smith also welcomed the union's turnaround on performance pay, saying the AEU had "come out of the Stone Age" to discuss the issue.


California nonsense comes to Australia

Push to ban 'dangerous' trans fats

The South Australian Government will push for a national ban or tougher controls on the use of trans fats in foods. The Government will use the next meeting of national food and health ministers in October to push for tougher regulations controlling the use of trans fats which have been linked to heart disease, strokes and diabetes.

Most trans fats consumed today are created by the hydrogenation of plant oils, a process that adds hydrogen atoms to unsaturated fats to render them more saturated, making them attractive for baking and extending their shelf life. "These really dangerous fats are in everyday foods that people eat and particularly in junk and processed foods," said SA Premier Mike Rann. "Trans fats offer no nutritional value whatsoever and indeed are linked to serious health issues."

Mr Rann said the state government also wanted restaurants and food manufacturers to label their menus and products to allow consumers to know exactly what they were eating. He said the Government was about to start working with other states on a national survey to determine how much trans fats were in common foods. "We believe the time to act on trans fats is now," Mr Rann said. "We need to regulate these fats and protect Australians."


Immigrants flooding into Australia -- legally

Leftist governments love immigrants -- because they tend to upset the status quo and create problems for governments to "solve"

Did you know the Rudd Government is implementing the biggest immigration program since the end of World War II, and the biggest intake, in absolute numbers of permanent immigrants and temporary workers, in Australia's history? Did you know the migration program for 2008-09 has set a target of 190,300 places, a robust 20 per cent increase over the financial year just ended?

On budget night, May 13, amid the avalanche of material released by the Government, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, issued a press release stating, among other things: "The use of 457 visas to employ temporary skilled migrant workers has grown rapidly in recent years. A total of 39,500 subclass 457 visas was granted in 2003-04 compared with an expected 100,000 places in each of 2007-08 and 2008-09." That is a 150 per cent increase in four years. Did you know the number of overseas students coming to Australia is also at a record high, with 228,592 student visas granted in 2006-07, a 20 per cent increase over the previous year?

Under the Rudd Government, Australia's net immigration intake is now larger than Britain's, even though it has almost three times the population of Australia. To put all this in perspective, the immigration program in the Rudd Government's first year is 150 per cent bigger than it was in the Howard government's first year. The immigration intake is running almost 60 per cent higher than it was three years ago.

On November 14 last year, when Kevin Rudd launched Labor's election campaign, he mentioned at length the challenges of climate change and water shortages: "It is irresponsible for any national government of Australia to stand idly by while our major cities are threatened by the insecurity of water supply." While presenting a commendable shift away from John Howard's inertia on these issues, his policy is breathtakingly inconsistent. Not only did Rudd commit to a policy of building high-energy desalination plants for Australia's main cities, he has also committed Australia to record levels of immigration.

Talk about shifting sands. To quote Rudd in this same keynote speech: "Mr Howard lacked the decency to even mention Work Choices at all during his 4400-word policy speech on Monday. Work Choices has become the industrial relations law that now dare not speak its name." Rudd did not have the decency to mention immigration once in his 4300-word campaign launch. It is the most glaring inconsistency of his Government.

The immigration figures quoted above do not even include New Zealanders, who are not counted as part of Australia's annual migration program, nor do they include people who have overstayed their visas. Add another 50,000 or so people to an equation which will see a million people added to the population during the three-year term of the Rudd Government [compared with an existing population of about 20 million]. The only element in Australia's immigration program that is not going gangbusters is the refugee and humanitarian intake, which remains static at 13,500 places a year.

It was not until Evans made his first key policy speech last week that I began to appreciate the scale of the Government's selective silences. He began with a ritual bashing of his Liberal predecessor as minister, Kevin Andrews, who is now not even in the Opposition shadow outer ministry and would do his party a favour if he retired. After the point-scoring Evans got to the essence: "Today I want to announce . [that] mandatory detention is an essential component of strong border control . [but] children and, where possible, their families, will not be detained in an immigration detention centre . Detention that is indefinite or otherwise arbitrary is not acceptable . Detention in immigration detention centres is only to be used as a last resort and for the shortest practicable time ."

It was not until the last paragraph of his long speech that Evans got to the core point: "In the future, the immigration system will be characterised by strong border security, firm deterrence of unauthorised arrivals, effective and robust immigration processes and respect for the rule of law and the humanity of those seeking migration outcomes."

Sounds like Howard. In other words, the fundamentals of the system are not going to be changed. The Rudd Labor Government is not dismantling the detention system first set up by the Keating Labor. It is not ending the excision of Australian territory from the Immigration Act, which prevents asylum-seekers from entering Australian territory via offshore islands. It is not ending the detention of adults until security and health checks are completed. It is not cutting funding for navy border patrols. It is maintaining the new Christmas Island detention centre, far from Australia's shores, and capable of housing 8000 people short-term, as a place to warehouse any new wave of boat people.

The fundamentals have not changed because they cannot change. The electorate holds dear the principle that people cannot blithely determine when and how they will move to a new country, bypassing immigration controls or refugee programs. This is elementary to a nation's sovereignty.

The hysterics in the refugee and mandatory detention debates have always thrown around words like "shame" and "gulags" and engaged in moral relativism, comparing Howard to Saddam Hussein, while refusing to recognise that there are real consequences of failures of immigration policy. Thousands of Australian have paid a heavy price for the failed refugee-vetting processes in the 1970s and 1980s, when many people who should never have been allowed into the country were approved. We are still paying the price.

Labor learned the hard way that to compromise border security is to invite political disaster. This is why the Rudd Government is still talking tough on border security, and has a major immigration policy but dare not speak its name.


Sunday, August 03, 2008

Another disastrous foreign doctor

There have been some appalling cases of doctors trained in India and in Muslim countries. There should be more testing of them before they are hired

Health Minister Stephen Robertson will receive a report tomorrow into an Egyptian- trained surgeon who allegedly bungled operations he performed without supervision. Abdalla Khalifallah, who worked at Mackay Base Hospital, had his contract terminated in August 2006 after he was deregistered by the Medical Board of Queensland.

The report, by the Health Quality and Complaints Commission, is based on almost two years of investigation. The matter was raised in Federal Parliament in August 2006 by former Nationals MP De-Anne Kelly, who outlined the cases of four people she said were injured during unsuccessful operations at Mackay Base Hospital.

Mrs Kelly told Parliament Dr Khalifallah had undertaken three major operations that he was unqualified for without supervision, resulting in complications. One case. to remove a bowel tumour, resulted in fecal matter entering the intestinal cavity, she said.

"This operation was carried out in direct contravention of the decision of the (hospital's) credentials committee," she said. "In July 2005, the hospital's credentials committee determined that Dr Khalifallah must be supervised during major surgery."

Dr Khalifallah became a staff specialist at the hospital in 2004. A spokeswoman for Mr Roberston said the Minister had called for a report into the matter in 2006. "We cannot comment any further until the Minister sees what the report says," she said.

The above article by Suellen Hinde appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on 3 August, 2008. The spelling of the name of the fool seems to vary. In this report, it was Abdalla Khalafalla

Conservative climate policy in Australia is now purely political

The only aim now is to hang the costs of a climate policy on the Labor party

Apart from a final policy position, about the only good thing to come out of last week's near disastrous flirtation by Brendan Nelson with going "brown" on climate change was the emergence of Greg Hunt as a force to be reckoned with inside the Liberal Party.

Politics constantly throws up challenges. The system works best for the country when it also throws up politicians who meet those challenges. In the case of the critical debate over a national Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), this is exactly what has occurred in both major parties. In Hunt, the Coalition's Environment spokesman, and in Penny Wong, Labor's Climate Change Minister, the struggle to fashion an ETS that puts global warming into retreat and at the same time protects Australia's economic interests has thrown up two of the brightest young politicians in the country. Hunt and Wong represent generational change.

As a country we often choose to under-estimate our politicians, to denigrate them as a matter of course as a bunch of venal self-servers who've been tossed up on the shore of the parliament because they're not much good for anything else. Consider 42-year-old Hunt's CV. He has a first-class honours degree from the University of Melbourne and a Master's degree from Yale University. He was a Fulbright Scholar and a dual fellowship winner at Yale. He was Captain of the Australian Universities Debating Team and an Associate to the Chief Justice of the High Court. He started his business career with the global consultancy McKinsey and Co, which like Macquarie Bank is known as a "millionaires factory''. Oh, and he's also run seven marathons. Yet Hunt chose public service over money, becoming an adviser to Alexander Downer before winning the Victorian seat of Flinders at the 2001 election.

Hunt cares passionately about policy, and the environment in particular, and both were on display to the benefit of the Liberal Party last week. He wrote an honours thesis on the merits of emissions trading and a carbon tax in 1990, but says he first became fascinated with the phenomenon years earlier - in 1984, when he was just 18. While Nelson was trying to make the Coalition's support for an ETS conditional on the major emitters - the US, China and India - acting first, Hunt, along with Shadow Treasurer Malcolm Turnbull and Nelson's deputy, Julie Bishop, quickly came to the conclusion that the Opposition had to be "inside the tent'' on an ETS, otherwise it would risk irrelevancy.

Behind the scenes, Hunt worked tirelessly to convince his colleagues an ETS had become the new "belief'' test on climate change; that signing Kyoto was the old one. With the Coalition under John Howard having failed the Kyoto test, Hunt was not about to let it fail the new one. At a critical point in the Shadow Cabinet debate, he presented a detailed breakdown of public opinion polling that showed if the Coalition allowed Kevin Rudd to present them as climate change sceptics, voters would punish them cruelly.

Hunt told his colleagues 90 per cent of Australians believed climate change was real, while 75 per cent wanted immediate action to counter global warming and that 84 per cent believed climate change was already happening. Of that 84 per cent, 96 per cent believe it was man-made.

Australia, Hunt told the Shadow Cabinet, was a nation of climate-change believers. Hunt's concerns, though, were much more broad - and strategic - than simply chasing public opinion. What Hunt realised was that if the Coalition effectively opted out of the ETS debate by making any unilateral action conditional on the big emitters moving, they would, in effect, be deferring the development of any policy indefinitely. And that would have disqualified them from being part of the ETS debate - a disastrous outcome.

As it is, Hunt now thinks that the Opposition is perfectly placed to begin a GST-style campaign against the Labor scheme, attacking its implementation and its unintended consequences - most particularly, what he sees as the Government's disastrous decision to bring the road-transport system into the scheme after only the first year of the ETS's operation. Hunt intends pursuing this not as a core ETS issue, but as an effective tax on food.

With cost-of-living pressures showing no sign of abating, if Hunt's argument bites, it could mean real trouble for Rudd. Precisely because the Coalition is now inside the ETS tent, it will be able to argue that the Coalition model will allow for a more cautious and gradual approach when it comes to road transport. Nelson's "indefinite deferral'' model would not have allowed for the promotion of this alternative proposition.

At the same time, Hunt will embark on a concerted push to develop a "clean-energy revolution'' based on his judgment that the renewable energy area has been neglected in the Government's Green Paper. This judgment is buttressed by the battering that Peter Garrett's credentials have taken asa result of the Budget decision to means-test solar panel rebates. In the unlikely event Brendan Nelson survives as Liberal leader, he may well look back on last week and thank Greg Hunt for his efforts in saving him. From himself.


Rudd's subtle Israel shift

A few months ago, when I was back in Israel, one of Tony Blair's advisers approached me. Blair, the former British prime minister, is now a special envoy to the Middle East on behalf of the so-called quartet of the US, Russia, the UN and the European Union. "Did you know," the adviser asked me, "that your Government has increased aid to the Palestinian Authority? This was seen as a big deal by the quartet - something John Howard would not have done and a sign, perhaps, of a different approach by Kevin Rudd on Israel."

A week before Christmas the parliamentary secretary for international development assistance Bob McMullan announced Australia had indeed doubled its 2008 aid package to the Palestinian territories to $45 million. A senior Australian diplomatic source told me the increase "succinctly reflected a subtle repositioning and a new approach" in the Middle East.

Earlier this year Downer's replacement, Stephen Smith, gave an interview in Washington in which he said Australia was committed to an "even-handed" approach on Middle East policy. Smith told Tony Walker of The Australian Financial Review Labor would adhere to a long-standing policy acknowledging Israel's right to exist and the rights of a Palestinian nation state. "That's an even-handed approach which Labor has had as its policy for a long period of time. It's a two-nation solution. That's even-handed," Smith said.

Walker, a veteran Middle East watcher, observed that Smith's position "contrasts with the previous government, which tilted Australia's Middle East policy towards Israel and made little pretence of adhering to an 'even-handed' approach". Perhaps he was right. On February 8, Michael Burd, in a letter to the Australian Jewish News, wrote: "It wasn't so long ago Jewish Labor supporters were arguing there was no difference between Liberal and Labor policy towards Israel, and Jews who attended private dinners with Kevin Rudd in Toorak and other private homes were led to believe Labor would continue to support Israel. "This letter writer will be watching for the next Arab/Muslim-backed UN anti-Israel resolution to see if Rudd stands by his commitment to the Jewish community."

Around this time Rudd seemed to allay some fears when he introduced a motion into Federal Parliament honouring the state of Israel, which turned 60 this year. One of his MPs, Julia Irwin - a long-time critic of Israel's conduct - boycotted the motion.

Australia, meanwhile, is watching Israel closely as its Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, prepares to stand down amid myriad corruption allegations. Despite his domestic problems, Olmert has done much to advance the peace process. Australia also watches carefully as Middle East tensions rise over Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons capable of striking the heart of the Jewish state. Senior figures in the Rudd Government will not, based on intelligence briefings, privately rule out a pre-emptive, unilateral strike against Iran by Israel.

There is no doubt that, while the Australia-Israel relationship remains close, there is significant new uncertainty about it. Rudd, who has yet to visit Israel as Prime Minister, does little by accident.


Previous tough policy allows new relaxed detention rules, says former conservative immigration boss

Phil is right but the conservative legacy may not last for long once the new rules become widely known. The Australian Labor government is just mimicking the failed policies of the Brits

Former federal immigration minister Philip Ruddock says the former government's 'Pacific solution' is the reason why the current Government can afford to relax the rules on immigration detention.

The Government has announced major changes to immigration detention, making it a last resort only for those visa applicants who are deemed a risk to the community. The Government also says it will make the system more humane so most visa and asylum applicants will be able to live in the community while their claims are decided.

Mr Ruddock presided over the so-called 'Pacific solution', where hundreds of people were held in immigration detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island. But he says that policy has led to a very different situation now. "When you've got 300 people, I think about eight or nine, who are actually unauthorised border arrivals, it's very different to having thousands of people that you have to deal with," he said. "The processing demands are very different, the extent to which you can devote resources are very different.

Mr Ruddock says the current Government has its predecessor to thank for the very different circumstances. "We have no unauthorised arrivals in any significant number, and that's of course as a result of the policies of the previous government that managed to contain smuggling operations that were so unwelcome in relation to Australia's border protection," he said.


Saturday, August 02, 2008


Conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG has just offered his take on the Chinese Olympic censorship issue.

Caution about new High Court judge

The announcement that Federal Court judge Robert French will become Australia's new chief justice of the High Court has received resounding praise from across the nation. By any measure it has been a veritable love-in. A black-letter lawyer with a heart, some say. A fine jurist who has sailed under the radar, say others. He is, we are assured, not an activist in the genre of High Court judge Michael Kirby or former High Court judge William Deane.

He will not have any immediate impact on the direction of our most senior court, we are told. He is apparently a judge who cannot be pigeonholed. These observations are meant to make us feel easy that French is a traditionalist, a judge who will eschew the activism of some of his predecessors on the High Court.

Not so fast. Watch and wait, I say. Consider the Mason precedent. When Anthony Mason became chief justice in 1987, having been on the High Court since 1972, The Sydney Morning Herald rushed to judgment, claiming that he would steer the court into calmer waters. It was assumed that Mason's legal stripes as a traditional, conservative-minded judge were fixed. They were not.

Mason took the High Court on the most activist jaunt in its history, implying rights to free speech into the Constitution in a way only an activist judge can do and allowing an unprecedented leap in the common law in Mabo. Whether you agree with those decisions or not is irrelevant. The point is that the Herald later concluded that Mason was the "most radical chief justice we have ever seen".

Few could have predicted Mason's transformation. He succumbed to the great judicial temptation of using the bench to mould what he regarded as a better world. He grew bored with being a black-letter lawyer. He preferred the role of philosopher king. As one judge remarked, Mason was seduced by the "siren song of left-wing intellectuals" into becoming a judicial innovator. Is history repeating itself? Will the lamb become a lion? It is entirely possible that the descriptions offered in effusive praise of French give us more than a few hints that,as chief justice of the High Court, he may be unable to resist the temptation to do a Mason.

For starters, any judge breathlessly embraced by left-wing legal academics and commentators immediately deserves a question mark over their so-called safe, black-letter lawyer credentials. George Williams, a left-wing academic and the leading proponent of a charter of rights for Australia, is excited about French because "he's very difficult to predict because of the approach he takes to the law". Williams is no lover of black-letter lawyers. He has built a career by pushing for a more activist judiciary armed with a charter of rights that enables courts to decide important social questions.

Here's another clue that French may succumb to the Mason temptation. Gillian Triggs, dean of the law faculty at the University of Sydney, told ABC radio that French had a wide view of the role that law played in society, from local matters of indigenous rights to the influence of international law. Excuse the scepticism, but that is generally code for a judge who is not your traditional, black-letter lawyer. Indeed, now that Richard Ackland, the Herald's dour legal commentator, who has little time for conservative judges, also has enthusiastically embraced French, it's time to look a little closer at whether the West Australian judge is in fact a safe, conservative choice for the High Court.

The most important clue to what the 61-year-old French will do as chief justice is to be found in his published views on judicial activism. I shared a podium with French at the Constitutional Law Conference earlier this year on the topic. French said statutes were invariably vague, calling on judges to make decisions about what words mean. The common law was a moving creature, developed for centuries by judges, he said. No quibbles there.

Of course, judges make law when they are called on to decipher vague words and develop the common law. But that is a different thing from an activist judge who, with a healthy dose of arrogance, ignores parliament's clear intent and regards the common law as a judicial playground for pushing their preferred agenda.

We know from interviews with our most senior judges conducted by American academic Jason Pierce that the Australian judiciary has plenty of judges who regard parliament as a bunch of generally slow, incompetent populists whose legislation (or lack of it) needs to be corrected by a more intelligent class of being. Few dispute that Mason was an activist. The only question is whether you like it.

And it's here that French may have revealed his true colours. He peddled the line favoured by supporters of an activist judiciary. He said judicial activism defied definition. And if you couldn't define it, he said, it didn't really exist except in the imagination of misguided conservatives. The judicial activist was, French concluded, "so hard to pin down and define that it will turn out to be a mythical monster". This is akin to saying that because people can't agree on a definition of happiness, happiness doesn't exist.

Indeed, the death-by-definition trick is a standard tactic of those judges, and their boosters in academic circles, who hanker for a more activist judiciary. The aim is to present judicial activism as a concoction to sideline the debate so they can get on with pursuing a more activist role.

Whether French will tire of being a black-letter lawyer and instead follow the activist role that seduced Mason remains to be seen. But it is a safe bet that those judges likeliest to succumb to judicial activism are the same ones who, like French, treat the topic with disdain. To be sure, as one of seven judges, French cannot change the direction of the High Court overnight. But if future vacancies on the High Court are filled with judges who share French's enthusiasm for a wider view of the law and his desire to treat judicial activism as a fantasy, there is every chance that French may prove to be a more radical chief justice than the unquestioning media have led us to believe. That, of course, may be the aim of the Rudd Government in choosing a judge who, to date, has chosen to play below the radar. Judgment, as they say, is reserved.


'No deal' on offer in case of black killer

One law for blacks and whites! How refreshing!

Crown prosecutor Nanette Rogers has drawn a line under a legal convention allowing Aborigines accused of murder in the Northern Territory to be treated differently to white counterparts by refusing to cut a deal with an indigenous man who beat his wife to death in an Alice Springs town camp. Most Territory Aboriginal defendants are offered the chance to plead guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter and rarely face trial for murder.

But Dr Rogers -- whose revelations in 2006 of shocking levels of child sexual abuse in NT communities led to the federal intervention -- refused to be party to such a deal after hearing how Ronald Djana whipped his wife with a hose, belted her with a stick, pounded her head with a rock, stomped on her abdomen and stabbed her in the vagina.

The case also broke new ground with the decision by 21 Aboriginal witnesses to testify against Djana, 32, who had five previous counts of assaulting his wife, Janie Norman, and three restraining-order breaches. Members of the jury wept openly after hearing how Norman -- the 32-year-old mother of Djana's four children -- was killed in May.

Djana's conviction for murder and sexual assault without consent means under Territory law that he will serve a minimum of 25 years in jail, but in pleadings to judge Dean Mildren on Thursday, Dr Rogers asked for a longer sentence, given Djana's history of abusing Norman. If successful, it would be the longest sentence handed down to an Aboriginal man in the NT and would ensure that Djana was treated no differently to white man Bradley John Murdoch, sentenced to 28 years in 2006 for the murder of British tourist Peter Falconio and the accompanying assault of Joanne Lees.

The defence argued that Djana had either not caused all Norman's injuries or did not form the intent to kill her because he was drunk. But Dr Rogers told the jury: "Janie Norman may have lived a lifestyle very different to yours. You may not approve of her lifestyle but she is entitled to the same protection of the law as any other person. "Just because she lived in an Alice Springs town camp, surrounded by alcohol abuse, and lived a chaotic lifestyle, does not mean that her violent death is just another statistic."

Jane Lloyd, chairwoman of the NT Domestic and Family Violence Advisory Council, said she was not celebrating what would be a long sentence for Djana, but said it was right that he was treated as a murderer. "In the past, juries have been somewhat indifferent to violence by Aboriginal men against Aboriginal women," she said. "That did not seem to be the case here. I had the sense that overall ... some kind of value was placed on her life."

The most recent available NT statistics show that in the 10 years between 1996 and 2006, 109 Aborigines were convicted of manslaughter or a dangerous act causing death, and only 12 were convicted of murder. There was a greater will to charge white people for murder in that same period, with 26 convicted of manslaughter or a dangerous act and 13 convicted of murder.

The view has often been that Aboriginal men lead such despairing lives that they ought to be cut some slack when it comes to charges. Dr Rogers's prosecution office in Alice Springs is increasingly demanding that in cases where intent can be clearly shown, Aboriginal killers be charged with murder.

Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women's Council co-ordinator Vicki Gillick welcomed the decision of indigenous people to give evidence. "It is often the case that Aboriginal witnesses can be reluctant to be involved. But it's a credit when they do, and it's a credit to the prosecutors that they were able to get them to come forward," she said. Djana will be sentenced on August 25.


Sneering public broadcaster takes a hit in court

Australia's most experienced mountaineer, Tim Macartney-Snape, has received $448,500 in damages after the NSW Supreme Court yesterday ruled the ABC defamed him in a 1995 Four Corners program. Judge David Kirby handed down a lengthy judgment finding the ABC's flagship current affairs program defamed the twice-honoured Order of Australia recipient and Everest climber by implying he used his public profile to recruit Sydney school students for a scientific cult.

In the episode titled TheProphet of Oz, Four Corners alleged Macartney-Snape was the disciple of Australian scientist Jeremy Griffith, portrayed in the program as a cult leader who saw himself as a figure greater than Christ. The episode, which first aired on April 24, 1995, and again on May 2, 1995, was narrated by Reverend David Millikan, a minister of the Uniting Church, who was also sued by the pair and alleged to have misrepresented himself to Mr Griffith.

More than five years ago, a jury found the ABC defamed Mr Griffith by claiming his work as a scientist was of such a poor standard that it had no support from the scientific community. The jury also found Macartney-Snape, 52, was defamed by the implication he had deceived schools that invited him to talk about Mt Everest by exploiting the occasion to promote Mr Griffith's ideas.

In response, the ABC claimed the defences of truth, qualified privilege and fair comment in relation to the imputations brought against Macartney-Snape and Mr Griffith in the current affairs program. The 32-day trial canvassing the ABC's defences and damages found that in relation to Mr Griffith the imputation was true, that is, he did hold himself out as a scientist, and published a work of such poor standard that it had no support at all from the scientific community. Justice Kirby, therefore, found the ABC did not have to pay damages to the 63-year-old scientist.

However, in relation to the allegations made about Macartney-Snape, none of the broadcaster's defences held up in the court, including that of truth. The ABC was yesterday ordered to pay the mountaineer $300,000 in general damages to reputation and a further $148,500 in special damages for loss of income as a speaker. The payout could exceed $1million once costs and interest are added.


At-risk Iraqis offered asylum in Australia

A select group of almost 400 Iraqis who worked for the Australian Government in the war-torn country have been brought to Australia on special visas. Under a policy adopted by the Rudd Government, local Iraqis employed by the Australian Defence Force have been the first to benefit. Many Iraqis who worked for the US-led coalition military forces since 2003 have faced death threats and intimidation from various militia groups.

A Defence Department spokesman told The Weekend Australian that 387 Iraqis had come to Australia as permanent settlers under the scheme. All of them worked for Australian military forces in southern Iraq in al-Muthanna and Dhi Qar provinces.

With the last Australian troops having withdrawn from Tallil air base in Dhi Qar two months ago, the department has worked closely on resettling Iraqi staff who feared for their safety once the withdrawal took place. Other Iraqis who worked for Australian government agencies in other parts of the country, including Baghdad, will be assessed for resettlement on a case-by-case basis.

Under the program, the Iraqis are provided with full travel costs and initial accommodation after arrival in Australia. The Rudd Government's decision to allow the resettlement of at-risk Iraqi employees mirrors that of the US and British governments.

Since 2001, more than 11,000 Iraqis have been resettled in Australia under the offshore humanitarian program. The latest special visas for Iraqis who worked as local employees are in addition to the 13,000 places available under the Department of Immigration's 2007-08 humanitarian program.


Friday, August 01, 2008

Climate madness already hitting electricity supply

An emissions trading scheme has not even started but the Government's hostility to carbon emissions is already choking off the supply of electricity, leading to an inevitable rise in prices. Coal is used to generate 90 per cent of Australia's electricity, but no business can fund new coal-fired power plants under the existing policy settings. The last big coal-based power station built with private funding was Millmerran in Queensland, completed in 2002 by a Shell-led consortium. One other station, Kogan Creek, also in Queensland, has been built with government funding. No others are planned.

Specifying the carbon price that new electricity generators will pay when the emissions trading scheme begins will not solve the problem either, since the carbon price will be set by politicians each year. The Government also has yet to decide when key CO2 emitting sectors such as agriculture and petrol are to be included under the cap. As long as these are excluded, the price will need to be higher for the rest.

The Government also has yet to determine many other elements of an emissions trading scheme. These include the basis on which a reserve price for carbon will be in place (effectively capping the scheme); what, if any, compensation will be provided to big emitters and big users; and whether compensation will be paid to subsidise ongoing production or as a lump sum to allow big coal power producers to close down facilities.

All this is complicated by the sale of the NSW generators. Canberra does not want to jeopardise NSW Premier Morris Iemma's abilities to raise money from the sale, which also allows the Government to exit an industry that would otherwise make substantial calls on public funding. But any bidders for the NSW assets will need cast-iron commitments about what their future carbon credit costs will be. In any case, the value of the assets has already been dramatically devalued by commitments to a future emissions trading scheme.

Before the proposals of Ross Garnaut's climate change report were released, most electricity generators expected to receive free carbon credits. The green paper dangles these before their noses, though it leaves their value unquantified. Free credits could compensate the most carbon-intensive power plants for leaving the market, with those remaining being reimbursed for the costs of buying credits by a higher wholesale price resulting from the capacity reduction.

A carbon tax at the green paper's mentioned range of $20 to $40 a tonne of CO2 should make it possible, theoretically, for gas-fuelled electricity generation (with its lower CO2 emissions) to take market share from coal-based power stations. But gas-fuelled generators would be likely to find their competitive edge eroded because they would face higher gas prices following the increase in demand. Solar-based renewables would remain uncompetitive in any case.

The sword of Damocles hanging over coal-based electricity power stations is causing supply to tighten by preventing new investment. Eventually this will be exacerbated as existing stations become obsolete and are scrapped. And obsolescence will accelerate as businesses see a truncated useful life for their facilities and scrimp on maintenance expenditures. The effect of the discouragement of new supplies is being progressively felt. Generators cannot obtain forward contracts because neither they nor retailers know what the future price is likely to be.

These developments have brought an increase in wholesale prices. Average electricity prices in NSW and Victoria during the past couple of years have been $50 a megawatt hour. Ten years ago they were about $30 a megawatt hour. That increase is already equivalent to the tax of $20 a tonne of CO2 that the green paper estimates will mean a - presumably acceptable - 16 per cent rise in electricity prices. But we have seen with petrol that very high price increases have little effect on demand; it may take a tax on electricity of $100 a tonne of CO2, bringing a 70 per cent price increase, to shave even a modest 10 per cent from demand.

Though the price increases foreshadowed in the green paper are already happening, most consumers are largely insulated from them because their retailers have contracts with generators at the previously prevailing prices. Soon, however, the higher current prices will be reflected in consumers' electricity bills. At that stage, the rhetoric about the need for higher prices will meet the reality, and test the support of the Government, the media and ordinary people for a trading scheme designed to bring deep cuts in CO2 emissions.


Rudd talks about markets but practises bone-headed regulation

The Prime Minister stands at the mouth of the Murray and proclaims Australia must act now if we are to save our environmental heritage.

At the 2020 Summit, the best and brightest in the land demand bosses allow employees 30 minutes a day for exercise. Climate Change Minister Penny Wong and economist Ross Garnaut equate an emissions trading scheme with financial deregulation and tariff reform. Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Graeme Samuel tells us a scheme based on far-reaching price regulation (FuelWatch) is a good idea because the ACCC's "rigorous assessment" of its effects found weekly average petrol prices in Perth fell by 1.9c a litre after itsimplementation.

What links these disparate events is one of the great paradoxes of Australia in 2008. Rarely has an Australian government spoken so adamantly about the cause of deregulation and the need for more market-based economic reform. Yet we seem to have in Kevin Rudd and his team a group of people with more faith in their own wisdom and far-sightedness than any government in memory. As a result, Australia seems less at the dawn of an era of greater liberty than locked in a new age of all-seeing, all-knowing government. Paul Kelly, take note: the end of uncertainty is nigh.

If all you do is read the speeches of Lindsay Tanner and Craig Emerson, you would think we have a federal Government that recognises the limits of government and spends its days cutting a swath through regulations. But, when you read your newspaper every morning, it's politics as usual, with a hyperactive Government coming up with a new plan to fix a problem that is bedevilling what now has been extended to working families, pensioners and carers.

Everywhere, it seems, market failures abound, due to the collusion of big corporations or the unadulterated ignorance of people beyond the political class, unable to understand their own self-interest. And so it goes. Teenage drinking: let's jack up taxes on alcopops and get states and territories to harmonise their licensing laws (without explaining why this issue should be dealt with uniformly). Transport sector carbon emissions: let's write a cheque to the world's largest car manufacturer for a green car. High fuel prices: let's stop petrol stations reducing their prices during the day.

In short, set out a sweeping vision for the Business Council. Marshall an army of bureaucrats into Council of Australian Governments' working groups. Write yet more laws and regulations. Then dribble out a daily diet of itsy-bitsy programs that give the impression that government can do things better than markets. And spin away. This is, of course, the essence of the ABC's The Hollowmen. But if life imitates art, this form of politics imitates farce. Nowhere is this clearer than in the FuelWatch saga.

The first step involves creating an impression that governments can do something material to reduce petrol prices. Announce that you will appoint a petrol commissioner to focus 24/7 on a market that countless government inquiries have judged fundamentally competitive. Having done that, latch on to a scheme - FuelWatch - with claims it will disrupt a cosy relationship between the oil companies (a relationship successive ACCC inquiries have failed to find).

Now comes the delicate part. Take what initially was a highly qualified assessment of the merits of FuelWatch in an ACCC report and harden it up into incontrovertible evidence of the need for nationwide government action. Elevate as the "evidentiary basis" for a cabinet decision some highly dubious econometric results that claim FuelWatch has lowered petrol prices. Ignore all the caveats and suggested flaws with the analysis and dismiss critics as being in the pocket of "big oil".

Once it is clear you have gilded the lily on the benefits of the scheme, move the goalposts by claiming FuelWatch isn't really about lower petrol prices but about better consumer information. Then find another initiative - any one will do - to get the sorry tale off the front page. The trouble is, of course, FuelWatch hasn't gone away. It is due to come into effect in December.

If the FuelWatch saga seems depressingly based on its ridiculous faith in government, at least it is confined to only one industry. We are only starting to come to terms with the big Kahuna of inordinate faith in government: the wonderfully renamed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

The signs were never good based on the foundations laid by Garnaut. When it comes to addressing what Britain's Nicholas Stern described as the greatest market failure, Garnaut is Stern on steroids. Take this quote from the interim Garnaut report: "Occasionally the cost of a market failure will be less than the cost of government intervention, with all of its political economy and other risks and costs.

"But even in these cases, regulatory or fiscal intervention by government may be required to ensure an optimal response." Excuse me? The cost of government intervention is greater than the cost of the market failure, but the government must act anyway. Put "optimal response" at the end of the sentence and all is hunky-dory.

Twenty years ago, governments finally recognised that even the best policies have unintended consequences. Those consequences undermine the certainty with which we can claim that interventions will make things better. Now, however, that recognition seems to have disappeared.

A good example surrounds the distortionary effects from various arbitrary thresholds built into the emissions trading scheme. The Government has said that it will only place obligations on about 1000 liable firms, so that "more than 99 per cent of all firms in Australia will not need to be directly involved". The suggestion is that this will be a lighter touch than something like the GST. What this conveniently ignores, however, is the degree to which small firms that are not covered will gain an advantage over large firms that are, with all the potential distortions to firm decision-making that surrounds this sort of threshold. As output shifts from the larger (covered) firms to the smaller (uncovered) firms, what happens then? The answer is simple: coverage and the administrative costs expand remorselessly. This is, in other words, a scheme ripe for unintended consequences, but with supreme faith in itself the Government charges on regardless.

As we await the public release of yet more reports to the Rudd Government - on grocery prices, car assistance and innovation - expect to hear even more about market failures, wise intervention and government solutions to problems. Talking about deregulation and less intervention is one thing. Doing it is something else again.


New chief justice Robert French a straight choice

A far cry from the politicized U.S. judiciary

The Rudd Government yesterday rejected the option of radical change on the High Court by appointing an orthodox black-letter lawyer, Robert French, to be the new chief justice. Kevin Rudd chose the 61-year-old Justice French ahead of the other leading candidate, former Labor staffer Jim Spigelman, the Chief Justice of NSW.

Justice French, who takes over after Murray Gleeson retires on August 29, becomes the first West Australian chief justice of the High Court and the first from outside NSW, Victoria and Queensland. "The honour of the appointment carries with it great responsibility, which I willingly accept," Justice French said yesterday.

Constitutional law expert George Williams said the appointment indicated the Government was not interested in attempting to change the direction of the seven-member High Court, which now has three Labor appointees on the bench. "French has progressive views, but he is a legal traditionalist in terms of how he goes about deciding cases," Professor Williams said. "I doubt he is going to be a really progressive, creative judge because he would see quite strict limits on what a High Court judge should do - and that would be different to other people who might have been appointed.

"But I don't think Spigelman would have fitted into that category either. He left his political connections in the past and his judgments don't indicate anything other than a really strong adherence to legal method, even in areas like human rights. "He is not in the Lionel Murphy mould or even in the Michael Kirby mould - neither of them are."

Justice French, who was been a judge of the Federal Court since 1986, will become the 12th chief justice of the High Court since its establishment in 1903. He has been president and deputy president of the Australian Competition Tribunal, president of the National Native Title Tribunal and a member of the Trade Practices Commission. The Government will have the opportunity to appoint another judge in March next year when Justice Kirby reaches the compulsory retirement age of 70.

Justice French's appointment helps erode the Sydney-Melbourne dominance of the High Court by denying NSW a fourth judge on the bench to replace Justice Gleeson, who is from Sydney. After Justice French is sworn in, NSW will have three of the positions on the court, followed by Victoria with two and one each from Queensland and Western Australia. Legal academic Andrew Lynch said the appointment of a West Australian - only the third to sit on the nation's highest court in its 105 years - could be seen as a commitment to federalism.

He believed that Justice French's views about federalism and the role of the states "is quite distinctive from the views of most of the Gleeson court". "What you see from French is an understanding that the Constitution is fundamentally about federal co-operation," said Dr Lynch, acting director of the Gilbert and Tobin Centre of Public Law at the University of NSW. Professor Williams said some of Justice French's recent speeches had placed more emphasis on federalism and the role of the states than some other judges.

The appointment of a judge with such views might also indicate that Canberra believed it had won most of the important fights with states. Professor Williams said the Government might, therefore, believe it could afford to appoint a judge who was not a clear centralist. While Justice French was not as committed to states' rights as former High Court judge Ian Callinan, he was also not as centralist as the retiring Chief Justice Gleeson.

His appointment was praised by the Opposition and the legal profession. Chief Justice Gleeson yesterday welcomed his successor. 'Justice French is one of Australia's most outstanding judges," he said. "He will bring with him to the High Court a wealth of ability and experience, and the goodwill of the entire Australian judiciary."


Your government will protect you -- NOT

Moronic "security"

A large bag with "BOMB" written across it passed through Qantas check-in and security screening for oversized luggage at Brisbane domestic airport yesterday, the Transport Workers Union said. Baggage handlers preparing to transfer the bag raised the alarm and stopped work for about 40 minutes as security staff and managers attempted to remove it.

However, TWU national airline official Scott Connolly said the situation "deteriorated" when managers dragged the still unscreened bag towards a more populated area of the airport. "What happened today is far from ideal and if the device was actually a real bomb the way it was handled would have been a disaster," Mr Connolly said.

It was the latest in a string of security scares at the airport reported by The Courier-Mail in which weapons - including guns and knives - have passed through security scanners without being detected.

A Qantas spokeswoman confirmed a bag with "inappropriate language" caused an incident at the airport but refused to answer any questions. She read out a statement attributed to Qantas group general manager security Jeff Askew. "There was an incident today at the Brisbane domestic terminal with a bag with an inappropriate comment written on the side," she said. "After it was security screened it was deemed not to be a risk and the matter was referred to police." She refused to say if there were any delays and when asked how a bag marked "bomb" could get checked-in by staff said: "That's the extent of our comment, sorry."


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