Monday, August 31, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is critical of the lack of monetary compensation for child victims of government "care"

Australian journalism's Leftward bias

This piece by journalist Chris Wallace provides an interesting perspective on the shadow-boxing nature of political reporting and the sorting of truth from lies as well as the sorting of lies from lies, by type.

But what has chiefly stuck in my mind is this admission about how, working for the AFR, Wallace reported “some fantastically inflammatory comments” from Malcolm Turnbull, who was then the spearhead of the Australian Republican Movement (ARM): “Journalists are human. As a fervent republican I didn’t necessarily want the ARM chief blowing himself up with these quotes… On the other hand, as a journalist I thought: Great story!”

Wallace took “the middle road” by later reading the quotes back to Turnbull to give him a chance to assert they really were on the record.

It begs the question though, what if Wallace were in possession of quotes that would have been harmful to a prominent monarchist? Would that person have been given the same opportunity to rethink and possibly recant?

I commend Wallace’s candour. I doubt anyone can truly leave behind their biases when reporting or even subbing. Those biases inevitably inform how we approach and view things, even from a subconscious level. Balance is generally the way western journalists attempt to achieve a measure of objectivity, by making sure competing views get a look in, even if one voice speaks most strongly in the end.

However the one fundamental and overriding bias of journalism, as a profession, that Wallace shows here was when he thought: “Great story!” The hopeful thing is that if at least someone is committed to telling great stories, from whatever angle they may come, it will tend to negate a natural preference for stories that contain only the morals or outcomes they like.

Having said that, a bias towards great stories is still a bias and one that has its own potential pitfalls. Hopefully more on that later.

Update: Two views on bias in Australian journalism. Peter Costello says the ABC as an institution has an inherent leftward list and once an ABC staffer even hissed at him. The other argues that the overall orientation of Aussie media, especially News Ltd, is to the right of centre.

SOURCE (See the original for links)

Wheels coming off the Rudd goverrnment

Particularly the very Leftist deputy PM, Julia Gillard

In political terms Gillard went too far on Friday. Her sin was to try to pass off a $1.5 billion blowout in her Pyongyang-inspired Building the Education Revolution program as "a bump in the road".

For the first time in a long time in the period of the Rudd government the media called it for what it was; self-serving spin of the kind that sees the wheels turn furiously while nothing actually happens.

For the first time in a long time the Deputy Prime Minister was nailed when her opposite number, Christopher Pyne, got a hearing from the media he deserved when he said: "If $1.5bn is a bump in the road I'd be frightened to see what a hole in the road looks like."

The $1.5bn blowout was the big thing. Then there was the little thing; they're the ones that always get you in politics. In the same news cycle Pyne discovered that Gillard had quietly altered the regulations covering the Building the Education Revolution program (doesn't that name always conjure massed gymnasts with ribbons in a stadium?) requiring all schools to maintain a grateful sign out the front acknowledging the contribution of the government's stimulus package to their new hall.

Except that the new rules also stipulated that regardless of whether building had finished the signs had to remain in place until the last possible date for a federal election under the constitution, March 11, 2011. Talk about an eye for detail; you miss the fact you're $1.5bn short on the centrepiece program of your portfolio. But you make sure those signs are in place until the very last moment of their effective political life.

All of which prompted Pyne to rebadge Kevin Rudd and Gillard as "Dear Leader and Dear Madam Leader".

If by this stage you think it's personal between Pyne and Gillard you'd be right. Ever since Gillard called him as "mincing" and a "poodle" in the parliament, Pyne has been coming after Gillard and he won't stop. But don't be mistaken: it's with a clear-eyed intent. As much as he might want to, he won't let his feelings drive his agenda.

And if, with regard to the poodle remark, you think different standards have been applied to Gillard by the media as part of her positioning to become Australia's first female prime minister, you'd be right too. Imagine, if you will, if Pyne had referred to Gillard as a "brindle bitch". He'd be out of the parliament by now.

Put together, the $1.5bn bump in the road and the schools signs episode brought the Rudd government this week to a point of reckoning. Two-thirds into their first term in government they are beginning to be called to account. Budget blowouts can no longer be blown off. Self-interested slickness as demonstrated by the Dear Leader and Dear Madam Leader signs will no longer be missed.

But as with most tipping points there's been a slow build to the balance mark on the fulcrum. Which is why it's not all about Gillard, though she's been in the thick of it: think the $1.4bn blowout in the Computers in Schools program, the trades training centres in every school that turned into one in every 10 schools and this week's humiliating backflip on youth allowances.

The fact is the momentum of failed promise has been gathering across government for some time. While Rudd has so far delivered on the macroeconomics of avoiding a recession - no mean feat - we are yet to grasp the final cost in terms of debt and deficit. Indeed, the political ill winds of interest rate rises are already gathering on the horizon.

But when it comes to individual promises Rudd and his government must be measured by their own words, key among them from the Prime Minister himself at the National Press Club on August 27, 2008, when he said: "When we formed government, I said I had no intention of recycling the absolute cynicism of previous governments: making a swag of pre-election commitments, then reneging on them as non-core promises."

Well, let's get started, shall we? Beginning with FuelWatch and GroceryWatch and that promise to take Japanese whalers to the international courts. Ditto for Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on a charge of incitement to genocide. But let us not sweat the small stuff, such as junking the climate-saving program of pink batts for renters or banning plastic shopping bags.

On to the big things, such as Rudd's declaration to the National Press Club on December 15 last year when he said, in respect to an emissions trading scheme, that "to delay any longer would be reckless and irresponsible for our economy and for our environment". Contrast that with his announcement six months later that "the start date of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will be delayed one year to commence from 1 July, 2011".

On health, Rudd and his minister Nicola Roxon stood hand on heart endlessly before the last election promising there'd be no windback of the private health insurance rebate. And there was the promise to begin implementing a federal takeover of the state hospitals system by the middle of this year, now deferred for at least a year.

There was also the $39m five-year program to bring 7750 nurses back into the workforce (541 recruited so far) and the 30,000 people who've dropped out of the government's signature training program, the $2bn Productivity Places program. The trainees had probably already tried the government's botched jobseekers scheme before that.

The point being that sooner or later a government's failure to deliver catches up with it. For Gillard that moment happened last week. And if it's happened for her, smart and savvy as she is, can a number of her colleagues be far behind?


The moronic Queensland government ambulance service again

Young mother angry at 'stupid' grilling during emergency call -- but the QAS are not backing down or apologizing -- even though they cannot provide details to refute her claims. Sounds like she got a Pakistani callcentre operator. I am pretty sure the QAS record all calls so they must know exactly what happened and are just "hanging tough" -- in the light of the big spray of complaints that have recently been made against them. They think a policy of "no admissions" is going to help them ride out the storm caused by their own bureaucratic incompetence

A REDBANK Plains mother said she had to answer a list of "stupid" questions before she could get an ambulance for her newborn baby who was vomiting and shaking uncontrollably. Suzanne Lang said her son, Zavier, only 30 hours old, had his eyes rolling up as she struggled with a 000 dispatcher she could barely understand.

One question was whether her baby was talking or not, she said. After the ambulance arrived, she said she had a harrowing unsecured ride to Ipswich Hospital on a stretcher. Lacking a seat belt, "I literally fell across the ambulance with my baby in my arms", she said.

The emergency occurred about 10pm on August 19, the night after her baby's birth. Mrs Lang said she feared her child's convulsions were a seizure because one of her other children suffers from seizures. Doctors actually determined the cause was an allergic reaction to sterilisation chemicals.

The Queensland Ambulance Service said the ambulance arrived at the home in 10 minutes and dispatchers spent only two minutes on the phone before it was sent. "The QAS will investigate claims relating to restraints used in this case," a spokeswoman said.

The family said it was the second negative experience with the Queensland Ambulance Service in a year. Mrs Lang said she had to drive her partner, Marcus, to the hospital after he injured his back and she gave up waiting on an ambulance after 40 minutes. The hospital reprimanded the couple for driving him because of the potential for greater damage to his vertebrae.

Mrs Lang said some of the dispatcher's questions about her baby's condition were appropriate but others seemed a waste of critical time. She said the dispatcher seemed to become irritated when she couldn't answer whether the baby had a heart condition. "I said, not that I know of. I mean, he's only 30 hours old," she said.

Queensland Ambulance Service defended the way its dispatchers answered 000 calls. It could not provide a list of specific questions asked because more than 30 scripts were used depending on the emergency. However, it said of the 400-600 calls received a day from 000, audits showed 95 per cent were well handled. [And the 5%? Anybody disciplined?]


Public transport outrage

Little girl abandoned on the side of the road over $1.20 bus fare. And governments want to get parents out of their cars??

A 10-YEAR-old girl was left by the side of a busy road in Mt Gravatt last month after she didn't have enough money for the bus, it has been revealed. The girl's mother told The Courier-Mail her daughter was directed to get off the 174 bus on Newnham Rd in late July after her Go Card had insufficient credit and she did not have enough change.

But Brisbane City Council yesterday denied the girl was told to leave, saying she was only told she had insufficient credit on her Go Card. The case breached the strict "no child left behind" policy employed by TransLink and Brisbane City Council, which states that a child cannot be left behind by a bus regardless of whether they have sufficient money for the trip.

The child's mother, who asked not to be named, said she was "horrified" and "disgusted" that her daughter, who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, was left behind by the bus. "She told me she was still at school and 'the driver told me to get off the bus'," the mother said. "She said: 'My bus card wouldn't work, and I looked in my bag and I didn't have enough change, and then the bus driver just said, 'Get off the bus'."

The girl's mother said she called a TransLink operator, who said the decision to leave her child behind was "up to the driver's discretion". "When I rang the first time the man said to me: 'Well, it is up to the driver's discretion'. "I said you cannot leave a child behind for the sake of $1.20 - along that road, it is a busy road, anyone could have stopped and grabbed her."

The mother later contacted TransLink again and was given an apology for the incident. The case is among four across the southeast that were investigated by TransLink this year, including one at Caboolture and one near Ipswich. A TransLink spokesman said the driver and the call centre operator had been disciplined.

"TransLink's [previously unknown, apparently] policy is that no child will be left at a bus stop under any circumstances and takes matters where a child is left at a bus stop very seriously," the spokesman said.


Australian navy intercepts illegal immigrant boat

The 18th such boat this year -- compared with none or close to none in the final years of the conservative government. The flow started as soon as the Leftist government watered down the laws designed to stop such arrivals

An Australian naval ship on Saturday intercepted a boatload of suspected asylum seekers, a government minister said, the latest in a wave of arrivals that has stoked fears of weak border security.

The boat was stopped near Ashmore Island off Australia's northern coast, Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor said in a statement. An initial count showed 55 people on board including three crew. Their nationalities were not known.

Border protection is a hot political issue in Australia. Critics blame a new rise in people-smuggling this year on a softer stance on the issue by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, compared to the conservative government he ousted in 2007.

"The group will be transferred to Christmas Island where they will undergo security, identity and health checks as well as establish their reasons for travel," O'Connor said, referring to the latest arrivals.

Australia has a processing center for suspected asylum-seekers on Christmas Island, an Indian Ocean possession just south of the Indonesian island of Java.

Many of the people-smugglers are thought to be based in Indonesia, although the asylum seekers are generally from war-ravaged countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Sri Lanka.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Schoolboy beaten to death as teachers look on

Teachers run grave legal risks if they touch a student -- courtesy of Leftist "compassion" and shrieks about "child abuse"

A SCHOOLBOY squabble during morning recess escalated into a brawl that has left a 15-year-old NSW schoolboy dead. Detectives and forensic specialists descended on Mullumbimby High School in northern NSW and declared the playground a crime scene after Jai Morcom was pronounced dead in hospital on the Gold Coast yesterday.

The Year 9 student suffered massive head injuries in the fight, which began with petty bickering shortly after 11am during "little lunch'' on Friday, The Sunday Telegraph reports.

Jai was transferred from Mullumbimby Hospital to Gold Coast Hospital's intensive care unit, where he was placed on life support. He died yesterday morning, 24 hours after the brawl.

His distraught mother Kim last night said: "You don't send your kids to school thinking they're going to die. "Jai was just a gentle little guy. He wasn't a fighter.'' Jai's older brother, Mayo, flew home on Friday night from the NSW ski-fields where he works, to join his devastated parents and sisters, Kyra, 26, and Jade, 22.

A Year 9 student said the fight was between two school gangs. The student said: "One of the gangs stole a seat from our eating area. We stole it back and it turned into an all-out brawl (and) the teachers did nothing''.

The student alleged Jai had been beaten to a pulp and ``it was really scary and intense. It was completely out of control''. A school nurse gave first aid until paramedics arrived, but witnesses said Jai was frothing at the mouth and non-responsive.

Forensic detectives, NSW and Queensland police have been called in to investigate and are preparing a brief for the coroner. A Year 9 classmate, who asked not to be named, said the two groups involved in the fight were the "emos'' and the "footy heads''. "Someone took someone else's table ... Jai was just walking through and the Year 11s just threw him,''she said. "We saw him on the ground and it was horrible. They just ran over the top of him when he was down and kept kicking him.''

Police feared revenge attacks. One student told Ten News last night: "This other kid's going to get killed.''

Tweed-Byron duty officer, Inspector Owen King, said there were several versions of how the incident unfolded and all would be investigated. One was that Jai may have felt unwell and was questioned by a teacher before recess because he did not appear to be himself. [Coverup coming!] "There are a number of conflicting versions and we're not going to speculate,'' Insp King said. ``That will be part of the investigation. "We need to determine exactly what happened. It was recess time, the playground was full.''

There was no CCTV footage, nor had any student filmed the fight on a mobile phone, he said. School liaison police would join councillors on campus tomorrow, he said, describing the incident as tragic and sad.

One Year 12 witness told The Gold Coast Bulletin Jai wasn't fully involved in the fight at the beginning. "He was shoved up against a brick wall near the girls' toilets by his throat. It was pretty rough then started to get more serious. "Someone spat on someone, then they just went psycho and started punching and kicking him. "All these boys came in and they were just dominating him. Then he fell and hit his head. "No one realised he had been knocked out and everyone kept kicking and punching him still.''

Education Department counsellors will attend tomorrow. "We are deeply shocked by the tragic situation that has occurred,'' a spokeswoman said. "Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the student at this difficult time. Additional support, including counselling, is being provided to staff and students.''

Mullumbimby High School has about 920 students and 75 teachers, and an anti-bullying policy.


More public hospital negligence -- woman dies

Her dangerous condition known but nobody cared

DAVID Cuthbertson cannot find the words to explain to his three-year-old daughter Alyssa why her mother was never able to hold her, and never will. In June 2006, having given birth by caesarean section at Nepean Hospital, Petah Kimm's blood pressure dropped suddenly. Staff failed to recognise the danger. Two hours later, at age 39, she was found dead in her hospital bed.

On Wednesday, Mr Cuthbertson will front an inquest in Sydney. ''I want this inquest to bring about change so nobody ever has to go through this again," he told The Sun-Herald. "I will not let the NSW Government sweep this under the carpet. I want them to own up."

Mr Cuthbertson and Ms Kimm were single parents when they met on the sidelines at Little Athletics near their home town of Mudgee in 2003. They became friends and gradually fell in love, creating a blended family with his son Luke and her children Steven and Nicole. "Initially I was against the idea of children because it involved IVF. But then one day I looked on as Petah nursed my brother's baby. The moment I saw the look on her face I melted. We pushed ahead with the IVF. She conceived straight away."

Alyssa was born without complication before Ms Kimm's blood pressure fell. A student midwife failed to inform senior medical staff. A Sydney West Area Health Service internal report later found that, during a changeover in nursing shifts, nobody flagged her as unwell. "Two hours passed before anyone on the next shift bothered to look. That was when Petah was found lying in bed dead," Mr Cuthbertson said.

"I've suffered with guilt. I was at the hospital until 9.30pm that night and then I went home thinking Petah was just tired. Had I stayed, maybe I could have changed this."

Last month, nurses at Nepean Hospital learnt 155 positions were being axed, including senior staff from the post-natal ward in which Ms Kimm died.

Fighting back tears, Mr Cuthbertson said: "Alyssa says 'goodnight mummy' and 'I love you' before going to bed each night." He said recently, after a family friend arrived ahead of them at their house, "I said to Alyssa, 'Guess who's going to be at our place when we get home?' She replied: 'Did you go to heaven and get mummy?' I hope one day she will understand.''

NSW Health made an out of court settlement but Mr Cuthbertson called their treatment of him during that process ''disgusting''. ''Petah and Alyssa should have been here today, playing in the park together. I want justice for them both."


Solar power a dud

Lack of savings in S.E. Queensland said to be a "mystery" but: 1). We have had a lot of rainy and overcast weather this year in the Brisbane area and: 2). Panels vary a lot in efficiency. No doubt people were given estimates based on maximum efficiency -- not the efficiency obtainable from the actual cheaper panels used

HOMEOWNERS are fuming after spending tens of thousands of dollars on solar panels only to find their power bills have stayed the same or only marginally dropped. Each of the cases involved installations by Modern Solar, which has blamed Energex meters for the problems.

One customer said he had estimated it would take 190 years to recoup the cost of the installation, when he was promised it would take 13 years in a worst-case scenario.

Energex said it was aware of the problem but, despite repeated testing of various installations, could not pinpoint the cause. Energy Ombudsman Barry Adams said there had been a rise in complaints from people unhappy with their savings. He said it appeared some companies had "over-exaggerated" the savings. Mr Adams had raised the issue with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and Queensland's Office of Fair Trading.


The alcohol merrygoround spins again: Good for you, bad for you, Good for you, bad for you, Good for you, bad for you

Boozing wards off dementia? Sounds like another failure of theory. Alcohol is a neurotoxin so should make dementia worse. Other effects, such as vascular dilation, could be helpful, however. The study is another epidemiological one so I am pleased to see that the authors are properly cautious about causal inferences: "Our results suggest that alcohol drinkers in late life have reduced risk of dementia. It is unclear whether this reflects selection effects in cohort studies commencing in late life, a protective effect of alcohol consumption throughout adulthood, or a specific benefit of alcohol in late life". Putting that into plain English: Maybe heavy drinkers have to be especially healthy to survive into old age

OLDER Australians who drink up to 28 glasses of alcohol a week have a better chance of warding off dementia than those who abstain, a study shows. Data compiled from 15 global studies, including responses from more than 10,000 people, found drinkers, not teetotallers, are better off when it comes to developing diseases affecting cognitive function.

Those aged 60 and older who consumed between one and 28 alcoholic drinks each week were almost 30 per cent less likely to have Alzheimer's later on in life, the data found.

Light and moderate drinkers were also 25 per cent less likely to contract vascular dementia – associated with circulation of blood in the brain – and 26 per cent less likely to suffer from any form of dementia. The report, Alcohol Consumption as a Risk Factor for Dementia and Cognitive Decline, was published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

But Professor Kaarin Anstey, from the Australian National University, warned this was not encouragement to start drinking 28 glasses of alcohol a week. "This article used all published studies to include one to 28 drinks per week, but in some countries (the range) differed – they were higher in some and lighter in others," Professor Anstey said. "Australian guidelines, for instance, don't say 28 drinks is moderate."


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Racist violence in Australia!

So was our smart-ass U.N. "rapporteur" right after all? In some technical sense maybe -- but I doubt if many white Australians feel guilty over hatred between Maoris and Aborigines. No doubt, however, the twisted brain of some Leftist will produce the accusation that the hatred is the result of "white oppression"

A New Zealand teenager's decision to miss a flight home from Perth cost him his life in a Lockridge brawl, his uncle says, demanding an end to racial violence. Jon Teotinga Warena, 18, from Napier, was killed in a wild street brawl between Maori and Aboriginal groups in the Perth suburb of Lockridge in the early hours of November 6, 2007.

Two men and three teenagers were given sentences of between three and eight years in the WA Supreme Court today for Mr Warena's manslaughter. Three of the accused were also sentenced on charges of inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent on Charleston Ngaha, 25, who was badly injured in the same brawl.

Mr Warena's family members who were in court for the decision said they had been informed of the likely range of the sentences before they were handed down. Mr Warena's mother, who flew in from New Zealand for the sentencing, carried a picture of her son, as did another relative. Lance McRae, an uncle of Mr Warena who had called for heavy sentences for the five, did not take issue with the penalties but said the racial violence in Perth had to end.

Mr McRae's brother Gary said he thought his nephew was boarding a flight to New Zealand on the night he died. But he had pulled out of the booking at the last moment for reasons that remained unexplained. ``It was a decision that cost the life of a really good kid,'' Mr McRae said.

Justice John McKechnie said it was ``difficult to escape the inference'' that Mr Warena had wanted to be a part of retaliatory action the Maori group had planned after the ``bricking'' of one of the men's homes.

The Maori group, including members of the Never Ending Crypts gang, drove to Germain Way in Lockridge to carry out a revenge attack but went to the wrong house, Justice McKechnie said.

Residents of the street said ``all hell broke loose'' when a group of Aboriginal men emerged from homes to confront the gang.

Justice McKechnie said the five accused had been part of a group that was entitled to protect their homes and families, and had at first taken reasonable action. ``However, what then happened went far beyond reason,'' he said. Mr Warena and Mr Ngaha had been kicked, punched, beaten and stomped on. ``The overwhelming conclusion is that you took part in an attack on people disabled, lying on the ground,'' he said. The attack continued even as people involved in the brawl had made remarks like ``he's f....d, dad'' and ``he's already dead, that's enough, dad''.

Everett James Tyson, 35, Giles Lawrence Tyson, 41, and three teenagers, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty to the manslaughter charges.


Corrupt cop still in the Qld. police force

With only a minor demotion -- even though he used his senior position in an attempt to cover up an attempted murder!

It looks like the Misconduct Tribunal is a reincarnation of Sir Joh's old Police Whitewash Tribunal

The CMC has failed to have a police officer sacked for trying to convince a Brisbane couple not to take action against their daughter for conspiring to kill them. At the centre of Inspector Gerard McKendry's conflict of interest was that the 15-year-old schoolgirl was a good friend of his daughter's.

But although an internal police investigation also found McKendry had failed to protect the integrity of the crime scene, no sanction was imposed. New details can now be revealed about the sensational crime - and the Crime and Misconduct Commission's frustration with the police disciplinary service.

The CMC appealed the QPS decision and argued the officer should be sacked. Yesterday, the Misconduct Tribunal found he was unfit to continue as a commissioned officer and demoted him to sergeant level. The tribunal found he should not be sacked because of his history as a competent, hard-working officer.

Joshua Andrew Hockey and his teenage lover, who cannot be named, in 2006 plotted to kill the girl's mother and stepfather so they could run away. Hockey was supposed to cut the mother's throat and then kill the stepfather. But the plan went awry when Hockey could not overpower the stepfather.

Hockey and his girlfriend pleaded guilty to attempted murder and conspiracy to murder. Hockey received a nine-year jail sentence and his girlfriend, on appeal, had her sentence reduced to two years' jail.

McKendry was the regional duty officer on the night of the drama. A the scene, he provided "inappropriate advice to the (parents) in relation to providing the details of a particular solicitor, suggesting they not make a complaint against their daughter", a tribunal statement said. Evidence given by other police revealed McKendry was heard to say, "I would be getting her legal representation" and "I believe your daughter has mental health issues and I'd be directing your solicitor to take that path in relation to this". He was also heard telling the girl's mother that she could have a shower. Other police had directed the woman not to shower because it could destroy evidence.

The CMC's appeal decision comes after a major report into police corruption, a two-year investigation codenamed Operation Capri. CMC chairman Robert Needham said he was "prepared to accept" disciplinary findings taken by QPS in relation to Capri but said he was unhappy with aspects of the police disciplinary system.


Western Australian schools are independent in name only

By Jennifer Buckingham

The WA government recently announced that it would be allowing up to 30 government schools (out of 768) to become ‘Independent Public Schools.’ These schools will have full management of their recurrent budget and will be given more authority over staffing appointments. They will allegedly have more flexibility in the curriculum up to Year 10 and will not have to apply to the education department for permission to expel students.

These are all good things for schools to be able to do. Unfortunately, it is unlikely to be enough to create any real change. Some people have wrongly compared this reform to the charter school model used in the United States. In fact, it is more like a small-scale version of the self-managing schools reforms that took place more than 10 years ago in Victoria.

Unlike charter schools, Independent Public Schools in Western Australia will still be subject to the state industrial award for teachers. Schools might be able to choose the best candidate when/if a teaching position becomes available, but they will have no greater powers to get rid of bad teachers. They will have no flexibility with teacher salaries, and mandatory maximum class sizes will still apply.

Again, unlike charter schools, freedom of choice of curriculum will be tightly constrained since the schools will still have to comply with the national curriculum due to be rolled out across the country next year. Independent Public Schools might be able to make the final decision on student expulsions, but they will still have to find another school for any child they want to exclude. They will also still be obliged to take all students from within their enrolment zone, meaning that families who would like to attend these schools can only do so if there are leftover places.

The risk is that these reforms will be used as evidence that school autonomy doesn’t work, when in fact this not school autonomy at all.

The WA education minister, Liz Constable, described the Independent Public Schools policy as ‘an historic leap forward’ for public education in the state. The WA government is to be applauded for taking schools policy in the direction of flexibility and freedom, but this is more of a step than a leap.

The above is part of a recent press release from the Centre for Independent Studies. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590. Telephone ph: +61 2 9438 4377 or fax: +61 2 9439 7310

Quentin Bryce has joined the exclusive Lyceum Club in Melbourne

I guess nobody has ever accused feminists of logic or consistency

GOVERNOR-GENERAL Quentin Bryce, a former sex discrimination commissioner, has joined an exclusive women-only club in Melbourne at a time when the legality of single-sex clubs in Victoria is under review. Ms Bryce's decision to accept honorary membership of the Lyceum Club coincides with a Victorian parliamentary review of whether such single-sex clubs deserve to remain exempt from the state's equal opportunity laws.

The review follows recent controversy over Melbourne's single-sex clubs, with the city's exclusive men-only institutions such as the Melbourne Club and the Athenaeum Club being denounced as anachronistic by Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls.

Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick, who holds the position Ms Bryce occupied in the early 1990s, has also weighed into the debate, declaring it is "not smart" for any institution that claims to reflect a city's elite to lock out half of the population.

A spokeswoman for Ms Bryce yesterday defended her decision to join the Lyceum Club. "The Governor-General has no issue with men or women-only clubs or organisations," the spokeswoman said. "She is patron of numerous organisations specifically for women, such as the CWA, the Girls Brigade, Business and Professional Women Australia and the National Rural Women's Coalition."

The spokeswoman declined to comment on the "political" issue of the parliamentary review of single-sex clubs in Victoria except to note that such clubs were legal under equal opportunity laws.

Lyceum Club president Annie James said it was open to members to "invite people who are like-minded and can contribute to what the club stands for and can enjoy what the club offers". The century-old Lyceum Club has almost 1200 members and is aimed at women "who are interested in the arts, literature, sciences and social concerns".



Trading of emission permits around the world will become a financial rort [racket] that fails to reduce carbon emissions - and will ultimately be scrapped in favour of a simple carbon tax, a former senior official in the Clinton administration has forecast. Robert Shapiro, former US undersecretary of commerce and author of Futurecast, predicted that the US Senate would reject the emissions trading scheme proposed by President Obama, which is now before it.

Speaking by video to the Trade 2020 conference convened by Austrade and the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, Dr Shapiro said 'cap and trade' systems as proposed by the US and the Australian governments to limit carbon dioxide emissions and allow trade in permits do not work as intended. "Cap and trade has proved very vulnerable to vested interests, and therefore too weak to deliver the necessary emission reductions'', he said. ''Cap and trade creates trillions of dollars of new financial instruments to be traded, and subjected to the next financial fads. China and India will never accept a cap and trade regime.''

A better solution is to impose a carbon tax on emissions and return the revenue from it to households so people are not made worse off, Dr Shapiro said. A similar approach in Sweden has cut emissions there by 8 per cent since 1990 while GDP rose about 40 per cent.

CEDA research director Michael Porter strongly supported Dr Shapiro. CEDA today will release a report urging the Rudd Government to scrap its emissions trading scheme in favour of a carbon tax. Dr Porter warned that a carbon market would not be trading carbon, ''it'll be trading derivatives''. International trade in permits will mean the integrity of a permit is only as good as the weakest supervisory regime.

Economists are divided over which is the better way to fight climate change. Emissions trading has won widespread support because it is a market-based solution that, in theory, will deliver certain emission reductions at the lowest cost, as companies that can't reduce emissions cheaply instead buy permits from companies that can.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Two-week "expert" says Australia is "racist"

He should be sued for defamation. State and Federal governments of all stripes have been trying for decades to solve the problems of Aborigines using all sorts of "solutions" and this prick thinks he is wiser than all of them. Being a Hispanic-American lawyer must give you special wisdom, I guess -- more likely a chip on your shoulder. He works for the same U.N. that constantly maligns Israel while ignoring huge Arab abuses -- JR

The intervention into remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory is clearly discriminatory, and that there is "entrenched" racism in Australia, the United Nations special delegate on indigenous rights says. James Anaya didn't pull any punches after his two-week visit of the country.

He said the Rudd Government should reinstate the Racial Discrimination Act in the NT "right away" because the intervention was discriminatory. "It undermines the right of indigenous peoples to control their own destinies, their right to self-determination," he said. He also said the Stolen Generations should be paid compensation.

Prof Anaya said that while there was no doubt special efforts were required to combat indigenous disadvantage and abuse of women and children, the intervention's "broad sweep" went too far and was incompatible with various international conventions, covenants, treaties and declarations.

"Some kind of special measures could be justified but they need to be narrowly tailored to the specific circumstances that exist," he said. Compulsory income management and blanket bans on alcohol and pornography were "overtly discriminatory" and further stigmatised already stigmatised communities "People who have a demonstrated capacity to manage their income are included," he said. "It's inappropriate to their circumstances but is also, as expressed by them, demeaning."

The indigenous rights expert was also scathing of federal Labor's insistence that housing funds would only flow if indigenous communities signed over their land. "It's a mistake to assume that indigenous peoples ... aren't capable of taking care of their homes," Prof Anaya said. [What would HE know? Has he SEEN how Aboriginal housing deteriorates?] "Indigenous control can be appropriate to indigenous peoples' development, to their aspirations, to indeed being in control of their lives like all others."

As for compensation for indigenous people taken from their families by government agencies, the UN rapporteur was unequivocal: "There should be reparations," he said.

But it wasn't all negative news for the Rudd Government. Prof Anaya praised Labor for taking "significant steps" to try and improve the human rights and living conditions of indigenous Australians. He also congratulated the Government for supporting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples earlier this year and officially apologising to the stolen generations in 2008. There was hope, he said. "I have been impressed by the strength, resilience and vision of indigenous communities determined to move towards a better future despite having endured tremendous suffering at the hands of historical forces and entrenched racism."

SOURCE. A couple of replies to this heap of U.N. sh*t here

Everyone's ABC? Only if you lean left

By Peter Costello

Different views would spark up our predictable national broadcaster

I WAS doing an ABC radio interview last week and a listener sent in a text message, which was read out, suggesting the ABC should engage me as a radio host. ''I don't think I have the right political views for the ABC,'' I told the broadcast audience. It was not said with any malice, just an observation of an obvious fact.

If I had been on my guard I would not have said it. The ABC does not like the idea that its presenters have a common political outlook. Although the media likes to give criticism it does not like to receive it. And if you criticise the media you can expect rough treatment in return. Experienced media hands will always advise you that no matter how bad your treatment, never complain about it: that will only lead to worse.

But I was not on my guard. I am not now at the mercy of the media so I can afford to say what everyone on the conservative side of politics knows - the ABC is hostile territory.

One time I walked into ABC headquarters in Sydney and was confronted by an employee who began hissing at me. The station manager, who was there at the time, was so shocked he organised a written apology from management. He told me the employee would be ''counselled''. I wasn't shocked, I knew I was on foreign soil. I never worried about what occurred off-air. I was always worried about what would be broadcast.

The on-air interviewers for the ABC are generally aggressive, which is a pity. In my experience, if a subject is relaxed and lulled into dropping their guard, they are more likely to make revealing disclosures. With the ABC the line of questioning is always predictable. It always comes from the Labor/Green perspective.

Now Labor will tell you that sometimes it gets a hard time on the ABC - and sometimes it does if it is perceived to be betraying ''true Labor principles'' or being too ''pro-business'' or being insensitive to the environment. But Labor will never be criticised for entrenching union power, or going soft on law enforcement, or spending money it doesn't have.

There are rural and regional programs that stick to local issues and leave the politics aside. But the flagship national current affairs programs - AM, PM, The 7.30 Report - have a consistent editorial perspective. The 7.30 Report has been a good training ground for politicians, producing the West Australian Labor premier Alan Carpenter and the former chief minister of the Northern Territory, Clare Martin.

Labor Ministers Mary Delahunty and Maxine McKew also worked for the ABC in news and current affairs. The 7.30 Report is hosted by former Labor staffer Kerry O'Brien. I have no objection to former staffers working in the media. It's just that you notice the preponderance of those from a particular side at the ABC.

When I dropped my inconvenient truth in last week's interview it didn't provoke any outrage or comment. It just hung there. There was a mild effort by my interlocutor to defend the corporation. He pointed out there is a Liberal employed on ABC local radio in Perth, which says it all. It is quite an oddity really - so odd that they know about this man in Melbourne. Out of the 4500 employees in the ABC they know there is one Liberal. The ABC would do well to get a second or a third (and, no, I am not interested).

I have no doubt that opening up the airwaves would open the ABC to wider sections of the public. There would be screams of protest from the true believers who want no plurality to the current line. But some different opinion would spice things up. It is possible to have divergent views in an organisation that broadcasts 24 hours a day seven days a week.

Five nights per week Phillip Adams broadcasts on Radio National. Adams claims that he has been close to every Labor leader from Whitlam to Beazley. Robert Manne has described Adams as ''the emblematic figurehead of the pro-Labor left intelligentsia''.

Back in 2001 the then managing director of the ABC declared he would look for a right-wing Phillip Adams to balance up that program. It must be an exhaustive search. The new managing director is now in his fourth year of office. Apparently the corporation is still looking. I will make the prediction they will still be looking under the next managing director.

It appears there is nothing urgent about the task of getting balance into the ABC. Imagine if the corporation did find a right-wing Phillip Adams? Then we would have a Liberal in Perth and one in Sydney, too.


The "Green jobs" go to China

JUST before the passage of the Rudd government's renewable energy target legislation, which was designed to ensure 20 per cent of our electricity came from solar, wind and geothermal sources by 2020 and to foster Australia's renewable energy industry, Australian Greens leader Bob Brown reassured the public about the viability of the renewable energy industry.

In Canberra on August 19 Brown responded to a statement by the ABC's Lyndal Curtis that "you can't export the sun or the wind, you can't export those renewables" with the confident declaration that indeed you could export renewables. "Oh yes, you can, and the Germans have made a feast of it and of course they've got a multi-billion-dollar export industry in renewable energy with 250,000 jobs created," Brown said.

Brown, like Climate Change Minister Penny Wong and other government ministers, was reassuring the Australian public that creation of a target for renewable energy made economic sense and would be the source of jobs, jobs, jobs.

After a compromise was reached with the Coalition in the Senate on reassurances for compensation for existing industries to protect existing jobs in Australia, the RET legislation passed, to the great relief of the Rudd government and the opposition.

Despite serious misgivings within the Coalition about supporting an RET, a political compromise was reached. Malcolm Turnbull was given credit for holding together his troops and Kevin Rudd was given credit for being prepared to negotiate and not hold national policy to ransom over the calling of an early election.

As the mid-November deadline nears for the second debate on an emissions trading scheme, it is worth considering the political processes of passing the RET and some of the policy implications in the real world of market economy and government subsidy distortions. These will end up limiting competition, pushing up prices in the long term and not cutting global greenhouse gas emissions. Which brings us back to Brown's glowing reports of renewable energy industry jobs in Germany.

Brown was right, Germany has made a feast of renewable energy. Its largest producer of solar cells, Q-Cells, indeed the world's largest producer, had been exporting huge amounts of cells, employing thousands and making millions of euros. In the first half of last year Q-Cells made a business operating profit of E119.1 million ($204m). But, six days before Brown spoke, Q-Cells announced a first-half operating loss of E47.6m, laid off 500 workers, closed a plant, put a further 2000 workers on short shifts and stepped up plans to establish a solar cell plant in Malaysia employing 2000 workers. Q-Cells production had remained almost constant, according to its business statement.

In Spain, one of the leaders in the installation of solar panels, the industry came to a halt and the main panel maker cut the shifts of 400 workers to a few hours a week. Other manufacturers simply shut down. The Wall Street Journal has reported that the collapse in Spain's photovoltaic sector "has been so drastic that jobs plunged from a peak of 41,700 early last year to 13,900 in the spring of 2009".

So what happened? In one word: China.

In its efforts to supplement its energy needs from renewable sources and fulfil its highly ambitious targets to feed in energy to supplement its growing coal-fired and nuclear-powered electricity sources, China has provided lavish subsidies to solar industries. Under these subsidies and ultra-cheap loans from Chinese banks a plethora of Chinese manufacturers has sprung up and flooded the world market with solar cells and panels, which vary remarkably in quality. (It must be said that some of the best use Australian technology.)

The biggest Chinese company, which is about to become the world's biggest solar company, Suntech, has cut the price of its panels and cells across the world. That's why Q-Cells in Germany has lost so much while maintaining the same production: cut-price Chinese products are driving down returns and making production in Europe unviable without continuing heavy government subsidies. The price of solar panels in some markets in the US has halved in the past year and in the past six months the cost of some solar panels has dropped by one-third in Australia.

This week Shi Zhengrong, chief executive and founder of Suntech Power Holdings, told The New York Times Suntech was selling solar panels on the US market for less than the cost of materials to build market share. This sounds suspiciously like dumping into a market, but there is no doubt Californian producers are pointing the finger at Suntech's prices as a reason for the global collapse in solar cell production. Another reason is that some European governments are beginning to wean the renewable energy industry off subsidies and sweetheart deals with inflated returns on rooftop electricity fed back into the national electricity grid.

All of this occurred in a two-week period when Australia's politicians were breaking their necks to do their own political deals over renewable energy, and to encourage homegrown solar industries and create instant jobs as part of the economic stimulus. The combination of a Chinese-induced price slump in Australia and the Rudd government's green stimulus, which includes roofing insulation subsidies, is that consumers have rushed to buy solar panels that may be of lesser quality and haphazardly installed because they are effectively free.

But the jobs created are for people bolting on the panels; the longer-term incentive for establishing solar cell production in Australia is diminished. Even some solar panel outlets are struggling because they have been caught with higher-priced European panels.

The supporters of the RET legislation argue that without a target and government support such industries will not get under way without a high price being set for carbon in the emissions trading scheme. This is true. The problem is that the promises of new green jobs to replace all the old brown jobs lost will be difficult to fulfil while China, for strategic reasons - not environmental sympathy - is prepared to open its bottomless pockets and distort a world market.

You'd think the global financial crisis would teach people a lesson about markets, government subsidies and intervention.


Yet another serious Queensland ambulance bungle

These episodes just keep coming

TAPES of a 000 emergency call reveal how a Wynnum family was put on hold by an ambulance dispatcher who bungled a response to a man suffering a stroke. Marcia Fielder, 80, said her son had to be privately transported to hospital after the Queensland Ambulance Service decided it could take up to one hour to respond.

The 44-year-old man, whom the family does not wish to name, suffered an embolic stroke in July last year and has since lost his job and become reclusive.

In a letter to Mrs Fielder the QAS admitted their response was "regrettable" and advised that the dispatcher had been removed from his position. Mrs Fielder called 000 last July after her son complained of a severe headache and not being able to see "the bottom half of the room". She said his mind then appeared to go entirely blank and he didn't even recognise her or know what room of the house he was in. "I must admit I became hysterical. I had never seen him that way before," she said.

The incident has raised more questions over the standard of training being offered to QAS dispatchers. The Courier-Mail has listened to tapes of the 000 call, which confirm the QAS dispatcher did not understand the urgency of the condition.

Mrs Fielder had to wait for her other son to drive from Salisbury to Wynnum to take them to Redlands Hospital. The next day a brain scan showed her son had suffered two strokes. He has lost his ability to read and is no longer employed.

Mrs Fielder believed her son, whom she described as a gentle giant who always cared for her, didn't want to speak out because he was embarrassed over the incident. "You have no idea how he's changed. It's like his life's lost," she said. "He stays in his room and when people ring up he says to tell them he's not home."

In a letter to Mrs Fielder, Queensland Ambulance Service medical director Stephen Rashford said paramedics were struggling with a high workload on that night. "The EMD (emergency medical dispatcher) should have provided you with more assurance and empathy," Dr Rashford wrote. "It was also found that the manner in which the EMD spoke to you was extremely inappropriate. "I apologise that the level of service provided by the EMD was not at the level of your or your son's expectations." [Does this asshole thinks lack of politeness was the only problem??]


Incompetent rape investigation costs Victoria police $20,000

(In the hope of shutting the woman up)

POLICE have reacted angrily to "hush money" TV claims by a woman who claims she was raped by a Carlton footballer. “Kate'', who alleges she was raped at a party after Carlton's 1999 Grand Final loss, claims she was originally offered $20,000 “hush money” by police to keep quiet before reaching a settlement with police. "They offered me some money... $20,000... on conditions that I don't proceed with having it heard it court," she told the ABC.

"You think you can pay me off with $20,000? $20,000 is nothing, not that it was ever about money. But I think in some way they owed me more than just 20 grand. They owed me - doing their job properly."

Victoria Police today confirmed they had reached a settlement with Kate, but said in a statement the offer of $20,000 was a show of good faith after legal advice provided to the force found they had no legal liability in relation to the matter. "She refused the offer and engaged in legal action against Victoria Police. That action was unsuccessful, however Victoria Police did not choose to pursue costs, even though we were within our rights to do so,” the statement said. “In a further show of good faith and for compassionate reasons, Victoria Police again offered the woman $20,000 because we believed it was the right thing to do. This offer was accepted and did include a confidentiality clause which is standard in government litigation.”

Kate says she had consensual sex with one player but later woke up to find another raping her.

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Simon Overland, then an assistant commissioner, later admitted detectives had botched the case. A damning Ombudsman's report into the investigation found that police had failed to take DNA tests or interview key witnesses. Mr Overland said there had been an “almost total failure'' by investigators on the case and apologised to the woman.

Police said one member involved in the investigation was subject to disciplinary action while two other members have resigned from the force due to unrelated matters.


Thursday, August 27, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG has a shot at both the NSW Labor party and the Federal Liberal party

Bill of rights would be a death knell for democracy says Howard

A BILL of rights would erode Australia's democracy, diminish the reputation and accountability of Parliament, politicise the judiciary and represent the ''final triumph of elitism in Australian politics'', the former prime minister John Howard said last night.

Delivering the annual Menzies Lecture at the University of Western Australia, Mr Howard campaigned against ceding power from elected individuals to the non-elected judiciary.

The Rudd Government is exploring whether to introduce a bill of rights. In December, it commissioned a committee chaired by Father Frank Brennan to gauge public opinion on how best to achieve greater protection of rights. It is due to report to the Government on September 30.

Mr Howard has long opposed a bill of rights. He said ministers and parliamentarians should make all the controversial decisions transparently and be accountable for them.

''A bill of rights would further diminish the prestige of Parliament, it would politicise the appointment of judges, it would increase the volume of litigation and it would not increase the rights and protections now available to Australian citizens,'' Mr Howard said.

''A charter or bill of rights would represent the final triumph of elitism in Australian politics - the notion that typical citizens, elected by ordinary Australians, cannot be trusted to resolve great issues of public policy.''

Mr Howard said the Northern Territory intervention, the banning of gay marriage and the conscience vote to lift the ban on the abortion pill RU486 could have been handballed to judges had there been a bill of rights.

He warned ''political activisits of the left'' to consider that one day a cause they may support ''might be better served by the votes of contemporary Parliament, rather than a court dominated by men and women holding views you might not share''.


The Supreme Court of the United States shows the inadvisability of entrusting our rights to unelected judges. It is now and always has been a judicial abomination. Its guiding principles have always been political rather than judicial. It is not as political as Stalin's courts but its respect for the constitution is little better. Some recent abuses: The "equal treatment" provision of the 14th amendment was specifically written to outlaw racial discrimination yet the court has allowed various forms of "affirmative action" for decades -- when all such policies should have been completely stuck down immediately. The 2nd. amendment says that the right to bear arms shall not be infringed yet gun control laws infringe it in every State in the union. The 1st amendment provides that speech shall be freely exercised yet the court has upheld various restrictions on the financing and display of political advertising. The court has found a right to abortion in the constitution when the word abortion is not even mentioned there. The court invents rights that do not exist and denies rights that do -- JR

Victorian Primary School bans bottled water

I must admit that I find the bottled water craze quite mad but if people get some satisfaction out of it, who are we to judge them? I am sure I do some things that some others might consider mad -- like blogging, for instance. I am sure the Greenies would be able to find something wrong with blogging if they tried -- uses too much electricity or some such -- JR

A Melbourne school has banned commercially bottled water in what is believed to be a Victorian first. Pupils at Eltham North Primary School are being told to drink tap water and use only environmentally friendly re-useable containers.

Principal David Foley said the ban was part of the school's green policy, which includes re-useable containers for lunches, the Herald Sun reports. "We have good water in Melbourne," he said. "It's a waste of money buying plastic bottled water and most of the bottles end up in our waterways or in landfill. "We don't want students to come to school using soft drink or bottled water."

It is estimated Australians spend about $500 million each year on bottled water. A bottled water ban was introduced in the NSW town of Bundanoon last month.

But Mr Foley said his school had been moving towards the policy since installing waste-cutting water fountains last year. "It's the way to go," he said. "We're also using it as an education process to see what can happen if water goes off and what can happen if you're using a poor bottle like a soft drink container." Mr Foley said bags wouldn't be checked for dodgy bottles, but staff would monitor the use of drink containers in class and in the playground.

Brendan Lynch, from water dispenser firm Aquabubbler, said his company had supplied eco-friendly products to hundreds of schools in Victoria. "Kids are a lot more discerning about where they drink from these days," he said. "A lot of water troughs at schools are unhygienic." Mr Lynch said it was crazy that people were buying so much bottled water during the economic crisis. "A lot of those bottles can't be recycled and end up as landfill, it's a no-win situation," he said.

Opposition education spokesman Martin Dixon said he had no problem with the bottle ban. "It's something that they have weighed up carefully," he said. "It's good to allow schools to do something innovative and environmentally friendly."


Follower of radical Islamic movement granted asylum in Australia

Extreme Islamic attitudes that are not even acceptable in a Muslim country are acceptable in Australia?

A follower of a radical Islamic movement that seeks to introduce sharia law and has been linked to terrorist groups is being granted asylum in Australia. The Refugee Review Tribunal has recommended a protection visa for an Egyptian man, who is a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic political group with links to al-Qaida.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been outlawed in several countries, including Egypt. It seeks to establish a pan-Islamic state ruled by sharia law and is committed to the destruction of Israel.

The Egyptian man initially was denied a protection visa by the Department of Immigration, but the decision was overturned by the tribunal. "The tribunal is of the view that the applicant's decision to abandon ship, insistence on his rights not to return to Egypt for medical treatment, and behaviour towards his captain, if combined with his support for the Muslim Brotherhood, his low-level political activities and past expression of anti-government political views, would generate a profile that could attract the adverse attention of the authorities and focus their attention on his sympathies for the brotherhood," it found. "On this basis, the tribunal is of the opinion that there is a real chance that this could place the applicant at risk of facing arrest, detention and ill-treatment."

Prof Greg Barton of Monash University said the Muslim Brotherhood had been linked to terrorist attacks, such as the Luxor bus bombing in 1997, but had since denounced violence, though many of its goals had been taken up by terrorist groups. "Al-Qaida and other militant groups have benefited greatly from their ideas so it is true that the ideas produced by the brotherhood are taken further by more militant groups," he said. "The brotherhood connection for anybody would automatically give Australian authorities a reason to check into their background."

Jeremy Jones, director of international affairs with the Australia-Israel Jewish Affairs Council, said the brotherhood presented a threat to democratic countries. "The Muslim Brotherhood has been banned in many countries for good reason," he said. "It's not just it's attitude towards Israel that's of concern. It has strands that are very sympathetic towards terrorism."

Opposition immigration spokeswoman Sharman Stone said she would write to Mr Evans asking to have the decision overturned. Immigration Minister Chris Evans said the man would have a rigorous security check before a visa was granted. "Should there be an adverse security assessment, the department cannot grant a visa," he said.


More revelations about a rotten government-run ambulance service

Paramedics operate in 'culture of fear' because management behavior in unaccountable

THE State Government will establish a panel [A "panel" three bureaucrats! Three dedicated coverup artists, no doubt. How about a judicial enquiry?] to investigate bullying and harassment amid concerns paramedics and emergency workers operate in a "culture of fear".

The Courier-Mail can reveal an internal investigation found an Emergency Management Queensland boss guilty of victimisation, harassment and inappropriate comments, which included very harsh, sexist and intimidatory language. Documents obtained under Right to Information laws show six of 10 allegations made against the manager were substantiated and he was aggressive towards EMQ office staff.

Another EMQ officer was found guilty of swearing at Emergency Service cadets during a camp exercise last year. He referred to them as "little bastards" and told them they were "full of s--- and wouldn't survive in the bush".

Recommendations made as a result included staff training in the department's code of conduct and dealing with conflict in the workplace but it is not known whether the culprits were reprimanded.

Emergency Medical Service Protection Association president Prebs Sathiaseelan said he had received numerous complaints from his members. "EMPSA on a regular basis receives calls from our membership about some form of harassment and bullying – it isn't improving," he said. Mr Sathiaseelan said it was a "culture of fear".

In another case, a Brisbane senior officer was investigated after he "dropped his trousers, exposed his genitalia and simulated oral sex" with another employee against her will. He also made offensive comments against two colleagues in relation to race and sexuality. While at least one recipient of his comments has left the QAS, his language was deemed to be "part of his character" and "generally non-offensive". [????] But a spokesman for QAS Commissioner David Melville this week said the officer concerned was asked to "show cause" at a formal disciplinary hearing. "This officer was not counselled as the Regional Assistant Commissioner determined that the matter was of such a serious nature that this officer should be formally reprimanded." The officer was warned if his behaviour deteriorated again over 12-months he would also be docked two weeks pay.

Another senior officer, who didn't want to be named, contacted The Courier-Mail concerned the organisation was cutting corners trying to keep up with patient demand. "When you stick your hand up and say anything nowadays, you just get smashed and told to shut up," he said.

Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts said yesterday after discussions with the Director-General, ambulance officers, firefighters, and staff in EMQ and the Department of Community Safety would be able to make complaints to a dedicated phone line and email service, which would then be referred to the panel. "It is my hope that this panel will be utilised by personnel who feel that they cannot confidently report instances of bullying, harassment or intimidation through existing channels," he said.

The panel will comprise Ministerial, Information and Legal Services branch executive director Fiona Rafter, Ethical Standards director Terry Christensen and Legal Services director Tracey Davern. "It is important that employees feel confident that their allegations will be taken seriously, properly investigated and dealt with without any personal ramifications," Mr Roberts said.


The Labour party has empowered productivity destruction

WHEN in opposition, more astute members of the Australian Labor Party cheered when the Howard government introduced Work Choices. They realised two things.

First, the Coalition had seriously overreached; Work Choices was political poison and it would ultimately help bring down the government. Second, it would generate a widespread mobilisation of the union movement, funding a huge election war chest for Labor.

Ironically, the Rudd government’s Fair Work laws may have the same effect, though in a much quieter, slower way. While Work Choices was a short fuse - once lit, it didn’t take long to explode - Fair Work looks like being a long, slow burn. But in time, as its effects slowly grow more obvious and more drastic, perhaps it will deliver just as big a bang.

Increasingly, Fair Work appears to represent a dramatic overreach. And though the business community has been slow to react and even slower to pick fights with a government known to be vindictive, it seems the full horror of the new regime is starting to dawn on it. Even worse, workers will end up bearing the brunt of Labor’s IR hubris.

While improved productivity was sold as the heart of Labor’s IR revolution, Julia Gillard, the minister overseeing Fair Work, is obviously nervous that the propaganda is beginning to unravel.

With no sign of a Fair Work productivity boost - in fact the opposite - Gillard told the 15th World Congress of the International Industrial Relations Association in Sydney yesterday that the “final piece of the productivity puzzle” apparently rests on “workplace leadership and the requisite culture” to build co-operation in the workplace.

But hang on. Gillard’s Fair Work regime has reinstated an adversarial system of workplace relations where unions can game the new collective bargaining system to their advantage.

Even before the laws came into operation, improved productivity under Fair Work was a sham. For months the restaurant and cafe industry - a sector that drives employment - warned that many of them would close if forced to adhere to the new award of increased minimum wages, penalty rates, casual rates, shift loadings and allowances. And Gillard agreed.

In May, when she directed the Australian Industrial Relations Commission to create a new special award for this industry, she effectively conceded that the Rudd government’s “award modernisation” reforms could not deliver promised productivity gains. Gillard also asked the AIRC to take the full five years to implement the new restaurant awards so as to ease cost pressures on employers during the tough economic climate.

Not surprisingly, the media failed to report or understand the real meaning of Gillard’s intervention. During the election campaign, Labor specifically promised voters that its new IR system was made for all seasons, economically sensible and safe in good times and in bad. Bad times arrived and Gillard personally intervened to ensure that the restaurant industry could weather the economic storm. While she was lauded for her pragmatic intervention, any system of workplace relations that relies on the grace and favour of a government minister is the antithesis of a predictable, workable industrial relations system. Unions are furious about Gillard’s intervention and other industries, not surprisingly, are lobbying the Employment and Workplace Relations Minister for similar favours to ride out the economic downturn.

The productivity promise of Fair Work has gone the way of Grocery Choice and Fuel Watch: political puffery crushed by reality. Only Fair Work is worse. Worse than failing to deliver on promises made, Fair Work diminishes productivity.

More specifically, the notion that collective bargaining will drive productivity is equally spurious. Enter Cochlear, maker of the bionic ear, a company that ought to be lauded as an Australian success story. In the past five years, Cochlear has trebled in size, generating $600 million in revenue during the past fiscal year.

It did that by moving away from an artisan or craft-based system to a 21st-century manufacturing process, allowing the company to operate in a globally competitive marketplace. Ninety per cent of Cochlear’s revenues are generated outside Australia and 90 per cent of the company’s global tax bill is paid to federal or state governments in Australia. That is, as chief executive Chris Roberts told the Senate IR hearings in February, “good news for Australia”.

Explaining the revolution at Cochlear, Roberts told The Australian: “We required different thinking and different approaches to manufacturing as we scaled up”, focusing on leaner, more flexible operations, better employee training and aligning reward with productivity increases.

Change came about by dealing directly with Cochlear employees, who earn 45 per cent above award wages, with average rates rising between 16per cent and 23 per cent during the past two years.

Yet, Roberts says incredulously, “the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union fought very hard against those changes that significantly increased productivity”.

Fair Work has brought the unions back into the game. Last week, the AMWU used Labor’s new laws to secure what it hailed as a landmark victory over Cochlear when 57 per cent of workers expressed their desire to bargain collectively. But this is a case of not so fast. Unlike many business leaders who timidly preferred to stay under Labor’s radar, Roberts remains vocal in raising his concerns about Fair Work, given his focus on productivity in the real world of commerce and innovation.

Under Fair Work laws, the AMWU will get a seat at the Cochlear bargaining table, even if only one Cochlear worker wants it there. On past evidence that does not augur well for productivity.

As Roberts says: “The behaviour of the unions to fight against initiatives that drove up our productivity and delivered financial rewards to our people made no sense.” The problem, he says, is that unions “need a conflict to be relevant”. The other problem is that 43 per cent of workers have expressed a view that they do not want the unions representing them, “so what you end up with is a divided workforce”.

Roberts is most scathing about the government’s empty productivity rhetoric. There is, he says, “no immutable law that links collective bargaining with productivity” and he was amazed at the paucity of data to support the government’s proposition. “The fundamental basis of this IR legislation is false. We moved into the age of enlightenment 259 years ago - if you consider 1750 as the dawn of the age of reasoning and logic - and we shouldn’t walk away from evidence.”

On the evidence to date, Fair Work is not the softly, safely set of IR reforms promised by then economic conservative Kevin Rudd when he was seeking office. In fact, Gillard’s reforms have restored an adversarial culture she has the temerity to claim is holding back productivity. With the country’s most militant unions already on the warpath, it is only early days for this potentially long-fuse time bomb.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Not ready for women on frontline

All Australian army recruits these days are volunteers so it is my view that if a woman is accepted into the infantry she should be willing and able to perform all infantry duties. Unwavering scrutiny on whether she is able to perform all infantry duties should be expected before she is accepted however. Having lower standards for strength and stamina should not be permitted. My Australian army contacts tell me that a lot of female soldiers are lesbians so many may have masculine physical traits -- JR

By Sally Morrell

EVERY now and then the feminist mantra I preach to my daughter - "Women can do anything men can do" - gets exposed as spin. Yes, she can be the prime minister of Australia, I tell her. Yes, she can run a top 10 company and be a world-leading scientist if she wants to. But "anything"? She'll never play for Richmond, she'll never join the Melbourne Club and I used to think she'd never be able to serve on the frontline of a war.

But that last one might be about to change. Defence Personnel Minister Greg Combet last week said a new centre of expertise at Wollongong University would study the physical requirements for modern soldiering and the results would help our defence force decide who could serve where, "regardless of gender". And that means our female soldiers could get one step closer to fighting alongside men on the frontline, rather than be kept in support or - at best - restricted to "kill at a distance" fighting. Rather than see the enemy from the safe distance of a TV monitor or electronic sights, women may then get up close and personal. Whites-of-their-eyes stuff.

And that's when my "women can do anything" mantra goes all wobbly. Part of my sudden attack of sexism - and the least important - is that when I think of a woman going head-to-head with an enemy soldier, I picture an average woman. Smaller than the average man. But the woman who puts her hand up for this sort of gig is not going to be average. It would be a very small group of the women in the army now who are champing at the bit to fight one-on-one with the Taliban, and I'm guessing they don't have the build or delicate sensitivities of perfume counter assistants.

Maybe they can indeed carry a heavy pack as far as their male colleagues. Maybe they can shoot someone dead in the firefight with just the same lack of hesitation or compunction. If they can do all that, why are they being stopped from doing what they want to do?

But it's not about their physical suitability really, is it? In fact, it's not even about their psychological ability to handle the killing jobs that for millennia have been men's work. It's actually about the psychological ability of the rest of us to deal not just with women doing the killing, but with women - our women - being killed. Or even simply captured.

Let's be frank. A captured woman will have it a lot tougher than a captured man. Who can forget the horrific plight of the Dutch "comfort women" the Japanese captured in World War II?

Nor am I sure if we could endure the sight of little children crying as the coffin carrying their mother is brought out of an RAAF Hercules. This really isn't about whether women are strong enough to fight, but whether the rest of us are strong enough to endure their death or capture. I'm not sure if we are or not.

But if we can be sure that no woman is sent to fight that didn't specifically ask to go, then nobody should stop her. They best know the risks, and we must honour not just their sacrifices but their judgment.


Greenie nonsense killed people in fire

A Greenie council has blood on its hands

RESIDENTS in one of the areas devastated on Black Saturday were not allowed to clear highly flammable, noxious tea tree on their land because it was classified as native vegetation by the local council, the royal commission into the bushfire disaster has been told. Peter Wiltshire, who suffered serious burns and damaged airways trying unsuccessfully to save his home at St Andrews on February 7, said yesterday the tea tree, known as burgan, was "extremely flammable and lets off gases in heat". Wildfire from burning burgan on a neighbouring property created enough radiant heat to cause a horsefloat at one end of his house to instantaneously burst into flame.

But the local Nillumbik Shire Council stopped landowners clearing burgan without applying for permission, Mr Wiltshire said. "They call it native vegetation and we are not allowed to clear it without a permit. It is probably the most noxious and flammable material. It really is a pest and dangerous."

Mr Wiltshire, who is chairman of the St Andrews Country Fire Authority brigade, said a massive fireball that engulfed his house and caused window glass to melt was fuelled by "black gas" above tree-top level. He suffered serious burns to his face and both arms, had damaged airways from inhaling heated air and smoke and spent 24 hours in an induced coma in hospital after escaping with his wife and daughter from their blazing home.

Twelve of the 173 people who died on Black Saturday were killed in St Andrews.

Tasmanian Fire Service fire management planning officer Mark Chladil told the hearing that Victoria's decision to allow people to automatically rebuild on the sites of their former homes using only the new national bushfire building code was "somewhat risky". Sites needed to be fully assessed for bushfire threat using the full gamut of planning issues, said Mr Chladil, who is also a member of the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council. "To be blunt, rebuilding at the moment would be somewhat risky in each of these places without considering the range of siting, water supply, access, vegetation management options as well as building options," he said. "There are going to be sites where it will be seen as foolhardy to have rushed in and rebuilt in the same place without addressing these issues." The social welfare benefits of allowing survivors to rebuild as quickly as possible could be better met by providing each family with an individual building assessor to advise them on rebuilding, Mr Chladil said.

Earlier, the inquiry was told that an essential handbook vital in ensuring the effectiveness of the new national building standard would not be available until at least the end of the year. Barry Eadie, the head of the Standards Australia committee that developed the new bushfire building standard hastily introduced after February 7, said the new code would not save houses without the companion handbook, which gave crucial advice about such things as planning, water supply, access and maintenance of landscaping and vegetation. [It's common sense among the bureaucrats that is needed, not more unreadable official bumf]


A public hospital for possums??

THIS photograph was taken in the intensive care unit at the ailing Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital. Staff found the brush-tailed possum sitting among open boxes of face masks, gloves and surgical sponges, its faeces scattered across the counter. It was sent to the Herald only days after one of the state's most senior health bureaucrats denied claims the hospital had a big problem with possums, known to spread deadly golden staph and e.coli infections. The photo was taken in 2005 but staff say possums have been plaguing the hospital for more than a decade and are removed weekly from wards and offices.

Desperate for help, they sent the picture to the Health Department at the time it was taken but the warning went unheeded. And one senior official used it as a point of laughter to show visitors to his office. After the possum was found, staff in the intensive care unit locked up medical supplies but say maintenance workers regularly move the animals to boxes in trees within the grounds. ''The one in the intensive care unit is not an isolated case. It's par for the course around here,'' one doctor said.

Possums, which have a lifespan of 15 years, can carry deadly diseases easily transmitted to humans, including Lyme disease, leptospirosis, rickettsia and mycobacteriosis, which can cause abscesses, fistulas, headaches, vomiting and renal failure. Their faeces can carry the gut parasite cryptosporidium and their urine can cause breathing problems for asthmatics.

Any animal in a hospital was a health risk but some, such as possums, were known to spread superbugs such as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, said an infectious diseases expert at Canberra Hospital, Peter Collignon. ''Allowing a wild animal, which scavenges far and wide, to contaminate gloves and surgical equipment is obviously a real problem.''

The chief executive of the Northern Sydney Central Coast Area Health Service, Matthew Daly, last week rejected allegations that the hospital had been neglected but did not deny continuing possum problems. All reports of possum urine had been addressed, he said. ''Possum nests were in a derelict buildings and were subsequently removed,'' he said.

Up to six possums might live in the roof space of a family home, but more than 25 would probably be found in a hospital, said David Bennett, the owner of a possum removal service in Adelaide. ''You definitely wouldn't want them in a hospital. And unless you get an expert in, there is no way to keep them out. They are highly territorial and will immediately return to where they were.''

A spokeswoman for the area health service said yesterday the present management was not aware of the photo and an inspection of the hospital last week found no evidence of possums in wards or patient areas. ''All such reports are taken seriously and are dealt with at the time,'' she said. [What utter bulldust! A problem known since 2005 has still not been dealt with]


West Australian police throwing their weight around again

But a court took a proper view of the matter with a negligible penalty for the "offender". The strange priorities and waste of resources are undoubted, however. They could have just cautioned him to watch where he was going if there were any real concerns. This is probably Australia's most hated police force because of its record of malpractice and brutality. See here for some instances

BRENTON Green was monkeying around when he donned a costume to entertain city shoppers, but the stunt backfired when he was arrested and tossed in the lock-up. Dressed as a monkey, Mr Green, 21, attracted the attention of two police officers on bicycles as he paraded among Perth shoppers on Sunday afternoon, hugging people, posing for photos, waving and dancing.

When the officers interrupted his show in front of about 40 onlookers and asked for his name, he responded by shaking his head and making strange sounds. The second time police asked for his name, Mr Green replied: ``Monkey''. The officers responded by pushing him against a shop window and handcuffing him in front the stunned audience.

Mr Green said the idea of Monkey's Day Out had been spawned from the Free Hugs campaign phenomenon - the story of Sydney man Juan Mann, who has led a mission to hug strangers to brighten up their lives. People worldwide from Sydney to Helsinki to Tokyo and London have now joined the Free Hugs movement, but police in some cities have ordered the campaign be banned, amid public liability concerns.

WA Police spokesman Sgt Graham Clifford said officers intervened after seeing the monkey man bump into several people and knock a hamburger out of another man's hands. Police said Mr Green failed to give them his name by ``continually shaking his head and making squeaking noises''.

Mr Green was taken to the East Perth police lock-up and was charged with failing to comply with a police request. He was bailed, with the condition not to return to the city. But as he walked to the train station, the same arresting officer, re-arrested Mr Green, claiming he had breached the conditions of his bail. He spent Sunday night in the East Perth lock-up.

``I thought it was pretty ridiculous, I thought it was some sort of a joke. And then he put the cuffs on me and I just couldn't believe it,'' Mr Green told PerthNow today. ``I was in police custody for over a day. ``Last night I saw four stories on the news with people getting bashed, home invasions...what are they doing wasting their time arresting me when they could be spending it dealing with more serious crimes.''

Mr Green's mate Brad Hurle, who filmed the arrest and posted the footage on YouTube, said he was angered at the police response. ``It's a bit ridiculous that police locked him up when there are real criminals out there,'' Mr Hurle said. ``There was absolutely nobody that had a problem with him. Everybody got a kick out of it. It was just a feel-good thing to create a bit of love, but the police put a stop to that. ''

Mr Green appeared in Perth Magistrates Court yesterday charged with failing to comply with a request given. He was released with a spent conviction, a three-month community release order and ordered to pay $60 in court costs.


One reason why your dental bills are so high

Official regulations make dentists pay sky-high prices for the equipment and supplies that they use

DENTISTS are allegedly being shown how to access unregulated overseas markets to obtain cut-price dental equipment which is not being scrutinised by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

The Port Macquarie dentist Jeremy Rourke conducted a series of capital city seminars in May, titled ''Work SMART = Grow RICH: Profiting from every minute''.

He charged dentists $770 each for the one-day course, promising to show participants ''how it is possible to 'DOUBLE production and TRIPLE profitability''.

Although the Herald is not suggesting Dr Rourke is acting illegally, one professional who attended a Sydney seminar on May 18 told the Herald she became angry and walked out when he began showing participants how to access sites such as Made in and eBay, where dentists could directly import dental equipment and materials for a fraction of the price of Australian-made goods.

Under TGA regulations, all dental products and materials, local or imported, must be listed on its register before they can be used on patients. But concerns have been raised by the dental supplies industry that the practice of dentists accessing unregistered products from unregulated Asian markets has become widespread.

Raymond Shroot, the NSW president of the Australian Dental Industry Association, which represents suppliers of dental equipment, said anyone seeking to import a medical device could easily bypass the TGA's scrutiny, because there was no requirement for the importer to quote an Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods listing number.

''To get anything that is listed with the TGA through customs you should have to quote that number on the customs clearance form, but that hasn't been the case,'' Mr Shroot said. ''We've been told the TGA is unwilling to changes its practices.''

Dr Rourke told the Herald he had done nothing illegal. ''I simply tell dentists there are websites where there are items available but I make them aware that anything used in patient treatment has to go past the TGA.''

Dr Rourke denied that by showing dentists how to access cut-price unregulated equipment, he was educating them on how to avoid TGA regulations. ''You can show someone where the murder section of a library is, but that doesn't make you a murderer because you've shown them where to get the information, does it?''

The Australian Dental Association has dismissed concerns raised by the local dental supplies industry, accusing it of scaremongering to protect its business. When asked last week if he was aware of any dentists importing equipment not listed with the TGA, the national president of the association, Dr Neil Hewson, said: ''I've got no idea, how would anyone know they're doing it … we can't monitor everything our 10,000 members do.''


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Yet another Queensland ambulance meltdown

Ambulance officers 'on grog run' ignore seizure patient. These stories have never stopped coming since the State government took it over. And they will keep coming while nobody is being penalized for negligence and misbehaviour

A MAN having a seizure waited for an ambulance while a paramedic went to the pub to pick up alcohol for an office party that degenerated into a racial brawl, The Courier-Mail reports. The ambulance officer, who was only new to the job in Queensland, was pressured into ignoring a callout which became a top priority Code 1 emergency while she was driving a senior colleague to pick up more "grog". Paramedics say the incident added to stress on workers stretched trying to keep pace with a system swamped by demand.

Documents obtained by The Courier-Mail under Right to Information laws reveal that off-duty ambulance workers were holding a party at an unnamed Queensland station when they ran out of alcohol. The documents show that all paramedics involved in the booze run from the party at the station on July 13, 2007, knew that a call had been made to dispatch an ambulance to a man having an epileptic fit.

The two senior off-duty officers drinking at the party were later involved in a fight with four "indigenous males" outside the station. The officers tried to get an on-duty paramedic, who was treating a patient, to drop them home. One officer admitted he "just went out and got hammered" and the night was a "blur". The two officers were "counselled" over their bender after the allegations against them and the junior officer were substantiated.

But a clinical assessment by witnesses determined the man who had the seizure suffered "no detrimental outcome whatsoever" from the ambulance's delay of up to 30 minutes and that any emotional injury was "impossible to calculate".

Premier Anna Bligh yesterday said reports of life-threatening bungles by the QAS had occurred before the Government "made various substantial changes" to the service in 2007. The changes have been underpinned by a $105 annual levy collected from Queenslanders via electricity bills.

The response to the Code 1 call during the booze run was not met within the standard time because the dispatched officer was driving her off-duty colleague to the pub. The on-duty paramedic's partner was ready to attend the job but was told by another officer that the woman "had gone to the (name deleted) Hotel to get some more grog", according to the RTI documents.

Later, police were called to the ambulance station "to attend an altercation involving the same two off-duty ambulance officers". "It was alleged that the officers caused a conflict with a group of indigenous males and that they swore and used racist taunts during the incident," the report said. The fight was allegedly over a taxi, with one witness describing "full-on fisticuffs".

Four police cars arrived but the documents show no one was taken into custody. The two officers also repeatedly called a working paramedic to try to get a lift home after their attempt to wave her down as she attended a case was unsuccessful.

The advanced care paramedic denied he had used racist taunts but admitted he was unable to remember much of the night's events. He said he had been "put through the wringer" with a QAS internal investigation and now that the incident was being dragged up again, he was concerned for the health of one of the other officers. The report concluded the officers had breached the Code of Conduct, but made no recommendations concerning the offending officers or their managers.


Queensland ambulance service rotten at the top

ONE man who has watched the Queensland Ambulance Service more closely than most regards it as a dysfunctional bureaucracy that is jeopardising lives. Ted Malone, the opposition's emergency services spokesman, said he received calls every week about serious QAS problems and nothing had improved despite regular changes at the top.

"In any other organisation, you'd say the management is corrupt because they are not supporting the people who are actually delivering the service. This organisation works from the top-down, and it obviously doesn't work," Mr Malone said.

He accused Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts of not treating seriously problems raised by the LNP. "It's amazing that some of the cases I've talked to the minister about, he's actually abused me for raising the issue," Mr Malone said.

He argued QAS should be focused only on outcomes for residents. "The bureaucracy almost has a life of its own, the poor buggers on the front line are left out there to cop it," Mr Malone said. QAS was "top-heavy in its management" with people who seemed willing to defend their jobs "to the nth degree", he said. Fixing the system was complicated – "you almost have to go in and strip it" – to change the organisation's culture, he said.


Australian bosses forbidden to talk to their workers

Unions legally privileged under new Leftist laws

JULIA Gillard's new industrial relations umpire has begun to ban businesses from directly talking to their own employees while being forced into "good faith" bargaining with unions.

Banning business from communicating directly with its own staff will not promote the productivity growth that Kevin Rudd now claims is central to his government's agenda. But productivity growth has never been a central aim of Australia's traditional industrial relations system.

Rudd and Gillard are reimposing this system for political reasons: first to put John Howard's Work Choices to the sword and second to deal Labor's industrial wing back into the game.

Just over a week ago, Fair Work Australia senior deputy president Lea Drake instructed industrial services company Transfield how to deal with the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union in holding a collective agreement ballot of its maintenance employees doing work on Sydney's water system.

The seventh of Drake's 13 instructions state: "During this process Transfield will not attempt to bypass the bargaining agent representatives in relation to its proposal by contacting for this purpose the members of the bargaining agent representatives directly, in meetings or by text or other telephonic messages."

That is, Transfield must deal with "all officers and delegates" of the AMWU as the "bargaining agent". Transfield's workers are not so much the company's employees as "members of the bargaining agent". The union can depict the company's position in any way it wants to its members, but the company cannot argue its case - perhaps beyond setting out what it has put to the union - to its own employees. That would show "bad faith".

The sight of industrial judges limiting how business can talk to its own staff about the terms oftheir labour contract is a huge break from the direction of workplace relations since the early 1990s. That began the shift away from what Reserve Bank of Australia governor Glenn Stevens this month aptly called the "bad old days" of Australian industrial relations. This had to change because the over-regulated labour market threatened to stifle the productivity growth required by business after the rest of the economy had been opened up to foreign competition.


Criminals should pay court costs: Magistrate

Why this is not already the practice is the mystery

Judges should be allowed to force wealthy criminals to pay some of the taxpayers' costs of convicting them, Deputy Chief Magistrate Andrew Cannon says. Dr Cannon has told an ongoing Federal Parliamentary inquiry into the court system, it would be fairer to make those convicted pay a contribution. And people wrongfully charged and acquitted should also be allowed to recoup some of their defence costs.

"A person who is acquitted should generally recover a predictable amount of the costs incurred and a person with financial means who is found guilty should pay a predictable contribution to the costs of prosecution," he said in a written submission.

Taxpayers pay for court proceedings, up to $20.3 million in the most expensive case to try the Snowtown murderers. But the only payment criminals can now be forced to make is a small contribution to the Victims of Crime fund.

The State Government said it would look into the suggestion when it received a copy of the submission. Dr Cannon, who is Adjunct Professor of Law at Flinders University, told the inquiry the awarding of costs should be left up to judges, because in some acquittals the accused might not deserve money. "At the moment, just to be charged with an offence in a major indictable matter is financially extremely expensive," he said. "It is inconsistent with the presumption of innocence that a person who is acquitted is left with a legal bill which may be tens of thousands of dollars."

Victims of Crime Commissioner Michael O'Connell said wealthy convicted criminals should pay money towards victims and victims' services because this was preferable to taxpayers footing the bill. "If criminals are wealthy, then the court should order them to pay compensation to their victims," he said. "Too many victims are not compensated. "It is better that criminals pay for victim compensation and victim services – rather than victims and the public who do not commit crime."

State Government spokesman Rob Malinauskas said the ideas put by Dr Cannon could be passed on to the Criminal Justice Ministerial Taskforce for investigation. He said the Government had already acted on tracking down wealth gained by criminal means. "The Rann Government has examined ways to crack down on criminal wealth and the Serious and Organised Crime (Unexplained Wealth) Bill, which is before Parliament, is an example of how the Government will strip assets from criminals whether they are jailed or not," he said.

Mr O'Connell said both the defence and prosecution in the court system received better funding for legal advice than victims. "Victims of serious crime have a right to be consulted before a decision is made to withdraw a charge or accept a plea to a lesser charge, but during the consultation the state is represented by the prosecutor and the accused person by a lawyer," he said. "The victim has no one to represent them, except on those occasions when I step in. It seems to me that this is a bigger problem than the quality of the legal advice that prosecutors and defendants already get."

In another controversial suggestion, Dr Cannon called for police to be removed from the role of criminal prosecutions. He said it should be done by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and could be done without a significant increase in costs. "Although police officers in many cases deliver excellent service to courts, they are not legally trained and prosecution would be improved by placing all criminal cases under the umbrella of the DPP," he said. "Improved legal advice to prosecution would improve fairness to defendants by reducing the laying of charges that are overly ambitious and providing more timely response to defence requests for information." A police spokesman said there were no plans to transfer any prosecution powers and if this were done the costs to taxpayers would be significantly more.

Dr Cannon proposed people should be given more access to alternative dispute resolution to keep some matters out of courts. But he warned there was a danger that the quality of justice provided could deteriorate and it was not preferable that many such matters were heard in secret. "It is important that structures be put in place such as sharing of precedents and an appeal back to the state courts to prevent a plurality of legal principles developing," he said. "Issues of privacy that hide wrongdoing and adequate protection of judicial independence need to be carefully managed."


Big welfare agency blunder causes great hardship and distress

To them you are guilty until proven innocent. Isn't government welfare wonderful?

A DISABILITY pensioner says he was forced to sell the family home after Centrelink accused him of fraud - only to later admit he was entitled to income support. Oswald Bruggemans, who now lives with his wife and three children in a rented two-bedroom flat in Blackwood, said it was bittersweet that the government welfare giant was refunding him almost $100,000 after earlier withdrawing his pension.

"I got a letter on Monday from Centrelink saying they would refund me $92,000 - I have gone from crying with frustration to crying with happiness because I can go forward with my life," said Mr Bruggemans, who can now pay his overdue energy and telephone bills and register his car. "But I'm still furious because I lost my house and this refund won't buy it back. "I still go back to the old home I lost after living there for 19 years - it's indescribable how upsetting this has been."

Mr Bruggemans's bureaucratic nightmare started in August 2007, when Centrelink decided he no longer qualified to continue receiving a disability pension for a back injury - as new information apparently showed he had undeclared assets, in the form of a financial interest in a property owned by a son from a former marriage.

Mr Bruggemans - who has two sons aged 10 and seven and a two-year-old daughter with his second wife - protested he had no interest in the property and that his name did not even appear on the title deed. With no income and unable to work due to his disability, Mr Bruggemans said he had no choice but to sell his home - a three-bedroom house on seven hectares at Ironbank - a year ago to raise the cash to support his family.

Just five days before settlement, Centrelink informed him it would seize about $100,000 from the property settlement to recoup the pension money it believed he had claimed but was not entitled to. The 52-year-old said by the time he had paid off the mortgage, debts, settled with his former wife and Centrelink, he was left with only enough from the $510,000 settlement to support his family for less than 12 months. "We have been living on the proceeds of the sale but this money has run out and we have had to sell the furniture to pay for groceries," he said.

Centrelink, which has refunded most of the seized money, has now invited Mr Bruggemans to re-apply for a disability pension. Mr Bruggemans thinks otherwise - "I don't trust that Centrelink won't turn around and try this on me again" - and instead he has sought legal advice with a view to suing Centrelink. He alleges its actions have cost him his house, loss of income and an extreme emotional stress. "I have to talk to my lawyer but I intend to retire on the amount of money I get from compensation," he said.

Centrelink said an investigation had "determined that Mr Bruggemans owned the property from the date of purchase (February 5, 1997) but had never disclosed it to Centrelink" and the onus was on him to prove it wrong. Information later supplied by Mr Bruggemans's lawyer to Centrelink did demonstrate he was not the owner, Centrelink general manager Hank Jorgen said. "A refund of $92,089.79 is to be returned to Mr Bruggemans," he said.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Huge Queensland ambulance foulup (1) -- one of three such reported in one day

Girl, 8, died after life-saving defibrillator removed from ambulance. Since the Leftist Queensland State government took over the ambulance service some years ago and made it "free" for all, serious problems have never stopped coming, despite various "reforms" and "overhauls". Some of the problems stem from a typically Leftist love of centralization, with local call centres being abolished and operators in the newly centralized locations being made responsible for distant cities that they know nothing about. That is the exact opposite of what is actually needed. Another example of how disastrous government involvement in medical services can be. There are similar reports from other Australian States -- particularly Victoria

An eight year-old Gold Coast girl in cardiac arrest died after life-saving equipment was removed from the ambulance sent to treat her. Documents obtained by The Courier Mail under Right to Information laws show that the ambulance arrived without a defibrillator – a device used to restore the heart beat – because it had been taken out at the station for training purposes.

A report into the incident, which occurred on December 2, 2007, said the address was less than 3km from the station and an advanced care and student paramedic reached the scene within three minutes. "On arrival the officers identified that they had left the portable resuscitation kit and defibrillator at the station after it had been removed for the purposes of undertaking training," the report said.

"The officers reported that during CPR, copious amounts of vomit was 'flowing from the airway during cardiac compressions'. "Normally the airway would have been suctioned using the suction device in the portable resuscitation kit, however this was not available."

Two more crews were sent and arrived four and seven minutes later, but the girl's pulse was already "unrecordable" and "skin cold". "The patient was transported to hospital and was pronounced deceased a short time after," the report stated. "The officer who removed the equipment was under the impression that they would be the last crew out.

"The officer-in-charge confirmed that it was normal practice (to) remove equipment for training from the spare unit . . . when a spare vehicle was not available equipment would be removed from an operational vehicle."

The investigation concluded that it was "beyond the scope of this investigation to determine if the absence of the oxygen resuscitation kit and defibrillator contributed to the inability to successfully resuscitate the child". However, the absence was "unlikely to have had a significant bearing on the outcome of the patient".

Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts said the defibrillator should have been there, but evidence suggested the girl would have died anyway. "The Coroner actually investigated that matter as well and there were no adverse findings to the QAS," he said. However, neither his office, nor the Coroner would provide a copy of the report.

Australasian College for Emergency Medicine Queensland chairman David Rosengren said defibrillators were the key to preventing death in this instance, but cardiac arrests were generally a life-ending event. "Everybody knows somebody who's had a cardiac arrest and been resuscitated and survived but they are clearly in the minority," he said.


Huge Queensland ambulance foulup (2) -- one of three such reported in one day

LORRAINE Silman watched her husband die while a misdirected ambulance took 45 minutes to find their Mackay home. Bob Silman, 63, a wedding photographer and sugar mill groundskeeper, was stricken with a heart attack on November 2 last year and could not be revived. A dispatcher in another city ignored Mrs Silman's directions and sent paramedics to an address that didn't exist.

"The ambulance officer can't be blamed. The system failed us," Mrs Silman said. "If they'd got there in the time frame they should have, he would have stood a chance." Mrs Silman kept her husband alive at their Pleystowe home for 15 minutes using CPR while the ambulance was lost.

Mr Silman left behind his wife of 40 years, three children and three grandchildren. He didn't live to see a fourth grandchild born. Neighbours knew him as the generous man who gave away the vegies he loved to grow and entertained their children in a Santa suit at Christmas

Daughter Alison Silman said it was "an absolute joke" that ambulances didn't have GPS devices and couldn't find homes in well-established areas close to urban areas. "In this day and age, they should be able to know where to respond," Ms Silman said. "This is happening too often. It's not good enough. People's lives are on the line."

The ambulance centre had never corrected a typographical error showing the Silmans lived at No. 2 Griffiths St, when no such address existed. The family lived at No. 20. The family called twice to have the address corrected. Mrs Silman said the ambulance was also told by the family not to cross a landmark bridge and did not send a vehicle from the closest station. "They kept asking me if I was in Miriam Vale. That's nowhere near here," Mrs Silman said. "My husband was dying in front of me. I told the woman I had to get off the phone." Although the station was only 13 minutes away, it took 40-45 minutes, she said. "When they got there, he'd passed away," she said.

Stress after her husband's death took such a toll on Mrs Silman she needed to be hospitalised two weeks later. Her daughter said the family drove her to the hospital rather than risk another ambulance miscue. "I wouldn't trust them," Alison said. "I just lost my dad. I wasn't going to lose my mother too."

The family said they were frustrated to learn a cadet officer in Rockhampton took their emergency call and a mentor supervisor didn't listen to the call.

Mrs Silman has difficulty dealing with the experience and still doesn't sleep well. "It's hard to get through the trauma of that day. I don't think I'll ever get over it. I don't wish any other family to have to go through it," she said. She was frustrated ambulance staff were not more knowledgeable about places they were responsible for.

The Member for Mirani, Ted Malone, the shadow minister for emergency services, raised concerns about the Silman death in Parliament in December.


Huge Queensland ambulance foulup (3) -- one of three such reported in one day

Paramedic quits after being sent to the wrong city. Once again it's the management, not the men on the frontline who are at fault

PARAMEDICS were ready to break into a Mackay home to treat a suspected heart attack victim when they learned the emergency was actually in Brisbane. Eric Fleissig who later quit the Queensland Ambulance Service in disgust at its management and working conditions, said he was met by a startled and confused person when he attended a Code 1 emergency call. He said he went to an address provided by ambulance dispatchers where the resident told him he knew nothing about an emergency.

The paramedics queried the communication centre, which then realised that the street name was correct but the emergency was in the Brisbane suburb of Ashgrove and not the Mackay suburb of Andergrove. "It happens all the time," Mr Fleissig said. Paramedics say the QAS hasn't done enough to make sure the best maps and direction-finding equipment are available, or to train communications staff who know their areas.

QAS Commissioner David Melville said dispatch systems were not perfect but Queenslanders were given the best possible service regardless of where they lived. "I'd like to think we will get it perfect, but I can't give you a 100 per cent guarantee on it," he said. "We try to give the best possible service no matter where people are." [But HOW HARD do you try? Not very, given the frequency of stupid and dangerous foulups. As well as the three reported today, there was another one reported just a couple of days ago]


Major Australian conservative political party totally rejects any Warmist laws

The National party invariably forms part of a coalition with the Centre-Right "Liberal" party in government but tends in general to be farther Right. There are however many global-warming skeptics in the Liberal party too

Before we go north of the Tweed, however, let's duck down to Canberra where at the historic Hyatt Hotel, the Nationals yesterday wound up their peak federal council meeting.

And very successful it was too. In the words of the party's federal director Brad Henderson, in his report to conference: "A new treatment of our logo, new website, in our annual report and with a new visual identity our contemporary new look tells Australians that we are changing."

What that "changing" meant became clear as the weekend progressed. In danger of dying a demographic death the Nationals have decided to rededicate themselves to their base.

Again in Henderson's words: "The nub of the changes that we are making is about more assertively advocating the interests of regional Australia."

The trouble is that in doing so they will henceforth not only be seeking to differentiate themselves from Labor but from the Liberals and Turnbull too.

Henderson in his report was clear about this. This new course, he said, "will require protection from bad or clumsy policy because regional Australia has the most to lose from policies like Labor's emissions trading scheme."

The possessive noun "Labor's" as applied to the emissions trading scheme is cursory, of course. What the Nationals really mean is that they are opposed to any ETS: a position the Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce made clear yesterday morning when interviewed on the Nine Network.

Asked by Laurie Oakes whether the Nationals at the conference had decided they wouldn't vote for an emissions trading system under any circumstances, Joyce replied: "That is correct."

Translated, that is a one-finger salute to Turnbull. In other words, no matter what amendments or concessions he manages to negotiate with the Rudd government before the ETS comes back before the Senate in November, the Nationals won't be having a bar of it.

And what's more, said Joyce, making policy not so much on the run as at a gallop, if the Coalition does win government at the next election they'll be dismantling whatever ETS is in place anyway.


Violence censored by NSW police to give the public a false sense of security

This is reprehensible. People need all the information they can get in order to keep themselves as safe as possible. And the Leftist government is both behind it and lying about it

POLICE are censoring images of violent crimes to make the public feel safe on the streets. Police spin doctors have issued a blanket ban on releasing photos of criminals carrying weapons during attacks. Officers are also trained to play down violent incidents and public alerts are delayed by hours or days.

Experts said the first hours after a crime could be vital and the tight control of information meant some incidents were never solved.

Publican Peter Nellies, who had a gun repeatedly pointed at his head while his staff were held hostage for two terrifying hours, is angry about the cloak of silence police have thrown around the raid on his pub, the Bradbury Inn in Sydney's southwest. It took 11 hours before a bulletin was issued, giving the criminals a long head start before the public were alerted. Even then, despite the extreme violence, it was described as an "incident" in which people were "detained".

The changes came about last year when police radios were encrypted to keep details of raids secret and the media unit assumed total control of all information released to the public. Since then, carjackings have been described as "concerns for welfare", a violent robbery and shooting at Wentworthville was played down and the Lin family murder was kept secret for five hours before it was released as a "domestic related" incident.

The last time the media unit released images of a victim being terrorised with a weapon was in February 2005. The photograph of a commuter with a gun to his head in a daytime mugging at Harris Park train station appeared on the front page of The Daily Telegraph. Since then The Daily Telegraph has obtained similar frightening images taken during a Parramatta jewellery shop heist and a pub robbery at St Leonards but now even victims are being discouraged from releasing security camera vision. Police media advisers have admitted they would never release such photos due to a "protocol" that prevents the release of images showing the commission of a crime.

Former police officer Tim Priest said: "I have been complaining about the police media unit for years. Basically what it is is censorship. "It is not letting the public know there are dangerous offenders running around doing these sorts of things."

University of Western Sydney Bachelor of Policing degree co-ordinator Dr Mike Kennedy said the media unit was an extension of government. "They are more interested in doing the bidding of the Government," Dr Kennedy said.

A spokesman for Police Minister Tony Kelly denied there was a policy to censor or sanitise images or information about serious crimes.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

"Mystery" upsurge of gang violence on Melbourne streets

That Melbourne has in recent years acquired a large population of Muslim and African "refugees" wouldn't have anything to do with it, would it? That is an unthinkable thought in super-"correct" Victoria. And the judiciary are no help. They "compassionately" give slap-on-the-wrist sentences on the rare occasions when such offenders are caught

POLICE are under orders to patrol Melbourne's streets in groups of at least three because gangs of thugs have made it too dangerous for them to work in pairs. Melbourne police division chief Supt Stephen Leane said police were no longer patrolling in pairs because of the dangers posed by groups of young thugs, often called together by mobile phone, who confronted officers.

The revelation came as new figures revealed almost a third of assaults in Melbourne's CBD were carried out by two or more assailants. Experts said there was a growing culture of pack violence. Twelve out of 15 high-profile cases in the past three years, which resulted in a death or a serious injury, allegedly were carried out by groups that outnumbered victims - in some cases by 10 to one.

The dangerous trend has baffled police and criminologists, who cannot explain why young people are increasingly prepared to viciously attack hopelessly outnumbered victims. "It's called swarming," Supt Leane said. Supt Leane said: "It's not just a matter of being punched in the nose. Their mates are joining in and you're getting punched on the nose and getting kicked to the ground. "You're ending up in a fight with more than one person. It continues when you're on the ground."

Supt Leane said police now patrolled Melbourne's streets at night in groups of at least three because of the potential threat posed by groups of people acting aggressively. "You won't see two police by themselves. The minimum you'll see is three," he said. "The days of being able to put two police out on foot patrol have unfortunately passed us by for the moment. We'll stop someone for a chat on the footpath and someone else who's not involved in the discussion is texting and the next thing there's a group of people there." Supt Leane said police in Melbourne hoped to one day to go back to paired foot patrols.

A snapshot of assaults in the Melbourne division from July to September 2008 showed 30 per cent of all assaults were carried out by more than one offender. Deakin University criminologist Dr Ian Warren said CCTV surveillance was highlighting group violence more and more. However, a lack of research meant it was not known why people were engaging in violent swarming behaviour. Dr Warren said people could be less inhibited in their behaviour if they were within a group. "When you're part of a group you're more anonymous; it can make you more willing," he said.

Dr Warren said there appeared to be a change developing where people were prepared to use extreme violence. "If there is a change in the way our society does group violence it's possibly a trend . . . when the intention is to pulverise or really cause real damage. "The brutality of some of this stuff is really worrying." Dr Warren said more research was needed to determine why people were attacking in packs and why they were using such extreme levels of violence.


Sliming our past - as we repeat it

Better to let endangered black kids die? That seems to be what the Leftists want in their hatred of white society and their addled dreams about "noble savages" etc.

By Andrew Bolt

Kevin Rudd said sorry - and “never again”:
We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country… To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry....

We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians. A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.

We must “never, never” again take Aboriginal children from their parents? Then explain today’s news:
WELFARE workers have swooped on the opal mining town of Lightning Ridge in northwest NSW, removing more than 40 Aboriginal children from decrepit homes in shanty towns. Those removed included a four-day-old baby who had barely learned to suckle when taken from his mother’s breast, while she was still in the local hospital, recovering from giving birth.

Aboriginal women, stunned by the removals, say it amounts to a ”modern-day Stolen Generation”, but the most recent statistics on child removals show Aboriginal children are being taken from their parents in numbers much greater than the Stolen Generations… Nationwide, Aboriginal children comprise just 4.4 per cent of all children, and yet make up 24 per cent of all children in care.

The choice is this. Either we are still imposing the racist policies Rudd condemned only last year, or we’re just rescuing even more of the children who truly did need rescuing by the officials Rudd so recklessly accused last year of “injustice”.

I’d say this simply confims there was no “stolen generations”. After all, no one can name even 10 of the up to 100,000 children we allegedly stole to - as Professor Robert Manne put it - ”help keep White Australia pure” in what to Aborigines was a “Holocaust”. Not 10.

SOURCE (See the original for links)

Dumb teachers mean dumb students in Australia

Lack of discipline in the classroom has made teaching an unattractive occupation in Australia so finding capable teachers in maths and science is often impossible. Many teachers dragooned into teaching Maths and science have virtually no background in it.

AUSTRALIAN primary school students are worse at maths and science than pupils in Latvia, Kazakhstan and Lithuania, new figures show. An exclusive analysis of the Trends in International Maths and Science Study rates Australia behind at least 14 of 36 countries.

The report comes as the State Government announced $46 million to hire 200 specialist maths and science coaches to improve teachers' skills and students' results.

Almost one in 10 year 4 students in Australia are failing maths, compared with 3 per cent of Latvian students, 5 per cent of Kazakhstan students and 6 per cent of Lithuanian students. Seven per cent of Australian year 4 students have no basic science skills, while Lithuania and Kazakhstan both had a 5 per cent failure rate and Latvia 2 per cent. The US and England also had less students failing maths and science.

A quarter of Australian primary school teachers do not use a standard maths text book when teaching, while 98 per cent of teachers in high-performing Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong stuck to a rigid curriculum.

Education consultant and maths teacher Russell Boyle said governments failed to attract enough qualified maths and science teachers. "It just does not make sense, something has to change," he said. Australian Education Union state president Mary Bluett said students were missing out because of a "chronic" shortage of maths and science teachers.

Education Minister Bronwyn Pike said as well as the 200 specialist coaches there would be $7.6 million to encourage high-performing maths and science graduates to become teachers.


Brisbane phone directory reveals Asian migration trend

Australia's population is now about 10% East Asian and the Han Chinese in particular fit in well with the rest of Australia at all levels and make a positive contribution to society. If the most common surnames were "Mohammed", "Hussein" and "Ali", however, we would have a problem, as the Brits now well know

WHEN it comes to Brisbane's most popular surnames, the Lees are catching up with the Joneses. And in at least four Brisbane suburbs, seven of the 10 most common surnames are Asian, according to the latest White Pages. While Smith, Jones and Brown remain the most popular names in the listings, Lee has claimed seventh place in the overall 10 most common surnames in Queensland's capital city.

In suburbs such as Sunnybank, Archerfield, Mount Gravatt and Annerley, Lee and Chen are catching up to Smith, taking the number two and three spots. Seven in every 10 names are non-Anglo in the diverse southern suburbs. Williams, at No.4, is followed by Wang, Wong, Huang, Lin, Liu and Taylor.

Sunnybank resident Hsin-Yi Chen, 25, and her mother Li-Yun Lee, 51, said having two of the most popular surnames in the one family was unexpected. "Chen is a very, very popular surname in China, and Lee is pretty common too, but I never expected them to be as popular in Australia," Ms Chen said. She attributed the popularity of the names to immigration and an increase in overseas students.

There are 5000 Smiths in the Brisbane area, twice as many as the second most popular name in the 2009/10 White Pages, Jones. And you could be forgiven for thinking Joshua Smith, from Chapel Hill, has something of an identity crisis - he knows of four other Joshua Smiths. "It has always been quite popular, even reading down the school roll there were a heaps of Smiths," he said.

Brisbane's west is another area where changing demographics have caused new names to slip into the list. Since 2005, the Vietnamese surname Nguyen has dropped from fourth to eighth place but Lee has moved up from sixth to third place.

Suburbs such as Chermside, Kedron, Deagon and Strathpine in the north are less multi-cultural, dominated by the Smith and Jones duo, which occupy the top two positions. Williams, Brown and Wilson are also popular names for those on the north side of the river.


Saturday, August 22, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG thinks that the Federal government is too trusting towards China

Another ambulance bungle -- man dies

The widow of a Queensland man said his last act was to trust the ambulance service that ultimately bungled the response to his fatal heart attack. Karen Howlett has recalled how her husband Peter, 44, urged her to call an ambulance when he began to feel the effects of a heart attack in his Mackay home. But a series of communication miscues in the Queensland Ambulance Service were highlighted after Mr Howlett died in front of his three young children before an ambulance arrived.

The ambulance – leaving from a station about 15 minutes' drive away – got lost and arrived almost one hour after the initial Triple 0 call. "He was the one who asked me to call an ambulance. He had faith they would come in time," Mrs Howlett said. "But they didn't and a good man lost his life."

Mr Howlett's death in April 2006 remains the subject of a coronial inquest which has heard QAS admissions that it made several errors in responding to the callout. These include the incorrect prioritising of the call which, the inquest heard, was among factors that led to paramedics making a cup of tea before they headed out.

The incident has been one of many researched by The Courier-Mail as part of a special investigation into the QAS since its 2007 overhaul. The series, from Monday, will look at the QAS's dispatch process, spending and workplace culture.

Mr Howlett's emergency occurred at 7.22am on April 21, 2006, in clear weather at Farleigh, an historic community just off the Bruce Hwy northwest of Mackay. The street and address of the family home, built in the 1980s, were clearly marked. Mrs Howlett called Triple 0 three times while her husband's condition worsened. After her second call, she received a call from the ambulance seeking directions and had to go outside with the phone. "I couldn't hear because Peter was screaming in pain," she said.

Mrs Howlett returned to the room to find her husband "turning purple" and then gave him CPR. "He had his children – who were 8, 6, and 2 at the time – watching this. It was very, very traumatic," Mrs Howlett said.

Mrs Howlett doesn't blame the paramedic, who was new to the area and worked frantically on her husband, or his assistant on her first day on the job. But she has lost confidence in QAS management. "I could never rely on an ambulance again. I would put my family in the car and drive," she said. "It's a shame really. I think about that every day."

Mrs Howlett was angry a tape of the call revealed an ambulance dispatcher felt she was a "stroppy little thing".

The inquest has heard that the call was not given the highest emergency code because of a misunderstanding at the QAS communications centre.

After her husband's death, Mrs Howlett expected an apology and explanation from QAS managers. There was nothing but silence until her brother-in-law complained and a general apology was made. "It seemed all hush-hush to me. My feeling was if we hadn't initiated contact, I don't know that we would have heard anything. They did an investigation but I wasn't asked anything," Mrs Howlett said. "My husband died a very painful death without any medical assistance. I would have appreciated some feedback."

QAS medical director Dr Stephen Rashford told the inquest that mistakes were made and that "this was not a good case for us". The ambulance lacked a backup GPS that could have assisted the paramedic, who had only worked in Mackay for two months.


Another Greenie scare evaporates

Would you believe the evils of dredging a deeper shipping channel into Melbourne?

THEY just won't give up. "Time will tell," moaned a Blue Wedges Coalition spokesman this week. Sure, Port Phillip Bay isn't rotten with the mutant fish the eco-alarmists predicted. Sure, swimmers don't emerge from the waters glowing fiendishly from the "radioactive" waste that Green Wedges was sure would come, making "a trip to the beach a risky outing". Eels aren't flopping weakly on the beaches, poisoned to their gasping gills by "high levels of toxins" or "toxic algae blooms". Nor do the seas roaring through the unplugged Heads now cause "flooding in low-lying areas" or lap the steps of Parliament House.

But think Blue Wedges activists, who cost us millions through their scares, could finally admit they were wrong? Could they admit that the dredging of the bay's shipping lanes, now finished at last, has not caused the devastation they so wildly predicted, with the uncritical support of The Age? Not a bit of it. Being green means never having to say you're sorry -- sorry for being a reckless scaremonger whose two court actions and endless claims of doom helped cost taxpayers another $120 million in legal costs and extra green-proofing of a project that's so vital for the state's trade, now that container ships are much bigger.

Instead, as the giant Queen of the Netherlands dredger departs this week, a good job finished, there was Blue Wedges yet again, warning of monsters. "Time will tell," its spokesman said. Already, he claimed, we'd "lost a generation of anchovies". Indeed, on the Blue Wedges website remains its warning from April: that with these anchovies gone, the penguin colony at Phillip Island could "crash" in autumn.

Well, autumn has gone, but the penguins haven't, which suggests the fishiest thing about Blue Wedges' latest scare isn't the anchovies. Sure enough, the Office of the Environmental Monitor says this claim of "missing" anchovies seems based on no more than a sampling error. Ho hum.

You may say, let it go. Blue Wedges has lost, the rest of the state has won. We have our deeper shipping lanes, and leave the activists to think they at least ensured no fish need fear for it's future. But no. How many scares have we now seen not come to pass? Count 'em -- the scares about nuclear winter, acid rain, giant famines, DDT, the Y2K bug, SARS, avian flu and this swine flu that Australia's chief medical officer warned could kill 20,000 of us this season alone. Now we're told that if we don't turn off the lights we face a warming hell few humans can hope to survive. Seriously.

Enough with the panic merchants. Hold them to account before they slip free to fight another alarmist cause. Blue Wedges was wrong, and was always going to be wrong. The Age was wrong, and was always going to be wrong. Scraping a deeper trench in a giant bay was never going to end all marine life as we know it.

Not that The Age will admit it. For instance, it still hasn't informed readers that its claim that the dredging had caused dead fish to wash up at Newport was false. Just as it won't admit the planet it keeps claiming is warming has spent the past eight years cooling. "Time will tell," comes that moan again. Actually, buster, time has told. And it's told against you.


Legal revolution? Client confidentiality to be abolished?

JOHN Corcoran is not exactly having kittens, but he is deeply concerned about the latest bright idea being considered by the federal government: "Dob in your clients." What worries the Law Council president is that this could become a legal obligation for all lawyers under the next tranche of the government's anti-money laundering legislation.

Blowing the whistle on clients who are suspected of engaging in dodgy financial transactions might be perfectly reasonable in other professions. But it could backfire terribly if applied to lawyers. If lawyers live up to their professional ethics -- and most do -- public policy is best served by encouraging crooks to be as frank as possible when they seek legal advice about proposed financial transactions.

The basic responsibility of all lawyers is to keep their clients within the letter of the law -- even when the client expresses a clear desire to do otherwise. But how open would some clients be with their lawyers if they knew that as soon as they left the room, their lawyer would be on the phone to the authorities discharging a legal obligation to disclose anything suspicious? That is all we are talking about -- mere suspicion.

Exempting lawyers from this sort of obligation would not amount to punching a loophole in the anti-money laundering regime. It could actually strengthen the net by relying on good lawyers to steer bad clients away from anything improper.

Bringing lawyers within this regime is a step that should be resisted. It would effectively mean that the legal profession had become an arm of the state -- and for no real benefit.

Money laundering would continue, and quite possibly increase, because shady clients would no longer have pesky lawyers urging them to reconsider. But while the majority of the profession can be relied upon to act ethically, what about the rotten apples?

Why not rely on the existing, highly intrusive powers of the law societies and legal services commissioners? And if those powers are considered inadequate, why not crank them up?


Phones sales are a big risk

A report from the boiler room

I WAS shocked at the number of people who signed up for the life insurance policy I was selling over the phone. Even more worrying was the number of naive people willing to hand over their credit card and bank details to a stranger. If only they could have seen the call centre from my point of view …

After a woeful few days on the selling side of things my team leader pulled me over to give me a few tips.

"Don't mention the word 'insurance'," he said. "It puts people off. Just call it a 'comprehensive policy' - it's far less intimidating."

He also taught me how to craftily manipulate my language so that it sounded as if I was calling from one of Australia's major banks. This was designed to give customers a false sense of security - that they would be able to trace the salesman if anything went wrong. A laughable thought if you could see the employment turnover in the call centre.

The more I found out about the call centre from my colleagues the more depressed I became. For example: "You know if someone takes out accidental death insurance there is this little box they have to tick saying they understand that the policy doesn't cover them if drugs or alcohol are involved in the death. Everybody thinks that this is fine, but what they don't realise is that if they're run down by a drink driver, then alcohol is involved. Their death isn't covered. We're not allowed to mention that part of course."

Finally I was forced to listen to an "exemplary" call to improve my selling skills. Poor Mrs Chan on the other end of the phone didn't speak much English and was desperately trying to end the call without sounding rude. The salesman was more than happy to exploit her weaknesses.

"If you give over your bank details, all the information will be sent to you," the salesman said for the 10th time in his softest, most dangerous voice. This is, of course, entirely untrue. If she gives over her bank details the salesman will sign her up to the policy immediately and $50 will be debited from her account monthly until she notices this and ends the policy.

After 15 minutes Mrs Chan gives over her details in the belief that more information will be sent to her. The salesman gleefully signs her up. I still wonder how long she waited at home for the information to arrive before she realised she was already losing money.

To the naive people out there who continue to buy over the phone: don't. You never know who you're handing your details to or what you're really getting.


Friday, August 21, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG excoriates the NSW government for the parlous state of its public hospitals

A Not So Capital Idea

By Dr Stephen Kirchner

It only took until 2pm last Saturday for the Treasurer to pour cold water on a report in the Weekend Australian that the Henry tax review was modeling a capital gains tax (CGT) on family homes worth more than $2 million. The proposal was portrayed in the media as good economics but bad politics.

Journalist David Uren commented that ‘the tax treatment of savings is a dog’s breakfast … savings are taxed on an entirely different basis, depending on whether it is money in the bank, superannuation, shares, trusts, investment property or the family home.’ In this context, the principal residence exemption from CGT is seen by some as distortionary. But another way of looking at it is to ask why we persist in taxing other forms of saving. The Henry review has identified Australia’s relatively high tax burden on capital as a priority for reform. Alleviating the tax burden on other forms of saving would be a better approach to reducing any distortions arising from principal residence exemption.

The 1999 Ralph reforms discounted by 50% the CGT payable by individuals and funds, a measure also widely criticised as distortionary. Yet CGT payable by individuals increased by 317% from 1999–2000 and 2006–07, compared to only a 146% increase in CGT payable by companies, which are not eligible for the 50% discount. Realisations rose 302% for individuals compared to 193% for companies over the same period. The Ralph reforms demonstrate that easing existing taxes on saving is potentially revenue positive.

The principal residence exemption is often said to lead to over-investment in housing, but this argument is looking increasingly threadbare against the backdrop of a chronic national housing shortage. This shortage is not just a cyclical issue but reflects what RBA Governor Glenn Stevens has called ‘serious supply-side impediments to producing … affordable shelter.’ While portrayed as a ‘wealth tax,’ it is worth recalling that 42 Sydney suburbs had a median house price in excess of $1 million prior to the onset of the financial crisis. In the absence of indexation, even a ‘wealth tax’ would capture a growing share of the housing stock.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated August 21st. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590. Telephone ph: +61 2 9438 4377 or fax: +61 2 9439 7310

Not all cultures are good

Australia is multiracial but it should not be multicultural, contends Barry Cohen

"WHEN I hear the word culture, I reach for my pistol." Whether Hermann Goering or someone else spoke those words is immaterial; the sentiment is clear. I feel the same when I hear the word multicultural. By now the language police will have concluded that I am a rabid racist not fit to mix in polite society. It is the standard epithet hurled at those who question multiculturalism. How has it come to this?

I became involved in politics almost 50 years ago with the prime motivation of fighting racism. However, I am aghast at the way multicultural advocates have taken control of the race debate by denouncing as racist anyone who disagrees with their view of the future of Australian society. At this point it may be apposite if I detail my family's ethnic mix. It includes Polish and Lithuanian Jews via South Africa, Celts from Scotland and Ireland, a handful of Thais and the very best British bloodstock.

Born in Griffith in 1935, by the time I was five World War II was well under way. At the time Australia was 97.5 per cent Anglo-Celtic and Christian. Those sectarian differences that did exist then were between Catholics and Protestants, many of whom were not far removed from the battles for Irish independence. As a small Jewish boy I wasn't a threat; more of an oddity, really.

I first experienced anti-Semitism when sent to a Sydney boarding school to study for my bar mitzvah. On my first day at school I was involved in three fights with boys who had greeted me with the welcoming words, "You dirty f..king Jew." Hence my lifetime commitment to fight prejudice. Sure, there were further incidents, often at the most unexpected times, but I remain convinced that Australia is one of the least racist countries.

It is not in the least surprising nonetheless that when Australia, under Ben Chifley, abandoned its practice of only seeking migrants from Britain, and turned to Europe there was some apprehension about how it would work. It was, as we know, a great success. First came the Italians, Poles, Germans, Balts, Dutch and others, followed by those from wherever there was suffering. Millions sought safe haven from wars, oppression, famine or poverty. They came to a country that offered the freedoms they had been denied, provided them with the opportunity to earn a decent living and enabled them to rear a family free from the threat of violence.

Each new wave of migrants followed the same pattern. Arriving with little, they gravitated to areas with cheap accommodation among people who spoke the same language, ate the same food, worshipped at the same church and were familiar with the same culture. Older Australians had doubts about these cultural "ghettoes" but in time they not only got used to them but grew to cherish them. Eventually there was hardly a nationality, religion, race or creed that didn't have its own cultural identity and community in Australia. With a few exceptions the integration was seamless and tensions were rare. Adult immigrants found it hardest to assimilate into the local community. Differences became less obvious with each passing generation. Each group made their contribution towards a new, constantly changing Australian culture.

So why, I hear you ask, do I bridle at the word multiculturalism? We are a multiracial society and a harmonious one. What I object to is the idea promoted by the multicultural lobby that not only should we be a society of a hundred cultures but it is the government's duty, nay obligation, to see that we remain permanently culturally divided. If some groups wish to remain separate from mainstream Australia, then that is their choice, but they should not expect governments to aid and abet those divisions.

Governments have a responsibility to assist new arrivals to settle in by helping them to find work, learn English, obtain housing and, if necessary, provide welfare. They should not help create the society from whence they escaped. In return, migrants have a responsibility to learn about Australia's history and culture, including indigenous Australia and those of Anglo-Celtic origin, which was the dominant culture for 150 years.

Strangely, it is the Anglo-Celtic culture that is continually denigrated. No culture is perfect but few can match the British tradition of equality before the law, respect for minority views, freedom of speech and association, political and civil rights and above all, democracy. The word that best fits that heritage is "tolerance". Oddly, those most critical of that culture often come from the most oppressive and repulsive regimes, those ruled by feudal monarchies, military and theocratic dictatorships and one-party states.

The idea that all cultures are equally good is arrant nonsense. A glance at Freedom House's annual rankings of freedom will attest to that. Australia ranks among the very best.

To those who believe it is the government's responsibility to re-create the culture from whence they have escaped, I suggest they consider other options. Ours is a multiracial and tolerant society, and our culture should be a gradually evolving one, free from government interference and guidance. Let it remain so.


Some Greenie face-saving

SOME new conditions are being placed on coal-power generators in Queensland which, on the face of it, sound like positive news for the environment.

Announced just minutes ago (from when I started typing!) as part of Queensland’s just-released climate change strategy, the Government has announced it will not allow any new dirty coal-fired power stations to be built in the state.

But there’s a get-out clause - and it’s quite a big one. Hang on - let’s put that another way. It’s HUGE, because some coal-fired power will be allowed.

While generators will have to use “world’s best practice low emission technology” they will also have to show their new power station will be ready to retrofit Carbon Capture and Storage technology - a technology still unproven. What’s more, they’ll have to fit the aforementioned unproven technology within five years of it being proven on a commercial scale.

I’d like to meet the person who has to check that the power plant is ready for something which doesn’t yet exist.

Similarly loose-fitting restrictions have been placed on new coal-fire plants in England, where the Government says it doesn’t expect carbon capture to be demonstrated commercially for at least another decade.


The parsnip war

Mr Burke may be an attractive onscreen personality (though I believe he is much less attractive offscreen) but he has bitten off more that he can chew over this one. If you just boil the hell out of parsnips in the traditional Australian way, they are certainly not much. But in the hands of a good cook they can be quite reasonable eating. It seems that the problem traces to his mother's cooking and, having myself been subjected during my childhood to traditional Australian/British cooking, I think I know where he is coming from

Gardening Don Burke and master chef Donna Hay have gone to war - over the humble parsnip. Mr Burke fired the first shot last week when he used his radio program to slam Ms Hay and the The Sunday Telegraph for publishing parsnip recipes in the Sunday Magazine. Mr Burke described Ms Hay as "wretched" for serving parsnips to people as they were not fit for pigs.

"I'm outraged, I'm angry, I'm upset, I'm crushed. I'm all of those things and a lot more," he said on air. "If you get that appalling newspaper today, The Sunday Telegraph, and get out Sunday Magazine ... that wretched Donna Hay has got two pages of parsnip recipes. "I respect pigs, I like pigs, but I wouldn't give my pet pig parsnips."

But Mr Burke may have bitten off more than he can chew, with Ms Hay and the parsnip industry rising up to defend this worthy vegetable. Vegetable growers' association AUSVEG said Mr Burke's comments were misguided. "Don Burke is entitled to his view, but his expertise is probably more in the area of plants than vegetables," AUSVEG spokesman Hugh Tobin said.

Parsnip grower Angelo Lamattina, 33, said Mr Burke's comments were "un-Australian". "Where does he get off?" he said. "Here's some bloke who had some TV show and reckons he can come out and bag our work. "It takes six months to harvest a perfect parsnip and Don Burke should take the challenge to come to the farm and see if he's up to it."

Mr Burke stood by his comments last week, but revealed the root cause of his parsnip problem was his mother's cooking, describing her baked parsnips as "hideous". But he insists serving parsnips is an "affront to human dignity".

It's not the first time Mr Burke has had a run-in with parsnip fans. The Burke's Backyard website features an apology and recipes from several years ago after he made "disparaging comments about the vegetable".

The gardener suggested parents who made their children eat parsnips deserved to be shot. "I had people who loved parsnips writing me letters and putting in angry calls," Mr Burke said. "Some challenged me to come to their farms so I accepted I was beaten and we put that on the website."

Mr Burke said he rates Ms Hay as one of world's top chefs. "But I condemn all people who like parsnips and challenge Donna to present them to me in a way that's appealing," he said.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bureaucracy at work

This is what Leftists want to lumber us with more and more of: A total lack of normal human feeling and decency. Mindless following of rules, no matter how inappropriate, is the essence of bureaucracy. It's inbuilt

A GRIEVING mother has been sent a bill for the cost of a guardrail damaged during the car crash which killed her daughter. The State Government yesterday apologised for the letter, sent only weeks after 26-year-old Krista Flett died on the Pacific Motorway at Worongary on June 13.

Her grieving mother yesterday told The Courier-Mail bureaucrats needed to think before putting pen to paper. Wendy Flett, of Mudgeeraba, said the family was "flabbergasted" when they received a Main Roads Department letter demanding payment for the damaged guardrail – which ended with a "sorry" for their loss.

The letter, which was signed on behalf of Main Roads South Coast regional director Andrew Cramp, said a bill would be sent to the family because Krista was deemed at fault for the accident. "Roadside property such as guardrails, traffic lights and landscaping are maintained by Main Roads with taxpayers' funds for the benefit of the whole community," the letter read. "By law, this department is required to recover the costs of damage from the responsible driver and this letter is to advise you about that process. "Main Roads has assessed the most economical way of repairing the damage and will invoice the estate of Ms Flett for those costs when finalised. "I am sorry for your loss and understand that this situation may be difficult for Ms Flett's family."

Two days later, the department sent the Fletts another letter saying it had decided "not to proceed with cost recovery".

Yesterday Main Roads Minister Craig Wallace apologised to the family, saying the letter was "inappropriate" and should never have been sent. "This should not have happened, and I apologise for the distress this undoubtedly caused the family," Mr Wallace said. "As soon as my director-general became aware of the letter he immediately arranged for a further letter to be sent to the family indicating that they should disregard this previous correspondence. "He has also made several attempts to contact the family to apologise personally but has not been able to make contact at this stage."

Mrs Flett said that while she accepted the apology, she was not prepared to let the matter be "swept under the carpet". "I never want this to happen to anyone else," she said. "It's unpleasant. "It brings back the whole horror of the night that happened. "You just have to relive it all again."

Mrs Flett said that while she had heard of the department's "cost recovery" policy, the letter was a shock. "I was angry when I read it . . . it shouldn't have happened," she said. "Everyone's just been flabbergasted and said 'how can they do that?' Well, that's what they do. "That's how all bureaucratic processes are handled – they step outside the bounds of human procedure. They follow procedure, type the letter and send the letter. "It's not moral and it needs to be reviewed."

Mr Wallace said a review of the department's policy to seek payment for the cost of damaged road infrastructure in some circumstances had been initiated by director-general Dave Stewart. He said Mr Stewart had sent letters to the department's regional directors, telling them to use "common sense" in their discretionary decisions.


Literacy tests key to improving student skills

STUDENTS' reading and writing skills improve more quickly if teachers use their literacy test results to adjust teaching methods, new research shows. But not enough teachers are learning to interpret the results effectively.

New Zealand researcher Professor Helen Timperley yesterday presented the findings of a study of 300 schools at the Australian Council for Educational Research conference in Perth. Students involved in the program learned reading and writing skills at twice the rate of the national average.

"Previously, the education system has assumed that if teachers had this information they automatically would be able to use it to enhance student learning, but this is not the case," Professor Timperley, of the University of Auckland, said.

"Teachers need detailed information about what students know and can do, but they also need to know how to use the information to change teaching practice.

"And school leaders need to know how to lead the kinds of change in thinking and practice that are required for teachers to use the data."

Also at the conference, ACER research director Margaret Forster told delegates that standardised test results should be used to test the limits of students' knowledge and challenge them.

"Research shows that effective teachers recognise that learning is most likely to occur when a student is challenged just beyond their current level of attainment," she said.

"Effective teachers understand, therefore, the importance of first determining students' current levels of attainment rather than working from what we expect them to know and understand given their age or year level."

Nationally, the Principals as Literacy Leaders project is this year encouraging school leaders to be more involved in lifting standards in their schools.


Quack psychotherapy kills

"Encounter groups" and the like once had a certain vogue in mainstream psychology but it became apparent that they often did more harm than good to vulnerable people and they therefore largely fell out of mainstream use. The quacks, however, seem to have reinvented and worsened the procedures.

Last I heard, NSW had psychologist registration laws requiring 6 years of accredited training in some form. I would have thought that the quacks below were in breach of that and could be prosecuted

JOHN Marshall had a sense of deja vu when he heard that Rebekah Lawrence had jumped naked to her death just days after completing a self-help course. Eighteen years earlier, Mr Marshall's stepson died during a self-help program run by the creator of Ms Lawrence's course. "When I first heard about it in the news, I thought, my God," Mr Marshall told The Australian yesterday. "They're identical. They've just changed the dates and the names."

Darren Hughes was 24 when, in 1987, he fell to his death from a 12m-high window during the Breakthrough residential self-help program. In 2005, Lawrence jumped naked to her death from her office window, just two days after completing The Turning Point course. Hughes's course was run by the Walter Bellin Partnership until 1988. Mr Bellin also created The Turning Point course.

The inquest into Lawrence's death heard last week from Geoffrey Kabealo, the chief executive of People Knowhow, the company behind The Turning Point and Breakthrough courses since 1988. Mr Kabealo said last week that "some 40,000 people have come through the (Turning Point) course and we haven't had any episodes like Rebekah Lawrence". Mr Kabealo has since denied any knowledge of Hughes's death.

Mr Marshall, a sergeant with Sydney Water Police, said organisers of the course were aware of his stepson's mental problems. Hughes had been in a psychiatric hospital, had had electric shock therapy and was recovering from drug addiction. Mr Marshall warned one of the organisers that his stepson should not be doing the $1500 course because of his mental health history. "It's all right," the organiser told him. "He's on a higher plane now." The woman he spoke to was a volunteer who had taken the course herself but who did not have any professional training.

The inquest into Lawrence's death heard a similar story about the volunteers' training. The 34-year-old called two members of her "service team" the night before she died. The first team member told the inquest he had not expected to receive calls in the middle of the night. The other told Lawrence she was not qualified to answer her questions. Neither had any formal training or qualifications in counselling or psychology.

Mr Marshall said his stepson, a welder and boilermaker, was on medication and "seemed to be getting himself back on track" before starting the Breakthrough course. It was on the fourth day of the program that Hughes fell 2 1/2 storeys at a guest house in Robertson, in the NSW southern highlands. A policeman told Mr Marshall the group had reacted to Hughes's death "as if nothing had happened".

Mr Marshall said the organisers "took participants' watches away and any personal effects, like photos, that gave them a link to their identities". "The idea was to disorientate them and reprogram them," he said. Hughes's parents describe the course when it was run by the Walter Bellin Partnership as "brainwashing" and "a cult". The inquest into Hughes's death recorded an open verdict, but his mother, Dorothy Marshall, believes the course was to blame. She said she was horrified to discover "that the same people could do it again". "They take innocent young people that trust them and they destroy them mentally," she said.

Mr Marshall hopes the inquest into Lawrence's death will ensure courses use qualified practitioners and are properly regulated. "Otherwise it will happen again," he said.


Update: There is now a report of a third death allegedly caused by this quackery

Federal Government cracks down on weight-loss industry

This falls under the heading of fraud prevention so has my hearty endorsement. My only question is whether ANY non-surgical weight loss claim will stand up to full scientific scrutiny of its long-term effectiveness

WEIGHT-LOSS programs and products will have to prove they can help people keep off the kilos long-term as the Federal Government cracks down on the $414-million-a-year industry. The Rudd Government's Preventative Health Taskforce is understood to have called for the weight-loss industry to be regulated in a report handed down last month.

It follows growing evidence that diets may actually be adding to the obesity crisis as overweight people lose weight rapidly while following programs but quickly put it back on after they stop.

The taskforce said that young women in particular were spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year on programs to manage their weight. Despite this, the nation's obesity rate was climbing with more than 60 per cent of adults now overweight or obese. While weight-loss programs and pharmacy-based meal replacement programs were popular, the task force said there was limited data to show they were actually effective. It wants a wide-ranging review of diet products and a common code of practice drawn up covering the cost, the training of counsellors and the promotion of the diets.

The Dietitians Association of Australia is backing the recommendation. A spokesman told The Daily Telegraph all commercial diet programs should be assessed by a body of experts similar to the Therapeutic Goods Administration, which assesses drugs for safety and efficacy before they can go on sale. The association said regulation should require businesses marketing a diet program to provide evidence to a panel of experts showing what percentage of those who used the diet kept the weight off two years after starting.

Chief executive Claire Hewat said a good diet would result in weight loss of about half a kilogram per week. "If you can lose 5 per cent of your body weight you are doing really well," she said. "Diets are not the point, it's lifestyle change that is needed."

A Choice survey of pharmacy diet programs published earlier this year found they were successful at helping people shed kilos in a hurry if followed closely - but they did little to change a person's lifestyle in the long term. Many were so nutritionally deficient that dieters had to take vitamin supplements, while some counsellors selling the programs had just three hours training.

A John Hopkins University study of commercial weight-loss programs last year found 27 per cent of people dropped out in the first month. Just 42 per cent were still enrolled at three months and 7 per cent were still following a year on.

The association also wants national exercise guidelines reviewed because the 30 minutes of exercise a day promoted by the Government is good for general wellbeing but not enough to tackle obesity.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Four current articles below:

Federal government plan to cut its healthcare spending hits a rock

If the federal coalition wants to sink Labor's plan to cap Medicare payments for IVF treatment they've got a willing partner, with the Australian Greens declaring they'll vote against the change. The Rudd government wants to cap reimbursement for a range of items under the extended Medicare safety net - including IVF and obstetric services - in order to save $258 million over four years.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon argues Labor is cracking down on excessive fees being charged by specialists, and the changes won't affect patients charged $6,000 or less for IVF treatment.

But the Greens says the extended safety net is itself inflationary and they'll oppose Labor's changes in the Senate. "While the Greens understand the intent of the proposed changes is to reduce the costs to the public purse, we are not convinced that the government's approach will be effective," health spokeswoman Rachel Siewert said in a statement. "(Labor's) legislation is a half-way house - it only addresses part of the problem and will introduce another set of inequities."

Senator Siewert said the extended safety net advantaged those who could afford to pay upfront fees, and encouraged specialists to raise their prices. It was an "inflationary measure", she said. "The government's amendments are simply to use patients to pressure specialists to reduce their fees, which is unfair to the patients, and ultimately likely to prove ineffective in reducing the burden of unnecessary costs on the public purse."

Earlier today, the coalition announced it would join forces with Family First's Steve Fielding and independent senator Nick Xenophon to delay a vote on the changes. It will move an amendment in the Senate to stymie debate until the government tables regulations outlining exactly who'll pay what under the new scheme.

The upper house was expected to debate Labor's legislation this week, but with senators still thrashing out changes to renewable energy targets there's now a possibility it will be deferred until September.


Labor Party's attack on private health insurance set for Senate defeat

THE Federal Government is set to add another potential early election trigger to its arsenal, with the Senate likely to vote down its changes to the private health insurance rebate this week. The Opposition vowed to block the move earlier this year because it breaks a Labor election pledge, and key cross-bench senators Nick Xenophon and Steve Fielding are now indicating they'll also vote against the measure.

On Tuesday, the Senate defeated Labor's draft laws which would have allowed universities to charge students a compulsory $250 services and amenities fee. Last week, the Rudd Government's emissions trading scheme was also voted down in the upper house. If defeated Bills are reintroduced after three months and again voted down the Government can call an early election.

Under Labor's changes to private health insurance, the 30 per cent rebate will be means-tested for individuals earning more than $75,000 a year and couples earning more than $150,000 a year. In a double whammy, the wealthy will also be hit with a higher Medicare levy surcharge if they opt out of private cover.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon says it would be "fiscally irresponsible'' for the Coalition to sink the changes, which are expected to raise $1.9 billion over four years. "I don't think that people think it's appropriate for secretaries and nurses to be funding the private health insurance of millionaires,'' she told ABC Radio on Wednesday. "Why is that a good use of public money.''

But Family First's Steve Fielding says the changes undermine families, because they don't take account of how many children are in the household. "I won't be supporting the Rudd Government's proposal to means-test the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate because it's unfair to families,'' Senator Fielding said in a statement. "Under the Government's proposal, a couple with no children on $149,000 will be eligible for the full rebate, while a family of five with a household income of $150,000 would have their rebate reduced. This makes no sense and undermines the family.'' Senator Fielding said he was happy to negotiate with the Government "but the health minister is yet to get back to me''.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon insists he can't support the move until the findings of a Productivity Commission report are released later this year. "The Government made an explicit election promise not to change the rebate,'' he said today. "That's something that people relied on at the last election. I think it's a question of trust.''

The Australian Greens support means-testing the private health insurance rebate but not the surcharge hike. "The Medicare levy surcharge unfairly penalises people who have chosen not to take out private health insurance and support the public health system,'' health spokeswoman Rachel Siewert said in a statement. "The Government is targeting conscientious objectors.'' Senator Siewert said the Greens would move to split the bills so the Senate could vote on each measure separately.


Another state-of-the-art government hospital

DOCTORS at one of Sydney's oldest hospitals are demanding the State Government urgently rebuild what they claim is ''a slum'', with possum urine on the walls and dangerous cabling snaking across the floors in the operating theatres. More than 40 senior clinicians at Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital have called for a meeting with the Health Minister, John Della Bosca, in a bid to have the hospital renovated before it becomes too unsafe for staff and patients.

Doctors say most of the operating theatres lack emergency arrest buttons, forcing nurses to yell for help; the theatres are too small for modern equipment, which blocks hallways; and wires hang from ceilings and cables run across the floors, putting staff at risk of electrocution. Some ceilings had collapsed from rain damage and possum nests were found near wards.

''It is offensive and medieval,'' the hospital's clinical director of surgery and anaesthetics, Pip Middleton, said yesterday. ''This hospital serves a burgeoning population of young and old with new housing developments everywhere and is on the crossroads of major freeways, yet we have a significant issue with ageing infrastructure.''

Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital admits about 18,000 people a year and has more than 1500 staff, but its physical condition was ''one of the worst in the state'', the chairman of the medical staff council, Richard Harris, said. ''It is really 19th-century stuff. The only thing that keeps this place going is the goodwill and expertise of the staff.''

It was one of the few in NSW without a coronary care unit, despite research 60 years ago that mortality rates from cardiac arrest were halved if patients were treated in a specialist unit rather than a medical ward, Jason Sharp, a cardiologist, said.

The executive clinical director and head of rehabilitation and aged care, Sue Kurrle, said most of the hospital was ''slum-like and primitive with patients living cheek-by-jowl''. ''There is no privacy, there are holes in the floor, possum wee on the walls. Staff have to jostle to look at the one computer on each ward to get blood test and X-ray results. It is simply third-rate.'' The geriatric and rehabilitation wards survived on bequests from former patients, she said. ''We'd be living in a slum like the rest of the hospital if it wasn't for that money.''

A spokeswoman for Mr Della Bosca said staff had been given $1.3 million for maintenance last year and $21 million had gone towards a building to house a new emergency department and maternity ward. The chief executive of the Northern Sydney Central Coast Area Health Service, Matthew Daly, will meet doctors today.


The difference one dedicated doctor can make

There should be such a facility in every capital city. If needed, fire a bureaucrat to pay for it. Strokes are very common and it is a scandal if people are left needlessly disabled by them

BRITISH tourist Jean Pollock would be severely paralysed - if not dead - if she had not had her brain "vacuum cleaned" at Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Instead of a life of disability, she is looking forward to resuming her holiday after Lotto-sized odds allowed her to shrug off a devastating stroke.

Ms Pollock, 53, flew in from Glasgow planning to surprise relatives by turning up unannounced at her sister-in-law's 50th birthday party in Bendigo this weekend. While visiting friends in Lockleys on Wednesday morning she suddenly slumped, her left arm and leg paralysed, her face droopy and her vision affected. A huge blood clot had blocked an artery in the right side of her brain - a stroke.

Serendipity stepped in. Her friends were aware enough to immediately call an ambulance. Being in Lockleys meant she was in the QEH catchment. The ambulance officers were trained to recognise stroke and called ahead to alert the QEH stroke unit. As seconds played out, the stroke team swung into action, knowing time was as tough an enemy as the clot itself.

On arrival at the QEH, Ms Pollock was quickly assessed with tests including CT scans which confirmed a blood clot in her brain, and that she was clinically eligible for the clot-busting drug tPA. The streamlined stroke management team ensured she had the drug within the mandated three-hour time limit from the onset of stroke. But as one of the 40 per cent of patients on whom the drug doesn't have the desired effect, Ms Pollock faced a future of having her left side paralysed from stroke - or even death.

Serendipity, however, meant she had been brought to one of only two hospitals in Australia with the Penumbra Device, the other being Sydney's Royal North Shore Hospital. The QEH has quietly worked to have its stroke unit equipped and trained as an internationally-recognised centre of excellence. Unit head Dr Jim Jannes had seen the Penumbra Device during a conference in Barcelona, and after checking its potential had successfully lobbied to have the $60,000 device installed at the QEH. Since February, two women suffering strokes had been treated by the machine, improving their recovery, although each still faces lengthy rehabilitation.

On Wednesday morning, with the clot-busting drug not working, Ms Pollock was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to allow one more treatment option - the Penumbra Device. Interventional radiologists Steve Chryssidis and Ruben Sebben used the machine to carefully guide a catheter up arteries from Ms Pollock's groin all the way to her brain, while she was conscious. When it reached the clot a probe gently broke up the clot and it was sucked down the tube, clearing the blockage. "There was a big clot blocking her artery and killing her brain - we went in and just vacuumed it out," Dr Chryssidis said.

Dr Jannes said the stroke team weighed up the situation and decided the chance to restore a good quality of life to Ms Pollock outweighed the substantial risks of the procedure. "She went from being paralysed to giving me the thumbs up from the operating table when the procedure was over," Dr Jannes said. "There is nothing more successful than a complete recovery. She would have been left paralysed, possibly dead, if we had not been able to offer her other treatment."

Ms Pollock faces several days of tests but is expected to be released from hospital early this week, fully recovered. "Someone was looking after me - I get goosebumps just thinking about the odds of what might have happened if I had been somewhere else," she said."You have an absolute jewel in the QEH, you should be proud of the work they do."


Students fees set for defeat

For years there was the obnoxious situation where all students were forced to pay fees that were largely spent on far-Left activities. The Labor government has been trying to bring that situation back

A FEDERAL Government plan to slug university students with annual fees of up to $250 is facing certain defeat after Family First senator Steve Fielding and the Nationals flagged they would not support it. An upper house vote on Labor legislation allowing universities to charge students up to $250 a year for sporting, cultural, welfare and advocacy services is expected today.

The draft laws wind back the Howard government's Voluntary Student Unionism (VSU), which eliminated the payment by tertiary students of compulsory service fees. Youth Minister Kate Ellis said it was not a return to compulsory student unionism because the money collected could not be used for political purposes [You wanna bet?]. "It's not a return to the past,'' Ms Ellis said today. "This is a new way forward, it's a balanced approach.''

But the move is destined to fail. The Coalition has united to oppose the bill after a Nationals amendment proposing to have sporting facilities "alone'' covered by the fee was defeated. Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce said the amendment recognised that a university was more than just an academic institution but the government, the cross-bench and even the Liberals disagreed.

"The National party amendments ... are far too narrow,'' Labor frontbench senator Kim Carr said. National Union of Students president David Barrow called on the Nationals to support the bill anyway. "We urge the Senate Nationals to support regional students by supporting this legislation when it comes to the vote,'' he said.


Face-saving deal struck on renewable energy

It is setting a totally unrealistic goal that will not be reached and everyone knows that but it is meant to tell the Greenies that they have been listened to. It will however lead to a lot of useless spending of taxpayer funds on windmills etc. But there has already been a lot of that in Australia and in most of the developed world. Even India seems to have been conned into it

AUSTRALIA is in for a huge boost in renewable energy after the Federal Government and the Opposition agreed to a deal. The deal, agreed today, will see the Government's Bill to have 20 per cent of electricity come from renewable sources by 2020 pass the Senate.

"The Opposition's key concerns have been met by the Government," Opposition climate change spokesman Greg Hunt said in Canberra. "We are delighted that Australia is set to have renewable energy legislation, and the Coalition will support the renewable energy target of 20 per cent for Australia."

Opposition emissions trading spokesman Andrew Robb said there was now "100 per cent bipartisan support" for the Bill. "The position we got to with the Government has had the unanimous support of the Coalition party room, which is a great result," he said.

The Senate is due to continue debating the Renewable Energy Target (RET) bill this afternoon and a vote is expected tomorrow. The Senate last week voted down the proposed emissions trading scheme, which is separate to the RET.


Murder a toddler? No jail if you are a feral

The toddler was Aboriginal. Welfare authorities knew of the case before the killing but probably threw up their hands from the beginning as Aboriginal families are very commmonly severely dysfunctional, with child abuse frequent. And it is absolutely VERBOTEN to take children away from black families. That used to be done sometimes but in recent years the Left set up a huge howl about "The stolen generation" (the black children fostered out to white families) in reference to the practice. The authorities obviously now feel that it is better to let black kids die than risk any more of that abuse

Rachel Pfitzner was ordered to address her anger management problem exactly a year before she murdered her toddler son, The Daily Telegraph reports. A judge handed her a suspended jail term so she could get the help she needed - and look after her children.

Twelve months later her two-year-old son Dean Shillingsworth was dead, his tiny body shoved into a suitcase and tossed in a duck pond. Pfitzner, 27, yesterday pleaded guilty to murder, the Crown rejecting her claim it was an accidental death. She now admits she murdered him - and meant to end his sad, short life.

Pfitzner faced Acting Judge Joseph Moore in October 2006 over a violent attack on Dean's grandfather and the judge had some sympathy for her. She was the mother of three small children with an alcoholic partner, Paul James Shillingsworth who was also prone to rages. Judge Moore made it a condition of her release that she get help - "especially anger management".

Perhaps if she had listened, or indeed the system had worked, Dean would still be alive.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Lawyers who got holocaust denier locked up try to justify their attack on free speech

Freedom of speech should not be freedom to vilify, argue Steven Lewis and Peter Wertheim below -- without offering any evidence that such vilification leads to any physical harm to those vilified. What they offer is just a series of shallow and unsubstantited assertions. Can they name even ONE person who was moved by Mr. Toben's rants to attack a Jew? To show how shallow their argument is, contemplate this: I do my best to vilify the Queensland police, because I believe I have good grounds for doing so. Should I be prevented from doing that? It might also be noted that the lawyers concerned do a fair job of vilifying Mr. Toben. Why is that OK if vilification is of itself such a bad thing? I think that their argument reduces to nothing more than an aways-easy attack on unpopular speech. Wiser heads in the U.S. judiciary have of course ruled that holocaust denial is protected free speech, obnoxious though it may be

In a legal first, Australia's most notorious Holocaust denier, Fredrik Toben, has been jailed for three months following the failure of his appeal this week for contempt of court arising from breaches of Australia's anti-vilification laws.

The sentence follows seven years of Toben repeatedly ignoring court orders requiring him to remove racist material from his Adelaide Institute website.

His journey to prison began in 2002 when the Federal Court found Toben's website breached the racial-hatred provisions of the Racial Discrimination Act.

According to the court, material on the site suggested the Holocaust did not occur, that there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz, that Jewish people who believed in the Holocaust were of limited intelligence and that they have exaggerated the number of Jews killed during World War II to profit from what he described as "a Holocaust myth".

But it's not these claims, no matter how offensive they may be, that have landed Toben with a prison term. There are no criminal sanctions under the act.

Toben is going to jail for contempt of court. He was ordered to remove the offending material and he didn't. He promised to remove the material and then reneged. He apologised to the court but then recanted. True to form, he all but invited the court to lock him up.

Toben referred to judges as "the Jewdiciary" and, again true to form, accused them of bias without a shred of evidence. We all have to obey the law and court orders. There are no special rules and privileges for the Tobens of this world.

While the decision to jail Toben will be welcomed by most fair-minded people, questions will rightly be asked about free speech and turning Toben into a poster-boy for racist fringe groups.

The suggestion that Toben, and others like him, should be able to say whatever they like regardless of how hurtful, inaccurate and ugly it might be, goes to the heart of our dearly held belief in freedom of expression.

But does this sort of commentary, publicly attacking people because of their race, ethnicity or religion, really constitute community debate? Is it an exercise of free speech, or an abuse of it? When Jews in Australia are targeted, these questions take on a very sharp edge. Australia has the world's second highest percentage of Holocaust survivors after Israel.

Like all freedoms, the proper limits of free speech are exceeded when it is about causing harm. The basic question is whether vilification is sufficiently harmful to justify an intrusion by the law into this fundamental personal freedom.

Whether it's Jews, Muslims, homosexuals or women, the public vilification of entire groups of people can only undermine, and ultimately destroy, their sense of security, the birthright of every Australian.

Being constantly vilified as a member of a group, instead of being judged on one's individual merits, compromises one's social relationships. One is put on the defensive with workmates, friends, neighbours and anyone else with whom one interacts. Such is the power of modern communications. And vilification is the invariable precursor to violence against members of the targeted group.

The Racial Discrimination Act protects innocent people from this sort of harm.

But the harm has to be proved in court according to objective criteria. The act makes it clear that it is not unlawful to publish material in good faith as part of a genuine academic, artistic or scientific debate, whether anyone takes offence or not. What's clear in the Toben case, and what the court found, was that his material is not part of a genuine debate about history or politics, as he claimed. The real thrust of his material is to use the internet to stoke up hatred against Jews as a group.

Some argue that if Toben had been left alone to spruik from his Adelaide-based hate website he would have remained an obscure failed school teacher talking to like-minded nutters. Not so. Toben is a determined publicity hound. In 1999 he travelled to his native Germany and was convicted in Mannheim of incitement to racial hatred and Holocaust denial. In Germany, for obvious reasons, trying to whitewash the Nazis' crimes is a criminal offence. Toben spent seven months in jail.

In 2006, Toben went to Tehran for an anti-Semitic hatefest, hobnobbing in the media limelight with a cavalcade of some of the world's most notorious racists including Iranian President Ahmadinejad and US Ku Klux Klansman David Duke.

The publicity around the legal proceedings against Toben in Australia has been a mere zephyr in his international media whirl.

For reasons that defy conventional analysis, Toben has spent most of his adult life vainly working to rehabilitate the universally disgraced reputation of Nazi Germany. And for Toben, "the Jews" are the principal obstacle.

If Toben and his patsies confined their activities to ranting among themselves in private, few would care. But using our cherished freedoms and easy access to the mass media as a way of striking at the security of an entire group of people on racial grounds tears at the fabric of our community and ultimately threatens those very freedoms.

History has vividly demonstrated that the relentless infusion of racism into public discourse is like drip-feeding poison into the democratic body politic. And in the words of American philosopher George Santayana: "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."


Frontal attack on young families by the Federal government

In the name of "safety", childcare is to be made far too dear for most families. This will lead to a lot of "backyard" operations or very impoverished families

QUEENSLAND parents could soon be paying $5000 more a year for child care, under a Federal Government plan to lift preschool education standards. The proposed changes will be rolled out in all Australian childcare centres in a bid to tighten up the industry by improving staff-to-child ratios and qualifications. But industry experts say the cost to parents is likely to be "substantial" and make it even harder to find childcare places. A government report by consultants Access Economics shows how, under one scenario, childcare costs could jump by $125 per child per week if all changes were implemented.

Childcare Queensland president Gwynn Bridge said initial costings suggested most childcare centres in Queensland would likely have to raise annual fees by $5000 a child. She said changes to staff-to-child ratios would force some centres to take even fewer children. "We are extremely concerned about this plan, as the incurring costs to families is looking to be substantial," Ms Bridge said. "The repercussions for Queensland are terrible, and we are in a unique and uncomfortable position compared with other states. "Childcare places for babies are already under high demand, and the proposed changes mean we will be able to take on even fewer. "We are advocating on behalf of families to ensure we get the best outcome for our Queensland families, who are already doing it tough."

The plan will be implemented by July 1 next year, following consultation with the industry, and be fully in place by January 2012. Childcare Queensland will make submissions to the Government by August 31.

Under the planned changes, one carer would be responsible for five children aged between 2½ and 3, rather than the current eight children, and one carer would look after 11 children aged between 3 and 5, rather than the current one staff to 12 children ratio. The current Queensland baby ratio is one to four aged up to 15 months, but this would change to one to three for up to 2 years. Childcare workers would also be required to have one staff member with a four-year teaching qualification at a tertiary level.

Child Care National Association president Chris Buck said families had been kept in the dark about the extra costs involved. "If perceived quality goes up, so do the costs," he said. "The risk being run by the Government is that fewer families will be able to afford child care."


Flight to private health insurers

PEOPLE have flocked to private health insurance in an apparent rejection of the Rudd Government's ability to fix the public health system and in a bid to escape a new levy. The Private Health Insurance Administration Council will today report that private health coverage increased by about 43,000 people since the March quarter – or about 211,000 more people compared with the same time last year.

The Courier-Mail can also report that Queensland Health cancelled 273 elective surgeries in the past month – up from 121 the year before. "Queensland hospitals are currently experiencing an increased demand due to seasonal winter symptoms and H1N1 (and) the increased demand has resulted in some elective surgery patients being postponed due to no ward or intensive care unit beds," a spokesman said.

Federal Opposition health spokesman Peter Dutton questioned the ability of Queensland Health to run an effective system at a time when billions have been diverted to the public health sector, much of it to cut elective surgery waiting lists.

Today's release of the new private health statistics – recorded during rising unemployment, the global financial meltdown and a 6 per cent rise on premiums – comes just days before the Rudd Government introduces a Budget measure that will no longer give high-earners a rebate for taking up private health insurance. But the Bill will be knocked back in the Senate by the Coalition and Independent Senator Nick Xenophon.

The Coalition has accused the Government of breaking its promise to retain support for private health insurance. The Government has already implemented a measure this year, requiring more people to take on private health insurance or face a levy. It sparked the Opposition to claim people would drop out, thereby driving up premiums.

Buoyed by the results, Health Minister Nicola Roxon, who attacked the Liberals yesterday on News Ltd's online site, The Punch, said the Coalition should not use low and middle-income earners to prop up rebates for the rich. Under the new Bill, rebates will be removed for singles earning more than $120,000; reduced from 30 to 10 per cent for those earning more than $90,000; and to 20 per cent for those on more than $75,000.


Vaccine fear campaign investigated

These fruitcakes certainly are dangerous

A GROUP that claims vaccines cause autism, brain damage and cancer has been reported to the healthcare watchdog for allegedly spreading misinformation and endangering children's health. The official complaint to the Health Care Complaints Commission follows a newspaper advertisement paid for by businessman Dick Smith pleading with parents to ignore the Australian Vaccination Network's fear campaign.

AVN is run by Meryl Dorey, who publishes a website and newsletter, campaigns against mass public immunisation programs and promotes the use of homeopathy to prevent disease.

The Australian Skeptics group supports the complaint that Ms Dorey and the network are breaching the Health Care Complaints Act by making unsubstantiated health claims based on "conspiracy theories", pseudo-scientific evidence and debunked research.

Ms Dorey, of Bangalow on the Far North Coast, says her eldest son, now 20, was "vaccine-injured" from the diphtheria-tetanus-polio immunisation when he was two months old and the measles-mumps-rubella shot at 12 months. She attributes his life-long sleep apnoea and allergies to the vaccinations. Ms Dorey said she was not anti-vaccination, just "pro-information and pro-choice". "We never have and never will tell anyone that they should not vaccinate. We simply fill the information void left by government and the mainstream medical community," she said.

But Dick Smith, the Skeptics and the author of the complaint, Ken McLeod, say Ms Dorey and AVN do not promote choice because her speeches and publications never mention the proven benefits of immunisation, and the group's motto is: "Love them, protect them, never inject them.". "They can have their view but be upfront about it and don't quote dubious scientific evidence that has been debunked," Skeptics executive officer Tim Mendham said.

Mr Smith wrote and funded the advertisement because he believed young, vulnerable mothers were being conned by the network's claim to be an independent voice.

Complaints commission executive officer Kim Swan said the allegations were being assessed, and AVN had been asked to respond. Ms Dorey said the commission did not have jurisdiction over her or the network because she was not medically qualified and did not provide a health service.


Labor government aims at national teacher rankings

Good stuff but it is rather surprising that they are defying the teachers' unions. Has some deal been done?

TEACHERS' pay could soon reflect their value in the classroom while schools' performance will be made public as an online report card rolls out next year.

Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Julia Gillard believes teachers should be remunerated using a merit-based pay system and will work with education experts to develop a national benchmark that will rank every teacher's value. Ms Gillard said a top-tier band existed in many states and territories and the only way for them to get paid more was to move away from face-to-face teaching. "We want to reward teachers - especially great quality teachers - and (those) prepared to go to disadvantaged schools where their excellent teaching skills can make the most difference," Ms Gillard said.

"Under the system that we're proposing, we would have a national accreditation system where people could be judged against national standards. "Then we want to see school systems better rewarding those highly accomplished teachers, particularly for teaching in disadvantaged schools." Some of those standards incorporate face-to-face teaching skills and knowledge of the curriculum.

From 2010 people will be able to compare schools using an online portal that will rank schools, compare resources and show teachers' qualifications. "We need greater transparency ... so we know what's happening in each and every school and so does the public," Ms Gillard said. Other means include the publication of national education results.


Monday, August 17, 2009


Four current articles below

Warmists still stuck in the past

Ever since the tiny degree of global warming stopped at the end of the 20th century, Warmists have been looking longingly at the past, even though the present is very different. Their latest claim is that snowfalls in the high-country ski fields of Southern Australia are down by 40 per cent over the last 50 years. That we had exceptionally GOOD snowfalls this year and also last year is ignored. Does CO2 work only in some years and not in others? The Scots still remember battles that took place in the 13th century. Will Warmists still be blathering on during the ice age that seems to be the biggest threat now?

AUSTRALIAN skiers may have to look overseas in search of suitable snowfalls, thanks to global warming. The average snow cover at Australia's highest altitude snow course, Spencer's Creek in the Snowy Mountains, has declined by 30 per cent to 40 per cent in the last 50 years, a conference in Brisbane will be told today. The cost of man-made snow is also likely to increase as more water and electricity are required.

Unlike skiers, specialised plants that have learnt to survive in the Australian highlands don't have the option of seeking out higher ground and may face extinction, Associate Professor Catherine Pickering of Griffith University said. "Some of these plants are found only on the lee side of mountain ridges, where snow lies late into the summer months, long after snow in the surrounding landscape has melted," Prof Pickering said. "We are about to lose two of our rarest plant communities, right before our eyes." "We need to co-ordinate the ad hoc research that is happening on our limited snow country."

Prof Pickering will attend the The 10th International Congress of Ecology, INTECOL conference in Brisbane this week. INTECOL is hosted by the Ecological Society of Australia and the New Zealand Ecological Society. This is the first time the congress is being held in the southern hemisphere.


Temperature readings in isolated Australian locations show no increases for 100 years

Weather observatories in Australia, dating back 100 years or more show cities getting hotter as they get bigger but country towns have generally NOT been warming up. Some have actually been cooling down.

Most scientists recognise that temperature measurements in cities are influenced by non-climate things such as air-conditioners. The cities in Australia also show the same trend as cities in the northern hemisphere with the rate of warming here being less than 1 degree centigrade per century. So the countryside has NOT been warming up whereas cities are getting hotter.

Substantial increases in Carbon Dioxide levels have been observed over this period, so if CO2 really was driving temperature upwards, we would expect a general rise in temperature in the bush and an even bigger rise in cities due to the combined effect of CO2 and non-climatic heating. In many parts of the world it's hard to separate these two effects, so we are lucky here in Australia to have records from isolated country locations that are `un-contaminated' by the big city effect (heat island effect).

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) provides historical weather data on the internet here. The average of the peak temperatures for each month is available and this has been plotted in the attached graphs. Graphs for the mean daily peak temperatures in January are shown for Echuca, Deniliquin and Bathurst - as examples of country sites.

The last graph is for Sydney and shows evidence of the `big city warming effect'. In Deniliquin and Bathurst, there has actually been a fall in temperatures over the last 100 years but in many other regional places there was just no trend, up or down. EM Smith reports a similar pattern of `no warming' based on a large number of world-wide locations used by IPCC. See here

More HERE (See the original for links, graphics)

Food prices to surge under Warmist laws

SHOPPERS face a jump in grocery prices of up to 7 per cent under Labor's scheme to reduce carbon emissions, prompting calls for the Rudd government to come up with a compensation package to help low- and middle-income families. Big retailers have warned the government that the proposed emissions trading scheme would add between 4 and 7 per cent to shopping bills in what would be a de facto tax on food.

Although the government has revealed plans to compensate households for increased energy prices when the ETS is expected to be introduced in 2011, it has yet to announce how it will cover the rise in grocery prices.

Reserve Bank assistant governor Philip Lowe last week told the House of Representatives economics committee that the ETS would add 0.4 percentage points to the Consumer Price Index measure of inflation in its first year of operation. However, the Food and Grocery Council believes the increase in grocery prices would be much higher, about 5 per cent.

As food and grocery shopping is estimated to take up to 20 per cent of the weekly household budget, the council's chief executive, Kate Carnell, says the price rise will amount to a GST on food - the area the Howard government exempted from the tax after a prolonged campaign by Labor and the Australian Democrats. Large retailers are understood to have also done modelling showing similar results, including a rise in food prices of as much as 7 per cent should Australia adopt the 25 per cent target on emissions reductions by 2020.

Large retailers, while privately concerned, are believed to be hesitant to voice their objections to the ETS for fear of tarnishing their reputation among environmentally conscious consumers. Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman said the ETS would lead to a sharp increase in grocery shelf prices as costs increased at every stage of the production and distribution process. "It's going to be a high cost to the consumer - the food manufacturer gets an ETS charge, then there's delivery, and the retailers use refrigeration and lighting, and the cost of that is all going to be handed on," Mr Zimmerman said. "Retail is a very competitive business. There's not a lot of margin in grocery retailing, so these costs can't be absorbed."

The ARA has set out its concerns in a submission to the government's green paper on carbon reduction but Mr Zimmerman said he had little hope the government would shield consumers from higher costs. "The government has said it will cost consumers $1 a day, but that fails to accurately calculate the retail price impact on consumers, and there's no real handle on what it's going to cost consumers in the end," he said.

Retailers' anxiety is matched in the US, amid growing fears about the impact of carbon trading plans. US agriculture companies including grain giant Cargill, meat processor Tyson Foods and food-maker General Mills, have expressed concern they will bear an unfair proportion of the costs resulting from carbon-reduction legislation and warned this would lead to higher food prices. Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce has warned that the ETS, once in place, would raise the retail price of a leg of lamb to almost $100.

The revelations on food prices come as a split emerges in the business community over the ETS. The peak group, the Business Council of Australia, is divided over its position on the plan to reduce carbon emissions. The BCA is torn, with finance sector elements backing the ETS and the mining industry vehemently opposed. The split has led to the circulation of an anti-ETS paper from within the BCA that concludes 67 of its 109 members will not have a carbon permit liability under the government's proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. The overwhelming majority of the 67 are in the finance, legal or legal services sector, which the analysis says are expected to make huge profits out of the ETS.

The paper's author, who does not wish to be named, concludes: "While the BCA is held up as the voice of industry on the carbon scheme, the vast bulk of its members have no skin in the game. That is, they won't have to buy permits. In fact, the bankers and finance consultants like KPMG stand to make a fortune out of it."

The paper's author also names at least 12 senior Labor figures - seven of them frontbenchers, including three cabinet ministers - who they say have expressed doubts about the government's ETS privately to either BCA member companies or their industry group representatives.


Plans for Australian Poverty

The Chairman of the Carbon Sense Coalition, Mr Viv Forbes, today claimed that both the Turnbull and the Wong Decarbonisation plans were “Plans for Poverty”. Forbes explains:

“The Turnbull plan aims to reduce 2020 emissions to 90% of the 2000 level. “But we have moved on from the year 2000. To get back to 90% of 2000 would require a 20% cut on today’s activities. Moreover, the population by 2020 will be at least 30% above that in 2000. So the Turnbull carbon cuts will need to be more than 33% per capita.

“Emissions are produced by everything we do – if we use electricity, steel, cement, timber, cars, trucks, planes, ships, trains or food from farms, we will always produce emissions. Even people sleeping on the beach burn carbon food energy and emit carbon dioxide. How is each Australian going to trim carbon usage by 33%?

“2020 is just a decade away. There is no chance that wind, solar, geothermal or carbon burial will overcome their technical, engineering, infrastructure, environmental, transmission, economic and stability problems quickly enough to generate significant quantities of emissions-free base load electricity in that time. “That leaves only three ways to achieve the Turnbull cuts – the Green Option, the Secret Plan or the Unspeakable Option.

“The Green Option requires less use of modern technology - a return to candles and chip heaters, wood stoves and wind pumps, charcoal burners and steam engines, sulkies and bicycles, horse power and sailing clippers, possum stew and kangaroo tail soup, mud bricks, shingle roofs and cement floors made from ant bed and cow manure. Some things will disappear unless Malcolm has plans for airships lifted by political hot air, for night-time power generated from moonbeams using lunar panels, or for vegie-steak produced from algae growing in backyard ponds of poo.

“Reducing population will definitely achieve cuts in emissions without cuts in living standards. Is that the Secret Plan? “Or of course we always have the Unspeakable Option – a crash program to build nuclear power plants in the Latrobe, the Hunter, the Barossa, the Fitzroy and the Pilbara.

“Compared to these options, maybe a bit more harmless carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is not so bad after all? "The Wong plan and the Turnbull plan are Plans for Poverty. “Both should be rejected.”

The above is a press release of 12 August 2009 from Mr Viv Forbes, Chairman, The Carbon Sense Coalition, Australia. Email:

High-speed broadband: Another classic Australian boondoggle?

We've had the Snowy, the Ord and the Alice to Darwin railway as vastly expensive but uneconomic feelgood schemes -- now we are getting fibre broadband. It's been Kevvy's pet project for years: The only idea he ever seems to have had

The first national broadband network rollout, in Tasmania, will cost an estimated $20,000 for each premises that takes up the superfast internet connection -- and business leaders say its impact may be minimal. The Rudd and Bartlett governments, which are jointly undertaking the rollout, refuse to reveal the taxpayer-funded plan's cost, business plan or an estimate of the take-up.

However industry sources told The Australian that the take-up rate had been estimated at 17 per cent of the 200,000 target premises -- homes and businesses. Aurora Energy, the state-owned power company undertaking the rollout via overhead cabling, would not confirm or deny this estimate, claiming it was "commercial in confidence". A trial of high-speed internet in Tasmania had a take-up rate of 14-15 per cent, which other industry sources said was more realistic a target for the NBN. With the rollout in Tasmania expected to cost $700 million, a 17per cent take-up (34,000 premises) would mean a unit cost of $20,588 [per household].

Tasmania's peak body for information and communication technology industry, TASICT, said without a take-up rate of 80-90 per cent, NBN would lack the "critical mass" needed to become the focus of service and information delivery. TASICT president Peter Gartlan said even a take-up rate of 20-40 per cent would not "make a big enough difference". "It needs a very good percentage of take-up to make sure you have the benefits of a high-speed connection and for government and industry to leverage it effectively," Mr Gartlan said. "For critical mass it has to be pretty high: up to 80 to 90 per cent. If it is not the focus of delivery, it is just another communications means." He said government might need to step in to offer incentives to increase the take-up, potentially adding to the already unprecedented cost of the project.

Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry managing director Andrew Scobie said he was "challenged" to see how the plan would deliver greater, justifiable benefits than wireless options. "It's very much about marginal rates of return for additional investment," Mr Scobie said. "I am challenged to understand, and our organisation is challenged to understand, what additional utility will come from it." Most businesses did not require the 100 megabits per second speed promised by fibre-optic connection, he said. And the expenditure of $700m-plus was a questionable ordering of priorities, when 12Mbps, delivered more cheaply and easily by wireless technologies, would suit most households and businesses.

"The innovators in the Tasmanian business community will find things to do with it (100Mbps)," Mr Scobie said. "But to me the most significant question is: in the state with the lowest level of productivity, based on the lowest level of education and the lowest levels of infrastructure investment, is this the right priority against all of those? "Is this the right priority for us? Because we don't even have a fully functioning road between Launceston and Hobart."

Premier David Bartlett said the take-up rate "doesn't matter". "I'm not making predictions about what the initial take-up will be and in lots of ways it doesn't much matter," Mr Bartlett said. "This is a project as important to Tasmania's future as the poles and dams and wires of hydro-industrialisation were to the last century. "It's small-minded to consider this project only in terms of who might get a faster internet connection out of it and when they might pay to take that up."

A spokesman for federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said it was inappropriate to reveal take-up projections because a business model was still the subject of negotiations with the Bartlett government.


Australia's Leftist government simply hates private health insurance

The idea that those who work and save get better treatment than those who blow all their money on beer and cigarettes is just anathema to them

Make no mistake about it. The battle to preserve Australia’s mix of public and private health care will be joined in earnest this week. At stake is a worsening of the shaky health of our public hospitals. At stake also is a direct cost impact for almost half the population who have private health insurance and an indirect, or delayed, impact on those who rely on public hospitals for treatment.

Labor’s attack on private health insurance through this year’s Budget will force substantial numbers of people to drop or downgrade their insurance coverage meaning many, many more people will be seeking treatment at public hospitals. Longer waits in Accident and Emergency Departments, longer waits on lists for surgery lay ahead if this attack succeeds.

Nothing holds the potential to increase the stresses and strains on our hospitals more than the changes to private health insurance rebates contained in the erroneously named Fairer Private Health Insurance Incentives Bills, which are expected to be debated in the Senate this week. Every decision Kevin Rudd has taken since coming to Government will make our public health system worse – making a mockery of his oft-repeated promise that he had a plan to “fix” the nation’s public hospitals.

There is no doubt that the health sector is paying a high price for Labor’s reckless spending over the past nine months which has the nation spinning into massive debt. The Government has targeted many areas of health to claw-back savings, but the targeting of private health insurance rebates carries the added factor of ideology – Labor hates private health insurance - and this is a serious direct attack upon it.

It is also a trashing of numerous promises both Mr Rudd and his now Health Minister Nicola Roxon made before the last election - to both the public and the insurance sector - that Labor would not change these rebates paid to those who take out private health insurance and in so doing relieve the call on public hospitals.

The phasing down of the universal 30 per cent rebate, in three stages, to 20 per cent, 10 per cent and eventually to zero for those earning over $75,000 (singles) and $150,000 (families or couples) will mean 1.7 million Australians will immediately face private health insurance premium increases of between 14 and 43 per cent. One million people are likely to drop or downgrade their insurance cover forcing premium increases for all who maintain insurance.

In seeking to cut the rebate to so-called higher income earners the Rudd Government will hammer low and middle income earners with higher prices. It’s worth noting that a million people – one million Australians, probably many of them elderly – earning less than $26,000 a year make the struggle to pay for private health insurance. Does it want them to also opt out of private insurance and join the queue at our public hospitals? If so what impact could all this have?

The private health sector estimates it could transfer 75,000 treatment episodes from private to public health care. Public hospitals will have to accommodate an extra 190,000 bed days at a cost of $200 million. Four million allied health services would no longer be covered by insurance costing another $200 million. Two million dental care treatments for which private insurance would have paid $100 million would also no longer be covered.

If those estimates even partially come to pass, it creates a huge hole in the $1.9 billion in savings Rudd Labor estimates it will make by changing the rebates. It will also push our public hospitals further toward breaking point.

Reductions in Medicare rebates for cataract surgery and various other treatments, caps on the Extended Medicare Safety Net and the 2008 Budget changes to the Medicare Levy threshold all have implications for adding to pressures on the hospital system – the one that Kevin Rudd said he would “fix” by June this year.

The Coalition will oppose the private health insurance rebate cuts when they come before the Senate this week. The savings needed by this Government to the nation’s bottom-line can be achieved in other ways. The Coalition has proposed an increase in the excise on cigarettes that would more than cover the $1.9 billion in savings projected from the rebate changes. Rudd Labor does not have to further threaten our public hospitals which its State Labor Governments have so dramatically mismanaged for far too many years.


Coverup after negligent public hospital causes two deaths

A HOSPITAL patient, who was discharged and allowed to drive home despite pleas from his family, died minutes later in a car crash that also killed another driver. Rodney Knowles rang his son and brother from Shoalhaven District Hospital in NSW on October 25 last year after having routine dialysis and sounded "delusional". Both separately begged the nurse on the phone not to let him drive home, but he got behind the wheel and had a head-on crash, killing himself and another driver aged in his 50s.

The Health Care Complaints Commission declined to investigate and the NSW Medical Board dismissed a complaint made after the incident. The hospital's doctor, Shanka Karunarathne, acknowledged to the HCCC that he amended Mr Knowles' medical records after Mr Knowles' death to say he offered to admit him, but Mr Knowles declined. Dr Karunarathne said he was the only medical registrar at the hospital at the time and did not have time to complete his notes. "As I was required elsewhere in the hospital at that time, I later made a retrospective entry to confirm the discussion," he wrote in answer to questions from the Health Care Complaints Commission.

Shoalhaven Hospital said Mr Knowles, 71, was medically assessed as competent the day of his death, despite him reporting feeling unwell and skipping some meals. They gave him juice and food which boosted his blood sugar levels prior to him leaving.

The HCCC said an investigation was not warranted because it was unlikely to lead to disciplinary action against the nurse involved, Julie Owen, or any recommendations to Shoalhaven Hospital. The NSW Medical Board also dismissed the complaint against Dr Karunarathne.

Mr Knowles' son Brendan said: "He had kidney failure, we expected at some point he would go, but to happen so tragically and in the circumstances which it happened when we begged them not to let him drive, I just can't fathom how they can turn around and say they couldn't do anything. "We want some answers. We don't want it to happen again. As well as dad being killed there was another gentleman killed, an innocent party. We want some answers for his family too."

Rodney Knowles had been admitted to the emergency department three days before his death with chest pains and was discharged on October 24. He returned the next day for dialysis. Police believe he blacked out and veered onto the wrong side of the road. The coroner said he died "nearly immediately" from traumatic injuries.

Opposition health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner said the family deserved an explanation. "This family has been through hell and deserve a full explanation from Health Minister John Della Bosca," she said. Mr Della Bosca said while he felt for the family, he would not comment on the case until all inquiries had been completed.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

What a laugh! Warmist "model" links drought in Australia with rising human emissions

In that case emissions must be falling because there has been an upsurge in rain in the Northern half of Australia in the last 2 years. Most dams in Queensland have been overflowing lately. It is true that S.E. Australia has not fared well but if emissions were the culprit, the rest of Australia would be affected too. Or have we given up on "global" warming and are now concentrating on local climate changes only? Otherwise a model that explains only one corner of Australia is not much of a model. Gaseous diffusion is strong and rapid so whatever CO2 is emitted should spread widely throughout the world and not stay stuck just in S.E. Australia!

DROUGHT experts have for the first time proven a link between rising levels of greenhouse gases and a decline in rainfall. A three-year collaboration between the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO has confirmed that the drought is not just a natural dry stretch but a shift related to climate change.

Scientists working on the $7 million South Eastern Australian Climate Initiative said the rain had dropped away because the subtropical ridge - a band of high pressure systems that sits over the country's south - had strengthened over the past 13 years. Last year, using sophisticated computer climate models in the United States, the scientists ran simulations with only the ''natural'' influences on temperature, such as differing levels of solar activity. The model results showed no intensification of the subtropical ridge and no decline in rainfall. But when human influences on the atmosphere were added to the simulations - such as greenhouse gases, aerosols and ozone depletion - the models mimicked what has been observed in south-east Australia: strengthening high pressure systems and the significant loss of rain.

''It's reasonable to say that a lot of the current drought of the last 12 to 13 years is due to ongoing global warming,'' said the bureau's Bertrand Timbal. ''In the minds of a lot of people the rainfall we had in the 1950s, '60s and '70s was a benchmark. A lot of our [water and agriculture] planning was done during that time. But we are just not going to have that sort of good rain again as long as the system is warming up.''

Dr Timbal said that 80 per cent of the rain loss in south-east Australia could be attributed to the intensification of the subtropical ridge. The research program covers the Murray-Darling Basin, including parts of NSW, all of Victoria and parts of South Australia.

Monash University’s Neville Nicholls, a lead author on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change who has also published work on the subtropical ridge, said he believed the research program’s results were right. "We did think that the loss of rain was simply due to the [rain-bearing] storms shifting south, off the continent," Professor Nicholls said. "Now we know the reason they have slipped south is that the subtropical ridge has become more intense. It is getting bigger and stronger and that is pushing the rain storms further south." [Sorry, friend. The rain has actually moved NORTH. Don't you know anything?]

The scientific results have implications for many State Government water programs and drought funding, some of which factor in climate change and some of which do not. Projections for the water coming to Melbourne in the north-south pipe, for instance, are based on the assumption that Victoria will return to rainfall levels of last century.

The Victorian Farmers Federation new president, Andrew Broad, said he would not speculate about whether there was a connection between drought and climate change. "I have a healthy scepticism for scientists," he said. "But I will say that the doomsday people in climate change are robbing people of hope at a time when that’s all they’ve got left." Melbourne’s dams get roughly a third less water than they did before the drought began in October 1996.


Negligent doctors and public hospital kill young mother

After all the publicity about swine flu, you would think that the doctors would take that possibility seriously from the outset. If the hospital had given her Tamiflu and admitted her for observation she would almost certainly be alive today. Instead they sent her home with just a household headache medication

A previously healthy 34-year-old mother-of-two who died from swine flu last week was seen by four separate doctors over four days before she was finally admitted to hospital. Her family say her deteriorating health – including difficulty walking – was mostly ignored as she was repeatedly sent home when seeking help for her illness.

Sheridan Wilson died in Brisbane's Prince Charles Hospital on Thursday. She had presented herself at Townsville Hospital's emergency department a week earlier, saying she was in extreme discomfort from flu-like symptoms. Doctors told Mrs Wilson to go home, take some Panadol and get some sleep, her family said. She had no underlying health conditions and was not immediately tested for swine flu. Nor was she given any of the anti-viral drug Tamiflu.

Mrs Wilson's distraught family yesterday pleaded with Queensland Health to stop treating potential swine flu victims like "lumps of meat" and start taking the pandemic seriously. They want Tamiflu offered to everyone with flu symptoms and not just those deemed by the department as being in the "at-risk" group which includes pregnant women, the elderly, the obese, indigenous people and those with other health problems.

Mrs Wilson's mother-in-law Marilyn broke down in tears yesterday as she told The Sunday Mail that Sheridan followed Queensland Health's official advice on swine flu to the letter. She first went to her GP, then later when symptoms worsened, went to the emergency room at Townsville Hospital. She was later transported to Brisbane, where she died. "Sheridan did everything right," Marilyn Wilson said. "She went to a GP first, who sent her home with hardly a second thought.

"Then I took her to the emergency department who put her on a drip for dehydration for two hours before sending her home and telling her to take some Panadol. "She was getting worse so she went to a GP the next morning (Friday), and then another GP on Saturday morning who told her 'wait a few hours and if it gets worse go to the hospital'." After seeing three GPs and a doctor at the hospital's emergency department, Mrs Wilson was finally admitted to Townsville Hospital's ICU last Saturday.

"Sheridan put her life in these people's hands and all the GPs did was take her money and kick her out," she said. "Our family will never be the same again."


‘Progressive’ patriotism is a big ask

Australians should all rejoice that the Left isn’t interested in patriotism, writes Jeremy Sammut

By all accounts, the message of Tim Soutphommasane’s forthcoming book (Seizing the Sauce Bottle, ‘Australian Literary Review’, 5 August 2009) is commendably clear. The book lays out the reasons why so-called ‘progressives’ should take patriotism seriously, as a political concept at least.

It is surprising that anyone with an interest in politics needs to be convinced about the importance of patriotism, given that the nation (as in the national welfare or national good) lies at the centre of our political democracy. Because appeals to patriotic sentiment can unite otherwise diverse individuals into cohesive constituencies, patriotism remains one of the more vibrant colours in the political spectrum.

The problem is that much of what Soutphommasane says about the Left needing to reclaim patriotism for itself has been said before. Miriam Dixson’s 1999 book, The Imaginary Australian, also told the Left that if its political projects were to win mainstream support the core culture of the nation and ‘ordinary Australians’ genuine pride in and commitment to the nation’s traditions must be respected.

Here lies the rub. The more interesting question is why the Left is ideologically deaf to Dixson and now Soutphommasane’s message? This is a question only culture warriors can answer.

The short version is that the political project of the modern-day progressives is radically regenerative. The Left’s go isn’t patriotism – it’s the scorched-earth politics of moral embarrassment.

So irredeemable is the nation’s history, so the progressive’s political narrative goes, that the past must be junked entirely and the nation’s future reconstructed in the politically-correct image of the Left. This is the reason why comrades across a spectrum of disciplines have spent the last forty years telling their fellow Australians how racist, sexist, and unjust their country is.

Yet despite the attempt to deconstruct the nation’s history, Australia’s national traditions are one of few areas where the ‘long march of the Left’ through our cultural institutions has not succeeded. Anzac Day has re-emerged as our quasi national day, and our national heroes stubbornly remain (as John Hirst has put it) a cricketer, a bushranger, and a horse. [Don Bradman, Ned Kelly and Phar Lap]

The point is that those who call for the Left to annex patriotism to promote their ‘positive cultural vision’ are making a category error. Most of the Left would hear this as a call to continue to try to hollow out the nation’s traditions of their traditional meanings.

Thankfully, the Left is unlikely to want to have a bar of patriotism. Those who say it should aren’t seizing the sauce bottle - they're barking up the wrong tree.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated August 14th. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590. Telephone ph: +61 2 9438 4377 or fax: +61 2 9439 7310

Barmaid's skimpy clothing erects dubious police interest

"Skimpy" barmaids are something of a tradition in Western Australia

A 29-year-old skimpy barmaid who is accused of showing too much flesh believes police could be doing "more important things out there" than catching underdressed skimpy barmaids. Megan Brooks appeared in Fremantle Magistrates Court today to face a charge of being immodestly dressed on licensed premises at the Market City Tavern in Canning Vale in November last year, but today, the magistrate gave a strong indication that the case could be dropped.

Her lawyer Terry Dobson said he could not ascertain what the criminal conduct was, and needed more information on the statement of facts before Ms Brooks' next court appearance. The court was told that the accused was wearing black lace French knickers with a buttock exposed, but Mr Dobson wanted to know which buttock was exposed as well as the extent of the exposure. It was also stated that Ms Brooks' nipples were erect, although Mr Dobson questioned whether that too was criminal conduct.

The court was told by the magistrate that as it stood there was no charge against the woman. The matter was adjourned until September 11.

Outside court Mr Dobson said he would fight to have the charges discontinued, whilst Ms Brooks said she was just doing her job. "We informed the court that once we got further and better particulars we intended seeking a discontinuance," he said. "The reason being is our position would be that this is not in the public interest. Even if Ms Brooks has dressed in a manner they described, in 2009, we would say that just isn't immodestly dressing.

"I'd have to think that having two police officers sitting in a tavern checking out my client seems to be a complete waste of police resources. "I would have thought that they could be in some of the entertainment precincts, (such as) Northbridge and Fremantle - they'd be doing a far better job."

Mr Dobson said the charges claimed Ms Brooks had acted in a way that contravened a particular section of the Liquor Licensing Act by dressing immodestly, "and given that she is a skimpy barmaid, I'd say straight away the alarm bells were going off". "Our instructions were that she wasn't immodestly dressed anyway and she wasn't even engaging in any conduct that would have or should have attracted the attention of the police," he said. "There seems to be no reason why Ms Brooks should have been charged."

Ms Brooks said she was "just shocked and disappointed" that it got to this stage. "I just felt like I was doing my job and I don't think that I was immodestly dressed," she said, adding she had a body suit on and had her nipples covered at the time.

At the time of the incident, Ms Brooks said she went up to the officer and asked if he wanted a drink, and "he flashed his badge and said 'no'" before asking to speak to her elsewhere. Ms Brooks - who also worked as a beauty therapist - was still working in the barmaid industry. "There's more important things out there (for police) than sort of sneaking around undercover hoping to catch skimpy barmaids wearing not very much clothing," she said.

Mr Dobson said a discontinuance of the case would serve everyone's best interests and save the police time and energy from having to prepare a brief. "The courts have got far better things to deal with than things like this." he added. The penalty for the charge was "significant" the defence lawyer said, but he maintained Ms Brooks was behaving entirely properly.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

A big attack on free speech and freedom of the press in the name of "privacy"

It's a great pity that Australia has no equivalent of America's First Amendment to block this sort of thing. People harmed by unfair or incorrect publicity should obviously have some recourse but one would think that existing libel and defamation laws provided that. Will it now be impossible for the media to expose crooks in case the crook's "privacy" might be violated??

The NSW Law Reform Commission reckons the trouble with freedom of speech is that it comes up trumps too often. But the commissioners yesterday released plans to do something about it: give those whose privacy has been violated by the press wider and less-constrained rights than any in the world to sue for damages.

I need to confess I was one of a bunch of advisers to the commissioners as they pursued their terms of reference, "To inquire into and report on whether existing legislation in NSW provides an effective framework for the protection of the privacy of an individual." In particular they were asked to consider "the desirability of introducing a statutory tort of privacy in NSW". Their answer was a mighty yes, and nothing I said otherwise had any noticeable effect.

In the face of outrageous violations of privacy by the media, journalists are hard put to argue that those whose lives have been trashed can't turn around and sue. The hunt for some basis in law to do this has been on for some time in the courts of the English-speaking world. A very bad result for the press was the Naomi Campbell case in 2004.

The Daily Mirror in London illustrated a story about the grumpy mannequin's drug addiction with a photograph of her leaving a meeting of Narcotics Anonymous in Chelsea. Though the picture was taken of a public figure in a public place, the House of Lords ordered the paper to pay Campbell damages of £3500 and costs of £350,000, essentially for violating her privacy.

Impossible to define, ceaselessly abused by governments and thrown away by kids on Facebook, privacy is being offered fresh protection in the courts. The drift appears irresistible. All that's really been at issue round the world in the past decade or so is how to ground this new action in law while protecting free speech.

The great protection offered in countries going down this track are solid guarantees of free speech in bills and charters of rights. We have nothing like that in NSW, which frankly pleases the NSW commissioners: a former judge, James Wood, a current judge, Kevin O'Connor, and Professor Michael Tilbury. It lets them lower the bar. They write: "We can think of no reason why in Australian law freedom of expression or any other interest should be privileged above privacy."

Courts elsewhere have developed a second great protection: only those "highly offended" can sue. That formula was developed in the US and refined in Britain, New Zealand and even here in the musings of the former chief justice Murray Gleeson, who thought being "highly offended" set "a useful practical test of what is private".

But that's too tough for the NSW commissioners. They want mere offence to be enough. What's more, their report Invasion of Privacy makes it clear this wider test would include people who suffer no more than "annoyance and anxiety" at the hands of the media.

I'm not here to defend The Sunday Telegraph for publishing photographs thought to reveal Pauline Hanson in her underwear. Nor am I going in to bat for those vaudeville characters Kyle and Jackie O interrogating children on air about their sex lives. Awful stuff. But a responsible, free media annoys people all the time. Happens day in, day out. We publish things about people they'd prefer didn't see the light of day and they get annoyed. But the commissioners are suggesting the courts - after balancing all the circumstances and rejecting the merely trivial - should allow people who are annoyed with the press to sue us even when we get it right. It's quite a prospect.

They also want to do away with two ground rules: what happens in public can be photographed and what's already on the public record can be republished. Neither are absolute rules any more, but the exceptions have, hitherto, been very carefully defined. No longer. Pity the poor investigative journalist - or biographer - working under threat of a Hong Kong principle approved by the commissioners, "That the law should take account of the 'practical obscurity' of personal information that is held in public registries or that has already been disclosed." What is buried must remain buried.

The commissioners are polite, intelligent men who have lived their lives around the courts. They're happy to leave to judges the case-by-case task of working out what is "private" and who has "a reasonable expectation of privacy" and whether claims for privacy are outweighed by "competing public interest".

None of those issues are now clear. Defining them would take many years. Meanwhile, newspapers would be published and news bulletins broadcast in a strange new world where the courts could punish the media for annoying people by honestly reporting accurate material contained in public documents.

Footnotes to their report reveal opposition to the proposals from the Law Council of Australia, the media Right to Know Coalition, the Law Society of NSW and the Press Council. And, for what it's worth: me. We were all ignored.


Wealthy homes targeted in Labor Party tax plan

Taxes originally promoted as affecting only the very rich soon end up hitting middle-income people too -- America's "Alternative Minimum Tax", for example

THE Rudd Government is considering slapping a wealth tax on the country's most expensive family homes, according to The Australian. The move is part of a wide-ranging and radical review of the tax system chaired by Treasury secretary Ken Henry.

The Government has asked Treasury to model various capital gains tax scenarios on family homes valued at $2 million or more, including making interest payments on mortgages a deductible expense. An estimated 4000 homes were sold for $2 million or more last year, representing the top two per cent of residential properties. The combined value of properties sold in the bracket was $10 billion.

Dr Henry, whose five-member panel will make its final recommendations on tax reform to the government in December, has indicated that one of the objectives of the tax review is to remove distortions in the taxation of savings. The tax-free status of the family home has made it the "principal form of tax-preferred savings", according to the review's initial outline.

A spokesman for Wayne Swan yesterday declined to comment about the modelling being done by his department on capital gains on family homes. "The Government will await the final report of the ... (tax review) panel due at the end of the year and will not be pre-empting that report," he said.

Residential property forecaster BIS Shrapnel estimates that 500,000 residential properties worth a total of $200 billion are sold in Australia each year. Based on some simple modelling, BIS Shrapnel estimates the Government could raise an additional $125 million a year by targeting the principal homes of Australia's richest residents.


Police to attend WA schools to help problem students

Police in schools is old hat in many American schools but it is a shock for Australia. Government bans on discipline are the cause in both cases, however

POLICE will attend WA schools to help deal with problem students under a new Government initiative. The idea will be tested at Gilmore College, the State Government announced today. WA Police will work with the Department of Education and Training as part of a two-pronged strategy to address antisocial behaviour, reduce truancy and improve behaviour at schools.

Police Minister Rob Johnson and Education Minister Liz Constable announced a six-month trial at Gilmore College where a police officer will spend two afternoons a week with a select group of students known to have behavioural issues. “The intention of this trial is to work with students to prevent truancy and improve general behaviour,” Mr Johnson said. “This will give students the chance to get their lives headed in the right direction. “If successful, it is possible the program could be extended to other locations in 2010, subject to a full review and consultation with Government.”

Mr Johnson said the program would also provide support for students who had experienced contact with the criminal justice system. “We want to give these young people the opportunity to develop a positive rapport with police in a safe environment,” he said. “The intention is to reduce the potential for reoffending by establishing mentoring relationships. “Activities for participating students will be aimed at reducing truancy and antisocial behaviour and improving positive relationships with WA Police and the school community.”

Dr Constable said the second part of the strategy would see a police sergeant posted to the Department of Education and Training’s central office to work for a year as a School Safety Liaison Officer. Dr Constable said the officer would help staff bring in proactive and preventative measures for reducing antisocial behaviour, promoting internet safety and crime prevention.


Doctors warn of more cuts to health services in Western Australia

The Australian Medical Association has warned of a new wave of "secret" cuts to public health which it says could decimate front-line hospital services already struggling to cope with record patient numbers.

Senior doctors at several Perth tertiary hospitals claimed that hospital administrators recently told them to find areas that could be cut as much as 10 per cent as part of the Government's across-the-board spending cuts. The doctors said the advice had been verbal rather than written and they believed this was to avoid public scrutiny. They say the existing Government-imposed 3 per cent funding cuts have stripped services to the bone and they warned that any further cuts would make it impossible to provide essential care to patients.

Treasurer Troy Buswell said this week that he was cracking down on what he regarded as out-of-control spending by the Health Department, claiming it was ignoring directions from the Government and employing too many new staff.

AMA WA president Gary Geelhoed said hospital administrators were now making it clear to senior staff - without putting it in writing - that more cuts to services were looming. He said the Government should make it clear if this was the case. "They're saying they're expecting savage cuts, some suggesting in the order of 10 per cent, and if this is even a possibility, we're very concerned," he said. "It's been impossible with 3 per cent cuts not to affect front-line services and if we're talking about more than that then it's totally unrealistic and there's no way you wouldn't affect services."

Professor Geelhoed said if the Government was serious about making the system more efficient it would address the high number of health bureaucrats compared to the number of clinical staff. It should also review the future of the department's centralised payroll agency Health Corporate Network which he said had been an disaster because it made repeated errors. It should also look at setting up regional boards which offered more accountability.

"As far as Mr Buswell's comments on out-of-control spending are concerned, he needs to take into account the out-of-control demand we're seeing in our health services," Professor Geelhoed said.

Shadow health minister Roger Cook said it was time for the Government to be honest about the impact of the budget cuts on front-line services. "Doctors are giving us the honest picture of what is happening to our health services and this revelation comes on top of the Treasurer's attacks on the Health Department and its staff," he said.

Mr Buswell refused to comment on the doctors' claims.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Perverted cops in South Australia

And the "regulator" is of course taking years to do anything about it

MALE police are stripping distressed female prisoners, who are then put in cells under CCTV, a practice being questioned by the independent police complaints body. In a letter to Police Commissioner Mal Hyde, obtained by The Advertiser, the Police Complaints Authority says it has "long-standing disquiet" over the practice, which has been labelled "violent and disturbing" by civil libertarians.

It has only come to light after a mother of three complained about being stripped by up to four male officers and put into a padded cell at Christies Beach police station. She believes her complaint would have been "swept under the carpet" if not for a letter on her behalf from former Supreme Court judge Ted Mullighan. "Lee" - not her real name - told The Advertiser she continues to be haunted by the November 2006 ordeal, and that she is still waiting on a complaints authority ruling.

The Advertiser has also learnt of two teenage girls who claim to have been subjected to the same treatment at Christies Beach but say they are too afraid to lodge an official complaint.

Lee - who gave evidence at the Mullighan inquiry about being sexually abused in foster care as a child - said being stripped by male officers was "like being raped all over again". She was held inside a cell naked for about an hour after being picked up on a warrant for failing to attend a court hearing over a minor theft from a shop in the 1990s - a warrant which took police 13 years to execute despite Lee living at the same address the entire period. "I can't put words to what they have done to me, it's just inhumane," Lee said. "Nobody is game enough to talk about this sort of thing because they are the police, they've got a badge and they are allowed to do whatever they do - it's not right."

Complaints authority investigator Helen Lines outlined some of her concerns about the stripping practice in a letter to Mr Hyde dated June 22 this year.

"I first assessed the conduct of the police officers who were the subject of the complaint in June 2008," Ms Lines wrote. "That assessment was coloured by the long-standing disquiet I have felt about the practice of placing police prisoners in padded cells and of forcefully stripping them before such placement. "These practices are contemplated by SA Police general orders. "I decided that rather than focus on the actions of the individual officers who are subject of (the) complaint, I would focus on the practice of using padded cells to confine distressed prisoners to prevent them from harming themselves with their clothing."

The 25-page letter also contains excerpts from the letter written by Mr Mullighan, who chaired the Children in State Care Commission of Inquiry in 2006-07. Mr Mullighan wrote that, despite her traumatic and abusive upbringing, Lee had managed her life well, stayed out of trouble for most of her adulthood and had raised three children largely on her own. Another woman has told The Advertiser her 14-year-old daughter was also stripped by two male officers at Christies Beach and held in a padded cell in late 2007.

"She was worried the video footage that they took of her was going to be used in the officers' station to have fun with or whatever, which was pretty bad thing for a teenager to have to think ... she actually sat there with her hands over her private parts in her cell trying to hide herself," said the mother, who did not want to be named.

SA Council of Civil Liberties spokesman George Mancini said he was appalled at the "humiliating and violent" practice and said police had a "very high duty of care" to distressed prisoners who were deemed at risk of self-harm. "This goes back to the 19th century when we were dealing with people in the mental asylums ... this is not the proper way to treat people and it is obviously violent and disturbing," Mr Mancini said. He described the stripping practice as "inhumane" and counterproductive. "Surely the only way to reduce that sort of behaviour is to take action against individuals and then publicise it so that other officers know that they will be subject to public scrutiny if they behave that way," Mr Mancini said.

Under current laws, Police Complaints Authority investigations are private and only complainants are given access to findings.

Lee said Ms Lines - who has been examining the case for more than a year - was "horrified" when she watched a video of the incident in which she was stripped after becoming agitated when told she would have to spend a weekend in custody on the arrest warrant and that her children would be put into state care. Yesterday, an SA Police spokesman said police could not comment on Lee's case because it was still before the complaints authority.


Another slap on the wrist for vicious thugs

What's wrong with our judicial system? An unprovoked attack that left two men close to death and the thugs only get 18 months? One of them even had a previous conviction for violent assault

A TV star who was viciously bashed believed he was going to die at the hands of his attackers.

The two men who brutally beat ABC television personality Rob "Tino" Carnevale and his friend Juke Jenyns were yesterday sentenced to at least a year and a half in jail for the unprovoked attack in November last year, The Mercury reports. Damion Robert Stuart Carlton and David Henry Donohue both pleaded guilty to the bashing of the Gardening Australia host that left him with multiple head and facial fractures and his friend with other serious injuries.

During the case in the Supreme Court in Hobart Mr Jenyns, 34, said he thought Mr Carnevale was going to die after he heard his head crack "like an egg".

Although the thugs had made an apology, Mr Carnevale said he was unable to accept it. "Our pain is continuing. It is hard to just put it behind us," Mr Carnevale said. "We live in a great city and a great state and Average Joe can't walk down the street without fearing for his life and that is not a good thing.

Justice David Porter described the act as "callous and heinous".


Some Australian consumer reports on "twisty" lightbulbs
Reports from different contributors to a consumer reports site below. Note that New Zealand has reversed its ban on incandescent globes

* They claim that the energy saving light bulbs lasts 10000 hours, if the one in my son's bedroom is on about 3 hours a day, it should last 9.1 years, well it lasted about 2 years, I have 4 of those light bulbs in my house and all are used around 3 to 5 hours a day and none last more then 2 years.

* From my experience the compact fluorescent lamps are very sensitive to heat and reqire good ventilation. They do not last long in enclosed light fittings. The spiral type tubes are less prone to trap a build up of dead moths and insects and are giving me much better service. I bought a six pack of 'Nelson' brand from Bunnings and the first two didn't last two nights so I returned them and got my money back. Perhaps you get what you pay for.

* Frequent switching on and off also reduces their lifespan. Fluorescent lighting (either compact or standard) generally works best in areas where the lights are switched on and off once or twice a day. If you're going to be out of the room for less than 5-10 minutes, you're better off leaving the light on the time you are out.

* Also, you get what you pay for, and the dearer ones tend to be better quality and last longer, much like everything else. Having said that I bought two Nelson ones at Bunnings a few years ago because they were on clearance (both had different covers on them). One lasted less than 6 months, the other one is still working fine as the main living room light. Most of the packaging will only say'up to 10,000 hours', or 8 times as long as an incandescent globe, as the 10,000 hours is pretty rare.

* So it's a bit of a scam then. "you get what you pay for". Actually I got them for free -- they were giving them away at the shopping center and I got quite a few. the point is, I like the old style light bulbs better, they cost 75 cents and last long enough.

* Not so much a scam, they use about 80% less electricity than the old incandescent light globes, but they do cost more. The basic style (either prongs or twist) are around $3.00-$3.50 each for a reasonable brand (I normally use Phillips, although I have a stash of free GE ones). So even if they only last the same time as incandescent globes, they work out cheaper in the long run due to their lower consumption. But for lights that are left on for reasonable periods of time such as living rooms, or bedrooms where children play, they should last considerably longer than incandescent globes.

There is also the possibility it was just a bad batch. I had some old incandescent globes once that lasted less than 3 months. Their replacements (same brand and type) lasted much much longer.

* "They use about 80% less electricity", well that's what we're told but do they??? My electricity bill didn't come down since I started using these bulbs; anyway I didn't notice it> What we do know for sure is that we have to pay 5 to 6 times more just to buy the bulb, and the old style bulbs are being phased out, so we don't have a choice, is it all for the sake of stopping this climate change?


Nasty council bureaucrats back down under union pressure

Update to a post on July 30th

TWO council workers at the centre of a steak sanga scandal have been reinstated. Mick Van Beek and Peter Anderson were sacked for using hot-mix bound for the tip to fill two potholes that were creating a hazard to elderly patrons at Leopold Sportsmans Club. They received a free steak sandwich for their efforts.

The Geelong Advertiser said the men would now be issued with a written warning.

Australian Services Union Geelong organiser Barry Miller said the council and the union had reached an agreement after five hours of conciliation talks last night. ''They have been reinstated effective from this morning,'' he said. ''Our lawyers are meeting in a conciliation meeting at 9.30am this morning to finalise the details of their return to work. ''We are over the moon. It's a very good outcome, it was the only outcome that could have come out of this whole farce."

Last week, the council offered to reinstate Mr Van Beek but refused to give Mr Anderson his job back on the basis of an incident that allegedly occurred back in 2001 but union officials rejected the offer.



In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is lending his support to AUSBUY, an organization that encourages Australians to buy Australian products

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Plan to change Punjab Place to Oak Tree Place attacked as racist

I don't suppose we are allowed to mention that some streets in Bombay which had had English names for centuries were given Hindi names instead a few decades back? OK to change English names to Indian ones but not OK to change Indian names to English ones?? OK for Indians to prefer Indian names but not OK for English-speaking people to prefer English names?

A RACE row is brewing in the quiet cul-de-sac of Punjab Place at Logan in Queensland as 32 residents petition to change the street's Indian name. The retirement village at the centre of the stoush, south of Brisbane, is now considering a withdrawal of its application to the council, The Courier-Mail reports.

But yesterday residents said they still wanted the street renamed Oak Tree Place, after the Oak Tree Lifestyle Village that dominates a quarter of the streetscape. A 32-signature petition was submitted by village manager Dawn Ludlow to Cr Lynne Clarke, stating Oak Tree Place was a more suitable name for the street than Punjab - a northwest Indian state.

Residents outside the Boronia Heights village yesterday said they signed the petition because they felt Oak Tree was "prettier". "This isn't racist," resident Ron Edmonds said. "Oak Tree is just a nicer name." Further up the cul-de-sac, resident Annie Liu said Punjab was an "Indian name". "It is not against Indians but this is a beautiful street and Oak Tree is a beautiful name," she said. "Punjab isn't as much."

But Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin president Umesh Chandra said the request to rename the street was devastating. Given the controversy over attacks on Indian students in Australia, plans to remove an Indian street name would make relations worse. "Regardless of whether this is just because one name is prettier than another, people in India would see it as a terrible slur; they are already cancelling trips to Australia over the treatment of students," Mr Chandra said. "The majority of Indian students coming to Australia come from Punjab, too, which means this would escalate tensions. "It is very disappointing. The name of the street is special."

Punjab Place was named in September 2005, after a request by a developer of Punjabi heritage who still lives in the street. It sits amid Flinders Crescent, Jacaranda Ave and Poinciana Drive.


Senate kills Australia's Warmist laws

The Senate has defeated legislation to establish an emissions trading scheme, forcing the Government to negotiate with the Opposition or persist with its bill with the threat of an early election. Just after 11am, the Opposition, Greens, and the independents, Nick Xenophon and Steve Fielding, voted to defeat the package of 11 bills that sought to establish a scheme from 2011 onwards.

If the Government waits three months to reintroduce the bills, and they are defeated again, it would serve as a trigger for a double dissolution election. [An early election which dissolves both the Senate and the lower house]

Before the vote, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong called it a "day of reckoning" on climate change. "This is a reform that is long overdue, that is in the national interest, that both major political parties said they would implement when they went to the last election," she said. In summing up the Government's case before the vote, Senator Wong said: ''This bill may be going down today but this is not the end. We will press forward, we will press on with this reform for as long as we have to. ''We will bring this bill back before the end of the year."

Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull said he was willing to negotiate amendments to pass a scheme in the event the Government reintroduces the bills. But his party room is divided and he faces a tough test ahead, even though he has majority support to negotiate.

Senator Wong said again this morning she would consider amendments "when Mr Turnbull has serious and credible amendments that have the support of his party room". Debate on the scheme began about 10am but there were few speakers left to make a contribution. Family First Senator Steve Fielding told the Senate of his concerns that humans were not the cause of global warming.


Early election trigger won't work

KEVIN Rudd's plans for an early double dissolution election have been sunk, with the discovery of a legal defect in his Emissions Trading Scheme. The Clerk of the Senate, Harry Evans, is understood to have confirmed that even if Mr Rudd were to go to a double dissolution election to get his ETS through Parliament, the scheme could still be blocked by the Senate.

Mr Evans an expert on Senate practice is understood to have based his argument on the fact that most of the ETS relies not on law, but on regulation. The Standing Orders of the Parliament state those regulations could still be struck down by the Senate even if the laws establishing the ETS were passed at a joint sitting of Parliament following a double dissolution election.

Mr Evans' views are based on the 1987 precedent of the failed Australia Card. Then Prime Minister Bob Hawke went to a double dissolution election using the Senate's obstruction of the ID card as a trigger. He won the election and was preparing for a joint sitting of the Parliament when it was discovered by the Opposition that the start-up date for the card was governed by regulation and a hostile Senate would vote it down. In a humiliating backdown, Mr Hawke had to abandon the ID card.

Mr Evans believes Mr Rudd is now in the same position.

When contacted yesterday, Mr Evans declined to comment publicly. It is understood that shadow attorney-general George Brandis shares Mr Evans' opinion. It is likely Mr Evans' view will be confirmed in writing this week when Senator Brandis approaches him for confirmation of his opinion.


Australian police trying to whitewash Muslim terrorism

Comment from the Jewish Community Council of Victoria

The tragic reality of modern life is that almost no day passes without a terrorist attack somewhere in the world. Recent terrorist events, particularly last month's bombings of Jakarta hotels which killed Australians as well as persons of other nationalities, and last week's allegations of a plot to attack the Holsworthy Army Base, bring danger closer to home and make the need for action even more pressing.

The JCCV is far from alone in regarding contemporary terrorism as the greatest immediate danger facing the Western world and its values today. While some are reluctant to say so - and Muslim theology and the directives of its religious leaders are sometimes contradictory - it is an inescapable fact that this terrorism is almost entirely carried out by persons purporting to act in the name of Islam.

That the Australian Government recognises this is apparent. To take one proof, as of May 2009 it had proscribed seventeen terrorist organisations. All except one are Islamist in nature (and even the secular exception, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), has utilised Sunni Islamic beliefs to mobilise support).

As part of a strategy to combat extremism, Victoria Police with the support of the Federal Government, has undertaken this project looking at the ‘Lexicon of Terror'. While this project is still in progress, comments made by Assistant Commissioner Fontana and Australia's Attorney General Robert McClelland, suggest that the ‘Lexicon of Terror' project will likely recommend that the language around terror be sanitised, avoiding all possible reference to Muslims in the belief that this will reduce their alienation and hence their radicalisation.

In the JCCV's opinion - and that of many learned experts on terror - this would be an ill-considered and likely counter-productive outcome. There is widespread disagreement on what makes a terrorist. Mooted causes include indoctrination, alienation, poverty, anger at the West for its military action against Islamic countries, hatred of the West for its values, doctrinal differences, individual pathology, personal tragedy and more. For every theory there are both exceptions to the rule and countering views, hence making both proactive and reactive approaches all the more difficult.

However one fact almost always emerges from the uncertainty about what motivates terrorist behaviour. Whatever the true reason may be, it is invariably couched in theological language, at its simplest "I commit this act because it is Allah's will". Western governments and other institutions cannot counter this belief, certainly not in Islamic countries, nor in the West where faith-based schools and home teaching can facilitate hatred of the host society.

Only Muslims themselves with the requisite will and inclination can turn the tide in the war against terror. However they can not and will not do so if they do not acknowledge that they have this power. And a ‘Lexicon of Terror' that infantilises and absolves Muslims of responsibility by creating a generic, overly careful and politically correct language will doom us all to failure.

The various elements that constitute the terrorist movement proudly proclaim Islamism as their motivator. If Government, its institutions, the media and other moulders of opinion, and most importantly, the mainstream Muslim community do not take them at their word and clearly state that a particular interpretation of Islam lies at the root of terror (and that there are alternatives), then it will be impossible to move followers of Islam to a more moderate view of the world.

The Victorian Jewish community believes that the real clash in today's world is not between civilisations as some contend, but within each civilisation or religion, a clash between the forces of extremism and those of moderation and acceptance of diversity. We must give the moderates the tools to fight the former. While this means clearly recognising that moderate and mainstream Muslims are both in the majority and are allies of democrats in this war, this must be done without denying the motivation and actions of the minority who give Islam and Muslims a bad name. In short, the application of a form of censorship to the way in which terrorist acts are reported or referred, so that the underlying motivation for such acts is in effect denied, will not achieve the desired outcomes. It is far more important that we all work together to empower the moderate Muslim community to speak out against the perpetrators of these acts.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Slap on the wrist for negligent cancer doctor

So you cannot trust even a specialist and the regulators who are supposed to protect you do nothing to stop it. Could he not at least have been fined a substantial sum or barred from anything but general practice work? His interest in patient care was obviously nil. Regulators so often let negligent and incompetent people run riot that you wonder what they are for. Even when complaints are received, it always seems to take them years to act. DO NOT rely on them to protect you from incompetents. Make your own enquiries when and where you can. And Google your own illnesses so you get an idea of what SHOULD be happening

A UROLOGIST repeatedly failed to order a biopsy for a patient who presented with symptoms of prostate cancer over four years, by which time the tumour had become aggressive and spread, an inquiry has found. William Lynch, a consultant at the Sydney Prostate Cancer Centre and Urology Sydney, has been reprimanded by the NSW Medical Board for displaying ''a serious lack of care in the management of [the] patient''.

The treatment of all Dr Lynch's patients will now be subject to an audit that will look at his history taking, recall system for follow-up of patient test results, diagnostic process and decision-making.

Last month the Professional Standards Committee found that Dr Lynch failed to monitor the patient's escalating prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels, which can indicate the presence of prostate cancer. He also failed to arrange a biopsy, which would have diagnosed the cancer and indicated how likely it was to metastasise, despite suspicious results of rectal examinations and the patient's symptoms and strong family history of the disease. When the cancer was finally diagnosed 3½ years later it was graded nine out of 10.

Dr Lynch is a director of the Australasian Urological Foundation and has published extensively on the use of minimally invasive treatments for prostate cancer such as cryotherapy, in which intense cold is used to kill cancerous cells. He consults at Sutherland and St George Hospitals as well as St George Private, President Private and the Mater Private hospitals.

A number of expert reports to the Health Care Complaints Commission said his conduct was significantly below the standard expected of a specialist of his seniority.

Dr Lynch told the committee that some of the patient's clinical notes had gone missing when Dr Lynch moved offices, but from memory, the patient had been reluctant to undergo a biopsy - an argument the patient's wife strongly rejected and the committee did not accept. He did not know why alarm bells did not ring when the patient's PSA reached a high level of 15.8 and could not explain why he failed to write detailed letters back to the patient's GP.

The committee also found that Dr Lynch had not provided any evidence of the changes he claimed to have made since the case, such as an electronic medical record system and ''triple checks'' to ensure abnormal results were followed up.


Rudd health reform ideas as crazy as Obama's

More limits on what care you can get will be coming

Barack Obama wants $US1000 billion over a decade to fund health reform. It is an unfathomable amount of money and if the drug companies and other vested interests in US medicine's vast corporate edifice fail to sink his proposal, then the seeming impossibility of financing may sink it anyway. If Kevin Rudd accepts the proposals of his own health reform gurus, he may have to ask us for what amounts to almost the same sum, per capita.

Last month the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission estimated its proposals - with a dental health scheme, better community care for long-term conditions including mental illness, and new performance standards for emergency care and surgery - would cost at least $2.8 billion to $5.7 billion a year. Over a decade, that makes $32 billion to $64 billion. Multiply the upper end by 15 (roughly the factor by which the US population is larger), convert the currency and you reach $US800 billion.

It's no coincidence. Despite different financing regimes, both countries need to spend now to realign towards more rational health care, which keeps people well instead of just saving them when they are sick. We have identical pressures: an ageing population and the rising real cost of treating more people better for longer. Each year the use of intensive care beds (which cost $1.5 million a year to run) by those over 70 increases 14 per cent, the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society says. Changing technology means more now survive previously unthinkable treatment.

While specialists want debate about limiting medical heroics for the very old and very sick, they do not want to start it. As the head of intensive care at a large Sydney hospital recently commented privately, it is ''tiger territory''. It's not hard to see why. Take Erbitux, a drug for advanced bowel cancer. It costs $US80,000 for an average extra 1.2 months of life, say doctors from the US National Institutes of Health. Calculations published last week in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute put the annual cost of extending the life of every American cancer patient by one year at the same price pro rata at $US440 billion. If you use the same formula for Australia, it's about $35 billion.

Australia does health care comparatively efficiently and well. We spend half, per capita and as a proportion of gross domestic product, what the US does - where outrageous private doctors' fees are rife and the quality of care is uneven and often woeful. We spend about 10 per cent more than Britain, but for that we get a life expectancy two years longer. It's a good start, although insufficient to hold back the twin tides of demographics and technology. Minor tweaks are not going to help in a world where a single costly breakthrough drug can bring the system to its knees.

But in the reform commission's nearly 300-page report lurks a grenade. Under the anodyne name Medicare Select is the seed of a plan that could end the generally unlimited access to medicine Australians enjoy. The Government would determine a ''mandatory set of health services made explicit in a universal service obligation'', or minimum treatment standards all Australians could expect from their health insurance, of which the Commonwealth would become just one, no-frills, provider. All services, including doctors, public hospitals and ambulances, would be covered. Private opt-in funds could supplement that legislated minimum with extras such as fancier hospitals and orthodontics, as they do now.

The key word is ''explicit''. How explicit? Australians have grown used to implicit access to medicine, a warm and fuzzy sense that in our darkest hour the system will rescue us. State public hospitals have few explicit caps on what care is offered to whom and for how long, and managers have leeway to fund unusual therapies in special circumstances. Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme have more precise rules. But doctors work around them, stretching the truth to, for instance, justify dementia medication if they believe standard tests miss the subtleties of the person's condition.

Another clue to the commission's agenda is in its description of how Medicare Select might be funded: ''To aid the community's understanding of the cost of the universal entitlement to health care, it could be financed through a publicly identified share of consolidated revenue or from a dedicated levy.''

Australia spent $94 billion on health care in 2007 - a rise of 4.8 per cent (double the inflation rate) on the previous year - but fragmented among state and federal accounts and out-of-pocket payments. A single government budget item - goes the thinking - running to $70 billion and spiralling upwards, would focus the community mind. The current round of health reform talk is just the beginning. Next, we need to discuss how much medicine we are prepared to pay for, and when we stop.


The Rudd revolution in education is destined to fail

Kevin Donnelly

IF imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then Tony Blair's head must be spinning. When it comes to the federal government's education revolution, the reality is that Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard are simply copying policies implemented by Blair when he was British prime minister. Initiatives such as early childhood education, a national curriculum and national testing, identifying under-performing schools and holding them accountable and investing in computers and information and communication technology, are all copied from British Labour.

Even the rhetoric is the same. Just compare Blair's exhortation, "Our goal: to make Britain the best-educated and skilled country in the world education, education, education", to Kevin Rudd's statement: "We need to lift our vision and start to imagine an Australia where we turn ourselves into the most educated economy, the most educated society in the Western world."

Education Minister Gillard, late last year, called on business to become more involved with schools, when she said, "I am certain that we will not achieve world-class education in every Australian school without the active support and involvement of the business community." It should not surprise that Blair expressed the same sentiment in 1999 when he said, "When people say keep business out of schools I say: the more support and involvement of the wider community, including business, in our schools the better."

That Australia's education revolution copies what has been tried in Britain over the past 12 years should not surprise. The ALP's links with Britain include one-time schools minister David Miliband advising the then opposition in the lead-up to the 2007 election. One of the most influential sources of policy advice during the Blair years was the left-wing think tank Demos. The director of Demos, Tom Bentley, after working as a senior adviser to the Victorian ALP government, now advises Gillard. Tony Mackay, the deputy chairman of Australia's National Curriculum Board, also has close ties with the British Labour, having worked with Demos and other British education bodies such as the London Leadership Centre during the Blair years.

Given that Rudd's education revolution mirrors events in Britain, the question needs to be asked: have the Blair policies succeeded in raising standards and strengthening schools? Based on the results of the most recent national tests for 11-year-olds, where two in every five children are leaving primary school under-performing in mathematics, science and English, the answer is "no".

Where there is evidence of test results improving, as noted by Alan Smithers in his report Blair's Education: an international perspective, such results are illusory. Not only have tests been made easier, but schools have also inflated results by narrowing the curriculum, teaching to the test and excluding weaker students.

Such are the flaws in Britain's national testing system, one that Australia has followed with national tests at years 3, 5, 7 and 9, that key stage three tests have been abolished and a recent report evaluating the primary curriculum argues that high-risk, one-off tests need to be wound back in favour of more teacher-directed classroom assessment.

In relation to the national curriculum, Chris Woodhead, the former chief inspector of schools originally appointed by Margaret Thatcher and reappointed by Blair, argues that subjects lack academic rigour as they are prone to politically correct fads such as personalised learning and teaching wellbeing. In his recent book Class War: The State of British Education, Woodhead also suggests the reason so many students achieve excellent examination results is because, over time, questions have been made easier and standards watered down.

Such are the concerns about the senior-school curriculum being dumbed down that a group of Britain's most prestigious independent schools has decided to abandon A-levels in favour of more academically rigorous and reliable alternatives.

As to why Blair's reforms have been ineffective and why Rudd's education revolution is also destined to fail, the answer lies in the overly bureaucratic, centralised and top-down nature of the reforms. As suggested by Woodhead: "The lesson for this failure is simple, the top-down imposition of politically inspired education reform does not work." Micro-managing schools and enforcing a one-size-fits all approach stifles creativity, innovation and denies schools the freedom and flexibility needed to achieve strong outcomes.

There is an alternative. Research into the characteristics of stronger performing education systems and schools identifies autonomy, diversity, choice and competition as central, the very things ignored by Rudd's and Gillard's education revolution.

Evidence that school choice and a more market-driven approach works is easy to find: just look at Australia's Catholic and independent schools that, even after adjusting for students' socioeconomic background, outperform government-controlled schools in areas such as literacy, numeracy and year 12 results, as well as school retention rates and success at tertiary entry.


Stupid NSW law

Couple must battle to adopt their own son

A SYDNEY couple will have to apply to the NSW Supreme Court for permission to adopt their own son, after the Family Court found that, in the eyes of the law, he was not theirs. The case involved a couple, known in court documents only as Sharon and Paul, who were unable to conceive because Sharon had been treated for cervical cancer, the Australian reports. Before having treatment that rendered her infertile, Sharon had her eggs harvested and stored. One of these eggs was later mixed with Paul's sperm, creating an embryo.

Sharon's mother, Lauren, offered to carry the embryo for her daughter. The child, known as Michael, was born in October 2008. Immediately after birth, Lauren handed the baby to Sharon and Paul, and they've been raising him ever since. The couple listed Paul as the father on the birth certificate, since he provided the sperm, while Lauren (his grandmother) had to be listed as the mother, since she gave birth.

Sharon and Paul went to court in April, to see if Sharon could formally adopt Michael. To the family's surprise, Justice Watts ruled on August 3 that not only was Sharon not the mother, but Paul wasn't the father. Under Section 60 (H) of the Family Law Act, couples who undergo artificial conception, using donated sperm or eggs are the legal parents of the children they conceive, regardless of whether they use their own sperm and eggs. A wife who undergoes assisted conception is the mother, even if it isn't her egg, and her husband is the father, even if it isn't his sperm.

Justice Watts admitted that these results were "surprising" to all parties but came about because surrogacy law in NSW hadn't kept pace with science.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Teacher wants justice for 'nude sacking'

I have some sympathy for this woman. Teachers are entitled to a private life too. And bureaucrats sure have ways of getting nasty. On being ordered to reinstate her, they gave her a difficult job for which she is not trained. What does it say about a bureaucracy that fills positions with unqualified people? Someone needs to crack down on these petulant sulkers. Pic concerned below -- JR

A TEACHER sacked for posing nude in a women's magazine is fighting for an apology and compensation. Lynne Tziolas was sacked from Narraweena Public School, in Sydney's northern suburbs, after she posed nude with her husband Antonios also a casual teacher in the sealed section of Cleo magazine last year.

After finalising legal documents Mrs Tziolas plans to file her claim against the the New South Wales Education Department with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission in the next two weeks. She is seeking answers and compensation for the "irrevocable damage’’ done to her career, The Manly Daily reports.

Her initial sacking divided the school community and caused a public uproar with both parents and students campaigning to have the popular year one teacher back in the classroom. After an investigation, the Education Department overturned the decision and reinstated her.

However, she was offered a position at a school for students with behavioural and learning difficulties, one she says she is not qualified for. The second offer was for an interview, not a position, for a school in the northern Sydney school of Ryde about "an hour and a half away in peak hour traffic’’.

Mrs Tziolas said there were many double standards within the Education Department. "Antonios is a teacher and nothing happened to him. He was in the same picture.’’

Mr Tziolas said there was also a gender inequality with other public servants, such as firefighters, who pose for nude calendars. "We’re going to argue not only has Lynne’s career been irrevocably damaged, but her health has suffered directly as a result,’’ he said. "It’s not the same as in the corporate world where you can look for another job outside of the company. We won’t deny compensation is something we’re seeking but also the acknowledgment that they (department) have stuffed up.’’


Attempt to rip off KFC?

Judging by the names, the family appears to be of Egyptian origin. Note also that the father said that he, his wife and son also had a bite of the twister and also fell ill. A twister is quite a small thing yet FOUR people had a bite of it?? I think I can see the father being done for perjury

Sales records contradict a father's evidence of buying a KFC chicken twister at the centre of his daughter's $10 million damages case, a judge has been told. In the NSW Supreme Court on Tuesday, Ian Barker, QC, for the fast food outlet, said documents showed conclusively "no twisters were bought in the relevant period".

Monika Samaan, now 11, is suing KFC - through her father Amanwial Samaan - claiming she developed salmonella poisoning from a twister bought by him on October 24, 2005. KFC has denied being responsible for her illness, which has effectively left her a quadriplegic and severely brain damaged.

Last week, Mr Samaan gave evidence in the Sydney court of picking up the then seven-year-old Monika and her brother, after school on October 24. He said they then went to the Villawood KFC outlet, in Sydney's west, where he bought his daughter the twister and his son a burger, before they went home and ate the food. Mr Samaan has yet to be cross-examined.

The case has been delayed as the girl's legal team have sought voluminous documentary and other material from KFC. On Tuesday, the Samaans' barrister, Anthony Bartley, SC, listed some material sought, including an investigation to see if CCTV footage exists of the Villawood store from the relevant date and records relating to the cash registers. While agreeing to see if certain material could be produced, Mr Barker opposed an adjournment, saying Mr Samaan's cross-examination could go on. He said KFC would apply to amend its defence by denying that Mr Samaan bought the twister he said he had purchased. "He has already nailed his colours to the mast," he said.

Mr Barker said KFC will submit that the documents produced in answer to the subpoena show conclusively that at the relevant time on October 24 no twisters were bought. Justice Stephen Rotham adjourned the case to November 30 for a three-week hearing. He also listed the matter for directions on August 21 when KFC may apply to amend its defence.


That great airport security again

Passengers takes long knives through airport security

Barry Padgett couldn't believe it when he absent-mindedly took three long, sharp cutting knives in his carry-on luggage bag and managed to get through airport security. The 59-year-old from Labrador, on the Gold Coast, was flying home last Sunday on a Virgin Blue flight from Melbourne to Coolangatta Airport when he claims he “forgot” to check in his bags containing the sharp weapons.

Without thinking he put his carry-on bag through the airport's security scanners at Tullamarine Airport and successfully got through the tight checkpoint before realising he should have checked in the dangerous knives. ”I was tired, I was travelling from Melbourne and went through the security at the airport with three knives in my bag,” he said. ”One knife had a 20cm blade, there was an 18cm Chinese or Japanese-style knife, and a filleting knife, they are all very sharp. ”It wasn't until I went through security that I realised I shouldn't have the knives with me.”

Mr Padgett, who works in the catering industry at V8 Supercar events across Australia, said it was extremely “concerning” he was able to get such sharp weapons through the tight security checks at Australian airports. ”The person working at security was probably as tired as I was,” he said. ”But I think there is a duty the public should know this is happening. ”I could have taken those knives on board and that's a concern. I couldn't believe afterwards that I got them through.”

Mr Padgett checked in his carry-on bag containing the knives before boarding the flight.


Catholic church still being slippery about perverted priests

MELBOURNE'S Catholic Church is under pressure to overhaul its handling of sexual abuse cases after revelations that a priest accused of abusing a minor was told beforehand that he was the subject of a covert police probe, undermining the investigation.

The pressure is likely to intensify amid claims from the Catholic Vicar- General, Bishop Les Tomlinson, that there exists a sexual abuse ''victims' industry'' that seeks to exploit victims' suffering to make money.

The priest who was told of a police investigation is the now-convicted sex offender Paul Pavlou. Pavlou was informed of the police inquiry by a church-appointed investigator in July 2007, only days after his victim's lawyer requested that the priest not be told of the investigation. Three weeks later, police raided Pavlou's house and discovered the priest's computer had been wiped. They also found a letter warning him of their inquiry.

The Age's investigation into the Melbourne Archdiocese's system of handling sexual abuse cases - known as the Melbourne Response - can also reveal that St Patrick's Cathedral's July newsletter named as a ''living treasure'' a priest who - according to the church's own investigator - had sexually abused at least three women, including a former nun. The former nun, Catherine Arthur, has said the naming of James Barry Whelan as ''living treasure'' was deplorable, while the archdiocese has said it was the result of a mistake and has apologised.

In another case, a victim of a pedophile priest had questioned why the church-appointed investigator warned him only after interviewing him - rather than before - that the interview could be used in any future court cases. Lawyers for pedophile priest Terence Pidoto later used the interview to question the victim in court.

Thirteen sexual abuse victims have formed a collective - which includes families and advocates and is backed by two interstate bishops - calling for a review of the so-called Melbourne Response.

The Melbourne Response was set up by archbishop George Pell in 1996 and has handled about 450 cases. Its inquiry arm is headed by a church-appointed barrister and respected Queen's Counsel, Peter O'Callaghan, while its compensation panel has offered up to $55,000 to about 280 abuse victims. All but six have accepted the pay-out.

In dismissing claims that the Melbourne Response is sometimes intimidating, flawed and in need of review, Bishop Tomlinson told The Age: ''You could perhaps draw a conclusion that there is what could be termed a victims' industry … willing to exploit these victims for their own gain.'' Asked who was in the industry, Bishop Tomlinson said: ''I think that is apparent enough … I am not saying the victims' support groups per se are suspect but I would also be saying there is the scope for an abuse to occur there.''

In a letter to the victims' collective, retired Sydney bishop Geoffrey Robinson, who headed the Australian church's response to the clerical sexual abuse crisis in the 1990s, said that ''a thorough review of the Melbourne Response … (was) most timely''. ''I have over the years heard a number of reports of victims feeling intimidated by the system itself. These feelings need to be heard and addressed,'' Bishop Robinson said.

Newcastle bishop Michael Malone has told the victims' collective that ''I applaud your initiative'' and that he would not excuse a church ''which refuses to listen or admit there is fault''.

The Age's investigation into the handling of the Pavlou case by the church can reveal:

* A church official disclosed to the victim's mother during a taped interview in late 2006 that ''because he [your son] is the youngest person who has come through the process we are feeling our way a bit and we don't want to make it such a big issue … like if he [your son] has got it under control. So we are learning as we go here.''

* The victim's mother was not told for three months by church investigators about some of the allegations her 15-year-old son had made about the priest's inappropriate behaviour.

* Pavlou was told about the police probe after his victim's lawyer, Paul Holdway, asked Mr O'Callaghan not to tell the priest about the police inquiry.

After he was told this, Mr O'Callaghan wrote to Pavlou's lawyers and told them that ''apparently the police are considering the matter''. Mr O'Callaghan has defended his decision to tell Pavlou's lawyers of the police probe, saying he needed to tell the priest that his own inquiry, in which a hearing was imminent, would have to stop.

''I was informed by the solicitors for [the victim] that the matter has been referred to the police with the inevitability that I would have to abstain from taking any further steps in the matter. I had no option but to inform the solicitors for Father Pavlou as to why the matter would not be proceeding," Mr O'Callaghan said. ''I did not believe, or had any apprehension, that I would be jeopardising a police investigation.''

Police were not consulted about the decision to tell Pavlou about their investigation.

Last month, Pavlou was given an 18-month suspended sentence after he pleaded guilty to two counts of indecent acts with the teenager and of possessing child pornography.

Mr O'Callaghan has also defended his decision not to encourage the teenage victim to contact police because the barrister considered the priest's conduct ''inappropriate, equivocal and suspicious'' but not criminal. However, two of the allegations made by the victim to Mr O'Callaghan in March 2007 later formed the basis of the ''indecent act'' charges. Mr O'Callaghan also defended the delay in telling the victim's mother about some of the teenager's allegations because the victim had asked that she not be told.


Monday, August 10, 2009

One battle the feminists have lost

Good looks more important than a good CV

PHOTOGENIC marketing assistant Susie Warwick has never been rejected for a job. The 20-year-old has been working for six years and believes workplaces employ staff based as much on their appearance and demeanour as their experience and CV. "All companies want to hire someone who is going to present themselves well and someone who dresses neatly," she said. "It's all about personality, too. It just depends what kind of business you're in. Some businesses are a lot more superficial than others."

A University of Sydney study of nearly 200 fashion and jewellery retailers has revealed "lookism" is rife in the rag trade, where physical appearance is more important than previous experience. But experts warn the retail industry isn't the only culprit, with hospitality, tourism and telecommunication markets equally as guilty. Nearly all clothing retailers surveyed said they hired new employees based on "personality" while 84 per cent said they relied on those who had the "right appearance". In comparison, only 44 per cent took into account a prospective employee's qualifications and less than 80 per cent someone's "previous experience".

Survey co-author and senior lecturer in work and organisational studies at the University of Sydney Diane van den Broek said the findings suggest employers pay little attention to CVs. "Beauty is big business – both for those achieving it and those exploiting it," she said. "As such, we are all implicated in this phenomenon." Dr van den Broek said it was extremely difficult to gauge how often retailers asked for photographs with job applications. However, it was becoming increasingly prevalent in the bar and hospitality industry, she said.

Talent2 director John Banks said physical appearance was still a large part of the hiring process. In some cases, it was the determining factor 90 per cent of the time. "People like people who look good and first impressions count," he said. "(In jobs) where there is a lot of exposure to the public, appearance is still an important factor."


West Australian sex education site shunned

CATHOLIC schools will shun a new sex-education website created by the WA Government. Concerned parents of Catholic students contacted The Sunday Times complaining that the website would encourage indecent behaviour.

The Health Department website says sexual activity can be ``awesome'', but also warns about the risks involved. It includes information on a variety of sexual acts and contraceptive devices, including the morning after pill. One section of the website reads: ``Exploring your own body through masturbation can be a good way to find out about your sexual feelings and your body.''

The director of Catholic Education in WA, Ron Dullard, said his schools would not even mention the website to students for fear of encouraging its use. He said the website did not promote the values taught in Catholic schools. ``We wouldn't even raise the website because all that does is create curiosity,'' Mr Dullard said. ``The Health Department puts out various materials on sex education and we use the material we think is appropriate and don't use the other material.''

The website, called ``Get the Facts'', claims 35 per cent of high school students are having sex.

Mr Dullard said the premature sexualisation of teenagers was a concern for society.

One parent told The Sunday Times she was concerned that the website encouraged flirting. A section of the website reads: ``Just because you flirt with someone, it doesn't mean you owe them anything.''

Health Minister Kim Hames said the website had appropriate information for people aged 14-17. ``The internet is a major source of information for young people but the quality of information it provides can be poor,'' Dr Hames said. ``As a result of the consultations by the Department of Health, young West Australians identified the need for a trustworthy and authoritative information source on sexual health and relationships.''

The website averages 75 visitors a day and has received 7936 unique visits from 127 countries since it was created.

Mr Dullard said worried parents should let the Health Department know about their concerns. ``Parents in a democracy should be speaking up,'' he said. "Governments have an obligation to be listening to the majority. "I would be encouraging people to speak up against things that go against their value and beliefs.''


Contempt for Australian society is rife among Australian Muslims -- and it shows

Most leading Muslims and their followers are a blight on what is otherwise a peaceful and tolerant society

By Paul Sheehan

It takes more than an hour for 75,000 people to pass by, even when they are in a hurry. Yesterday, as the record field in this year's City2Surf ran, scampered or shuffled along New South Head Road, they made an uplifting and democratic sight on a beautiful winter morning and in a beautiful setting. Diversity, frivolity, community. This is who we are - one country, one law, one common language, one community, where the great majority of people are not political, not ideological, and not concerned with dictating their beliefs to others.

This is the social glue that makes Australia work.

A surfeit of ideological passion brings problems and pain, and the reason Australia is not riven with social schisms is that the demographic ballast is provided by the apolitical tolerance of the great majority. The subcultures that do have a surfeit of desire to dictate to others are small in number. The most problematic of these subcultures are devout adherents of sharia. As believers in the primacy of sharia and the divine truth of the Koran, they are deeply compromised by living in a society built on civil law and secular customs. Our legal system is an imposition on them.

The events in Sydney and Melbourne in the past week, with the arrest of five Muslim fundamentalists whose contempt for Australia is manifest, is a reminder that the argument propagated in our universities, human rights bureaucracies and sections of the media that Muslims are a put-upon minority in Australia, sells this country short. There are problems. The problems are self-evident. But they are not, in the main, the product of prejudice.

All five of those arrested on terrorism charges were treated with great generosity by Australia as they set up new lives here. But their behaviour in court has been an exemplar of the problem of reconciling sharia with civil law. One of the accused, Wissam Fattal, refused to stand as the magistrate read out the charges and followed this with a torrent of abuse as he was led out of the court. Another of those charged, Nayef El Sayed, informed the court he would stand for no man, only for his God. In other words, they accept only sharia, the rest is a charade.

Even the family and supporters of the accused went out of their way to express contempt for the legal system and, by extension, the society it represents. Reporters were called ''faggots'' and ''dickheads'' amid a general attitude of animus recorded by the journalists covering the proceedings.

I have observed the same thing first-hand numerous times during criminal trials involving Muslim defendants, families and supporters. In every case, the idea that Muslims are in trouble because they have been ''marginalised'' by society is reality turned on its head. They are the ones who have marginalised a society they are happy to exploit but not respect.

The most-quoted apologist for the argument that Muslims in Australia are oppressed by prejudice is Keysar Trad, a self-appointed spokesman and ubiquitous quote machine who has been a media darling for years. Trad describes himself as the head of the Islamic Friendship Society - but friendship is not what he is about and his society is invisible. His main claim to fame has been as the long-time spokesman, and chief rationaliser, for the prominent and Muslim cleric, Sheikh Taj el-Din al-Hilaly, whose corrosive pronouncements are infamous. Al-Hilaly and Trad are mainstream figures in Australian Muslim society. They are not fringe dwellers.

I have always believed Trad to be a vexatious litigant, a lobbyist, a person who, even if he has good intentions, has been someone who divides, not unifies, while professing the opposite. For 10 years I have marvelled at the free run Trad has had in the media and academia. It finally came to a crashing end recently when he collided with one of the finest judges of Australia, Peter McClellan of the NSW Supreme Court.

Trad is a veteran complainant across the entire spectrum of the human rights machinery - the courts, the Human Rights Commission, the Anti-Discrimination Board, the Australian Press Council, the broadcasting tribunals. One of his numerous forays as a complainant was a defamation action against radio station 2GB, and the presenter Jason Morrison, after Morrison described him as ''gutless'' and ''trouble'' on air in 2005.

Justice McClellan threw out Trad's action. Not only did the judge describe Morrison's description of Trad as true, he summarised Trad as a man who ''incites acts of violence, incites racist attitudes, is dangerous and, perhaps most significantly, is a disgraceful individual''.

This is a thunderous and overdue dose of reality from a judge with an exemplary record of recognising the deformities within the legal system and doing something to reform them. His judicial excoriation of Trad is not even the most damning element of Trad v Harbour Radio.

The cost of this litigation has been about $400,000 as Trad spent almost four years using the legal system to wage ideological trench warfare. Now he faces the prospect of having to foot the entire bill.

It is the time, cost and hypocrisy of this complaint that is critical.

Justice McClellan's judgment should be required reading for every media executive and every lawyer and functionary at the Human Rights Commission, the Anti-Discrimination Board, and the various media tribunals. His judgment exposes the fatal weakness in the ever-burgeoning human rights industry. It is the complaint, not the outcome, that is most important to the complainant. The sheer bloody-minded willingness to engage in legal hand-to-hand combat, the threat of formal complaints, and the effort and distraction of responding to complaints, is the entire point. The process itself is the outcome. The object is to chill debate and critical scrutiny.


Once again a "regulated" industry gets cleaned up only after newspaper publicity

It's only publicity that will move bureaucrats off their fat behinds

A teenager from overseas received his license to drive taxis in Queensland after failing his driving test six times. The teenager passed on the seventh attempt according to a Queensland Transport document which reveals the department's shoddy handling of the taxi industry.

Queensland Transport's research shows how the department, when under the control of ministers including Deputy Premier Paul Lucas, subjected taxi passengers to the lowest driving standards in the country. The document, released on the Transport Department's website, forms the basis of a reform strategy devised by Transport Minister Rachel Nolan. The strategy will be explained to the industry at statewide hearings starting in Brisbane today.

Ms Nolan's nine-point strategy followed The Courier-Mail's Fare Go series which exposed widespread dissatisfaction in the taxi industry. Queensland Transport's document shows the state was one of only two which did not require overseas drivers to have previously held an Australian licence. The state also did not require English language testing to be conducted independently of taxi training companies.

The failure rate of that testing was described by Queensland Transport as "low" in this state compared with South Australia (85-90 per cent), Western Australia (35-40), Victoria (25) and NSW (15).

The report admits that taxi companies voluntarily raised training standards above those required by government since they were introduced in 2000. The report shows that 31 teenagers from overseas hold taxi driver licences after convincing Queensland Transport that they held open licences in their native country. That included the teenager who flunked his driving test six times.

Ms Nolan's strategy will include a new minimum driving age of 20 and a requirement that all taxi driver applicants hold an Australian open licence for at least one year. Independent English language testing will also be enforced after Queensland Transport admitted its own failings. "The current English language standard requirements for taxi drivers are relatively low . . . This may be due to the standards being too low or because assessors are not properly trained and accredited as English assessors," the report stated.

The reforms will include a taxi advisory committee. The Courier-Mail can reveal that it will be made up of a member of the Cab Drivers Association of Queensland, an independent regional driver along with members of the Transport Workers Union, "ethnic community council" and disability sector.


Sunday, August 09, 2009

Another good one from Australia's medical regulators

Convicted conman working for government. Regulators so often let unqualified and incompetent people run riot that you wonder what they are for. Even when complaints are received, it always seems to take them years to act. DO NOT rely on them to protect you from incompetents. Make your own enquiries when and where you can. Some of these crooks could have been uncovered simply by Googling their names

A CONVICTED conman who claims to be a doctor has been discovered working for the NSW Government - treating police officers and public servants with trauma and psychological injuries. Detectives from Harbourside Local Area Command are investigating David Ali Sarikaya, 45, after a complaint was lodged against him by the NSW Medical Board. Detectives raided his Milsons Point unit and office at the Sydney Trauma Clinic in the CBD on July 31, seizing hundreds of documents and patient files.

Sarikaya lives and works in NSW under the alias Dr David Kaye and has been authorised by WorkCover NSW to treat a range of people, including police officers, prison guards and senior legal figures.

He changed names and moved to NSW more than a decade ago after being convicted and charged of fraud in Victoria. Despite lacking medical credentials, Sarikaya was appointed an "official visitor" for NSW Health, which has allowed him to consult with psychiatric patients in hospitals for the past two years.

In March 2007, after passing a written application and interview, he was approved for the position by then health minister John Hatzistergos. The confidential accreditation signed by Mr Hatzistergos, and sighted by The Sunday Telegraph, granted Sarikaya access to mental facilities and the right to inspect patient records.

About six weeks ago he withdrew from the program after concerns were raised about his credentials. The revelations have deeply embarrassed departmental officials, who last week called for a meeting with police to clarify details about his identity. The NSW Medical Board refused to comment on complaints concerning Sarikaya, but were aware of a police investigation.


Greenpeace skipper charged after blockade of coal loader

There should be more arrests of this kind. These guys think they are gods and the law is only for "the little people" to obey. Given the wishy-washy Queensland courts, however, he will do no jail time

POLICE have charged the captain of a Greenpeace ship following a blockade at a Queensland coal terminal. Police said officers boarded a vessel in Cairns, executed a warrant about 9am yesterday and arrested a 39-year-old man. He has been charged with two counts of unregulated high-risk activity and one count each of wilful damage. The man has been bailed to appear in Bowen Magistrates Court on August 11 over those charges.

He was also charged with failing to comply with a harbourmaster's direction, navigating a ship in a pilotage area without a pilot and operating a ship that endangers safety, police said in a statement. He has been ordered to appear at Mackay Magistrates Court on August 19 in relation to those charges, police said.

Greenpeace said the captain of its vessel the Esperanza had been arrested. A spokeswoman said more than 20 police officers were waiting for the vessel when it arrived in Cairns and the entire crew was detained for about four hours. She said the captain was arrested for taking part in a blockade of the Hay Point coal terminal for more than two days this week. The terminal, 38km south of Mackay, is one of the largest of its kind in Australia.

Greenpeace last week stopped operations at the BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance terminal at Mackay for 36 hours. The protest was aimed to coincide with the Pacific Islands Forum held in Cairns, where forum leaders called for big emission cuts from Australia and New Zealand to save their homes from rising seas. Protesters said Australia was not taking sufficient action on climate change.


Catholic seminaries full as religion resurges

By comparison, Moore Theological College, the seminary of the very evangelical Anglican Archdiocese of Sydney, has over 300 full-time students in its 4-year courses

AFTER years of decline, the number of priests in the Catholic Church in NSW is on the rise. Sydney seminaries are full of holy hopefuls for the first time in 10 years, as 60 men prepare for a life in the priesthood - three times as many as there were in 2000. Eighty per cent of them are under the age of 30.

While some cite World Youth Day as their inspiration, others describe a calling they just couldn't ignore. The youngest is 19, and the majority are in their early or mid-20s. They may be young, but they are determined to be part of a revolution bringing people back to the Catholic Church.

Homebush's Seminary of the Good Shepherd is one of two seminaries in Sydney and houses 40 of those in the midst of their seven-year learning curve. Of those enrolled, 31 are under the age of 30. Father Anthony Percy, who runs the seminary, said having the younger generation aspire to be priests was encouraging, and would help resolve the problem of Sydney's priest shortage. "There is definitely a renewed interest in the Church and the priesthood," Father Percy said. "We had the ordination of four priests a few months ago - that hasn't happened since 1983." He said one reason for the shift in attitude was a reaction to a post-modern world with fluid values.

Blacktown 19-year-old Mark Aarts told The Sunday Telegraph he was accepted into the seminary when he was 18, and couldn't be happier. "As difficult as it is, there is something very firm about my desire because I see it as a gift from God," he said. "My parents were very accepting."


Arrogant Australian immigration bureaucrats steal child

POLICE are investigating immigration officials for possible criminal conduct in the kidnapping of a seven-year-old girl without her asylum seeker father's knowledge. In 2003 immigration staff hatched an elaborate plot to spirit the child away to her mother in Tehran as her father, the legal custodian, was in solitary confinement at Baxter Detention Centre. Baxter closed in 2007.

Australian Federal Police are now investigating to see whether officials committed a crime under South Australian law, overstepping federal deportation powers. Children cannot be removed from South Australia without a parent's consent. The national co-ordinator for A Just Australia, Kate Gauthier, who brought the allegations, said immigration staff acted criminally. ''It's this simple: someone took his child without permission and without his knowledge. You cannot tell me that is not a crime.''

In this case, the then Baxter officer tricked the asylum seeker, Mr X, asking permission for he and his wife to take the little girl shopping. Mr X said: ''No problem. Yes, go and enjoy yourself.'' Instead, an immigration official put the girl on a plane to Iran, plotting to distract her with toys if she resisted and asked to say goodbye to her father.

Yesterday, the former immigration minister Philip Ruddock said he was not aware of police investigations and knew of Mr X's case only from reports. ''Was I aware of the precise management of the issue? No. Would I have been micro-managing it and familiar with every detail? The answer is no,'' he said.

The seriousness of criminal allegations in Mr X's case have forced an internal review by Jeff Lamond - who was formerly employed by the Immigration Department - to be referred to Dennis Pearce, a former Commonwealth Ombudsman and expert in Commonwealth administrative law. Professor Pearce's appointment clears a perception of bias created by Mr Lamond's past employment with the department. It is expected the review will be finalised by the end of October.

Ms Gauthier said the case demonstrated a power imbalance between asylum seekers and their keepers which allowed the abuse of detainees to continue unchecked. ''He was an asylum seeker and the Port Augusta police don't give a s--- about what happens in Baxter detention centre.''

Inspector Peter Crouch, of the South Australian police, said any complaints made against a prison were taken seriously. A spokesman for the Federal Police said police diligently investigated such complaints.

Mr X has since been granted asylum in Melbourne. He attempted suicide in the months after the girl's abduction and is seeking compensation. His wife and daughter will be helped to reunite in Australia if they wish, a departmental spokesman said.


Saturday, August 08, 2009

Private schools top the class as results compared

Surprise! Note that these results are for Queensland only. NSW has made it illegal to release such information about their schools

STATE high schools were trounced by their private counterparts in last year's national numeracy and literacy tests, with only one in the 40 highest-scoring schools. The revelation is just one contained in today's inaugural release of NAPLAN (National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy) data by the Queensland Government, with students' results from years 3, 5, 7 and 9 chronicled "in a single statewide compilation". Analysis of the list reveals:

• State schools, particularly high schools and those in lower socio-economic areas, were outperformed by their private school counterparts.

• Only five state high schools appeared in the top 100 list for average school results.

• Brisbane State High School [a selective school] performed particularly well in academic scores – ranking fifth statewide – while Kenmore, Indooroopilly, Mansfield and The Gap state high schools also made the top 100.

• State primary schools did much better than their senior counterparts, with Indooroopilly, Ironside and Norman Park in the top 10.

• Of the schools which had all their results published, only six had 100 per cent of students above the National Minimum Standard in every year and every category. Four were too small to include in the top 10 – the Agnew schools at Wakerley and Nambour, the Samford Valley Steiner School and the School of Total Distance Education at Warwick.

• Schools with large numbers of indigenous students continued to perform poorly.

Controversy continues to surround the release of NAPLAN data, with NSW banning the publication of any list that ranks schools by results. Meanwhile, education stakeholders yesterday urged parents not to judge schools by the latest list alone.

Author of the NSW amendment which banned league tables, Greens MP John Kaye, said although the Queensland list would not be outlawed in his state, it was misleading. "Reducing the complexities of schools down to a single number or even a set of numbers is not only misleading, it will undermine educational outcomes as teachers are forced to teach to the tests at the expense of the remainder of the curriculum," Dr Kaye said.

Queensland Association of State School Principals president Norm Hart said making comparisons with the list could malign some excellent schools that were doing extremely well given their resources.

State Education Minister Geoff Wilson said the information alone was not enough to judge a school. "It is a snapshot and a snapshot only. It is one part of the total picture of information that parents should take into account," he said. [Any suggestion about what else parents should take into account?]


Leftist politician links immigration to terrorism

At last somebody mentions the obvious. The Muslim hostility often seen and heard in Australia (See e.g. here) mostly comes from people not born in Australia.

A FEDERAL Labor MP wants Australia's migration intake to be slashed so authorities can conduct more rigorous security checks. Kelvin Thomson said a smaller migration program would make it easier to assess whether applicants posed a terrorism threat. His comments come just days after police arrested several men in Victoria for alleged links to a Somali-based terrorist group.

"Given time, it would be possible to get to the bottom of the background of applicants from Somalia; and elsewhere work out whether they have any association with fundamentalist groups and make a rational assessment of whether they pose a risk," he told year 12 students at a foreign affairs forum in Melbourne.

Mr Thomson, a government backbencher, said Australia's immigration intake should be cut back to where it was during the Keating years. "Reducing our rates of immigration intake to the rates prevailing back in the 1990s would provide authorities with much more time in which to assess applications, and thereby improve Australia's security," he said. "My own view about this is that there needs to be more vetting of both prospective migrants and temporary residents, including students, to minimise the risk that people who do not respect Australia's laws and legal system will enter this country."

Police arrested four men of Somali and Lebanese descent in Victoria on Tuesday, on suspicion of being linked to Somali-based radical group al-Shabaab. It is alleged the men had planned a suicide shoot-out at Sydney's Holsworthy military base.

Without referring to them by name, Mr Thomson said these suspects were examples of people who did not respect Australia. "Someone who refuses to stand up when asked by a judge, and says 'I stand only before God', does not respect Australia's laws or legal system," he said.

Migration rates had skyrocketed from 82,000 a year in the mid-1990s to 148,000 in 2006 and 2007. The number of temporary entry visas, including students, also skyrocketed from 265,000 in 1995-96 to over 4 million in 2006-07. "This volume is putting our immigration authorities under a lot of pressure, and making it difficult for them to do their job," Mr Thomson said.

The Government's parliamentary secretary for multicultural affairs, Laurie Ferguson, disagreed with Mr Thomson's call to cut back migration, telling ABC radio there needed to be more resources to conduct speedier background checks. Mr Thomson, the MP for the ethnically diverse inner-Melbourne electorate of Wills, stressed the "overwhelming majority" of migrants were not criminals.


Keen law-enforcement in Queensland again: 10 years to match fingerprints

JUSTICE can be slow but even two of the legal world's veterans were today stunned when it was revealed police took 10 years to match fingerprints at a crime scene with those of the culprit. In the District Court in Brisbane, Richard Allan Crookall , 29, pleaded guilty to the burglary of a house on September 30, 1998.

Crookall broke into the house at Wavell Heights, in Brisbane's north, and stole jewellery, money, CDs and sunglasses. Forensics police found a fingerprint at the scene on October 1, 1998. However, the fingerprint was finally matched to Crookall on December 12, 2008.

His fingerprints had been in the"system" since 1997 when he appeared on drugs charges and Crookall was a regular visitor to the courts in the past decade . He was sentenced to 30 months jail in 2007 for burglary offences.

When told there had been a delay in processing the fingerprint, long serving Judge Keith Dodds replied: "That is an understatement. These charges should have been before the sentencing judge at least in 2007. What do you want me to do set him back to jail?" The court heard, however, Crookall had breached his parole and was now due for release on September 7.

Barrister Peter Nolan, for Crookall, said the delay was "inexcusable". "If ever there was a case of no further punishment this is it. This offence should ahve been dealt with years ago," Mr Nolan said.

Judge Dodds sentenced Crookall to a further 10 months jail term with parole on September 7.


Right to refuse medical treatment upheld

A court has granted a dying man the right to refuse medical treatment due to his religious beliefs. The man, who is aged in his 70s but cannot be named for legal reasons, did not wish to undergo dialysis treatment after he was admitted on July 1 to a hospital run by the Hunter New England Area Health Service. He was suffering from septic shock and respiratory failure.

Known as "Mr A", the man later suffered from renal failure and was kept alive by mechanical ventilation and kidney dialysis until the hospital discovered a document indicating he would refuse dialysis due to his beliefs as a member of the Jehovah's Witness religion. The area health service took the case to the Supreme Court to ensure the man's refusal of medical treatment was legal.

In the Supreme Court today, Justice Robert McDougall said it was unclear whether the refusal of dialysis was part of the beliefs of the Jehovah's Witness faith but a "capable adult" was entitled to refuse medical treatment on religious, social or moral grounds "or indeed upon no apparent rational grounds ... and is entitled to respect ... regardless". "That is so, even if, as it appears in the case, the likely consequence of giving effect to Mr A's wishes ... is that he will die," the judge said.

The document Mr A signed also stated he would refuse any blood transfusions or storage of his own blood for a later transfusion.


Friday, August 07, 2009

Melbourne streets frighteningly violent, says Mayor's own daughter

Conspicuously not mentioned below is who the Melbourne steeet thugs are: Mostly ethnics, particularly Africans, Lebanese Muslims and Polynesians (Maoris and other Pacific islanders). Melbourne is paying the price for John Howard's unwise "refugee" policies and open immigration from New Zealand

THE eldest daughter of Melbourne's Lord Mayor says it's not worth visiting the CBD late at night because of violent thugs roaming the streets. Bridie Doyle, 22, said young people across Melbourne were concerned about the deteriorating situation, and "it couldn't hurt" to put extra police on the streets. "I don't think it's necessarily just the city. I think violence in Melbourne is bad anywhere you go," Ms Doyle said.

She was particularly shocked by a recent attack at a Hungry Jack's outlet in Chapel St, Prahran. "You do get worried because I have been there thousands of times," she said. "But I was just up in Queensland and it's bad there too. I wouldn't walk around at 3am by myself regardless of where I was."

Ms Doyle said people her age were constantly talking about the issue because it affected everyone. "I think it's not necessarily that they go out and see it. It's more that it was reported and then you think 'it was near me' and, 'Oh, I could have been there'."

Ms Doyle backed her dad Robert's efforts to help stem the tide of late-night horror. But yesterday she surprised him when she called radio station 3AW to ask him about the value of extra police on the streets. Asked whether she went out in the city, she replied: "The violence has become so bad at night time that it's just not worth it."

Cr Doyle told the Herald Sun his daughter's call highlighted the issues he must concentrate on. "I think that's one of the problems we have, that there are young women who think the city is not a particularly welcoming place at the moment and we have got to fix that," he said.


Another triumph of government healthcare: Hospital delays cost girl her thumb

10 hour bureaucratic delay to get her into urgent surgery meant it was too late to save the thumb

A 14-YEAR-OLD girl has lost her thumb after an air transfer took too long, arriving too late for successful surgery. Teenager Sarah Smith was forced to endure a six-hour patient transfer process without pain relief after medical staff deemed her injury not to be an emergency. Despite getting to Dubbo Base hospital shortly after 9am, it took another 10 hours before the schoolgirl finally arrived at the Royal North Shore Hospital. "You keep thinking this is what they (medical staff) are supposed to do,'' Sarah's dad Malcolm Smith said.

Sarah's thumb was torn off when a horse started while she was trying to tie it up at a pony club gymkhana day. Hospital staff told Mr Smith his daughter would not be allowed on a commercial flight to Sydney - a one-hour journey - and that a patient transfer would be arranged. By 2.15pm, when the aircraft arrived, Mr Smith could have driven Sarah the five hours from Dubbo to Sydney. The plane took off just after 3pm, stopped for 30 minutes in Orange and landed in Bankstown at 4.45pm, when Sarah was taken by road - stopping at Westmead Hospital - arriving for emergency surgery at Royal North Shore at 7.15pm, 150 minutes after the plane landed.

"She had no pain killers from 2pm until she went into theatre at 8pm," her dad said. A hospital manager telephoned Mr Smith last week to apologise for the delay. [An apology! How big of them! An apology won't give her a thumb back, will it? No word that anybody has been disciplined over it, of course. So similar practices can be expected in the future]


Competition 'needed' in childrens' sports

THE state's largest swimming school operator will stage a racing carnival on Sunday which it says goes against the "sanitisation" of children's sport. State Swim chief executive officer Julie Stevens said it was time to listen to children, who wanted to compete. Nearly 300 children have registered for individual events at the carnival.

"I know that some people advocate sanitising children's sport to remove any competitive element, but the fact that the children themselves have asked for this event indicates that this is something that kids want," Ms Stevens said yesterday. "In the past, we ourselves have been mindful of removing the perceived pressure of competition, which saw us rename our squad program, calling it a team program. "However, the feedback we had is that the children liked the idea of being part of a squad and the competitive element that went with that." In previous carnivals, swimmers raced for their team, not for themselves. Ms Stevens acknowledged the move might be unpopular with those concerned about children's self-esteem.

Joanne and Chris Rose have entered daughters Jessica, 10, and Emma, 8, in Sunday's State Swim carnival. Mrs Rose said learning how to compete was a life skill. "You always want your kids to win but they can learn to deal with not winning too," she said.

Office for Recreation and Sport director Paul Anderson said children were naturally competitive. "Kids need to play just for the sake of playing but they also need to have opportunities to compete," he said. "They can learn the lessons that come from that."

Department of Education and Children's Services sport manager Peter Roberts said modified sports, which were less competitive and helped develop skills in beginners, were likely to build confidence. "We believe that any program that engages kids and gives them more opportunity to touch the ball and be involved is going to keep kids in sport for longer," he said. He said most schools still fielded teams for competitive sport as well.


DPP blasts offensive net censorship plan

The NSW Director of Public Prosecutions has slammed the Federal Government's internet censorship policy, saying it will have very limited, if any, success in achieving its aims. Nicholas Cowdery, QC, made the comments in response to a question from a journalist at a conference on e-crime in Sydney yesterday.

"Crime prevention methods need to be practical ... I'm not an expert in the field, but talk of filters, blocking mechanisms and all of that sort of thing, I think, ultimately, in a society like ours, are going to have very limited, if any, success in achieving the aims that their proponents set out for them," he said.

The Government plans to implement mandatory filters in ISPs that would block, for all Australians, sites that have been "refused classification" by Australian regulators. This includes child sexual-abuse imagery, bestiality and sexual violence material but also content that is perfectly legal to view in Australia, such as regular gay and straight pornography, and innocent sites that have been added to the secret blacklist by mistake.

Experts have long warned that filters would inevitably block innocent sites and also inadvertently let through nasty sites, and these concerns became reality last month when it was revealed a year 10 student searching for information about the swallow bird was instead presented with hardcore pornography.

Despite surfing the web with internet filtering mechanisms installed by the Department of Education and Training, the student was unable to view harmless sites such as the Education Minister Verity Firth's own website.

In further written comments made to this website today, Cowdery questioned whether an internet filtering scheme would help him catch and prosecute more criminals such as child porn traders. He said compromises to freedom of expression would also need to be considered.

People looking to view banned material on the web would probably be able to bypass the filters, while those peddling material such as child porn would most likely change their tactics to avoid detection by the filters.

"Theoretically an internet filtering scheme could capture and facilitate the proof of criminal offending [e-crime] on the internet - at least on the 'supply side'," he said. "But it is unlikely that such persons, once they know that such a scheme is in place, would continue to expose themselves to the risk of detection in that way."

Previously, communications experts have said that simply trading illegal images over peer-to-peer software, instead of via web pages, would be all it would take to bypass the ISP filters. And those determined to view banned material on web pages could evade the filtering by accessing the internet through an encrypted proxy server.

Cowdery said some other issues that needed to be considered before implementing mandatory filtering included the level of offending, the ability of such a measure to prevent or reduce such offending, the costs of introducing filtering and "the compromises that would need to be made to the freedom of expression and freedom of association in an open democratic society such as Australia".

"Especially where such compromises would be unpopular and not broadly acceptable to the community, there would be an incentive for persons to avoid or thwart such a measure and to explore and implement such avoidance," Cowdery said.

"With the present and probably future state of the technology of the internet, it seems likely that such avoidance could be achieved and that would reduce the effectiveness of internet filtering accordingly."

A group of mainly smaller internet providers are now finishing their trials of the Government's internet filtering scheme and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has said he expected to release results within weeks.

Senator Conroy has said the results will determine whether the Government proceeds with the controversial election policy. He said there was no silver bullet to protecting children online and that the internet filtering scheme would be complemented by ramped-up law enforcement.

The policy is opposed by web user groups, communications experts, most political parties, the Australian Library and Information Association and even some child-welfare groups, who say education is the key to protecting children online. Last month, the British ISP industry awarded Senator Conroy its annual "internet villain of the year award" for his internet censorship policy.


Thursday, August 06, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is unimpressed by the security situation at Australia's military bases

Farcical security breach at Lavarack barracks

SECURITY at Queensland's largest army base is so lax that would-be terrorists could drive through the front gate under the guise of playing golf. The ease at which the Lavarack Barracks in Townsville can be entered comes as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd yesterday ordered an emergency review of security weaknesses at all of the nation's army bases. Concerns have been raised that Australian troops are at risk because facilities are protected by private unarmed security guards.

Five suspected terrorists, with alleged links to Somali group al-Shabaab, have been arrested in Victoria after police foiled an alleged plot to launch a Mumbai-style suicide attack on Sydney's Holsworthy Army Base. The accused men allegedly wanted to open fire on as many soldiers as possible.

In Queensland, holes in security allowed The Courier-Mail to infiltrate the Lavarack Barracks without a security pass and then take photographs of sensitive key installations, troops in training and soldiers' accommodation. Over 90 minutes, this newspaper was not challenged or questioned by civilian security guards. The Courier-Mail was waved through the main gatehouse under the ruse of going to playing a round of golf at Lavarack Golf club in the heart of the military complex. The base, an open military facility fronting a 4km stretch of a main highway, is protected only by a waist-high wire fence.

Townsville-based Liberal MP Peter Lindsay yesterday said the police swoop on Tuesday and the threat to army bases called for an immediate upgrade of security. "It is true you can jump the fence and walk on the base," he said.

Speaking in Cairns, Mr Rudd said he had been told that security on army bases was adequate but he had ordered Defence to "undertake an immediate and comprehensive review". "What I want to be confident of is that the security at each installation is right and that it's calibrated to our security needs," he said.

The Courier-Mail has found that an aerial view of Queensland's military bases is readily available online using the "Satellite" view in Google Maps. The more intrusive "Street View" is not available within the base itself.

Mal Wheat, from Queensland's Vietnam Veterans Federation, said: "We are deeply concerned at untrained, unskilled, unarmed guards manning primary entry points of significant military bases. "What we've got is an absolute wake up call – we need to beef up our security if we're going to be serious about combating terrorism," he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the thinking of the previous government was to dedicate soldiers to more highly trained work and contract out jobs such as security to "put more teeth" on the frontline. "We moved in this country to having jobs in defence contracted out, including having security jobs contracted out, because the drive then was to put more teeth at the front, was the terminology used," Ms Gillard told Macquarie radio yesterday.

She said reports of lax personal identification and vehicle security checks at Holsworthy, including the case of one person who was granted access after producing an old library card, were "disturbing". "It's very good that the chief of our defence force Angus Houston is now going to review this matter," she said.


Australian police too afraid to get tough on criminals

They are NOT on the side of the public

We know what happened in Mumbai, and in Jakarta last month, can happen anywhere. Plots to blow up our sports stadiums, assassinate our prime minister and cause mayhem on a Mumbai scale have been uncovered in recent years. This week four men were arrested in Melbourne, accused of being part of a Somali Islamist plot to attack an Australian army base.

If anything, it highlights the importance of competent police and intelligence services. Yet, in an era when we are facing unprecedented threats, we have been steadily lowering our defences and nobbling the effectiveness of our police services.

After the latest terrorist raids, for instance, we heard from the Victorian Police chief, Simon Overland, who presides over a police force so incapable of protecting Indian students from being bashed that Melbourne crime has blown up into an international scandal. At a press conference about the raids, Overland was preoccupied with apologising to the Islamic community for having arrested Muslims, telling journalists: ‘‘Don’t blame the Muslim community.’’ As if they were. He declared the obvious – the accused men were entitled to the presumption of innocence – and attacked the media for reporting the raids.

Overland is the model of a modern Australian police commissioner, who has politically correct spin on the list of priorities, along with actual crime-fighting. No wonder, then, that the Victorian police are enthusiastic participants, with the Australian Multicultural Foundation, in the "Lexicon of Terrorism project" announced by the federal Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, last month.

Based on a similar "linguistic realignment" in Britain, this is an Orwellian attempt to change attitudes by excluding from official language certain words such as "war" or "jihad" when talking about terrorism. Phrases such as ‘‘Islamic extremists’’ and ‘‘Muslim terrorists’’ are reportedly suspect. Unfortunately, even if we are no longer permitted to mention them by name, Islamic terrorists continue to kill innocent "infidels" and Muslims alike.

But this is Australian policing now. Faced with a threat from A, our authorities feel compelled to defend A from what they imagine the populace is thinking, and from any police officers who might mistakenly believe their role is to protect the populace from A.

A case in point is the NSW Police Service in the 15 years since the Wood Royal Commission began its work, as summarised in the former detective Tim Priest’s new book, Enemies of the State, to be launched today (and to which I have contributed the foreword). Priest forensically attacks the commission, which he says employed dubious practices to "utterly destroy the morale of police", throwing out good police with bad, and allowed the Carr government to ‘‘wrest control of the police service … It’s been a basket case ever since".

As a result, organised crime in NSW has flourished, and policing has become weak, cowardly and selective, Priest argues. He cites the "recent outbreak of outlaw motorcycle gang violence and the emerging threat of Middle Eastern criminals".

NSW police are "almost ‘impotent’, too frightened to take on organised crime lest there might be corruption again". Priest targets the commission’s preoccupation with so-called "noble cause corruption", which in the commission’s final report includes: "unofficial or unauthorised practices such as putting suspected street drug dealers onto a train and banning them from an area". For Priest, who once served in Australia’s heroin capital, Cabramatta, "That is just good old-fashioned policing."

His most explosive chapters deal with a Kings Cross heroin dealer, KX15, who was about to be charged by NSW Police Task Force Bax but who became a protected witness and was given a "green light" to sell drugs 18 hours a day. Priest reports that 23 days after he became a witness, the commission discovered people were "dropping in the streets" because of the purity and strength of the heroin KX15 was supplying; 14 people died. When the commission got wind of the "hot heroin", it issued a warning but it didn’t stop the operation. No police were ever charged.

When the commission ended, Task Force Bax restarted its investigation of Kings Cross drug dealing, but as it began to examine those heroin overdose deaths Bax was raided by Internal Affairs. Bax’s commander, Geoff Wegg, and his officers were arrested and their careers destroyed. One officer was convicted of corruption unrelated to Bax. Charges against the rest were thrown out, and 10 years later, Wegg and colleagues won an apology and a settlement reported to be $10 million. In the end, "the public of NSW lost 32 experienced and dedicated detectives with over 500 years experience and dedicated service. You cannot replace that, ever".

Priest’s book is full of such tales of good police officers destroyed because they were on the wrong side of history, when we decided policing was about placating and appeasing the bad guys.


Rivers hijacked by 'green fascists'

Greenies shafting blacks

THE misanthropic attitude of conservationists was revealed last week when a group of Aboriginal protesters from Cape York gatecrashed a Wilderness Society and green fundraiser in Sydney. Dressed in chains and in two giant koala suits, the Cape York Aborigines crashed the party to protest against Queensland's Wild Rivers legislation, which bans development within 2km of the Lockhart, Stewart and Archer rivers.

The protesters blame the Wilderness Society for instigating the legislation, which they argue denies them the ability to build businesses and enterprises on their traditional land, so that more of their people can move out of welfare into the real economy. Tania Major, the spokeswoman for the Cape York Aborigines, said they weren't against conservation but they were protesting because the Wilderness Society had not consulted with them or given them a choice on how to manage their land.

These arguments left the Wilderness Society members unmoved, with spokeswoman Anna Christie saying on ABC Radio that environmental sustainability should come before people.

Only those comfortably off are able to so quickly disregard the importance of economic development. They forget that the only reason they can afford to buy organic food is because they live in an industrialised society. Try living in the outback and getting an organic soy latte.

The fact that the greenies and the Aborigines have fallen out over this issue is a first. Historically, the green movement has tended to support what it thinks are Aboriginal "causes". Protesting against the intervention and the Howard government was a trendy pastime for many greenies. In fact, the Wilderness Society and Noel Pearson from Cape York were once allies. They, and other key stakeholders from the area, formed a partnership in 1996 (called the Cape York Heads of Agreement). This partnership aimed to achieve a balance between competing interests in the Cape York region. Not only were they committed to carrying out conservation protection, but one of the principles of the agreement was to set aside land for Aboriginal development.

Pearson admits that there was some "consultation" with Aboriginal people in the region, but that their concerns were not listened to, and that they in no way consented to a total ban on development alongside the rivers. In an interview on ABC TV's Lateline, Pearson pointed out the double standards of the Wild Rivers legislation. While Aboriginal development (such as small-scale horticulture) is banned beside the rivers, the new Chinalco bauxite mine is exempt from the whole Wild Rivers legislation.

Not only is this hypocritical of the Queensland government, but the decision to ban Aboriginal development also goes against a UN Convention for Biological Diversity, which Australia signed in 1992. The convention recognises that biological diversity is about more than just plants and animals: it is also about people. Two articles of the convention refer specifically to the protection of indigenous knowledge and use of resources.

Yet it appears that many greenies care more about the environment than people. American author Jonah Goldberg describes this phenomenon as "green fascism". He argues that modern environmentalists view humans as a disease and mankind as "inauthentic, corrupting, and unnatural". According to Goldberg, environmentalists cast themselves in the role of nurturing caregivers of the planet. The world has a "fever" and when your baby has a fever, you "take action". "You do whatever your doctor says. No time to debate, no room for argument."

Like all fanatics who believe that their way is the only right way of doing something, the Wilderness Society is convinced it has all the answers to environmental sustainability. Its members have forgotten the terms of the agreement which they originally had with the Cape York Aborigines, and ignore the fact that the rivers near Cape York are pristine because they've been part of Aboriginal reserves for nearly a hundred years.

In its haste to preserve the environment the green movement has sidelined human progress. Today, advocating for growth or new developments is seen as a social faux pas. So strong is their anti-human agenda that some environmentalists are opting for voluntary sterilisation to reduce their carbon footprint.

The green way of looking at sustainable development is typical of the affluent world that sees sustainability as being environmentally friendly: recycling, living in eco houses, and driving fuel-efficient cars. But for the poor and disadvantaged, sustainability is about having essential services such as housing, water, sewerage, and transport.

It is deeply hypocritical for the green movement to deny Aboriginal development on the premise that this will preserve the environment when they owe their own comfortable existence to Australia's developed economy.


Nasty war veteran's bureaucracy

Despite repeated court judgments in his favour, the mongrels are still trying to wear an old digger down

WORLD War II veteran Raymond Mitchell is dug in for a long hard fight in the tradition of many a proud and doughty Digger. But the frail 85-year-old's enemy is not the one he signed up to fight in 1942. It's the Australian veterans' affairs bureaucracy, which has refused to pay his war service pension backdated to when he applied in 1984, when he turned 60.

Most recently he's written to 76 federal senators, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Deputy Prime Minister Julie Gillard. Not many seem interested. "I've had 15 replies in five weeks from the senators and nothing from Mr Rudd or Ms Gillard," Mr Mitchell said yesterday from his modest home of 57 years in Brisbane's Yeronga. "I thought Mr Rudd might be interested given his party went to the election saying they would bring fairness and equity to Veterans' Affairs."

In his last major fight with the department in 2001, Mr Mitchell succeeded in having his 4½ years of war service – which included time in 1944 on Horn and Thursday Islands in the Torres Strait and on Cape York – recognised after the Administration Appeals Tribunal overturned a ruling by the Repatriation Commission that he should not be paid a service pension at all. He was assisted by a 1987 AAT decision he'd belatedly got wind of, in which another serviceman with a similar service history had been found to have "rendered qualifying service".

But Mr Mitchell was forced to fight on in the Federal Court, with only his son and full-time carer as his advocate, when the commission appealed against the AAT decision. The commission again lost but said it would take the case to the Full Federal Court. But after The Courier-Mail took an interest, it backed down in 2003 and Mr Mitchell was finally paid his pension.

But it was only backdated to June 2000, the date of Mr Mitchell's most recent application for the payment. In March a Brisbane solicitor, Patrick Mullins, acting without charge, put to the department that Mr Mitchell should at least receive backpay to 1993. But last month that was also rejected.

"It's the principle," said Mr Mitchell, whose father fought in World War I and whose two brothers also fought in World War II. Why was it, he asked, that people who were posted to fight for their country had to go to such extraordinary lengths to get a service pension once they were elderly?


Wednesday, August 05, 2009

PM orders security review for army bases

How did such a crazy system originate? The army can't guard its own bases? If there are any troops at all on the base, why can't some of them be rostered for guard duty?

THE defence forces are facing calls for armed soldiers to replace unarmed civilian guards outside the country's main military bases after the arrest of four terror suspects in Melbourne allegedly planning a full-scale assault on Holsworthy army base in Sydney.

Opposition defence, science and personnel spokesman Bob Baldwin said that if the alleged plot had been carried out, it was likely civilian guards at Holsworthy would have been killed in cold blood. "Unarmed civilian guards would have been slaughtered, absolutely slaughtered," Mr Baldwin said yesterday. "Now is the time to be proactive. Events overnight have shown that now is the time to introduce armed defence personnel to guard our bases."

The federal government today ordered a review of security at all military bases, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced. The review will also consider whether the practice of using private security firms to guard military installations is suitable.

Defence force chief Angus Houston had advised the national security committee of federal cabinet that, based on "current knowledge", security arrangements were adequate, Mr Rudd said. "On top that, however, I have requested that the CDF (chief of the defence force) and the defence department undertake an immediate and comprehensive review of adequacy," he told ABC Radio.

The prime minister said he wanted to be assured security at each base was in order and that it was "calibrated to our security needs". "Obviously one of the terms of reference for this investigation will be a continued suitability of those sorts of security arrangements at our bases involving private security contractors." There is concern that security at some military installations is provided by unarmed private guards, not defence personnel.


Slap on the wrist for butcher surgeon

Why not prosecute the b*stard? Aren't you relieved at how well regulators protect you? I guess that they think they have to tolerate any trash in public hospitals

A EUROPEAN-trained surgeon has been banned from practising in Queensland for three years after a string of botched procedures - including the mistaken removal of a woman's ovary. Brisbane's Health Practitioners Tribunal suspended Ivan Lubenov Popov over adverse health outcomes experienced by six female patients between June 2006 and April 2007.

The tribunal, headed by District Court judge Julie Dick, found Dr Popov had demonstrated unsatisfactory professional conduct in five out of six complaints against him. The Queensland Medical Board did not request Dr Popov, an obstetrician and gynaecologist, be disciplined over a sixth complaint due to lack of sufficient evidence.

Dr Popov, who moved to South Africa shortly after an investigation was launched into his professional conduct, committed the breaches at the Caboolture Hospital, on Brisbane's northern outskirts.

The tribunal was told in May that Dr Popov removed the healthy ovary from a woman on April 24, 2007. Dr Popov "incorrectly and/or inappropriately advised the patient that her right ovary was covered in cysts, diseased and required removal," the tribunal was told. "This was not true. "It was alleged that this amounted to Dr Popov knowingly and actively providing misleading and/or incorrect information to the patient and Dr Popov knowingly and actively falsified medical records." Dr Popov even failed to inform the patient about the mistake, despite the direction of a superior supervising specialist.

The tribunal was told that Dr Popov also lied to other patients and misled staff about his procedures to try to cover up botched and potentially illegal procedures.

Four other female patients suffered complications following "inappropriate surgery", which the Medical Board of Queensland claimed should not have been performed at a provincial hospital given the women's medical history and potential for the operations to be complicated.

In another case, Dr Popov carried out a medical procedure on a pregnant woman that he knew would result in a termination of her pregnancy.

The tribunal ruled Dr Popov's registration be cancelled for three years, that he undertake further professional training and a course on professional responsibilities and ethics, at his expense, before being allowed to reregister in Queensland. "The findings of the tribunal in respect of charges individually and cumulatively amount to unsatisfactory professional conduct," the tribunal said.

In his defence, in a written affidavit, Dr Popov accepted he had made mistakes and, in particular in the case of the removal of a healthy ovary, had panicked and falsified notes.


Damn, it's easy being green when someone else pays bill

STUPIDITY can be expensive. In fact, we've just been told it's cost us another $400 million. That's how much the price of Victoria's desalination plant went up last week - even before a single brick has been laid or strike called.

Ah, if only that were all this State Labor Government cost us by deciding purely for religious reasons we could never get another dam, no matter how close we got to running out of water. But, no. With Premier John Brumby announcing last week he'd signed a deal to build his desalination plant near Kilcunda for $3.5 billion - rather than the $3.1 billion he'd promised two years ago - we know the full catastrophe.

We know Brumby is in fact paying three times as much for a third of the water he'd have got from a new dam on Gippsland's fast-flowing Mitchell River, which in 2007 had more water flow to waste in just one flood than Melbourne uses in a year. We know, of course, that the reason this Government refused to even ask for a cost-benefit analysis of a dam that Melbourne Water admitted would cost just $1.4 billion was that just to think of damming a river was a green sin.

A dam would - horror! - take "water currently being used by the rivers" to . . . er, wash fish? Or as two government water strategy committees added, a dam would have an "unacceptable environmental and social cost" and was "no longer . . . socially acceptable".

So work out what that foolishness has cost us. A couple of billion, I'd guess, especially if you add the cost of the water shortages caused by the Government's insistence for so long that we could simply make do with less.

So perhaps we might now learn to stop such green idiocy before it's too late to do anything but pay billions. What idiocy, you casually ask? I mean idiocy best summed up this week by this paragraph in the Sunday Age:

"The Federal Government has warned that Australian icons such as the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu National Park, the Tasmanian wilderness, Carlton Gardens and the Sydney Opera House could be damaged irreparably if the Coalition fails to support Labor's emissions trading scheme.

Can anyone, even Climate Change Minister Penny Wong, claim hand on heart this is true - that if the Coalition this month votes against Kevin Rudd's job-killing scheme that the reef could as a consequence die, the Carlton Gardens wither and the Opera House collapse?

Ignore the fact that the world has actually cooled over the past eight years. Is it remotely possible that Rudd's plan to cut the gases of insignificant Australia will of itself change the world's climate in any way that could "save" a reef or spare the paintwork of the Opera House?

How is this kind of nonsense now reported as fact? Yet clever people - including many who'll make billions from this green scare, clearly think it is believed, which is why they feed you such falsehoods by the panicky day.

And that's also why, should we not regain our senses, we will one day get a bill for this green faith that will make Brumby's wasted billions seem but a drop in the dam he would not build.


Another brilliant government strategy to get people out of their cars

Sydney bus driver who read a book while driving keeps his job

A SYDNEY bus driver who read a book while driving a packed peak-hour service has been let off with a warning. A passenger who boarded the bus on inner-city William St watched as the driver sat stationary - despite having a green traffic light - because he was so enthralled in the novel. The passenger, who did not want to be named, then photographed the driver for the next 10 minutes as he crawled along Elizabeth St barely looking up from the novel on the steering wheel.

The passenger - who is now so frightened at the thought of getting on buses that she walks to work - reported the incident and asked the New South WalesTransit Authority (STA) to report back to her. After three months she heard nothing and decided to speak out.

The STA has confirmed the incident took place about 8.30am on May 6 and warned its drivers that safety is a priority.

"I noticed that we didn't go through the green lights so I looked up to see why he hadn't moved. The arrow went green to turn into Elizabeth St and he didn't move. That's when I saw he was reading and I started taking photos," the passenger said. She said the bus was full and was worried the distracted driver might hit a pedestrian or car. "He read the whole way down Elizabeth St, even when he was accelerating the book was on his steering wheel. When he pulled up to a stop or at a set of lights he would really get into the book," she said.

STA chief executive Peter Rowley confirmed yesterday that the incident did occur. "The driver has been seen and counselled for his actions and we are sure this type of behaviour will not occur again," he said. "The safety of bus passengers and employees is State Transit's number one priority. "State Transit's policy is clear in that drivers must control vehicles in a safe manner at all times and I expect that to be adhered to. When bus drivers are on duty and driving passengers I expect them to be driving, not reading books."


Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Out of Africa, a new terrorism threat dawns

It was SO kind of John Howard to let all those African refugees into Australia

The global reach of Islamic terrorism has been grimly underlined by news that an extremist movement from a failed African nation has served as the inspiration for a group of men in the suburbs of Melbourne to hatch a plan to kill innocent Australians. The extraordinary plot, revealed exclusively by The Australian today, shows how easily the toxic philosophies of militant Islam can infect the minds of those who are susceptible to its call, wherever in the world they may be.

In this case, it was a nondescript group of Melbourne labourers and taxi drivers, of Somali and Lebanese descent, who were seduced by the lure of the violent Somali extremist group al-Shabaab. They were attracted to the group despite apparently having little understanding of Somali politics or theology.

Al-Shabaab (meaning The Youth, in Arabic) is a shadowy militant organisation that has risen to prominence only since the overthrow in late 2006 of the hardline Islamic government in Somalia by US-based forces from Christian Ethiopia. Western intelligence agencies are still learning about the fast-rising group, which they believe is closely aligned to al-Qa'ida. The US lists al-Shabaab as a terrorist organisation, but Australia does not. This case is likely to change that.

Since early 2007, al-Shabaab has become the face of Islamic resistance to the Western-backed government in Mogadishu. The group's success is partly due to its ability to market itself to hardline Islamists as a movement that seeks to impose the rule of Islam around the world, rather than as a narrow group seeking to gain power in a country that has been dysfunctional for the past 17 years. Sourcing money and arms from nearby Eritrea, al-Shabaab has signed up thousands of jihadist recruits in the past two years. Its followers shun alcohol, cigarettes, music and videos, choosing an austere, violent interpretation of Islam. The group imposes strict sharia law and has carried out beheadings of its enemies, amputations of the limbs of thieves and the stoning of women accused of adultery.

What also disturbs Western intelligence agencies is that the group has been remarkably successful in recruiting foreign fighters, who see its struggle in terms of global jihad. In Melbourne, several of those suspected of providing support to al-Shabaab are Lebanese.

In the US, the FBI has been alarmed by the fact that 20 former Somali refugees who are now American citizens have recently been lured back to their homeland to join the jihadist struggle. This represents the largest group of American citizens suspected of joining an extremist movement affiliated with al-Qa'ida and it is clearly a trend Australian security authorities do not want to see repeated here. Last October, one of the US recruits, Shirwa Ahmed, blew himself up in Somalia, becoming the first known American suicide bomber.

Al-Shabaab now controls most of southern Somalia and chunks of the capital, Mogadishu. In recent months the group has led a renewed push to topple the government of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, leading an assault which has killed more than 300 people. The group has close links with Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, a suspected member of al-Qa'ida and an architect of the 1998 US embassy bombings in Africa.


Background to the above article

FOUR men have been arrested and more are still being questioned over an alleged plot to launch a suicide shootout attack at an Australian Army base. A 25-year-old man has been charged with conspiracy to commit a terrorist act and is expected to appear in court shortly. Police now say a 33-year-old man already in custody is also being interviewed.

The 25-year-old man was arrested along with a 26-year-old man, another 25-year-old and a 22-year-old man when 400 federal and state police executed 19 search warrants in several suburbs across Melbourne at 4.30am AEST.

AFP Acting Commissioner Tony Negus said authorities would allege the men were "planning to carry out a suicide terror attack involving an armed assault with automatic weapons ... a sustained attack on military personnel until they themselves were killed". "We've disrupted an alleged terror attack that could have claimed many lives."


National Party leader targets Labor government on 'ridiculous' Warmist laws

BUSINESS groups and the Coalition have leapt on evidence of internal Labor unease over the potential of Kevin Rudd's emissions trading scheme to wipe out jobs in resources and energy. Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce said yesterday he was not surprised at dissent expressed by Queensland Premier Anna Bligh and NSW Treasurer Eric Roozendaal over the emissions scheme, because it would be "a job-destroying employment termination scheme".

The Australian revealed yesterday that Mr Roozendaal had written to federal Treasurer Wayne Swan in February to warn that the ETS could lead to "extreme losses" in the electricity and coal industries. Ms Bligh made similar comments in a letter last month to Assistant Climate Change Minister Greg Combet. "Both these people were at the Labor Party conference just a couple of days ago sitting alongside the culprits trying to introduce this ridiculous scheme," Senator Joyce said.

"Why was it that neither Mr Roozendaal nor Ms Bligh thought it necessary to bring this up at the premier Labor Party event designed to ventilate issues of public concern, but both are willing to express their concerns to the nation's newspapers? "It is completely irresponsible, in the middle of a global financial crisis, to be going forward with a scheme which will cut a swath of economic devastation through our nation."

The Senate is due to vote on the ETS next week, with Malcolm Turnbull insisting the Coalition will reject the scheme unless there are major changes.

Federal Climate Change Minister Penny Wong yesterday rejected Mr Roozendaal's concerns that the ETS could devastate electricity companies. She said there would be no change to the federal government's compensation package for the power sector. "Nearly $4 billion to the electricity sector -- we think that is a reasonable amount of assistance," she said. "It is not unknown in this debate for electricity owners to seek additional compensation from the government."

Infrastructure Partnerships Australia chief Brendan Lyon said Mr Roozendaal was right to point to the problem of investors fleeing from the carbon-intensive, coal-fired electricity generation sector if it were undermined by the ETS. "Between 2006 and 2020, demand will surge," Mr Lyon said. "That means we need to build this capacity through renewables, but also through traditional baseload power stations. "This uncertainty (over the ETS) is already being felt, with several energy generators expressing concern over their ability to refinance existing debt facilities," he said. "This has already seen the cancellation of maintenance programs, increasing the risk of major network failures."


Billions wasted and lives needlessly lost in Australia's public health care system

KEVIN Rudd's hand-picked health reform adviser has warned that Australia is wasting much of the $94 billion it spends each year on health services and will not be able to afford even the current, flawed system without major reforms...

The commission, set up early last year to help redesign Australia's health system, will warn that healthcare services, already under strain, will be swamped by the rising tide of chronic illness, an ageing population and costly new health technologies.

The commission urges governments to build stand-alone elective surgery hospitals and set new performance benchmarks requiring most operations to be performed within three months and emergency patients to get treatment within minutes. It also urges the creation of a Denticare scheme, paid for by a 0.75 of a percentage point increase in the Mecicare levy.

The commission's final report cites figures indicating Australians are forgoing two years of life because of waste and duplication in the health system. Errors are also taking a human toll. "The number of adverse events each year (is) equivalent to 13 jumbo jets crashing and killing all 350 passengers on board," it says.

Australia could save $1bn in healthcare costs by preventing just half of these mistakes. Better care in the community, through general practice, community health centres and other frontline services, would also eliminate the need for 700,000 hospital admissions a year.

The current health system is "unlikely to be sustainable without reform", the 10-member commission argues.


Dotty Dearden again

Woman ordered to pay $40,000 compensation for stabbing de facto over sex harassment. Judge Dearden regularly gives real crime a slap on the wrist but now hits hard at amply defensible behaviour

A NORTH Queensland woman has been ordered to pay more than $40,000 in compensation for stabbing her de facto husband with a 33cm long knife after he repeatedly hounded her for sex.

Beenleigh District Court Judge Ian Dearden ordered Vena Dawn Bee pay John Charles Logan criminal compensation for wounding him to the chest and upper left leg at their Mareeba home, 60km southwest of Cairns, on January 26, 2006.

Bee pleaded guilty to one count of grievous bodily harm at the Mt Isa District Court, before Judge Dearden, on July 27, 2007, and was sentenced to three years jail with a parole release date of January 26 last year.

In awarding Logan compensation, Judge Dearden said the knife attack was triggered after an argument erupted when Logan made repeated and unwanted advances on Bee for sex. "The request for sex was refused because (Bee) was tired and wanted to go to sleep," Judge Dearden said in his written findings published this week. "There was a repeat of that request on at least one occasion. "(Logan) then began swearing at (Bee) and then suggested that he would have intercourse with someone else."

Judge Dearden said the couple continued to argue and it escalated to a point that saw Bee pull out a knife and swing it at Logan, causing a small cut to his ear. "After that first cut, (Logan) said words to the effect, 'If you are going to stab (me) make it a good job'." he said. "Logan then) lay down and (Bee) stabbed (Logan) in the chest and the left upper leg." The court was told the knife was 33cm long, had no handle and penetrated Logan and "passed in and out of his heart."

Logan originally told police an unknown male had stabbed him, but later told them the truth as to how he received his injuries. The court was told that when he was assessed at the Mareeba Hospital, Logan admitted to having consumed "four cartons of wine" and a "six pack of stubbies" before being stabbed.

Judge Dearden said it was clear both Logan and Bee were intoxicated at the time of the attack and that Logan had "dared" Bee to stab him. "(Logan) effectively dared (Bee) continue with her use of the knife against him," he said. "In the circumstances, though, I form the view that the award I have made should not be reduced because of (Logan's) role in the proceedings leading up to his stabbing."

Judge Dearden granted Logan $41,250 for the injuries, scarring and mental shock.



In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG sees it as a healthy sign that Kyle Sandilands has been sacked from Australian Idol

Monday, August 03, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG applauds Kevin Rudd's opposition to homosexual marriage

Senior Australian bureaucrats protect homosexual child molester

And these guys are supposed to be representing Australia! What does it say about THEM? Australia has some very queer diplomats, however you look at it

THE Australian Trade Commission told one of its most senior diplomats that he was under police investigation for alleged child sex offences, allowing the man to resign quietly and return home, where he later repeatedly sexually abused a 15-year-old Victorian schoolboy. John Finnin held a top-secret security clearance from the Federal Government until July 2006, at a time it was alleged he was involved in an international child sex ring. No charges were laid on this matter.

Austrade was told Finnin was suspected of using his diplomatic status and access to Australian embassies around the world to traffic in young children for sex. The Herald understands Austrade co-operated with an Australian Federal Police investigation into the matter after the allegation was first put by the Dutch and/or German police.

Austrade later took the unusual step of recalling Finnin from Germany – where he was deputy consul-general and head of trade for Europe, the Middle East and Africa – and informed him that he was under investigation. Finnin, who denied the allegations, was then allowed to leave Austrade with his reputation intact, quietly joining the fraudulent fuel technology company Firepower and returning to Melbourne.

On Friday the Victorian County Court remanded Finnin for sentencing after he was found guilty last month of 23 child sex charges after a trial lasting almost three weeks. Seven charges were for entering into an agreement for the provision of sexual services by a child; another seven were for committing an indecent act in the presence of a child, and another six were for sexual penetration of a child. The other charges were procuring a child for sex, grooming a child for sex and transmitting child pornography.

The court heard that Finnin paid a Melbourne boy, 15, at least $100 for sex on seven occasions and cruised online for sex with other New Zealand and American children as young as 13. Much of the evidence brought against Finnin came from the federal police, which continued its investigation after Finnin resigned from Austrade in May 2006. He left his job two months later after working out his notice.

The Herald understands that police officers were assigned to a special task force, with 24-hour surveillance set up in an empty unit opposite Finnin’s apartment in Sandringham, Victoria. At the time, he drove a Maserati Quattroporto, a bonus to his $500,000 annual salary in his new capacity as chief executive of Firepower. But Austrade continued to work with Finnin, entering into a service agreement with Firepower and giving the company $394,009 in export grants.

The agreement allowed Finnin to continue to use Australian embassies and the private residences of ambassadors to promote the merits of the company’s supposed fuel-saving devices. The involvement of Austrade with Firepower was crucial in giving the company credibility. In reality, Firepower was a fraudulent entity that took Australian investors for an estimated $100 million.

Firepower made nothing, it sold nothing, and the Firepower entity with which Austrade entered into the service agreement did not even exist. The name had been made up, but no one checked. Furthermore, Firepower was given a special place on the Austrade website where it was promoted as an export success in Russia. This, too, was a fraud.

Austrade refused to answer nine questions put by the Herald (see below), including who was in the room when Finnin was informed of the police investigation. Austrade did not deny any of the allegations, some of which were referred to in court and others by Finnin himself in interviews with the Herald.

Instead it issued a short, general statement defending its position. ‘‘Austrade demands the highest standards of legal and ethical behaviour of its employees both in Australia and overseas. ‘‘Any allegations of illegal activity by employees are referred to relevant authorities. If Austrade received allegations as asserted, they would have been referred to the relevant authority, and any further comment would be a matter for that authority.’’


Fraudulent police claims about "solved" crimes

Most of the "solved" crimes have not been solved at all. NOT ONE of the "solved" homicides in Queensland even went to court! And this is said to be national police practice in Australia!

POLICE crime statistics have been exposed as rubbery by officers responsible for entering the data. Every time an arrest is made and an offender charged, those offences are recorded as "solved" in the Q-Prime computer system. Even if the charges are withdrawn or the prosecution fails, the status of the offence remains as cleared.

Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson confirmed the practice and said it was in line with national standards. But a detective sergeant who contacted The Courier-Mail claimed this was inaccurately inflating crime clear-up rates recorded in the Annual Statistical Report. The 2007-08 report showed 92 per cent of homicides were cleared, along with 79 per cent of rapes and 75 per cent of assaults.

In the same period, none of those charged over homicides was adjudicated by the courts, and almost one in five charges (18.3 per cent) laid by police were withdrawn by the prosecution.

Criminal defence lawyer Jim Coburn, from Ryan and Bosscher, said the practice of declaring crimes solved before they were prosecuted was "a distortion of the facts". "I don't think it's fair or otherwise. It doesn't hurt the criminal as far as the end product is concerned, but it creates a false impression," Mr Coburn said.

He said the rate of charges being withdrawn in Queensland was dramatically higher than other states because of the practice of "overcharging" by police. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2007-08, 1108 defendants had their charges withdrawn by the prosecution in Queensland district and supreme courts, compared with just 96 in Victoria and 220 in New South Wales.

Commissioner Atkinson said the method of declaring crimes cleared as soon as an arrest was made was no different to other states. "The vast majority of matters do result in convictions. Even when they don't, there are very good reasons as to why they should still be shown as solved or cleared," Mr Atkinson said. He said in some assault cases, juries or magistrates accepted the defence of provocation and acquitted the accused. "It would be really unreasonable to say that matter's not cleared, because it is."

He also cited the example of recidivist offenders who commit bulk property crimes but face trial for a small proportion of break-and-enter charges. "While those charges have been dropped, they're all still cleared," Mr Atkinson said.

He said Queenslanders should have complete confidence in crime statistics.


The gradual erosion of "free" medical visits in Australia. Co-pays now common

When Australia's Medicare was set up, it covered all Australians and offered doctors 85% of the normal cost of a visit if the doctor charged the government instead of the patient. That was called "bulk billing" and was widely accepted by GPs -- so most Australians thenceforth could see their doctor for free.

The amount the government reimburses has however not kept pace with rising costs generally so fewer and fewer doctors are now willing or able to see a patient for free and "bulk bill" the government for the cost. It varies from State to State, with high-cost States like NSW having few "bulk billers" and low cost States like South Australia having more. So what started out as free medical care for all has slowly ebbed away and led back to a "patient pays" system, with patients paying part of the cost of a visit and the government paying the rest.

Because of their efficiencies, large health centres have been able to give "free" care long after other practitioners had abandoned it but now they too are starting to throw in the towel, even in South Australia. See below

AUSTRALIA'S largest medical centre operator has scrapped bulk-billing for most of its South Australian patients - charging $30 an appointment for the same service it provided freelast week. The Australian Medical Association yesterday warned the number of free doctors was dwindling because Medicare rebates were seen to be too low for medical centres to remain viable. Primary Health Care, which owns 87 medical centres across Australia, including five in SA, is charging $30 an appointment for most patients in selected medical centres. In Adelaide, the fee is being charged for anyone over 16 without a concession card at Marion Domain and Primary Old Port Rd Medical and Dental Centre, Royal Park – both among the city's busiest medical clinics. It is believed Norwood Village Medical and Dental Centre also will be introducing the fee, which is not refundable by Medicare.

Primary managing director Edmund Bateman would not return calls to The Advertiser yesterday and it was not known if the move had been rolled out nationally. A flyer given to patients at Marion Domain Medical and Dental Centre yesterday says there have been "increased demands on general practitioners with greater documentation required, greater demand for care, greater and increased Medicare audits and greater direction of GP practices". "The co-payment of $30 will provide a net bulk bill fee to your GP that is a discount to the common fee charged for private billed patients in most areas," the flyer says. "Such a co-payment is justified due to the inadequate Medicare rebate. "However, due to the current economic circumstances, the practice has determined to continue bulk billing concession card holders [the elderly and the unemployed] for as long as possible."

AMA state president Dr Andrew Lavender said he was not surprised by the decision to scrap bulk-billing and he knew of several small medical centre operators who also had decided to charge for appointments. "The main problem is that Medicare rebates have not kept pace with the cost of providing medical services," he said. "The Medical Benefits Schedule was established over 20 years ago and since then has never kept pace with either average weekly earnings or the cost of medical services, and the other problem is that there is an increasing burden of red tape and administrative costs and it's no longer sustainable to continue charging at bulk-billing rates for the majority of medical services.

"I am aware that many of the smaller practices have stopped bulk-billing, but we would expect that more of the large corporate practices will cease bulk-billing as well because it is just not sustainable, really, to maintain the service. It is a business and they have obviously substantial business costs."

Medicare pays $33.55 an appointment, but the AMA is calling for this to be "substantially increased". If a practitioner agrees to bulk-bill, patients assign their right to a benefit to the practitioner as full payment for the medical service and the practitioner cannot make any additional charge for the service.

Dr Lavender said the move to stop bulk-billing would put more pressure on hospital emergency departments. "It will mean that some people will choose to attend at emergency. That will certainly put an increased load but it is hard to anticipate exactly how much," he said.

The State Government recently launched an advertising campaign to encourage people to use GP clinics for non-urgent medical assistance during the busy winter period to free up emergency clinics. Health Minister John Hill said it was disappointing some clinics were moving away from bulk-billing. "There is a marketplace, though, and people should also shop around when they can, as the majority of clinics do bulk bill," he said.

Further pressure on the public health system could come from people dropping private health cover in the wake of the Federal Government lifting the level of income on which the Medicare Levy Surcharge is applied – the impact of which is not expected until later this year. For the 2008-09 financial year, the Medicare Levy Surcharge on those without private health cover was raised from $50,000 to $70,000 for singles and from $100,000 to $140,000 for couples/families. This means more people will escape the 1 per cent surcharge and so may consider dropping their private cover.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon yesterday supplied statistics showing SA had the second-highest rate of bulk-bill doctors in the country, with 79 per cent of doctors offering the free service. One Marion Domain patient, who did not want to be named, said he was given no warning about the fee. "I think $30 is a bit rude," he said. "I will not be going back to the clinic." Another patient, Jamie Milosevic, 21, of Sheidow Park, said the extra fee was ridiculous. "Heaps of people had to actually leave the line and go and pull money out, which is stupid," he said.


"Stimulus" funding for schools still being bungled

Stimulus cash handed to schools destined to close

EIGHT tiny schools have been handed $400,000 in taxpayer funds for new fencing, spruced-up classrooms and playground upgrades this year - even though the Queensland government has shortlisted them for closure. The schools on death row, which have between four and 57 students, were told last month they were being reviewed for closure or "mothballing". Yet each has won a $50,000 slice of federal government funding, to be spent by the end of the year.

The money is being doled out to all of the nation's 9540 schools under the government's $14.7billion Building the Education Revolution policy to stimulate the construction industry.

The Whitsundays school of Mount Charlton, 60km from Mackay in north Queensland, has only 11 students and was told last week it might have to close. A few months ago it applied and won approval for a $20,000 steel cover over its new playground, $20,000 to replace fencing at its main entrance and prevent erosion on the school boundaries, and $10,000 to repaint the inside of the classrooms, library, toilets and stairwell. The school also applied for a new library, costing up to $250,000, although that funding has not yet been announced.

Parents are furious the Queensland government has now announced the school may close. Linda Jensen, whose grandsons attend the school, said yesterday: "I think I've got more brains than them. Who would spend money on a school and then close it down? It's just ridiculous. It's a waste of money." Her daughter-in-law, Belinda Jensen, is delighted with the attention the school's "old-style" principal and teacher gives her sons Lane, 11, and William, 6, who have "blossomed" at the tiny school. "Why spend money on a school you plan on closing?" she said. "If they're going to shut it down, that money would be better off put towards hospitals."

Mount Charlton's long-serving principal, Esther Lando, said yesterday the Queensland Education Department had been threatening for "years and years" to close her school but always granted it a reprieve. "We just keep going on. The parents are happy, so we'll just see what happens." She said the school had been waiting for many years for a library, and needed a cover for the new playground.

Kioma, a single-teacher school with just four students outside Goondiwindi, also has been told it faces closure. It has been granted $33,500 for a "Proud of Our Green School" program, $12,500 to "renew the loo" and $4000 for "accessible education".

Another school handed $50,000 in federal funding is Riverleigh, west of Maryborough, which has five students and is being considered for closure. The school was given $35,000 for "classroom renewal" - new carpet, paint and a new Smart Board and data projector - $5000 to pay for blinds on the classroom veranda, and $10,000 to convert a male staff toilet to a shower recess and repaint the inside of the toilet block. Principal Norah Murphy said Riverleigh had chosen not to apply for a new building as well. "We've been most mindful, as most normal-thinking people are, about non-wastage of resources," she told The Australian.

The federal government's guidelines allow schools with fewer than 50 students to seek up to $250,000 for a new library or covered learning area. But Ms Murphy said the school community had decided not to seek the funding. Her school had applied for the School Pride spruce-up funds before it was informed a few weeks ago that it might be closed, and now would not spend the money until the state government decided the school's fate.

"If we are to continue, the money is there and available for us to use," she said. "If not, it will be absorbed back into the system somehow. "We didn't jump in and try to spend it really quickly. It's not that we're going to go and build anything or refurbish anything that's going to be closed in a fortnight."

Queensland's Education Department provided The Australian with a list of the eight schools "under review" due to low or declining enrolment. "No decision has yet been made about their future," a spokeswoman said. She said any "major construction" at those schools would be held off - despite federal government guidelines that the work be completed by the end of this year. "The department has negotiated with the Australian government to delay major construction at schools identified for potential mothballing pending the outcome of community consultation," she said.

Other schools under a cloud are Bartle Frere, an hour south of Cairns, which has 11 students and has been granted a $50,000 refurbishment. Maroon State School, near the Queensland-NSW border, has 12 students. The federal government gave it $44,000 last year for underground water tanks and $20,000 this year for shade, $19,250 for a "toilets water tower tank" and $10,750 for fencing. Kandanga Creek school, near the proposed Traveston Dam crossing, has 57 students. It has been handed $14,000 for a shade structure over its playground, $16,000 for a 23,000-litre water tank and pump, and $20,000 for its tennis court. Rosevale, a school of 17 students outside Ipswich, has been allocated $38,500 for classrooms and $11,500 for the library. Maidavale, near Ayr, has 16 students and has been given $18,000 for a sports-ground upgrade, $17,000 to refurbish Block A, and $15,000 for a covered area.


Sunday, August 02, 2009

Metastatic growth: Health Dept hires another $1.5m worth of bureaucrats

They ALREADY have 3 "administrative" employees for each medical worker. Bureaucracy grows like a cancer

QUEENSLAND Health has created a whole new level of senior bureaucracy which will cost the state's taxpayers more than $1.5 million a year. The department is looking for nine new directors to head "people and culture" units. The newly created roles will take the place of the previous directors of human resources - with those staff absorbed into other positions within the already bureaucrat-heavy department.

Sources told The Sunday Mail that the new directors were "very senior" and would be paid between $130,000 and $160,000 a year, with extra benefits such as a vehicle, mobile phone and superannuation. "These are new positions, not upgrades of existing positions," a department insider said. "All the HR directors that were in place before are still there. "In fact, these HR directors were in place prior to district amalgamations in 2008, when districts were reduced to 'streamline' services. "It appears the amalgamation did not reduce nor streamline these numbers and now there are going to be nine more in a new layer. "More galling is the fact that these positions were created by corporate head office. The districts didn't ask for them. "For staff working in the real world, this new layer of bureaucracy is insulting and embarrassing at a time of fiscal constraint in our departments."

Job advertisements placed last week said Queensland Health was seeking nine "outstanding executives" to "drive the strategies in relation to people and culture that will best position the organisation to meet the challenges ... resulting from both an ageing and ever increasing population". Applicants had until August 3 to apply for the roles in Brisbane, Cairns, Rockhampton, Mackay, Darling Downs, the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast.

Queensland Health director-general Michael Reid claimed they were not "additional" roles - but then acknowledged they were newly created. He said the $1.5 million annual salaries would not add to the department budget. Mr Reid said: "These district office positions will be funded by re-directing funds that were previously allocated to positions in corporate office. "Queensland Health is engaged in significant organisational change, following the revised reporting and accountability arrangements implemented in late 2008. "This process has included the establishment of the health service districts with their chief executives - a process that is now being supported by the creation of nine district executive directors for people and culture. "The role of these officers is to ensure public health services are efficient and focus at all times on the safety and care of patients at a district level."

The Sunday Mail revealed last month that the re-merger of the Transport and Main Roads departments had almost doubled the number of directors in the HR area from five to eight. The three extra directors were expected to add more than $500,000 to the budget each year.


And THIS is the sort of thing all those administrators achieve. See below:

QUEENSLAND Health has been accused of taking head lice more seriously than swine flu and risking the lives of pregnant teachers, school staff and students. Guidelines insist that teachers send a note home with every student advising their parents if a child has head lice - but under the swine flu "protect" phase, schools are no longer required to report cases of the virus.

Last week three pregnant teachers fled an Ipswich primary school after learning three students had contracted the H1N1 virus. Union leaders said the women had to take sick leave or use part of their holidays while they waited until it was safe to return. A worker at the school said other staff were only told of the virus after rumours had spread. She said the pregnant teachers were told to keep working until they developed flu-like symptoms - but all went on leave to protect their unborn children.

"They make teachers send nit notes home but they don't have to tell anyone about swine flu," she said. "If the Education Department do not care about their own staff and the unborn child, then why should they care about the children of parents. "It's like they put their head in the sand and say well, if you don't say anything then swine flu is not present." The staffer said some parents were upset because some had children with special needs who are in the high-risk category.

A study found pregnant women were four times more likely to be admitted to hospital after catching the virus. In the US, two teachers, plus a pregnant woman, have died of the flu.

The Queensland Teachers' Union has demanded to meet health and education bosses. QTU vice president Julia Brown said the union was urging EQ to move pregnant teachers out of harm's way. "We've had a lot of pregnant teachers ringing in very concerned," Ms Brown said. "Moving to 'protect' means that it is not out in the open for our members. That's a worry. "We are urging them to reconsider their policy. You have to think of the unborn child."

Education Queensland and Queensland Health have denied putting anyone at risk. A pandemic vaccine may be ready in September/October and pregnant women will be one of the first groups of people to receive it.


A justice system gone mad

Teen commits dozens of crimes but escapes with no conviction

A TEENAGE burglar who terrorised Melbourne for more than a year, breaking into dozens of homes, has escaped with no jail time, no fine and no conviction. "I had a good lawyer. My lawyer told me I would probably get off," the 15-year-old has boasted.

Victims of crime supporters and residents are dumbfounded after a Children's Court magistrate put the teen on a youth supervision order, the Sunday Herald Sun reports. He admitted to a staggering 65 offences in a 13-month crime spree - committed while he was on probation. During his rampage he stole about $100,000 worth of property from homes and businesses, including cars, televisions, computers, jewellery and motorbikes.

The media cannot report who he is, where he lives, publish a picture or pixelated image of the criminal - because of increasingly severe legal restrictions designed to protect the identity of young offenders. Outlets are also barred from even naming the court where Magistrate Jane Gibson made her ruling.

The youth's rap sheet included two counts of aggravated burglary, 24 counts of burglary, 24 counts of theft and three counts of intentionally damaging property. He also pleaded guilty to possessing a weapon, causing criminal damage, going equipped to steal, and cultivating and using drugs.

The offender was so prolific that even a broken arm did not slow him. He kept stealing for several months after breaking his arm - an injury sustained when he tripped while fleeing the scene one of his crimes. In one case, he stole a laptop from the bedside of his sleeping victim. In another, he took a safe worth $3500 and tried to break it open with an axe when he arrived it home.

Police have described the brazen burglar as one of the most prolific young offenders they have seen. His lawyer even admitted in a children's court that the teen's offending was "extreme".

Magistrate Jane Gibson's decision to spare him detention and even a conviction has prompted fresh calls for an overhaul of the justice system.

Neighbours said the youth and his gang had terrorised their suburb for years. "They're running riot and getting away with murder - maybe that'll be next," one said. Another said they were too frightened to confront the young thugs. "You can't even say anything or you'll come home to a rock through your window," the resident said. "It's a joke of the law what's happened. What's the use of having a law when these kids can just do whatever they like knowing they won't go to jail?"

In sentencing the youth, Ms Gibson said his crimes must have been "terrifying" for his victims. But she praised him for not committing any further offences while out on bail. "You have been on strict bail conditions, but you have kept them," she said. She placed the him on a nine-month Youth Supervision Order, but did not record a conviction. She also lifted a curfew imposed earlier as part of his bail. "Just remember that even though I am taking away the curfew, it is really important you are not out at night committing offences and that you are at school," she said.

A crime victims' group has slammed the sentence. "He will finish up a career criminal - there is no way he is going to rehabilitate with this kind of treatment," Crime Victims Support Association president Noel McNamara said. "It's Mickey Mouse justice being handed out by the Children's Court. A Supervision Order is virtually allowing someone to walk free. "The Children's Court comes under the DHS, it should come under the Attorney-General or the Minister for Corrections."


One of Australia's two subs breaks down

Australia has got 6 of these hi-tech wonders. The only wonder is whether all of them will ever be working. They go back to the mid-90s but nobody has yet got them all to work properly

ONE of Australia's two active submarines has broken down. The Defence Department says the submarine - one of two active in a fleet of six - is being repaired in Adelaide, the ABC has reported.

Defence will not reveal why HMAS Collins had broken down, but Neil James from the Australia Defence Association says the submarine had engine trouble during training south of the Great Australian Bight, the ABC says. "I understand it's got something to do with the propulsion. We just have to wait and see how serious it is," Mr James told ABC radio last night.

The 45 crew members were stranded in Adelaide, the broadcaster said.

Former senior Defence official Alan Behm says the shortage puts the Australian Navy at a disadvantage should Australia go to war. "If it were serious ocean warfare though, we would be in a pretty poor position," he said. "It has a terrible effect on crew morale because the crews are not doing what they're trained to do."

The department says most of the crew will return to base in Western Australia within the next month, ABC reports, with the submarine expected to be back at sea later this year. Defence Minister John Faulkner's spokesman said they would not comment on the status of Australia's submarine fleet for "operational reasons".


Running writing consigned to blackboard of history

This is one innovation I agree with. Printing is more legible. Just to be awkward, I think I will start using cursive again, however. It would be a pity if it were lost. I might even see if I can find my old fountain pen

Running writing is being progressively phased out at Perth primary schools. The death knell has tolled for running writing, with a Perth Hills primary school making printing its hand writing of choice. Chidlow Primary School principal Darrell Kent told Radio 6PR's Harvey Deegan that printing was already the default option for most children when they took notes. "We're teaching a form of printing rather than necessarily cursive hand writing," Mr Kent said. "When adults sit down and write or fill in forms it's always in printing rather than cursive hand writing."

A report penned by Chidlow Primary School reasoned that the "vast majority" of WA students from Year 6 to Year 12 print when presenting their work, taking notes and focusing on writing neatness. The report said that running writing, otherwise known as Victorian Modern Cursive, was used by most students only at school. Printing also matched the format of computer keyboards, the report noted. "The focus is on the educational side of the kids," Mr Kent said. "This is a way that encourages people in spelling and other things as well."

Department of Education spokesman Andrew Thompson said his agency no longer required running writing to be taught in West Australian schools. Mr Thompson said Chidlow Primary's decision to make printing the handwriting of choice was made in consultation with parents and teachers.


Saturday, August 01, 2009

PM Kevin Rudd admits 50,000 green jobs not new

KEVIN Rudd has conceded the vast bulk of the "50,000 new green jobs, traineeships and apprenticeships" he announced as the centrepiece of the opening of the ALP conference are not "new" or "jobs". Government ministers continued to be confused yesterday about the nature of the Prime Minister's announcement that there would be "50,000 new green jobs and training opportunities to build a stronger and greener Australian economy".

Mr Rudd and Julia Gillard also conceded that Employment Participation Minister, Mark Arbib, had made a mistake and not had "the best of days" when he did not have the detail of the Prime Minister's scheme, or know whether young people recruited to clear bushland would be paid full time or left on unemployment benefits as part of a work-for-the-dole scheme.

Linking the creation of new jobs and caring for the environment is part of the government's strategy to reassure people there will be "green jobs and training" -- such as cleaning parkland and training on installing insulation -- in Australia after the introduction of an emissions trading scheme.

Ms Gillard, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Employment, said yesterday it wasn't important where the money came from for the jobs and training. What was important was equipping young Australians for a "carbon-constrained economy".

But Malcolm Turnbull said the announcement of 50,000 new jobs and training places was "phoney". "The Prime Minister stood up and announced 50,000 new jobs -- it is simply not true," the Opposition Leader said. "There are 6000 jobs in the package and they're not new," he said.

Mr Rudd, speaking on Melbourne radio 3AW, conceded the 6000 jobs had been negotiated earlier but said the funding was "absolutely new". The government's $94 million package is to help train apprentices and young people, he said. A further 10,000 places will be available in a new national Greens Jobs Corps for six months, during which time eligible unemployed people under 25 will have a training allowance added to their Youth Allowance or Newstart payment.


The real cost of "Green" electricity is beginning to bite in Western Australia

The cost of renewable energy will rise significantly tomorrow with WA customers paying nearly twice what they paid six months ago. Government-run energy retailer Synergy has increased the price of every green power option they provide, outraging environmental groups and users of renewable energy. The move comes just weeks after Murdoch University energy economist Adam McHugh warned that if the state continued to favour “dirty” industry over renewable projects, consumers would pay.

Synergy says the price increase reflect the cost of supplying green energy to WA. “While the fuel sources of renewable energy are inexpensive, the other costs associated with it are not, including the initial infrastructure cost, network costs, back-up generation and the like which are factors in the full cost of renewable energy,” Synergy head of corporate affairs Andrew Gasper said.

Solar energy producer for Wise Earth - and Order of Australia recipient - Garry Baverstock said the unsubstantiated and unpublicised price hike was sending shock waves through the renewable energy sector and supporters of green energy initiatives. “While Synergy customers are still coming to terms with the recent 25 per cent price rise that took place on 1 April and 1 July respectively, people buying green energy are soon to be slugged with up to a further 20 per cent price hike,” Mr Baverstock said.

Synergy offered three main green options to residential consumers, including blocks of green energy called EasyGreen, NaturalPower where you pay extra for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) and Earth Friendly which allows you to offset carbon released by consuming coal or gas fired alternatives. Blocks of green power valued at $30 on an EasyGreen plan were worth 682kWh, but as of tomorrow customers will receive only 492kWh for the same money. “If you are on a NaturalPower plan you are currently paying an extra 4.4 cents per kilowatt hour and as tomorrow you will be paying 6.1 cents per kilowatt-hour,” Mr Baverstock said. “If anything, there should be no difference in whether a person wants to buy renewable or non-renewable power.”

WA is currently one of the dirtiest states in the nation. Just 3.8 per cent of WA's energy is generated from renewable sources.

Gary Warden, a NaturalPower consumer and Al Gore Ambassador, said the Synergy price hike will reinforce Western Australia's position as the worst in the country in regard to adapting to green power. “According to the Federal Government’s GreenPower program and Australian Bureau of Statistics data less than one per cent of Western Australians purchase green energy compared to 16 per cent in Victoria, between 12 and 13 per cent in Queensland and South Australia, between eight and nine per cent in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory,” Mr Warden said. “If anything, we Western Australians and our representative government enterprises need to take a long hard look at ourselves to see what we can do to catch up with the rest of Australia,” he said.

Synergy said it is committed to increasing generation from renewable sources in WA. "This is demonstrated by Synergy signing memoranda of understanding for the supply of new and emerging renewable energy technologies, namely with New World Energy supporting the development of geothermal energy and Carnegie Corporation, supporting the development of wave energy," Mr Gasper said. "By supporting these technologies, Synergy is not only facilitating investment in research and development in these new and emerging technologies, but will also increase the diversity of its renewable energy portfolio if and when the technologies are available on a commercial scale."


School wins battle with bureaucratic bullies over wasted "stimulus" money

Wow! They actually now get to do something useful with the money -- but only after big publicity

A DISSIDENT primary school principal who blew the whistle on bungling within the government's $14.7 billion Building the Education Revolution program has won his way. The school, in Melbourne's outer southeast, was originally offered a $3 million gym, even though it already had a gym. It was told to accept the gym or lose its share of money in the first funding round in March.

But now, after spilling the beans in The Australian, Berwick Lodge Primary School principal Henry Grossek says Victorian education authorities have caved in to his demands for a library and new classrooms instead. Mr Grossek has urged other schools to resist bureaucratic bullying. "In speaking out we haven't been penalised," he told The Weekend Australian yesterday. "It's a tick for the federal government. Some principals are now ruing the decision to keep quiet."

The veteran principal was pictured on the front page of The Australian last month after he wrote a scathing open letter detailing claims of bullying, incompetence and dubious accounting in his school's upgrade. When his school was allocated $3m to build a second gym it did not want or need, Mr Grossek obtained an independent valuation that put its cost at $1.65m. He then told state officials the school wanted a library and some classrooms to the full value of the grant.

"If you stand up and make a stand in a professional manner, and you are supported by the community, you give other people confidence in doing that," he said yesterday. "After I spoke out, other principals came out in our region and spoke out. "It had an impact on others who would have (otherwise) been a bit fearful to speak out. "We were also taking a stand against bullying and harassment. You don't stop bullying by pretending it is not there or giving in to that kind of behaviour."

Mr Grossek said Victorian officials had since been instructed that his school be given the library and six classrooms it had originally sought. And it could spend any leftover funds on a "companion project", up to the total value of $3m. The Victorian Department of Education confirmed yesterday that Berwick Lodge would be given the library and six classrooms, although it made no mention in its response to The Weekend Australian about a "companion project".

A spokesman said the department had worked closely with schools to "ensure that the best results for the school and local community" could be achieved within the BER guidelines. "In some cases this working relationship has resulted in solutions being negotiated and proposals being modified," he said. "In all cases the best interests of the school community and their future needs has been paramount." [Blah, blah, blah!]

The Queensland Education Department this week gagged its school principals from speaking to the media. "If your school is contacted by a journalist to request information held by the school ... it will have to be referred to the (department's) media manager," says a letter circulated to schools this week. The ban flies in the face of calls by federal Education Minister Julia Gillard this week for a "raging debate" about education, when she urged the media to interview teachers and school leaders.

"Let's fill the newspapers with a raging debate, a passionate debate about the future of our education system," she said in a speech on Wednesday. "I'd like to see our newspapers speak to every one of Australia's 9500 school principals and report every word they say. "I'd like to see our newspapers surveying teachers and parents on what is happening at their local school." [She knows how hopeless the bureaucrats are too]

The Queensland's Education Department's media unit yesterday refused to give a reason for the gag. [Reason? Who needs a reason? Secrecy is just a normal reflex for them. If people knew all that went on there would be no end of trouble]


Australia: A nation of immigrants

I imagine that Israel still tops the league by far when we look at the proportion of people living in a country who were not actually born in that country. Even apart from millions of Russians and a few Americans out of a total population of about 6 million, Israel has a couple of hundred thousand illegals from Islamic countries living there too -- surprising though that no doubt will be to most non-Israelis. And if you count illegals, America is once again a nation with a lot of immigrants too. But the figures below probably put Australia second to Israel in proportion of non-native-born. Not mentioned below is that the Australian population total is just over 20 million and about 10% of those are East Asian, mostly Han Chinese, in ancestry.

Although there is no doubt that Australians and Britons have proudly different cultures and traditions and are not slow to say so, the differences are in absolute terms quite small, particularly when we realize that there is a great deal of diversity within Britain itself. So that someone from the Home Counties (say) who visits Australia will experience a transition not unlike visiting Yorkshire, though with much better weather and greater prosperity, of course.

So the fact that over a million out of 20 million Australians were actually born on the other side of the world in Britain should be no surprise. They could almost be in just another region of England. Again something unmentioned below, however, is that the immigrant Brits in Australia are mostly from North of Watford. That information will mean nothing to most of the world but Brits sure know what it means. Putting it formally, it means that most British immigrants are from regional England rather than metropolitan England

Nearly 60 per cent of Australia's population growth is from migration, and the United Kingdom still remains the greatest source of new emigrants. New Australian immigration statistics have shown that Britons make up the greatest amount of migrants to Australia.

The latest Australian immigration figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows 5.5 million Australians, or around a quarter of the population, were born overseas.

Around 213,000 people migrated to Australia in 2007/08, that is 60 per cent of the nation's population growth, and the majority of the new arrivals (60 per cent) were aged between 15 and 34.

The United Kingdom is greatest source with 1.2 million people who were born in Britain now living in the country after emigrating to Australia.

The figures show people from more than 200 countries resettled in Australia in 2007/08 with New Zealand, China, India and Italy also high on the list as sources of migrants to Australia.

The most popular state destination for people arriving from overseas was NSW, although Queensland is the most popular choice in terms of domestic migration.

More than 360,000 Australians moved interstate in 2007/08 with people aged 20 to 34 representing about 40 per cent of that figure.


Rudd government firmly against "same-sex marriage"

THE Rudd government will consider the registration of gay and lesbian partnerships but will not budge on civil unions.

Advocates of same-sex marriage are holding rallies across the country to call for a change in Australian laws. In Sydney, rally organisers expect possibly thousands of people to march from Town Hall to the ALP national conference at Darling Harbour, where they will demand that gay and lesbian couples be allowed to marry. It is expected more than 60 couples will illegally wed outside the conference venue. Similar ceremonies are being held elsewhere. The issue is due to be debated on the floor of the conference on Saturday morning.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland indicated the government was firm in its position. "We are committed to marriage as being defined as between a man and a woman," Mr McClelland told reporters. "The bottom line is that any outcome must recognise that marriage is between a man and a woman; that won't change. "We have indicated we support a nationally consistent framework, consistent with Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT, and they don't support a civil union."

The ACT last year shelved plans to enshrine same-sex civil unions in law after pressure from the Rudd government. Same-sex partnerships can be registered in the ACT but it is believed the Stanhope government is considering if there are ways it can go further.

In its draft national platform, the ALP says it "will take action to ensure the development of nationally consistent, state-based relationship recognition legislation". But it notes the legislation will not "create schemes that mimic marriage or undermine existing laws that define marriage as being between a man and a woman".


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