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

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


31 August, 2010

AAAH! That lovely global cooling

Coldest year on record for minimum temperatures in the capital of Western Australia

Perth is shivering through its coldest year for overnight temperatures, but at the same time bathing in the sunniest winter on record.

Meanwhile, farmers are battling the second driest year since records began, as the WA Bureau of Meteorology rewrites the history books for rain, sun and temperature extremes.

Perth's minimum temperature for winter this year is 1.9C colder than the average 8.2C, according to the bureau's climate information officer John Relf.

And the city has received just 402.6mm of rain compared to the January to August average of 648.3mm.

While daytime temperatures are on average at 18.8C, the number of sunlight hours are well above the 6.4 hour average with a 7.3 hour average recorded for August. ``We've literally had an extra hour of sunlight a day in August this year," Mr Relf said. ``Our weather has been dominated by high pressure and when you get high pressure for extended periods of time the lows just run underneath. ``We seem to be going on some sort of parallel with 2006 at the moment, which recorded the driest year on record and it's been going like that for a long time."

The dry conditions spell devastation for many wheat and cattle farmers across large parts of the state. WA Farmers Federation president Mike Norton said some farmers in the eastern Wheatbelt stand to lose entire crops this year because of drought. ``You don't have to go very far inland to be at half our normal rainfall," Mr Norton said. ``We desperately need a very, very wet September.

``When you start to talk about livestock, there is going to be some real problems across a very large area of the Wheatbelt. Pastures are doing worse than what the crops are."

Perth dams are also low. At 35.3 percent capacity, dams are down 52.38 gigalitres compared to this time last year - one gigalitre is the size of Subiaco oval filled to the brim.

Despite the dry spell, the Bureau of Meteorology says the outlook for spring holds some hope. The bureau is predicting a 65 per cent chance that the median rainfall will be exceeded from September to November in the South-West, while remaining average across the state in spring. ``The pattern of seasonal rainfall odds across Australia is dominated by the recent warm conditions in the Indian Ocean as well as a cooling trend in the equatorial Pacific Ocean associated with a La Nina," it says.


More Qld. medical board craziness

They allow dangerous doctors to keep practising (Jayant Patel take a bow) and then ban a really popular doctor with zero complaints against him

A SMALL town is so desperate to hang on to its deregistered GP that it is taking on the medical board. Lowood, west of Brisbane, is fighting to save South African-born Dr Rajendra Moodley despite the GP – who sees 50 patients a day – failing a critical Medical Board interview.

Dr Moodley has worked in the town under supervision for six years with special registration that allows doctors to work in areas of need. Last year he failed his first attempt at the written Royal College exam to earn full registration before subsequently failing an interview based on unsatisfactory examination, interview skills and familiarity with cultural idioms.

Despite later passing part of the written exam, the Australian Medical Board advised Dr Moodley he was no longer allowed to practise. It would not elaborate yesterday, citing privacy concerns.

But the results mean nothing in the town of Lowood, where there is a chronic GP shortage. Residents have rushed to defend Dr Moodley, drawing up a petition to save the GP.

The Australian Medical Association Queensland president Dr Gino Pecararo said the case highlighted just how chronic the doctor shortage was in the western growth corridor.

Somerset Regional Council Mayor Graeme Lehmann said Dr Moodley was loved by a community that desperately needed him. "Good doctors are hard to get and hard to keep here," Cr Lehmann said. "To be really honest, to be liked as much as Dr Moodley and to have helped as many people as he has says a lot."

Lowood Medical Centre practice principal Paul Crowley said the Australian Medical Board had "egg on its face" after allowing Dr Moodley to practise for six years. "I knew as soon as they advised him to stop working there would be riots," Dr Crowley said. "He's worked without incident, without complaint for six years. These 50 patients a day will now have to join the queue at Ipswich."

Dr Moodley's registration was contingent on him working towards the Royal College exams and yearly supervision reports by Dr Crowley.

Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle said he believed it was a case of bureaucracy "running riot". "This appears to be a case of a dedicated doctor who has the support of his colleagues and the community being hung out to dry," Mr McArdle said.

A Medical Board spokesman said: "For doctors with limited registration, the board must decide if the individual doctor has the skills, qualifications and experience to provide safe care to Australian patients". [But evidence that he DOES provide safe care doesn't count, apparently]

Dr Moodley, who has hired lawyers to fight his case, said he was humbled by the community's support. He said he believed he was more than competent in his role.


History wars set to break out again

THE new national school curriculum could be delayed under a Coalition government, which would review it and address ideological concerns it has about some history topics.

The Coalition's education policy broadly supports Labor's moves towards a nationally consistent curriculum, due to be introduced next year, but it accuses Labor of politicising the draft curriculum in history.

The policy is critical of the absence of references to the Magna Carta and the Westminster parliamentary system, which underpin Australia's legal and political systems. It is critical of students being taught about the "day-to-day activities of trade unions and the history of the Australian Labor Party".

School teachers have complained that the history and English curriculums have been politicised by governments.

The Howard government commissioned a Monash University historian, Tony Taylor, to draft a new Australian history curriculum, but sidelined its recommendations. The conservative historian Geoffrey Blainey and the political commentator Gerard Henderson were later appointed to rewrite the curriculum.

Associate Professor Taylor acted as a consultant in the drafting of the new history curriculum introduced under the current Labor government, and said a "huge amount of work" had gone into it. "In the history area, the sequence of drafts have been devoid of ideological overtone," he said. "From a professional point of view, it would be inexplicable if any new government decided to go back to square one."

NSW English and maths teacher organisations are unhappy with the draft national curriculum, saying they favour the existing NSW Board of Studies curriculum. Eva Gold, a spokeswoman for the NSW English Teachers Association, said teachers would be relieved if the national curriculum was scrapped.

"Teachers in NSW would be greatly relieved to teach the NSW curriculum rather than the national curriculum," she said. "Our members are not happy at all with the K to 10 [kindergarten to year 10] curriculum."


Churches get opt-out from same-sex adoption bill in NSW

Sounds like it will get blocked in the upper house anyway. Fred Nile should see to that. It's a big contrast with bigoted Britain where church agencies have been driven out of adoption services

THE independent state MP Clover Moore has moved to shore up support for her same-sex adoption bill by giving church adoption agencies the right to refuse services to gay and lesbian couples without breaching anti-discrimination laws.

Ms Moore wrote to MPs on Friday announcing she would amend the bill and reintroduce it to Parliament on Thursday. She told the Herald she was amending the bill "in line with requests" from church adoption agencies to help ensure its passage through Parliament.

"Some members of Parliament have told me that they will not support reform without an exemption for church-based adoption agencies," she said. "While the amendments do not reflect my strong belief that there should be no exemptions in the Anti-Discrimination Act, the bill is so important to the security of families headed by same-sex couples that I cannot risk possible defeat."

The convener of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, Kellie McDonald, said the group had argued against the amendment, but was taking a pragmatic approach. "We're obviously not in support of religious exemptions," she said. "However, if the amendment means the bill gets passed, we are in support of this happening. If it means that it will persuade some of the more conservative MPs to support the bill and it gets support, that's a good outcome."

However, news of the amendment has not changed the view of church leaders. A letter co-authored by the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell and the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, arrived on MPs' desks yesterday urging them to vote down the bill.

It follows a similar letter to MPs earlier this month from one of the state's leading adoption agencies, Anglicare, which has said the original proposal would force it to cease offering adoption services.

The chief executive of Anglicare Sydney, Peter Kell, said yesterday that the amendment did not change the agency's opposition to the principle of the bill, but he was pleased it would allow Anglicare to continue adoption services if it becomes law.

The NSW Council of Churches will hold a protest meeting in the NSW Parliament House theatrette today in opposition to the bill.

The Premier, Kristina Keneally, and the Opposition Leader, Barry O'Farrell, have agreed to allow their MPs a conscience vote on the issue.

However, the Christian Democratic MLC, the Reverend Fred Nile, said the proposed amendment would not alter his view. "I'm pleased that [Ms Moore] is amending it," Mr Nile said. "But it doesn't change our opposition in principle to the objects of the bill. I believe every child has a right to a mother and a father".

The amendment brings Ms Moore's bill into line with the recommendations of a Legislative Council committee into the issue last year.


More hospital bungling in NSW

Trauma plan puts lives at risk, say doctors

A DECADE-long plan by the health department to limit the number of hospitals allowed to treat seriously injured patients is on the brink of collapse and has been labelled dangerous and under-funded by senior doctors.

Under the state trauma plan, introduced in March, paramedics in Sydney were ordered to take patients with multiple injuries to Royal Prince Alfred, Royal North Shore, St George, Westmead and Liverpool hospitals - even if they were hurt in the city or eastern suburbs.

But the plan is now in disarray after senior doctors from St Vincent's successfully lobbied to have the hospital reinstated as a trauma centre. Staff at Nepean Hospital are also pushing for an upgrade, arguing that Westmead Hospital is not coping with a surge in the number of trauma patients since the plan was introduced.

"It's dangerous … the people who should be coming to Nepean are not," the chairman of NSW Health's surgical services taskforce, Patrick Cregan, said yesterday.

He cited the case of a man shot at Werrington last week, five kilometres from Nepean Hospital. The man, conscious when he was loaded into the ambulance, was taken to Westmead Hospital, 28 kilometres away but died on arrival.

Nepean was stripped of its trauma status because it could not maintain a 24-hour neurosurgical roster after one of its neurosurgeons, Suresh Nair, was charged with the cocaine-related murder of a Brazilian student. Nair was also charged with manslaughter over the death of a prostitute.

"That issue has been resolved and we can now provide a full roster … so we should be allowed to function as we were," Dr Cregan said. "We had an effective process in place. It is not acceptable to have people picked up out the front of Nepean Hospital and taken to Westmead."

Westmead was struggling to see its emergency patients on time before the trauma plan was introduced, with less than two-thirds of those with potentially life-threatening problems seen within the required 30 minutes.

The NSW chairman of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, Richard Paoloni, said he was "not overly surprised" the trauma plan was collapsing as it had been poorly funded.

Royal Prince Alfred and St George hospitals had been expected to absorb an extra 400 patients a year and Westmead another 200 with a limited increase in bed numbers or staff.

"You increase the number of patients but you don't increase the hospital's resources? Of course some centres will not be able to manage that," Dr Paoloni said. "There's a lot of kudos in being a trauma centre but if the health department is serious, it truly needs to put money into emergency departments, radiology and extra beds, rather than extra care co-ordinators."

The director of trauma at St Vincent's, Tony Grabs, said the plan had been short-sighted because it did not take into account inner Sydney's unique needs, particularly around Kings Cross where alcohol-fuelled violence was common.

"The model wasn't broken, so why fix it? Sending our patients to RPA seemed a little unusual when we do stabbings better than anyone else. We do shootings better. We don't want to position ourselves as a major trauma centre but we do want to look after our locals," Dr Grabs said.


30 August, 2010

Another watermelon -- A Trotskyite, by the sound of it

GREENS MP for Melbourne Adam Bandt has defended comments he made on a Marxist student website 15 years ago, in which he denounced capitalism and labelled the Greens a "bourgeois" political party that could be used to push a socialist agenda.

The comments, made in a two-page memo written by Mr Bandt on March 4, 1995, while he was a student activist at Murdoch University, first surfaced on Victorian political blogger Andrew Landeryou's website VexNews.

As Mr Bandt and Greens leader Bob Brown continued discussions yesterday with Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Treasurer Wayne Swan about the formation of the next federal government, the memo raised questions about Mr Bandt's student politics and his views of the Labor Party, which he referred to in the 1995 memo as "almost as right-wing as the US Democrats".

In the 1995 memo, Mr Bandt said he was "towards an anti-capitalist, anti-social democratic, internationalist movement".

Identifying himself as a member of the Left Alliance, Mr Bandt said, "the parliamentary road to socialism is non-existent". He called the Greens a "bourgeois" party but said supporting them might be the most effective strategy.

"Communists can't fetishise alternative political parties, but should always make some kind of materially based assessment about the effectiveness of any given strategy come election time," he wrote in the 1995 memo.

The Greens leader said there was absolutely no need for Mr Bandt to publicly distance himself from his remarks in 1995.

Mr Bandt, a former industrial relations lawyer with Slater and Gordon, made history last weekend by becoming the first Greens candidate ever to be elected to the House of Representatives in a general election.


Tired surgeons risk lives in Australia's most dangerous public hospital system

Fatigued surgeons have been ordered to work up to 80 hours a week to slash the state government's surgical waiting lists, putting lives at risk.

Angry surgeons say they are so tired during operations that their cognitive and motor skills are similar to drivers who have had five standard alcoholic drinks. "It's totally dangerous," said a surgical registrar from one of Sydney's biggest hospitals. "Would you allow someone who's had five beers to drive you or your family home? Of course you wouldn't. Then why are you allowing them to operate on you?"

Research carried out by the Centre for Sleep Research at the University of South Australia suggests that after 20 to 25 hours of wakefulness, performance of shift staff is equivalent to someone with a blood alcohol content of 0.1 per cent - double the legal driving limit.

The registrar, who did not want to be named, said patients were paying the price and government needed to acknowledge the long hours were "a direct result of their policy of trying to cut the waiting list at all costs".

"Instead of really trying to get absolutely every last lymph node out of a particular patient, which if we'd been a bit more spritely and awake and alert we might have, we may not push 110 per cent and just accept 100 per cent," he said.

While doctors are typically rostered on for 40 hours a week in theatre, they must visit patients before and after theatre in their own time. Often they are then on call for an additional 12 hours after spending 12 hours at the hospital.

"It is a lot easier for bosses to implicitly require you to work unsafe hours. It is either you or them that has to be there operating on the patient, and obviously it's not going to be them," he said.

Simon Suliman, a surgical registrar, said surgeons deserved more support from the government: "You need all your commitment to save patients - they need you. It puts a lot of pressure on the surgeons … It can affect [a patient's] life directly."

Royal Australasian College of Surgeons surgical affairs executive director John Quinn acknowledged "it is hazardous to work for more than 14 hours at a time".

He said while the college provided guidelines to protect surgeons from fatigue, the responsibility fell on the health department and hospitals to ensure safe working hours. "We would prefer regular breaks and a minimum of 10 hours sleep in a 24 hour period," Dr Quinn said.

Australian Medical Association president Andrew Pesce confirmed that fatigue among surgical registrars was a black cloud looming over the struggling health system. "The public hospital system is under a lot of pressure and asking people to work harder with less support wouldn't surprise me," he said.

Opposition health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner said forcing surgeons to work long hours was akin to making a pilot fly long-haul without a co-pilot: "It's not allowed and yet surgeons have as much responsibility."

One surgical registrar, who did not want to be named, said he felt "delirious, emotionally labile and cloudy" after being on call for four days at a NSW hospital and would refuse to do so again. "I've never experienced that sort of sleep deprivation in my life. I couldn't cope with anything."

A spokeswoman for Health Minister Carmel Tebbutt said there was "no such directive" to surgeons and the "system does not support doctors working 80 hours a week".


The war on photography continues

Photographers protest new permit for shooting at landmarks

SYDNEY'S two most iconic landmarks have formed backdrops to hundreds of photographers protesting against laws that require them to have permits to do their work.

As many as 1000 commercial photographers from all over Australia positioned themselves at Campbells Cove, behind Sydney's Overseas Passenger Terminal, on Sunday morning, to take part in the protest. With the Harbour Bridge and Opera House in the background, they carried banners emblazoned with words including "Artists have rights to sell their work," and "Capture the moment, not the photographer".

Landscape photographer Ken Duncan said the permits were destroying passion. "It's not just the cost of photographic permits, it's the logistics of getting a permit ... " he said.

He expressed concerns up-and-coming photographers would be put off by the red tape attached to getting permits, and would consequently give up pursuing their creative dreams.

He also said the tourism industry was missing out on the special skills of professional photographers. "It's a free advert for our country," he said in relation to photographs of iconic Australian landmarks posted on the internet.

Permit costs vary, depending on the time of day, location, and number of crew involved, Arts Federation Australia spokeswoman Renee Dandy told AAP. The Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, for example, requires commercial photographers to pay a minimum $150 per session if more than 10 crew are involved. No fee is charged if there is less than 10 crew.

The $150 fee does not include $65 an hour for a site coordinator, along with another $65 an hour for security, and an additional $65 an hour for cleaning, with each service being provided for a minimum four hours.

Wedding and portrait photographer Graham Monro said the permit fees were unfair, given many photographers pursued their craft for love, rather than money. "Many (photographers) are nowhere near as affluent or well paid as many people believe," he said. "Many lose money ... there are so many expenses, including travel expenses, accommodation and the cost of permits. "When you take all that into account, it's questionable whether they make any money at all."


Food for thought about political donations

A far-Left union has switched its donations from the Labor Party to the Greens, to the clear disguntlement of the writer below. Her suggestion that all political donations from collective bodies should be banned has some merit, though. The American experience of such laws is not encouraging, however. Does Australia really need "bundling" and all the other American evasions, both legal and illegal?

So anyway, electoral reform. Looks like something could actually happen if there is enough pressure from a loose, very loose, coalition of square glasses and Akubra hats in Parliament.

The Akubra hats, those three country independents, are seeking "advice as soon as possible on a timetable and reform plan for political donations, electoral funding and truth in advertising reform" from the major parties. Let's hope that they can force change in one of the grubbiest aspects of our system of government: donations to political parties by corporations, trade unions and front groups.

Traditionally the Greens have been the party at the forefront of the fight for donation reform, with the purity and sincerity possible when no one wants to give you big wads of cash.

But something curious happened during the recent campaign. The Greens got a big chunk of money from a trade union. The Age reported last week that the Victorian branch of the Electrical Trades Union gave $325,000 to the Greens, aiding in the successful campaign to elect Adam Bandt to the lower house. It also reported it was the largest donation the party had ever received. The head of this branch of the union, Dean Mighell, explained on Fairfax Radio that the donation was given because the Greens had the most attractive industrial relations policy. "Certainly having policies that say we're going to abolish the building industry commission, that we're going to have one law that's fair for workers and respects our human rights is enormously attractive to a union," he said.

Mighell is right that it is no longer possible to assume that Labor is naturally the only party which can represent the rights of workers, or is naturally the party most likely to hold big business to account, especially when so much of Labor's funding also comes from big business. The people who are best served when unions automatically hand over funds to the Labor Party are union bosses themselves, who may be seeking to curry favour with the party in the hope of being preselected for a safe seat in the future.

But far from being the principled hero of the story, Mighell's actions only emphasise why it is wrong that trade unions are allowed to donate to political parties at all. He has personal reasons for fighting against the Labor Party, given that he was expelled from it by Kevin Rudd for boasting to his members that he had conned employers into giving bigger pay rises than necessary.

It is sad to think that the election of the first Green to the lower house may have been facilitated by the grudge of an individual union boss. Surely it should be up to individual union members to decide which political party best represents their interests rather than having union membership fees siphoned off to support the party union bosses like.

Tony Abbott is all pointing fingers and dirty hands when it comes to political donations. He demands reform of trade union donations while his party merrily accepts dollars from tobacco companies, including $158,000 from Philip Morris and $140,000 from British American Tobacco in a single year, according to the most recent figures reported by the ABC. (Labor does not accept tobacco donations, by the way.)

The arguments against political donations from trade unions equally apply to those from corporations. Just as it should be a matter for individual union members to decide who they want to support politically, it should be up to individual shareholders to decide where their interests lie at the ballot box.

Rather than singling out particular industries for exclusion, it makes a lot more sense to do away with this form of institutionalised bribery altogether. A blanket ban on political donations from corporations, unions and front organisations is what is needed.

This is what has happened in Canada. Since 2007, corporations, trade unions, associations and groups can no longer make political contributions to Canadian political parties. Individual Canadians can give no more than $1100 a year to political parties and contributions above $20 must be publicly disclosed.

The outrageous state of affairs which exists in Australia has gone on so long because both the major parties are hooked on donations. Let's hope things can change while the Greens are still only recreational users.


29 August, 2010

Australians still support the monarchy

To the dismay of the arrogant Leftist intelligentsia. Not mentioned anywhere below is the result of Australia's referendum on the subject in 1999. In defiance of all the talking heads, 55% voted for the Monarchy. Even many people of non-British origin voted for it. In my home State of Queensland nearly two thirds voted for the Monarchy: An aptly named State (actually named after Queen Victoria)

Public support for a republic has slumped to a 16-year low with more Australians in favour of retaining the monarchy for now.

A Sun-Herald/Nielsen poll conducted two weeks before the federal election showed that - when asked straight out if Australia should become a republic - 48 per cent of the 1400 respondents were opposed to constitutional change (a rise of 8 per cent since 2008) while 44 per cent said we should change (a drop of 8 per cent since 2008). But when asked which of the following statements best described their view:

- 31 per cent said Australia should never become a republic.

- 29 per cent said Australia should become a republic as soon as possible.

- 34 per cent said Australia should become a republic only after Queen Elizabeth II's reign ends.

Backing for a republic is at its lowest since 1994 - five years before Australia had a referendum on the topic.

Nielsen pollster John Stirton said yesterday that, despite the slump, there was a sense of inevitability Australia would one day become a republic with a large number backing Prime Minister Julia Gillard's stance that the issue should be closely considered after a change of monarchy.

"These results suggest Australians will be more likely to support a republic when Queen Elizabeth II is no longer on the throne," he said.

Our top politicians are divided over the republic issue. During the election campaign Ms Gillard echoed the sentiments of her predecessor, Kevin Rudd, who said a republic was not a first-term priority and would only be considered after a monarch change. Ms Gillard said a Labor government would work towards an agreement on the type of republic model - a sticking point in the 1999 defeat of the referendum.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott - an open monarchist along with his mentor and former leader John Howard - said Australians had shown little desire for change. He would not seek to put the republic question to a vote under a Coalition government.

"The Australian people have demonstrated themselves to be remarkably attached to institutions that work," he said. "I think that our existing constitutional arrangements have worked well in the past. I see no reason whatsoever why they can't continue to work well in the future.


Vast area to be locked away from development in Queensland

The pretext is to protect farmland but there is no threat to farmland. It is just the usual Greenie hatred of development

MORE than 70,000sq km of Queensland could be subject to new legislation that would lock away areas from housing, mining and even forestry, according to business. Land from the NSW border to Cairns and west to central Queensland will be investigated under a plan aimed at identifying and protecting important cropping areas.

One industry source said the area under review was about as big as Ireland and "enough land to have its own flag and compete in the Olympics".

The State Government's draft policy includes restricting the controversial underground coal gasification on strategic cropping land, adding another hurdle for trials under way in Kingaroy and other food-producing parts of the state.

It would mean a paddock-by-paddock assessment that will delay resource development, cost millions and cause companies to question whether it is worthwhile, according to the Queensland Resources Council.

And the resources minister will be given "arbitrary" powers to grant approval to developments, even on important cropping land, raising concerns about the impact of vested interests.

Urban Development Institute Australia chief executive Brian Stewart said the policy could add to the cost of housing. "Uncertainty adds risk and risk adds to the cost," Mr Stewart said.

QRC chief executive Michael Roche said mining projects will need to be assessed to see whether they sit on the best of the best cropping land or not. "The maps put a question mark over projects, many of which have already spent tens of millions of dollars," he said.

A company at the centre of the issue, Ambre Energy, yesterday rejected suggestions its $3.5 billion coal-to-liquids project at Felton was not put in doubt by the new policy, but said an assessment would have to be made.

The Friends of Felton farming group said the policy was a step in the right direction. FOF president Rob McCreath said he hoped the policy meant the end to Ambre's scheme. "We can't see any way the development could possibly be allowed in the Felton Valley," he said.

He said the most crucial issue from the policy paper was that coal-seam gas mining would still be allowed on good cropping land and could potentially affect it by depleting water.


Government continues to allow dangerous doctor to harm patients

A BABY boy could be left with brain damage after a WA obstetrician's bungled attempt to use forceps during his delivery.

The Sunday Times revealed earlier this month that the doctor, who has a history of medical negligence, was involved in the botched birth at St John of God Hospital in Subiaco in late January.

The baby's parents plan to take legal action against the obstetrician.

It comes as other patients, left with injuries or ongoing complications as a result of mistakes made by the doctor, called for him to be banned. Among the parents' allegations:

* The baby spent more than four weeks in intensive care because of incorrect use of forceps.

* He had scratches to his face that required plastic surgery.

* There are fears he may be brain damaged after a heavy loss of blood.

* The doctor dropped the forceps several times during the delivery.

* The parents were not told of the obstetrician's disciplinary record.

SJGH banned the obstetrician from working at the site shortly after the incident, though he was still able to work at other hospitals.

It was one of many disciplinary actions taken against the doctor during his career.

In 2008, the State Administrative Tribunal found the obstetrician had conducted surgery on several patients - including removing their ovaries - without providing them with adequate advice.

The tribunal determined he could continue to practise medicine, but would not be allowed to perform hysterectomies and had to undergo further training.

Three weeks ago, The Sunday Times revealed, despite the January incident and his past misdemeanours, the obstetrician was allowed to continue to practise medicine in WA.

He was one of 51 doctors considered so dangerous they were allowed to practise only under strict conditions.

Several days after the newspaper report, the doctor was given an interim 30 days suspension by the WA Medical Board. The board is now preparing a new case against the doctor.

Past patients this week called for him to be banned for life.

Leanne Bramwell, of Cannington, said she was left permanently incontinent after a botched hysterectomy in May 2006. The 40-year-old was awarded compensation after litigation with the doctor's insurance company. "My life will never be the same. No amount of compensation makes up for it," she said.

Ms Bramwell said she wanted to create a support group for victims. Health Consumers Council chief executive Michele Kosky confirmed yesterday that several patients had contacted the organisation in recent years to receive advice about making a complaint against the obstetrician.

Among them was a 62-year-old patient who suffered complications after undergoing gynaecological surgery.

Yesterday the patient said she needed an excessive amount of recovery time after the operation and was now booked in for remedial surgery to fix the complications.


Food fanaticism hits charity fundraising in South Australia

There's no proven harm in any of the stuff banned and people will get it elsewhere if they want it anyway

THEY'VE been a staple of hospital waiting rooms and reception desks for decades, but charity fundraiser chocolates, mints and lollies will be banned from all SA Health buildings under a crackdown on "unhealthy" food.

Butter, pies, pasties, sausages, bacon, soft drinks and even cordial are among more than 20 food items on a "red" list which will also be banned at department events, meetings and functions under the new state food policy which becomes mandatory on October 1.

Workers will even have to seek permission from department executives if they want to serve alcohol such as sparkling wine and fried food such as spring rolls at their staff Christmas party.

Already boxes of charity chocolates and Lion Mints have been removed from counters at the Royal Adelaide and Women's and Children's Hospitals.

However, while the sale of confectionery to raise money for good causes will be banned, chocolates and lollies will still be able to be sold at hospital and office cafeterias and in vending machines, as long as they make up only 20 per cent of the food on display.

SA Health's 30,000 staff were sent an email about the policy last week by chief executive Dr Tony Sherbon, who wrote: "Healthy eating is important for healthy lifestyle, which is why SA Health is making healthy food and drink choices easier in the workplace through the Healthy Food and Drink Choices for Staff and Visitors in SA Health Facilities policy."

The email stated "RED (unhealthy) category food or drinks should not be provided" at functions, meetings, events or even in "social club fridges".

The new policy also bans staff and charities from holding fundraiser sausage sizzles or lamington drives at SA Health sites, instead recommending staff seek sponsorship for "climbing stairs", playing hacky sack or having their head shaved.

Nurses, doctors, unions and charities have lined up to oppose the policy, describing the bans as "heavy-handed" and a "ridiculous" waste of money.

Service organisation Lions Club, which has raised funds through the sale of its trademark mints for more than 30 years, said the banning of its fundraiser boxes "was of course disappointing". National executive officer Rob Oerlemans said the organisation was looking into the impact the ban would have on fundraising at its national board meeting in Sydney today. "We will just have to abide by these regulations, but the money we raise from these sales fund things like research into child cancer, spinal injury and diabetes prevention," Mr Oerlemans said.

Elaine Farmer, general manager of Surf Life Saving South Australia, which relies on funds raised through annual chocolate drives, was also disappointed by the ban. "It's getting tougher and tougher out there to raise money and every door that is closed on us just makes it worse," she said. "We have quite a few clubs that have chocolate runs for five to six weeks every year, which raises thousands of dollars, and it's very disappointing to now be banned from public hospitals and health departments."

Australian Medical Association state president Dr Andrew Lavender labelled the banning of foods "patronising and ridiculous". "There is no such thing as bad foods, it's all about how you use them, and this arbitrary banning is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut," Dr Lavender said. "This policy is a waste of resources. It's a nanny state approach and it would be much better putting that time and money into education programs."

Australian Nursing Federation state secretary Elizabeth Dabars also described the policy as heavy handed. "It is getting to the point people are not sure if they can bring a chocolate cake to work to celebrate someone's birthday," she said. "It seems extraordinary that people will have this type of control placed on them in the workplace.


NSW: The State of corruption

The police, the ambulance service and now the fire brigade

THE corruption watchdog is expected to next month announce public hearings into widespread fraud, rorting and corruption within the NSW Fire Brigades. The Sunday Telegraph understands the Independent Commission Against Corruption has been compiling an extensive dossier of evidence through secret investigations for the past 18 months.

Few ranks of the NSWFB are to escape the spotlight on the rot, which allegedly extended up to the level of assistant commissioner.

The NSWFB has established an executive crisis team to manage the fallout over the misuse and abuse of public funds and entitlements.

The investigation follows a tumultuous year for the NSWFB in which The Sunday Telegraph exposed a hidden culture of bastardisation and ritualistic abuse from the 1970s and 1980s. Seven former and serving firefighters have been charged with indecent assault and an additional 56 matters of assault, abuse and bullying were reported to police.

In this new investigation, a deluge of whistleblowers have reported to ICAC allegations of credit card and petty cash rorting, double-dipping and travel allowance fraud.

Among the divisions to face intense scrutiny are the rescue section at Greenacre, the State Training College at Alexandria and the travelling Firefighter Championships.

Some stations have also been reported to ICAC for rostering fraud, allegedly involved highly organised collusion which has allowed individuals to pocket bonuses they fraudulently attained. Other officers are accused of falsifying statutory declarations in order to obtain leave while they worked elsewhere.

The hearings are expected to explore allegations NSWFB employees used brigades' facilities and equipment to run their own private training business and pocketed cash for hiring out NSWFB equipment such as a bobcat.

One section clocked up $25,000 in petty cash spending in one year. but after ICAC investigators began asking questions, that section's petty cash bill plunged to $5000. Others have been accused of selling raffle tickets to the public and buying beer with the proceeds.

The NSW Firefighter Championships are expected to receive particular scrutiny over allegations senior officers and executives stayed in luxury hotels, and on a single night charged $9000 for alcohol to their taxpayer-funded account.

The misuse of frequent flyers, a secret donations account and kickbacks from travel agents are other allegations related to the championships that have been reported to the ICAC.

The ICAC was expected to report on its investigations in March and the delay has given rise to speculation that fraud and rorting were more endemic than first believed. "I think the reason why it's taking so long is because every time they lift a rock there's more underneath it," a NSWFB insider said.

The probe has created a divided brigade, with deep mistrust over who is a whistleblower and who is a rorter. "There is widespread corruption and it's still going on. People aren't being held accountable," one insider said.

The result of a separate investigation referred to ICAC last year that senior officers covered up a ritualistic and sexualised assault and told the victim to keep quiet is not known.

The Department of Public Prosecutions is yet to make a decision about whether to pursue ICAC's recommendation in December 2008 of criminal charges against several people over fake and fraudulent station upgrade contracts worth $2 million.


28 August, 2010

Helmet liberty upheld

In 46 years of bike riding, Sue Abbott has never worn a helmet. So when the highway patrol pulled her over in country Scone and fined her for a no-helmet offence, she decided to fight. The 50-year old mother of four has never been in trouble with the law, has never fallen from her bike, and thought it ridiculous she could not ride at 15km/h on a dedicated cycleway with an uncovered head.

A police video of the incident last year records the sergeant surmising "it's a hair thing", a view shared by many people when they first meet her. But Ms Abbott says it's nothing to do with her exuberant hair. Her objections are based on her belief that wearing a helmet increases the risk of brain damage - and that forcing her to wear one is a breach of her civil liberties.

When she tried that argument in the Scone local court, the magistrate would have none of it. He fined her $50 plus costs. But when she appealed and laid out her view in the District Court in March, she went a long way to persuading the judge that, 19 years after the laws came into force, there is still no clear evidence of their benefit.

Ms Abbott argued that if she fell from her bike while wearing a helmet she would be at greater risk of brain damage from "diffuse external injury" (see box), an injury similar to shaken baby syndrome, than if she fell on her bare head.

It may seem ridiculous to suggest helmets could do anything other than improve one's chances in an accident and reduce the number of brain injuries, but there is a serious debate under way on the subject in international medical and transport safety journals - and Judge Roy Ellis happily admitted his own doubts about the laws.

"Having read all the material, I think I would fall down on your side of the ledger," the judge told Ms Abbott after she had spelt out her case against the laws that exist in few countries other than Australia and New Zealand. "I frankly don't think there is anything advantageous and there may well be a disadvantage in situations to have a helmet - and it seems to me that it's one of those areas where it ought to be a matter of choice."

He found Ms Abbott had "an honestly held and not unreasonable belief as to the danger associated with the use of a helmet by cyclists", and quashed her conviction, although he still found her offence proven.

Now Scone police ignore Ms Abbott as she cycles to town, although one yelled at her "you're not in Paris now" - a remark which prompted her to send police a photograph of herself bareheaded on a bike on the Champs-Elysees marked "Greetings from Paris".

Ms Abbott's success in court delighted Bill Curnow of the Cyclists Rights Action Group. In several peer-reviewed publications he has argued there has been no reduction in brain injury levels due to helmet laws.

Why force cyclists to wear helmets when politicians ignored a 1998 report from the Federal Office of Road Safety that showed brain injury rates among motorists would be cut by up to 25 per cent, even where airbags were fitted, if drivers wore bicycle helmets, he said.

Associate Professor Chris Rissel and his colleague Dr Alexander Voukelatos of the University of Sydney's school of public health fuelled debate on the issue with a recent paper saying we would be better off without the laws.

But Professor Frank McDermott, who led the original campaign for them, said repealing them would be guaranteed to increase head injury rates and Dr Rissel's paper was flawed. "It'll be as backward a step as it would be to tell motorists they don't have to wear seatbelts," he said on ABC radio.

Ms Abbott said that was a ridiculous comparison. "I should be entitled to make this call about whether I can wear a helmet. "You can still smoke, we are eating and drinking ourselves into early graves, but you can't ride a bicycle without a helmet," she said.


"Insensitive" school

An Australian primary school apologised after a student was awarded first prize at a costume party for dressing as Adolf Hitler. The school sent a letter of apology yesterday to parents after several complained about the child's Nazi-inspired getup, which included a swastika emblem, The West Australian newspaper reported.

The school's principal denied allegations that classmates had roared approval with chants of "Hitler, Hitler" explaining that youngsters had simply been calling out the name of the character they thought should win, Sky News Australia reported today..

Parents at the Catholic school also objected to several more "nasty" costumes, including a vampire outfit and a student dressed as the Grim Reaper, the newspaper said. The school, in Perth, Western Australia, has not been identified.


More understaffed hospitals

The Rural Doctors Association of Queensland says central Queensland's ailing health system continues to be neglected by the state government. The RDAQ says the widespread problems experienced by region have stemmed from understaffed hospitals and failed attempts to attract doctors out west. Currently Biloela hospital is only staffed by locum doctors.

President of the RDAQ Dr Dan Halliday believes the challenge to develop a sustainable health service in the area will be a long and uphill battle for all involved. "A co-ordinated, on the ground approach needs to be taken," he said. "When one area falls behind it has an affect on the rest."

Dr Halliday said he had recently engaged in a "frank" conversation with Queensland Health district chief executive, Dr Coralee Barker where he raised concerns about staff not being overseen by a manager at rural sites.

Dr Halliday says it is crucial that Queensland Health re-investigate the ways rural doctor training programs can be enhanced. "It was agreed by the health minister Paul Lucas that the Queensland country practice model would be further developed," he said. "We are however yet to see any development on the ground."

The Qld country practice model is an employment regime that cuts the red tape and allows for doctors to work and move around remote Queensland hospitals more freely.


Extreme drunk driving OK now?

No jail, no fine. You just have to feel "depressed", apparently

Teenager Toyah Tate was so drunk she could hardly walk when police stopped her car after clocking her speed at 180km/h. She later recorded a blood-alcohol reading of 0.168 - more than eight times her legal limit as a P-plater.

Despite a magistrate yesterday finding her dangerous driving was "one of the worst cases" he had seen, she escaped jail as she is young, pregnant and depressed.

Tate, 19, of Gorokan, had a female passenger in her car on the F3 in New South Wales when she was observed speeding and weaving between traffic on her way to a Gosford nightclub in June. A motorist had reported her vehicle was travelling so fast he was "unable to further describe the car".

Police eventually caught up to the trainee hairdresser at Ourimbah - after she was clocked at 180km/h. She told police: "I've been drinking and driving." An empty 750ml vodka bottle was found near the front seat.

At Wyong Local Court yesterday, Tate pleaded guilty to dangerous driving and high-range drink-driving and was given a 12-month suspended jail sentence. Her licence was suspended for two years. She was ordered to pay $76 court costs but escaped a fine.

Magistrate Glen Walsh said that he accepted findings of psychiatric and pre-sentence reports, which the court heard found she was diagnosed with depression after the deaths of her father and boyfriend. The court heard that Tate had "ceased alcohol" since discovering she was pregnant.

Mr Walsh described her offence as "one of the worst cases, in my view" of driving in a dangerous manner but took into consideration her age, the fact it was her first offence and that she is now nine weeks pregnant. Tate declined to comment when approached outside the court.


27 August, 2010

Complexities of Australia's Senate system mean that Gillard can't win

Fielding is a Christian Senator and is very hostile to Labor. And Julia's atheism and living arrangements with her bisexual lover no doubt horrify him even more than when Rudd was in charge. He was also instrumental in seeing that Rudd could get nothing major through the Senate.

So even if Julia gets all her other ducks in a row, Fielding can block Labor for nearly a year. An Abbott government, on the other hand would have little trouble from Fielding -- if only because Abbott is a sincerely committed Christian

Abbott has said that he would not block supply (the budget) to a Labor government but that leaves open blocking everything else

The Senate is emerging as a new threat to a stable minority government. Steve Fielding is threatening to put a Labor government in gridlock next year and Nick Xenophon is vowing to force a new national crackdown on poker machines.

Victorian Senator Fielding, who can hold the Senate to ransom until July 1 next year by voting with the Coalition, has declared the "voters are not happy with Labor", and he has to decide whether to block everything it does.

The new challenge to the attempts by Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott to form minority governments comes as it emerges that the Coalition will almost certainly have 73 lower house seats and Labor 72 after the Liberals retained Hasluck, appeared to have won Brisbane but failed to pick up Corangamite.

As the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader continue to negotiate with the three independents in the House of Representatives to form a minority government, Family First's Senator Fielding, who is facing defeat, has warned he has to decide whether Labor deserves a second term. Senator Fielding has warned that stable government depends upon the ability of the Senate to function as well as the House of Representatives.

The pressure from independent senators came as Mr Abbott was attacked by the three independent MPs he hopes to woo for refusing to submit his policies to Treasury for costing. Mr Abbott yesterday cited a Treasury leak during the campaign as a reason for not agreeing to the independents' request for the costings.

The three independents are claiming their prime aim is to choose the side with the best chance of forming a stable, long-term government and insisting the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader guarantee serving a full term.

Senator Fielding said yesterday there could not be stable government up to July 1 next year if the Senate was deadlocked. "The Australian people have decided they don't want Labor returned for a further three years. The voters are clearly not happy with Labor," Senator Fielding told The Australian yesterday.

Senator Fielding said he was "keen to work out stable government". "At the end of the day, one of the two major parties has to form government, not some half-baked dream of power-sharing," he said. "You need to know who is to be held responsible for government decisions."

In the current upper house, Senator Fielding has the power to neutralise the government's agenda by joining his single vote to the Coalition. "I have to ask, is Labor worthy of a second term?" Senator Fielding said. "Obviously without the Senate, you can't form stable government and there is one year . . . to be served under the present Senate."

Labor does not control the upper house, which has 32 Labor senators, 37 Coalition, five Greens, Senator Xenophon and Senator Fielding. If Senator Xenophon, Senator Fielding or the Greens join the Coalition in a vote, they can negate government motions.

The new Senate, with the expected nine Greens senators holding the clear balance of power, does not sit until July 1 next year.


Universities teach knowledge but not wisdom (?)

What a lot of Stalinist crap! Who is to say what wisdom is? Some people think global warming is wisdom. I think the Bible is humanity's greatest store of wisdom. So is the Bible going to be taught to all university students? Fat chance!

Schwartz has always had grandiose and only semi-coherent ideas and has been dogged by controversy wherever he went. I would diagnose him as an egomaniac, if not a psychopath

MODERN universities are neglecting the teaching of wisdom to the detriment of its students, says vice-chancellor Steven Schwartz.

In his second annual lecture last night, the vice-chancellor of Macquarie University argued that worldwide the higher education sector was focused on teaching practical skills necessary for a career, with disastrous results. The financial crisis, the parliamentary expenses scandal in Britain and the home insulation program were cited as evidence of educated leaders making choices lacking in wisdom.

Professor Schwartz said a fixation with money had led to the decline in teaching students how to think broadly. "We once were about character building but now we are about money," he said at the university's North Ryde campus.

He said university courses had become more vocational with courses in golf-course management or hairdressing-salon management alongside the traditional subjects of law and pharmacy.

Professor Schwartz used the lecture to unveil a proposal to allow final year students at Macquarie to tie together the theoretical and practical sides of what they have learnt.

One of these capstone courses will be called "Practical wisdom", which the vice-chancellor nominated himself to teach. All new students will also be required to study both science and arts to broaden their education.

Dom Thurbon, a panellist for the lecture, said the premise forwarded by the vice-chancellor was an attractive but dangerous generalisation. He said the wisdom gained by a student depended on several factors such as degree choice and exposure to certain teachers.

"There is a a trend, however, towards a more instrumentalist view of education," said Mr Thurbon, the co-founder of ChangeLabs, an organisation that builds large-scale education and behaviour-change programs.

"The drive to commercially ready degrees means less time is spent on broad philosophical underpinnings of education. Ironically industry is genuinely needing people with a cross-functional expertise."


Hiring of all overseas nurses stopped by dithering new Federal bureaucracy

Dozens of nurses are unable to start work in Queensland because of bureaucratic red tape delaying processing of their registrations. Despite a shortage of nurses across the country, English migrant Ann-Marie Rossiter has been forced to wait more than four months for her registration application to be processed so she can begin work as a registered nurse.

The newly created Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency took over in July as the national body responsible for the registration of health professionals, after statewide organisations including the Queensland Nursing Council were shut down.

Queensland Nurses Union assistant secretary Beth Mohle said she had received "dozens" of complaints from nurses in Queensland about the registration processing problems. "It's absolutely unacceptable, it's nonsensical . . . the processing shouldn't take very long at all," she said. "It's actually having an impact on the workforce and it's delaying big cohorts of people potentially coming from overseas to work in regional and rural hospitals."

Ms Rossiter, 27, who lives at Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast, said she accepted a job at Nambour Hospital as a registered nurse but red tape has stopped her dead in her tracks to start her job. "I'm frustrated and I'm really disappointed as well," she said. "I feel let down. I was meant to start my job at Nambour Hospital on July 22 but I haven't been able to.

"Because I have a job at the hospital as a registered nurse they felt really sorry for me and they got me a job on the casual pool as a nursing assistant while I waited for my registration."

Ms Rossiter said she initially applied for registration with the QNC, but her application was not processed before they shut down so she was told to reapply through AHPRA.

An AHPRA spokeswoman yesterday defended the delay and said a consistent criteria to assess applications for overseas-qualified nurses would be completed this week. She said once a framework was established AHPRA would begin processing applications from next week.

AHPRA came under fire from the nurses' union this month after Australian citizen Gerard Kellett was told he must pass an English language test to be eligible for registration. The union has urged Health Minister Paul Lucas to act on the registration issues.


Victoria’s Jewish community leaders slam the bias at Australia's most Leftist major newspaper

Jewish Community Council of Victoria President John Searle and Zionist Council of Victoria President Dr Danny Lamm have again strongly criticised Melbourne broadsheet The Age for its ongoing anti-Israel bias over a number of years.

The leaders of Victoria’s peak Jewish bodies jointly observed that during the tenure of Andrew Jaspan and particularly that of his successor Paul Ramadge, The Age had increasingly engaged in a war of words against Israel. Apart from steering its readership to a more anti-Israel position, Searle and Lamm consider that The Age’s strident line had also had the hopefully unintended by-product of legitimising antisemitism in this country.

“There is no particular reporting or opinion piece that has prompted our criticism at this time. Frankly, our community has simply just had enough of The Age’s lack of balance”, Searle noted. ”Despite our best efforts to present Israel’s case, there have been too many instances of anti-Israel statements to count, ranging from the blatant such as Michael Backman’s ugly smear job in 2009 to the more subtle and insidious”, Searle continued.

“An example of the latter includes a recent article reprinted from The UK’s The Daily Telegraph which stated “Netanyahu will come under fierce pressure from Obama to extend a 10-month freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank”. The Age’s version made the following insertions “illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank” (The Age, 070710). Such changes make a world of difference.”

“We make this statement with regret”, Lamm continued. “However we have spoken to Mr Ramadge on a number of occasions, both privately and in public forums. While he is adept at making the right noises about The Age’s impartiality, his follow through leaves a great deal to be desired. We believe that The Age’s record speaks for itself. Quite simply The Age is not a friend of our community.”

A recent matter of concern was the reportage of Israel’s response to a flotilla of so-called peace activists that broached Israel’s territorial waters in an attempt to reach Hamas-ruled Gaza. The ZCV and JCCV addressed strong letters of complaint to Mr Ramadge which were ignored. Searle’s subsequent phone call to Ramadge was not returned.

As Searle concluded in his letter, “The JCCV has had ongoing communication with you for a number of years on The Age’s bias. Predictably you have consistently stated that The Age is even-handed and that your door is always open to the Jewish community. I will remind you that these were your exact words when you addressed an audience at the Beth Weizmann Jewish Community Centre on 5 October 2009. You soberly assured audience members that The Age was interested in their concerns and that you would always be responsive to them. In this regard, I will also remind you that you took certain such concerns away with you.

To this day, you have not responded, despite our follow-up request that you do so. And indeed, I am still awaiting your reply to my telephone call to you of 4 June 2010. Your attitude bespeaks scant respect for the Jewish community.

I am not requesting your response to this letter – because frankly your assurances are no longer seen as credible by our community – other than a clear policy change to even-handedness as evidenced in The Age’s future content. Until this is forthcoming I have no doubt that those of your readers who value Israel receiving a fair go will dwindle even further.”

Both Searle and Lamm concluded that the JCCV and ZCV will continue to monitor The Age and take any steps they consider appropriate.


Polished Abbott rises in stature

The alternative PM made fools of those who doubted him

Janet Albrechtsen

TONY Abbott is "unelectable". He will "reduce the party to a reactionary rump". "No one thinks Abbott can win in 2010; he would be doing well if he held the line." The Liberals' choice represents the "spirit of kamikaze fundamentalism". The Liberal Party has chosen "the least electable" candidate. The Liberal Party will likely face "a lengthy period in the wilderness of opposition".

Huh? Anyone want to repeat these observations now?

Even clever commentators can be blinded by orthodoxy. So, too, the hardheads in the Labor Party and the union movement who thought Julia Gillard would secure a slam-dunk election win over Abbott. Post a YouTube video about the freaky Addams Family, trot out Work Choices, and voters would side with Labor. Coalition members muttered similar things among themselves.

The Opposition Leader has confounded them all. Even if the Coalition fails to form a minority government, this election is about the rise and rise of an eminently electable Abbott, and the demise of brand Labor.

Those who prefer to underestimate Abbott will explain his success as a case of timing and lashings of good luck. And maybe a little talent. State Labor governments on the nose in NSW and Queensland. Howard battlers unhappy with a dud leader in Kevin Rudd. A brutal execution that upset the electorate. Leaks that spelled disunity in government.

But it was far more than that. Abbott's success is about Abbott.

NSW voters have endured a rotten state Labor government and ineffective premiers for years. With no meaningful opposition, there was nowhere for voters to go. Abbott pulled together a united, effective federal opposition. So effective that he started pulling the strings of those powerful Labor strategists who, in turn, pull the strings of the Prime Minister.

When Abbott spurned an emissions trading system, Labor strategists forced Rudd to dance to Abbott's tune. But the story didn't unfold as Labor planned.

The contrast between the Liberal conviction politician and the Labor Prime Minister who ditched the "greatest moral issue of our time" became too great. Abbott's spectacular rise caused Rudd's equally spectacular demise. Factional bosses in Canberra copied the NSW brutal model of politics. Execute the leader. Put in a new face. It had worked for Sussex Street for years. Gillard's elevation would fix everything. Feisty and female, Gillard would unnerve Abbott.

Except she didn't. Abbott was still pulling the policy strings. The new Prime Minister started mimicking the Opposition Leader, darting over to the conservative side on everything from border protection, offshore processing and climate change. When Abbott went all progressive with his generous paternity leave policy, Gillard tried to follow. But still Abbott, not Labor, was in control of the plot. The Opposition Leader didn't implode as Labor, and some Liberals, assumed he would. He was no Mark Latham as Labor, and some Liberals, had assumed he was. Instead, Abbott's success in the polls was unnerving the hardheads in Labor and surprising the doubters in his own party. Gillard turned into an overly cautious, two-dimensional character only marginally more credible than robotic Rudd.

Not even the outbreak of the "real Julia" could stop Abbott reclaiming the Howard battlers. Consider Abbott's success in numbers. While the count continues, Labor's loss is already historic. Not since 1931, off the back of the Depression, has the Australian electorate denied a first-term government another term. The history buffs said it wouldn't happen. Abbott made sure it did.

In the seats that matter, the Howard battlers turned away from Labor, with its primary vote falling by 6.4 per cent in NSW and 8.9 per cent in Queensland. Even in seats Labor held, margins have been slashed. Anthony Albanese's safe seat of Grayndler, once on a margin of 25 per cent, has been cut to 2.5 per cent. Peter Garrett's cosy 13.3 per cent margin in Kingsford-Smith is down to about 5 per cent.

For the Coalition to come so close to winning government with the seats so far evenly divided is equally historic.

"Something went right for the Coalition" said Barrie Cassidy on Sunday morning. That something is Abbott. When he won the leadership by a single vote, many predicted trouble. The Sydney Morning Herald's David Marr suggested the party "photographer shouldn't tarry" as Abbott's framed face would be replaced by another leader soon enough. Instead, Abbott did what those before him failed to do. He united the party. And he, not Brendan Nelson or Malcolm Turnbull, started to look like a credible alternative prime minister.

With due respect to Turnbull, the Coalition pushing an emissions trading system would not have won seats in Macarthur or Macquarie, or Longman, or Flynn, or Forde, or Dawson; seats picked up by the Coalition. Turnbull chose to martyr himself on climate change, an issue Rudd, Gillard and Labor strategists dropped. Much of the world has dropped it too. Anyone remember Copenhagen? Anyone following what's happening or not happening in the US on climate change? Abbott was responsible for changing the politics of climate change in Australia, putting it back in the real world.

While Abbott was right to tell his supporters on Saturday night that there was no room for triumphalism, he was correct to point out that the Coalition was back in business. By contrast, Labor is a hotbed of vituperation and recriminations. NSW Premier Kristina Keneally blamed Rudd and his undelivered promises for the poor NSW poll results. Gillard blamed the Labor governments in NSW and Queensland even before the campaign ended, pleading with voters to punish them, not her. The factional bosses and Gillard supporters blamed the leaks from the Rudd camp.

Others were closer to the mark. Former premier Morris Iemma says ALP national secretary Karl Bitar should be flipping hamburgers over the hopeless strategy from Sussex Street. No wonder Mark Arbib has gone into hiding, failing to show at ABC1's Q&A on Monday.

At some point, Labor may wake up to its failings. While much has been said, in time tomes will surely be written about the ALP machine's obsession with poll-driven policy and quick-draw political assassinations, its failure to manage a burned leader and its own hubris. It treated voters as mugs with ill-conceived policies, promises that stretched credulity and confused messages about a party that lost its way only to request help from its assassinated leader. And even more hubris when it underestimated its new Liberal opponent. If Labor does take a good long at itself after the election, Abbott can take the credit for that, too. Meanwhile Abbott must hope people keep underestimating him.


26 August, 2010

Were Australian troops in Afghanistan forced to cut and run?

Due to a lack of backup

THE former Australian chief of operations in Iraq has raised concerns about the gun battle that resulted yesterday in the Army's 21st combat death in Afghanistan.

Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney - attached to the Mentoring Task Force - was killed in action yesterday in the Deh Rawud region west of Tarin Kowt during a three-hour battle with Taliban insurgents.

Major General Jim Molan, now retired, told The Australian several aspects of the fire-fight as described yesterday by the Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, were of concern. "We can't tell from what the CDF said whether they were running out of ammunition or . . . backing off because quite literally you can run out of ammunition in 10 or 20 minutes in a serious firefight," he said.

He also queried why there appeared to be no rapid reaction force acting in reserve to provide assistance to the beleaguered joint Australian-Afghan National Army foot patrol.

"In a logically-run war, if you bumped a large group of enemy such as this then you would try to defeat them. "It doesn't appear that we did that. We fought for three hours, fired cannon, dropped a missile, and then we left the battlefield," he said. "Now to me, that sounds a bit inconsequential."

In Oruzgan the Taliban were coming into contact with Australian-led Afghan troops and members of the 300-strong Special Forces Task Group, said Raspal Khosa from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.


Global cooling hits Australia

HUGE overnight snowfalls have delivered Victoria's best skiing conditions in years. Falls Creek had the biggest dumping, with 54cm of fresh snow recorded in the 24 hours to 6am. Mt Hotham had 46cm, Dinner Plain 30cm, Mt Buller 29cm and Lake Mountain 25cm. There was 10cm of new snow at Mt Baw Baw and Mt Buffalo.

Falls Creek resident Chris Hocking said 226cm of snow had fallen in the area so far this month, already higher than any August figure in at least a decade. "The volume of snow we have seen in August is just staggering,’’ Mr Hocking said. "I haven’t seen anything like this in so many years.’’

It's already been the wettest winter since 1996, with Melbourne's rainfall almost 10mm above average for the season. And if you've been cranking up the heater on a daily basis, it's probably because the mercury hasn't made it past 18C in Melbourne, forcing us to shiver through an average maximum of 14.6C.

Weather bureau senior forecaster Terry Ryan said there had been a return to the icy winters of more than a decade ago. "It's been a return to average temperatures, which we haven't had for a while," Mr Ryan said.

The wet weather had been great news for our dams, currently about 40.2 per cent and growing by 0.2 per cent a day, according to Mr Ryan. "There's no reason why we can't be up to 45 per cent by the end of spring, and there's an outside hope to touch 50 per cent," he said.

And, while the weather has kept most of us inside it has also been a boon for snow bunnies, with conditions among the best in several years. Falls Creek is leading the way and, with more snow expected overnight, it could break records.

Local resident Chris Hocking said last night the snowfall had been amazing. "It's already the best in six years, minimum," he said. "And it's likely to go into the 20-year margin before the end of the month."


Pakistani doctor at black settlement "too busy" to see little girl -- who then dies

THE grieving family of a four-year-old who died in the Doomadgee Hospital has developed such a "deep mistrust" of the health service they are reluctant to take their other children back there, an inquest has been told. The girl's mother, Regina Nero, who has a seven-month-old baby, Renae, wept yesterday as the state's Northern Coroner Kevin Priestly began an inquest into the pre-schooler's death on July 23 last year.

Counsel assisting the coroner, Helen Price, said the inquest would consider the medical cause of the child's death, the circumstances, and the quality of treatment. The child is being referred to as "little Gungaleeda girl" during the inquest out of respect for local Aboriginal culture, which forbids mention of a dead person's name.

Ms Price said Doomadgee Hospital records showed the little girl was taken there three times in the five days leading to her death, but was sent home without seeing a doctor. "I wasn't allowed to see the doctor," an emotional Ms Nero told the inquest, sitting in Doomadgee, yesterday. "They said the doctor was busy."

Ms Price said the child was finally admitted to the hospital in the early hours of the day she died, in distress and breathing rapidly.

The inquest was told the hospital's only doctor, Zulfikar Ali Hudda, diagnosed a respiratory tract infection and prescribed antibiotics. But 12 hours after her admission, she deteriorated rapidly.

Ms Price said Dr Hudda, who had only been working in the community for about a week when the death occurred, organised for Gungaleeda to be transported to Mount Isa for specialist care. However, she died before the Royal Flying Doctor Service could get there. "Unfortunately, little Gungaleeda girl's condition deteriorated. She vomited and went into cardiac arrest – all attempts to resuscitate her were unsuccessful," Ms Price said.

The court was told Dr Hudda unsuccessfully tried to perform a tracheotomy – an incision in the windpipe – to insert a tube to help the child breathe.

Barrister Frank Richard, for the family, told the inquest that events leading up to, and after, the little girl's death had since made them question seeking medical assistance for their other young children. He also said Ms Nero and the girl's grandmother, Katrina Walden, had been taken into the hospital's resuscitation room where the child lay dead, without being told she had died. Mr Richard said they were "inadequately prepared" for what they saw.

The inquest, which will move to Mount Isa today, will hear evidence the little girl had pneumonia when she died, as well as a rheumatic heart condition.

Mrs Walden told the inquest yesterday her granddaughter had a rapid heartbeat when she was taken to the hospital in the days before her death.

With the coroner's blessing, Doomadgee pastor Guy Douglas said a prayer in the town's courthouse before the start of the inquest, calling for peace and comfort for the family. "I feel that there's still a lot of hurt and a lot of anger," he said.


Fathers 'stereotyped' by Australian Child Support Agency

THE government watchdog responsible for overseeing child support payments has been unfairly focusing on parents who do not pay enough while ignoring those who are getting too much, the Commonwealth Ombudsman says.

In a report that might not be well received by some single mothers, the acting Ombudsman, Ron Brent, found that the Child Support Agency had at times been unduly influenced by stereotypes about fathers not meeting their obligations. He found that, as a result of this and other factors, the agency had "not been even-handed" in its role as an investigator.

Those required to make payments - usually fathers - were made the subject of rigorous investigations including their property holdings, tax minimisation arrangements and involvement in complex corporate structures.

The review found that on some occasions these investigations were intrusive and insensitive - assuming that fathers deliberately rather than accidentally mis-represented their ability to pay child support.

In a number of cases the financial records of a father's new partner were demanded without sufficient explanation as to why they were needed and what they would be used for.

At the same time there were "very few investigations" into those who received payments - usually mothers - to see whether they were getting too much.

"The CSA needs to change its case selection procedures, to be more even-handed in its approach to the two parties," Mr Brent said. "It is also important that investigations are carried out with sensitivity and without implying that all investigated parents are trying to avoid child support obligations. "I do not think that fathers have been victimised, but I can understand why they might have that impression."

While greater balance was needed, Mr Brent said it was right that more attention be paid to fathers because they were more likely to have complex financial arrangements where errors were more common.

He also said that up until recently, government policy had in fact encouraged the agency to focus on fathers rather than mothers.

Elspeth McInnes, a policy adviser to the National Council for Single Mothers and Their Children, said she did not believe the Child Support Agency applied a gender filter to its investigations. "I think the filter is the law," Dr McInnes said.


Australian students asked to plan lethal 'terror attack'

The teacher must be some sort of Leftist nut

Western Australia's Education Department chief has apologised after a high school teacher set students an assignment to plan a terrorist attack to kill innocent people.

The society and environment teacher at the Kalgoorlie-Boulder Community High School asked Year 10 students to pretend they were a terrorist planning a chemical or biological attack on "an unsuspecting Australian community". "Your goal is to kill the MOST innocent civilians in order to get your message across," the assignment read. The students had to explain their choice of victims and decide the best time and place to release their weapon.

The assignment was withdrawn and the teacher counselled following a complaint made to the school after one 15-year-old student refused to do it, saying she was horrified and disgusted.

Education Department Director-General Sharyn O'Neill on Wednesday said the teacher had exercised "poor judgement" and was remorseful. She said the teacher, who has been teaching for three years, was "well intentioned" and her heart was "in it for the kids".

Ms O'Neill said her "deepest sympathy" was with families of victims of terrorism who may have been offended by the assignment. "We are very sorry for the pain and discomfort that this situation has caused," she said. "Certainly no ill was meant by this assessment task. I'm incredibly disappointed with the assessment item that was set by the teacher. "I think it was inappropriate, it was insensitive and rightly, people are upset. "This is not what we expect of professional educators."

School principal Terry Martino said he had the assignment withdrawn as soon as he was aware of its content, and he had talked to the teacher. "This is one mistake by a hardworking, keen young teacher who is highly regarded by staff, students and community," he told the West Australian.

Education Minister Liz Constable said she was pleased Mr Martino acted quickly to ensure the assignment was withdrawn and the teacher was counselled. "It was certainly an inappropriate method of exploring the issue of conflict and had the potential to offend and disturb parents and impressionable students," she said. "Schools take the education and teaching of these issues very seriously but this must be done in an appropriate way."

State School Teachers Union president Anne Gisborne said Mr Martino had taken the "appropriate" action under the circumstances. "I don't know the motivation behind the program... in hindsight the teacher is probably wishing they hadn't done this." Ms Gisborne said the objectives of the assignment could have been achieved in a more sensitive manner.

The issue ran hot on talkback radio in Perth on Wednesday with one caller saying he had a son fighting in Afghanistan who he thought would not appreciate the assignment. Another caller told Fairfax Radio the teacher should be jailed for giving the students the assignment.


Can Victoria police do anything right?

They apologise for failing to protect children from known pedophiles. Once again it needs a newspaper to budge them into doing the right thing

VICTORIA Police has apologised over its failure to protect nearly 700 children who have been knowingly exposed to convicted sex offenders. This follows revelations in The Australian today that police failed to notify child protection authorities that children were coming into regular contact or living with hundreds of registered sex offenders.

Victoria Police says an audit has revealed that 667 children have been exposed to 376 offenders since 2005. In most of the cases, sex offenders had told police they were in contact with children, but police didn't notify child protection authorities, which is a mandatory obligation under state laws.

Assistant Commissioner Jeff Pope has admitted Victoria Police did not meet its basic child protection responsibilities. “Unfortunately what it means in this case is that on these occasions we haven't properly notified DHS and properly discharged our obligations to mandatorily report that children are at risk,”Mr Pope said today. “It won't happen again, and it's a very unfortunate oversight, and we're very sorry that it's occurred.”

The offenders included a parent or a parent's new partner or spouse, housemate or close friend.

The state Ombudsman's office announced it is investigating Victoria Police management of the sex registry and the Department of Human Services has formed a taskforce to review all of the cases.

Previous Ombudsman reports have criticised the government's management of child protection, which has been under fire following revelations DHS had placed children in the care of convicted sex offenders and failed to conduct criminal checks on prospective carers.

The police have confirmed three offences involved the same family, but no charges were laid because the offender had died.

Opposition community services spokeswoman Mary Wooldrige said the government must overhaul the child protection system. “The Ombudsman's already revealed children have been placed with sex offenders by John Brumby's government,” she said. “Now we find hundreds more children have been placed in harm's way by the most basic failures in the government's responsibilities. “We believe these situations need to be exposed in a comprehensive review of the system.”


Note that I have a special blog on Queensland cops, there is so much misbehaviour among them. And there's been plenty of posts lately. Two today.

25 August, 2010

Declining trees spell gloom for planet -- say Greenie nuts

Since global temperature changes over the last decade have been in tenths of a degree only, whatever is happening to trees is not the result of global warming. There IS no global temperature change to speak of. Besides, any ocean warming would INCREASE overall rainfall, which is good for trees -- and increased CO2 is good for them too.

The study below blames the decline in trees that they saw on drier weather overall -- but drier weather overall is a sign of global COOLING! Pesky! How come these so-called scientists know nothing of the most basic physics of evaporation?

LESS rainfall and rising global temperatures are damaging one of the world's best guardians against climate change: trees. A global study, published in the journal Science, shows that the amount of carbon dioxide being soaked up by the world's forests in the past decade has declined, reversing a 20-year trend.

It diminishes hopes that global warming can be seriously slowed down by the mass planting of trees in carbon sinks. Although plants generally grow bigger as a result of absorbing carbon-enriched air, they need more water and nutrients to do so, and they have been getting less.

A fierce drought that dried out vast areas of the Amazon Basin in 2005 is seen as a key to the global decline in carbon sinks in the past decade, but Australia is not immune. "Australia is a significant contributor to the global pattern, and the findings are consistent to what we have seen here," said a senior CSIRO researcher and director of the Global Carbon Project, Dr Josep Canadell.

"There has been a measurable decline in the leaf area of plants this decade, though we don't have all the data for Australia yet. What we have seen is strongly consistent with projected patterns of climate change."

The Science study, Drought-induced Reduction in Global Terrestrial Net Primary Production from 2000 through 2009, used data from a NASA satellite that orbits Earth every 15 days to build up a global map of changing leaf density and forest cover. It estimated net primary production, a measurement of how much CO2 is taken in by plants and stored as part of their biomass.

The study found that in some areas of the world, higher temperatures had driven more plant growth. But these gains have been cancelled out by drier conditions in rainforests, leading to the overall decline in total amount of CO2 the forests are soaking up.

The findings reinforce work being done at the Australian Bureau of Rural Sciences, which is researching how much carbon can be stored on a long-term basis in the landscape.

Scientists say that a sustained decline in the amount of carbon being stored in forests risks locking in a vicious cycle, in which trees absorb less carbon because the world is warmer and drier, while the rising carbon levels in the atmosphere continue to trap heat.

"There is no single silver bullet answer to this, but one of the partial solutions is the protection of old-growth forests, which store a lot of CO2, and the replanting of those that have been removed," said Professor Andy Pitman, the co-director of the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of NSW. "This doesn't actually get to the heart of the problem though, which is rising CO2 emissions from human activity."

Rainfall patterns in Australia are expected to alter significantly over the next few decades as average temperatures increase, with more rain likely to fall in the north and north-west and less precipitation likely in southern Australia. This means that many of Australia's existing old-growth forests, which are located in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania, can be expected to become less efficient carbon sinks.


Hung parliament may be just what Canberra needs

Minority government can be a useful corrective

THE political catastrophists are already counting down to the parliamentary Armageddon they predict will strike Canberra once a minority government is sworn in. We're not so sure. Stable government is a pre-requisite for competent administration, and vital for economic reform. A ruling party is helped considerably if it can command a workable majority in the lower house. Whoever emerges as prime minister this time, however, won't have that luxury. And that might not be such a bad thing.

If the major parties and independent MPs can work together, as the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have been in what first appeared an unlikely coalition in Britain, we might see more checks on wasteful spending and a useful circuit breaker against encroaching big government. The hubris that has infected both sides of politics in office will be kept in check. The Howard government, for example, would never have taken Work Choices too far had it not commanded both houses of parliament. The ultimate outcome of that excess, unfortunately was the reversal of 20 years of vital workplace reforms. In a finely balanced parliament, it is also doubtful whether the Rudd government's judgment would have been so badly clouded by the adulation fanned by the "Kevin07" campaign.

No government relying on the support of crossbenchers would have dared bypass the process to launch a revenue grab against the mining industry as blatant and excessive as Kevin Rudd's original resource super-profits tax proposal. Underpinned by public accounts and other committees with real teeth, a minority government would also have faced intense scrutiny of the school building stimulus. If independent MPs remained true to their pledges about protecting the public interest, such vast expenditure would not have been sanctioned in a form that wasted billions of dollars. Nor would the shambolic pink batts program have been anything more than a thought bubble, quickly discarded. A minority government might have asked tough questions before the Governor-General was sent of a grand tour of Africa to drum up support for Australia's questionable bid for a UN Security Council seat. Unlike in the US, with its in-built checks and balances in the different powers afforded the president and congress, legitimate concerns raised in parliament in Australia have been sidelined too often.

A clear-cut election result would have made life easier for everyone. But provided the players rise to the challenge responsibly, a few years of minority government could put a much-needed brake on the trend towards bigger government as any blatant attempts to buy off various constituencies are likely to be blocked. Some may object to the kingmaking status granted to independents Tony Windsor, Bob Katter and Rob Oakeshott, but they have little to fear. The trio will not pick the winner without serious thought, knowing that they will be out of a job in three years, or sooner, if they make the wrong call. A democracy as vibrant as ours never gets it wrong for long. No one wants to see the semi-permanent inertia that hung parliaments have inflicted in Europe. But, for a while at least, the experience will not be entirely negative.


There was no room at the hospital for gravely ill child. He died 16 hours later

The killer NSW hospital system again

The parents of a dead toddler have lodged a complaint with the NSW Ambulance Service, saying paramedics arrived at their house but told them there was no point taking their ill son to hospital because there were no spare beds.

A coroner's inquiry has been ordered into how Connor Williams, 18 months, died only hours after paramedics treated him at his home near Dubbo.

Paramedics say the tragedy highlights an under-resourced health system struggling to cope, and fear they will be forced to shoulder the blame for a chronic lack of hospital beds across the state.

Sarah and Graeme Williams called paramedics to their home after Connor became "shaky on his feet", "tired and lethargic", and "couldn't even hold his head up", but were told they should keep him home because the emergency department at Dubbo Base Hospital was full.

"[The paramedic's] words were, Dubbo hospital is full, they have no beds in the ED, they have no beds in the hospital, [but] if we were worried [to] bring him back," Mrs Williams said. Sixteen hours later Connor was dead.

Tess Coates, a spokeswoman for the Emergency Medical Service Protection Association, which represents about a third of paramedics in NSW, said paramedics were "extremely frustrated" and were being "stretched to the limit" by a shortage of beds across NSW.

She could not comment on the case involving Connor, but said paramedics were being "screamed at all the time to get to another job" and were continually facing increasingly aggressive patients and their families who were upset at waiting longer for treatment.

"Bed availability is absolutely crazy. There are unending delays, and at some hospitals they will wait … up to six hours to get the patient off the trolley. Paramedics are the meat in the sandwich. And every time there is a bad outcome the ambulance services takes it out on the officers."

A spokesman for the NSW Ambulance Service said the paramedics involved, who face dismissal if found guilty by the service's Professional Standards and Conduct Unit, had been interviewed. He said Mr and Mrs Williams had signed a form saying they did not want Connor taken to hospital, but he could not comment on their reasons.

"We don't know what happened in this case yet, but ambos know whether there are any beds, and if a patient asks if they'll have to wait long at the hospital, the ambo will say yes or no," he said. "It's then up to the patient to decide if they want to go."

Connor had been diagnosed with an ear infection three days before his death. Later that night, after he developed ulcers on his tongue, his parents took him to hospital, where he was seen by three doctors. He was later sent home, but his condition worsened two days later, when his parents rang triple-0.

Five hours after the paramedics left, Mr and Mrs Williams took him back to the hospital. He was kept in overnight and a helicopter was ordered to transfer him to the Children's Hospital at Westmead, but he died before he could be flown out.

The general manager of Dubbo Base Hospital, Andrew Newton, extended sympathy to the family but said Connor was seen promptly in the emergency department.

The opposition health spokeswoman, Jillian Skinner, said the case was tragic and deserved a coroner's inquiry. "Whenever I speak to ambos they are so frustrated because so often beds are not available. And the poor ambos are the ones who end up copping the blame."


The charming Victoria police again

And note that these are top cops

POLICE up to the rank of superintendent are being investigated over racist, homophobic and pornographic emails circulated through the Victoria Police email system.

In March, police announced more than 100 officers were being investigated over the emails.

A police statement today said those under investigation included a "small number of senior officers up to the rank of Superintendent''.

The statement says a number of police members have been interviewed and charged with disgraceful conduct, or failing to comply with an instruction of the Chief Commissioner of Police, a breach of section 69 of the Police Regulation Act.

Ten are scheduled to appear at internal police hearings over the next two days, which will determine what, if any, sanctions will be handed down. These determinations may be appealed.

Two other members have resigned rather than face the hearings this week. In March, Healesville Sergeant Tony Vangorp resigned and took his own life after being caught up in the investigation.

Police Chief Commissioner Simon Overland has previously described the racist, homophobic and pornographic emails as too "offensive'' and "shocking'' to ever be publicly released.

The police statement described the emails as "material of the most extreme nature''.


Note that I have a special blog on Queensland cops, there is so much misbehaviour among them.

24 August, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG has actually found something to laugh about in Australia's present political gridlock.

Queensland good to conservatives

Queensland's dramatic rejection of the Gillard government in Saturday's election was less a backlash against Labor and more about the state returning to its natural conservative mode, according to some political commentators.

As voter patterns from the past 15 federal elections show, Queenslanders only occasionally vote to install a Labor prime minister - and if they do, the ALP is virtually guaranteed the keys to the Lodge.

Since 1972, Coalition parties have claimed the majority of Queensland seats in 11 of the 16 federal elections. When Labor has managed to win the majority of federal seats in Queensland, the party has always claimed power nationally.

As soon became clear when booths closed on Saturday, that wasn't the case this year, with Labor looking at losing seven seats in the sunshine state.

Queensland has long been seen by other states as more conservative - due in part to the politics of our longest-serving premier, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, and One Nation founder, Ipswich's Pauline Hanson. Brisbane might currently be trading off its image as an upbeat 'New World City', but experts say the reality is that a majority of Queensland voters remain conservative.

Australian psephologist Malcolm Mackerras told he believed the move against Labor by Queenslanders signalled a "normal return to conservatism", as well as a rejection of the ALP. "It's rare for Labor to do well [federally] in Queensland. Queenslanders will vote for Labor in execptional times, like in 2007 [when Kevin Rudd claimed power from John Howard]."

Dr Ian Ward from the University of Queensland's School of Political Science agreed the state had always been "naturally conservative". "We are intrinsically a more conservative state even though we claim to be the birthplace of Labor with the Tree of Knowledge," he said.

"The Labor vote in Queensland has always been a few percentage points behind what it has federally. "I think there’s been just three occasions where Labor has got more than 50 per cent of the two-party preferred vote [in Queensland in a federal election]."

While Queenslanders have shown themselves open to voting for Labor premiers, Dr Ward said they tended to be more conservative than those in other states. "Even when we’ve had Labor government at state level they’ve been essentially conservative. There's been nothing like Don Dunstan [the progressive former premier of South Australia]," he said.

"Historically we’ve been more decentralised, we’ve got a larger non-urban population than other states. [And] Queensland is the one state in which the National Party has been the dominant conservative party."

However he stopped short of predicting a swing against Anna Bligh at the state election. "What I think these federal election results show is that things are very fluid. "If the poll had been held the week after the election was called Labor would have won, if it had been held in the second week [Labor] would have lost."

Mr Mackerras said while Kevin Rudd's removal seemed to him a good idea at the time, Queenslanders clearly disagreed. "Queensland has objected to the removal of Rudd and the rest of Australia hasn't," he said. "The Labor powerbrokers really should have thought through what they were doing. "However I think if Kevin Rudd was still prime minister Labor would have lost anyway."


Australian Muslims Push for Islamic ‘Perspective’ in School Curriculum

Recently the Australian Curriculum Studies Association and the University of Melbourne’s Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies issued a booklet, “Learning From One Another: Bringing Muslim Perspectives into Australian Schools,” which maintains that “every Australian school student would be taught positive aspects about Islam and Muslims — and that Australia is a racist country.”

Presumably every Australian child should be taught about the fabled past of Islam and imagine the worst of Australia in order to avoid the challenges Islam poses to this peacefully integrated nation.

The report contends that there is a “degree of prejudice and ignorance about Islam and Muslims,” conditions that Australian students should oppose as they embrace diversity as the standard of civic duty. Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden are mentioned as famous names synonymous with traditional Islamic ideas, but there isn’t any reference to terrorism.

The truly remarkable dimension of this report is that a largely immigrant community, comprising a small minority, is demanding that classes be taught from its perspective rather than the perspective of the nation to which most chose to come. Australia is demonized as racist while the real challenges posed by Islam are overlooked. Moreover, it is precisely the communal values and institutions in Australia that made it a worthy destination for immigrants in the first place.

Most tellingly, Australia’s so called “racist impulses” were fomented by radical Islamists responsible for the death of 100 Australians in Bali and terrorist plots in Australia itself in which at least twenty people have been jailed.

According to the report, “most Muslims are outspoken in their criticism of terrorism regardless of the perpetrator. This is because Islam only allows for a just war. … From their perspective, the enemies of Islam are the terrorists and they are the warriors of the faith.” In addition, the authors of this booklet contend that “morally, Australia is not a good place to rear children,” citing as evidence drugs and illicit relations. They argue that these conditions militate against integration. It is also an argument employed for their own system of law, sharia.

What this adds up to is a minority intent on changing the environment in which it finds itself rather than seeking an accommodation with the prevailing norms. It seems to me the authors of the report have failed to address several obvious questions: If Australia is an undesirable place to raise children, why emigrate there in the first place? If sharia is the legal code you prefer, why not move to a nation where this code is in place? Why should the Australian school system comply with the requests of this Muslim minority?

It seems to me imprudent that the demands in the booklet are made at all. Suppose a Jewish minority in Iran argued that Talmudic law should be introduced across the board for this group. By any reasonable standard this request would be rejected. There simply is no reason for the Australian government to balkanize itself and, in the process, legitimate a minority hostile to law, custom, and tradition.

That integration of minorities may tolerate a degree of loyalty and affection for the “old country” is understandable. But there isn’t any justification for altering the school curriculum in the adopted nation. If anything is the case, Muslim students will be handicapped if, by virtue of a diversity standard, they learn about Islam but remain ignorant about the nation in which they reside.

Moreover, since Western nations have made an effort to welcome Islamic immigrants through programs that engender understanding, it seems to me reciprocity is warranted. But is it possible to promote women’s rights in Saudi Arabia? Or does the school curriculum in Pakistan include a history of constitutional provisions? Do Syrian schools incorporate the history of the Kurdish minority into their school curriculum?

What the Australian Muslim minority wants is what Australia can not grant: capitulation to a state within a state. A separate Muslim school system or one that emphasizes the unique aspects of Muslim life would be a first step toward the dissolution of Australia. No wonder there is pushback. Who would expect anything else?


Outdated medical procedure behind catastrophic epidural injury in NSW government hospital

NSW public hospitals seem to be Australia's best at killing and seiously injuring their patients

The medication practice that led to the catastrophic neurological injuries of a Sydney woman, Grace Wang, during an epidural was phased out of other hospitals more than a decade ago.

Ms Wang was poisoned during the birth of her first child in June at St George Hospital when an antiseptic skin preparation was accidentally injected into her spinal canal in place of an anaesthetic. The case has rocked NSW Health and shocked the public.

The two substances - both clear liquids - were placed in separate dishes on a sterile table in the delivery room, the Herald has learned, and were mixed up as a consequence of being unlabelled. Other hospitals insist drugs are drawn by the anaesthetist directly from their original vial or ampoule into a syringe.

The head of anaesthesia at Westmead Hospital, Peter Klineberg, said yesterday the practice of drawing medications from stainless steel dishes was routine a generation ago. "It was identified as being an undesirable and unsafe practice."

The antiseptic infused into Ms Wang's spine, chlorhexidine, has increasingly been used in the past five years in NSW because it mixes readily with alcohol, which accelerates drying and the epidural catheter can be inserted sooner.

The chlorhexidine wrongly injected into Ms Wang, who has suffered severe pain and can no longer walk, is understood to have been mixed with alcohol. Her husband, Jason Zheng, said she was extremely distressed and was vomiting during her labour, and needed pain relief urgently.

The shift to chlorhexidine has been controversial, and a senior anaesthetist told the Herald betadine - the yellow iodine-based antiseptic which is easily distinguishable from clear epidural drugs - was probably safer.

NSW Health's medication policy states that in general "the same person must select a medication, administer the medication and record its administration", but if a nurse prepares drugs the prescribing doctor is responsible for checking them. Someone other than an anaesthetist prepared Ms Wang's drug, the Herald understands.


Are seas the new green battlegounds?

The article below was written by a Greenie so he sees a conspiracy where there are only outraged fishermen who resent being locked out of places where they have been accustomed to fish

In case it passed you by in the recent, just cleared, political blizzard, there's been a shift in our domestic environmental battlefronts, to the sea. After decades as an election cutting point, forests were absent on Saturday. Instead the resource versus protection barney moved to Australia's marine domain. This contest has far to go.

In the past year, a politically sharp, well-funded recreational fisheries lobby has emerged for the first time to take on, and beat, scientists and environmentalists.

It snapped up support from both major parties, and by the campaign's climax had put marine protection on the radar of many politicians whose closest previous dealings with a fish were on a plate.

At the extremes of this argument, some fishers reject any blame for overfishing, while animal activists are opposing cruelty to sentient creatures. But the main game focuses on a national set of marine reserves that until now had bipartisan, if tediously slow, support.

Australia's ocean domain is, at 19 million square kilometres, more than twice as large as its landmass. Our seas range from tropical reefs loved by tourists to frigid deeps.

When Liberal environment minister Robert Hill released the National Oceans Policy in 1998, it claimed to make Australia "the first country in the world to deliver a comprehensive national plan to protect and manage the oceans".

The initial template covering south-eastern waters from Bermagui on the New South Wales south coast, around Victoria and Tasmania to South Australia was finalised years late in 2007. About 7 per cent of this two-million-square-kilometre region is closed to fishing.

Along the rest of the coast other "bioregions" are being studied, but so far the grand total of marine protected areas (not necessarily fisheries exclusion zones) is 765,000 square kilometres, including the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

States also set up their own marine protection. In NSW, 34 per cent of waters is in "parks", and 6.7 per cent in no-fishing sanctuaries, according to a 2009 count by the Australian Marine Conservation Society. In Victoria, 9 per cent of coasts is in parks and 5 per cent in sanctuaries.

Sound reasonable? Not to recreational fishers alarmed by the "no take" concept. The first sign that this lobby was mounting a serious effort came last summer, over mako sharks.

A ban on fishing for these internationally depleted fish fulfilled Australia's obligation under the Convention on Migratory Species. It's reversal by Environment Minister Peter Garrett met electoral imperatives.

Evidence that the debate was polarising came when shadow fisheries minister Richard Colbeck began to rail against the influence of "extreme" environment groups, such as the Pew Foundation.

Come the election campaign, the Australian Fishing Trade Association also popped up with a boatload of funding, warning fishing voters their children's right to hold a rod was under threat. "Fishing may never be the same again if the Greens or Labor get into power!" said their full-page advertisements.

AFTA is composed of recreational fishing trade suppliers who claim to be at the heart of a $1 billion industry. Executive director Doug Joyner said they had up to $450,000 to spend on countering the "Green grab" for 30 per cent plus of the seas.

The Greens do indeed argue for 30 per cent of the seas to go into no-take zones, claiming this is the best insurance policy for fishing in a future where over-fished stocks also face threats from climate change.

The Australian Marine Science Association has much lower ambitions, calling for effective protection of at least 10 per cent in no-take zones. Labor rejected arbitrary targets in the campaign, and pointed out that Commonwealth reserves began five kilometres offshore, beyond the reach of the average shore fisher.

But Liberal leader Tony Abbott immediately grasped the political value of a fishing rod, and now wants to shelve all marine reserve plans. Last week in Narooma on the NSW south coast he said: "I think that it's very important that we immediately suspend this marine protected area process. The fact is that it is needlessly threatening not just the livelihoods of people who live off the sea but it's immediately threatening the entire economy of the south coast."

Whether Labor survives in government or the Coalition prevails, clearly the setting has changed. "I fish and I vote" has become more than a car sticker. Expect to see more of the fishers, and their opponents, from now on.


23 August, 2010

Single W.A. seat could hold key

What did I say about W.A.?

Interesting point: Ken Wyatt has Aboriginal ancestry. So the immediate future of Australia's government could depend on the vote for a conservative "black" man

FOUR seats remain on a knife-edge after the latest counting. But the West Australian seat of Hasluck could hold the keys to The Lodge for either Julia Gillard or Tony Abbott.

Last night the Liberals held a narrow lead in Hasluck, putting Mr Abbott within reach of moving to 73 seats and a chance of forming government in the 150 seat House of Representatives. At 73 seats Mr Abbott would be able to negotiate with the three independents, Bob Katter, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, to take power with a majority of one.

But if Labor can get to 73 or 74 seats it may be able to govern with the support of the Green member for Melbourne Adam Bandt, who took the seat from the government after the retirement of Lindsay Tanner at Saturday's election.

After counting yesterday, Labor held leads in the Victorian seat of Corangamite, and Lindsay in western Sydney, putting it on track to move to 72 seats. The Tasmanian seat of Denison was also a tight contest between independent candidate Andrew Wilkie and Labor's Jonathan Jackson.

In Hasluck, Liberal candidate Ken Wyatt held a 363-vote, two-party-preferred lead over sitting Labor member Sharryn Jackson. But Labor is not yet ready to write off the seat and is confident of clawing back the Liberals' lead when pre-poll and postal votes are counted over the next 13 days.

Counting continued yesterday after the Australian Electoral Commission tallied a record 11 million votes on Saturday night -- 600,000 more than on election night in 2007. Over the next week, the AEC will concentrate on declaration votes including absentee votes cast on polling day, postals, pre-polls cast outside the voters' home electorate, and provisional votes.

After counting yesterday Labor held 50.67 per cent of the two-party-preferred vote compared with the Coalition's 49.33 per cent. That represented a swing of 2.03 per cent against the government. Labor had suffered a 4.87 per cent swing against in on the primary vote.

In Lindsay, Labor's David Bradbury held a 1017-vote lead over the Liberals' Fiona Scott and in the Victorian seat of Corangamite, Labor's Darren Cheeseman held a 1189-vote lead over the Liberals' Sarah Henderson on a two-party preferred basis.

An AEC spokesman said there were up to 2 million declaration votes for the AEC to scrutinise and count, including up to 1 million postal votes that could be received by the AEC up to 13 days after election day.

A senior Liberal source said up to 10 seats would probably remain in play as postal and pre-poll votes were counted.

The Liberals are looking at a best-case scenario of 76 seats and a worst-case scenario of about 70 seats as counting continues. But it is expected seats will move in and out of contention over the next few days as postal votes are counted.

For example, in Brisbane the Liberals' Teresa Gambaro is leading Labor's sitting member Arch Bevis by 858 votes on a two-party preferred basis. And in Macquarie the Liberals' Louise Markus last night led her Labor rival Susan Templeman by 1338 votes on a two- party preferred basis.


Children 'wrongly diagnosed'

The medicalization of behaviour marches on. We we will all be in some diagnostic category eventually. I wonder what I will be labelled with? "Senile hostility" perhaps?

DOCTORS are being pressured to diagnose children with behaviour disorders to get them extra assistance in schools, labelling many with diseases they probably don't have, researchers warn.

South-western and western Sydney have become hot spots for children, especially boys, being given diagnoses of behaviour disorder and emotional disturbance. The children are then enrolled in special schools and support classes, according to research soon to be published by Macquarie University academics.

Macquarie University researcher Linda Graham said three separate studies pointed to "pressures on paediatricians to inflate diagnoses so kids get support in class".

The research shows enrolments for "behaviour disorder" rose in NSW special schools by 254 per cent between 1997 and 2007, while kids with physical, hearing and visual disabilities fell 60 per cent over that period.

In support classes in regular NSW primary schools, emotionally disturbed diagnoses rose 139 per cent, while in support classes in regular NSW high schools, autism diagnoses grew by 280 per cent, emotional disturbance increased by 348 per cent, and behaviour disorder by 585 per cent during the same period.

Behavioural disorder diagnoses sharply rose from 2002, when NSW began building special schools for children with behavioural problems.

Children are "being diagnosed with things they don't have", Dr Graham, a fellow with the Centre for Research into Social Inclusion, said. . South-western Sydney, which accounts for 17.5 per cent of total enrolments in NSW government schools, has 26.5 per cent of enrolments in special schools and support classes, while western Sydney accounts for 13.7 per cent of total school enrolments but 17.8 per cent of enrolments in special schools and support classes.

Northern Sydney, with 11.5 per cent of school enrolments, has only 5.7 per cent of children in special schools and support classes.

Australian Medical Association paediatrics spokesman Choong-Siew Yong said he was not surprised at the disparity: parents in wealthier suburbs could afford non-government assistance for struggling children.

Dr Yong said sometimes schools will tell parents their child's behaviour "matches other kids with particular problems" and recommend they take the child to see a paediatrician to seek a diagnosis and therefore see if the child is eligible for special education funding assistance.

But Dr Yong said only a very small number of parents come looking for a particular diagnosis for their child and that paediatricians were "not placed under undue pressure". "I don't think people are lying and ripping off the system," Dr Yong said.

While parents are increasingly clamouring for greater funding for assistance, the researchers have shown special education costs rose from 7.2 per cent in 1997 of NSW government school recurrent payments to 12.8 per cent in 2007.

NSW Teachers Federation deputy president Gary Zadkovich said there was "no clear outcome" in the debate over whether too many children are being diagnosed or overmedicated. "I can say unequivocally more students are presenting in Australian schools with special education needs just because of developments in medical science," he said.


Big ripoff in school building

Because both the Federal and State government were asleep at the helm

MORE than $24 million in management fees were pocketed by six construction firms under the controversial federal Building the Education Revolution program in Queensland.

The stunning scale of how lucrative the program has been so far has been revealed for the first time in documents released by the Education Department. The documents also reveal the State Government has been paid almost $20 million in administration fees through July.

BER is due to deliver about $3.1 billion worth of new buildings for Queensland schools, but only 60 per cent of projects have been completed on time.

Department officials defended the fees as being within Commonwealth program guidelines and necessary for the program's success.

But LNP education spokesman Bruce Flegg said it was a waste to pay hefty fees to the states and to major companies that didn't actually do the work. "There have been fees upon fees," he said. "Many of these projects could have been planned by the schools themselves."

He said the major contractors getting the fees "were by and large very close to the Government".

The documents show $24,466,549.93 in management fees was paid to construction companies Hansen Yuncken, Abigroup, Watpac, Laing O'Rourke and to Leighton – along with its subsidiaries Theiss and John Holland – up to July this year. Leighton, Theiss and John Holland received the most management fees through July – just over $10 million. Hansen Yuncken received $3,588,237.22.

Leighton and Hansen Yuncken said they were unable to comment and referred questions to the Department of Education.

The State Government had received $19,891,453 to administer the program up until July, records show.


Hazy truth about organics

ENTHUSIASM for "clean, green" food is being tempered by confusion about what constitutes organic, with shoppers often not getting what they pay for.

Australians spend about $1 billion a year on organic food and other products, paying up to 50 per cent more than for conventional produce.

Yet there is huge confusion about what the label "organic"means. There are now calls for the introduction of better industry standards.

Industry expert Joanna Hendryks from the University of Canberra, said that from a consumer's point of view "it's a dog's breakfast". "Consumers need to be incredibly motivated to tell if something is organic just by looking at the label."

Chairman of the Organic Federation of Australia (OFA), Andre Leu, said shoppers deserve a better deal. "Consumers find it very hard to decide what are genuine organic products," he said.

The fact there are seven separate organisations that certify products as organic, each with a different logo, adds to consumer confusion.

In 2008, OFA commissioned research to find out how well understood the logos were. It found that even the best recognised symbol, which belongs to the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia, was recognised by only 28 per cent of regular organic shoppers. Only 5 per cent of regular organic buyers recognising the other logos.

There is even confusion among the various certifiers about how to define a product as organic.

One of the certifying bodies, Demeter, will only put its logo on food that has been grown using "bio-dynamic" principals, including the application of fermented cow manure that has been buried in a cow's horn.

Assistant professor Hendryks said shoppers gave a variety of reasons when asked why they buy organic. "For some consumers it is about taking back control and being able to make a difference to the environment in their own way," she said. "For others it is about the health benefits - or perceived health benefits, as the studies to date are still contradictory on whether there are or aren't benefits. "Then a lot of people swear by taste, particularly when they are talking about things like organic chickens and tomatoes."

Research shows shoppers are often casual when selecting what they assume is organic food - some believe chicken labelled free-range is also organic. "In my research, many people assumed Lilydale chicken was organic," Professor Hendryks said. "If you look at their packaging they don't anywhere say they are certified organic - and I'm not wanting to imply they are deceiving consumers - but there is a lot of confusion. "People will also assume that what is being sold in a farmers' market is organic when that's not necessarily the case."

A popular range of skin and haircare products is not certified as organic, despite having the words "Nature's Organics" on the label. A spokeswoman for the Melbourne company admitted many customers probably assumed the products were organic. "It is as natural as we can make it at this point," she said.

Until late last year there was no legal definition of the word "organic". As long as a product was not labelled "certified" organic, a manufacturer or grower could imply that it had been produced organically.

Only goods destined for export had to meet a minimum standard set by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service. "On domestic markets there has been no legal requirement at all," Mr Leu said. "It's been at best a gentlemen's agreement that products on the market are certified but [there] has been no law to say that.

"We always felt that was a bit of a problem because people could make organic claims when they haven't had anyone to accredit them or certify them as genuinely organic."

A new voluntary domestic Australian organic standard that, among other things, bans the use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides and genetically modified material was introduced last October.

It will be up to the ACCC to prosecute producers who fail to comply under trade practices legislation. The OFA is pushing for the seven certifiers to accept one standard logo.

Professor Hendryks said the move would be a great boost to consumers: "I think with a big education campaign it will definitely solve a lot of the confusion.".


22 August, 2010

My home State did its bit for conservative policies

As it has often done in the past. Queensland is also a big mining State and Labor hostility to mining would have been a factor

IN the end, Queensland did matter. The bloodbath in New South Wales turned its focus north and it became a juggernaut. A sizeable swing south of the Tweed River was always probable but when it arrived it wasn't quite as large as many, including those in the LNP, thought.

But the smash-up in Queensland arrived fast and furious - a vote of 38 per cent mid-week was not just endorsed but dumped to 33 to 35 per cent. In terms of seats, Queensland will offer up more seats than New South Wales - now nine against four or five - which is many more than imagined.

And it foretells a serious problem for Anna Bligh as Queensland Premier - there is a reckoning coming for her as there was for federal Labor at the weekend.

Right now, this means there is almost no chance of Labor framing its own majority - there's a new Greens MP in Melbourne and a greenish MP in the Tasmania - and someone will have to negotiate a workable majority.

The nastiness is all around: there's no majority for Tony Abbott or Julia Gillard but there is a strong anti-Labor message.

Regardless, this is now a victory for Tony Abbott. He has not just exceeded expectations but has made himself the most likely leader of the country.


The independents set to hold the balance of power

RURAL Australia and disgruntled former members of the National Party have won enormous sway over national affairs, with up to four rural independents set to win the lion's share of the balance of power in the lower house.

But two left-leaning MPs - a Green and a former Greens candidate - will also need to be factored into the calculations of any party that hopes to form government.

The horse-trading has begun already, with a number of the new independents saying they had already been approached by major party representatives late last night.

There has not been a hung parliament in Australia since 1940.

The characters in this drama are rural independents Tony Windsor and Robb Oakeshott from NSW, Bob Katter from Queensland and, possibly, Western Australian National Party MP Tony Crook, who has vowed to act as an independent if he succeeds in knocking off the Liberals' Wilson Tuckey in the seat of O'Connor. Given the independents' backgrounds with the Nationals, it is more likely they would side with the Coalition, but it is not certain.

On the left are the Greens' new member for Melbourne, Adam Bandt, and Andrew Wilkie from Tasmania, a whistleblowing former intelligence analyst who ran as an independent, but who, in 2004, ran in the seat of Bennelong for the Greens. Mr Bandt has already vowed to back Labor in the event of a hung parliament.

Mr Katter is a former federal MP for the Nationals, while Mr Oakeshott was a Nationals member of the Queensland Parliament. Mr Windsor turned independent after being passed over for preselection by the Nationals. All three were returned last night with comfortable majorities.

All three now have a combative relationship with the Nationals, but also hold seats that require them to be committed to regional infrastructure and primary industry. Last night they were all keeping their cards close to their chests.

Mr Windsor said he had received a phone call of congratulations from Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and a phone message from opposition treasury spokesman, Joe Hockey, asking him to "call him".

Mr Oakeshott told The Sunday Age he had already held "informal" talks with both major parties. He said he would spend today with family but planned to head to Canberra tomorrow. He also said he would make no decision until he had spoken with the other independents and Mr Bandt. He did say, however, that his decision about which side to deal with would not necessarily be influenced by who had won more seats.

Mr Windsor echoed Mr Oakeshott's comments, but also said one of the most important considerations would be who would provide the most stable government. Other considerations could be who won the most seats, who got the most votes and what would be good for rural Australia. He has experience with being in a hung parliament - he entered the NSW Parliament as an independent in 1991 and gave then Liberal Premier Nick Greiner the extra vote he needed to form government.

Mr Katter said last week he held no allegiances and would give his support to whoever gave more to rural communities.

Analysis for The Sunday Age of the last parliament by the Parliamentary Library shows that Mr Oakeshott voted on second reading legislation (the most accurate measure of support) with the Labor government on 28 occasions and with the opposition on nine.

Mr Katter, the least likely to support Labor, voted with the Labor government five times, and with the opposition eight times. Mr Windsor was the most even-handed, siding with the government 19 times and with the opposition 16 times.

In Western Australia, Mr Crook was well placed to claim Mr Tuckey's seat on the back of Labor preferences, ending the combative Liberal MP's 30 year stint in parliament.

Mr Crook's party, the WA National Party, has vowed not to join either the Liberal or the mainstream National parties unless they agreed to a special funding deal for WA's regions based on the mining royalties generated by the state. It's a deal that both the Liberals and Nationals around the rest of the nation have until now vowed not to accept.

Mr Wilkie, a former intelligence analyst who blew the whistle on dodgy Iraq war intelligence, was another surprise package last night. Polling more than 20 per cent of the primary vote, he was looking a strong chance to win the Tasmanian seat of Denison, after preferences.

Mr Bandt, who ended a century of Labor rule in finance minister Lindsay Tanner's seat of Melbourne, becomes the second Greens member to win a seat in the lower house.

Further complicating the situation, there was an outside possibility that Greens member Sam Byrne might pull off a shock victory over Labor minister Anthony Albanese in the Sydney seat of Grayndler.


Lots of uncertainty in Western Australia with many votes still not counted

WA's marginal electorates are looming as crucial as the federal election heads towards a nail-biting finish. In at least two crucial electorates, Greens preferences could decide the result, while the nation's longest serving MP looks likely to lose his seat.

With about 69 per cent of the WA vote counted, there has been a swing away from Labor on primary votes of 5.5 per cent, though much of that has been picked up the Greens. On a two-party basis, the Coalition has garnered a swing of 2.55 per cent.

In O'Connor, Liberal MP Wilson Tuckey is having a tough battle against Nationals challenger Tony Crook, with Mr Tuckey holding a narrow lead on primary votes, but his challenger drawing ahead on preferences. Labor preferences could yet decide the seat, and it has preferenced Mr Crook ahead of Mr Tuckey, an MP for 30 years.

A close race looms in the state's most marginal seat, Hasluck, where Liberal challenger Ken Wyatt is bidding to become the first indigenous MP in the House of Representatives. Early results have a 1.6 per cent swing to Mr Wyatt on a two-party preferred basis, but with 67 per cent of the votes counted, the Greens preferences look likely to be crucial to sitting MP Sharryn Jackson.

Mr Wyatt told ABC Television he would only be confident after seeing the final figures. "I think we will fall over the line," he said. If elected he would feel as though he had broken the "brown glass ceiling".

Ms Jackson told Radio 6PR the race was still too close to call, although if she got 70 per cent of the Greens preferences, as she did in 2007 she would expect to get up. However, she believed a high level of pre-polling and postal voting in the seat could still decide the result. "It's been a tough fight for me in Hasluck in every election but I'm in no way at a point to concede," she said.

Despite a big effort, high-profile Labor challenger Alannah MacTiernan is likely to just miss in Canning, with sitting MP Don Randall, even with the help of Greens preferences. Ms MacTiernan has gained a swing of 2.8 per cent on a two-party basis, with the Greens getting about 8 per cent of the primary vote.

Ironically, the Greens showing is one of the party's poorest in the metropolitan area. It has 13 per cent of the statewide vote.

Mr Randall is likely to be the beneficiary of the Christian Democratic Party and Family First preferences, which combined are about half the Greens but with 73 per cent of the vote counted have him just in front. He has also been polling better than Ms MacTiernan in the most recent booth counts.

A seat that is notionally Labor but is actually held by the Liberals is Swan, where sitting MP Steve Irons has garnered a swing of 3 per cent against Labor challenger Tim Hammond and looks likely to hold the seat.

The previously marginal Liberal-held seats of Stirling and Cowan look likely to re-elect Michael Keenan and Luke Simpkins with sharply increased majorities.

While Labor would need to lose 13 seats to lose its absolute majority after the electorate redistribution, effectively it would lose the balance of power if nine MPs fall.

With the overall result still close to call, Foreign Minister and Perth MP Stephen Smith said three seats could decide the result. Mr Smith told ABC Television Labor had "clearly lost" six or seven seats, and was at risk in 10 or 11 more. "We could end up looking at how we go in Hasluck and Swan and Canning as being really crucial," he said.

"On all the available evidence you would proceed from the starting point that we would just fall below (a majority). "Those three (seats) may end up being quite crucial to the overall complexion of the night."

Greens Senator Rachel Siewert, who looks certain to be re-elected as a WA senator, told Radio 6PR there could be a party room of 10 in Canberra.


Vocational colleges to offer degrees

More attempted verbal magic that will just downgrade all degrees. Will it get to the point where you get a Ph.D. for being able to read and write? That's the direction of travel

TAFE institutes are to offer bachelor degrees and could compete with universities for students under a bold plan aimed at combating skills shortages.

The government-owned institutes want funding from next year to offer degrees in areas such as accounting, community services, finances and information technology.

In February next year, TAFE's Sydney Institute will begin offering a bachelor of design through its Enmore Design Centre. More bachelor degrees are expected to be offered by TAFE's Northern Institute and Western Institute in 2012.

NSW TAFE was last month accredited by the state government, under national guidelines, to become a higher-income education provider, allowing it to follow Victoria's TAFE, which is already offering a limited number of degrees.

The head of TAFE in NSW, Pam Christie, said she was reluctant to name specific degrees because the board had yet to approve those that would go ahead.

TAFE wanted to extend opportunities to all communities to gain the sorts of degrees industry was demanding, she said. "We're not trying to compete with universities; we're trying to build relationships with them," she said.

This would include associate degrees offered in conjunction with universities across many of TAFE NSW's 10 institutes and 130 campuses, as well as bachelor degrees.

TAFE bosses in Victoria say enrolments so far are small, and their ability to offer a wider range of degrees to more students is being stymied by a biased funding system that means TAFE students pay more for their degrees than university students - the federal government subsidises only university degrees.

TAFEs say they have also been approached by industry to provide degrees in areas such as optometry, psychology, dentistry, project management, architectural design, technology, social work and aviation.

The head of TAFE Directors Australia, Martin Riordan, said TAFE degrees would give poor and regional students better access to higher education. "Many students in TAFE are from low socio-economic areas and are motivated to go beyond a diploma and do a degree," Mr Riordan said. "This is a way to help them get the degrees they deserve."

He said the plan would also help the federal government achieve its goal to increase the number of people aged 25 to 34 with a degree, from about 32 per cent now to 40 per cent by 2025.

Universities Australia boss Glenn Withers said it would be difficult to ensure the quality of a TAFE degree and the sector's fragile international reputation could be damaged.

"We've already suffered enough from problems with colleges collapsing and international student issues," Dr Withers said. "While we support the idea of TAFEs offering degrees to address skill shortages … the quality-assurance mechanisms just aren't good enough yet."


Australian Pacific island RISING, not sinking!

Discussing: Dawson, J.L. and Smithers, S.G. 2010. Shoreline and beach volume change between 1967 and 2007 at Raine island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Global and Planetary Change 72: 141-154.


The authors note that low-lying reef islands are widely perceived to be particularly sensitive to ongoing and projected sea level increases; but they add that "a number of geomorphologists have argued that rising sea levels do not always cause reef islands to erode." For example, they state that "a rise in sea level may promote reef island growth by: i) increasing accommodation space for new sediment; ii) reinvigorating carbonate production on reef flats where further reef growth has been inhibited by a stable sea level; and iii) increasing the efficiency of waves to transport new and stored sediment to an island depocentre (Hopley, 1993; Hopley et al., 2007; Smithers et al., 2007; Woodroffe, 2007)."

What was done

Working on Raine Island (1135'28"S, 14402'17"E) at the northwest end of a planar reef on the outer edge of Australia's Great Barrier Reef -- which is one of the world's most important nesting sites for marine turtles -- Dawson and Smithers employed three historic survey maps and five topographic survey datasets of earlier researchers, supplementing them with digital elevation data collected in 1998, 2006 and 2007, to reconstruct a 40-year (1967-2007) shoreline history of the island.

What was learned

The two Australian researchers report that their "detailed quantitative surveys and analyses demonstrate that Raine Island increased in area (~6%) and volume (~4%) between 1967 and 2007," and that "in the 40 years between 1967 and 2007 Raine Island underwent a net accretion of 68,400 6,700 m3."

What it means

In summing up their findings, Dawson and Smithers write that "contrary to perceptions, Raine Island did not erode but instead modestly accreted during the 40-year study period," and they therefore conclude that "future management strategies of Raine Island and other islands of the Great Barrier Reef should recognize that perceptions of reef island erosion can arise from large short-term seasonal and storm-derived sediment redistribution from one part of the island to another or to a temporary storage on the adjacent reef flat," but that these phenomena do not necessarily lead to "a net permanent loss from the island sediment budget."

And considering the similar positive findings of Webb and Kench (2010), it can be concluded that the most likely effect of a rising sea level is to actually add to the area and volume of low-lying reef islands.


21 August, 2010

Voting day in Australia's Federal election today

I have already cast my vote for Tony Abbott but I live in a safe Labor electorate (Griffith) so it is my Senate vote that could count for something. The polls are divided on who will win but Abbott obviously has a chance.

The Labor party has as usual campaigned on lies and deception -- constantly warning people that Abbott will bring back the unpopular "work choices" laws even though Abbott has emphatically denied any such policy. As Hitler knew, however, lies and deception do sometimes work.

Some people in the Australian Labor Party still put the jobs and wellbeing of the workers ahead of "Green" obsessions

A rather mournful comment from a Leftist writer below

Will Michael O'Connor, powerful forestry division secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, block an effective Australian response to climate change?

It's a worry for our economy because O'Connor is a key figure behind the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and soft left factional allies Martin Ferguson and Penny Wong - who, for one more day at least, control the portfolios that really matter: energy, water and climate.

O'Connor helped both Gillard and Ferguson into Parliament. In her maiden speech, Gillard acknowledged him as her "closest confidante", the "most committed of them all" to her Labor values, going back to her student days.

O'Connor should not be underestimated. If the secret of the Ferguson Left is its willingness to do deals with the Right, O'Connor has a record of going further and abandoning the ALP to support the Coalition. He helped bring down Paul Keating, organising (with the National Association of Forest Industries) the loggers blockade of Parliament House in January 1995 - a bitter protest during the regional forest agreement negotiations.

In an article for The Australian at the time, headlined "Green agenda full of myths", O'Connor railed against the environment movement's campaign to "cripple the forest and forest products industry by denying it access to native forests".

The 350-truck blockade took place just as John Howard was ushered in as opposition leader and helped establish his image as the battlers' friend, according to Australian National University forest economist Dr Judith Ajani, author of The Forest Wars (2007): "Australian voters witnessed the first display of Howard's battlers versus Keating's 'special interest elites': the core of a meticulously crafted election strategy."

O'Connor features heavily in Ajani's book, although he would not be interviewed for it. Others would. At one point, a bitter Keating calls O'Connor a "Labor rat" who should be "excommunicated" from the party.

Asked why he wasn't kicked out, Keating said: "Because people are too gutless, that's why. And nobody these days likes the fights. They all want consensus results. Well you don't get big issues resolved like this, just by consensus."

O'Connor also helped sink Mark Latham's tilt at federal office in 2004, swinging the CFMEU behind John Howard as the two main parties went toe-to-toe on Tasmanian forests policy. "It is clear that the jobs of workers, the welfare of families and the future of timber communities are to be sold off to appease Bob Brown and the Wilderness Society," O'Connor said of Latham's forest policy.

It was a spectacular betrayal of the party, but Gillard later lined up with O'Connor, saying she was "devastated" by Latham's stance on Tasmanian forests, calling it a "dreadful policy" and a "shocking, shocking error". O'Connor is the type of Laborite who sees the environment as a fashionable obsession of inner-city elites … job-destroyers hostile to the interests of workers. O'Connor calls it "real Labor". "Real Labor doesn't sell out workers," he said once.

In Ajani's telling, O'Connor is one of the forestry union's "economic troglodytes", endlessly perpetuating a false industry-versus-environment movement conflict.

Behind that conflict, according to Ajani, is a deeper struggle of industry versus industry, between native forest logging and the plantation sector which grew so fast between the 1960s and the 1990s that it can now provide all of Australia's sawn timber and pulp and paper needs.

Ajani argues O'Connor and the CFMEU, by fighting trenchantly to protect the old native forest logging sector, have sacrificed workers' long-term interests, which lie in the growth of a sustainable plantation industry. That's the win-win solution - more jobs, and our remaining native forests saved (with all the greenhouse and other immeasurable benefits that entails) - if the CFMEU could see it.

Instead of pushing for the win-win solution, O'Connor fights a rearguard action to preserve native forest logging. For example he fought against the Green Building Council's star ratings system, which gave extra points for use of timber accredited under the internationally recognised Forest Stewardship Council scheme.

He wanted points to be given for timber accredited under an industry-backed scheme, the Australian Forestry Standard, which allows native forest logging. Late last year he got it, calling the decision a "great breakthrough".

His quotes were instructive. "This took four years to achieve. I have little faith in the covenant of the Green Building Council and they have no credibility with us," he told The Australian Financial Review. O'Connor cannot abide a market-based scheme for tenants who want to occupy a green commercial building - or landlords who want to build one - which stipulates no timber from native forests.

O'Connor also has been deputy chairman of the Innovation Minister, Kim Carr's, pulp and paper industry strategy group, which wants to promote burning waste from native forest logging as renewable energy, and is arguing to ensure international carbon accounting rules do not count emissions from native forest logging.

The forest wars have a parallel in the energy sector, where the fossil fuel industry faces competition from an emerging renewables sector. Under Martin Ferguson, over the course of Labor's first term a stream of decisions have favoured the incumbents over the challengers. The saving grace was that the government finally established the 20 per cent renewable energy target by 2020.

Ferguson sees the parallel, accusing the Australian Greens leader, Bob Brown, of "seeking to demonise the coal industry in the same way he has sought to demonise the forest industry".

The pity is that, despite the rhetoric about saving jobs, when these Labor figures are duchessed by the captains of old industry, the result is public handouts to employers, and no focus on retraining or assistance for employees, as we saw during emissions trading scheme negotiations.

O'Connor and his allies will fight tooth and nail for the industries of the past. They do not see the potential of the green industries of the future.

So Gillard has gone out of her way to avoid a mandate for action on climate change, with a deeply cynical platform comprising the citizens assembly (a joke), misleading slogans about "no new dirty coal-fired power stations" and bitsy ad-hockery on renewables, energy efficiency and "cash for clunkers". Her best mandate comes - almost in reverse - from Coalition warnings that Labor under Gillard would bring in a carbon tax "as night follows day".


The major Australian political parties seem agreed on reduced immigration

Elections define nations. This one has already redefined Australia even before the first vote is counted. Indeed, the most important changes could well be the ones that aren't actually on the ballot paper but have already been agreed through political osmosis.

The main political parties entered the campaign with four big, freshly agreed points of concurrence, areas of bipartisan consensus for changes that will shape Australia's destiny for years.

For the first time since 1947, Australia has abandoned its bipartisan consensus in favour of a “big Australia.”

“It started with Kevin Rudd's remark in favour of a 'big Australia'” in October “and though it was off the cuff it started an uncontrollable explosion,” says James Jupp, director of the Australian National University's centre for immigration and multicultural studies. “What we see at this election is a complete reversal of the origins of the postwar immigration program, which was all about a big Australia. Since then, our population has tripled from 7million to 21 million.”

Instead of gearing our population towards a national vision of Australia's place in the world, we have surrendered to the failures of state governments to accommodate growth.

Of the three biggest parties – Labor, the Coalition and the Greens – none will defend the current immigration program, none will defend the current rate of population growth of an average of 2.4 per cent a year over the past decade, and all promise a dramatic cut to the immigration intake.

Tony Abbott's Coalition has pledged to cut the intake from 270,000 last year to 170,000 within its first term. Julia Gillard has replied by saying that the government was already taking the intake to that level or below in any case.

The Coalition promises to slow the rate of population growth to 1.4 per cent. Labor doesn't yet have a target. It has created a Minister for Population, Tony Burke, to think about population policy, in the meantime temporising with Gillard's view that “Australia should not hurtle down the track towards a big population. We need to stop, take a breath and develop policies for a sustainable Australia.”

With serial and cumulative failures of policy planning in housing, transport, water, hospitals and just about every other areas of service delivery across most states, public tolerance reached a fragile point. Rudd inadvertently applied the final straw.

Instead of a bipartisan consensus in favour of big immigration intakes and strong population growth, we now have a contest between the parties to see who can appear more convincingly to be the party of a not so big Australia.


Are they serious? Defence Forces banned from wearing berets

Australian soldiers always wear their traditional broad-brimmed hats with great pride but such hats are not suitable for all environments and circumstances. I have worn both hat and beret myself when I was in the army

The ABC reports today the Defence Force has banned Australian soldiers from wearing traditional berets.

Australian Defence Association spokesman Neil James told the ABC the ban would not apply for Special Forces or on ceremonial occasions.

The reasons for the ban include worries about exposure to the sun and ensuring the rightful place of the traditional slouch hat, Mr James told the ABC.

"Look I think it's a reasonably unpopular measure to an extent," Mr James said. Mr James warned that wearing a slouch hat inside a tank could be problematic.


More high-handed behaviour from the bureaucrats at Qld. Health

They are utter animals -- and that's defaming animals

Queensland Health has controversially terminated the contract of a respected surgeon operating on public hospital patients in Bundaberg with complex foot and ankle problems.

The decision to end orthopedic surgeon Michael Lutz's contract without explanation or consultation has re-ignited tensions between the Bligh Government and visiting medical officers (VMOs) - doctors who work part-time in the public health system.

Brisbane-based Dr Lutz had worked half a day a month at Bundaberg Hospital for the past two years but received a letter from Queensland Health last week terminating his services there.

Dr Lutz, who grew up in Bundaberg, said the decision would mean more Bundaberg patients would have to travel to Brisbane. "I was concentrating on things the surgeons in Bundaberg felt were beyond their capacity," he said. "There are surgeons up there who have special interests in other areas like hips and knees, but not foot and ankle. "I've certainly never had a shortage of patients. I've had a full session every time I've been there.

"It's not easy for someone in Bundaberg who's a public patient and might not have enough money or the ability to travel down to Brisbane for this care. They'll either not have care or be severely inconvenienced."

The incident has incensed VMO committee chairman Ross Cartmill, who has been negotiating a new agreement for Queensland Health's 850 VMOs. Dr Cartmill said better conditions for VMOs providing services in provincial areas were key to the negotiations. "We're struggling to get people to go to these places," he said.

Dr Lutz is still contracted to work at the Princess Alexandra Hospital one day a week.

"Michael Lutz is the type of young man we should be encouraging to be a VMO," Dr Cartmill said. "He's a young surgeon we should be proud of. When Queensland Health treats a person like this, inevitably he asks himself why does he bother? "This Bundaberg issue is to us a symptom of a disease that we've got to fight."

Dr Cartmill said Queensland Health's decision to send Dr Lutz a letter ending his contract without explanation, rather than informing him face-to-face, was indicative of the department's "notoriously poor" management style.

Australian Society of Orthopaedic Surgeons Queensland chairman David Hayes said the way Dr Lutz had been treated would discourage other surgeons wanting to provide services in regional areas. "It's just another example of how detached we feel Queensland Health is on a number of issues," Dr Hayes said.

In a statement, Queensland Health said the Bundaberg Hospital's orthopedic services were being provided by local specialists.


20 August, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG thinks the "psychic" crocodile prediction of a Gillard victory is a crock

'Muslim witness must remove burqa' - says judge

A PERTH judge has ordered that a Muslim woman must remove a full burqa while giving evidence before a jury in a fraud case. Judge Shauna Deane today ruled that the witness must remove her niqab, or burqa face covering, when she gives evidence to the jury.

The judge said she did not consider it appropriate that the witness give evidence with her face covered. However she stressed she was not making a decision which was making a legal precedent, it was simply her ruling in these circumstances.

Earlier a defence lawyer had argued that the Muslim woman should remove her burqa to give evidence in the fraud trial, just as she would have to appear without the covering in an Islamic court.

But District Court Judge Shauna Deane rejected the argument as not relevant, as the matter is not being heard in an Islamic court.

The judge heard lawyers' submissions on whether a 36-year-old Muslim woman should be allowed to wear a full burqa, also called a niqab, while giving evidence in a fraud trial.

The woman, an Islamic studies teacher, is due to give evidence for the prosecution in the fraud trial of a Muslim college director, Anwar Sayed.

In court, defence lawyer Mark Trowell, QC, said the woman's wish to wear the burqa was a "preference she has". "It's not an essential part of the Islamic faith. If she was in an Islamic court she would be required to remove it," he said. Judge Deane replied: "This isn't an Islamic court."

Defence lawyers raised concerns about how the jury could be expected to read the woman's facial expressions if they could not see her face.

Prosecutor Mark Ritter, SC, told the court the woman wanted to give evidence but would feel uncomfortable without the burqa and that could affect her evidence. "It goes beyond stress . . . it would have a negative impact," Mr Ritter said. He said the woman, who has lived in Australia for seven years, had worn the burqa since the age of 17 and went without it only before her family and male blood relatives.


The collapse of school discipline again

Parents threaten legal action to remove primary school 'bully'

PARENTS of a six-year-old boy may take legal action to remove an alleged bully who has been tormenting their son in class.

Taner, a pupil at Roxburgh Homestead school, in Melbourne, has allegedly been kicked, punched, ridiculed and verbally abused by a classmate for several months.

But Taner's parents, Sue and Cane, yesterday accused the school of failing to protect him even though staff had admitted the perpetrator was "fixated" on their son and a psychologist had recommended he be moved.

Sue, who asked that the family's surname not be published, said Taner had become so distressed by the bullying that he was admitted to hospital after vomiting and complaining of stomach cramps and breathing problems. "He said, 'Mum, I can't go to school. Every time I go he's just going to hit me and hurt me all the time'," she said. "He's been kicking him in the legs, punching him in the arms. He's having nightmares, he's extremely distraught."

Taner, who is being kept at home, said the attacks made him sad and he hadn't learnt much this year. "He hits me every school day. I say, 'Stop it, I don't like it', I give him one warning and then a second or last warning and then he hits me," he said.

Sue said the Roxburgh Park school had promised to deal with the issue, but the attacks had continued. It is believed the alleged bully has autism.

Taner's parents want the other boy removed from the class, but so far the school has offered only to transfer Taner. A child psychologist has recommended that Taner remain in his class, but an Education Department student wellbeing officer has told the parents the alleged bully will not be moved.

When told that the parents were considering legal action, the officer allegedly said: "I'll see you in court." It is believed this has been disputed.

Cane said the school had admitted the alleged bully's fixation on his son, but the family felt let down by the school and the department. "We are the victims but we are being made to feel like we're the guilty party," he said.

Roxburgh Homestead principal Barb Adam said the school had been dealing with the issue and wanted to continue talking with both families to resolve it. "There have been mechanisms that have been put in place to support both students," she said. "We're really confident we can resolve this issue but because it appears to have become a legal matter it would be inappropriate for the school to comment further."

The department confirmed it was investigating the matter. "We're working with both families to resolve the issue," a spokesman said. "No bullying is tolerated in our schools." [Except when it is!]

Parents Victoria spokeswoman Elaine Crowle said there was rarely a win-win situation in these matters. "The child and the parents deserve to feel supported by the school and we would always encourage parents to try and have it handled by the school," she said.


Australia now ruled by elites

AUSTRALIA'S first Parliament had a tinsmith, a carpenter, a cabinet maker, a butcher, a market gardener, and no less than two hatmakers sitting on its benches. Between them they could have built parliament, furnished it, tended its lawns and clad its inhabitants in the latest fashions.

Fast forward 110 years and 97 per cent of today's federal parliamentarians come straight from careers as "managers, administrators or professionals", figures from the Parliamentary Library show. The remainder include a motivational speaker (Pat Farmer, LP), an AFL coach (Damian Hale, ALP), two real-estate agents (Michael Keenan, LP and Judi Moylan, LP) and a military officer (Mike Kelly, ALP). There is not a single tradesperson among them.

A separate Herald analysis comparing politicians' past careers against the occupations of the wider workforce reveals a yawning gap between today's politicians and the people they represent.

Although nearly all of today's federal politicians come straight from a managerial, administrative or professional job, just 48 per cent of the wider Australian workforce hold such positions, according to the Bureau of Statistic's 2006 census.

The remaining half of the workforce include tradespeople and technicians (14.4 per cent), labourers (10.5), salespeople (9.8), community workers (8.8) and machinery operators and drivers (6.6).

Not one of the 226 members in the recently dissolved Parliament came directly from one of these occupations. (However, some members may have performed such jobs earlier in life because the library's figures only count the position held immediately before entering Parliament.)

According to the library, nearly a quarter of members came from a position in business - as executives, managers or self employed. The second most common path after that was through a union or party position (19 per cent of members). Barristers, solicitors and other types of lawyers made up a further 12 per cent of Parliament, despite representing just 0.8 per cent of the wider workforce.

Although Australia's Parliament has always been heavy with business professionals and lawyers, the increase in the number of politicians coming from party or union positions is startling. Just seven members of the 1901 Parliament were former union officials.

Today, 43 per cent of parliamentarians come directly from political jobs - including political consultants, advisers and lobbyists, members of state legislatures, party or union employees and electorate staff. Two-thirds of ALP members come via that route, and this probably understates the numbers who held such positions previously.

In 1981, at the end of the Fraser era, just 15 per cent of all members came to Parliament directly from political posts. The last Fraser Parliament contained six tradesmen, eight teachers, six medical practitioners, two pharmacists and a policeman.

Ian McAllister, a professor of political science at the Australian National University, said: "What we have seen in Australia is the rise of the career politician, where people are involved in politics at university and then they go work in a politician's office and then go into parliament."

Although Australia has never had a government that truly mirrored society, it had become even less representative over the past half-century. "In particular in the Labor Party, you have seen a collapse in people coming from working-class backgrounds over the past 50 years - it just doesn't happen any more, or it is very rare," Professor McAllister said. "In terms of representing the interests of the people within their electorate, you might say it would be better if they came from a background which better represented the people."

He said the rise of career politicians was a global phenomenon, but more pronounced in Australia because of the power of political parties to pick their candidates. Above-the-line voting in the Senate, in particular, meant parties more or less decided which candidates were elected. "The Senate was designed to be the state's house and it was designed to be non-partisan and in fact its more partisan than the lower house."


Bullied nurse wins appeal for compensation

Bullying of medical staff by bureaucrats is all too common

A NURSE who claimed she was bullied by Gold Coast Hospital management has won an appeal for workers compensation for a psychological injury.

Mudgeeraba LNP MP Ros Bates yesterday told State Parliament a culture of bullying and intimidation remained rife in Queensland Health and unreasonable management practices had injured nurse Susan Dale.

Although Ms Dale's initial claim for compensation with WorkCover Queensland was rejected, Q-Comp this week set aside that decision and ruled she had sustained a personal injury due to her employment.

Ms Dale had claimed the manner in which two meetings with management were conducted over complaints made against her earlier this year had contributed to the onset of her psychological condition.

Review Officer Marisha Mees found hospital management had acted unreasonably by calling a meeting to address complaints against Ms Dale and including a manager she felt did not like her as well as calling a second meeting without giving her time to have a support person present.

In a statement, Ms Dale said she was relieved there had been a positive outcome for her professionally. "My case is only the tip of the iceberg on the bullying that takes place at the Gold Coast Hospital from senior staff," she said.

Ms Bates said the decision was a damning indictment of the endemic culture of bullying and intimation that remains a part of Queensland Health.

Health Minister Paul Lucas said one complaint of bullying was one too many but Queensland Health was a large organisation and everyone needed to understand the appropriate way in which to deal with their fellow staff members.


19 August, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG doesn't think much of Tony Abbott's plan for getting young people off the dole. Zeg sees it as a "carrot" that will be ineffective and thinks the stick is needed


Four current articles below:

Australia's Green party is far-Leftist

The big parties' panicked abandonment of climate change has effortlessly transformed the Greens. They are now two days from winning more power than they've ever dreamed of.

The Greens are almost certain to win the balance of power in the Senate for the first time. This will make them the arbiter of any legislative disagreement between Labor and Liberal and put them in a prize negotiating position.

And the betting markets make the Greens favourite to win their first seat in the House of Representatives on Saturday, giving them power to propose laws.

This is the Greens' big chance to go from fringe to mainstream. So what is Brown's vision? The Greens have policies on a great deal more than climate change.

Their tax policy, for instance, prefers less tax from the GST and more from income taxes. Specifically, it commits the party to raising the top income tax rate from 45 per cent to 50 per cent. And it demands company tax rise from 30 per cent to 33 per cent.

Would Brown actively pursue these proposals, or are they dead letters, like Labor's long-ignored platform to socialise industry?

Brown not only vigorously advanced the case for "a much more equitable tax system" yesterday, he also pledged a cap on executive salaries of $5 million. And he promised to force a future Labor government to extract an extra $2 billion in mining taxes to pay for education.

The Greens, in other words, are unabashedly advocating a greater redistribution of income. As opposition parties sniff power, they usually soften radical policies and become more centrist. Not the Greens.

Brown said he would "look at the imbalance in our trade agreements". He attacked the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement and signalled hostility to the agreements Australia is negotiating with Japan and China.

The Greens support Labor's broadband network, but want to go further. Where Labor will build the network, then privatise it within five years, the Greens will seek to keep it in state ownership permanently.

Taken together, the Greens are bringing alive the old Labor commitment to redistributive socialism. And yesterday Brown said it was actually redistribution of wealth - not climate science - that was the reason he helped block the Rudd government's emissions trading scheme.

He helped defeat Australia's only realistic attempt at an ETS, he said, because Rudd's proposed compensation for carbon emitters, "the biggest polluters," was too much.

The Greens are often accused of being a watermelon party - green on the outside but a socialist red in the middle. Not true. The party's leader showed yesterday that it's actually more like a tomato, red not just on the outside but all the way to the centre.


Felled by an invidious green plot

"The conscience-less dishonesty of the green movement"

This is the chilling story of how green activists targeted and finally brought down John Gay, the visionary former chairman of the Tasmanian timber company Gunns, damaged the company and helped wreck the state economy.

It contains a clear warning for the rest of Australia of what lies in wait as emboldened environmental activists move on to new bogus campaigns against their next targets: the "wild rivers" of Cape York at the expense of indigenous enterprise, the fishing industry, farming or, catastrophically, the coal industry.

In Gay's downfall is everything you need to know about the conscience-less dishonesty of the green movement, and how its war on progress is camouflaged as concern for nature.

"I'm not bitter with the company," says Gay, who resigned in May. "I had to leave Gunns because the institutional investors were targeted by the greens and kept pressuring me to resign, and I just wasn't prepared to put my wife and two kids through any more [of the] thuggery in the green movement. They've damaged Tasmania and did their best to damage my credibility."

The third-generation Tasmanian sawmiller left school at 15 to work with his father, before building his own sawmill and being headhunted at 28 by Gunns, a family-owned timber milling and hardware store business in Launceston then turning over about $10 million a year. He became the managing director, transforming Gunns into a top 50 company with a market capitalisation of $900 million by 2003, when it was one of the best-performing companies on the stock exchange.

Gay bought the company back from the multinational Rio Tinto, becoming a hero of the working people of Tasmania.

But the international green movement and the Australian Wilderness Society fought a relentless campaign to bring the company to its knees and destroy Gay. They let loose violent feral protesters who chained themselves to trees and sabotaged logging equipment; protesters with placards picketed the ANZ Bank, which had undertaken to finance Gay's proposal for a pulp mill in the Tamar Valley, but pulled out at the last minute.

And they had environmentalists in suits successfully traduce Gay to cowardly institutional investors who earlier this year dumped Gunn's shares, halving the value of the company in a week.

Greenies in suits also went to Japan, destroying Gunn's markets for its woodchips, threatening - in an oh-so-reasonable way - companies which used pulp sourced from Tasmania's forests to make paper. Afraid their brands would be trashed, Gunns' Japanese customers dropped Tasmania like a hot potato.

Then there was the personal vilification. Gay describes it as "torture" for his wife, Erica, and adult son and daughter, with his home under assault two or three nights a week for years - from smoke bombs under the house, stink bombs at the front door, dead possums in the yard, people rattling the gates late at night and screaming abuse from the street. His wife was spat at in the supermarket and the Tasmanian media sat on the fence as a good man's reputation was destroyed. "My wife and kids were tormented … I had to put in a security system so my wife could feel safe," he says.

Today Gay will say nothing bad about Gunns. But he must view with dismay what has happened since he left, with its wineries and hardware stores sold off at rock-bottom prices, and its capitulation to the green movement.

Like any quasi-religious force, the environmentalists needed an arcadia to save and a demon to fight. The cute island state and the "rapacious logger" fitted the bill. Gay was a godsend to them. An unreconstructed working man, who never completed high school and believed in honest work and fair play, he saw the world as rational and straightforward, rather than an insane place of spin, mirage and hidden agendas.

His friend of 45 years, and a former director of Gunns and former Liberal premier of Tasmania, Robin Gray, says: "John is a very, very decent bloke, very generous, but he's been painted as a dreadful uncaring person. "People who should know better were influenced … by green activists … who went to the chief executive of the ANZ Bank, which had given commitments to fund the pulp mill … The movement against him finally cost him his job."

The former premier Paul Lennon says the Tasmanian economy is "under extreme stress, the timber industry is on its knees". "Unemployment in Tasmania is 6.3 per cent. When I was in politics two years ago, it was 4 per cent. And we were one of the fastest-growing places in the country, but Tasmania is small and vulnerable to big shocks. We need projects like the pulp mill to underpin the economy."

Lennon blames the then environment minister, Malcolm Turnbull, for "sitting on his hands" over approval for the pulp mill before the 2007 election, under the onslaught of a campaign in his eastern suburbs Sydney seat of Wentworth by the businessman Geoffrey Cousins, who appeared out of nowhere to wage a virulent campaign against the mill. The delay, Lennon says, stopped the pulp mill in its tracks. Gunns is now in closed-door negotiations with the Wilderness Society over whether it will be allowed to continue with the mill.

"Who is actually going to believe that environmental management is going to be better in Indonesia or Malaysia," Lennon says. The campaign "exposes the real agenda of Greens". "The Greens believe in shrinking the economy. We've found in Tasmania [that] they always find a way to oppose projects - they always try to slow down growth."

One Tasmanian political insider says Gay's failure was that he was "out of touch with the way to operate a modern business". "He's a lovely bloke but he didn't have the skills or the layers of bureaucracy, or the PR people you need to manage the campaign for the pulp mill.

"He just thought a pulp mill was a good idea for Tasmania. It would create jobs, and he was going to build the best, most environmentally friendly one in the world. He couldn't understand why people were putting obstacles in his path."

Gay thought truth would win out. Now he lies in bed at night and worries about the logging contractors he couldn't save, who borrowed money to buy equipment and have lost their livelihood.

Gay refused to kowtow to irrational green bullying, and his demise stands as an object lesson.

What the green movement has done to Tasmania's timber industry, it will do to the rest of the country. Those purported 13 per cent of people planning to vote for the Greens on Saturday had better understand exactly what they are voting for. It's not about saving trees. It's about "moving backwards" to the dark ages.


Push to silence the Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney after his criticism of Greenies

If a leading churchman cannot offer an interpretation of his own church's doctrine, we are back in Tudor times

The recent stoush [metaphorical punchup] between Cardinal George Pell and the Australian Greens prompts the question “Where is the Australian Tax Office when you need them?” According to Derek Mortimer, principal of DF Mortimer & Associates, a boutique law firm working exclusively for Not for Profit organisations, if the ATO cannot effectively monitor and regulate charities, it fails them.

Currently the ATO serves as a de facto regulator of charities. Through its tax ruling system, churches and other charities are prohibited by the ATO from engaging in party political activities like encouraging the public to vote against a particular party. There is a good reason for this prohibition. Charities need to keep their independence. The values and policies of political parties and charities can align sometimes, but not always.

Charities that take political sides can find their values compromised. In my opinion, this has happened to Cardinal Pell and the church he represents. In apparent defiance of the ATO’s own tax rulings Cardinal Pell is reported as saying the Greens are “anti-Christian”. But as the Greens have pointed out, at least some of their values and policies align squarely with Christians.

There appears to be no immediate, public effort by the ATO to restrain Cardinal Pell from making party political statements. Perhaps it is unreasonable to expect the ATO to do so. Yet the ATO has been travelling through the court system against a self described “activist” organisation called “Aid/Watch Incorporated”. The ATO says this organisation has a political purpose and cannot be charitable. The High Court heard the case in June and judgment will be handed down later this year. The independence of the ATO becomes compromised where it acts against one charitable organisation but does not appear to act against another.

Nor does the ATO have a formal complaints process for the public to complain about a charity’s apparent breach of tax rulings.

In Britain a member of the public can lodge a complaint about a charity engaging in party political activities with the independent charity regulator, the Charity Commission. The Commission may send the charity a warning letter (in the nature of a gentle reminder of obligations) and can also commence a more formal regulatory case report and in worse cases, revoke charity registration and consequent fiscal privileges . The Commission has been publicly active in the lead up to the recent British general elections, to investigate and rule on complaints about charities engaging in party political activities.

In January this year the Productivity Commission restated what the Australian charity sector has for many years been calling for; some form of charity regulator independent from the ATO. The ATO provides many useful services to charities, but if the ATO cannot effectively monitor and regulate charities, it fails them.


Despite the Greenies, large houses make sense

If the Greenies dropped their objection to "sprawl", their insistence on "dumb growth" and their opposition to land use changes, it might be different

ONE of the current social themes is that the consumer is to blame for wanting a big home. The new social order - excuse me if I get on my hobby horse for a second or two - wants us to buy something smaller and magically make our housing problems disappear.

Sadly, too few of those who clog up the blogosphere with urban commentary understand the economics of new housing or the decision-making process of a rational buyer.

Recent statistics published by CommSec show that Australia has the largest homes in the world, with the average floor area of a new dwelling (including townhouses but excluding apartments) topping 214sq m, up from 150sq m just 25 years ago.

The average floor area of new free-standing houses also set a record at 245sq m. Our homes are much larger than those in Europe and even many American cities.

Why has this occurred? It is simply economics. The actual land component of a new house-and-land package is very high and fixed. The land usually costs two-thirds of the total purchase price. This is particularly the case for basic or entry level new housing.

For example, the land component of a basic $375,000 house-and-land package in Queensland could cost as much as $250,000. In contrast, a 150sq m three-bedroom base level house on that land would cost about $135,000 or about $2500/sq m as a total price (including the price of the land).

Now a larger 250sq m four-bedroom house with a study might cost $175,000, making the total package cost $425,000. The buyer gets 100sq m of extra house for just $50,000 more. The total end price per square metre has now dropped to $1700, or 30 per cent less.

Here is the real rub. Assuming that the buyer can afford to pay the extra deposit and fund a $425,000 house-and-land package, all it costs - assuming a 10 per cent deposit and using today's rates - is an extra $10 a day in mortgage payments.

The new home buyer can now own a home that is two-thirds larger for just $70 a week. To upsize the house, as outlined in the example above, would cost the buyer an extra $3640 a year.

Given the high cost of land in and around our capital cities, the trend towards larger new homes makes economic sense. Consumers are just acting in their own interests and are making rational decisions to choose a larger and more valuable home for what is a small additional out-of-pocket expense.

Unless there are real economies in the land content, for example a plentiful supply of subdivided land to keep land prices keen, building a small house on a more traditional-sized suburban block of land is often not the best value for money.


18 August, 2010

ANOTHER defence equipment bungle

The defence bureaucracy cannot get even the simpest things right. No wonder most of Australia's submarines have been out of service for years

Now we hear that soldiers have to modify their gear with scissors!

Soldiers in Afghanistan have complained their government-issued equipment is failing them during firefights with the Taliban and putting them at risk of injury or death, according to leaked Defence documents.

Four official complaints have been received from the Middle East and training bases in Australia - one on May 7 and three between June 11 and 18 - about the standard-issue ammunition pouches soldiers have to use.

"Soldiers have significant difficulty in removing their magazines from their issued F88 Land 125 pouch due to the pouch simply being too tight," one complaint, seen by the Herald, said. "This could lead to the lack of capability in a lethal environment causing unnecessary casualties or death."

Defence said it is developing new pouches in response to complaints and they should be issued by the end of the year.

Army headquarters has ordered soldiers to use scissors to modify these pouches to eliminate a potentially dangerous defect. In two separate incidents in the past three months, soldiers have misplaced live rounds for blank rounds during training exercises because an internal divider in the magazine pouch can "hide" a loose round at the bottom of the pouch. The rounds were then accidentally loaded into a magazine.

Soldiers have been advised to cut the divider away with scissors, Defence said this week. Troops have also been advised to take more time to check the pouches for live rounds after exercises.

In May last year, the military banned the use of non-issue pouches because a soldier was shot in the shoulder and arm in exactly the same kind of accident. The ban led to uproar among combat soldiers on online forums and official complaints up the chain of command.

In the latest such complaint, obtained by the Herald, combat soldiers in Afghanistan have warned top brass that lives are being put at risk.

The leak follows a Herald investigation in May that revealed troops were being issued with defective equipment because the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) was riddled with questionable tender practices and incompetence.

The Chief of Army, Lieutenant-General Ken Gillespie, and the head of the DMO, Stephen Gumley, put out a statement in response, saying they contained "inferences" that were inaccurate. In his statement, Lieutenant-General Gillespie said the DMO "provides safe, fit for purpose, high-quality clothing and personal equipment to the men and women of the Australian Defence Force". [Bullsh*t, Bullsh*t, Bullsh*t]

On June 1, he told a Senate estimates hearing: "The vast majority of troops acknowledged that they were among the best-equipped troops in the theatre. The inference is that, because we have some issues with pouches at the present time, we have let our soldiers down. I do not accept that."

Five days later, a combat soldier on deployment logged a formal complaint that the "pouches fail to meet the operational usage required by infantry soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan".

In April last year, the commanding officer of a security task group deployed to Oruzgan province, Major Michael Bassingthwaighte, wrote to senior officers that issued equipment "failed to meet the standard required for the deployment". The Herald revealed in May that 90 per cent of Major Bassingthwaighte's soldiers bought their own gear from their salaries.


Tony Abbott still doubts planet is getting hotter

TONY ABBOTT has restated his sceptical views on climate change, and suggested the world may be getting cooler, as the Australian Academy of Science released a new report warning of the future impact of global warming.

The Opposition Leader said he accepted "that climate change is real", but he did not back away from his view, based in part on the work of the Australian climate sceptic Ian Plimer, that the world is getting colder.

Asked by the ABC's Four Corners if he still disputed that humans are responsible for climate change, Mr Abbott said: "Sure, but that's not really relevant at the moment. We have agreed to get a 5 per cent emissions reduction target."

He suggested he harboured doubts about the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations body charged with collating global warming research.

"I certainly think that there is a credible scientific counterpoint but, in the end, I'm not going to win an argument over the science, I'll leave that to the scientists," he told Four Corners. "I have pointed out in the past that there was that high year a few years ago, and … if you believe the various measuring organisations, [the temperature] hasn't increased, but again the point is not the science, the point is how should government respond and we have a credible response that will achieve a 5 per cent reduction by 2020 and the government doesn't."

Mr Abbott was referring to global temperatures in 1998, which coincided with a heat-inducing El Nino cycle, and by some measures was slightly hotter than 2005.

Neither the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, nor Mr Abbott, could say when Australia's greenhouse gas emissions needed to peak if the country was to achieve its minimum agreed emissions cut of 5 per cent by 2020.

The Coalition has pledged to meet the commitment principally by paying farmers to absorb more carbon dioxide into the soil, though it insists that its payments do not constitute a "carbon price".

The Labor Party will also attempt to soak up more carbon in the soil, but says its preferred mechanism for cutting emissions is still an emissions trading scheme, which it will consider introducing in 2013.

The renewed argument over the science of climate change comes as a study of 300 federal, state and local government political leaders, by the University of Queensland, suggests sharp differences in beliefs and understanding around global warming between the Coalition and Labor parties.

Coalition MPs were less likely to believe climate change is happening, and showed less trust in scientists, although the results reflected only those who decided to take part in the survey. Forty-one federal MPs, 101 state MPs and 69 local government representatives took part.

The results showed 38 per cent of Coalition politicians believed the world was getting warmer because of human-induced carbon emissions, compared with 57 per cent of non-aligned politicians, 89 per cent of Labor politicians and 98 per cent of Greens.

"This difference is unlikely to have occurred by chance," said Dr Kelly Fielding, of the university's Institute for Social Science. "What it shows is that a much higher proportion of Liberal-National politicians are uncertain in their views, whereas on average the Labor politicians are more likely to agree with the statements made by scientists."


Hurt boy waits days for surgery

NSW government hospitals in their usual form

HIS face is so badly broken that doctors have warned him not to cough or sneeze but teenager Blake Wells has been forced to wait an agonising four days for surgery. Despite needing emergency facial reconstruction after a blow to his head during a rugby league match, Blake, 14, was sent away from a busy hospital on Sunday and told to return today.

Staff at Gosford Hospital informed Blake's family they had only one operating theatre in use at the weekend. And despite being prepared for surgery on Sunday, two life-threatening cases were admitted, meaning that Blake's operation had to be delayed until today.

Gosford Hospital management yesterday said that appropriate care had been given to Blake but blamed a "breakdown in communication" with the family.

Blake has loose fragments of bone floating around under his cheek. He has been told not to sneeze or cough in case the bone fragments became lodged in his nose.

"We are absolutely livid. We feel so frustrated, so angry, and so disappointed," his father Peter Wells said.

A hospital spokeswoman yesterday apologised to the family and said Blake's operation would go ahead today. "The standard approach for dealing with [his] fractures is either to operate on them early before swelling or delay surgery for at least three to four days to allow the swelling to resolve," a spokeswoman said.


Big burger causes do-gooder freakout

Looks yummy and seems to have lots of good stuff in it. Don't believe the crap about fat being bad for you. See the sidebar of my FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC blog for the evidence on the matter

A burger branded a heart attack on a plate by dietitians is being billed as Brisbane's latest tourist attraction. The 21 burger - created by chefs at Treasury Casino's Cafe 21 - features 21 ingredients including a 250g meat pattie and a new super-sized bun to "support" its heavy load.

"It's definitely a monster," sous chef Anthony Swanson said. "We really just wanted something that would set us apart from the competition and give people another reason to come here."

He said the burger was easily Brisbane's biggest and would hopefully become something of a tourist attraction. "It's our new signature dish," said Mr Swanson.

But dietitian Nicola Fox said the burger was gluttony at its best. "The meat, salad and bread would be suitable as a meal, certainly not a snack," Ms Fox said. "Brisket, cheese, egg and bacon increase the calories significantly and the mayo, sugar, butter, onion jam and sauces add more calories without providing any nutritional value."

She said adding beer-battered fries and aioli on the side would make the ``ridiculously high-fat, high-calorie meal even more horrendous". "It's scary, a heart attack on a plate."

Mr Swanson said at $17, the burger was more expensive than its fast-food chain competition but "still good value".

The 21 Burger's ingredients: Rangers Valley beef, Wagyu beef brisket, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, mayo, chives, cream chees, bacon, Spanish onion, onion jam, egg, lettuce, tomato, smokey BBQ sauce, white damper roll, bread crumbs, parmesan, sugar, salt, pepper, butter.


17 August, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG does not think much of the Labor party proposal for doctoring over the internet

Physician heal thyself

That sure applies to the head of the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, Australia's business regulator. He knows so little about business that he allowed all or most of his money to be put into the shares of just one company -- apparently oblivious of the most basic rule of stockmarket investing: Spread your risks. But what can we expect from bureaucrats?

I have had investments in companies that went broke but my bottom line remained fine because they were only a small part of my portfolio of over 50 companies -- and the other companies continued to grow -- JR

THE future of the Direct Factory Outlets shopping centre chain is in doubt, with expectations one project could be placed into receivership as early as today.

If the chain collapses, ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel, an investor through a blind trust, stands to lose most of his personal fortune, a sum of more than $50 million. "This is most distressing indeed because it affects the interests of my children and grandchildren as beneficiaries of my estate," Mr Samuel told The Australian yesterday.

The chain operates eight centres across the eastern seaboard offering discounted brand clothing and household goods. As recently as February, the business boasted of growing sales as price-conscious consumers flocked to its discount centres for branded products.

But it is understood that four relatively successful DFO sites have been used to back expansion into five other less successful locations, including Canberra, north Queensland and Hobart.

Austexx, the group behind the DFO chain, is understood to have total debts of $1.2 billion. The debt problems led to a consortium of bank lenders calling in insolvency firm KordaMentha to assess Austexx's financial position less than six months ago.

A report at the weekend said the four-bank syndicate had refused to provide any further credit to the DFO group, stalling work at the South Wharf site at Docklands in Melbourne. The Melbourne project, which owes between $500 and $550 million, could be placed in receivership as early as today.

It is less than six months since Austexx disclosed it was looking for a $1.5bn buyer for the debt-ridden business. Austexx is 50 per cent owned by Melbourne rich-listers David Goldberger and David Wieland.

Arnold Bloch Leibler partner Leon Zwier, on behalf of Mr Goldberger and Mr Wieland, said his clients were working on a solution to the Austexx crisis. "The two Davids, as equity owners of Austexx, have been vigorously attempting to maximise the position of all stakeholders," Mr Zwier said.


Leftist contempt for the will of the people again -- though more graciously put than usual

Just a few years ago, around two thirds of Australians voted for Australia to continue as a monarchy

AUSTRALIA should move to be a republic when the reign of Queen Elizabeth II ends, Prime Minister Julia Gillard says. Ms Gillard today said the Queen should be Australia's final monarch, despite the nation's "deep affection" for her.

"What I would like to see as Prime Minister is that we work our way through to an agreement on a model for the republic," she said in Townsville. "I think the appropriate time for this nation to move to be a republic is when we see the monarch change.

"Obviously I'm hoping for Queen Elizabeth that she lives a long and happy life, and having watched her mother I think there's every chance that she will." [The Queen mother died at the age of 101 and was performing public duties even at age 100. Adolf Hitler described her as "the most dangerous woman in Europe"]


A lying cop gets fired!

A SENIOR South Australian police officer has been sacked for helping to set up a fake internet dating profile that offered his ex-girlfriend for sex.

Detective Sergeant Darren James Clohesy was fired yesterday after he failed to attend a disciplinary hearing with Police Commissioner Mal Hyde. He received an 18-month suspended sentence and orders to perform 320 hours of community service last week after he pleaded guilty to offensive behaviour, breaching his bail conditions and improperly accessing the police computer system.

Clohesy, 41, helped to set up a fake profile on an adult internet dating site after his girlfriend, Tania Milsom, also a police officer, ended their relationship last year. The profile, dubbed "SexyMillie888", provided Ms Milsom's phone number and address, asking men to contact her for sex. A number of men went to Ms Milsom's home with plans of her house, with at least one knocking on her bedroom window.

"The commissioner determined Mr Clohesy's offending was of a serious nature and his behaviour unacceptable and incompatible with the service expected of a police officer," a police spokesman said yesterday. "Mr Clohesy did not attend today's hearing, nor was he represented."

Chief Magistrate Elizabeth Bolton said in sentencing Clohesy that he had provided personal information about Ms Milsom for a nasty, hurtful and malicious scheme. Ms Bolton said the plan had been designed to embarrass, frighten and degrade the woman who had rejected Clohesy.


Difficult school gets a capable principal for once -- so the bureaucrats fire her

They should have stood up for her but were too gutless

SUSPENSIONS have almost tripled and truancy has doubled at Coober Pedy Area School since the ousting of principal Sue Burtenshaw. Figures obtained by The Advertiser, have shown an alarming decline in student attendance, with almost half the school's 230 pupils not attending on a regular basis.

In 2009, 31 students were suspended under Ms Burtenshaw, who was removed from her role this year following complaints over her tough stance on students and treatment of parents. But under the leadership of interim principals this year, behaviour has "swung out of control" with 86 students suspended and three excluded while only half-way into the school year.

Figures show that in May and June, student absences ranged between 86 to 124 students a day, compared to 36 to 66 students at the same time last year under Ms Burtenshaw.

Coober Pedy Area School assistant principal Kym Taylor has chosen to speak out on the issue, saying the school is in a "state of chaos" following the departure of Ms Burtenshaw, who joined the school in 2008 after the school had employed seven principals in nine years. "The school is in a state of chaos with kids not coming to school, children not staying in class and running in and out of classrooms, and swearing at teachers," Ms Taylor said.

"What we are doing is creating a generation of children at risk here. "We had policies in place, but because the policies were implemented by Sue and some people didn't like (them), there is now nothing in place."

After a six-month investigation into alleged misconduct, Education Department chief executive Chris Robinson announced last month that it was in "the best interests of the students, staff, community and Ms Burtenshaw that a new principal be appointed to Coober Pedy Area School".

But Opposition education spokesman David Pisoni said he found it "extraordinary" that a principal who was able to improve attendance, reduce suspensions and improve NAPLAN results was removed from the school in the "interest of the students".

Education Minister Jay Weatherill said: "We now have a principal appointed for the rest of 2010 and are working to ensure there is a permanent principal appointed as soon as possible to start next year."

Ms Burtenshaw has appealed the decision.


The economics of immigration

By Henry Ergas

Given present birth rates, population growth will depend mainly on immigration. By what criterion should we judge how high our immigration rate should be?

The logical criterion is the wellbeing of those already here. We should, in other words, maximise the welfare of existing Australians, taking into account their interest in the prosperity of future generations and humanitarian concern for the rest of the world.

That our focus should be on the preferences and welfare of present Australians may seem obvious but is crucial. For example, higher immigration would increase our national output. But it could diminish output per capita, and assuming foreign investors owned some of the added output, reduce per capita national income even more. And it might diminish the welfare of present Australians and their progeny, depending on how any increased national income was distributed between those who live here now and the new arrivals.

As a result, the choice of objective matters a great deal. The building industry wants to maximise the number of homes that need to be built and the mining industry the rents that can be extracted: but those objectives may not coincide with maximising the welfare of present Australians.

This point was stressed by economist Donald McDougall in a classic article he wrote while visiting Australia in the late 1950s. Those were years of record foreign investment. McDougall's question was whether that influx required a correspondingly higher rate of immigration.

McDougall argued that the increase in foreign investment had two effects: it made capital more abundant, lowering profits (as capital was invested in ever more marginal uses); and it made labour more productive, which increased wages. A matching rise in immigration would increase labour supply, causing wages to fall from that higher level. Total output would increase, but local incomes would not rise by as much, because some of the increase would go in higher profits to foreign investors.

In other words, output would rise, but unless a (potentially high) share of the resulting increased income was transferred to the initial residents, greater migration could make them worse off.

The risk of well-being declining is magnified if there are some resources that are costly or impossible to expand, such as roads in densely populated areas. Added congestion then harms users, aggravating any fall in living standards.

It is simply wrong to claim, as many economic commentators have, that proper pricing of those congestible assets (say, through road charges in CBDs) will avoid that fall.

To see why, imagine a swimming pool whose usage doubles. Assume also that prices are set fully efficiently, so that the lanes are always allocated to those who value them most highly. When demand doubles, prices must rise, and the more difficult it is to expand capacity, the greater the increase. The owner of the pool is better off but unless the increased income goes to the original users, they are unambiguously worse off. Indeed, if the pool is foreign owned, the gain will accrue overseas, while the costs will be borne entirely by local users.

The issue is even more acute with resources that are difficult to price (such as the untrammelled enjoyment of open spaces) or where political and social constraints make proper pricing unlikely (as in education and health). Then the costs of congestion may be high, and will fall largely on those users who can't afford any uncongested, more efficiently priced, alternatives. In Yogi Berra's deliciously illogical phrase, at a certain point "it's so crowded, no one goes there anymore".

Nor is building more infrastructure a panacea. To begin with, infrastructure decisions have never been more poorly made than at present, with decision-making pathologies so deeply entrenched as to be encrusted. But even were investments better chosen, the unit costs of expanding infrastructure are often higher than those of the capacity already in place. If expansion is efficiently priced, prices must then rise, making existing users worse off.


Ergas goes on to say that the entrepreneurial spirit of immigrants can be beneficial enough to outweight the costs -- and that is a reasonable comment on the past. The present is different, however. When many of the present immigrant intake are illiterate or semi-literate Afghans and Africans with very low skill levels and a subsistence farming background, it is hard to see any such benefit from their presence in Australia

Some shocking recent posts on my Queensland Cops blog

16 August, 2010

The Leftist attitude to money

I once had the misfortune of working with some ‘Labor types’ in a commercial setting. Didn’t they turn out to be a bunch of rapacious little capitalists! They had a cartoon image of what business is: shamelessly and greedily gouging customers.

My ‘comrades’ – few of whom remain in the commercial world – thought business was a big game and a bit of a hoot. One of them asked me to refer to him as a ‘businessman’. (I’ve never known a proper businessman who wants to be referred to as one.)

This election campaign is a reminder that Labor and left-wing types have – and always will have – a problem with money. They have complete contempt for it; a total lack of respect for it.

This contempt manifests itself in waste; and in this election campaign, Julia Gillard’s bizarre defense of ‘wasteful’ spending of other people’s money.

Most Labor people either loathe money, and especially people who have it, or think that it’s something you just ‘get’. The former is an old relic of tedious class warfare, grounded in an element of truth that greedy people aren’t always noble.

But it’s this ‘getting’ attitude that is, perhaps, most damaging. Watch Labor and left-wing types around money and they’re always getting: the unions ‘get’ money from their members, the politicians and their staffers ‘get’ money from taxpayers, their allies in the universities and in the arts ‘get’ grants, Labor-aligned lobbyists ‘get’ concessions for their clients.

What they’re not doing – particularly now they’ve abandoned their working class roots – is ‘earning’ or ‘creating’ money. I’m not talking about earning in the sense of getting a pay cheque, which of course union and party hacks all get; I’m talking about earning or creating by providing value to an employer or customer.

Earning or creating money is hard. You work long days for your boss, or create a great product that meets a customers need. When the money comes in you respect it, because it was so difficult to get the darn thing.

So when you see a government that takes the money, and shows lack of respect for it by wasting it and pissing it up against a wall, it’s infuriating.

Because Labor types don’t earn or create money, financial waste doesn’t matter as much to them. When Labor sees money they only see numbers to be manipulated. Earners and creators see time, sweat, risk, hard work, commitment.

Labor’s warped attitude to money is why we can have the schools building program waste, the bungled home insulation scheme, and the oversized stimulus package.

It’s why Julia Gillard in defending the school halls program has effectively said financial waste is fine so long as it stimulates the economy and saves jobs.

This strange financial moral equivalence was given intellectual credence by left-wing economist Joseph Stiglitz who said there “will always be some” waste with stimulus packages. Well, there always will be, Joseph, if Labor governments are implementing them.

But the left’s attitude to money is also why the 7.30 Report’s Kerry O’Brien seemed to think the $20 billion difference between what the Coalition would have spent stimulating the economy during the GFC, and what the government spent, was neither here nor there.

Where would $20 billion come from? From hundreds of millions of hours of Australian’s working and earning time: of electricians fixing, bakers baking, writers writing, salesmen selling. As Tony Abbott said: “$25 billion – that’s quite a lot of money.”

It’s clear during this election Australians are keen to give Labor the benefit of the doubt. But when it comes to Labor and money, Labour and financial discipline and respect for taxpayer money, the doubts are considerable.


The next two reports below illustrate what was said above

Report confirms the huge waste of school building funds

Nearly a two billion overspend in just three States -- all run by the Labor party

THE taskforce report into the $16.2 billion schools stimulus program has raised some questions for the nation's three biggest state governments.

The Building the Education Revolution taskforce has called for a range of immediate reforms: that the present program be dismantled, that costs are published for all individual projects, that builders be forced to repair shoddy work and that school communities be better consulted.

Longer term, the taskforce calls for standardised construction contracts to be implemented to deliver "better value for money", for state governments to overhaul their approaches to master-planning, and for the creation of a government division to review and monitor the "lessons learned" in the use of school building templates and design standards.

Within minutes of the report's public release last week, Julia Gillard said all the taskforce's 14 recommendations would be implemented.

But the central problem the report highlights will not be easily rectified, and likely will be met with strong resistance from state governments struggling with a particularly inconvenient truth. While preliminary, the findings of the taskforce indicate that authorities ordering school construction at public schools in NSW, Victoria and Queensland have not only substantially overpaid under the BER but have long been doing so.

According to the survey of 420 projects, NSW public schools are paying 38 per cent more for buildings than NSW Catholic schools, which are in their own system, and Victorian schools are paying on average 26 per cent more for buildings than their Catholic counterparts.

In Queensland the figure blows out to public schools paying a hefty 56 per cent premium for school buildings compared with the Catholics.

In a detailed analysis, The Australian in May revealed the substantial differences in costs between NSW public and non-government school buildings.

Subsequently, the NSW government vigorously claimed those differences were because of quality differences, with NSW Education Department infrastructure co-ordinator general Michael Coutts-Trotter memorably likening school buildings delivered by Catholic schools to "high-quality sheds".

However, BER taskforce head Brad Orgill said, in response to that debate, an independent architectural firm had been engaged to examine the quality of buildings in Victoria and NSW and found "no significant systemic differences" in quality.

"The architects did not observe any significant systemic differences between government and Catholic schools in either NSW or Victoria in the quality or building, fabric, services and furniture, fixtures and equipment," the report found.

Applying Catholic school construction rates -- which are roughly in line with construction industry averages -- to buildings delivered to NSW, Victorian and Queensland public schools shows an over-spend under the BER by those state governments of $1.913bn.

More here

Expensive water bungles by Queensland's Leftist government

DAMS are full and millions of dollars worth of water infrastructure is sitting idle, but residents are still being forced to pay for the white elephant projects with rising water bills. Homeowners have lashed out at waste involved in delivering the $9 billion water grid and blamed it for blowing out their household water bills.

Queensland Water Commission figures reveal it could be more than a decade before the Western Corridor recycled water project adds a single drop to the region's drinking supply after the State Government backflipped in 2008 on plans for an earlier start date.

While a length of pipeline sits ready to pump millions of litres a day of recycled water in to Wivenhoe Dam, government predictions show it will remain shut for years.

The QWC's Operating Plan for the southeast reveals there is a less than 5 per cent chance of dam levels dropping to 40 per cent within the next five years – the trigger for recycled water to be added to the drinking supply. It means there is only a slim chance of recycled water being added to the region's drinking supply before the next state election, due in 2012.

The Gold Coast desalination plant – the "showpiece" of the water grid – has been closed for repairs after ongoing problems, including rusting pipes.

Taxpayers are also facing millions of dollars to pay off the scrapped Traveston Crossing Dam proposal, with $265 million already written-off. Angry ratepayers have criticised the costly water grid bungles at public forums held to protest the sky-rocketing water prices.

Three new council-owned water entities – Queensland Urban Utilities, Unitywater and Allconnex – took control of water last month under the Government's reforms.

Water bills in Brisbane will this year rise 12 per cent, or by $100, to $947 a year. Meanwhile, bills on the Gold Coast and in Logan will jump 20 per cent. Residents in the Moreton Bay Regional Council area, north of Brisbane, face some of the biggest rises, with bills soaring 66 per cent in Redcliffe, or $552.

Residents there will be saved from the full impact for the next two years after council stepped in to pay half the rise.

The South-East Queensland Council of Mayors has blamed the rises on the State Government and the ongoing cost of implementing water reform. A Council of Mayors spokeswoman said State Government bulk water charges had risen 25 per cent and would treble to $2074 a megalitre by 2013.

Local Government Association of Queensland executive director Greg Hallam said increases in State Government water charges, electricity price hikes and the money spent on creating the new water entities was responsible for more than half of the water bill increase.

The State Opposition has blamed blunders in building the water grid for further driving up costs.


Abbott to take personal control of illegal arrivals

TONY Abbott will personally make any decision to turn around boats carrying asylum seekers if he becomes prime minister.

As another asylum seeker boat arrived at the weekend - the 152nd since Labor won office - Mr Abbott revealed yesterday how his pledge to turn back the boats would work. "In the end it would be a prime ministerial decision," he said. "It would be the Government's call based on advice of the commander on the spot."

Mr Abbott said the phonecall from sea would come to him - on the boatphone - and it would be his choice whether or not to turn a boat back if it was safe to do so.

Asked how he would measure the success or failure of his pledge to "stop the boats" Mr Abbott set himself a three-month deadline to see results. "If we hadn't been able to dramatically arrest the rate of boat arrivals within three months I would be very, very disappointed," he said.

Mr Abbott's plan involved reopening the Pacific Solution processing centre for asylum seekers on Nauru. He said one of his first acts as PM would be to start negotiating a deal to move asylum seekers to Nauru. "I think reopening Nauru would send an immediate signal to the people smugglers and their customers or potential customers that the game is up," Mr Abbott said.


15 August, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is feeling cynical about the latest political promise from the Labor party

Media mostly favour the Left, as usual, but voters seem to want Tony Abbott

AUSTRALIA'S Sunday newspapers have backed Julia Gillard to win the election, saying Labor deserves a second term.

But voters don't seem to agree, with the latest opinion poll suggesting Tony Abbott will win the 17 seats he needs for an election victory.

Although most of the sundays criticised Labor for its poor performance at state and federal level, they were willing to give Ms Gillard an opportunity to show what she could achieve as Prime Minister.

Suprisingly, the paper that has hit Labor the hardest, The Sunday Telegraph, praised Ms Gillard as someone who could make the "big calls" and would not be "cowed by the news polls".

Queensland has been urged to give Tony Abbott a chance, with the Sunday Mail saying the Government has squandered its goodwill and confidence.

However, a Galaxy Poll of 4000 voters in 20 marginal seats in five states has Mr Abbott's Coalition in front of Labor, 51.4 per cent to 48.6 per cent. The survey comes only a day after polls by Nielsen and Newspoll suggested Ms Gillard was within a whisker of winning power.

The Galaxy Poll, published in today's News Limited papers, predicts devastation for Labor in Queensland, where a potential swing of 5.4 per cent against the Government could cost it 10 seats.

In NSW, polling in Eden-Monaro, Gilmore, Macarthur and Macquarie found a swing of 2.4 per cent against the Government, while the coalition was likely to win all the seats polled, plus three others if the swing was statewide. The Coalition is also in front in Swan and Hasluck in Western Australia, The Sunday Telegraph reported. In the Prime Minister's home state of Victoria, the Galaxy Poll found a swing in Labor's favour of 1.6 per cent. But the average swing across the five mainland states is 1.7 per cent to the Coalition.

On the question of preferred prime minister, Mr Abbott has the most support in NSW and Queensland (37 and 38 per cent respectively), while Ms Gillard is most popular in South Australia on 54 per cent, followed by Victoria on 51 per cent.

The Greens' primary vote is 10.2 per cent, but 12 per cent in Victoria, the poll shows.

The papers will give Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott a much-needed boost as the campaign enters its final week. Although The Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Herald Sun make clear that Mr Abbott would not be a bad choice as prime minister, they believe he hasn't provided a clear and powerful vision of how he will govern.


Patients requiring urgent surgery waiting longer in Queensland government hospitals

THE number of Queensland public hospital patients waiting too long for urgent surgery has jumped 30 per cent in a year.

A damning Queensland Health public hospital performance report released yesterday reveals that 254 Category 1 patients – those who had a condition that could deteriorate quickly – had been waiting longer than clinically recommended on July 1, up from 190 at the same time last year.

The number of Category 2 patients waiting too long has jumped 40 per cent to 4983.

Health Minister Paul Lucas defended the report, saying the combined figures across all categories had dropped to record lows. He said the number of overdue Category 3 procedures – which should be treated within a year – decreased from 2407 to 137.

"Our target is to eliminate long waits and we don't want people waiting more than a year, " Mr Lucas said. "I would hope that (the number of Category 1 and 2 patients waiting) would go down. That's a matter for Queensland Health and our surgeons to work on. "But we've targeted Category 3s . . . (who) were like the forgotten people. We've gone out there and fixed them."

The report also revealed the median wait time across the board had increased from 28 to 30 days in the year to July 1 but remained below the national average of 24. More than 233,800 patients were admitted to public hospitals in the June quarter, a 4.8 per cent increase on the same period last year.

Mr Lucas said the Government would invest $484.5 million operational and $257.4 million capital funding over four years to support reform areas including emergency department access and elective surgery waiting lists.

The contribution is under the National Health and Hospitals Network Agreement endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments.

Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle slammed the figures, saying patients were still waiting too long. "By Queensland Health's own definitions, a Category 1 patient waiting too long is likely to deteriorate and may become an emergency patient, while a Category 2 patient waiting too long is likely to suffer pain, dysfunction or disability," Mr McArdle said.

He welcomed the inroads in treating Category 3 patients but said they were only being made because patients were finding it difficult to actually join the list.


Thousands of patients face longer wait for critical scans after big Queensland public hospital cuts stuff

A BUREAUCRATIC bungle has left more than 1000 patients waiting for critical tests at Queensland's biggest public hospital after management ignored their own expert advice in favour of saving money.

The Sunday Mail can reveal a backlog of outstanding radiography scan bookings at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital has almost doubled in the past week because bureaucrats failed to heed their own recommendations to boost resources, and instead cut staff.

Only a day after Queensland Health claimed there was "nothing intrinsically wrong" with the Department of Medical Imaging, a scathing leaked review compiled last month by the section's top radiographer reveals an "embedded culture of disillusionment".

A booking graph reveals the backlog totalled 648 outstanding bookings for cancer sufferers, pregnant women and people with heart problems at the time schedulers were cut to two staff last weekend. But the backlog swelled by 10 per cent a day last week to more than 1000 late on Friday. There are usually only 20 to 30 people waiting for a booking.

The crisis comes as a series of departmental reviews, obtained by The Sunday Mail, shows Queensland Health has been attempting to cut the pay of the key schedulers.

The reviews culminated earlier this year with senior project officer Karyn Hicks recommending boosting the number of staff scheduling appointments from three bookers to four cutting their pay levels. "Increase A03 booking officers to 4 in place of current 3 A04 clinical assistants," her 2010 review found.

But radiography team leader Greg Edwards conducted his own review last month and attacked Ms Hicks' description of schedulers as "data entry" staff and demanded five bookers in total. "Problem-solving and decision-making are important scheduler skill-sets that must be attained over a period of time," he wrote. "The downgrading of schedulers from A04 to A03 does not in any way support these invaluable staff members.

"Morale, staff retention and current culture will stay at the same levels with expensive diagnostic equipment not being fully utilised."

But the department, run by director Peter Scally, cut the number of scheduling staff to two bookers last weekend.

Staff say patients recently diagnosed with cancer could require urgent follow-ups and pregnant women needed nuchal translucency scans between 11 and 13 weeks.

Metro North Health Service District chief executive Keith McNeil yesterday said claims of staff cuts were "false" because "a radiologist" had resigned and would be replaced. He did not comment on the scheduler cuts, which are confirmed in emails to management.

"The most recent Workplace Survey conducted this year showed significant improvements across all parameters, reflecting overall positive staff morale at RBWH," Prof McNeil said in a statement.


Bone test scanner sits idle in NSW hospital

A $100,000 scanner at one of the state's biggest hospitals is idle because there are not enough staff to operate it.

Patients needing the bone density scanner at Westmead Hospital have been told they face a 12-month wait for appointments because there are insufficient technicians on staff.

Those who need to be scanned within the next year will have to seek treatment at another hospital or pay up to $120 to have the test done privately.

Bone density scans, also called dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, use low-dose X-rays to measure bone loss. They can help doctors diagnose osteoporosis or assess a patient's risk of developing fractures.

When Janet Griffin, who suffers osteoporosis, contacted the hospital this week to make an appointment for her biennial scan, the delay came as a shock.

"This is inexcusable and an absolute disgrace," she said. "Again we, the tax-paying public, are being treated as inconsequential and inconvenient beings by the current government.

"This expensive equipment is now lying dormant for six days per week because there is only funding for staff to operate it one day per week."

Radiologists recommend bone mineral density be measured using the same scanner each time. A report published in the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine in 2004 said that attempting to determine change could be a problem when using different scanners.

A hospital spokeswoman said the scanner had never been used five days a week. She agreed it was not acceptable for patients to wait a year for appointments.

The waiting time would be reduced once new staff were recruited, but the hospital could not say when that would occur. She said since July 1 the Medicare rebate for bone density scans had increased, making the test cheaper for patients who had it done at private clinics.


14 August, 2010

A bungling adoption bureaucracy

This reminds me of a time I wrote to the TIO, which is supposed to FIX bungles by telephone companies. The TIO misfiled both my original letter and a follow-up copy a month later. I had to write to the Prime Minister to get a reply out of them! -- JR

An Adelaide couple who went through a "nightmare" five years trying to adopt a child say they are defying the State Government and risking a hefty fine by identifying themselves and their adopted son and sharing their ordeal.

Liz and Darryn Peter, of Thorngate, decided to adopt in 2003 after three years of failed IVF treatment.

While the journey ended successfully with a trip to Thailand in 2008 to bring home new son Samuel, now 7, Mrs Peter said the couple was forced to endure one bureaucratic bungle after another from both state and international authorities.

Under current law, parents who identify themselves and their adopted children in the media face a maximum fine of $20,000.

SA Family First leader Dennis Hood said he was preparing a draft Bill to change this law and hoped to put it before parliament in coming months, describing it as "entirely unnecessary" and "almost useless" because very few Australian children were adopted.

A Department of Families and Communities spokesman said it was in place for privacy reasons and exemptions could be granted.

But Mrs Peter said she had known mothers who had experienced difficulty in gaining an exemption in the past and did not seek one herself.

She said staff at the Adoption, Family Information and Post Care Services unit, which helps manage South Australians through the adoption process, were over-worked and stressed, views aired in her soon-to-be released book Searching For Our Angel.

"It (the book) is to try and bring attention to a silly law and to let people know what happened to us. We had our file lost, we had a social worker mix us up with another family and deem us not suitable to adopt and that's just the beginning," she said.

Mrs Peter estimates the couple spent about $15,000 to adopt Samuel and had since started the long process to adopt another child.

In the 2009/10 financial year, South Australians adopted 21 children from overseas, with a further five adopted from Australia.


A miner speaks out

The mining tax is expropriation by any other name, says Andrew Forrest

THE mining tax is no way to maximise the wealth of Australians. The worst economic policy ever formulated in Australia's history, the Mining Super Tax Mark 1 (resource super-profits tax), was dropped like a bomb on the people of Australia. Like any repugnant policy launched by government, it came complete with the propaganda package to sell it.

We all recall mining companies being called liars, foreigners and tax cheats, and the Australian people being told that the federal government, not the states, owned the resources, that these resources were about to run out, and all the rest of the community-dividing diatribe. It was a deliberate ambush s to create a wave of sentiment against the resources sector, driven by government and union advertising.

In all quarters of the global capital markets the advertising fell on deaf ears. The government's move was seen as either incompetent or, far worse, dishonest. Such a massive move to the hard socialist Left should only have been the result of major and national consultation, certainly not an ambush without any discussion.

Among economic historians, the term "expropriation" was employed to describe the government's erratic behaviour. No doubt, adopting that term in this comment will lead to some hysterical reactions.

The term "expropriation" derives its meaning from the forced acquisition by government, normally below market value. The tax involved the acquisition of a 40 per cent economic interest by government of the entire mining and resources sector. The consideration offered was seemingly worthless promissory notes (the government's now infamous tax credit in failure or bankruptcy guarantee), that came with a substantially below-market rate of interest.

A promissory note of questionable value that no one understands? With an uncompetitive yield? In exchange for 40 per cent of the entire economics of the engine that saved Australia from the GFC. That's expropriation.

There is a dangerous irony in Kevin Rudd coming back. Rudd was already in the process of removing the RSPT when he himself was removed, allowing Julia Gillard to claim the credit. However, let's not forget Labor's and the Greens' original determination to introduce Mark 1. The surplus impact of this tax was rushed into the formal budget within days of its announcement. The Labor government was spending it before most people knew anything about its dreadful implications.

Now that Rudd is back and with the very strong support of the Greens (despite Bob Brown being fully aware of the devastation it would cause to the economy) this disastrous policy could be put back on the table. Like the secret Mark 2 deal, we can only wonder what the Greens-Labor preference deal contained.

Make no mistake, the Greens want this tax, and more, in complete ignorance of the necessity of a strong Australian economy.

Indeed, it was terrifying to see how the government, backed by the Greens, immediately returned Australia to a class-war scenario. The politics of envy was used in a crude attempt to wedge the electorate. Union and government advertising, funded through the misuse of so called "emergency powers", was mobilised even before the RSPT bomb was dropped. There never was any consultation with the mining industry.

Despite the Treasurer's (now seen to be ridiculous) claims at the time that he and the government consulted with the mining industry, they were in fact planning a co-ordinated government and union advertising campaign to cut down the very industry it was claiming to consult with.

Investment in Australian resources immediately became woefully uncompetitive to global debt and equity providers the instant Mark 1 was announced. Suddenly the taxman was elevated ahead of debt service obligations, threatening the very capital that creates the profits in the first place.

In an instant, debt financing became extremely difficult or impossible for all projects without extremely high rates of return. The Canadian Prime Minister joined other sovereign competitors to Australia in cheering our incompetence.

While the Mark 2 Super Tax may have modified the tax impost, like its original launch, the attempted defusing of the Mark 1 bomb has been shrouded in secrecy. It is an equally unfair proposal and the ability to model it, and in turn finance projects, remains debilitated by the lack of detail and transparency of the new arrangements.

We estimate that the marginal rate of tax has fallen from around 57 per cent (RSPT) to around 50 per cent (MRRT), but this remains a long way above the 40 per cent rate that is the next highest rate to be found anywhere else in the world.

The changes in the new tax are biased against infrastructure providers like Fortescue, who provide services to others, and so further handicap the market's ability to provide its own infrastructure. We'll become a nation that can't survive without the government teat. Also, Mark 2's debt finance benchmark advantages companies with large balance sheets, as opposed to start-up companies like Fortescue that rely on commercial finance to fund project and infrastructure development.

The government and the three multinational, multi-commodity resource companies negotiated a secret agreement that would absolve just those companies from paying much tax at all by way of Mark 2 for the foreseeable future. Those companies, and their associated industry representative bodies, were forced to sign secrecy agreements that prohibited them from discussing Mark 2 until after the election. Commentary with the media was banned. What could be so bad in that agreement with our government that the Australian people are not allowed to judge it until after they cast their votes?

A similar tax was brought into Papua New Guinea by the same people who supported this tax, only decades ago. It didn't raise a cent over all that time, but did successfully and efficiently deter investment. Unsurprisingly it was thrown out, but not before it cruelled investment in that country.

It's no surprise that since Papua New Guinea threw out its own Mark 2 mining super tax, international investment has been flowing back in and new project developments are flourishing.

In the face of that raw example, why on earth would any responsible political leader burden Australia with it now?

Australia, a capital-starved country, must bring in policy to rejoin itself to a reputation of responsible economic leadership. After all, there has never been a country that has taxed its way to prosperity.


Amazing waste of expensive water by an incompetent Leftist government

Queensland wasting $40,000 in recycled water every day

ALMOST $40,000 worth of water a day is being flushed by the State Government as it refuses to use its flagship recycling pipeline to supply households. The Courier-Mail can reveal 33 million litres of water a day are being passed through the high-priced purification process and then ditched in the Brisbane River.

The 33ML would be valued at nearly $15 million a year if sold to council-run retailers at the current wholesale price, rising to in excess of $73 million based on the rate at which it is sold on to households.

The revelation comes as southeast residents are encouraged to conserve water while being hit with higher bills to pay off the pipeline and drought-proofing infrastructure.

The waste – equivalent to about 12 Olympic-sized swimming pools a day – comes after the Bligh Government dropped a pre-election plan for permanent use of recycled water. The waste is set to continue until commercial customers are found for recycled water or a decision is made to mothball most of the $2.5 billion pipeline's treatment plants.

Department of Environment and Resource Management director-general John Bradley yesterday conceded the level of water loss would continue until two of the plants were completed at the end of the year. However, Mr Bradley insisted that given the production costs were $300 a ML, or $3.5 million a year, this was "value for money" for a project that eventually could supply up to 232ML a day. "So proceeding to go through and commission these plants makes good economic sense in terms of providing a strategy that is helping us drought-proof southeast Queensland," he said.

Mr Bradley said purifying the water also meant 86 tonnes of phosphorus from sewage was not pumped into Moreton Bay.

However, Opposition water spokesman Jeff Seeney said the pipeline was an " absolute white elephant" forced on Queenslanders by a Government that had done nothing about water for a decade. "The wastewater treatment plants were the result of political panic from a Government that didn't plan to build the infrastructure at the right time," he said. "And they will be an economic burden for generations to come.

"The fact is that Queenslanders are not only paying for the interest on the $2.5 billion it cost, they are now paying a weekly cost for water that is actually wasted."

The pipeline is producing 75ML a day on average with Government-owned power stations taking about 42ML. Dam levels are not expected to drop to 40 per cent, triggering recycled water use, until 2013.

Mr Bradley said the water grid manager would have to decide how the pipeline would be operated once the final two plants were commissioned. "You can mothball them and pickle the membranes," he said. "Or you can operate them at low load and cycle through the membranes."

He said negotiations with some industrial customers were nearing completion.


Australia's future productivity and the Greens’ agenda

The Coral Sea, east of the Barrier Reef, covers an area of 972,000 Sq. Km. . (About the same area as South Australia). It is a highly prospective oil and gas area. Now declared a no fishing, no go area.

In order for the water to run to waste in the name of “preserving the river”, the farmers in the Murray Darling irrigation area are to have their irrigation water supplies cut by 60%. Thus rendering Australia’s largest food bowl, and the farmers, to a state of irrelevance.

Bob Brown says that the greatest blot on Australia’s environmental reputation are the power houses fed by Yallourn Valley brown coal. These power houses produce Australia’s cheapest clean power and industrialised Victoria. He insists that they be closed by 2020.

All of the above are green initiatives.

And, Green’s Senator Christine Milne stated on a recent ABC 7.30 Report programme: “…….we want to see a carbon price as quickly as possible because we want transformation of the whole economy and society”.

Australia’s uranium reserves are the world’s largest. Nuclear Energy is cheap, clean and safe. Already there are some 438 Nuclear Power stations world wide with 61 more being built, and 250 more being proposed.

Labor is entrenched in its resistance to opening new uranium mines, and developing a Nuclear Industry here, because of their affiliation with the Greens.


Greenie logic: According to chief Greenie Bob Brown, power stations are a “great blot on Australia's environmental reputation” but building solar plants that blot out hundreds of square miles of the landscape – including valuable agricultural and residential land – while sending electricity prices through the roof is a good environmental practice!

13 August, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG has two toons on notable events in the current election campaign. Latham rather takes his fancy.

Those evil cameras again

Photography is under official attack worldwide and the attack now looks like being ramped up in Victoria. No-one could object to the banning of peeping Tom cameras but that reference is just camouflage. People can be and have been prosecuted for that under existing laws. The laws proposed seem very wide in their scope and clearly infringe people's right to know about things that might be dangerous to them -- such as police misbehaviour. The "inappropriate recording of individuals in public places" provision would be a Godsend to thug cops. In many jurisdictions they already claim that all filming of police work is inappropriate

Peeping tom cameras would be officially outlawed in toilets and change rooms, and filming street brawls for entertainment would be made a criminal offence, under proposed tougher surveillance laws.

The Victorian Law Reform Commission has also called for the appointment of an independent watchdog to regulate the use of CCTV cameras and other surveillance devices in public places.

In its inquiry into surveillance in public places, the commission found privacy had been eroded by the proliferation of surveillance devices, including airport screening that can see through clothing, and laws had failed to keep pace with technological advancement.

The commission has recommended a suite of new laws under the Surveillance Devices Act to ban the inappropriate recording of individuals in public places. This would include outlawing surveillance in toilets and change rooms, and prohibiting filming violence for entertainment or to intimidate, for example filming someone attending an abortion clinic or drug rehabilitation.

The commission also wants to introduce provisions for civil lawsuits for individuals who have been victims of "serious invasions of privacy" through either misuse of private information or intrusion. "Although appropriate guidance is a cornerstone of our recommendations, guidance alone cannot protect people from some practices that seriously affect their privacy," the commission's report, tabled in state parliament today, says.


Photographers draw a line in the sand over picture permits

Photographs of life on Australia's beaches made Max Dupain famous, but spontaneous images in public spaces are becoming increasingly difficult to capture, the photographer's son says. Rex Dupain, also a renowned Sydney photographer, said he has several times been approached by lifeguards or police at Bondi Beach when taking pictures, and in one instance had his camera temporarily confiscated.

Fears about paedophilia and terrorism are largely to blame, he said. "If you're an artist and you want to photograph images on beaches, it's impossible. "The freedom is certainly not there; it's very restrictive."

But photographers are also worried that more councils, state government bodies and trusts are demanding permits and fees for commercial and artistic photography, leading to a situation where anyone with a camera can be approached with suspicion.

The commercial landscape photographer Ken Duncan said whether it was at the beach at Cairns or at the Opera House, photographers were constantly being asked for permits or fees.

"Photography used to be considered a noble profession; we were watching life," Duncan said. "Now we're treated like predators and paedophiles." Duncan will lead a group of photographers, Arts Freedom Australia, in a protest in Sydney on August 29 to speak out against what they say is an unnecessary intrusion by bureaucracy.

But organisations that manage iconic locations say the regulation is required to manage commercial pressures. Councils such as Waverley, which includes Bondi, require anyone taking pictures for a commercial purpose to obtain a permit and pay a fee of about $255.


Australia's misguided logging import rules

The Australian Labor Party's new crackdown on illegal logging imports won't cut illegal logging in developing countries, but the policy could send the prices of toilet paper and other consumer goods soaring, Institute of Public Affairs trade expert Tim Wilson said.

Australia's Labor-led government announced the crackdown Tuesday, less than a week after Wilson and the IPA released a report on how labor unions, environmental groups and industry collude to stop imports. Australian consumers suffer the consequences.

"Green groups want less forestry in the developing world," Wilson said. "Industry wants green protectionism to cut the volume of competitive imports. Unions want green protectionism to stop imports to ensure they can keep workers in high-paying jobs. But it will all come at a cost to the consumer."

The cost of ordinary goods could jump 42 per cent because of such green protectionism, he said.

Wilson noted that a Centre for International Economics report commissioned by the government found that "only 0.34 per cent of timber products incorporated illegally logged timber, and regulations to check for illegal timber imports would have no environmental benefit."

You can get the high points from IPA report "Green Excuses: Collusion to Promote Protectionism?" in two short videos here.

The above is an email received from Danny Glover [address withheld]

Why have Australian authorites kept setting a dangerous criminal free?

FOR some reason authorities keep setting killer, alleged drug dealer and would be hit man Graham Potter free. The "Head and Fingers" killer, as he became known after murdering teenager Kim Barry in 1980, is on the run again - granted bail by a Melbourne magistrate on charges of conspiracy to murder.

Potter failed to appear in court in February and has been the subject of a manhunt ever since. Given his violent history, it is remarkable that Potter was once again allowed to go free.

His infamy began when he murdered 19-year-old Ms Barry, a casual acquaintance, after crossing paths with her on the dance floor of a Wollongong disco while on his bucks night in 1980. That night, February 6, he took Kim back to his flat where he hit her so violently with two blows to the head her skull was crushed, killing her instantly.

He then put her body in a bath and used a hacksaw to cut off her head and fingers to try to hide her identity. Kim's body was found two days later on the side of a mountain at Jamberoo, south of Wollongong. A bag containing her skull and fingers was found three weeks later.

When he was finally arrested after 36 days on the run, Potter said he could explain it all - two drug dealers dressed in dark glasses and suits killed her and made him cut up her body. It took the jury 67 minutes to disbelieve his fantastic tale and find him guilty. He was sentenced to life in prison, but only served 14 years, despite escaping from Bathurst jail in 1990.

After his release the former coal miner lived on the NSW South Coast and in 2002 moved to Tasmania with his wife Sheree Jones, his fiance at the time of the murder and who had married Potter while he was in prison.

Police allege that while in Tasmania he became deeply involved in criminal activity, particularly the drug trade. In 2008, Operation Inca set up by federal police arrested Potter over his alleged part in the importation of $440 million worth of cocaine and ecstasy - one of the largest in Australian history. He was extradited to Victoria but for some reason was granted bail.

Freed by the courts, Potter soon got himself involved in the Melbourne underworld and was again in trouble with the law, this time as a gun for hire. Victoria Police allege Potter and two other men were involved in a plot to kill two men, one an associate of Melbourne underworld figure Mick Gatto. One of the murders was allegedly to have taken place at the wedding of Gatto's son.

In May last year, despite his criminal history and police opposing his release, Potter was again granted bail. Not surprisingly, he failed to appear at Melbourne Magistrates Court on February 1 to face conspiracy to murder charges and has been on the run ever since. He was last seen in Woombye, in southern Queensland, on January 30.

Police would not reveal much about their hunt for Potter except that he was not to be approached and he sometimes used the alias Josh Lawson.

Retired detective Henry Delaforce worked on the Barry case back in 1980. "It was a gruesome murder. Potter had worked as a morgue attendant and was quite familiar with bodies," Mr Delaforce said.

Mr Delaforce said Potter was a pathological liar. "Liars of his calibre end up believing in their own innocence," he said. "He considered himself charming and suave and in some ways he could be, which is how I suppose he could get people's confidence."


12 August, 2010

School building program not 'timely' in averting slump

WE'LL say it again. Labor's capital works stimulus spending could not have "saved" Australia from recession, as Julia Gillard claims. This is because the crisis had passed by the time the hard hats got on to the school building sites.

This was clear from last week's review of the Gillard Building the Education Revolution, which showed that less than half of the $14 billion earmarked for primary school halls had yet to be spent by June this year.

And now an Auditor-General's review of the $550 million stimulus spending on 137 "strategic" local government projects similarly finds that the construction work ramped up after the recession risk had passed.

Labor's stimulus promised a "timely" counter to the global financial crisis that hit in September 2008. The $550m of strategic projects, part of the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program, were supposed to be concentrated last year.

The Treasury's stimulus estimates assumed that "timely and efficient" program delivery would result in "minimal lags" in boosting the economy. But the Auditor-General finds the scheme was flawed from the start, mismanaged along the way and plagued by council porkies [lies].

A "large proportion" of projects were not ready to proceed, were always going to take longer "than necessary to provide timely stimulus" and were hit by "high project delivery risk". By the end of last September, only a quarter of the 137 projects were reported as having started. By then, however, the economy already had been growing for three quarters in a row.

And Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens assessed the economy's downturn to be "mild".

Even then, the Auditor-General finds, local councils and the federal government seriously over-reported the construction progress. The Commonwealth Co-ordinator-General's progress report claimed that "over $248m" had been paid to councils by the end of last year "based on their construction progress". But the Auditor-General disapprovingly finds that 97 per cent of the $247.8m actually paid to councils by then "did not relate to construction progress".

Much of the money was paid well in advance of actual construction. And the Auditor-General's random site visits found that council reporting was not "sufficiently accurate". In NSW, construction of a Bega Shire Council aquatic centre did not start until February this year, even though reporting to the federal government claimed work had begun in October last year.

Labor can stick to its combined 2009 and 2010 stimulus estimates, but it can't claim this stimulus avoided a recession because much of it was pushed into this year, when the economy already had dodged the bullet.


The Labor party takes credit that is not its due

A comprehensive look at all the facts involved by Niall Ferguson, Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University

GFC should stand for Gillard's Fraudulent Claim. The claim in question is that it was the fiscal stimulus injected by the Labor government that saved Australia from much more serious recession. According to one recent election ad, "Labor did what it had to do to avoid recession and protect jobs." The ABC's Kerry O'Brien unthinkingly recycles this line when asking Tony Abbott how he would have saved the 200,000 jobs Labor "created". It must have been music to Julia Gillard's ears when Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz gave her his seal of approval recently. He praised the government's debt splurge as "one of the best-designed Keynesian stimulus packages of any country".

Now, I like Stiglitz. Unlike some Nobel prize winners, he hasn't allowed the Swedish central bank's gong to super-size his self-esteem. But this is not the best argument I have heard him make, for three reasons.

First, he is appraising his own handiwork, since he was involved in the package's design. Second, he falls into the "post hoc ergo propter hoc" trap. Just because event B, an economic recovery, happens after event A, fiscal stimulus, doesn't mean that A caused B.

True, the Australian economy has posted just one quarter of negative growth since the crisis began in 2007, a far better showing than any other English-speaking economy. Unemployment peaked at 5.8 per cent, whereas in the US it rose above 10 per cent.

But is Stiglitz sure -- I mean graduate-seminar sure, as opposed to Fairfax-press sure -- that this was really due to the government's $52 billion cash splash?

There's no denying the magnitude of the Australian handouts. If you rank developed countries' fiscal packages for the period 2008-2010, Australia's ranks third as a percentage of GDP, behind only the US and South Korea. So why did Australia's stimulus work so much better than America's? Spare us the fable that it was better designed. After the home insulation fiasco and the now-proven waste on new school halls, that can't withstand serious scrutiny.

Which brings me to problem two with the argument Labor saved Oz. Strangely, the professor has overlooked the other, more plausible explanations for Australia's relative outperformance. Step forward five candidates with a better claim to the credit: 1. Lady Luck 2. The Howard government 3. The RBA 4. China 5. The mining industry.

Let's begin with providence. Unlike the US, not to mention Britain, Ireland and others, Australia didn't have a sub-prime-fuelled housing bubble. Sure, prices went up substantially, but they also started correcting in 2003, well before others, and subsequent cost increases reflected a structural gap between supply and demand rather than crazy credit.

Australia's ability to circumvent the worst of the crisis was also assisted by better regulation -- with a single, empowered banking and insurance regulator in Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority -- and the banking system's strong domestic focus. Aussie banks were not looking to emulate their American peers, because they didn't need to. And the misfits that did exist, Allco and Babcock & Brown, weren't exactly Lehman Brothers. Any weak links in the system were easily gobbled up by the four majors, which now rank among only a handful of the world's AA-rated banks.

All this meant the extreme credit tightening that began in 2007 didn't trigger a surge in defaults or bank failures, as it did elsewhere. On the contrary, thanks to high immigration and fertility, it's the Australian population that has been surging.

Next, let's give at least partial credit to the previous government. The reason it was possible for Labor to run a deficit of 5 per cent of GDP was due to the fiscal position it inherited from the Howard government. With net debt essentially eliminated, Australia had the healthiest fiscal position of any developed economy outside Scandinavia. That is, of course, the biggest difference between Oz and the US, which entered the crisis with an already large structural deficit.

But perhaps most galling is how Labor can claim all the credit for the recovery when the RBA surely played at least as large a part -- and many would argue larger. The RBA cut its cash rate from 7.25 per cent to 3 per cent when the crisis struck. But the speed with which the RBA has been forced to raise rates -- faster than any other central bank in the G20 -- suggests the size of Labor's stimulus was unwarranted. The RBA was clearly concerned that Labor's stimulus risked over-heating the economy and stoking inflation. This is the downside of superfluous stimulus. As economist Christopher Joye has shown, small business, residential mortgage, personal and credit card interest rates have all been materially higher under the Rudd-Gillard government than under Howard.

The RBA's key role has in fact been the management -- through benign neglect -- of the exchange rate. That sharp depreciation relative to the dollar (down from 98 to 62 cents) probably did as much as anything to generate an Australian recovery. The trade statistics tell the story. Net exports surged from 2.4 per cent of GDP in the first quarter of 2009 -- the nadir of the GFC -- to 5.4 per cent in the first quarter of this year.

And that brings us to a further reason for Australia's buoyant performance: the role of China, now the country's biggest customer. If there was one place where stimulus really worked, it was China, though notice that it took the form of government-induced expansion of bank lending, rather than deficit finance along classic Keynesian lines. That Chinese stimulus sucked in a ton of imports from all China's Asian trading partners, including Australia.

Finally, let's raise our hats to Aussies who did the most to meet China's booming demand: the diggers. Yes, the Australian mining industry, which accounts for nearly 10 per cent of GDP and circa 40 per cent of total exports, moved heaven and earth -- well, certainly earth -- to satisfy China's needs. We see the fruits of this effort every day, most recently in the record $3.6 billion trade surplus in June, the biggest in history.

Unfortunately, the government is doing the very reverse of tipping its hat. On the contrary: it's dipping its hand into the mining companies' pockets. Even the watered-down proposal cobbled together by Gillard with three mining giants will still tax iron and coal companies' so-called "super profits" at a rate of 30 per cent. "Super" currently means anything above 12 per cent returns on investment.

There are so many things wrong with this proposal that it's hard to know where to begin. First, it's a classic bit of arbitrary, inconsistent government action, moving the goalposts when the game is going in one direction -- rather as if Bill Clinton's administration had suddenly decided to tax companies on their market valuations in 1998. Second, it's the kind of thing that alienates foreign investors -- and Australia's vast mineral wealth cannot be fully tapped without their involvement.

Third, it capriciously penalises smaller firms in just two sectors. Fourth, it arguably infringes the traditional rights of the states to the mining industry's revenues. Finally, taxes of this sort are justified only when the revenues raised are devoted to accumulating alternative assets, to compensate future generations for the depletion of non-renewable assets by today's Australians. But that is not what Labor proposes to do with the $10.5 billion the tax will raise over the next two years.

Stimulus? Yes, sure, Labor has stimulated the Australian economy, in the same way that Ned Kelly used to stimulate the economy of Victoria.


"Glare" stops solar panel plan

How dare the sun be so glary?

A STATE Government-backed scheme to use the sun to power towns in Queensland's scorched Outback has run into the dust due to concerns about the light. Cloncurry in the state's northwest was meant to be the centrepiece of a radical $30 million plan to use solar energy to heat water and generate electricity, cutting carbon emissions and reliance on diesel – and eventually taking the town off the grid.

But The Courier-Mail can reveal that three years after its launch, instead of a forest of 8000 mirrors the project consists only of four test panels and a fake tower behind a locked gate.

It was forecast that by now, a "groundbreaking" 10-megawatt solar thermal power plant would be using steam from water heated in a graphite block to drive a turbine to generate electricity. It should have been supplying power to the homes of 4828 residents.

The Government, which faces criticism over a series of expensive infrastructure blunders, is blaming the project's failure on concerns about light pollution. Boffins are now looking into concerns that residents could be exposed to blinding light from the plant.

Energy Minister Stephen Robertson has broken the official commercial-in-confidence line of the state's commercial partner, Sydney-based Lloyd Energy Storage, to reveal the technological glitch. "There was a glare issue exceeding what they consider to be appropriate levels," he said. "If the glare issue cannot be addressed the project will be moved somewhere else in Cloncurry or it will not proceed."

The State Government earmarked $7 million for the project. Of that, $900,000 had been spent so far, he said. "We are talking about a sunrise industry here, no pun intended," Mr Robertson said. "Sometimes we've got to take a risk with taxpayers' money to prove up this new technology."

He admitted the "timelines had blown out", and said the University of Melbourne had been commissioned by Ergon Energy and Lloyd Energy to prepare an independent report into "glare issues". He said the report would be finalised and publicly released later this month.

He could not say if it was the four panels on the outskirts of Cloncurry that had been deemed "too glary" or those of another project. The company is trialling the same technology at Lake Cargelligo in NSW.

Premier Anna Bligh touted the project for Cloncurry in November 2007, aiming to take a personal interest. Lloyd Energy and the SMEC Group were to contribute $24 million. Subject to feasibility studies, the system was expected to be suitable for any remote town or towns on the fringe of grid power, such as Thargomindah, Quilpie, Cunnamulla, Normanton, Charleville or Julia Creek.


Mental health claims overblown

By Dr Tanveer Ahmed, a consultant psychiatrist.

There has never been a federal election where mental health has received such attention. Led by the charismatic and politically savvy Patrick McGorry, criticism of the government's lack of commitment to the sector has been ceaseless. He has been further aided by the advocacy group Get Up!.

The rise of mental health services to the heady heights of the national conversation is unprecedented, but not coincidental. The net of mental health has never been cast wider and at a time when almost all human distress, at least in the West, is transmitted through the language of psychology.

It underlines a fundamental shift in our beliefs about human nature, from a long held view that people were resilient to a current belief that we are inherently vulnerable to external circumstance. And once the diagnosis of illness is systematically offered as an interpretive guide for making sense of distress, people are more likely to perceive themselves as ill.

McGorry and the former adviser to the government on mental health who resigned in disgust, John Mendoza, have suggested in several interviews that one in two of us will suffer from a mental illness at some stage in our lives. According to such hyperbole, only the common cold can command a wider reach in medicine.

Criticism from the profession has been minimal, largely due to a belief that any extra money for the sector can only be a positive. But a psychiatrist in Adelaide, Jon Jureidini, has combined with a researcher to dispel the myths being espoused by eminent but nonetheless empire-building doctors.

Several of the claims being made are false and are being repeated by Get Up! despite being clearly informed of their errors.

According to the researchers, one-third of Australian suicides are not due to inappropriate discharges from hospital, as McGorry and Mendoza claim. The data they initially used was not related to a random sample from the community, but a group of community mental health patients. This oversight means their claims are out by a factor of 30 - seven preventable suicides out of 750 as opposed to 38 out of 113. Nor are 750,000 young Australians being denied desperately needed mental health services, the premise upon which Headspace and early intervention centres are based. McGorry's claims are based on a 2007 survey where a quarter of 16- to 24-year-olds experienced a mental disorder in the previous year but only 23 per cent of them accessed treatment.

But satisfying a checklist of symptoms does not correlate with a need for treatment, as the very architect of the diagnostic system within psychiatry's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Robert Spitzer, has said.

In one of the most heralded critiques of modern psychiatric diagnosis, Professors Wakefield and Horwitz, in their 2008 book The Loss of Sadness describe how context has been removed from what is called illness within mental health.

Instead, as long as people satisfy a criteria for impairment they can be considered ill. Grief-like or behaviourally disturbed reactions to significant losses, such as that of a job, divorce or bankruptcy, automatically qualify as illness. Only the death of a loved one is classified separately.

Much of the posturing around mental health funding does not mention the significant contribution of drug and alcohol abuse that overlaps with what passes for mental health, especially in the field of early psychosis. This is likely to be calculated, given drug use raises questions about morality and individual responsibility whereas mental health elicits a non-specific sympathy.

Psychiatric diagnosis has enormous cultural power in many other fields, from the marketing of antidepressant medications to preventive efforts in schools, general medical practice, disability claims and many legal proceedings. What might seem like abstract, technical issues concerning these definitions have important consequences for individuals and how their suffering is understood and addressed.

Psychiatry has always been the most political of medical disciplines and tends to produce the best doctor-politicians. McGorry is a shining example. While the sector could certainly do with more funds, the exorbitant claims regarding untreated mental illness are indicative of a blurring of the lines between illness and normal, human responses to adversity.


Australia is too laid-back about immigration

Ayaan Hirsi Ali says below that Australians have a right to know those wishing to join their society will respect their traditions and principles. Culturally imcompatible Muslims could threaten Australian society and values

Compared with Europe, Australia is a very fortunate country. It is familiar with the challenges of immigration. It has been absorbing people from far away from the times of the settlers and convicts from Britain to the era of mass exoduses after World War II. And it has natural borders that can be relatively easily controlled. All of this may lead Australians to feel they know how to handle immigration. But such complacency could be dangerous.

The first challenge is to acknowledge and appreciate what is actually going on in the supply of immigration. When in 1951 the Geneva Convention was drafted, the UN reported that about a million people, mostly from Europe, were displaced, seeking asylum or qualified for a refugee status. Today the number is 40 million, mostly from Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Second, the culture of these potential immigrants is of utmost relevance when it comes to assimilating those welcomed into host nations like Australia. In the 1940s and 50s, Australia was essentially admitting Europeans, nearly all of them Christian. The Indo-Chinese who came later were also assimilated, even though they were sometimes subjected to harsh discrimination. But it will be less easy to assimilate immigrants whose culture is not only different but who may actually reject the Australian way of life.

About 70 per cent of the 40 million displaced peoples, asylum-seekers and refugees are Muslim.

Nor do Muslims come to Australia only as refugees. People from Britain have long been the single largest group of settlers coming to Australia. But the most recent data for all permanent additions to the population by country of birth shows that people from predominantly Muslim countries account for a larger share: 12.5 per cent of new settlers, compared with 11.9 per cent from Britain.

Unlike other migrant groups, Muslims are often targets for their radical brethren. Financed with oil money, agents of Islamism set up indoctrination centres called madrassas in refugee camps. Their teachings are fundamentally incompatible with Australian values. They preach submission to Allah before individual freedom.

Women are groomed to be submissive baby machines; gay people are deemed unfit to live; a worldview is cultivated that obliges the Muslim to distance himself from the unbeliever and never to copy the ways of the infidel.

If assimilation programs have the ambition of integrating the first generation and fully assimilating the second, then Australian policy-makers and citizens must be aware of this reality. Europeans underestimated it.

The result is that the Islamists have been able to establish enclaves and networks in some of the continent's biggest cities. Finally there is the issue of national security and national interest. Australia is a staunch ally of the US and has supported America's war on terror in both Iraq and Afghanistan. There remains a serious threat of retaliation from the worldwide web of Islamists.

Their methods are subtle: sleeper cells, the transfer of moneys to charities that aid or abet terrorism, the support of the gradual Islamisation of Australia, the setting up of institutions of dawa (persuasion, activation of passive or lapsed Muslims, conversion of non-Muslims); the rejection of democratic values and particularly the abuse of the welfare state.

A serious immigration debate needs to acknowledge these alarming realities. This time really is different. So what should Australia's immigration policy be?

Australia is a booming economy that clearly needs to and will increase its population.

Higher fertility alone is not a sufficient answer. Creating policies that help Australian women find a balance between work and the care of children is also necessary but not sufficient. An immigration policy is needed that serves the economic needs of Australia while at the same time maintaining social cohesion.

National security at a time of terrorism that transcends borders and peoples must be the other key criterion in determining who gets to be an Australian visitor or resident and who qualifies for citizenship.

An asylum-seeker from Pakistan who is idling his hours away in a refugee camp might be the right person that a miner in Kalgoorlie can train. But given Afghanistan and Pakistan's problems with Islamism, it is reasonable to ask questions about more than just his engineering degree.

How much schooling in madrassas has he had? How loyal is he to the creed of martyrdom? Is he willing to reject the political and social dimensions of Islam? Is he willing to learn the language, values, customs and convictions (in short the Australian way of life)? Will he promise to abide by the law -- Australian, not sharia?

Such questions can and should be asked of whoever is seeking admission into Australia. Merely to be fleeing a failed state or a civil war is not sufficient.

Nor can it be enough simply to have a family member already resident in Australia. Even a proven skill of use to the Australian economy is not a sufficient qualification. Australians have a right to be reassured those wishing to join their society will respect their traditions and principles.

It is abundantly clear from my visit to the Museum of Immigration that previous generations of immigrants were more than ready to sign up for those principles. But the world has changed -- and Australia's immigration policy must change with it.


Mark Latham ambushes Tony Abbott at Penrith RSL, angry veterans tell former Labor Party leader where to go

They used to call Derryn Hinch "The human headline" but "Biffo" Latham has that crown at the moment. The rage and hate that drives the Left is barely confined in him

MARK Latham crashed a veteran affairs policy event by Tony Abbott in Sydney, confronting the Opposition Leader in a packed media scrum. "Long time, no see," Mr Latham said to his former political opponent as the pair met at the Penrith RSL in western Sydney. "Are you brave enough to shake my hand?"

The pair shook hands before Mr Latham, now employed by the Nine Network's 60 Minutes program, quizzed Mr Abbott. He asked Mr Abbott about any role he may have had in the 2003 imprisonment of Pauline Hanson. "I've interviewed Pauline Hanson and we'd like to know, are you willing to apologise for your role in putting her in a prison," Mr Latham said.

"I don't think that's a fair assessment of my role," Mr Abbott responded. Mr Abbott was investigated by the CMC over whether he played an improper role in the chain of events which led to Ms Hanson and One Nation co-founder David Ettridge being convicted and jailed for electoral fraud. The CMC found that while Mr Abbott set up a fund to underwrite a civil legal bid to deregister One Nation in the lead-up to the 1998 federal election, his actions did not amount to misconduct.

Mr Latham went on to ask the Liberal leader about his immigration policy. "I was encouraged at the start of the campaign when you and your spokesperson Scott Morrison said you would be slashing the migration program. "But then it's turned out you've just got the same target as the Gillard Government."

Veterans were upset telling Latham to "piss off".

The confrontation followed a bizarre standoff in which Mr Latham, under the glare of TV lights, stood feet firmly planted about four metres from Mr Abbott. Journalists fired questions at him, but the former Labor leader maintained that he was simply covering the election for Channel Nine.

One veteran shouted ``Piss off Latham this isn't about you".

But despite the overwhelming animosity towards him in the room, Mr Latham calmly poured himself a cup of tea and waited at the centre of a media scrum at the Penrith RSL Club.

He then followed the media pack upstairs and sat in the front row where Mr Abbott was holding a press conference. Mr Latham then challenged Mr Abbott to get infrastructure priorities right. "The real priority is the Glenfield to Leppington line," Mr Latham said. "Will you fast tracked the real priority ... recognising it may not be in a marginal seat."

Mr Abbott said he was pleased Mr Latham was still concerned about former constituents. "Good on you for that." But Mr Abbott said his infrastructure commitments were part of a well thought out plan.

Mr Latham made two attempts at a question in the packed conference before Mr Abbott turned to him. He remained silent as Mr Abbott answered further questions including one on the rising empoloyment rate.

Mr Abbott said he was disappointed at the rise but warned that if further stimulus was needed it had to be the right kind of stimulus, with wastage.

Mr Latham insisted he had supporters when he tuned up to the RSL. While veterans told him to go away _ ""piss off Latham, this is about veterans" _ Mr Latham said there was at least one supporter who encouraged him ... In a newspaper column in 2009, Mr Latham described the nation’s soldiers as “meatheads”. He said they had "limited intelligence and primeval interests in life", in a column in The Australian Financial Review.


11 August, 2010

'N*gger' slur offensive, says Qld. Premier

Ms Bligh is not the brightest so may have been unaware that on March 19, 2002, in the "N*gger Brown" case, the High Court of Australia rejected the allegation that the word "N*gger was offensive in Australia. Under the doctrine of "Stare decisis" that finding was binding on the magistrate

Note: I use an asterisk in order to avoid falling foul of Google

PREMIER Anna Bligh has taken issue with a Gold Coast magistrate who ruled the term "n*gger" was not offensive and suggested his views are "last century". Ms Bligh also says Queensland's racial vilification laws may need looking at at in light of the ruling.

Southport magistrate Michael O'Driscoll on Monday threw out a charge against a Gold Coast man charged with sending an offensive fax to local Labor MP Peta Kaye-Croft's office. In the fax, 62-year-old Denis Mulheron called on the ALP to tighten immigration laws against 'niggers' and "sandnigger terrorists". He also described indigenous Australians as "Abos".

Mr Mulheron argued he was was using "everyday English" but Ms Kaye-Croft's electorate officer, who received the fax, said she was disturbed and offended. However, Mr O'Driscoll ruled that Mr Mulheron's words were "crude, unattractive and direct ... but were not offensive to a reasonable person".

Ms Bligh, who was on the Gold Coast yesterday to announce Queensland had secured three-year hosting rights for the NRL's Indigenous All-Stars match, said she found "n*gger" to be a "highly offensive" word. "I think most Australians would find that kind of language highly offensive. I certainly find it highly offensive," she said. "They're the sort of words that I don't think have any place in modern Australia. They're not the sort of words I hear most reasonable people using. "Most reasonable Australians would find it not only offensive but a part of the last century."

Ms Bligh said while she had her 'own views' on Mr Mulheron's language, it may not have met the standard of proof required by the courts. "The test is, from the courts, whether they think this would meet (the views of) the reasonable person in the street," she said. "There'll always be a difference of opinion about what that might be."

Mr Mulheron was charged with using a carriage service, namely a fax machine, to menace, harass or offend - an offence which carries up to three years' jail. The Queensland Anti-Discrimination Act says serious racial vilification is a criminal offence, with a maximum penalty of a $7000 fine or six months' jail.

Asked whether Queensland's racial vilification laws needed changing, Ms Bligh said she would need to seek legal advice. But she believed the laws were as "as strong as anything in the country".


Happy birthday, Flo!

As a 5th generation Queenslander and a former member of the Qld. National Party, I think I have some right to publish that wish. She's a great old Queensland lady

Turning 90 today, Flo Bjelke-Petersen still drives her car and follows politics. Speaking from her Bethany home near Kingaroy this week, the widow of former Queensland premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen said she felt "very blessed" to have reached such a milestone.

"God's been very good to me, I've been well looked after," Lady Bjelke-Petersen said. "I have had a few falls here and there and stays in hospital. But my health has been fairly good and I thank the dear Lord every day that he has given me 90 years."

Born in Brisbane, Lady Bjelke-Petersen turns 90 today. A great-grandmother, she has family travelling from Russia, England and the US to celebrate the occasion, which includes a dinner on Saturday in Coolabunia, close to her home.

The former senator said she was thrilled to have her driver's licence renewed this week and still made regular trips to Kingaroy. "I went and got my doctor's certificate so I can keep on driving," she said. "I just drive to town and back, I used to drive to Brisbane but I called that off."

Still following politics closely, she shared her thoughts on this month's election. "It all depends on whether people think Tony Abbott will make a better prime minister than Julia Gillard," she said. "I think he'll do a good job, I certainly hope he gets in and gets a chance – that would be wonderful – but we'll just have to wait and see.

"I don't know about Julia, they say all the women love her but I don't think so myself."

Asked to name the greatest event of her life, she nominated marrying her husband, who died in 2005. "I thought I'd reached the stage where I was going to be on the shelf," Lady Bjelke-Petersen said. "Joh's father in the early days said to him, 'Now Joh, don't be in any rush to get married, take your time and choose wisely'."

They married when she was 31 and Sir Joh was 40. The couple had four children – Meg, Ruth, Helen and John – 14 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Plans for her birthday will likely include tucking into her famous pumpkin scones and playing the organ – a regular event at Kingaroy's Canowindra nursing home.

And therein lies her secret to reaching 90 years: "Keep active." "Keep your brain working and I do believe that is good, instead of having it rusticating at home here all the time," she said.


'You've left your children home alone with a paedophile'

DOCS had the information but passed it on to the mother way too late -- and guess who got penalized. DOCS? No. The mother!

TO the unsuspecting young mother he was the man who promised a bright new future for her and her daughter. They fell in love and she had three more children.

It was only when she was in hospital with complications with her pregnancy late last year that a DOCS caseworker told her: "You have left your children home alone with a paedophile."

The woman checked herself out of a hospital in the NSW Mid-North Coast only to discover her now 10-year-old daughter from a previous relationship had been raped by the pervert.

The woman said DOCS, initially called in to investigate her for allegedly yelling at her toddler, then removed all four children on the grounds that she had failed to protect them from a sex offender.

It was not the first time the man, while on the child protection register, had moved in with a woman and abused her daughter. His last victim was just 13 months old when he committed an act of indecency on her.

In that case, the police had previously warned the baby's mother that her new partner was a registered child offender - but she stayed with him.

The man has another unrelated conviction for indecent assault of a child under 10. In the past decade he has worked in a childcare centre, as a cleaner in shopping mall toilets and as a community volunteer.

NSW Police Minister Michael Daley refused to comment on whether police could tell the new partners of paedophiles that they were on the child protection register, to which only some police have access. A spokesman said: "By law, I cannot confirm or deny the identity of anybody on the child protection register."

The woman's eldest daughter is now living with her grandmother in Port Macquarie but she is struggling to come to terms with her rape. "She's not even close to wanting to talk about it, we have been taking her to counselling since January," her grandmother said.

The offender is due to be sentenced in Newcastle District Court on September 9.

Police said those on the child protection register were required to tell police their address, where they work, travel plans, whether they have contact with children and the details of their car.

The commander of the sex crimes squad Detective Superintendent John Kerlatec said there was almost 100 per cent compliance with legislation.

Opposition Community Services spokeswoman Pru Goward said: "I think we need to review the laws to ensure that every new partner is checked to make sure there are no children living there."


Greens want to tax death

“There are only two certainties in life: death and taxes.” It’s a phrase that originated more than 200 years ago (first attributed to Benjamin Franklin) and it still holds true today. But did you know an Australian political party is trying to combine life’s two certainties?

The Australian Greens advocate the re-establishment of an estate tax as part of their economic platform, which the Greens are taking to the upcoming federal election. Estate taxes, otherwise known as death duties, were a common part of Australian life for most of the 20th century, and forced individuals to pay tax on a deceased family member’s estate, mainly their property and other valuable possessions. The United States still enforces an estate tax today.

Exemptions and thresholds were implemented to spare low and average income earners from much of the burden, but Queensland abolished estate taxes in the late 1970s, and by the mid 1980s, the Commonwealth and other states had followed Queensland’s lead.

The Greens’ proposal to reintroduce an estate tax promises to “protect the family farm, the family home and small business with a threshold of $5 million”, but it is hard to understand why a party so strongly dedicated to protecting vulnerable members of society plans to tax the dead in order to enforce its social policy.

Also, in contrast with both major parties’ pledges to cut company taxes once the budget bottom line improves, the Greens plan to increase the company tax rate to 33 per cent, which would irreparably harm productivity and lead to a death of a different kind: the figurative death of the Australian economy. They also seek to impose a higher rate of tax on the Australian mining industry.

For a party growing in influence and poised to hold the balance of power in the Senate from July 2011, the Greens’ policies warrant further examination. Their estate tax plan is nonsensical and would only increase the hardship and sorrow suffered by grieving families after the death of a loved one, and force many sons and daughters to either sell their business, bring in partners, borrow more, downsize or lay off staff.

As US magazine Investors Business Daily editorialised this year, people “should not be punished because they work hard, become successful and want to pass on the fruits of their labour, or even their ancestors’ labour, to their children”. An estate tax can also be a disincentive for people and businesses to save and invest, and, rather ironically, can even be considered harmful to the environment, as an American review argued in 1998.

Perhaps it’s time to add a third certainty to the list to join death and taxes – bizarre Greens economic policy.


10 August, 2010

An airline experience

There are some horror stories about air travel coming out of America but Australia is doing its best to catch up -- as the guy below reports. I have made a personal vow never to set foot on an aircraft again but it is easy for me as I did a lot of travelling when I was younger and when the airways were saner and when the roads were less congested -- JR

Melbourne to Sydney:

0520: Leave on the 100-kilometre drive to the airport from the provinces, aiming to be there an hour before the 7.45am flight.

0620: Hit my first freeway traffic jam at Laverton. Did I miss something? Since when did peak hour start at 6am?

0645: Hit my second freeway traffic jam about six kilometres from the airport on the Western Ring Road, a dangerous civil engineering design disaster that should have been bulldozed and started again.

0655: Arrive at the airport long-term car park. “Courtesy” bus doesn’t show up for 10 minutes. I thought it was supposed to be every five minutes, since car-parking provides about $100 million of the airport’s annual profit. But I’ve just discovered retrospectively the frequency is every 20 minutes – like a Sunday train timetable! Mental note to self: must buy an airport with a licence to price-gouge with impunity. And Melbourne is one of the better privatised airports!

0705: Arrive at the terminal with 35 minutes to spare, but the automatic check-in kiosk doesn’t want to know me, apparently because my travel involves two separate flight numbers. I must go to the back of a 50-metre baggage check-in queue that will take at least 15 minutes to clear, even though I have only carry-on luggage (laptop and overnight bag).

0710: An airline staffer directs me to the service desk and into another queue of five people. The backpacker at the head of the queue takes about 10 minutes to have his problem sorted out.

0725: I eventually get to the service desk to be informed the flight is closed; I’ll have to get the 8.15am if she can find me a seat and that will be a $50 change fee (later credited by the airline because I am its guest on this trip).

0915: Somewhere over southern NSW, we’re informed we’re going to be about 15 minutes late into Sydney as air traffic control has slowed our approach because of “high winds”.

1000: Disembark 20 minutes late, even though we’d pushed back on time in Melbourne. This leaves me 10 minutes to catch an onward flight. My luck changes. The next departure gate is opposite my arrival gate in T2.

Sydney to Melbourne:

1815: Push back right on time – no drama.

1820-1835: It takes roughly 15 minutes to taxi to the eastern end of the main runway in Botany Bay.

1925: An uneventful flight until my copy of The Australian (I’m a journalist, so I have to read the opposition) disintegrates and now looks like kindling for a bonfire. Captain Speaking announces Melbourne ATC has delayed our arrival by 10 minutes. Run that past me again: I thought peak hour was 1700-1900. It’s almost past my bedtime and I’m being delayed on a plane approaching Melbourne, Australia’s best-designed airport with plans for up to four runways instead of the current two, because of “congestion” not long before 8pm. Perhaps it’s time to start building the next runway.

1955: Land in the rain. It’s seven degrees.

2005-2025: A 20-minute wait for the long term carpark courtesy bus.

2030: Airport traffic jam as bus tries to escape the terminal area. Mental note to self: A train gets rid of a third of this pointless logjam, but a train line will never be built while the airport makes $100 million-plus a year from car parking.

2040-2050: Ten minutes to negotiate the exit of the long-term car park, which is now about 1.3 kilometres from end to end; old exit roads have become dead-ends requiring u-turns. Damage: $46 for 37 hours in a sealed country paddock.

2055: Another traffic jam caused by a 1960s traffic light sequence. Don’t get me started.

2100: Sixty-five minutes after my flight lands, I am finally on the highway.

2225: Home. Mental note to self: Avoid Tullamarine whenever possible. If I’m paying, hello Avalon, Jetstar and Tiger. I'd rather park in the Avalon paddock at a substantial discount with few delays.

And it seems to me they were two relatively good days inside the domestic air transport system.


A Christian candidate with old-fashioned values

Much too old-fashioned for some -- but she has a chance of getting the last Queensland Senate seat to be allocated. Such seats in the Australian system often go to minor parties

She believes a prime minister in a de facto relationship isn't role-model material, says the burqa stops women from showing who they really are and has likened gay marriage to child abuse and she's running for the Australian Senate.

At 49, Mitchelton grandmother Wendy Francis is in the race of her life. The top Senate candidate for Family First in Queensland found her views in the eye of a social media storm yesterday after she was forced to delete a Twitter post quickly dubbed offensive.

It read: "Children in homosexual relationships are subject to emotional abuse. Legitimising gay marriage is like legalising child abuse".

In an interview with The Courier-Mail yesterday, Ms Francis said she hadn't meant offence and was just desperate to preserve both "Australian values" and the Australian "way of life".

The former administration manager said a vote for the Greens was a vote for a "dangerous" and "radical" party and that political correctness was out of control.

Ms Francis moved quickly to deny she was homophobic, instead arguing she was looking out for children. "If we're doing this social experiment, can we really expect there won't be emotional suffering?" she asked.

Ms Francis also said the leaders of major political parties were "too scared" of offending Muslims. She said she believed there was a minority influence that "would want to make Australia a Muslim country". "I have Muslim friends ... but we're not a Muslim country and we don't want to become a Muslim country, so let's talk about it so we're aware of any potential and what we can do about it," she said.

Ms Francis said she wasn't against people "working within their own traditions", but noted that the burqa stopped women from showing who they were. "This is not an Australian value," she said.

The Senate candidate also took aim at Prime Minister Julia Gillard, questioning whether she was the best role model for the nation. "Everyone is entitled to be in a de facto relationship ... but people are also entitled to do other things that I don't think are a good role model," she said.

"It is perfectly OK to get drunk, but I don't think the Prime Minister would because it wouldn't be a good example."

Ms Francis believed it was a tight race between herself and the Greens candidate for the Senate, Larissa Waters. Family First is running a candidate in every seat and three candidates for the Senate in Queensland.


Anger over lack of medical internships

What's the point of half-educating future doctors? The British Labour Party government was well-known for such bungles so it is deplorable that several Australian State Labor Party governments seem to be doing the same. Just the usual Leftist bungling, I guess

NSW medical students are demanding the federal government stop increasing university places after more than 100 graduates failed to get internships in public hospitals this week.

The crisis comes three years after the government increased university places to solve the state's crippling shortage of doctors, but failed to employ extra staff in NSW hospital to supervise interns.

About 115 international students, who each paid more than $200,000 for their degrees, were told yesterday they would have to wait until Friday for final offers but there was little chance they would be employed, forcing many of them to return home.

"The intern year is a 12-month period of postgraduate training that is required for general medical registration," the president of the Sydney University Medical Society, Jon Noonan, said. "Without it, a medical degree is not worth the paper it is printed on.

"At this point last year more than two-thirds of locally trained internationals had been offered an internship within NSW. The fact that none have been placed has come as a shock to our colleagues, who had been repeatedly reassured they would be taken care of," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Institute of Medical Education and Training, which allocates internships, said 747 positions were available this year, more than enough for the state's 685 graduates, but NSW had been swamped by applicants from other states.

Last year, when the same problem occurred, the government invoked a priority system because it did not have enough money to offer internships to all graduates wanting to work in NSW.

Under that system, international students trained in NSW are only offered positions once all Australians and New Zealanders trained in Australia and overseas-trained applicants are employed, a decision that has angered the Australian Medical Students Association.

"We have a government which provides huge incentives to get these doctors back once they have left [Australia] and it seems illogical to me to do so when we have people who've been trained here to our standards," its president, Ross Roberts-Thomson, said.

"A medical degree qualifies you for nothing but an internship. If you don't get an internship, you essentially have a piece of paper which allows you to drive a taxi - or not even that."

Mr Noonan agreed, saying it defied logic that state and federal governments would shut the door on Australian-trained international students while relying on foreign-trained doctors to fill gaps in the health workforce.

Mr Noonan said his group wanted the state government to guarantee internships to all graduates in NSW and join with other states to adopt a consistent and co-ordinated framework for intern allocations.

Two years ago, the Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon, said she was aware clinical training places were "a pressure point within the system" but the government had no plans to cut university places for medical students.

"This was a crisis that was always going to happen," the former chief executive of the Australian Medical Association, Bill Coote, said yesterday.

"There has been very rapid growth in the number of medical schools and the expansion of existing schools - and there is the parallel issue of how medical schools have been allowed to attract full-fee paying students to subsidise their activities when we can't provide all graduates with appropriate training."


Tree chop fines amid fire threat

Must be a Green-dominated council

THE bushfire danger in the Blue Mountains is "frightening" - with refuges identified in only a handful of suburbs - but the local council is fining residents for cutting down dead trees.

Local firefighters have estimated fuel loads at 50 tonnes per hectare in some areas around Blackheath when just 10 tonnes is considered high. There are similarly dangerous amounts of fuel from Katoomba to Mt Victoria.

At the same time, Blue Mountains Council is raking in more than $100,000 a year in tree removal permit fees and taking residents who chop down dead trees near their bushland homes to court. Blue Mountains Council demands residents pay $90 for a permit to cut down or prune any tree taller than 4m.

The tax is in contrast to North Sydney Council which offers the same permits free and residents only need apply if the tree is more than 10m tall.

"We saw from the Victorian bushfires that common sense has to prevail, people have a responsibility and a right to ensure that their property is safe," Opposition emergency services spokeswoman Melinda Pavey said yesterday.

Woodford resident Robert Young was fined $1200 for felling dead trees with a chainsaw on his property, which adjoins bush land. When Mr Young disputed the fine, he was taken to Katoomba Local Court last year. "The [trees] posed a lot of risk. The ones that are dead and dying should be taken away. It wasn't just that - these ones were falling over as well," Mr Young said yesterday. "The council is so bloody minded."

Neighbourhood safer places were introduced after Black Saturday with buildings and open spaces that could be a "place of last resort" in an emergency identified.

In the Blue Mountains, only Katoomba, Mt Victoria, Megalong Valley, Glenbrook, Leura and Blackheath have neighbourhood safer places.

Local veteran volunteer firefighter Jim Crowther said some bushland areas adjoining properties had not been burned since the 1950s and had fuel loads of 50 tonnes per hectare.


9 August, 2010

Is a boong a bung?

(A "bung" in current British slang is a bribe or a kickback -- with the "u" pronounced as in "cup" -- but I am not referring to that)

There has always been a certain amount of controversy about how Australia's indigenous blacks should be referred to. With admirable simplicity, they themselves usually refer to themselves as "blackfellas", but by far the most common term among whites is "Abo" -- which is an abbreviation of the Latin term for them: Aborigines.

In less polite circles, however, they have long been referred to as "boongs", with the "oo" pronounced as in "book".

Being rather interested in onomastics, I have always wondered a little about where that term comes from. My best guess was that it was a variation on an actual Aboriginal name.

Different Aboriginal tribes had different names for themselves. In what is now NSW, I gather that "Murri" was common and where I grew up in far North Queensland at least some aboriginies referred to themselves as "Boories" (again with "oo" pronounced as in "book"). And the old timers in my own family, who generally knew Aborigines very well, did often refer to them as "Boories".

So my best guess was that "boong" was either a corruption or a variant on "boorie".

I note however that in Indonesia -- which us very much on Australia's doorstep -- the term "bung" (pronounced exactly like "boong", as far as I can establish) means "brother" and is basically a friendly term.

So is that where Australians got "boong" from? It's possible. In the old days aborigines and whites often got on well, despite what you would think from reading Leftist historians. I speak about that from knowledge of events in my own family history and Windschuttle has thoroughly debunked the Leftist historians anyway.

I note that Wictionary has a similar take on the word

Are Greenies now experts on theology?

Greens' policies more Christian than Cardinal George Pell, says Bob Brown. I accept that Bob may be an expert on global warming theology but I suspect that a Cardinal knows more about Catholicism than Bob does.

Bob also seems to be a one-man opinion poll: Not good polling methodology

AUSTRALIA'S Catholic leader Cardinal George Pell has taken up the rhetoric of the extreme right and his views do not represent mainstream Christian thinking, Greens leader Bob Brown says.

Senator Brown says Australian Greens' policies are much closer to mainstream Christian ideals than the Sydney Archbishop's ideas. He was responding to criticism of the Greens by Cardinal Pell in an opinion piece published in News Ltd newspapers yesterday.

Cardinal Pell wrote the Greens were hostile to the notion of the family and the party would allow marriage regardless of sexuality or gender. He said the Greens were "thoroughly anti-Christian".

Senator Brown, in reply, said Cardinal Pell's "anti-Christian" claim was a lie, and that he had fallen out of touch with his people. "The good archbishop has forgotten the ninth commandment, which is 'thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbour'," Senator Brown said. "He's lost the ethic of the golden rule and the Greens have kept it.

"The Greens are much closer to mainstream Christian thinking than Cardinal Pell. "That's why he's not standing for election and I am."

The Catholics the senator spoke to support an end to discrimination, he said. "They support compassion to asylum seekers and they support the BER (Building the Education Revolution) scheme, like the Greens do," he said. "Cardinal Pell opposes those things."

Senator Brown said the archbishop's views on gay marriage were "discriminatory and biased". "The majority of Catholics support equality in marriage (as do) the majority of Christians in Australia," he said.

"The Greens are with the majority but both the big parties, like Cardinal Pell, are opposed to 21st Century majority thinking in Australia. "He's lost contact with his own voters ... his own Catholic majority in this country."

In his article, Cardinal Pell wrote the Greens' once claimed that humans are simply another smarter animal - an ethic designed to replace Judeo-Christianity. He said some Greens are "like watermelons, green outside and red inside". "A number were Stalinists, supporting Soviet oppression," he wrote.

Senator Brown said Cardinal Pell had "taken up the rhetoric of the extreme right in Australia". "That is not new but he has become very politically active against the compassion and the environmental commonsense of the Greens policies," he said.


The column in the Sunday Telegraph by His Eminence does not now seem to be online at its original source so I excerpt it below. He headed his column with "The Greens are Anti-Christian". In answer to the question of how people should vote in the coming election, he replied:

First of all they should look at the policies and personal views of the individual candidates. Good and wise people are needed in the major political parties. Many, including myself, are concerned about the environment and so my second point was to urge my listeners to examine the policies of the Greens on their website and judge for themselves how thoroughly anti-Christian they are.

In 1996 the Green leader Bob Brown co-authored short book, The Greens, with the notorious philosopher Peter Singer (now at Princeton University) who rejects the unique status of humans and supports infanticide as well as abortion and euthanasia. They claimed humans are simply another smarter animal so that humans and animals are on the same or similar levels depending on the level of consciousness.

This Green ethic is designed to replace Judaeo-Christianity. Some Greens have taken this anti-Christian line further by claiming that no religious argument should be permitted in public debate. Not surprisingly they are often consistent on this issue, welcoming Christian support for refugees, but denying that any type of religious reasoning should be allowed on other matters.

One wing of the Greens are like watermelons, green outside and red inside. A number were Stalinists, supporting Soviet oppression. A few years ago they even tried unsuccessfully to use the privileges committee of the NSW Legislative Council to silence religious voices in public debate.

The Greens are opposed to religious schools and would destroy the rights of those schools to hire staff and control enrolments. Funding for non-government schools would be returned to the levels of 2003-04. Already in Canberra, Green pressure was one factor in the attacks on Calvary Hospital because they were not providing abortions.

We all accept the necessity of a healthy environment, but Green policies are impractical and expensive, which will not help the poor.

For those who value our present way of life, the Greens are sweet camouflaged poison.


Christian candidate bullied for her Christian stance on homosexuality

An Australian Senate candidate was under fire Monday for comparing the allowing of gay marriage to "legalizing child abuse," a Sydney newspaper reported. Wendy Francis, who is attempting to win a seat in Queensland for the conservative Family First party, made her views known in a Twitter message Sunday which has since been deleted.

"Children in homosexual relationships are subject to emotional abuse. Legitimizing gay marriage is like legalizing child abuse," the message read. "Australia would never recover from legalizing gay marriage. Those who advocate this are not thinking of the dramatic consequences," it continued.

Francis has previously expressed similar views in media releases, Australian media blog Crikey reported.

A media release on her website, which has also since been deleted, read: "Homosexuals who are pushing for this don't care about children; they care only about their selfish desires. "Children in homosexual relationships are subject to emotional abuse and legitimizing gay marriage is like legalizing child abuse," it continued.

The Australian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby called the comments "offensive."

"Comments which characterize same-sex families as promoting emotional abuse towards children is deeply, deeply frustrating and offensive," the group's policy and development coordinator Senphorun Raj said.

"In Australia there over 4,380 children living in same-sex families, and to have children in those families be stigmatized by such comments, stigmatizing their same-sex parents, disenfranchises those children and effectively promotes attitudes of homophobia that will continue to marginalize and ostracize children and parents living in same-sex families."

Thousands of Twitter users responded to Francis' comments, some calling them "baseless and astounding."

SOURCE. More details here

Government hospitals a vital election issue

Yet more bureaucracy is not the solution to their woes

Many policies differentiate the major parties, from border control to paid parental leave, but on the most basic policy issue, healthcare, where structural inefficiencies can kill people, the difference between Labor and the Coalition is stark.

Put aside the bids and counter-bids of extra millions of dollars and hospital beds. The real difference is deeper and structural. As prime minister Rudd, typically, announced a sweeping reform of the national hospital system. His proposed reform bore the classic trademarks of Ruddism. It centralised more power in Canberra. It established yet another layer of bureaucracy. It did not challenge the power of the public sector unions.

RuddCare, which Gillard has inherited, does not even diagnose, let alone treat, the cancer within the healthcare system - the bloated, inefficient, micro-managing centralised state government bureaucracies which suck resources away from front-line health services.

"Labor's decision to change the public hospital governance structure in NSW from eight Area Health Services to 15 Local Hospital Networks is nothing but a re-naming of the Titanic," the chairman of the department of medicine at Sydney Hospital and Sydney Eye Hospital, John Graham, told me last week.

"Both federal and state Labor have stuck the public hospital system with a bureaucracy of enormous proportions. It means there is a huge difference with Abbott and the Coalition because they are prepared to move funds, extra beds and local management back into the hospitals. They are committed to having an autonomous, pro bono board of directors at every public hospital. I think this reform would eventually end the need for state health bureaucracies.

"That would deliver a huge economic benefit because only doctors and nurses and pharmacists and physiotherapists and other front-line health workers can create the reality of healthcare, while the bureaucrats waste at least $10 billion a year of precious health dollars."

I can't vouch for his estimate, but it sits plausibly with the pattern of Whitlamesque excesses that have been the hallmark of the Rudd-Gillard government.

The federal government presents the fiction that it is a font of efficient compassion on healthcare. When the federal Minister of Health, Nicola Roxon, released a summary of RuddCare's proposed reforms on July 7, her statement concluded with a preposterous claim: "These measures build on the 50 per cent increase in hospital funding by the government."

Fifty per cent? How about zero? Lifting the federal government's share of spending on the health system from 40 per cent to 60 per cent simply represented a shift of 20 per cent of health spending from state governments to Canberra. It was a shift in power, not a 50 per cent surge in spending.

Roxon and Gillard have both repeated ad nauseam the accusation the Howard government, and Abbott in particular, "stripped a billion dollars out of the hospital system". It cannot withstand scrutiny.

When the Howard government introduced a tax rebate on private health insurance, it took pressure off the public hospitals as people moved to private care. The government was able to move $1 billion, earmarked for public hospitals, to tax relief for health insurance payments. It was a shift of spending, not a reduction.

So great is the growing gap between rhetoric and reality that Gillard not answering simple questions is a symptom of something much deeper: an abdication of public honesty in the pursuit of power.


8 August, 2010

Commercial TV network crawls on its belly to the Labor Party

After all the mockery that the media poured out at John Howard, this is a joke. Since when did Howard get treated with anything more than the bare minimum of respect?

And the fact that it was Latham who was deemed as being too offensive is a real joke. Compared to the bile he used to pour out at Howard, he was on his best behaviour.

He certainly made two suggestions that may or may not have been true but that is routine for TV journalists. It looks like the TV boss concerned does not want suggestions adverse to the Labor party to be aired -- the usual media subservience to the Left

Latham's manner is certainly aggressive but that didn't stop him from being elected as leader of the Federal parliamentary Labor party at one stage. The video is here. Judge for yourself

The Nine Network has apologised to Prime Minister Julia Gillard over her treatment by former Labor leader-turned-journalist Mark Latham on assignment for its flagship current affairs program.

Nine Network CEO David Gyngell told AAP last night he had personally apologised to Ms Gillard for the approach by Mr Latham while she was campaigning in Brisbane. Mr Gyngell said the approach lacked proper respect.

After seeing the vision of Mr Latham's questioning of the Prime Minister while representing the 60 Minutes program, the network boss said he believed the conduct of the interview was inappropriate. "I'm all for freedom of speech and robust scrutiny of our public figures, but my strong view of today's exchange is that it crossed the line," he said.

"The Prime Minister of Australia, whomever that might be and whatever their political stripe, deserves to be treated with a due level of respect. "I think that was missing today."

Mr Gyngell said he had made his opinion "clearly understood" at 60 Minutes and had apologised to Ms Gillard on behalf of the network.

The confrontation occurred as Ms Gillard was doing the rounds and meeting patrons at Brisbane's Ekka show yesterday. Mr Latham, who is producing a segment for 60 Minutes, asked why Labor had complained to the network about his presence.

A smiling Ms Gillard responded: "I don't know anything about that, Mark." "If you want to work for Channel Nine, that's a matter for you."

Mr Latham then suggested Ms Gillard, his one-time Labor ally, should speak out against former prime minister Kevin Rudd for trying to sabotage her campaign. "Have a dig at him," he told her.

But Ms Gillard merely laughed and wished Mr Latham well with his journalistic endeavours.

An ALP spokesman later denied the party had made any complaint to the Nine Network.

A Nine spokesman said a decision about the footage, including if and when it will go to air, had not yet been made.


An absurd and ignorant immigration bureaucracy

THEY know the Migration Act chapter and verse, but members of the Refugee Review Tribunal may need to brush up on their Bible studies if a recent case is anything to go by.

The tribunal questioned the religious credentials of a Chinese man applying for a protection visa after he was allegedly persecuted in his homeland for his Catholic beliefs. His cousin vouched for their Catholic upbringing and regular attendance at a Sydney church but the tribunal, unimpressed by the cousin's biblical knowledge, found neither was a true believer and refused to grant the visa.

The cousin's explanation of how Jesus was born - that "they stayed in a stable and that night Maria gave birth to Jesus Christ and an angel and a shepherd were around" - was, according to the tribunal, "very vague for someone who claims to have been a practising Catholic since birth and who attends church every Sunday".

As for the story he nominated as his favourite biblical tale, the tribunal declared it was "not familiar with this as a genuine story from the Bible".

In the cousin's version, when Jesus was 12 he disappeared on a visit to his home town. His parents found him in the church, where people "said he spoke very well".

Based on this supposedly inauthentic Bible story offered by his "vague and evasive" cousin, the tribunal found the would-be refugee lacked a true belief in Catholicism.

It was the tribunal, however, whose knowledge of the Bible proved a little rusty, with a federal magistrate who reviewed the case, Kenneth Raphael, describing it as a "very reasonable paraphrase" of Luke 2:41-47.

The passage in Luke describes 12-year-old Jesus staying behind in Jerusalem after spending Passover there with his parents.

He was found in the temple courts, questioning the teachers, and everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and answers.

The Chinese national, who cannot be named, sought a review of the decision in the Federal Magistrates Court, arguing the tribunal had "exceeded its jurisdiction by taking upon itself the role of arbiter of minimum religious knowledge to be a Catholic".

The tribunal "set itself up as an arbiter of religious knowledge", Mr Raphael said. In fact, the cousin's story was not vague or inaccurate but "a very reasonable paraphrase". He ordered the case back to the tribunal for determination.


Has the Labor Party suddenly discovered an uncharacteristic love of Christianity?

Labor promises more school chaplains but it will be interesting to see how they define "chaplain". Let me guess that there will be NO Exclusive Brethren chaplains but quite a few "humanist" chaplains.

Amusing, though, to think how this promise will p*** off their urban sophisticate base

UP to 1000 additional schools, including those in remote or disadvantaged areas, will get a chaplain service under a re-elected Labor government. The National School Chaplaincy Program already provides the service to 2700 schools.

If Labor wins the August 21 election, the program would get $222 million to reach more schools, and secure existing chaplains for a further three years. Labor last year committed funding to run the program for the full school year in 2011.

A national consultation process will consider the scheme's effectiveness and how it fits with other student support activities, with a discussion paper to be released by October.

In a statement, the Labor party said it recognised that some schools in rural, remote and disadvantaged locations had so far missed out. They would be better considered in the new round, and in rural areas, funding could be pooled so chaplains could service a number of schools. Labor says funding for the policy would be offset over the forward estimates.


The false front of the political Left

The parlous state of Labor this election is a direct reflection of the tin ear of the progressive left. Again and again, smugly, arrogantly, patronisingly, progressives declare themselves to be moderates, claiming to represent a reasonable ideological middle ground, while showering the real moderates, who they dub "right-wing", "conservative" or "extremist", with abuse - subtle and not so subtle.

The writer Shelley Gare has delved into the subtle method of abuse in a series of essays and a fine lecture to the Sydney Institute on Tuesday night on totschweigtaktik - the Austro-German word for "death by silence" which she describes as "an astonishingly effective tactic for killing off creative work or fresh ideas or even news stories. You don't criticise or engage with what's being said or produced or expressed; instead you deprive someone and their work or opinion of the oxygen of attention".

Progressives keep trying to redefine the centre in their own image, instead of adjusting their expectations and accepting the reality of a public far more entrenched in conservatism and commonsense than they can imagine.

Their attitude, based as it is on a fundamental dishonesty, leads them to all sorts of self-delusion, fakery and spin that works - because it's done well - but only temporarily. It has infected Labor's election campaign and has led it to the profound mistake of underestimating Tony Abbott, fundamentally misunderstanding who he is, and dismissing him for too long as a right-wing extremist, Neanderthal and religious zealot.

A symptom of the dripping contempt of the progressive left for people who don't think like them is typified by a letter to the editor yesterday from Wayne Duncombe of Glebe, blasting the "boganocracy" - "selfish, narrow-minded, grasping" voters, unlike his enlightened, sophisticated self. Cough. He obviously wants a Glebocracy where everyone drinks chai, wears tie-dye and rides a bike. What a way to win friends and influence people!

Progressives really believe that by willing something into being, by talking it up and writing about it and employing their combined brilliance they can somehow engineer a mass change in social sentiment. It is a core belief. But more and more the arguments run away from them.

They can belittle and shun people who refuse to accept the genius of their world view but they just make their enemies stronger because all the energy they expend on maintaining the charade that they represent the reasonable middle ground means they fail competently to perform their day jobs - say, running a democratic country.

Of course, an election campaign is the moment of unpalatable truth, and the way progressives have dealt with this one has been amusing. First, as the polls started blossoming for the "unelectable" Abbott, progressives began saying what a boring, dreary campaign it was when, in fact, it's the most startling campaign in living memory, what with Kevin Rudd being deposed by our first female prime minister, who was quickly replaced by Real Julia, now to be joined by the resurrected Rudd.

Rudd, by the way, seems none the worse for wear after his gutting and gall bladder removal, other than the fact he now refers to himself in the third person, as "K Rudd" or "KM Rudd" or "myself" as in "the rolling political controversy about myself".

But do the new generation of faceless men and women, the Arbibs, Bitars, Shortens and Feeneys, read no Shakespeare? If they had any literary or spiritual leanings they might have known that the overthrow of a first-term prime minister for no clear reason was rife with bad karma. Now, belatedly, they've figured it out by looking at the polls, which are really a lagging moral indicator. What they did was wrong. The electorate knows it and some people care enough to change their vote. It's no good whirling out Banquo now and saying, "He's OK, really. It's only a flesh wound."

Another amusing progressive approach has been to embrace the sniffy complaints from visiting British intellectuals that the quality of Australian political debate is dismal, low-rent, and no better than a "Strathclyde regional council" meeting. This became a favourite topic of chattering-class dinner parties last week, justification for the fact the promised golden age of progressive politics had been an illusion, and the death warrant for the dreaded neo-conservatism premature.


7 August, 2010

Sydney Anglicans oppose homosexual adoption

It may seem surprising to see a display of spine from any diocese in communion with the Church of England but this is the Sydney diocese, where Anglican priests can still wholeheartedly assent to the traditional 39 "Articles of Religion" of the CofE

THE MAIN adoption agency for infants in Sydney, Anglicare, has written to state MPs urging them to vote against a bill that would allow same-sex couples to adopt when it is debated in Parliament later this month.

The chief executive of Anglicare, Peter Kell, cites a child's need for both a mother and father among the 11 reasons why same-sex couples should not be given the same rights as heterosexual couples under adoption law.

"Men and women complement each other in their parenting roles as a result of their inherent physical, psychological and emotional attributes. Adoptive children should not be denied this opportunity," Mr Kell said.

The Independent MP Clover Moore said her amendments to the Adoption Act would overcome the "double standards" that allow gay and lesbian individuals to adopt, but not homosexual couples. Same-sex couples are also used as foster carers by the Department of Community Services.

Ms Moore said in the vast majority of cases, same-sex adoptions will involve step-parenting situations and "known" adoptions, where the child already has a relationship with the parent, such as a foster carer.

However, Mr Kell denied there was a double standard in same-sex couples being permitted to foster but not adopt, arguing "a cautious approach is required where the decision is irreversible".

The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby says the Adoption Act is the last piece of state legislation that directly discriminates against same-sex couples and their children.

Last year, a Legislative Council committee recommended by a narrow margin that same-sex couples be allowed to adopt.

However, the committee also said faith-based adoption agencies should be exempt from anti-discrimination legislation, so long as they refer any same-sex couples who seek their services to another adoption agency.

Two of the three government-accredited adoption agencies in NSW, Anglicare and CatholicCare, have threatened to stop providing adoption services if they were forced to facilitate adoption by homosexual couples.

The 2006 census shows there about 1500 children living in same-sex families in NSW.


Public broadcaster hatred of outspoken radio/TV shock jock

Sandilands is not particularly conservative but he is VERY politically incorrect

THE ABC was yesterday forced to defend a "Killing Kyle Sandilands" segment on one of its comedy shows. The taxpayer-funded ABC2 screened the offensive segment on its Review With Myles Barlow last night.

The Killing Kyle Sandilands segment featured comedian Phil Lloyd, as the fictional Barlow, deciding he wanted to kill the Austereo radio shock jock and Australia's Got Talent and X Factor judge.

Footage included Barlow repeatedly stabbing a picture of Sandilands, then stabbing and burning an effigy of him.

Austereo management, the owner of 2DayFM, is said to be concerned about the segment, which was filmed without Sandilands' co-operation. "It is a danger in the current climate," an insider said. "You never know the influence it could have."


Huge waste of money in putting up new Australian school buildings -- the evidence spreads

No spending discipline or attempt to get value for money -- so everything costs twice as much as it needs to. Good for builders but bad for everyone else

FOR the past 18 months, the federal government has dismissed reports of problems with its $16 billion school building program. This is despite a litany of concerns revealed in The Australian. But the government's refrain that the Building the Education Revolution is a success was erased yesterday by the release of the price paid by the Victorian government to build a school hall.

Like NSW, Victoria is paying twice as much as the Catholic school system and well above standard industry costs. Of necessity, The Australian's series of reports documenting concerns about the BER has focused on NSW; until yesterday, it was the only state to have made public its building costs.

The federal government has dismissed reports of inflated costs as being confined to NSW but the story is similar in Victoria and, presumably, around the nation. The onus is now on the other states and territories to reveal the figures. The lack of information about BER construction costs is unnecessary and unacceptable.

The biggest spend on schools in the nation's history requires a commensurate level of scrutiny. Yet The Australian is the only newspaper to have consistently asked where the money was going.

The BER stimulated the economy, helped Australia through the financial crisis and gave schools new buildings. But schools, parents, principals, teachers and other taxpayers have a right to expect value for money.


Another dangerous failure of Queensland's ambulance service

They had a big shakeup a while back and I thought thay had got their act together. If so, it didn't last

For six terrifying minutes young mum Lisa Brown held her choking baby, waiting for an ambulance to arrive – but it never came. She said the minutes felt like hours before she made her own mercy dash with baby Sinclair to the Royal Children's Hospital.

The State Government has launched an investigation after the allegations were raised by the Opposition in State Parliament yesterday.

Ms Brown said she called Triple 0 at 11pm on July 28 when Sinclair appeared to be choking on his own vomit. They said an ambulance would be dispatched and to call back if anything changed. Six minutes later, he was choking again, and appeared lifeless. Ms Brown called back, and she was told the operator didn't know when an ambulance would be dispatched.

Opposition Health spokesman Tim Nicholls said the Government had let down "a mother in her time of need".

Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts yesterday said an ambulance had been dispatched nine minutes after Ms Brown's first call – by which time she was already driving Sinclair to hospital herself. "The service is now trying to get to the bottom of what happened," Mr Roberts said. He said the first call had been coded non-life threatening.

Ms Brown said she expected to be helped when calling an ambulance. "I was in a state of panic," she said. "They told me they had more serious and life-threatening conditions to attend to," she said.

Mr Roberts accused the Opposition of using Ms Brown for political point scoring.

Baby Sinclair spent three days in hospital, diagnosed with a bacterial infection. He is now home and well but will undergo further testing.


Another acquisition of barely-functional defence equipment

And an attempted coverup of course. Will they ever buy something that actually works? They have been trying to get their submarines working since the 1990s but still can't do it

THE army's new $4 billion fleet of European-built helicopters hit another snag after a chopper was grounded with a serious engine problem.

For the second time this year, Defence did not reveal the problem and did not announce that an MRH-90 helicopter on a routine flight from Brisbane to Townsville on Saturday was grounded at Mackay airport.

During a post-flight ground inspection, the crew noticed scratches on the engine intake and closer inspection found evidence of internal damage from a foreign object being sucked in to the power plant.

A decision was taken to replace the engine at Mackay and an inspection will be carried out by the manufacturer Rolls-Royce Turbomeca to establish the exact cause of the damage.

Defence said the problem was not related to a major engine failure near Adelaide in April that led to the grounding of the fleet.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal that in the wake of that failure, all MRH-90 engines must be inspected every five hours of operation.

That time frame will expand as the fault is rectified but, in a military helicopter, such a brief interval for engine inspection is unprecedented.

The engine supplier will modify the jet engine for Australian conditions to prevent a repeat of the catastrophic failure that was caused by turbine blades hitting their casings. Eurocopter's chief was forced to apologise after he appeared to blame pilots for the fault.

A defence spokesman said the latest incident was not announced because it was unrelated to the earlier failure and had no bearing on the other 10 choppers undergoing flight testing. MRH-90s are built by Eurocopter and assembled by Australian Aerospace.


6 August, 2010

Hooray! Australia's conservative coalition undertakes to block internet censorship

And even the Greens approve! So it's dead. It can't get through the Senate with both the Greens and the coalition opposed. The Labor party obviously has a tin ear to have kept insisting on this widely deplored scheme for so long. They obviously could not see past the great Leftist vision of ever-increasing control over the lives of ordinary people

The Liberals have finally spoken and it's music to most internet users' ears. Joe Hockey's public denunciation of Labor's controversial mandatory ISP filtering plan late yesterday was warmly welcomed by the Greens and others.

The opposition treasury spokesman late yesterday told ABC Radio's Triple J that if elected the Coalition would scrap the filter scheme. But even if Labor won the August 21 poll, the Coalition would not back the filter legislation. Mr Hockey said the policy was flawed and the technology doesn't work.

An Abbott government is likely to reintroduce NetAlert, a Howard-era program that offered parents free internet filtering software.

Greens communications spokesman Scott Ludlam said the Liberal party should be congratulated for finally declaring its hand. The Nationals had previously stated they would not support Labor's plan.

"The decision belongs to the huge number of people who contributed to a tenacious, self-organised campaign that stretched from online civil libertarians all the way up to the US State Department," Senator Ludlam said. "The ALP should drop the censorship proposal rather than fighting what now looks inevitable. "The Greens will work with any party in the parliament on constructive cyber safety proposals. At last that debate can start properly," Senator Ludlam said.

Influential lobby group GetUp declared the filter "dead, buried and cremated". "Regardless of who forms the next government, we know that mandatory internet filter legislation won't pass Parliament, with the Coalition, the Greens and independent Nick Xenophon all opposed to it," GetUp national director Simon Sheikh said.

GetUp was not alone in its crusade against the filter proposal. “This was a coalition campaign including groups as diverse as Save the Children, Australian Lawyers Alliance, National Arts and Culture Alliance, human rights groups including Amnesty Australia and online activists like Electronic Frontiers Australia. Everyone will be celebrating today,” Mr Sheikh said.

Labor wants ISPs to block refused classification (RC) web pages on a secret government blacklist but the policy has hit several roadblocks since first pledged in the 2007 election.

In early July Communications Minister Stephen Conroy ordered a year-long review into RC processes and said the filter legislation would not be introduced until the review was completed. The government has always said it would that at least 12 months after the passage of legislation to implement the filtering scheme. If Labor is re-elected, ISPs will be forced to start blocking RC content from 2012.


It's OK to tell police officers to 'f*ck off'

NSW magistrate Pat O'Shane ruled similarly in Oct., 2005 but she is full of anger about the treatment she experienced in her early life -- which she attributes to her small degree of Aboriginal ancestry. So she is very anti-police generally -- and that general hostility would cause her rulings to be seen as not setting much of a precedent. This case would appear to be more influential as a precedent, however. Interestingly, O'Shane grew up in Far North Queensland not far from where the following ruling was made.

A Queensland magistrate has ruled that it is acceptable for people to tell police officers to "f*ck off". Magistrate Peter Smid yesterday threw out the court case against Mundingburra man Bardon Kaitira, 28, who swore at a female officer outside the Consortium night club on December 20, last year at 2.40am, The Townsville Bulletin reports.

Constable Belinda Young gave evidence that Mr Kaitira used the swear word twice towards her after a group of officers patrolling Flinders St East poured out his girlfriend's drink. "The defendant said 'f*ck off' and starting walking away and I asked: 'What did you say?'," she said. "He said 'f*ck off" again and then said: 'I don't like the police you think you are all heroes'.

"I told him it was an offence to swear at an officer and gave him two choices - a fine or be arrested." Mr Kaitira opted to be put in handcuffs and taken to the watch house.

After winning the landmark case he explained outside court why he pleaded not guilty - despite admitting to swearing at Constable Young. "On the night it was completely over the top and I didn't think it was fair," Mr Kaitira said. "Most people just cop a fine but I didn't want to do that."

The defendant instead read through hundreds of similar legal cases before employing a leading criminal barrister and a solicitor to take on his public nuisance case at a cost of $4622.11.

It was worth it for the horticulturist as Magistrate Smid said he was not satisfied Mr Kaitira committed an offence and police could be liable for his legal bills. "The defendant spoke normally, he had his hands in his pockets and walked away," Magistrate Smid said. "It's not the most polite way of speaking but those who walk the beat would be quiet immune to the words."

The magistrate said overall the conduct of the defendant was not a nuisance to the public because it didn't interfere with fellow night club goers.

"It was overkill by the officer who was not offended anyway," Mr Smid said. "But she pursued him clearly annoyed he hadn't shown remorse."

Defence barrister Justin Greggery said the case was "doomed to fail" from the start, arguing that saying the f-word to police was "not an offence". "It was simply f*ck off - a common enough expression which wasn't descriptive like f*ck you or you f*ck," he said. "Really the word has lost its affect due to its use in books, films, and general speech."

Mr Greggery added that police were trying to criminalise language, which set a dangerous precedent. "When they try to set the bar this low they are saying the word f*ck is criminal conduct," he said. "This is language they use themselves on the job (while arresting offenders and to other officers)."

However, police prosecutor Sergeant Richard Scholl argued Mr Kaitira's code of conduct was offensive and stinging towards the policewoman. "He displayed behaviour and made jibes with the intention to insult. Police should be shielded from this type of language and the community cannot accept it's OK for a private citizen to tell police to f*** off," he said.

Queensland Police Union President Ian Leavers agreed and called for an urgent appeal of the case, which could set a precedent in Queensland law. "It is a sad day when the courts and government say it is OK to use four letter words at police," he said. "To say it's OK to use offensive language at police in the street, who are just doing their job makes, no sense at all."

Mr Smid will decide today whether the Queensland Police Service will cover Mr Kaitira's legal bills, which legal counsel later reduced to $2527.50 after a successful outcome. By law the maximum amount that can be reimbursed is $1500.

The case follows that of Sydney student Henry Grech, who was cleared in May of an offensive language charge against police after a local court magistrate ruled the word "prick" was part of every-day speech.


Australian police must not co-operate with countries that have the death penalty?

This is another example of chronically confused Leftist thinking. Indonesia has the death penalty and on other occasions the Federal Australian Left has been falling over itself to increase co-operation between Australian and Indonesia!

Indonesia is a nation of over 200 million Muslims and is virtually on Australia's Northern doorstep so any sane Australian Federal government would be doing its utmost to preserve good relations with them. What is reported below can only alienate the Indonesians. One can only hope that the instruction concerned will be rapidly withdrawn

THE Australian Federal Police has been told to consider the impact its investigations have on Australian citizens when working with countries that apply the death penalty.

Yesterday's instruction was contained in an official ministerial direction by Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor and was an apparent reference to the AFP's role in the Bali Nine drug case, in which nine young Australians attempted to smuggle heroin into Australia from Bali.

Arrested as they were leaving Indonesia, three of the group - Andrew Chan, Myuran Sukumaran and Scott Rush - were subsequently sentenced to death, The Australian reports.

Their fate provoked savage criticism of the AFP, which co-operated with Indonesian authorities to bust the 2005 conspiracy.

The direction, which updates a set of instructions issued in August 2008, sets the AFP's law enforcement priorities and outlines the strategic framework in which the Government expects the AFP to operate.

It instructs the AFP to "take account of the Government's long-standing opposition to the application of the death penalty in performing its international liaison functions". It is the first time such an instruction has been included in the ministerial directions.

But former Howard government minister Philip Ruddock described the new instructions as "very problematic".

Mr Ruddock, who was Australia's attorney-general at the time of the Bali Nine case, said the instruction would apply to a range of crime types, such as terrorism. "That's really saying that in relation to potential terrorist events the AFP cannot provide information to the Indonesians," Mr Ruddock said.


Labor 'saved Australia from the global financial crisis' - says headline-hungry Leftist economist

In his hunger for headlines he occasionally even talks sense but he is well known for his rejection of free market thinking so his opinions below were pretty much what were to be expected from that orientation.

Some of his statements below are plain crazy. He blames the GOP for the GFC when it was Democrat-sponsored legislation requiring banks to lend to high-risk minorities that was at the root of it

THE Federal Government's economic credentials have received a timely boost from Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, who suggested Labor may be best placed to take the country forward.

Professor Stiglitz, a former World Bank chief economist and economic adviser to the US Government, said Federal Labor did a fantastic job of saving Australia from the global economic crisis.

At the same time Professor Stiglitz criticised right-wing politicians for being the "architects" of the downturn. "One of the reasons why the debate about...Australia's so important is not because we're historians and we're trying to grade but because we're trying to make a judgement about going forward who is likely to do a better job," Professor Stgilitz said. "What are the economic theories, advisers they are likely to draw upon? Labor's done a good job."

Professor Stiglitz said economic advisers who had been praised by "the other side" of politics were the ones who had designed America's "economic mess." "To praise the people who were the architects of the global financial crisis suggests that your economic ideas might lead this country into difficulty," he added.

"Whereas the others (Labor) actually did a fantastic job of saving your country from problems."

Professor Stiglitz said he supported the objectives of the Government's mining tax but was not surprised resource firms objected. "The clear objective is one that I supported when I was in the Clinton Administration and our attempt to do a very similar kind of thing," he added. "Having watched what happened in the US I'm not surprised at all what's happened here; the mining companies do not want to pay their fair share."

But he said he was surprised at the resonance the resource firms' arguments have had.


Westpac to pay $50,000 for wrongly bouncing real estate agent's cheques

Even though I am a Westpac shareholder I applaud this decision. The inefficiency of Australian banks is mind-blowing and anything that rattles their teeth over it can only be good

THE High Court has ordered Westpac Banking Corporation to pay a former real estate agent more than $50,000 in damages for defamation arising from its mistaken dishonouring of his company's cheques. The payout will be much higher as interest must also be paid.

In December 1997, Westpac mistakenly dishonoured 30 cheques drawn by the Homewise real estate agency, located in Auburn, Sydney. Paul Aktas was the sole shareholder of Homewise.

The cheques were returned to Mr Aktas' clients, mostly landlords, stamped "refer to drawer", inferring there were insufficient funds to meet the payment. That was not the case, and Mr Aktas subsequently won a breach of contract case relating to the incident.

However, he has since been involved in a long defamation challenge with Westpac, claiming he received an adverse and hostile reaction, particularly from the local Turkish community, when the cheques bounced.

His appeal of a NSW Supreme Court ruling in November 2007 that the bank's actions were covered by qualified privilege was upheld by the High Court.

In its judgment, the court said there was no public interest protecting the bank's communications to the payees, as payees have no interest in receiving notice of a refusal to pay a cheque where the drawer has sufficient funds to meet the payment. "For the payee, there is no need for any communication from the bank about the fate of the cheque, if it is met on presentation," the court said in a statement issued in conjunction with the judgment.

"Further, to hold that giving a notice of dishonour is an occasion of qualified privilege is not conducive to maintaining accuracy in the decisions banks must make about paying cheques."


5 August, 2010

Julia is letting in MORE illegals -- secretly

She has decided to take in more illegals living in camps in Indonesia, to the satisfaction of the Indonesians. Despite her vague intimations to the contrary, she clearly has no intention of cutting back the flow of "asylum seekers". Deeds speak louder than words.

And even the Indonesians can see that it is a foolish decision that will just encourage more illegals to come!

Indonesia has backed Australia's secret decision to accept an additional 450 refugees annually for resettlement. But Jakarta has warned that the extra places could act as a magnet for asylum-seekers.

With Immigration Minister Chris Evans refusing to confirm the expanded resettlement arrangements, authorities in Jakarta announced they would establish a five-person taskforce to investigate claims corrupt government officials were working with smugglers to send people to Australia. The claims, aired on the ABC's Four Corners program, provoked fresh skirmishes on the campaign trail yesterday.

Julia Gillard sought to deflect questions about corruption in Indonesia. "We've made resources available to the Indonesians to assist with the disruption of people-smuggling and we have enjoyed some success in that," the Prime Minister said.

But Tony Abbott seized on the report, declaring people smugglers were "out of control". "The only way to get that situation under control is to deny the people-smugglers a product to sell, and that means bringing back temporary protection visas, and this is one thing that the Rudd-Gillard government just won't do," the Opposition Leader said.

The head of Indonesia's Immigration Department Muhammad Indra said he had formed the team in response to the allegations, which portrayed widespread and high-level corruption within Indonesia's military and Immigration Department. "We need to investigate this because we don't want to be undermined," Mr Indra said. "But it's a long process. We still have to gather evidence."

Director of enforcement and investigation for the Immigration Department Husein Alaydrus warned yesterday that news of the additional places could attract yet more asylum-seekers. "If (the extra places) reduces the numbers of asylum-seekers already in Indonesia, then I suppose its a good thing," Mr Alaydrus said. "But if it becomes an attracting factor, then I don't think that would be good."

Canberra's unannounced decision to increase refugee resettlements through Indonesia from the current 50 people annually to 500 was disclosed by UN High Commissioner for Refugees senior representative in Jakarta Manuel Jordao on the Four Corners program. Senator Evans refused to give any details on the increased number of refugees, saying only that resettlement from Indonesia was a "normal process".

But yesterday, Mr Alaydrus said he had been alerted several days earlier to the Canberra decision by Australian officials.

Indonesia currently holds about 2200 illegal registered asylum-seekers, about 1200 in 13 detention centres and the rest free in the community, awaiting processing for refugee placement or deportation.


Tony has a hospital plan that might actually do some good

The Coalition is attempting to trump one of Labor's strongest policy cards by announcing a $3.1 billion plan for 2800 new hospital beds. "What we are promising is more beds not more bureaucrats," Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said ahead of a formal announcement in Sydney later today.

To receive the funding state and territory governments first would have to create the beds. "If they want to get the money, they'll have to produce the beds," Mr Abbott told ABC Radio.

The policy also includes spending an extra $365 million on after-hours care and GP infrastructure.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard was dismissive of the Coalition plan, even though it aims to create 1500 more beds than Labor has promised so far. "Mr Abbott's plans when you look at them add up to no new doctors, no new nurses, no quicker access to emergency departments, no quicker access to elective surgery and no real local control," she told ABC Radio from Townsville.

Ms Gillard reminded voters of Mr Abbott's legacy from the time he was health minister in the Howard Government. What Mr Abbott did and what he said were "always two very different things", she said.


Fear of information from Australian education elites

School league tables splashed across newspapers earlier this year, heralding an unprecedented era of education openness in this country, are on death watch.

A coalition of teachers unions, academics and public education advocates are well advanced with their mission to strangle through technological modifications any further league tables in 2011.

The tables ranking of individual schools for literacy and numeracy were the most sensational outcome the MySchool website, arguably Prime Minister’s greatest reform triumph as Education Minister.

The information they so succinctly presented in a ranking form offered fodder for a million dinner table and bus stop debates about education choice. Overnight, parents were empowered with knowledge, even if it was a brutal outing of school performance.

But the league tables, run in various forms in newspapers including The Australian, Herald Sun and the The Sydney Morning Herald, were not an authorised part of MySchool, more like its bastard child.

MySchool helpfully compares individual school results on national literacy and numeracy (NAPLAN) tests to the Australian average and a group of “statistically similar” schools. It was the media that took the next obvious step of producing league tables ranking schools.

Many of the 1.4 million visits to MySchool in its first four days were due to teams of journalists and support staff making thousands of repeat visits to strip out its NAPLAN data to create their league tables.

While the MySchool website will be back in 2011, possibly with enhanced features that will be welcomed by parents, a new round of league tables may not be possible.

The website changes, should they not be stopped, could mean attempts to collect the data in 2011 for league tables will now take weeks or months of commitment, possibly putting their creation beyond the resource availability media organisations.

The tables were an extraordinary tearing to shreds of the secrecy shroud that hid the vast differences in the performance of individual schools based on national tests and between private and public systems.

As popular as the league tables were with parents, they also enraged teachers unions and the public school lobby which saw them as the education equivalent to opening the gates of hell.

Australian Education Union federal president Angelo Gavrielatos said that the league tables were based on “simplistic” data that was highly damaging to individual schools, teachers and students.

It was never publicly stated, but there was a fear in the public school lobby the rankings might further encourage the flight to private schools.

Following threats of industrial action to stop the next round of NAPLAN tests going ahead in May, Ms Gillard appointed a working party of teacher unions, school representatives, academics and professionalised parent groups, to respond to their concerns about use of NAPLAN data.

That working party has already reported back to the national education watchdog, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), with a list of technological proposals to prevent league tables when MySchool 2.0 is launched in 2011.

The ACARA media unit has confirmed that work is progressing on making the NAPLAN data much more difficult to strip out of the MySchool website next year.

Under one likely change, anyone logging on to check a school in 2011 will be confronted by a lengthy “click wrap” of up-front terms of conditions banning commercial use of the data they must formally agree to every time they log in, slowing down all access to a crawl.

A letter by ACARA chief executive Peter Hill, dated June 21, outlines options for changes to the 2011 MySchool website to “address” concerns expressed by the Australian Education Union and other groups.

Along with other recommendations, like adding information on funding sources, the document states that “Ministers have endorsed” investigating “action to minimise misuse” of the information on MySchool. It is clearly stated that ministers had endorsed the working party presenting “ways of deterring or preventing automatic scraping of data from the website”.

A final decision on the measures would be presented to a ministerial council of education ministers in August and October.

Australian Parents Council Executive Director Ian Dalton, a member of the appointed working party, said technical changes would stop “unauthorised usage” of MySchool data next year. Mr Dalton could not say whether the changes would prevent league tables, although he said it was important “to stop publishing data that misrepresented information included on the MySchool website”.

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Simon Crean, Ms Gillard’s replacement, would not comment on the proposal, referring all questions to ACARA.

Despite the move towards blocking league tables, there is strong evidence that the publication of league tables in NSW was handled sensibly by parents. There were no walk outs from schools that performed poorly, or any immediate flight to private schools.

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act 1989 from the Department of Education and Training on enrolment changes on all schools between the period January 27 to February 28, 2010 showed no unusual enrolment changes compared to the same period in 2009.

Among those placed near bottom of league tables, Airds High School had more students withdraw in the 2009 period than in the 2010 period after My School was available and league tables were published. The school had 24 students leave in 2010 compared to 51 in 2009.

Another struggling performer, Lurnea High School had 84 students leave in 2010, compared to 100 in 2009, while another high school that was placed low in tables, Chifley College, Bidwill, had 52 enrolment withdrawals, down from 60 last year.

As well as no evidence of walkouts from individual schools, there was also no evidence of a flight from public to private schools. The documents showed there were 23,570 students who left the NSW public school system, about 2000 fewer than the same period in 2009.

But there were some parents who did react. Mum Gaynor Reid admits she quickly changed the kindergarten enrolment of her daughter Kiara Inman-Ried from Fort Street Public to Paddington Public after examining the MySchool website the night before. Fort Street recorded results below the average of schools in the inner city area in the NAPLAN test areas, so she contacted Paddington public immediately the next morning.

Ms Reid, a public relations manager with a large hotel group, even had to borrow a school uniform from a friend for the new school. “We literally had to change that very day. We had already bought the uniform for Fort Street and Kiara had even done an orientation and met a ‘buddy’ to look out for her,’’ Ms Read said.


Panic! Mt Everest is melting! Australia's public broadcasater says so

Except that they have no evidence for the claim

In early June we requested ABC substantiate claims it made in its report titled, Melting ice making Everest climbs dangerous, that: "Studies show temperatures are rising faster at Mount Everest than in the rest of South Asia." We requested ABC provide details of the studies. ABC have now replied with the following (the full reply is shown with the original post):

Received 2 August 2010

"On receipt of your complaint, we have investigated whether it could be established that a significant error had been made that warranted correction, as required by section 5.2.2(c)(ii) of the ABC’s Editorial Policies. Audience and Consumer Affairs note that studies do appear to show temperatures are rising faster at Mount Everest than in the rest of South Asia, as illustrated in Table 10.2 of the Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007. See here

In view of this, we are unable to conclude that a significant error has been made which warrants correction. However, should you have specific further information which you feel is relevant to our decision on this point, we would be happy to consider it."
We have sent ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs the following email:

The ABC report states: "Studies show temperatures are rising faster at Mount Everest than in the rest of South Asia." You have now provided the IPCC table 10.2 as a reference for this information, however for South Asia this table indicates temperature rise in Sri Lanka at "2C increase per year in central highlands " while the annual increase for the Himalaya is given as "0.09C per year in Himalayas".

Clearly the values for Sri Lanka greatly exceed those of the Himalaya, and Sri Lanka, not the Himalaya, is the area where temperatures are rising faster in South Asia. Clearly both trends are also worthy of further journalistic inquiry for if continued both would greatly exceed IPCC forecasts.

Table 10.2 can be viewed directly here

We wait ABC's reply. In the meantime we are investigating the source of the warming trends proposed for the Himalayas cited by the IPCC. The three references provided for the Himalaya trends in Table 10.2 are as follows...

Strangely and contrary to IPCC practice, only one of these is peer reviewed and it deals with precipitation, not temperature; the other citations are conference presentations. The actual temperature values quoted in the table originate from the following paper:

Shrestha, Arun B.; Wake, Cameron P.; Mayewski, Paul A.; Dibb, Jack E.. Maximum Temperature Trends in the Himalaya and Its Vicinity: An Analysis Based on Temperature Records from Nepal for the Period 1971--94. Journal of Climate, 9/1/99, Vol. 12 Issue 9 pp:2775-2786

This paper makes for interesting reading. It appears that the stations used to calculate Himalayan trends come from east Nepal and on face value these do not appear to confirm the warming trends claimed.... the closest weather station to Mt Everest used in the Shrestha et al 1999 paper is Chialsa, 59 km away. ABC's claims that "Studies show temperatures are rising faster at Mount Everest than in the rest of South Asia" are based on a study that has no data at Mt Everest!

More HERE (See the original for links, graphics etc.)

4 August, 2010

Rudd went to a PRIVATE hospital for his procedure

Another Leftist hypocrite. Leftists routinely glorify socialized medicine -- but only for "the masses". Britain's "Red Queen" in the 60s was Barbara Castle, a minister in Harold Wilson's Labour government. She was famous for saying that it was "obscene" for anybody to "carve their way to a hospital bed with a chequebook". But what did she do when her son got sick? Being very well-paid as a government minister, she got him admitted to a private hospital, of course, under a false name. Rudd could hardly hide his identity, however

KEVIN RUDD spent a restless night after his release from hospital, his wife Therese Rein said yesterday. But at least the former prime minister was able to get prompt attention.

Nearly 50,000 people in Australia had their gall bladder removed last year and - apparently unlike Mr Rudd - most of them had to wait. The average time on a public hospital waiting list was 47 days, while one in 10 waited six months. In NSW, one in 50 endured intermittent symptoms for a year.

But Michael Bickford, a Melbourne surgeon who specialises in upper gastrointestinal conditions, said about 20 per cent of cases came on suddenly with severe pain that required urgent surgery - and such people were usually operated on promptly regardless of them having private health insurance....

The average hospital stay is 1.5 days in private hospitals and two days in the public system. Mr Rudd had exceeded this in his Thursday-to-Monday stay at the Mater Private Hospital in Brisbane.

But Mr Bickford said those with more sudden onset gall bladder problems might need more recuperation time, often with an extra day or two of intravenous antibiotics to damp down any residual infection.

The operation, which Mr Rudd in common with most patients had using the laparoscopic - or keyhole - technique, is one of the commonest procedures in Australia. One in 500 people undergoes it every year, on a par with hernia repair and haemorrhoid excision.


Doctors threaten to walk over 'bullying'

Queensland Health is a bureaucratic quagmire with more "administrators" than doctors and nurses. And far from all that "administering" doing any good, it just stultifies everything, including patient care. The system was set up in 1944 so has had over 60 years of bureaucratic metastasization. It's exactly the mess that you would expect from that

DOCTORS are threatening to abandon Queensland's public hospitals, fed up with the "bullying" tactics of Queensland Health.

More than 60 of the state's most senior doctors - Visiting Medical Officers (VMOs) - will quit the public health system unless Queensland Health urgently addresses their concerns, said the chairman of the Australian Medical Association Queensland's VMO committee, Dr Ross Cartmill.

"The resignations will throw whole departments at our major hospitals into chaos, especially orthopaedics, ear, nose and throat, urology and plastic and reconstructive surgery," he said. "I actually believe some of these will have to close.

"The majority of surgery in our public hospitals is performed by VMOs, the fact they have been treated with such disdain by Queensland Health is a scandal," Dr Cartmill said. "Many VMOs have indicated they are ready to resign and believe many more will follow them out the door."

Dr Cartmill said VMOs are ready to resign as the VMO agreement with Queensland Health expired more than 18 months ago. "Essentially we have had VMOs working without the certainty of an agreement with Queensland Health for 18 months, but enough is enough," he said.

"VMOs in South East Queensland will resign in support of their colleagues who treat patients and teach junior doctors in regional and rural locations such as Mt Isa on behalf of Queensland Health."


Father fined for confronting child's bully

What are you supposed to do when your kid is bullied at school? The schools and the police are useless. Kids have been killed because handwringing is all that schools do about bullying

An Ipswich dad has been fined $300 for confronting bullies who relentlessly teased his daughter at school.

Ipswich Magistrates Court was told the man's daughter had been teased at her school after she was scarred in an accident.

But the 34-year-old father, who had no previous criminal history, took matters into his own hands after he saw his daughter's tormentor at a shopping centre.

Prosecutor Senior Constable Adam McDonald said the man grabbed the bully by his shirt and said, "If you touch my daughter again I'll kill you".

The juvenile then went to Karana Downs police station to complain about the assault.


A Damascene conversion for the Australian Labor Party?

How come the centralizers have discovered decentralization?

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard might describe herself as an atheist. But yesterday's speech arguing that principals and parents should be given the freedom to manage their own schools represents a road-to-Damascus experience when it comes to empowering school communities.

While the Prime Minister's statement that a re-elected ALP government will work "to ensure that core decisions that make the most difference to student outcomes are devolved to schools" is commendable, Gillard's record as minister for education proves that her epiphany is more about political opportunism than conviction.

It also smacks of catch-up politics when the ALP releases a policy giving principals power over their schools just weeks after the Tony Abbott-led opposition promised to give school leaders control over school infrastructure spending - a policy condemned by federal Education Minister Simon Crean. During Gillard's time in charge of education, even though schools are a state's responsibility and the commonwealth government neither employs teachers nor manages schools, all roads led to Canberra and, as a result, classrooms have been paralysed by a command-and-control model of education.

During her nearly three years in charge of education, Gillard championed a raft of centrally inspired programs involving a national curriculum and assessment regime, national literacy and numeracy testing and a national approach to teacher registration and certification.

It's widely accepted that the Rudd-Gillard education revolution is inflexible and statist in its approach. Not surprisingly, the eminent educationalist Brian Caldwell from the University of Melbourne, gives the education revolution 2/10 for school autonomy and 1/10 for introducing models of innovative school governance. Across Australia, primary as well as secondary principal professional organisations have bemoaned the educational straitjacket being imposed by the ALP's education revolution and called for increased school autonomy.

One cannot but conclude that any Gillard-inspired school autonomy program, not starting until 2012 and only with a sample of schools, will be a Clayton's one. The promise to give school principals and parents freedom and flexibility at the local level amounts to nothing if schools are constrained and shackled by the type of government directives and demands exemplified by the ALP's education revolution.

Best illustrated by the fate of government schools under the Building the Education Revolution fiasco, the result of Gillard's approach is that state schools are denied the power to manage their affairs and tailor programs and initiatives to best suit their needs.

Whereas Catholic and independent schools, given the freedom and flexibility they have, are able to deliver school infrastructure efficiently and economically, government schools have been plagued by dodgy deals, cost over-runs and white elephants.

Yesterday's admission by Gillard that "without control over decision-making, principals are limited in their ability to respond to problems and are impeded in attempts to improve educational outcomes for their students" makes a good deal of sense.

Unfortunately, it comes too late for government schools shackled with useless infrastructure, and cannot absolve her of the failure to give state schools the power to properly implement the BER program over the past two years.

Doubts about yesterday's conversion to school autonomy in the middle of an election campaign, three weeks before judgment day, are reinforced by Gillard's inaction on the issue during her term as minister for education.

Under the Howard government a report was commissioned into school leadership and principal autonomy, undertaken by Educational Transformations and completed in December 2007. The report, based on national and international research, concluded that school autonomy was critical for raising standards, and that Australian principals are concerned about the adverse effect of the centralising of control over education.

Not only did Gillard, while she was minister for education, bury the report for nearly two years, finally releasing it in November 2009, but the Labor government has failed to adopt any of the report's recommendations.

At the 2007 election, the then Rudd opposition promised to give every senior school student a computer and to build a trade centre in every secondary school; neither promise has been fully implemented.

There must also be doubts whether the promise on school autonomy will ever be delivered. As the NSW ALP-led government learned a couple of years ago when it attempted to allow principals to hire and reward staff, the Australian Education Union is vehemently opposed to giving state schools control over their own destiny.

It's no secret that the AEU regularly campaigns in support of the ALP, injecting millions into marginal seats campaigns and funding anti-Coalition advertising. If the ALP is re-elected, it should not be a surprise if the promise to deliver school autonomy is put on the back burner and that it disappears into the byzantine bureaucracy represented by bodies such as the Council of Australian Governments.


"Brown Wash"

"Brown Wash" is a new hate-speech term describing climate skepticism dreamed up by Warmists attached to Australia's Green/Left public broadcaster, the ABC. They say that "Brownwashers" should be prosecuted for fraud.

Such threats seem to have faded away in most of the rest of the world but the mental world of many ABC "intellectuals" still seems to be fixed somewhere in the old East Germany so their polemical primitivism is no great surprise.

My immediate response is "Bring it on". I am sure most skeptics would LOVE to present their case before a court -- where it is evidence, not abuse, that counts.

Meanwhile, however, Jo Nova has some derisive comments on the ABC effusions. See HERE

3 August, 2010

Extremist group hires town hall in Melbourne for rant against Israel and democracy

A VERY strange way for the council to be "vigilant and ensure that our city's facilities are not used to incite violence, racism, sexism or religious intolerance". Just another example of addled-brain Leftism, I guess. Black can be white when required

An extremist Muslim group banned in several countries was cleared by police and a local council to use a town hall to spread its message. The radical Hizb ut-Tahrir - Party of Islamic Liberation - paid Melbourne's Moreland Council $300 to use Brunswick Town Hall for an Israel-bashing conference in which it claimed that armed conflict was a legitimate response to defend the Islamic "caliphate" against the West.

The extremist group has previously said insurgents fighting against Australian and other Coalition troops in Iraq had a "universal right and religious duty". It is banned in Russia, Germany, China, Egypt and Jordan as an organisation capable of inciting terrorism.

Just last month the controversial group sparked protests when they held a meeting in Sydney urging all Muslims to shun democracy.

However Moreland chief executive Peter Brown yesterday defended his council's decision to allow the conference to go ahead, arguing Hizb ut-Tahrir was not banned in Australia. Mr Brown said the council supported cultural and religious inclusiveness.

Hizb ut-Tahrir's mantra is "democracy is a bankrupt and irrational idea" and "all indicators are pointing to the decline and inevitable collapse of Western ideology".

ASIO and some other Western spy agencies have advised that banning the group would drive supporters further underground. About 40 people attended Sunday's meeting, including three community policing officers and an Australian Federal Police agent.

Mr Brown said he was advised by police last week that Hizb ut-Tahrir presented no security risk. "Council's decision to accept the booking came after receiving advice from the Australian Federal Police and Victoria Police that the group was not a threat and was not banned," Mr Brown said.

"This decision is based on our strong belief in political and religious freedom but council will remain vigilant and ensure that our city's facilities are not used to incite violence, racism, sexism or religious intolerance. "Our ethos is 'One community proudly diverse', and with that we welcome political debate. But we will always protect that in the process, all of our residents are treated with the respect that makes Moreland a great place to live."

Moreland councillor Lambros Tapinos said he voted against the group using the town hall on the basis its message could breach discrimination or race hate laws.

Hizb ut-Tahrir's Australian headquarters released a statement about the conference under the title "Israel is an occupation that must be reversed". "The Islamic solution to any unjust military occupation is for that occupation to be repelled and reversed . . . be it in Palestine, Chechnya, Kashmir, or elsewhere," it said, adding that Islam was not against Jews.

"Islam is a message directed to all humankind, without distinction of race or ethnicity. "There is no room for anti-Semitism or any other form of racism in Islam. In Palestine, Islam is in conflict with 'Israelis' not in their capacity as Jews, but in their capacity as occupiers and aggressors."


Leftist workplace laws an expensive legal headache for small and medium sized businesses

BRUCE Young has had to pay his lawyer $40,000 in the past six years to make sure his staff are paid correctly. His company, Speedwell eBusiness Solutions, like many others have been forced to renegotiate staff contracts with the aid of legal professionals twice since the introduction of WorkChoices in 2006.

Mr Young said the single biggest issue his business faced was paying legal fees to ensure staff were being paid under the correct award. "We had to pay our lawyer $20,000 when WorkChoices came in and we have had to pay another $20,000 since the new system has been put in," he said.

"For big business it's not an issue because they all have in-house counsel, but smaller businesses can't afford to keep shelling out for legal advice because the system is so complicated.

"They have tried to make it simpler but it's nowhere near good enough. Even the government helplines set up to address this problem can't tell us what award some of our staff are meant to be on."

Mr Young said he still planned to expand his Brisbane-based business into Sydney and Melbourne but he needs stability in the industrial relations system to execute his plans. "We just need time to sit, pause and catch up and figure out where everybody stands," he said. "We need certainty about IR laws more than anything else."

The CEO Institute, a business think tank, has conducted a survey that found the federal election is tipped to be the biggest downside risk to Queensland businesses this year, followed by the proposed mineral resources rent tax. The survey also showed that only 58 per cent of executives believed that the economy was heading in the right direction, down from 82 per cent last quarter.

CEO Institute Queensland director Sue Forrester said the poll taken in July shows Queensland executives are not as bullish as three months ago. "Issues CEOs faced during the global financial crisis have resurged," she said. "It was not mentioned directly six months ago, but is now a significant concern for our members."

The only bright spot in the survey showed that 61 per cent of businesses trading in Queensland expect to invest more and employ more people in the next six months.

Even larger companies that responded they would be looking to hire and invest in the coming months said they were concerned about complying with industrial relations laws. Mining services provider Industrea Ltd's chief executive Robin Levison said compliance measures were becoming worse each year.

"Even for larger companies one of the biggest problems is the time it takes to make sure all your staff, especially those in different states, are all under the correct award," he said. "Year on year there is just more and more red tape for businesses. I just can't figure out who benefits from it."

Mr Levison said the handling of the resource super profit tax, before the new negotiated package was agreed to, tarnished Australia's reputation to international investors. "(The RSPT) continued to erode confidence in Australia's governance measures from our international investors," he said.

Despite losing some confidence in the direction of the Australian economy, Mr Levison said Industrea planned to invest in new equipment and staff to continue expanding into overseas markets, such as China. "We are a little bit removed from all the noise about the Australian economy because a lot of our growth markets, particularly in mining safety services are in emerging economies," he said.

The drop in confidence about the strength of the Australian economy comes at a time when international businesses are worrying about a prolonged double-dip recession in either Europe or America.

According to research recently published by The Economist, nearly one-third of international businesses believe a double-dip recession in western economies is the most likely risk to profitability.


Let juries hear ALL the evidence? Preposterous!

JURIES would be allowed to hear the past convictions of some accused criminals under a groundbreaking [South Australian] State Government proposal. Attorney-General John Rau will today begin seeking the opinions of the judiciary and the criminal legal profession over an election promise to amend the 1921 Evidence Act.

He said the draft Bill would allow juries to hear similar fact evidence, propensity evidence and evidence of uncharged acts "in appropriate cases".

But members of the legal profession have questioned the need for change. Critics say the proposal could undermine the basis of the legal system - the presumption of innocence at trial - and unfairly influence a jury. Mr Rau said the existing Evidence Law was confusing.

He said the Government's proposed changes would better guide judges on when it would be appropriate for a jury to hear about an accused person's criminal past. "Serious criminals, particularly those who have a history of violence, or are child-sex offenders or internet predators, should have to account to a court for their past actions and behaviour, particularly when there is a clear pattern of offending relevant to that case," Mr Rau said.

Currently, juries only hear evidence of prior similar offences when a judge rules its value significantly outweighs the risk of any prejudice to the accused.

Mr Rau said the change would provide clarity about when that information should be put before the court. "It is clear that there are some limited occasions when I believe it is right that past offending and behaviour of a defendant should be heard by a jury, because that behaviour is so clearly relevant to the case which is being tried," Mr Rau said. He said the change could lead to more guilty pleas and help reduce the backlog of cases piling up before the District Court.

Former Director of Public Prosecutions Paul Rofe said that, in his experience, existing evidence laws were adequate. "With competent judges and counsel the law works," Mr Rofe said. Allowing juries to hear evidence of earlier crimes would "skew the whole process", he said. "You should be able to get a conviction based on the evidence of the alleged incident and why the person was charged in the first place without resorting to past history."

Civil libertarian George Mancini questioned the need for any amendment to the Act. "It may not reflect any great need or community concern or demand for change," Mr Mancini said. "The Government has to be seen to be doing something."

He said SA's laws were in line with the rest of the nation and it was only in "extremely rare" circumstances that an accused person's criminal past was put before a jury.

Law Society president Richard Mellows said he would be apprehensive about changes which would remove an accused person's presumption of innocence at trial. "We want everyone who has committed a crime to be brought to justice, but we want to make sure everyone gets a fair trial," he said. "It's important a case is decided not on someone's record, but on the evidence in relation to the alleged crime before the court."

Criminal defence lawyer Craig Caldicott said the proposed changes were "fraught with danger". "Even with the best will in the world, jurors might have undue regard for a prior conviction and decide a person's guilt or innocence on something that might have happened in the past," Mr Caldicott said. "It could lead to wrongful convictions." [No problem that the present system leads to wrongful exonerations?]

A spokeswoman for Opposition Leader Isobel Redmond said the Liberal Party would support a proposal clarifying the laws, if properly examined. "There needs to be close examination of how that would be done and of the nature and crimes it would apply to," she said.


Julia the non-marionette

She seems to be selling herself rather than her policies. What is she? A lady of the night?

The Prime Minister declares that she's unleashing "the real Julia" and taking "personal charge" of the campaign. Which raises the questions: "Who, precisely, have we been seeing? And who has been running the campaign up to now?

Clearly Gillard has looked too confected, and her pitch in the first fortnight sounded too scripted. But the adjustment needed to be more subtle than the PM taking up a foghorn to announce she'd been acting a part in someone else's play. "I think it's time for me to make sure that the real Julia is well and truly on display. So I'm going to step up and take personal charge of what we do in the campaign from this point", she told News Ltd newspapers.

It makes her sound shrill, and invites concerns about why she has apparently allowed people to persuade her to be other than herself. Gillard leaves the impression that unknown forces have had her tied up as a sort of political prisoner.

This line feeds back into the worries about her being installed in the leadership by factional leaders. It could add to the unease some voters feel about the way in which Kevin Rudd was unceremoniously ousted.

One of Gillard's problems has been her difficulty in defining herself to the voters. It's hard for her to look back to the Rudd government, and she hasn't put out much of a new story for the future. Getting the government "back on track" has involved patch ups on the mining tax, asylum seekers and climate change. Now she is suggesting that she personally was subject to a patch up too. And that it didn't work and now she's scraping the varnish off and getting back to the basic Gillard.

The "real Julia" also seems to need someone to punch, apart from Tony Abbott. She is reportedly "absolutely ready" for a fight against the education unions over a proposal she has to give school principals more power. Oh, and the "real Julia" has a few nice words to say about John Howard's "even demeanour" and "commonsense approach". "I'm somewhat of an even-tempered and commonsense approach too", she said.

This week, Labor is attempting to shine the spotlight on Abbott — the contradictions he's had in in his positions on issues like climate change, industrial relations, and parental leave. It wants to talk up Abbott as a risk. By having the debate focus on the "real Julia", however, Labor once again lessens the attention on the opposition leader and keeps it, quizzically, on Gillard.

Clearly Gillard and the Labor campaigners are panicking in the face of the polls (both Nielsen and Newspoll) showing the government staring defeat in the face. But to announce her change of tactics so dramatically puts that panic on far too obvious display.


2 August, 2010

Australia's public broadcaster (The ABC) censors criticism of "indigenous" complaint

The article below is amusing in a number of ways. For a start there are NO Aborigines left in Tasmania. Some Tasmanians have a slight degree of Aboriginal ancestry resulting from mixed marriages in the early days but the original Tasmanian Aborigines were an exceptionally isolated race so were wiped out long ago by the diseases that white men brought with them. So-called Aboriginal spokesman Mansell had blond hair in his youth. He is no blacker than I am. He just exploits his slight degree of Aboriginal ancestry to get attention.

And one of the things he is objecting to is the loss of a "midden". A midden is a rubbish dump, usually containing animal bones and the shells of shellfish and very little else. It is however true that their rubbish dumps are about all that Tasmanian Aborigines left behind them so it is not at all clear what other relics of their presence Mansell wants preserved.

But the most amusing thing about the article below is how the ABC treated comments on it. The article was sympathetic to the Aboriginal complaint perspective but the responses from the “general public” were in general anything but! Those responses were obviously not what was expected or desired by the Left-leaning ABC so comments were rapidly closed off. First comment was at 8:13am, last comment at 9:11 am. Often controversial topics have pages of comments before they are closed

Indigenous activists have criticised the United Nations for placing Australia's convict sites on the World Heritage List. UNESCO has announced that 11 sites, including Port Arthur, Hyde Park Barracks and Fremantle Prison, should be preserved because of their "outstanding universal value".

Australia already has 17 World Heritage areas, but only two are buildings.

The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre says UNESCO should not list any more "white Australian" sites while Aboriginal history is being neglected and destroyed.

But UNESCO says the sites are the best surviving examples of large-scale convict transportation and the colonial expansion of European powers through the presence and labour of prisoners.

Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre legal director Michael Mansell has written to UNESCO asking it not to approve Australia's nomination due to the involvement of the Tasmanian Government.

Mr Mansell says it's hypocritical for Tasmania to seek heritage protection for European sites when it destroyed an Aboriginal midden to build a prison wall.


Big delays in providing relief to overstretched Queensland hospital facilities

They have such a huge army of health bureaucrats to support that patients come a bad second

A RAFT of key public hospital projects across the state have suffered delays. Health Minister Paul Lucas has known for months hospital emergency departments in Logan, Bundaberg and Toowoomba were facing delays.

A cloud has also been cast over regional aged-care facilities, while maternity and outreach services are also under threat due to recruitment challenges.

Queensland Health only decided to announce the changes late on Friday afternoon after The Sunday Mail uncovered the issues with Right To Information laws.

A Ministerial Charter of Goals, provided to Mr Lucas and dated March 31 this year, shows an expansion of the Bundaberg Hospital ED was supposed to have been finished by March next year. However, the document says the project will now not be finished until mid-2011 after rescoping and funding problems because Labor's promise at the last election fell short.

"Allocation of $4 million as announced at the election is insufficient and fell short," the brief says. "Two million dollars in savings from the Sunshine Coast Additional Beds Project have been allocated."

Logan Hospital was supposed to have extra ED adult treatment bays built by last month. But the document says the new facilities had been delayed until mid-2012, after it was discovered the adult bays must be completed concurrently with the paediatric section.

The Toowoomba Hospital ED was due to be completed in December this year, but Mr Lucas was asked to approve a later date of May next year.

Parklands aged-care facility in Townsville was supposed to have 30 rehabilitation or step-down beds by next year, but the document raised problems about transferring bed licences. The document said outreach services in Yeppoon and Mt Morgan would also be delayed due to recruitment problems.

Recruitment problems threatened a Longreach maternity service starting this month.

A Queensland Health spokeswoman said several projects were rescoped due to extra funding. Some districts blamed bad weather for the delays.


Victorian police goons kill man

Several Victorian police are likely to face criminal charges over the treatment and subsequent death of a man after he was released from Dandenong police station this year. The 53-year-old Chinese man died at Dandenong Hospital about 11.40am on May 13, some 15 hours after being discharged from the police station.

The Age understands homicide squad investigators have seized video footage from outside the station that shows about five police dumping the visibly ill man in a puddle upon his release while the temperature was about 12 degrees and raining.

It shows the officers standing over the man laughing and gloating about the state he was in and some policewomen can also be seen holding their noses because of the stench caused by the man soiling himself while in custody.

One of the officers is believed to have brought a police divvy van from the back of the station so she could sit inside with the heater on and continue watching the man lying on the ground. He died of what is believed to have been hypothermia.

His death was made public two weeks later by an interpreter who had been called to the station after the man was locked up for drunkenness about 3.20pm. She said when she arrived about 7.45pm and looked into his cell, he had soiled himself and she saw "blood everywhere". She said he had begged police to take him to hospital or get medical help, but they repeatedly ignored him.

The interpreter, known only as Jay Jay, said police told her "he was dying anyway".

Police have confirmed they have CCTV footage from inside the station that shows the man crawling from his cell bleeding and in agony. When paramedics arrived about 9pm, they found the man conscious, bleeding and breathing rapidly.

Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius said at the time there was no evidence the man had suffered any physical trauma due to mishandling or use of force by police. He added that it appeared the man had died because of "a long-standing and pre-existing medical condition", believed to be cirrhosis.

Mr Cornelius said the officer "ultimately accountable" for custody at Dandenong station had been switched to other duties, and further disciplinary action would be decided by the head of the Ethical Standards Department, who is overseeing the investigation, pending the outcome of the investigation.

The Age has been told that criminal charges are being considered for those involved, with manslaughter yet to be ruled out. Some police could also be sacked for their involvement.


The "Women’s Weekly" spread on Julia Gillard

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard does not wear the Cheryl Kernot red boa. Nor does she pose in the louche style once assumed by the former Democrat leader turned Labor MP when she was favoured by a spread in Women’s Weekly, back in March, 1998. Instead, Gillard opted for a conservative jacket-and-pearls look for the interview and five-hour photo shoot.

The timing is interesting. Gillard’s glamfest took place after she had axed prime minister Kevin Rudd and before she called the election.

Unfortunately, events have overtaken the opening paragraphs in which author Bryce Corbett says Gillard is “fresh from announcing a new asylum seeker policy [a proven disaster], and only days after brokering a mining tax resolution [which applies to only three foreign-based companies]”. It’s a series of statements at which an astute reader could only laugh.

Women’s Weekly, trying to hold up its flagging 500,000 circulation, is hoping for a 50,000-plus bump in sales with the Gillard cover, and to re-establish the magazine’s brand. Whether it will help the Labor Party’s tarnished brand is another thing.

According to Treasury figures released this week, the Labor Government expects to borrow about $120 million a day over the coming year, a massive amount which can’t help but increase upward pressure on the daily cost of living.

Speaking of Labor and tarnished brands, Kernot - who, in her brief moment as a media darling, was actually touted as prime ministerial material - revealed herself to be a whining loser unhappy about the seat (Dickson, Qld) the ALP had given her when she ratted out the Democrats. A seat she was to lose to the Liberals’ Peter Dutton, whose record as a police officer she had attempted to smear.

Gillard was most supportive when times were tough, Kernot told the Weekly. And times were never tougher for Kernot than when foreign affairs Minister Gareth Evans, who wooed her into ditching the Dems and joining the ALP, was revealed to be her secret lover.

Gillard had her own affair with front-bench colleague Craig Emerson, a married father of three, but both have now drawn a curtain over that two-year relationship.

In the current article, Ms Gillard is portrayed as a giggly but capable woman who has bet the house that Australians will not be troubled by her decision not to have children, her relationships and her current de facto status, focusing solely on her role as a politician.

But we have also learnt, courtesy of leaks from a Cabinet colleague, that as a politician Gillard questioned Labor’s paid parental leave scheme and pension rises at the same time the failed green loans scheme, the lethal pink batts program and the wasteful school building policy were approved.

Indeed, it is difficult not to conclude that Gillard has spent an inordinate amount of time with journalists presenting herself in the most favourable light.

Her self-promotional efforts includes glowing spreads in Vive (Feb-March 2006), The Bulletin (Jan 23, 2007), Women’s Weekly (April, 2007), The Australian Magazine (July 7-8, 2007), and a series of television specials while she was second-in-charge of the dysfunctional Rudd government. Not bad for a woman who told The Sunday Telegraph (April 1, 2007) that “she is frustrated that so much time is spent on her look and image rather than the things she really cares about like climate change and education.”

Like glimpses of the Gillard cleavage, climate change has been all-but airbrushed from her pre-election publicity.

Conscious that expensive clothing might not impress every Women’s Weekly reader, Gillard told the ABC’s Madonna King this week that she was not “a big time, you know, fashionista, in that sense. I, you know, view myself as someone who works and I wear the clothes that are appropriate to the work that I do, so I took that perspective”.

Which might have stunned readers of the Vive article for which she wore a Giorgio Armani black suit valued at $3000, an Emporio Armani white shirt ($440), Chloe black suede stilettos ($745) and a pair of Monteperla golden pearl earrings ($11,000). That’s a total of about $15,185 worth of clobber - the equivalent of 43 1/2 weeks’ pension. Not bad for a small-time fashionista.

Gillard (and Kernot) might have considered the following Frank Loesser lines from Guys and Dolls:

Take back your mink

Take back your pearls

What made you think

That I was one of those girls?

Exactly what sort of a girl Gillard is may be a little clearer for some. She is a person who decided at the age of 16 that she would not have children because being a mother would be incompatible with the power career she wanted for herself, a woman who desperately attempts to portray herself as a capable Cabinet Minister but who has been exposed as an incompetent, a person for whom power is all.

Perhaps many women voters will get their political insights from reading candidates’ profiles in the glossies, and it might unfortunately be that a number of those women believe that the feminist cause has been served by Gillard’s ascension, ignoring the reality that the overwhelming majority of plotters who handed her the prime ministership were men, and many were not even Members of Parliament.

The sisterhood has always been delusional and hypocritical, as is obvious from its reluctance to make any statements about the subjugation of women in societies which have adopted Islamic sharia law.

While a Gillard cover may be a publisher’s dream, even Gillard’s most ardent supporters realise the irony of her promotion in the Women’s Weekly, a mag feminists used to use as an example of everything wrong about the treatment of women in Australia.

The article is supposed to be about Gillard but voters would have learnt more from any one of the shadowy factional bosses and trade union chiefs who organised her rise to power.

Gillard is a product, just like the Women’s Weekly. Woolworths addresses this marketing exercise honestly and will throw in a “free” umbrella if you buy the magazine at one of their stores. It comes without any guarantees, however. Just like Julia Gillard.


1 August, 2010

An affirmative action disaster

There was no way Christine Nixon was the most qualified for the top police job. And it eventually showed. When there was a desperate need for a firm co-ordinating hand she didn't have a clue. Had she been a real leader she could have pulled all the other slack b*stards into gear. But there was basically no-one minding the shop -- so people died, many probably needlessly. When it comes to jobs, people should be judged on their competence -- not what they've got between their legs

FORMER police commissioner Christine Nixon apologised unreservedly yesterday for her bungled performance on Black Saturday after the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission lambasted her "hands-off approach".

The commission's final report delivered a damning appraisal of Ms Nixon's willingness to claim responsibility as chief commissioner and co-ordinator of the State Emergency Response Plan on February 7 last year. It described her leadership as "inadequate".

The report was highly critical of Ms Nixon's decision to leave the Emergency Co-ordination Centre at 6pm, return home and go out to dinner with friends rather than stay and lead an offensive against the fiercest fires to strike the state.

"It is not satisfactory that at this time - when she was aware of the potential for disaster and, in fact, while the magnitude of the disaster was becoming apparent with confirmation of fatalities - Ms Nixon was absent," it said. "On a day when conditions were predicted, and then proved, to be worse than Ash Wednesday, something more was required."

The report said Ms Nixon's approach to emergency co-ordination and the manner in which she acted "left much to be desired". It also expressed "dismay" at her approach in giving evidence before the royal commission, describing parts of her testimony as "inaccurate and incomplete", but found that she "did not intentionally mislead it".

Ms Nixon yesterday accepted the findings and was sorry and sympathetic to fire victims still trying to piece their lives back together. "The commission says on that day I should have stayed and I agree," she said. "They say that I should have been more active on that day and I agree."

Ms Nixon said she felt responsibility for what happened on the day. "I think back, was there something I could have done differently that may have saved people and I don't think there was but I've certainly learnt a lot from it," she said.

Asked if she would act differently if she had her time over she said: "I think all of us would do everything differently."

Ms Nixon was not the only leader to receive scathing criticism from the report. It found former CFA chief Russell Rees and DSE chief fire officer Ewan Waller relegated responsibility and did not do enough to warn communities about the firestorm heading their way.

The report said Mr Rees and Mr Waller were not fully across details of the deadly fires, did not personally map or monitor them and failed to seize responsibility.

Alarmingly, the report revealed Mr Rees did not speak to the incident controller of any of the major fires. "He therefore remained operationally removed from the fires and, as a result, was not in a position to appreciate the deficiencies in the staffing and expertise of some incident management teams," it said.

"Mr Rees did not review the warnings being issued for the Kilmore East fire despite the fire's obviously disastrous potential. "He did not review any predictive maps for any of the fires and would therefore not have been in a position - even had he reviewed the warnings being issued - to assess whether it was appropriate to warn the communities in the predicted fire path."

The report found "a disturbing tendency among senior fire agency personnel - including the chief officers - to consistently allocate responsibility further down the chain of command".

"Although the chief officer of the CFA and the chief fire officer of the DSE were undoubtedly in command of the resources in their respective agencies, neither was directly controlling the response to any of the fires," it said.

The report concluded that Mr Rees and Mr Waller should have done more to issue warnings, support incident management teams and institute statewide planning. "To the extent that they relied on their subordinates to perform these tasks, this reliance was ineffective," it said.

CFA chief Mick Bourke refused to comment directly about the criticism levelled at Mr Rees or reveal where he was yesterday, but said the report would be a "catalyst for change".

The commission found Police Minister Bob Cameron "acted properly" before and during the fires, but said he should have raised the option of declaring a state of disaster with Premier John Brumby.

Though she admitted to a lack of leadership on Black Saturday, Ms Nixon hoped her poor performance on that day would not overshadow her previous eights years as chief commissioner. "I hope that the community, when they do get a chance to read this in more detail, takes note of what the commission has had to say," she said.

"They certainly suggest that I should have done things differently and that's certainly part of it, but I think you have to judge a person's behaviour in the context of all of the things they have ever done as a leader."


Secular attempt to dictate religion

Creationism is a historic Christian doctrine so Christian parents have every right to have their kids taught about it. If they don't want to have their kids taught about it, nobody is telling them that they have to. It's not "hijacking" anything to teach the doctrines of your faith.

Kids have all the rest of their school time to hear the evolutionist side of the story so what is so bad about a different view being given at least some exposure? Where is the "tolerance" and respect for "diversity" among those who oppose it?

I am an atheist but I sent my son to a Catholic school precisely because I wanted him to hear the other side of the story. He seems to have emerged unharmed from the experience and in fact enjoyed his religion lessons at the time. So it is possible to practice tolerance as well as preach it -- JR

Primary school students are being taught that man and dinosaurs walked the Earth together and that there's fossil evidence to prove it.

Fundamentalist Christians are hijacking religious instruction classes despite education experts saying Creationism and attempts to convert children to Christianity have no place in state schools.

Students have been told Noah collected dinosaur eggs to bring on the Ark, and Adam and Eve were not eaten by dinosaurs because they were under a protective spell.

Critics are calling for the RI program to be scrapped after claims emerged Christian lay people are feeding children misinformation.

About 80 per cent of children at state primary schools attend one half-hour instruction a week, open to any interested lay person to conduct. Many of the instructors are from Pentecostal churches.

Education Queensland is aware that Creationism is being taught by some religious instructors, but said parents could opt out.

Australian Secular Lobby president Hugh Wilson said children were ostracised and discriminated against if they were pulled out of the class. In many cases, the RI lay people were not supervised by teachers. {So...?]

Kings Christian Church youth worker Dustin Bell said he taught "about creation" in Sunshine Coast schools. Set Free Christian Church's Tim McKenzie said when students questioned him why dinosaur fossils carbon dated as earlier than man, he replied that the great flood must have skewed the data.

Queensland Teachers Union president Steve Ryan said teachers were sometimes compelled to supervise the instructors "because of all the fire and brimstone stuff". Mr Ryan said Education Queensland had deemed RI a must-have, though teachers would prefer to spend the time on curriculum.

Buddhist Council of Queensland president Jim Ferguson said he was so disturbed that Creationism was being aired in state school classrooms that he would bring it up at the next meeting of the Religious Education Advisory Committee, part of Education Queensland. He said RI was supposed to be a forum for multi-faith discussion. [Since when?]

Education Queensland assistant director-general Patrea Walton said Creationism was part of some faiths, and therefore was part of some teaching.

New research shows three in 10 Australians believe dinosaurs and man did exist at the same time. The survey, by the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies, shows a "worrying" lack of basic scientific principles.

"The results underscore the need for students to be exposed to science and mathematics through a well resourced education system, rather than learning about science through Jurassic Park," FASTS president Dr Cathy Foley said.

PhD researcher Cathy Byrne found in a NSW-based survey that scripture teachers tended to discourage questioning, emphasised submission to authority and excluded different beliefs. She said 70 per cent of scripture teachers thought children should be taught the Bible as historical fact.

A parent of a Year 5 student on the Sunshine Coast said his daughter was ostracised to the library after arguing with her scripture teacher about DNA.

"The scripture teacher told the class that all people were descended from Adam and Eve," he said. "'My daughter rightly pointed out, as I had been teaching her about DNA and science, that 'wouldn't they all be inbred'? "But the teacher replied that DNA wasn't invented then."

After the parent complained, the girl spent the rest of the year's classes in the library. [That is punishment?? I didn't realize that books are such a bad thing]


Arrogant education bureaucrats upsetting parents in Victoria

PARENTS are losing patience with the failure of some principals and education bureaucrats to resolve festering disputes with schools.

Parents Victoria executive officer Gail McHardy said poor communication from some principals was traumatising mums and dads. "Schools are very quick to slap a trespass order on someone rather than actually deal with the problem, and that's not helpful," she said.

Ms McHardy said that though dispute resolution had vastly improved in the past few years, an independent commissioner was needed to resolve lingering complaints.

"It could be just a personality clash, but then that festers and gets bigger than Ben Hur. And it didn't need be," she said. "Often it's the result of the initial situation not being managed correctly and schools not getting appropriate support, like more welfare officers."

Cases reported to the Herald Sun include that of a Bendigo student who almost died in a car crash and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He was expelled for truancy and, despite intervention by the department, the school will not take him back.

Another mother complained to the ombudsman that an outer western suburbs school, and the department, had failed to properly address bullying of her daughter.

Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals president Brian Burgess said intervention orders against parents were a last resort. "In the main, complaints are handled well. But in a small number of cases we need to make sure that the communication is better and the response timely," he said.

Opposition spokesman Martin Dixon said parents' legitimate complaints were being smothered. Education Minister Bronwyn Pike said parents were given new advice last year on lodging complaints.


A "Green" government that is dangerously reluctant to do backburning

The NSW government is under fire for its "appalling" record on hazard reduction. The opposition said NSW must learn the lessons of the the 900-page Teague report on Victoria's Black Saturday disaster and massively increase backburning efforts in the state.

Opposition spokeswoman for emergency services Melinda Pavey accused the Keneally government of tying up the process of hazard reduction in "green tape". "If we can believe the government's own statistics, on average only around 115,000 hectares of hazard reduction has taken place in each of the past four years, representing a mere 0.4 per cent of fire-prone land in the state annually," Ms Pavey said. Royal commission chairman Bernard Teague said backburning in Victoria must be nearly tripled to bring the total area of public land backburnt to 5 per cent.

Ms Pavey called on the NSW government to increase funds to ensure backburning in NSW could be similarly expanded. "The $17 million the Keneally Labor government spends on hazard reduction each year represents only about 8 per cent of the Rural Fire Service expenses of $220.2 million, which is clearly not enough," she said. "With the smell of an election in the air the state Labor government has been desperately playing catch up during autumn and winter, however wet conditions have delayed this process."

Ms Pavey said there were now significant fuel loads in many areas including the Blue Mountains, central coast, south coast and the Monaro.

Emergency Services Minister Steve Whan said NSW would carefully review the final recommendations of the Teague report, saying the state had already developed strong fire prevention and management practices. "It is important that we now take stock of the events in Victoria and look at opportunities for further improvement as we continue to build on our experience and expertise in bush fire management."

Mr Whan said since Black Saturday NSW had introduced the nationally agreed system of fire danger ratings, which provide clearer information and trigger points for the public before a fire starts. [Big deal!]


Postings from Brisbane, Australia by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.) -- former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party.

For overseas readers: The "ALP" is the Australian Labor Party -- Australia's major Leftist party. The "Liberal" party is Australia's major conservative political party.

Again for overseas readers: Like the USA, Germany and India, Australia has State governments as well as the Federal government. So it may be useful to know the usual abbreviations for the Australian States: QLD (Queensland), NSW (New South Wales), WA (Western Australia), VIC (Victoria), TAS (Tasmania), SA (South Australia).

For American readers: A "pensioner" is a retired person living on Social Security

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

On all my blogs, I express my view of what is important primarily by the readings that I select for posting. I do however on occasions add personal comments in italicized form at the beginning of an article.

I am rather pleased to report that I am a lifelong conservative. Out of intellectual curiosity, I did in my youth join organizations from right across the political spectrum so I am certainly not closed-minded and am very familiar with the full spectrum of political thinking. Nonetheless, I did not have to undergo the lurch from Left to Right that so many people undergo. At age 13 I used my pocket-money to subscribe to the "Reader's Digest" -- the main conservative organ available in small town Australia of the 1950s. I have learnt much since but am pleased and amused to note that history has since confirmed most of what I thought at that early age.

I imagine that the the RD is still sending mailouts to my 1950s address!

I am an army man. Although my service in the Australian army was chiefly noted for its un-notability, I DID join voluntarily in the Vietnam era, I DID reach the rank of Sergeant, and I DID volunteer for a posting in Vietnam. So I think I may be forgiven for saying something that most army men think but which most don't say because they think it is too obvious: The profession of arms is the noblest profession of all because it is the only profession where you offer to lay down your life in performing your duties. Our men fought so that people could say and think what they like but I myself always treat military men with great respect -- respect which in my view is simply their due.

The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody. And I have NO investments in oil companies, mining companies or "Big Pharma"

UPDATE: Despite my (statistical) aversion to mining stocks, I have recently bought a few shares in BHP -- the world's biggest miner, I gather. I run the grave risk of becoming a speaker of famous last words for saying this but I suspect that BHP is now so big as to be largely immune from the risks that plague most mining companies. I also know of no issue affecting BHP where my writings would have any relevance. The Left seem to have a visceral hatred of miners. I have never quite figured out why.

Although I have been an atheist for all my adult life, I have no hesitation in saying that the single book which has influenced me most is the New Testament. And my Scripture blog will show that I know whereof I speak.