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, 2012

Police called to investigate trolls behind Twitter tirade against Charlotte Dawson

This seems more a matter of police negligence than anything else. The law is clear and at least some of the trolls have breached it. Calls for more laws are just an attempt to excuse official negligence by both State and Federal governments

POLICE have been called in to investigate the "trolls" behind the Twitter tirade against TV host Charlotte Dawson that led to the celebrity being admitted to hospital yesterday.

With the Federal Coalition calling for tougher laws on online abuse, NSW Police Minister Mike Gallacher called for trolls to be "dragged out of their mother's basement and put before a court".

Any trolls caught would be prosecuted under the relevant state legislation.

Dawson's case, which saw more than 100 messages of hate aimed at her after she named a Monash University employee who had told her to "go hang yourself", has been referred to NSW police by Mr Gallacher.

Dawson was admitted to hospital early yesterday after police and an ambulance were called to her inner-Sydney residence. A St Vincent's Hospital spokesman said she was expected to remain there last night.

Mr Gallacher said "even a cursory examination of the comments made to Ms Dawson overnight reveals they are clearly offensive to a reasonable person which is the test for any prosecution under Section 474.17 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act".

That section punishes use of a "carriage service" to menace, harass or offend with a maximum three-year jail term.

University of Technology Sydney communications law expert Michael Fraser said those who attacked Dawson had committed criminal acts. "The online world is not above the law," he said.

Still, the Coalition wants reforms that would better protect people from cyber-bullying and harassment. The chairman of its online safety working group, Paul Fletcher, said the "online hate campaign" against Dawson was "shocking" and that "no Australian should ever have to go through something like this".

"The Coalition has been consulting extensively on whether changes to laws are required, with a particular focus on cyber bullying in children and young people," he said. "The sad experience of Charlotte Dawson is another indicator of the importance of a close look at the laws in this area."

Federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy declined to comment.

A spokesman for Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said the trolls' behaviour was reprehensible and had no place in the community.

Many Twitter users set up fake accounts for the purpose of joining the campaign against Dawson.

Her Wikipedia page was edited 44 times yesterday as users with Dawson's best interests at heart fought to remove the cruel and hurtful edits trolls had added to her bio including renaming her as "Charlotte the Harlotte".

Karalee Evans, APAC digital media strategist for creative agency Text 100, said social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook needed to address their operating procedures in dealing with online abuse.


Surrogacy hopes closer

THE dream of starting a family for many Tasmanians unable to conceive a child is one step closer.

The long-awaited Surrogacy Bill to allow couples, including same-sex couples and singles, the ability to enter into surrogacy arrangements legally, was debated in the Upper House of the Tasmanian Parliament last night.

After agreeing to 25 amendments to the Bill, the Upper House has paved the way for the Bill to be passed back to the Lower House to vote on as early as today.

Attorney-General Brian Wightman said last night he was confident the Bill would pass the Lower House with the new amendments.

Murchison Independent MLC Ruth Forrest said last night a lot of work had been done to get the legislation to the present point.

"It has been a real collaborative approach between the Upper and Lower House," she said.

The Bill first passed the Lower House in April 2011 after Labor and the Greens united to defeat more than 10 amendments proposed by the Liberals, which they said would force many who wanted surrogacy underground.

Most of the debate last night centred around amendments, including the requirement for birth mothers to have given birth previously and to be 25 years old at time of the birth.

Without the Bill it is not legal for two parties to enter into a legally binding agreement where a woman could agree to become pregnant and to relinquish the child to those intending to be the child's parents.

The amendment that the birth mothers should have previously given birth to a live child was agreed to all Upper House Members.

But Hobart MLC Rob Valentine and Government Leader in the Upper House Craig Farrell wanted the legal age of the birth mother to be set at 21 not 25.

The proposed new legislation does require the birth mother and the new parents to seek counselling before entering into the agreement.

Tasmania will be the last state to legalise surrogacy.


Phantom Qld. Health employees paid by the state to do nothing

THEY have jobs funded by taxpayers but no actual work to do. More than 400 employees have been discovered on the Queensland Health payroll who do not have designated positions.

The government employees, who have been dubbed "supernumeraries", have been costing Queensland taxpayers almost $30 million a year to do next to nothing at the beleaguered health department.

Many of the permanent employees, dubbed by some as "ghosts who work", have been left without a real role following corporate restructures or finite project funding.

Dozens have even maintained "frontline" staff status after being transferred from clinical positions to policy and project roles.

However, strict industrial relations laws have meant the troubled department was required to retain the workers.

No supernumeraries, who earn on average about $70,000, are believed to have taken the voluntary redundancies offered by the Bligh government.

However, they will now have to find a proper position or face being forced out by the Newman Government.

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg yesterday said the idle employees were a prime example of the "archaic" workplace laws in place.

"There has been a lot of talk about public sector job security," he said. "But I suspect most Queenslanders didn't know that actually extended to paying people whose job had been abolished."

Mr Springborg said if the Government could not find them work, voluntary redundancies would be offered.

"I feel for these employees because it's not their fault they have been left in limbo by the previous government," he said. "But if we can't find meaningful employment where they can use their skills to provide real services, then I will be offering voluntary redundancies."

According to an internal briefing note on the issue, the 409 staff discovered as at July 1 ranged from level 3 operational staff to a senior officer, who earns a six-figure salary.

Of the 409 permanent staff without work, 75 were categorised as "frontline" employees, such as nurses and health practitioners.

"However, this does not mean they are working on frontline roles as they may in fact have held that classification prior to relinquishing their role and may now be working in another capacity," it said.

The internal note said surplus staff with permanent status had often occurred because of "organisational change", where they had relinquished their position by taking extended leave or filled a role where the program funding had finished.

"In such circumstances, the officers have effectively decided that they wish to maintain their permanent employment status but recognise that they do not have a specific claim against a position," the briefing note said.

Eighty of the surplus staff have been found work or quit, leaving the Government with 329 staff in Queensland Health sitting all but idle.


"Asylum" boat survivors taken to Indonesia

Indonesia's search and rescue authority says 54 asylum seekers who were pulled from the water after their boat sank are being transferred to the country's mainland.

Dozens of people are still missing after their boat, bound for Australia, sank near Indonesia's Sunda Strait two days ago. The boat was believed to have up to 150 people on board.

An Australian navy ship and merchant ships rescued the 54 people and found one body yesterday. Three of the survivors have injuries and are in a serious but stable condition.

A senior source for Indonesia's search and rescue authority, Basarnas, has told the ABC of an overnight plan to transfer the survivors from the Australian Navy ship HMAS Maitland to Indonesian authorities. It is understood they are being taken to Merak, in west Java.

In the past, attempts to send survivors back to Indonesia have proven difficult or even failed.

Asylum seekers have protested or threatened self harm in response to being sent back to Indonesia, which is not a party to the refugee convention and detains and deports even recognised refugees.

Four commercial ships and the Australian Navy will continue the search for survivors today.

Jo Meehan from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority says the operation will continue at full scale as it is believed that more survivors can be found.

But she still could not confirm how many are missing. "The only report we have of the number of people on board the boat which was 150 came from the initial distress call that we received early Wednesday morning," she said.

The boat is the fourth known to have sunk on that route to Christmas Island in recent years.

Meanwhile, a customs boat intercepted 31 asylum seekers north of the Cocos Islands overnight. Those on board have been taken to the Cocos Islands and will then be sent to Christmas Island for health, identity and security checks.

The Federal Government has again warned they are at risk of being sent to Nauru or Papua New Guinea for processing.


30 August, 2012

Must not report climate findings without mentioning global warming

In the newspaper report below you will see various mentions of the global warming faith interspersed with some actual research findings. If you look up the actual findings however (Abstract below) you will see that they actually had no data on global warming at all. All they had was inferred data on rainfall derived from Antarctic ice cores covering the last 1000 years.

And what they found was that the climate 1000 years ago was much the same as today, with a slightly rainier period in between. That proves global warming? I would have thought the opposite. One thing it does prove is that you have to bow down before the great Moloch of global warming if you want to do research into climate

NEW research by Antarctic scientists has found the century-long decline in rainfall in eastern Australia is far from a usual event.

Researchers used ice cores drilled from Antarctica to analyse rainfall during the past 1000 years.

They found we are living in drier than average times, in all likelihood because of climate change caused by human activity.

Significantly, though, they also found a similar dry spell in the years 1000-1260 AD.

"There's a bit of research in eastern Australia going on that suggests that rainfall in eastern Australia is declining, probably since the 50s," says glaciologist Dr Tessa Vance, part of a team whose findings have been published in the Journal of Climate.

"But it's a bit hard to tell with short records.

"So this record now says we've got this decline, but it's not only unusual in the last few decades, it's unusual in the last thousand years."

The ice cores contain traces of sea salts deposited by winds in eastern Antarctica that provide the longest rainfall record yet for eastern Australia.

The team, from the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre and the Australian Antarctic Division, attributes both dry spells to stronger or more frequent El Nino events, the cyclic dry that affects eastern Australia every few years.

But that doesn't mean the decline in rainfall over the past century is purely a natural phenomenon.

"There's other research going on that suggests that not only do El Ninos bring hotter years - so possibly there's a temperature link in one direction - but maybe hotter temperatures give you more El Ninos as well," Dr Vance said.

"We know this current period is being warmed by humans.

"So if that's having an effect on the frequency of El Ninos or the strength of them, then it's definitely leading to a drier eastern Australia."

The team plans to extend the research back at least another thousand years to provide a historical model for climate scientists.

Journal of Climate 2012

A millennial proxy record of ENSO and eastern Australian rainfall from the Law Dome ice core, East Antarctica

By Tessa R. Vance et al.


ENSO causes climate extremes across and beyond the Pacific Basin, however evidence of ENSO at high southern latitudes is generally restricted to the South Pacific and West Antarctica. Here we report a statistically significant link between ENSO and sea salt deposition during summer from the Law Dome (LD) ice core in East Antarctica. ENSO-related atmospheric anomalies from the central-western Equatorial Pacific (CWEP) propagate to the South Pacific and the circumpolar high latitudes. These anomalies modulate high latitude zonal winds, with El Niño (La Niña) conditions causing reduced (enhanced) zonal wind speeds and subsequently, reduced (enhanced) summer sea salt deposition at LD. Over the last 1010 years, the LD summer sea salt (LDSSS) record has exhibited two below average (El Niño-like) epochs, 1000-1260 AD and 1920-2009 AD, and a longer above average (La Niña-like) epoch from 1260-1860 AD. Spectral analysis shows the below average epochs are associated with enhanced ENSO-like variability around 2-5 years, while the above average epoch is associated more with variability around 6-7 years. The LDSSS record is also significantly correlated with annual rainfall in eastern mainland Australia. While the correlation displays decadal-scale variability similar to changes in the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO), the LDSSS record suggests rainfall in the modern instrumental era (1910-2009 AD) is below the long-term average. In addition, recent rainfall declines in some regions of eastern and south-eastern Australia appear to be mirrored by a downward trend in the LDSSS record, suggesting current rainfall regimes are unusual though not unknown over the last millennium.


Long Qld. public hospital delays leave patients in agony

A WOMAN pregnant with her fifth child and experiencing contractions was turned away from Logan Hospital and told to drive herself to the Gold Coast to have her baby.

This is one of thousands of cases across Queensland in recent months where patients waited for at least two hours for treatment because of emergency department overcrowding, documents obtained by The Courier-Mail under Right to Information laws show.

The situation is so dire, a six-month- old baby suffering severe bruising from domestic violence had to wait almost four hours before being admitted to hospital, in one of the worst recent cases of ambulance ramping this year.

In another complaint, an incapacitated woman who arrived at a hospital as a passenger in a car was told to wait in the vehicle for an ambulance in order to be ramped.

While a 71-year-old man with a swollen testicle and abdominal pain had to wait two hours for an ambulance and then another four hours at the Gold Coast Hospital for admission.

Logan and Gold Coast hospitals have the worst waits, followed by Redcliffe, Ipswich and Princess Alexandra hospitals.
Authorities blame ramping when patients experience delays to admission and a chronic flu season for tying up resources resulting in regular dispatch delays, which force many ambulance officers to resort to Band-Aid solutions.

Queensland Ambulance Service reports show 1400 cases of ramping for at least two hours in only two months (April 1 to June 1) of this year involving the most urgent code 1 and 2 cases.

The State Government yesterday conceded the situation was shocking but promised it was being addressed.

"These problems are worse than many Queenslanders would imagine ... (and) have nothing to do with the quality or quantity of available facilities and everything to do with leadership and the need to take full responsibility at the local level," a spokesman for Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said yesterday.

"On top of other examples, such as the case of the elderly woman with blood poisoning who spent more than seven hours in an ambulance parked outside a succession of three Queensland hospitals, these cases show the seriousness of the situation and the need for major change," he said.

The Courier-Mail revealed earlier this month that a man died after being ramped at Nambour Hospital for more than four hours.

Mr Springborg recently handed down the Metropolitan Emergency Department Access Initiative report, which from January 1 will ban hospitals from diverting ambulances when emergency departments are full and make health boards accountable. Emergency patients will also increasingly be transferred from ramped ambulances into waiting rooms overseen by new senior nurses.

QAS officers arrive to half of all cases within 8min 16sec and 90 per cent of cases in just over 16 minutes. Ambulance commissioner Russell Bowles said in some longer waits the pick-up was prearranged but acknowledged some dispatch delays of several hours because of workload.


* Six-month-old baby suffering severe bruising after being the victim of domestic violence waited in an ambulance for almost four hours at Caboolture Hospital before being admitted

* 40-year-old woman miscarried after waiting more than two hours to get into Gold Coast Hospital

* 17-year-old having a seizure transferred from Beaudesert Hospital urgently waited two hours at PA because there were no beds available

* 19-year-old assault victim fell unconscious after being assaulted and waited almost three hours until he was admitted to Caboolture Hospital

* 51-year-old overdose victim waited 10 hours for treatment at Gold Coast Hospital and half an hour for triage

* 55-year-old suffering a psychiatric episode waited four hours before an ambulance was dispatched. Waited another two hours at Gold Coast Hospital

* 4-year-old who stabbed a pencil in his eye was transferred to Mater in Brisbane after being ramped at Ipswich for two hours

* 39-year-old injured in a motorcycle accident waited more than three hours at PA

* 57-year-old suffering chest pains fearing a heart attack waited almost half an hour for an ambulance and another 3 hours for admission to PA

* 51-year-old lost sight after waiting more than two hours for an ambulance to be dispatched and then waited more than nine hours to be seen by a doctor at Rockhampton

* 93-year-old with a blocked urinary catheter waited on a stretcher for 14 hours for admission to Caboolture Hospital

* 87-year-old suffering a collapsed uterus waited almost two hours for an ambulance and then more than three hours before being admitted to Redcliffe Hospital

* 59-year-old suffering heart failure at Cairns Base Hospital waited two hours on a stretcher

* 23-year-old motorcyclist with critical injuries was ramped at Cairns Base Hospital for two hours

* 73-year-old who fainted and was vomiting waited two hours before an ambulance was dispatched and more than two hours for admission to Redcliffe Hospital

* 89-year-old with a gall bladder infection waited four hours for an ambulance to be dispatched and another two hours once he reached PA

* 71 year-old with a swollen testicle and abdominal pain waited two hours for an ambulance and another four hours at Gold Coast Hospital for admission.


Court bars parents from smacking child

Judge-made law?

WARRING parents have been banned from threatening to smack their daughter who has been diagnosed with the latest anti-authoritarian behaviour disorder.

The parents, who have been fighting for custody of the eight-year-old, have been ordered by the Federal Magistrates Court not to use or even "threaten" to use a wooden spoon or slipper or any "other instrument to punish" the girl.

She has been diagnosed with ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder, which is characterised by persistent anti-authoritarian behaviour.

The bans follow allegations in a recently published judgment that the mother smacked her daughter with a wooden spoon after the girl went out without telling her where she was going.

In handing down his judgment, federal Magistrate Giles Coakes acknowledged the mother had sought advice from a women's refuge and now conceded smacking was "no longer appropriate". She now sends the girl to her room as punishment.

Under the orders, both parents are "restrained from physically punishing the girl by any physical means including but not limited to smacking, slapping, pushing, grabbing, holding, using a slipper, or spoon or any other instrument".

Magistrate Coakes said the orders also included "the threatened use of any such instrument".

"(Each) parent is further restrained from causing or permitting any other person to administer such form of punishment or threatening to use such form of punishment," he said.

According to the judgment, the mother had conceded her de facto had once threatened to hit the girl with a "bamboo stick" while they were "mucking around" and may have also "smacked" her on the hand.

The Victorian-based mother, who suffers from depression, lost custody of her daughter to the girl's father, who will now raise her, a 14-year-old son and 18-year-old son in Queensland.

The couple also have a 21-year-old daughter, who no longer lives with either of her parents. Magistrate Coakes said the three eldest children had behavioural difficulties but he did not elaborate on these as part of his lengthy judgment, except to refer to an incident in which the 14-year-old boy "threatened, abused and hit" his mother after an argument she had with his father.

The mother allegedly "pulled his hair" and "pushed him" during the incident.

Despite declaring both parents have a "loving relationship" with their children, the magistrate described their own relationship as "antagonistic'. He ruled both parents be banned from listening in to their childrens' conversations with the other parent on telephone or Skype.

A non-denigration order was also made to stop the parents "making rude and insulting comments, swearing, shouting and making obscene gestures or permitting others to do so" within the presence or hearing of the children.


Troll loses her job

THE woman accused of urging TV presenter Charlotte Dawson and one of her Twitter followers to "go hang yourself" has been suspended from her university mentoring job.

Tanya Heti was directed to take leave with pay over the "troll" scandal, after Dawson reported a series of abusive tweets to her employers, Monash University.

The Foxtel star used a business card Heti had posted online to phone the woman and challenge her attacks on a Melbourne fan Bernadette Casey, after she defended Dawson from an earlier suicide taunt.

Casey revealed she had lost her partner Kevin to suicide, then was set upon by Heti who tweeted: "if I was your fiance I'd hang myself too #gohangyourself."

The New Zealand expat declined to comment after the Twitter bullying was exposed, a spokesman for Monash confirming yesterday it was investigating the social media incident.

Dawson said the disciplinary action was "an important lesson in consequences when people decide to mock or encourage suicide".

Cyber crime experts have warned that hate tweets could also be prosecuted as a breach of the Commonwealth Crimes Act, relating to using "a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence or for the purposes of a threat".

Fan forums and Dawson's Twitter account have been inundated with feedback over her "troll-busting" action, with overwhelming support for her stand against bullying.

However, trolls have also upped their attacks on her practise of re-tweeting abuse so as to shame anonymous or offensive twits.


29 August, 2012

Tragedy of sick baby girl who died hours after doctor gives all-clear to go home

One wonders what the doctor was thinking. Was he manic or something? When my son had gastro once in his childhood, I took him to a leading private hospital where he was immediately put on a drip -- despite him not having any gross symptoms, as the child below did. My son made a rapid recovery

A HEARTBROKEN mother whose baby died hours after seeking medical help told an inquest she felt her fears that her daughter was dehydrated were dismissed by a doctor.

Olivia Jean Johnson, 11 months, died in May 2011 from dehydration at Balcanoona station home, about 105km east of Leigh Creek, in the northern Flinders Ranges.

Deputy State Coroner Anthony Schapel yesterday opened the inquest, in Port Augusta, into the infant's death. Olivia's mother, Melissa Hands, told the inquest she took her to Leigh Creek - two hours away - after two days of diarrhoea and vomiting.

Ms Hands said she was worried Olivia was dehydrated, but Dr Geoffrey Cox had reassured her that was not the case and sent them home after a five to 10-minute consultation. "I said, 'I think she's dehydrated because of the dark rings around her eyes'. And he said, 'Oh no, she's not'. I went 'OK, well how can you tell that' and he said 'by her lips'," Ms Hands said.

"I thought he would want to keep us in or send us to Port Augusta and that's when he cut me off and said: 'Oh no, it's just a gastro bug'."

The inquest heard Dr Cox suggested Olivia take Gastrolyte and Panadol to help control her symptoms and told Ms Hands to return should the condition worsen.

Ms Hands said her daughter had survived hernia surgery after being born seven weeks prematurely. She said because of that, she was particularly sensitive about any unhealthy signs.

The inquest heard once home from Leigh Creek, Olivia stopped breathing about 7.30pm.

Ms Hands and Olivia's father, Wade Johnson, performed CPR for about two hours before paramedics arrived. They failed to revive her.


Internet data tracking proposal seen as 'a police state'

PROPOSED laws that would allow the web and telecommunications data of all Australians to be stored for two years have been dubbed "characteristic of a police state".

The federal government has sent its contentious discussion paper on changes to the national security legislation to a parliamentary inquiry rather than introduce it as legislation. In July, the Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, acknowledged the privacy and financial costs of the scheme, saying "the case has yet to be made" for the controversial plan.

In a heated submission to that inquiry, Victoria's Acting Privacy Commissioner, Anthony Bendall, dubbed the proposals "characteristic of a police state", arguing "it is premised on the assumption that all citizens should be monitored".

"Not only does this completely remove the presumption of innocence which all persons are afforded, it goes against one of the essential dimensions of human rights and privacy law: freedom from surveillance and arbitrary intrusions into a person's life," he said.

The government says its proposals are under consideration only, and it has sought the views of the multi-party inquiry on the plans in its discussion paper.

These include allowing authorities to access anyone's computer to get to a suspect's device, or to "enter a third-party premises for the purposes of installing a surveillance device".

It is also considering increasing the scope of search warrants from 90 days to six months and establishing an "authorised operations scheme" to protect ASIO officers from civil or criminal liability.

The government says telecommunications intercept laws, which date from 1979, have become hopelessly outdated.

But civil liberties groups and telcos have slammed the proposals in submissions to the inquiry.

The Law Council of Australia said if the wide range of proposals were adopted, they would "constitute a very significant expansion of the powers of Australia's law enforcement and intelligence agencies". It questioned whether this was necessary given the "extensive catalogue" of powers the agencies already had.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre said the legislation was unnecessary and posed a threat to privacy rights.

"Extension of these powers to people not suspected of any crime who, for example, happen to live in property adjoining that of a suspect, is disproportionate to the purpose that covert search warrants are intended to achieve and is an unjustifiable incursion of the right to privacy," the centre said.

The internet provider iiNet said the government had failed to demonstrate how current laws were failing or how criminals and terrorists posed a threat to networks, and said asking carriers to intercept and store customers' data for two years could make them "agents of the state" and increase costs.

A joint submission from telco industry groups said companies were "naturally predisposed to protecting [their] infrastructure" without government requiring them to do so. Further, it argued, it would cost between $500 million and $700 million to keep data for two years. It called for full compensation from the government's security agencies.

The Australian Federal Police and the Australian Taxation Office were among the few supporting the proposal to retain all telecommunications data.

The ATO said the proposal would be consistent with European practices and that being able to access real-time telecommunications data would allow it to "respond more effectively" to attempts to defraud the Commonwealth.

The AFP said interception capabilities were increasingly being "undermined" by fundamental changes to the telecommunications industry and communications technologies.


Australian govt. denies new asylum-seeker policy not working

Australia said Tuesday its new policy to deter asylum-seekers by shipping them to small Pacific islands would take time to work, after figures showed more than 1,000 boatpeople had arrived since it was adopted.

Canberra announced its intention to transfer asylum-seekers to tiny Nauru and Papua New Guinea on August 13 and since then 18 boats carrying 1,072 people have arrived, according to releases from Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen rejected the idea that the new approach designed to crack down on people-smugglers and deter refugees from making the dangerous boat journey was not working.

"It's not having an effect yet, but it does take time to work," Bowen told radio station 2SM.

"It will become more effective when we actually have planes going to Nauru and PNG."

Australia has said that people now arriving by boat without a visa run the risk of transfer to a regional processing country. The new policy applies to those who arrived after August 13.

But the camps on Nauru and Papua New Guinea's Manus Island, which will eventually have a total capacity of 2,100 people, are not yet up and running.

The temporary processing facility on Nauru being built by the Australian military is expected to hold some 500 people by the end of September.

Offshore processing is a sensitive issue in Australia, and is likely to be discussed by leaders at the Pacific Islands Forum, which gets under way this week.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard adopted the policy after months of bitter political debate and after several boats capsized while making the treacherous crossing to Australia and dozens of people died.

The government wants to shut down people-smugglers bringing asylum-seekers to Australia from transit hubs in places such as Indonesia amid an influx of arrivals originally from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.

More than 8,800 asylum-seekers have arrived on 134 boats since the start of the year, surpassing the 2010 record of 134 boats carrying 6,555 people.

Government minister Brendan O'Connor said an increase in arrivals had been anticipated as people-smugglers "lied to those that they wanted to lure onto those vessels, in many cases unseaworthy vessels".

"That's happening now as they tell them to get in quick," he told Sky News.

O'Connor said he still believed there would be a "very significant decline in these irregular maritime arrivals" as a result of the new policy.

The policy signals a return to the policies of the previous conservative government, which sent asylum-seekers to Nauru and Manus but which center-left Labor rolled back soon after taking office in late 2007.


Gun owners set for a win in Queensland

MOVES by the State Government to cut red tape for prospective gun owners will put the public at risk of more gun violence, the Queensland Police Union has warned.

In the wake of the Robina Shopping Centre shooting on the Gold Coast, Police Minister Jack Dempsey yesterday announced a new panel comprising gun advocates, including a major firearms importer, would lead the Government crackdown on illegal gun use.

However, union president Ian Leavers said Queenslanders were just as likely to get shot by a legal firearm user, which was the case for Norm Watt and Perry Irwin - two police officers fatally wounded since 2000.

"A reduction in red tape around gun ownership will simply mean more people will die - it's as simple as that," Mr Leavers said.

"Since 2000, half the police gunned down in the line of duty were killed by licensed firearms owners. If anything, we shouldn't reduce red tape for gun owners but increase it.

"Red tape in this instance means risk mitigation and having appropriate safeguards, which we want to keep in place."

Panel members include Firearms Dealers Association of Queensland president Robert Nioa, Paul Feeney from the Queensland Shooters Association, Sporting Shooters Association of Australia president Geoff Jones, Shooters Union secretary Rob Harrold, International Coalition for Women in Shooting and Hunting chairperson Dr Samara McPhedran and David Kelly of Halls Firearms.

Announcing the panel today, Police and Community Safety Minister Jack Dempsey said it would advise on reducing red tape, delays and bureaucracy legitimate firearm owners face when applying for a new licence or weapon.

"The current system inconveniences legal firearms users, like sporting shooters and primary producers, while illegal firearms users are inadequately punished for their disregard of the law," Mr Dempsey said.

"I have created this panel to advise what legal firearms users require and any improvements that are needed, so they can safely enjoy their sport without experiencing mountains of forms and months of delays."

Mr Nioa, who operates Nioa Trading and is Bob Katter's son-in-law, welcomed the panel's creation.

"The Minister has indicated that he will be looking at ways of reducing red tape for licensed firearm owners, whilst improving public safety by targeting criminal use of illegal firearms. These are objectives I wholeheartedly endorse," said Mr Nioa.

Last year Mr Nioa threatened to launch a class action against the previous State Government over the failure of an online permit application system. A huge backlog of applications created delays for dealers, and a significant loss of income.

Mr Jones said he was heartened by Mr Dempsey's "positive actions".

"SSAA Qld believes that the current firearm's licensing legislation and system is not evidence based and does little to contribute to public safety or the public interest," Mr Jones said. "It is misdirected, unwieldy, costly, error ridden and is rapidly becoming unworkable."

Dr McPhedran also commended the move. "I am especially pleased that the Minister recognises the ever increasing number of women active in the Queensland firearms community, and has ensured women are represented on his panel," Dr McPhedran said.

"This is an important step towards a more practical, common sense approach to firearms management in Queensland."


28 August, 2012

100 "asylum-seekers" on hunger strike

This is excellent news and it is even being publicized in Pakistan! It will have a significant deterrent effect on others thinking to sail for Australia. Such demonstrations were a major component of stopping the illegals under the Howard government

Up to 100 asylum-seekers in detention in Australia were on hunger strike Sunday after being informed they would be transferred to a remote Pacific island under a tough new refugee policy.

An immigration department spokesman said “around 100” asylum-seekers being held at the Christmas Island detention centre had launched the strike on Saturday night after they were told they would be sent to Nauru.

They will be among the first group transferred to the tiny and remote Pacific island to await the processing of their refugee claims under a strict new policy Canberra hopes will deter a record flow of people-smuggling ships. “They were informed yesterday of the decision to transfer them to Nauru, and obviously it’s pretty difficult news to take,” the spokesman told AFP. “We’re managing that and trying to provide all the support and assistance we can, it’s obviously pretty difficult all round.” Under new legislation passed by parliament this month asylum-seekers who arrive by boat will be sent to either Nauru or Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island for indefinite periods while their visas are assessed.

It represents an about-face by the Labor Party which abandoned the policy after winning power in 2007, after complaints people had languished for years on the islands before being resettled under the previous government. Authorities have not clarified how long people would have to wait on Nauru or Manus before being resettled and have admitted that the remote facilities are so run down they were not yet suitable for use.

Refugee activists said “around 67” detainees were believed to be on hunger strike in the Christmas Island facility and “scores” of police had also been sent to the remote immigration centre to head off any protests. “The hunger strikers say that their treatment is unfair — they were not aware of any changed policy by the Australian government,” said activist Ian Rintoul.

There were reportedly similar starvation protests occurring at facilities in the northern city of Darwin, where refugee advocates said a group that included unaccompanied minors was “shocked” to learn they would also be sent offshore. “The fact that unaccompanied minors may be sent to remote locations for unknown periods of time should be a source of shame for the minister for immigration and the Australian government,” said Darwin activist Peter Robson. “There is little wonder as a result that there are reports that there are large hunger strikes now occurring in Darwin.”

The immigration spokesman said food, water and medical assistance was available to all detainees and they were “obviously encouraged” to eat and drink. “These sorts of protests and activities don’t have any effect on the outcome of their case, and likewise it won’t alter government policy,” he said. afp


High school teacher speaks out on undisciplined classroom behaviour

TEACHERS say efforts to raise literacy and numeracy standards in the state's schools are futile until a glaring issue is dealt with - bad behaviour in the classroom.

One high school teacher from the state's southwest has spoken out, attracting strong support from across the teaching spectrum.

Speaking in his role as a Queensland Teachers Union representative, high school teacher Paul Cavanagh said politicians and parents needed to know the degree of the learning problem affecting well-behaved pupils.

The QTU, Queensland Association of State School Principals and the Queensland Secondary Principals Association all agreed behaviour was a critical and daily issue confronting staff and called for more support, especially from parents.

Concerns have been raised about increasingly aggressive parents and a rising number of children with behavioural and mental health disorders.

In a recent letter to federal Opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne, Mr Cavanagh warned: "Having students disrupting the learning environment is the No.1 factor that is holding public schools back, in my opinion."

Mr Cavanagh, 30, who is on leave this term, told The Courier-Mail that while violent attacks on teachers often made headlines, smaller daily behavioural problems were critical.

"It is the major contributing factor behind student performance at the moment - how does anyone concentrate or learn well with the constant disruption that is happening and nothing is being done?" he said.

"You get these lovely, quiet wonderful kids who are interested, who want to learn, and as a teacher it is heartbreaking to think that I can't spend more time helping those kids get from good to better because I am trying to get these uncontrollable kids to learn a bit of discipline.

"If I had a child of my own I would be so upset, not with the school or the teachers, but with other children to think that so much time was taken away from why my kids are there."

He said most parents really cared about their children's education and it was politicians he wanted to understand what was really happening in classrooms, given the current focus on education.

Queensland Association of State School Principals president Hilary Backus said behaviour was "getting worse and it is getting more and more critical that schools and homes work together".

Last year her organisation called for a co-ordinator at every primary school to deal with mental health, behaviour and social issues.

Queensland Secondary Principals Association president Norm Fuller said there was "no doubt" behaviour was an issue, and there had been an increase in parents wanting to argue with staff and "take some matters into their own hands".

QTU president Kevin Bates said there had been an increase in more violent behaviour among children, but this was a reflection of the community, not schools, with some parents actively working against teachers on the issue.

He said Mr Cavanagh's frustrations were shared by many teachers, and called for more positive learning centres for pupils with behavioural issues.

Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens' Associations president Margaret Leary said schools needed to be responsible for teaching, and parents for social issues.

Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said poor behaviour in school should not be tolerated, and urged parents to "take responsibility for the behaviour of their children to help ensure that all Queensland students have the best education experience possible".

Education Queensland assistant director-general Sharon Mullins said the department had measures in place to help teachers manage challenging behaviour, including support staff, suspensions and exclusions.

"Education Queensland expects parents to work in partnership with the school," she said.


Desperate attempt to portray conservatives as "anti-women" in Australia too

It's also a theme of the American Left at the moment -- on equally dodgy foundations

THE Himalayan heights of the resources boom are receding, we have an asylum-seeker policy that may just last until after the election and workers are being retrenched in their thousands but the core issue, surely, is whether Tony Abbott dislikes women.

In recent weeks, about $87 billion worth of development projects have been cancelled in this country while business leaders line up to tell the Government that the nation's productivity level is in decline, our international competitiveness is falling and the taxation system is in desperate need of reform.

Such is the parlous state of political debate in this country, however, that last week the allegation that the Leader of the Opposition had a problem dealing with women became an issue pursued fiercely by commentators, among them ABC Radio National's breakfast announcer Fran Kelly.

It was never a legitimate story and would never become one.

It was, to anyone with even a passing interest in politics, merely part of the tiresome tongue-poking and face-pulling that passes for debate in the House of Representatives.

Kelly, however, with a significant national radio audience, seemed determined to give it life. Beginning with an interview with long-time Canberra press gallery member Michelle Grattan, Kelly said: "Labor politicians say he is disrespectful to women. Is there anything to this?"

It seemed to me that if Liberal politicians were saying Abbott was disrespectful to women, it was a story. If Labor politicians were saying that, it was, to my simple mind, just a tad predictable.

Grattan, who was apparently expected to relate examples of these unsubstantiated allegations of misogyny, shot them down. "I don't think this is a gender issue," she said, adding that Labor had tried to discredit Abbott by making these claims in the past.

The answer to Kelly's question of Grattan was, then, effectively "No". This, you would think, would be the signal to move on to something substantive. Kelly, however, was not to be put off. Next up was Attorney-General Nicola Roxon saying that it seemed to her that Abbott was "not very comfortable with capable women".

"Not very comfortable with", of course, was code for "hates".

No evidence was offered to support the Roxon view but it was deemed credible enough to take up prime, taxpayer-funded air time.

Next up on Kelly's morning line-up was Deputy Opposition Leader Julia Bishop. Surely now we had heard the last of the "Tony Abbott is not comfortable with (hates) women" line and would move on to a genuine issue.

No, we hadn't. "Some Labor people say Tony Abbott can't take direction from women, especially strong, capable women," declared Kelly to Bishop.

Did Kelly genuinely expect the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to reveal her leader had a problem dealing with women and to crumble in the face of Kelly's assertion that "some Labor people" said so?

Bishop, naturally, replied that she saw the accusations as part of a Labor smear campaign. Her answer to Kelly's assertions was "No".

"So you don't think there's anything to it?" persisted Kelly.

Bishop, who had just categorically denied there was anything in it, must have wondered if she had inadvertently replied to Kelly in Swahili.

Kelly, however, continued on her mission to get someone, anyone, to agree that Abbott had a problem with females. "You don't think he's tougher on (Deputy Speaker) Anna Burke than he was on (Speaker) Peter Slipper, for instance?" she asked.

Even Bishop's normal ice-like composure was by now showing signs of global warming. "He does not have a problem with competent women," she replied.

Somewhere in the Prime Minister's Department, a spinmeister must have smiled as he or she watched the media take the Abbott-hates-women non-story and run with it. It was not our finest hour


Leftist Federal govt. fails to treat Aborigines as individuals

Classically Leftist

THE Northern Territory's new chief minister has warned the federal government needs to show more respect to Aboriginal people, accusing Labor of "sucking the life out of communities" in its handling of the intervention program.

The Labor Party seems likely to secure only eight seats in the NT's 25-seat Legislative Assembly, with one independent re-elected, although all votes in the weekend's election are yet to be counted.

Country Liberal Party leader Terry Mills is expected to be sworn in as chief minister on Tuesday.

He said a reduction in decision-making power for remote Aboriginal communities had damaged Labor's brand in the NT and the weekend backlash should be a lesson to the federal government.

When the NT intervention was introduced by the Howard government in 2007 it was an "emergency" measure to deal with a child abuse crisis, Mr Mills said.

"It's morphed into a monumental process that has sucked the life out of communities, wasted a lot of money and delivered no results," he told Sky News on Monday.

"Labor seems to care more about the idea of Aboriginal people but not the Aboriginal people themselves."

Mr Mills said the federal government needed to repair the relationship with indigenous people in the NT.

"It's not about the program, it's not about the legislation, it's not about the money, it's about the people concerned," he said.

"That seems to be missing in the thinking and the psyche of Labor."

He said indigenous people need to be empowered. "We all want the same thing. An Aboriginal family on a community want something good for their kids and want programs that actually work, but they want to be involved in the implementation and shaping of the policies," he said.

"That part of it has been overlooked."

The intervention in Aboriginal communities, started by John Howard and renamed Stronger Futures after the ALP took it over, has been deeply unpopular in many indigenous communities.

Some Aboriginal leaders have said the laws unfairly branded particular communities as harbouring drunks and pedophiles and unable to manage their own affairs.

Mr Mills said while local issues had been a big factor in the election result the "the carbon tax" had also played a part in Labor's loss.

Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan told reporters in Canberra on Monday the territory election was fought on "local issues" and declined to comment on federal implications.


27 August, 2012

Low dole stops people getting ahead?

This stuff below is rubbish. I lived on the student dole for a number of years in my youth -- which was about the same money as the unemployed got (a bit less, I think) -- and I lived comfortably and even saved on it -- living in a boarding house. I got not a cent from my parents.

But I didn't spend any of my money on beer and cigarettes either. And being now the former proprietor of a boarding house myself, I know what "the poor" spend it on. I even used to go to the pub to get the rent off my tenants on "payday". And the parade of casks of Fruity Lexia entering the house later on that day had to be seen to be believed

Church bureaucrats and their ilk talk a good talk on the matter but I know the reality -- JR

SOME people on the dole are living in such poverty that their chances of getting a job are limited, a report by the major church welfare organisations has found.

The report says single people living alone and single parents on Newstart or Youth Allowance face much greater financial hardship than other government benefit households.

UnitingCare Australia national director Lin Hatfield Dodds says people are looking for work in an environment that is inaccessible and even hostile.

"Work is increasingly part-time and causal and employers are looking for skills and experience these people don't have. Child care and transport are expensive or unavailable," she said in a statement.

Catholic Social Services Australia executive director Paul O'Callaghan said there was an urgent need for an increase in the basic allowance.

"Far from providing an incentive to find work, the current inadequate level of the payment prevents many people from seeking work and is adding to long-term and intergenerational disadvantage," he said in the statement.


Whitlam should have had warning, says Kerr adviser

Mason ignores Whitlam's smart-arse threat to "get to the phone first" and dismiss Kerr. It was Whitlam who made it impossible for Sir John to warn him -- JR

THE former chief justice, Anthony Mason, has broken his 37-year silence on his role in Australia's greatest political crisis to reveal that he advised John Kerr he should warn Gough Whitlam of his intention to sack his government in 1975.

Sir Anthony's comprehensive statement on his private conversations with the then governor-general, obtained exclusively by the Herald, asserts that Kerr was consistently counselled by his close friend against deceiving Mr Whitlam, but that this advice was ignored.

The statement reveals that at Kerr's request, Sir Anthony drafted a letter sacking Mr Whitlam but the governor-general chose not to use it. It also reveals he expressed relief when Kerr confided his intention to sack Mr Whitlam two days before the dismissal on November 11.

But Sir Anthony insists his expression of relief "was not, and should not have been understood as, encouragement to dismiss the prime minister as Sir John had already announced his decision to take that step".

Rather, he says, he was relieved because "I thought that the crisis should be resolved by a general election to be held before the summer vacation and any further delay could lead to instability".

Sir Anthony's statement represents the final piece in the dismissal jigsaw and, rather than vindicate Kerr's actions, the statement makes plain that the governor-general deceived Mr Whitlam against the explicit advice of his closest confidant.

Sir Anthony's decision to detail his role in a 3500-word statement - after steadfastly refusing for decades to comment - follows the discovery by the author Jenny Hocking of new documents written by Kerr. Hocking's biography, Gough Whitlam: His Time, will be released this week.

In the papers - lodged with the National Archives 15 years after Kerr's death in 1991 - Kerr asserts that Sir Anthony was the key influence who "fortified" him during the crisis that followed the Coalition's refusal to pass supply bills in the Senate.

"In the light of the enormous and vicious criticism of myself, I should have dearly liked to have had the public evidence during my lifetime of what Mason had said and done during October-November 1975 … [but] he would be happier … if history never came to know of his role," Kerr wrote.

"I shall keep the whole matter alive in my mind till the end, and if this document is found among my archives, it will mean that my final decision is that truth must prevail, and, as he played a most significant part in my thinking at that critical time, and as he will be in the shades of history when this is read, his role should be known."

Signalling that Kerr wanted his version to be history's final word, the document Hocking uncovered was not "to be read by anyone until all those concerned are dead".

But Sir Anthony's account repudiates Kerr's version on several key points, insisting Sir Anthony:

* Told Kerr he should warn the prime minister that he would terminate his commission if he did not agree to hold a general election. "The warning was not heeded";

* At no stage encouraged Kerr to dismiss Mr Whitlam;

* Did not, as Kerr claimed, volunteer or agree to give a written opinion on shadow attorney-general Bob Ellicott's statement that he had the power to sack the prime minister;

* Played no part in preparing Kerr's statement announcing his decision but at Kerr's request, prepared a draft letter terminating Whitlam's commission.

Interviewed by the Herald, Sir Anthony said the first inkling he had that Kerr had not warned Mr Whitlam he would be sacked if he refused to call a general election was when he read news reports on November 11.

A former solicitor-general, Sir Anthony was appointed to the High Court by the McMahon government in 1972. He had had no connections with either side of politics, which was one of the reasons Kerr cited for seeking his counsel. "I wasn't advising him as a legal adviser. I was there in the capacity of a friend," Sir Anthony said.

Despite Kerr's refusal to warn Mr Whitlam, Sir Anthony maintains Kerr was subjected to "unjustified vilification" after the dismissal. "I consider and have always considered that Sir John acted consistently with his duty, except in so far as he had a duty to warn the prime minister of his intended action and he did not do so."


Julia Gillard set up 'work safety' entity that was a slush fund

JULIA Gillard wrote in a formal application to establish an entity for her then client and boyfriend, union boss Bruce Wilson, that it was being formed for the purpose of achieving safe workplaces.

But during an internal investigation three years later by the partners of her law firm, following serious allegations that the entity had been used by Mr Wilson to misappropriate hundreds of thousands of dollars, Ms Gillard admitted it was a "slush fund" to raise cash for the re-election of union officials.

The discrepancy in the genuine purpose of the entity, the Australian Workers Union Workplace Reform Association, at the time that it was established was not known to the West Australian government agency that had registered it in 1992.

Ms Gillard was questioned about it in a recorded and transcribed interview by the firm of Slater & Gordon, where she was a salaried partner, on September 11, 1995. She left her job soon after amid the partnership's "very serious view" of her conduct.

In the interview, a transcript of which has been obtained by The Australian, Ms Gillard said the incorporated association was set up as a slush fund to hold re-election monies, instead of the alternative of having bank accounts in the names of individuals.

"It's common practice, indeed every union has what it refers to as a re-election fund, slush fund, whatever, into which the leadership team puts money so that they can finance their next election campaign," Ms Gillard said in the interview.

The listed objects of the association, which are set out in the formal rules that were written by Ms Gillard, do not state that the purpose is to fund elections for union officials. The rules instead emphasise purposes including the promotion of safer workplaces and skills training.

In the formal application for the association, Ms Gillard wrote that it was formed for the purpose of "development of changes to work to achieve safe workplaces".

It can also be revealed that the West Australian government agency responsible for registering such entities questioned whether the union-linked association should be set up under different, more burdensome, legislation that applied to unions.

However, Ms Gillard provided assurances that it was legitimate. The Australian asked the Prime Minister yesterday if she was involved in the creation of a false document: namely, the application for the incorporation of the association.

A spokesman replied: "As the Prime Minister has repeatedly made clear, she was not involved in any wrongdoing.

"Any questions about this document should be addressed to the person who lodged and signed it, namely Ralph Blewitt."

Mr Blewitt, a former union bagman and sidekick for Mr Wilson, was also Ms Gillard's client from the AWU at the time.

He told The Australian this month that he had been involved in "sham transactions" and that he would talk to authorities in return for not being criminally prosecuted.

Ms Gillard previously declined to answer questions from The Australian, including whether the application form for the association gave a false or misleading impression. The Prime Minister has hit out at what she described as a "malicious" campaign. She said the matters being raised had nothing to do with her job now.

She has denied receiving any benefits from the funds. She has repeatedly rejected claims that renovations to her own house in Melbourne in the early-to-mid 1990s were part-funded by money allegedly siphoned off by Mr Wilson. However, in the internal interview she said she could not rule it out.

Other documents show that in April 1992, Mr Wilson and Mr Blewitt sent the first invoice, headed AWU Workplace Reform Association, to a construction company, Thiess Contractors, to raise $25,272. This invoice falsely claimed that Thiess was required to pay for the "provision of an AWU Workplace Reform Association representative" to a construction project for some 700 hours. No such representative was ever on site. Many invoices followed.

The association's rules also state that "the property and income of the association must be applied solely in accordance with the objects of the association and no part of that property or income may be paid or otherwise distributed, directly or indirectly, to members, except in good faith in the promotion of those objects".

The association that Ms Gillard established was used by Mr Wilson and Mr Blewitt to allegedly corruptly receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from large companies. At the time, the AWU's then national leaders, Ian Cambridge and Bill Ludwig, were not made aware of the association's existence.

They were unaware that large sums of money had been going into accounts linked to the association, and that some of those funds were withdrawn by Mr Wilson and Mr Blewitt for purposes including the purchase of a $230,000 house in Kerr Street, Fitzroy.

Ms Gillard attended the auction with Mr Wilson, who had power of attorney, while her firm handled the conveyancing for the house, which was put in the name of Mr Blewitt. At the time the AWU was the client of Ms Gillard's employer, Slater & Gordon, and she was doing much of the AWU's legal work. Mr Cambridge, who called in police, the National Crime Authority and sought a royal commission to try to get to the bottom of the rorts by his then union colleagues, swore a September 1996 affidavit in the Industrial Relations Court about the scandal.

In his affidavit Mr Cambridge said his investigations revealed how bank accounts linked to the association "have been used to hold and/or launder union funds as a step in the conversion of those funds to unauthorised, invalid, irregular and possibly illegal uses".

Nick Styant-Browne, the former equity partner of Slater & Gordon who broke a 17-year silence to reveal that Ms Gillard had lost her job there as a result of the internal probe, rebuked the firm yesterday for its expressions of support for Ms Gillard.

Mr Styant-Browne said the description by the firm's managing director, Andrew Grech, of Ms Gillard's departure was "stunningly incomplete". He said he "did not contemplate the extent to which (Slater & Gordon) would seek to protect the Prime Minister".


No room for Sharia in Australia, says senior judge

A FORMER High Court chief justice has used an address in Sydney to argue against incorporating parts of Islamic law into the Australian judicial system.

Sir Gerard Brennan, who served on the High Court from 1981 to 1998, and as chief justice from 1995 to 1998, told an audience at The University of New South Wales that there was no room for Sharia law in the Australian legal system.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard last year ruled out the prospect of Sharia law becoming part of the nation's justice system, saying the only law in the country was Australian law.

In the annual Hal Wootten lecture on Thursday night, Sir Gerard said there had been suggestions there was room for a "system in which at least some parts of Islamic Sharia law might operate as part of Australian law".

He said: "That suggestion seems to me to be misconceived." Muslims were free to adhere to the "beliefs, customs and practices prescribed by Sharia law", the former chief justice said, but only as long as they did not conflict with Australian law.

"That freedom must be respected and protected but that does not mean that Islamic Sharia should have the force of law."

All Australian citizens, irrespective of their religion, had common values that formed the basis of Australian law, he said. "Our citizens, including the Islamic community, share the basic Australian values of tolerance, egalitarianism, and individual freedom in thought and action," he said. [Muslims included? Wishful thinking]


26 August, 2012

To love and to submit: A new/old wedding ceremony in Sydney

This is good theology but it really cocks a snook at secularists and "modernizers". I note that the wishy-washy Primate refused to criticize. The Sydney diocese is the liveliest (and most fundamentalist by far) in Australia -- comprising one third of Australia's Anglicans -- so you can see his dilemma. The Sydney diocese is only one out of 23 Anglican dioceses in Australia but its following puts the other 22 to shame. It is close to being a church in and of itself

BRIDES will be promising to submit to their husbands under a new marriage vow the Anglican diocese of Sydney is expected to approve at its synod in October.

It requires the minister to ask of the bride: "Will you honour and submit to him, as the church submits to Christ?" and for her to pledge "to love and submit" to her husband.

The service is already being used in some Sydney parishes, under a diocese that opposes the full ordination of women and supports an exclusively male leadership doctrine.

The vows were written by the diocese's liturgical panel, which has the imprimatur of the Archbishop, Peter Jensen. The panel chairman, the Bishop of South Sydney, Robert Forsyth, said "submit" was a deeply biblical word. "The Bible never said women must obey their husbands but Paul and Peter did say submit, which I think is a much more responsive, nuanced word."

The bishop said no one would be forced to use the new version, and an alternative would remain available to couples who did not want the woman to obey (which has been optional since 1928) or submit.

Kevin Giles, a New Testament scholar in Melbourne, said the subordination of women was exclusively related to "the fall" in the Bible and in 2012 made for bad theology.

"Jesus not once mentions the subordination of woman and says much in contradiction to this. Paul's comments over the subordination of women fit into the patriarchal culture of the day and are not the biblical ideal. The truth is that happy marriages today are fully equal, and unhappy marriages are ones where one or the other party is controlling."

Muriel Porter, a Melbourne academic and laywoman who writes on Anglican Church issues, said submit was a more derogatory word than obey and had connotations of slavery. "Frankly I'm horrified," she said. "It is a very dangerous concept, especially in terms of society's propensity for domestic violence."

The Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, declined to comment.


Breastfeeding fanatics

Class told baby formula 'was like AIDS'

EXPECTANT mums and their partners were told baby formula was "like AIDS" during an Australian Breastfeeding Association class. Couples were also repeatedly told a baby died "every 30 seconds" from formula feeding, prompting a rebuke from doctors.

"Formula is a little bit like AIDS," one of the association's leading counsellors told couples in the breastfeeding education class.

"Nobody actually dies from AIDS; what happens is AIDS destroys your immune system and then you just die of anything and that's what happens with formula. It provides no antibodies.

"Every 30 seconds a baby dies from infections due to a lack of breastfeeding and the use of bottles, artificial milks and other risky products. Every 30 seconds."

The association has received $4.3 million from the Federal Government during the past five years and its patron is Governor-General Quentin Bryce.

The counsellor is commended in the ABA's latest annual report for taking the highest number of calls to the body's taxpayer-subsidised National Breastfeeding Helpline. Other documents show she helped more than 900 callers in 2010 and was honoured at a branch conference last year.

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians said the baby mortality cited was "certainly not true in Australia" and could be "highly frightening" for new parents.

"There are better ways to try to explain the benefits of breastmilk," paediatric and child health division president Susan Moloney said. "We highly support breastfeeding. It is the optimal form of nutrition for any human infant. But in the cases where it isn't able to be done, formula feeding is safe in Australia."

Australian Breastfeeding Association president Rachel Fuller immediately launched an investigation into the comments.

"These statements were inappropriate in this situation and the individual concerned has acted outside the instructions and guidelines given," Ms Fuller said. "We take such matters seriously and are following this matter up internally today."

An expectant mother attended the class at the ABA's Brisbane office on behalf of The Sunday Mail after a complaint about a previous session.

A dozen couples paid $85 each, including a compulsory membership fee, to attend. Similar sessions are held regularly around the country. "Of course, there's the higher IQ and all of the diseases that you don't get," the breastfeeding counsellor said in her opening remarks.

"We used to talk about all those sorts of things, but we don't talk about any of those any more." She added: "A couple of years ago I broke this leg, quite badly. Nobody said to me 'we have this wonderful range of wooden legs now' ... they fixed the leg."

Like wooden-leg salespeople, formula companies would try to promote benefits, attendees heard. "That's what formula is; it's pure sales pitch. They don't say 'look, a baby dies from this product every 30 seconds' ... they forget about that bit."

No information was offered about deaths in Australia.

Australian Medical Association Queensland president Alex Markwell said the statements were "inappropriate" and could amount to "scaremongering".

"I just don't think those comments are helpful in the long term. We have enough evidence that shows breastfeeding is best wherever possible. But women who for whatever reason are unable to breastfeed should not be ostracised," Dr Markwell said.

Why we went undercover:

To gain a true picture of what was being told to couples one of our reporters, who is an expectant mother, attended the class as a member of the public. The Australian Press Council and Media Alliance guidelines allow for undercover investigations in circumstances of significant public interest and when no alternative is available.


I have personally encouraged young mothers I know to breastfeed but have also been supportive when they have been unable to manage it -- JR

Canberra public hospital surgeons shunning checklists on safety

Canberra Hospital surgeons failed to complete vital pre-surgery safety documents in most cases examined by an internal audit last year, ACT Health documents reveal.

And the papers show some Canberra Hospital surgeons were correctly filling in surgical safety checklists in just 4 per cent of the operations they performed in April 2011, the month before an elderly Yass woman died after a catastrophic surgical blunder at the hospital.

The internal papers reveal senior health officials believed the safety breaches were a "significant risk for surgery patients", and that compliance rates had become even worse by the end of last year.

But a senior hospital official defended his surgeons' conduct yesterday and said that an absence of documentation did not mean that the necessary safety checks were not being carried out.

In February last year, the auditors found that the pre-op safety checks had been completed in just 342 out of 1067 surgical procedures performed that month.

It was also found that despite surgeons being responsible for identity checks on patients - vital to ensure that surgery is not carried out on the wrong person - it was nurses who were mostly ensuring the checks were performed.

As late as March this year, executive director of quality and safety Elizabeth Trickett wrote in a memo that the audit results "highlighted that safety checks are not always being performed. This is a significant risk for surgical patients and the organisation."

The revelation will increase pressure on Chief Minister and Health Minister Katy Gallagher, who faces a motion of no-confidence in the Legislative Assembly brought by the opposition over her handling of the health portfolio. The Canberra Liberals described the latest documents yesterday as "explosive".

The audits were handed over by government solicitors to the family of Lima Thatcher, who are taking action in the Supreme Court to force an official inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of the 86-year-old, who endured botched surgery after a pre-op checklist was not completed. [The doctors operated on the wrong hip]

Mrs Thatcher's granddaughter, Holly Chaloner, told The Canberra Times that she and her sister Kate were shocked when their legal team showed them the documents.

"We have to think again about what we were told by the hospital after seeing these statistics," Ms Chaloner said. "We don't know how many other people this has happened to just because these simple checklists are not being followed. "It's just astounding."

But Health deputy Ian Thompson said that the audits measured compliance with documentation requirements and not the safety procedures themselves.

"What we're trying to do with these forms is trying to develop a more effective indication that these checks are being done, it is not an indication that the check are not being done, it is a question of whether or not the forms are being filled out. "It's an audit of whether the forms are being filled out, it's not an audit of whether the checks are being done. "We don't have any evidence or reason to believe that checks are not being done."

Opposition Health spokesman Jeremy Hanson said the failings were systemic and that he was concerned with the hospital's own assessment that patients were being put in danger.

"The thing that concerns me is the systemic nature of this, the fact that 50 per cent, or thereabouts, of surgical patients at the Canberra Hospital are at significant risk, and that's the executive director of the compliance unit saying that," Mr Hanson said. "That's a really disturbing figure and it flies in the face of everything we've been told by the minister."


Foot-dragging by negligent Qld. public hospital

TWO years ago today, four-year-old Tom Olive died after being rushed to a hospital where doctors didn't see him until it was too late.

In a 30-minute emergency department ordeal, a student nurse attended the boy with faulty equipment, and his dad, Andrew, had to begin CPR when medical staff failed to notice his son's heart had stopped.

Staff then could not locate a child resuscitation mask.

An investigation by the Health Quality Complaints Commission has not been finalised. The HQCC has informed Mr Olive and wife Trudy some Nambour Hospital staff were yet to be interviewed and two former health practitioners could not provide statements as they were "overseas, with no forwarding details".

The family's wait for answers has sparked a plea to Premier Campbell Newman and Health Minister Lawrence Springborg. In a letter, which was also provided to The Courier-Mail, the Olives asked why the investigation and potential lifesaving outcomes for other families were taking so long.

They said they had since discovered the condition that caused Tom's death, but would always be left wondering whether he could have been saved by better attention and communication in the emergency department and quicker diagnosis of his illness.

Tom's collapse and cardiac arrest was caused by a defective gene, named LPIN1, which breaks down muscle tissue and has officially claimed four Australian children and others around the world. His sister Laura, 4, does not carry the mutation but his younger sister Rose, 1, does. A plan has been set up to manage her condition.

"We cannot explain the level of emotional pain and suffering this is causing our family," the Olives wrote. "We would like you to put yourselves in our shoes. We have lost Tom, but cannot move on with our lives because we have this feeling in our gut that the circumstances surrounding his death have not been given the proper consideration."

The Olives said a coronial inquest could not be conducted until the HQCC investigation had been completed.


24 August, 2012

Australia Increases Refugee Quota in Broad Immigration Reform

Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Thursday ordered an immediate increase in the number of refugees that her country accepts yearly, part of an immigration reform package aimed at encouraging migrants to use official channels for asylum rather than long and dangerous boat journeys.

The increase in the annual refugee intake — to 20,000 from 13,700, the biggest increase in 30 years — caps two weeks of bruising debate after the release of an expert report on immigration commissioned by the Australian government. The debate has led Ms. Gillard’s governing Labor Party to reverse its longstanding opposition to reopening remote offshore detention centers that were closed when the party came to power in 2007.

“This increase is targeted to those in most need: those vulnerable people offshore, not those getting on boats,” Ms. Gillard told reporters. “Message No. 1: If you get on a boat, you are at risk of being transferred to Nauru or P.N.G.,” she said, referring to a small Pacific island nation and to Papua New Guinea. She continued, “Message No. 2: If you stay where you are, then there are more resettlement places available in Australia.”

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen announced that the camps would cost 150 million Australian dollars, or $157 million, through the 2012-13 fiscal year. Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea could begin accepting detainees within days, he said, depending on negotiations.

But Mr. Bowen told reporters that the Nauru center would house only 1,500 people when fully operational, while Manus would hold 600 refugees, raising questions about their efficacy as deterrents. A total of 8,439 asylum seekers have arrived by boat in Australia this year, according to local news reports.

Graham Thom, an expert on immigration at Amnesty International, said that while the increase was a positive step, given the complex factors driving people to seek asylum, it was far from clear that camps of the type outlined Thursday would actually deter desperate refugees.

“For people fleeing violence and persecution, how they move and where they move is a complex interplay of both ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors,” Mr. Thom said. “With the situation in countries like Afghanistan likely to continue to force significant numbers to flee, whether or not they choose to continue to try and reach Australia, even with the reintroduction of offshore processing, remains to be seen.”

Thousands of people try to reach Australia each year on rickety, overcrowded vessels, leading to accidents at sea that have killed more than 600 people since late 2009. Around 90 asylum seekers are believed to have died in June when their boat capsized south of the Indonesian island of Java, reigniting a debate that has smoldered for more than a decade.

Australia has tried for years to formulate a policy that would deter would-be immigrants from trying to reach Christmas Island, a territory in the Indian Ocean that is Australia’s closest point to Indonesia. Ms. Gillard had proposed sending asylum seekers to Malaysia for processing, but the plan was rejected by Australia’s highest court and negotiations over a replacement plan broke down.


Defiant Pickering says he's not finished with PM yet

Regardless of what you think of Pickering's toons, he's got a solid point in the sentence I have highlighted below

WHEN Julia Gillard lashed out at the "misogynist nut jobs on the internet" yesterday, she had in mind one man above all others, the famed former political cartoonist Larry Pickering.

Gold Coast-based Pickering began his career as a proof reader at The Canberra Times and got his break by posting cartoons on the door of the men's toilet. "There was only one dunny in the place, so I knew the editor would have to see them eventually," he said last night.

By the end of the '70s, Pickering - who last night claimed to have played for Richmond but is not listed in the encyclopedia of footballers - was at The Australian and his annual calendar of nude political portraits, Pickering's Playmates, was on many suburban toilet doors.

These days, he runs a blog, The Pickering Post, where he posts a cartoon and a column most days. His attack on Ms Gillard is seven entries into a planned 20-part series. Part eight may not be up today because he's waiting on some FOI material from Melbourne. But nothing in yesterday's press conference will deter him.

"I've got more material than ever. She's dodged every question she was asked," he said.

The site's commenters tend towards a passionate hatred of the PM common at the "nut job" end of the internet, and sexism features heavily. This one is typical, but only partly publishable: "Have you heard about the new Juliar KFC meal ….. 2 fat juicy thighs …" The rest is best left to the imagination. Or not.

Pickering frequently depicts the PM with a dildo hanging over her shoulder (it used to be a strap-on until Facebook censored him). Yesterday he rendered her as a pinata.

He refuses to concede there's anything misogynist about his treatment of her. "As for me being sexist, that's crap. I've never written a sexist thing about her. And as for the strap-on, Jesus Christ, you should see what I draw for the blokes."

Despite labelling his website "vile and sexist", the Prime Minister has ruled out suing, which is a disappointment to Pickering. "I'd love her to sue me," he said. "If she sues anyone, this will open up like a can of worms."

It may just be that Larry Pickering feels he's playing a game he can't lose. He claims to be broke, saying his ex-wife "took the helicopter, took the car, and took my kid". He's 70, and a simple pensioner, he insists.

It's a solid defence. Fairfax writer Michael Pascoe this week labelled Pickering "an inveterate liar, a bankrupt conman with a seedy history of fleecing the gullible". But, he added, "there's no point trying to sue a bankrupt".


Bill introduced into Queensland Parliament to scrap job security for public service

A slaughtered sacred cow!

A Bill scrapping job security for Queensland public servants was last night passed in State Parliament.

The Public Service and other Legislation Amendments Bill was passed easily in the house, with 60 Members of Parliament voting in favour. All seven Labor MPs, two members of Katter's Australia Party and two Independents voted against the Bill.

The Labor Member for Bundamba Jo-Ann Miller urged public servants to "flex off tomorrow" to protest the legislation.

In a move that stunned union leaders, Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie yesterday introduced the Bill to permanently remove job security from the government workforce, except for police.

The Government had tried to do that by "industrial instruments" known as directives but faced a Supreme Court challenge by unions, who said the move was unlawful. But Mr Bleijie's move to amend the Bill yesterday invalidated that Supreme Court action.

Mr Bleijie said the amendments showed the Government was "committed to providing an affordable public service for Queensland". It has claimed the state had "20,000 more public servants than it can afford".

But Together Queensland secretary Alex Scott said the legislation was a vicious attack on workers' rights that would allow the Government to sack health workers as well as other public servants. "It's clear they're leaving no stone unturned to sack 20,000 workers," he said. "By including health workers, it completely removes any guarantees that health jobs won't be outsourced."

As well as stripping job security and contracting out clauses, the Bill removes the requirement for workers to be consulted about workplace changes. The amendments also mean regulations that reduce an employee's conditions will not have to be enshrined in law.

Queensland Council of Unions president John Battams said the state's workers were considering their legal options.

Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk said the Bill was ill-conceived, rushed and had not allowed for sufficient consultation. "We cannot in all conscience support a Bill that has not been adequately scrutinised by the committee system and had the required input from stakeholders," Ms Palaszczuk told Parliament.


NSW Govt. takes control of teacher numbers and class sizes

A NEW staffing arrangement for teachers was imposed on the profession yesterday, giving the state government discretion to control teacher numbers and class sizes.

The Department of Education gave the NSW Teachers Federation an ultimatum to sign a new staffing agreement by 5.30pm on Wednesday, but the federation refused. So the agreement was introduced as government policy instead of a formal industrial agreement, which means it does not legally bind the government.

The Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, said he was committed to maintaining existing class sizes as "policy" and said the federation could still sign the agreement to make it formal until 2016.

"The principals wanted the flexibility to determine their mix of staff and we've given that to them," he said. The existing staffing agreement is due to expire within weeks.

The president of the NSW Teachers Federation, Maurie Mulheron, said he was not able to sign the agreement at "short notice" on Wednesday without first consulting his executive.

One of the sticking points in negotiations was the government's refusal to guarantee the number of senior teaching positions. It will be left to school principals to decide the number within a set budget.

Mr Mulheron said the staffing agreement would have formalised class sizes, but these were now at the minister's discretion.

He said the minister's action "confirms the fears of principals, teachers and parents that the government is intent on reducing the number of permanent classroom, executive and specialist teaching positions". "Without a formal staffing agreement, the class size policy can be changed at any time from term 4, 2012, onwards."

In a letter to staff, the director- general of education, Michele Bruniges, said four months of negotiations with the Teachers Federation over new staffing arrangements arising from the Local Schools, Local Decisions reforms had failed.

"Unfortunately these negotiations have not resulted in an agreement and as such the department will implement the new staffing procedures from day 1, term 4, 2012, by way of policy," Dr Bruniges said. "A key element of the Local Schools, Local Decisions reforms is putting an end to the centrally determined one-size-fits-all staffing model.

"The Minister and I have been very clear that the Local Schools, Local Decisions staffing reforms will maintain a statewide staffing system, which has greater opportunities for teachers to be selected at the local level to better meet student needs; maintain the department's class size policies".

The opposition spokeswoman for education, Carmel Tebbutt, said the new arrangement meant there was no protection for the present number of teachers or class sizes. "These will now be at the whim of the minister," she said. The Greens MP John Kaye said: "Classroom sizes and important administrative positions in schools have now been completely deregulated."


Tony Abbott fights no-fishing bid in Coral Sea

PLANS to lock-up the Coral Sea as the world's biggest marine park face a fresh attack with Tony Abbott to push a Bill through Parliament to stall controversial new marine park protected areas.

The Opposition Leader, in opening the Brisbane Boat Show, will today detail a Coalition bid to stop a plan for a network of marine reserves around Australia.

He said commercial and recreational fishermen were not "environmental vandals".

"They want to be able to catch fish tomorrow as well as today, in the next decade as well as this one," Mr Abbott said. "That's why they're normally the strongest conservationists of fish stocks."

Furious fishers believe the proposed closures will kill access to fresh seafood with losses also in the Gulf of Carpentaria prawn industry.

High-profile advocates like Virgin founder Richard Branson and musicians Jackson Browne and Neil Young, calling themselves "Ocean Elders", have publicly backed the Coral Sea proposal.

The Coalition will support a private member's Bill from Member for Dawson George Christensen to put on hold any proclamation on new conservation areas and obtain independent scientific, economic and social analysis.

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke yesterday rubbished a report showing a billion-dollar hit to Cairns alone as a "scare campaign".

"Their figure of $1 billion would only be correct if you were taking the impact of the marine parks over the next 200 years," Mr Burke said.

"I'm surprised that council would spend rate payers' hard earned money on a scare campaign like this."

Cairns Regional Council is asking Mr Burke's office to unveil a breakdown of its detailed cost analysis after an independent report by Cummings Economics revealed a $1 billion loss to the far north Queensland economy over three decades.

"We are all for protecting the Great Barrier Reef and our outer marine environment," said CRC officer Fiona Wilson.

"But this is not just the loss of a couple of fishing businesses, but a vast widespread impact, and we worry there is a risk they have heavily underestimated the cost.

"We want them to show us the modelling."

Protect Our Coral Sea advocates believe the green zones over nearly 1 million km sq will protect iconic marine species, fish stocks and coral reef in pristine waters.


23 August, 2012

New law to control cyber data

The Gillard government seems to have sneaked through the sort of internet laws that have been rejected even in Europe. The scope of the laws is however limited so they appear not to have rung any alarm bells. That the laws can be abused, however, there can be no doubt

NEW laws will allow authorities to collect and monitor Australians' internet records, including their web-browsing history, social media activity and emails.

But the laws, which will specifically target suspected cyber criminals, do not go as far as separate proposed laws designed to retain every Australian internet user's internet history for two years in the name of national security.

Under the laws passed yesterday, Australian state and federal police will have the power to compel telcos and internet service providers to retain the internet records of people suspected of cyber-based crimes, including fraud and child pornography. Only those records made after the request will be retained, but law enforcement agencies will be prevented from seeing the information until they have secured a warrant.

It is believed that while some telcos and internet service providers keep data for up to a week, others routinely delete users' data daily, frustrating the ability of authorities to gather evidence against suspects.

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said the laws would help police track cyber criminals globally and give authorities the power to find people engaged in forgery, fraud, child pornography and infringement of copyright and intellectual property. They also will allow Australia to join the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, which has 34 members.

"Cyber crime is a growing threat that touches all aspects of modern life," Ms Roxon said. "It poses complex policy and law enforcement challenges, partly due to the transnational nature of the internet."

But Greens communications spokesman Scott Ludlam said the laws went further than the European convention, and that the government had failed to explain why the far-reaching powers were necessary.

The European convention states that the treaty is not focused on data retention but on targeting law enforcement.

Australia's new laws mean information can be kept at least until police get a warrant.

Senator Ludlam was particularly concerned the laws would allow data that implicates Australians in crimes that carry penalties of three years or more - including the death penalty - to be collected and analysed.

"The European Treaty doesn't require ongoing collection and retention of communications, but the Australian bill does," he said in a statement. "It also leaves the door open for Australia to assist in prosecutions, which could lead to the death penalty overseas."

The deadline for submissions to a parliamentary inquiry into the separate proposed national security laws closed on Monday and a parliamentary committee will report on the issue at a date to be decided.

Those proposals would allow the telephone and internet data of every Australian to be retained for up to two years and intelligence agencies would be given increased access to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.


Empty education promises from the Federal Left

Who could ever deny our children the best education possible? It is of critical importance and Australia can offer no greater commitment to ensure the prosperity of the nation and its next generation.

But in this week's blizzard of words over the future of the Gonski report into education funding, the government is pulling a cruel hoax on Australia.

The government does not have the $26 billion required over a forward estimates period to cover its airy promises of better teachers and no school being left worse off in real terms.

All we have is a government addicted to making big announcements and locking in spending like there is no tomorrow, when in reality, all it is offering is false hope.

Recent history in Britain is a prime example of such false hope. The former Labour government led by Gordon Brown left David Cameron's government a crushing legacy of unfunded commitments with a series of unachievable promises.

Labor here are following the lead from their cousins on the other side of the world. Take, for instance, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, promised Labor would deliver. What Gillard and Labor have actually done is announce four NDIS trial sites. This is a long way short of committing the $8 billion that will be required to adequately service the NDIS every year.

If the government has really launched the NDIS, as it claims to have done, then the cost is not accounted for in its budget. Labor's only financial commitment is $1 billion for trial sites.

The best we get from the Prime Minister is an admission the government will have to make "substantial savings" to achieve her outcomes.

It was hard not to laugh when she said on Sunday "you've got to be prudent with every dollar, and we are". This is a Labor government that has made waste and mismanagement an artform, such as in the failed border protection policy that has incurred a $4.7 billion blowout or the $50 billion national broadband network that is a massive drain on the nation's resources.

The truth is that Labor will have no choice but to raise taxes to pay for its gargantuan promises. The Labor senator Doug Cameron said as much a fortnight ago when he said it was "inconceivable that this amount of government expenditure on building a good society could be funded from existing revenue".

In effect, the Treasury Secretary, Martin Parkinson, and now his predecessor Ken Henry are in agreement; Labor cannot continue checking expenditure against the nation's credit card. In the end, someone has to pay the bill.

With an election not due for possibly 15 months, the Coalition will not be making promises it cannot keep.

If a Coalition government is elected we have pledged, based on present information, a budget surplus in our first year and each year after that.

Unlike Labor, the Coalition is not hiding from funding its promises. Savings measures such as a reduction in the number of public servants have already been announced, with many areas of policy already costed and ready to deliver at the appropriate time. And if we are elected, a commission of audit into government finances will immediately begin a top-to-bottom review of government administration, identifying areas for immediate cuts to put an end to government waste and mismanagement.

Labor wants us to believe it will deliver a budget surplus in 2012-13 - a wafer thin $1.5 billion or just 0.1 per cent of gross domestic product. Contrast that with their record; just a year ago they forecast a $23 billion deficit for the 2011-12 financial year, which then turned out to be $44 billion. Four programs alone - schools funding, the NDIS, border protection and new submarines for the Australian navy - account for almost $75 billion in unfunded government promises.

Much rests on what will be revealed in the mid-year economic fiscal outlook due in November, and more importantly the budget in May.

Labor has introduced or increased 26 taxes since it came to power - including a carbon tax that was never supposed to happen.

Now the public has to suffer the indignity of a government providing nothing but false hope, for genuinely needed government programmes that have been promised but remain unfunded.


Australian public broadcaster on "crumbling" climate scepticism

This article, by ABC's environment editor, Sara Phillips, encapsulates all that is wrong with the national broadcaster's treatment of the climate debate. Written, as always, from a position of belief, and institutionally critical of any dissent, Phillips attempts to show that scepticism is crumbling in the face of ever-mounting evidence to the contrary:
American physicist Richard Muller is one climate sceptic who has recently changed his mind after reviewing the evidence.

Muller crunched a bunch of numbers to do with global temperatures and announced in the New York Times that he is a "converted sceptic". It was this opinion piece in arguably the world's most influential paper that set tongues wagging about climate change all over again.

Muller had previously been claimed by those unconvinced by the science as one of their own, because he questioned the validity of Mann's 'hockey stick' graph, used by Al Gore in his film An Inconvenient Truth.

Muller was never a sceptic, and there are plenty of rusted on believers who have problems with both Mann's hockey stick and AIT, which is nothing more than a propaganda film. Muller's subsequent evidence-free claim of attribution to human causes has led to widespread ridicule from within the warmist community.

She then attempts to frame Bjorn Lomborg as a convert from scepticism, using some highly selective quotes from past newspaper interviews:
Bjorn Lomborg is another high-profile climate sceptic who changed his mind after reviewing the evidence. He now believes climate change is real, but that it won't be the calamity predicted by some.

However, Lomborg directly addressed his alleged switch in a Guardian article cited indirectly:
He reiterates that he has never denied anthropogenic global warming, and insists that he long ago accepted the cost of damage would be between 2% and 3% of world wealth by the end of this century. This estimate is the same, he says, as that quoted by Lord Stern, whose report for the British government argued that the world should spend 1-2% of gross domestic product on tackling climate change to avoid future damage.

He has never doubted the role of CO2, but has rightly questioned the cost-benefit analysis of the proposed solutions. Phillips then describes Alan Jones as "frothing" to David Karoly. Whether you agree with Jones or not, Phillips would never describe a consensus climate scientist as "frothing", a highly inappropriate term to use. But it just helps to paint the picture of "deniers" as being deluded and crazy.

Of course there is a spectrum of views on climate - as she points out - which range from outright disbelief that temperatures are rising at all to acceptance of a measurable human signal in the global temperature record. However, she portrays this range of views in a very simplistic manner in an attempt to ridicule those who dare question the consensus.

Her conclusion appears to be that scepticism is on the wane and that "denial" is harder to sustain. But her view, distorted as it is by the prism of belief in AGW, fails to appreciate that the majority of sceptics accept the role of CO2 and that there is a human contribution to warming.

However, the reality is that there are problems with the surface temperature record, and there are problems with feedbacks in climate models, and there are serious questions to be answered regarding the proposed mitigation policies in response. Nothing in Muller's alleged conversion changes any of those issues.

More importantly, she completely ignores the fact that, due in part to an endless barrage of scare stories which have failed to eventuate, scepticism of the alarmist claims of The Cause™ has increased substantially over the past decade, to the point where a significant proportion of the public are now highly suspicious of the pronouncements of climate scientists and government advisers such as Tim Flannery.

Unfortunately, the article is just the latest in a very long line of examples of ABC's climate groupthink, where the utterances of climate scientists are beyond reproach and questioning of the consensus is frowned upon. That is not how science works: the motto, which the ABC, our taxpayer-funded and supposedly impartial national broadcaster, would do well to remember, is "question everything".


Queensland Parliament passes bill to cut mining red tape

A BILL that cuts mining red tape has passed in Queensland Parliament, despite criticisms about the length of the consultation period.

The Mines Legislation (Streamlining) Amendment Bill 2012 was put forward by the Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Andrew Cripps on Wednesday night.

Some aspects of the bill loosen restrictions around infastructure for coal seam gas mining.

Shane Kunth, the member for Dalrymple and a member of Katter's Australia Party, hit out at the consultation timeframe and said some key stakeholders, such as farmers and the agricultural industry, only had four days to submit their views on the bill's complex changes.

Mr Kunth read out in Parliament a submission by General Manager of Agforce, Drew Wagner, which said he believed the consultation timeframe was 'tantamount to negligence'.

Independant Member for Nicklin Peter Wellington levelled similiar criticisms at the bill and said he was "so disappointed that so many Queenslanders are not seeing what's happening in this the 54th Parliament".

"If this is standard of consultation this government is happy with, look I shake my head," Mr Wellington said.

Many members of the Liberal National Party defended how the bill was introduced, pointing out that the Bligh Government introduced parts of the bill in its early stages in November 2011.

"In these early months of government it would not be feasible to give a six month consultation period to every piece of legislation before tabelling it for debate," the member for Maryborough Anne Maddern said.

In his closing statement, Mr Cripps hit back at the member for South Brisbane's criticims of the bill, pointing out that Jackie Trad hadn't atttended a previous consultation on the bill and was therefore 'hypocritical' in her criticisms of the community consultations for the bill.

The bill focused on the tenure adminstration system and aims to reduce the time taken to decide tenure.

"Current resource tenure processes are antiquated, inefficent and impose unneccessary adminstrative and regulatory burdens on industry and on government. This needlessly wastes considerable government and indsutry time and resources,' Mr Cripps said.

Mr Cripps said MyMinesOnline, a website put forward by the bill, would streamline tenure management, bringing it into 'a more transparent online environment'.

"The admendaments in the bill will help transform tenure management from an outdated manual, paper-based system into a faster, modern and more transparent online environment, through MyMinesOnline," Mr Cripps said.

The bill was introduced into Parliament on August 2.


22 August, 2012

Queenslanders no closer to truth of dams management during 2011 flood

The truth is plain. The dam was mismanaged by using the flood compartment for water storage. There would have been no flood otherwise. Everything else is buckpassing

QUEENSLANDERS are still no closer to learning whether the southeast's dams were managed properly during the 2011 flood after the $15 million flood inquiry's final firework turned out to be a damp squib.

The Crime and Misconduct Commission yesterday said a flaw in the dams' operations manual in use at the time could easily have explained apparent inconsistencies in flood engineers' evidence to the floods inquiry.

The CMC said it would be "oppressive" to mount a prosecution of three engineers whom the commission referred to it in March after allegations in the inquiry's final report that they concocted their official accounts of the event.

CMC chairman Ross Martin, SC, told The Courier-Mail the crime-fighting body had not been asked to look at the "critical issue" of the engineers making huge releases on January 11, "which was the event that triggered the actual flooding".

"The flood inquiry had its own terms of reference and it was the flood inquiry's task to pursue that and I make no criticism of that," Mr Martin said. "We were given a much more narrow and specific focus and we've done our job."

Mr Martin said the CMC had pointed out the problem to Seqwater, who said the flaw over the definition of the "W2" strategy had been fixed. "The revision 9 of the Wivenhoe Manual was reviewed ahead of the 2011-12 wet season and has improvements in terms of clarity and explanation of the different strategies (ie. W1, W2, W3 and W4) and the transition and decision making process between them," a spokesman said.

Seqwater said it remained "acutely aware of the impact of the floods and the devastation caused which is ongoing for so many in our community" but it was "important not to lose sight of the magnitude and rarity of the January event".

The Courier-Mail first revealed problems with the manual of operations for Somerset and Wivenhoe dams in May 2011.

The newspaper reported dam expert Max Winders in January as saying the manual was still flawed despite revisions following the flood inquiry's interim report the previous August. Yesterday Mr Winders said the manual the engineers had used was "pathetic . . . but it wasn't those poor buggers' fault". "The new manual is just as bad because it's not optimising flood mitigation," he said.

Mr Winders said there was a governance problem in the management of water infrastructure.

With Premier Campbell Newman ruling out any further royal commissions into the floods, victims and taxpayers now face only the uncertain prospect that civil litigation will test whether the State Government managed the dams properly.

Law firm Maurice Blackburn has registered interest from 4000 people in a suit against the government, with 2000 "committed".

IMF, which is funding the action, said it was pressing ahead and the CMC decision had no effect. IMF's John Walker said reports from US experts had been held up by State Government delays but their findings, mapping who would not have been flooded if the dams had been managed differently, were now expected by the end of next month and would be made public.

The engineers, John Tibaldi and Terry Malone of Seqwater, and Robert Ayre, previously of SunWater, all declined to comment. Friends and colleagues said the men were deeply relieved after a stressful period.

John Ruffini, a flood engineer who gave evidence at the inquiry but was not referred to the CMC, told The Courier-Mail yesterday that he felt for his colleagues.

"I've spoken to the guys and they're all very relieved," he said. "I've known them for a long time. They're very honest."

Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said the engineers had been made "scapegoats" by the previous government. He said he remained troubled that former Bligh government ministers "got off scot-free" in the aftermath of the devastating flood. [Correct. It was the Bligh government at fault for ordering the wrong use of the flood compartment]


Man jailed over Facebook page that rated women's sexual performance

Victoria has some very oppressive laws about speech. This is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Crimes of actual violence sometimes earn no jail time. One hopes this verdict is overturned on appeal.

PARENTS are being warned to tell their kids they could face criminal convictions for online trolling after a Victorian man was sentenced to jail for making an offensive Facebook page.

David McRory, 22, pleaded guilty in Bendigo Magistrates' Court yesterday to using a carriage service to offend and publishing objectionable material online.

The court heard McRory and a friend, Joshua Turner, 22, started a Facebook page that rated the sexual performance of women from Central Victoria.

The defence counsel said in court that McRory - the Facebook page creator - did not mean to cause long-term harm. But he was still given a four-month jail term, which the magistrate said would send a strong message to the public about what was acceptable behaviour online.

Law Institute of Victoria spokesman Robert Stary said the rare ruling was becoming more common and warned parents to educate their kids now. "The law has always been behind the rapid change in social media," Mr Stary said. "But we are in a new era when the law slowly catches up with reality.

"Any parent would see as a result of this case that they have a responsibility to intervene and monitor what is being said online by their child."

Mr Stary said the number of cyber cases being prosecuted would continue to rise and said parents needed to act now. He also called for better education in Victorian schools to drive home the risks to teens.

McRory's lawyers said they would appeal against the sentence.

Turner faced court in July and was given a wholly suspended six-month prison sentence and was also banned from using Facebook for two years. His case is currently under appeal.


Police expected to smash CSG blockade

RESIDENTS in a Hunter settlement who have been blockading a coal seam gas (CSG) drilling site expect police to evict them on Wednesday.

More than 30 people gathered at Fullerton Cove, north of Newcastle, early on Monday morning to protest against Dart Energy's proposal to drill two CSG pilot wells. The group blockaded the site through Monday and Tuesday.

Dart has said the protesters were trespassing and preventing trucks from entering the site near Stockton Beach.

Lindsay Clout, a spokesman for the Fullerton Cove Residents Action Group, said Dart had asked police to intervene.

"NSW Police have informed Fullerton Cove residents that they will be moving in to evict them from their peaceful blockade of a coal seam gas drilling site on Wednesday," Mr Clout, a 20-year resident of the area, said in a statement.

"The residents have indicated their intention to maintain the community blockade until a proper Environment Impact Statement has been developed for the proposed gas drilling.

"We are incredibly disappointed at the heavy-handed approach they have taken to this issue by sending in the police against concerned residents."

Dart has argued that the project had been subject to a comprehensive environmental assessment from both the state and federal governments and was sustainable.


Christians in Australia have been warned to expect more intense opposition from some same-sex marriage activists following U.S. Chick-fil-A episode

Mr Cathy last week stated in a radio interview that he supported the biblical definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. “We are a family-owned business. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families,” Mr Cathy said.

Government officials from three U.S. cities responded by stating they would ban Chick-fil-A from opening restaurants in their municipalities, despite the fact that the company issued a statement saying it strives to “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.”

Chairman of Liberty Counsel Mat Staver said it was “the height of stupidity and ignorance” for public officials to threaten denial of a right to do business because the president of a private company supported natural marriage.

“Each generation faces different issues and challenges, but our standard must always be measured by God’s word. I appreciate the Cathy family’s public support for God’s definition of marriage,” veteran evangelist Dr Billy Graham said.

In Australia, some same-sex marriage activists made loud calls in June for a boycott of coffee chain Gloria Jeans following news that the company gave $30,000 to the Australian Christian Lobby.

NSW Council of Churches President, the Revd Dr Ross Clifford, said it was regrettable that globally some public officials and others felt obliged to take extreme measures to support same-sex marriage and stifle public debate.

“We support freedom of speech. We want a reasoned, civil debate about marriage without the threat of punitive action by those who happen to disagree with us,” Dr Clifford said.

“We sense the need to warn churches and businesses led by Christians of the likely intensification of opposition to Christian values as same-sex marriage activists see their public support slipping away.”

“Extreme statements and actions by advocates of same-sex marriage, along with a growing awareness of the dangers of their radical social experiment, only serve to weaken their case and turn public opinion against them.”

“Australian church leaders have been unjustly accused of homophobia, bigotry. Virtually every week the ABC program QandA features one or more questions on gay marriage, even when the theme has nothing to do with marriage, as we saw last Monday when the program focused on sport and the Olympics,” Dr Clifford said.


21 August, 2012

Gillard's very costly disability scheme

Late Friday afternoon, Treasury released a report it commissioned by the less-than-famous Australian Government Actuary (AGA) into the Productivity Commission’s costings of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

The Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) requested the report under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 to confirm the projected cost of the NDIS, which has been the focus of my research here at the CIS.

The AGA report was also picked up by the Australian Financial Review, which reported on Saturday (19 August 2012):

The cost of the National Disability Insurance Scheme could blow out to $10.5 billion a year by 2018–19, partly due to the industrial umpire’s decision to award big pay increases to community workers.

The warning from the Australian Government Actuary, in a document released by Treasury under freedom of information late on Friday, highlights further budgetary risks associated with big ticket spending items flagged by both sides of politics.

Reviewing the Productivity Commission’s costing of the NDIS, the actuary said that though the methodology was sound, it contained some risks.

‘Factors that have the potential to increase the estimated cost include the wage case for social and community sector workers, possible overstatement of offsets and the treatment of the psychiatric disability group,’ the actuary said.

The Productivity Commission estimated that the cost of the NDIS in 2018-19 would be $15 billion gross cost ($8 billion net). But this estimate is for the NDIS if it existed in 2009-10 and uses 2009–10 prices, population and costs. However, the NDIS will not exist until 2018-19, so there is at least nine years of population growth and price inflation missing from the commission’s $15 billion estimate.

The AGA has done the estimates to fill this gap in the public’s knowledge and found that the gross cost of the NDIS in 2018-19 will be approximately $22 billion and the net cost $10.5 billion.

The public has been poorly served in the debate surrounding the NDIS with misleading facts and figures. Hopefully, with better information, we can have a proper debate on what is promising to be Australia’s next public sector leviathan.


Opposition to multiculturalism emerges in in local elections

NICK FOLKES doesn't object to people learning a foreign language, or even dabbling in ethnic cooking. But call other cultures equal? That's "madness", he says.

"Our culture is better than the Muslim culture, it is better than the African culture," he said. "At the end of the day, why did they come here? There must be something wrong with their culture.

The Australian Protectionist Party firebrand joins a growing number of controversial far-right candidates chasing the xenophobic vote at next month's council elections.

Australia First, the anti-immigration party hoping to fill the political void left by One Nation, is running 23 candidates across western and south Sydney and the Blue Mountains, up from 15 at the last council poll.

The party's website takes aim at the Channel Ten program The Shire and its sprinkling of ethnic characters, labelling it "media contrived assimilation". Several candidates attempt to link urban sprawl and rate increases to immigration.

The artist Sergio Redegalli, who painted the controversial "Say no to burqas" sign outside his Newtown workshop, is making a first-time bid for Marrickville Council as an independent.

Mr Folkes, 42, an industrial painter from Rozelle, wants Leichhardt council declared a "sharia-free zone" and would scrap council grants to multicultural groups.

"There is a vacuum in politics at the moment. We believe that a lot of people, in time, will definitely vote for us," he said.

History indicates that day is a long way off. Mr Folkes attracted 289 votes, or 0.6 per cent of the vote, when he ran as an independent for the seat of Balmain last year.

A University of Western Sydney immigration expert, Kevin Dunn, said only 12 per cent of Australians held negative views towards cultural diversity and that anti-immigration candidates typically polled badly.

But their agendas could influence council decisions on issues such as building mosques or religious schools, especially during times of national unrest over boat arrivals.

"The general nature of debate at the national level has a direct effect locally in terms of community relations, attitudes and local politics," Professor Dunn said, and racist attitudes "fade or flourish" depending on public discourse.

Ready to counter the racial supremacists is the Unity Party, a multiculturalist group that has shifted its gaze to local government since its federal and state ambitions faded five years ago.

The party, which has two elected councillors, promotes cultural diversity and respect for religion and has fielded 40 candidates across NSW, the party's founder, Peter Wong, said.

"I think Australia is a lot more broad-minded since Pauline Hanson's time," Mr Wong said. "I don't really think those candidates will make great headway."


Federal aid to private schools still an issue for some on the Left

It's just gone 50 years since what is now called the Goulburn Schools Strike. On Friday July 13, 1962, six Catholic schools in the Goulburn diocese closed and instructed their pupils to enrol the following Monday in the government school system. Some 2000 Catholic pupils applied for entry into the public school system, which had only 640 vacancies.

The immediate cause of the protest was the refusal of NSW health authorities to install additional toilet facilities at Our Lady of Mercy Preparatory School in Goulburn. It was driven by members of the Catholic laity who were frustrated that they received no government support for the funding of the Catholic school system, which had been formed at the end of the 19th century.

The story of the Goulburn School Strike is documented in Michael Hogan's book The Catholic Campaign for State Aid (1978) and in the Commonwealth Education Department's publication entitled A History of State Aid (2006). The incident attracted widescale national media attention. Yet it was not successful, and within a couple of weeks, the Catholic school children returned to their original schools.

In her speech to the Independent Schools National Forum yesterday, the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, referred to that "first, famous Menzies science laboratories program which gave so many independent schools a historic boost". Correct. The reference was to the decision of Robert Menzies's Coalition government, on the eve of the 1963 federal election, to commit the Commonwealth to provide financial aid for the establishment of science blocks in both government and non-government schools.

This did not happen by chance. The Menzies government had achieved only a narrow victory in the 1961 election. It was saved by a strong first preference flow from the Democratic Labor Party, which had been formed as a consequence of the Labor Split of the mid-1950s. B.A. Santamaria (the president of the Catholic lay organisation the National Civic Council) and others convinced the Coalition of the need to make a gesture to the largely Catholic DLP voters.

The tactic worked in 1963. So much so that it was tried again four years later. In 1967, the Victorian Liberal Party premier Henry Bolte was worried that he might lose seats to the Country Party. This time Santamaria, working with the DLP, sent a message to Bolte that the DLP could well preference the Country Party ahead of the Liberals if the Liberals did not make a gesture to DLP supporters.

Bolte got the message. In 1967 the Liberal Party announced that, if re-elected, it would provide a form of per capita payments to children attending non-government primary schools. By the end of the 1960s, the principle of government assistance to non-government schools and students had been firmly established. Soon after, Labor, which had long opposed assisting non-government schools, came on board.

From time to time, sections of the left have tried to change the policy. Before she became Labor premier of Victoria, Joan Kirner was active in the Defence of Government Schools (DOGS) organisation - which was really an attack dog aimed at non-government schools.

Appearing on Jonathan Green's Sunday Extra on Radio National last weekend, Ben Eltham declared that the $6.5 billion annually needed to fund the Gonski Report "would easily be found if private schools, the elite private schools in particular, were not receiving any funding at all".

Apparently Eltham is unaware of the message of Goulburn half a century ago. If government funding to non-government schools ceased or was significantly reduced, there would be a movement of students from the private to the public sector. This would amount to a significant cost to the Commonwealth and state budgets.

Then there is the politics. Many families in the suburbs and regional centres - where most of the marginal seats are located - want their children to attend moderate-fee, non-government schools. Mainstream Labor understands this, even if many inner-city leftists do not.

The hostility of the education unions to private schools turns on the fact that some non-government schools challenge the public sector model. Quite a few private schools have larger class sizes than their public school counterparts. Moreover, all give principals the right to hire and fire teachers and to terminate poor performers. The teachers unions, on the other hand, frequently defend the incompetent and the lazy among their members.

In the United States, Britain and now Western Australia, governments are establishing "charter" or "free" schools, which are publicly funded but operate independently from the education bureaucracy. The Coalition, led by Christopher Pyne on this issue, is beginning to embrace this initiative.

Prime Minister Gillard has performed well in standing up to the education unions and introducing such initiatives as the My School website. Her support for independent schools is in this tradition.

The real test, however, will turn on funding. Her speech yesterday did not resolve this issue.


Welfare housing under scrutiny in Victoria

Public housing is set for an unprecedented overhaul under the Baillieu government. Three public documents have set the scene. In March, the Auditor-General declared in a special housing report that the "social housing" system was financially unsustainable. In April, the Housing Minister, Wendy Lovell, released a discussion paper, Pathways to a New Victorian Social Housing Framework, declaring "the status quo is not an option".

Pathways was accompanied by the canvassing of alternative financial models for the future of the sector by private consultants KPMG.

Critics such as Swinburne University lecturer Terry Burke say that all three reports are flawed in their own way. The Auditor-General's narrow financial snapshot disregards the federal cuts to housing spending and also the social background of people who rely on public housing. The department's report fails to examine how its own policies have transformed public housing into welfare housing. The third paper, he says of KPMG's work, airs impractical financing options.

"This is a problem in Australian social housing. Governments think they can employ private accountancy firms to come up with some magic bullet formula which will allow them to fund public housing without any subsidy. That's just nonsense."

Burke says the history of public housing and the failure of the private market to house low-income earners has been forgotten. Simply, he says, some low-income earners will require a housing subsidy. The real question is what form that subsidy takes and who provides it?

Opposition housing spokesman Richard Wynne says the government seems intent on "the easy road of selling off housing stock and raising rents on the poorest in our community."

Workers in the social housing sector - which includes the Office of Housing and low cost accommodation run by non-profit agencies - say the government's thinking points to privatisation, higher rents, short-term leases and less secure tenure for residents, an end to the "home for life" culture of public housing.

"Unlike private rental agreements, public housing tenants effectively have open-ended leases," says Pathways, meaning tenants can remain for decades even if their personal circumstances change significantly. Rents are capped at a maximum of 25 per cent of tenants' income. In fact, few pay that much.

The government talks of tenants moving out of public housing as their employment and economic circumstances improve. Expressions like "public housing has become a destination and not a pathway" suggest that long-term tenure will be reviewed.

But the Council for Homeless Persons, in its response to Pathways, says that compared to the general public, public housing tenants have "more disabilities, poorer health, lower levels of education, lower incomes and poorer work histories". The major barrier to employment was poor health, particularly mental health problems.

A government spokeswoman says over the five years to 2011, more than a third of people leaving public housing moved into the private rental market. "Although the private rental market is tight in some areas, it has absorbed a number of tenants who have moved out," she says.

The spokeswoman added that long-term tenure would continue for those for whom a way out of public housing was not feasible, such as age pensioners, or people with severe disabilities or mental health issues. No decisions have been made about the proportion of tenants who may be able to move into the private market, she says.

Citing the tax review by former Commonwealth treasury secretary Ken Henry, the government argues public housing is unfair, since those who occupy it are manifestly better off than people of similarly modest means who rent privately.

An unemployed couple, for example, receiving a $439 fortnightly Newstart allowance would pay at most 25 per cent of their income in rent. Renting privately would consume 55 per cent of their income. The review said the higher average level of assistance to public housing tenants was not "targeted to need".

But critics reply that it is precisely targeting to greatest need that has helped to create chronic underfunding of public housing. Conceived in the 1930s as a means of housing low-income working families who could not afford private rents, it has transformed into an extension of the welfare system.

Eighty six per cent of residents rely on Commonwealth welfare benefits. Increasingly they depend on disability pensions as well as age, veterans pensions and other benefits. In government-speak, they are people "with high and complex needs" who are economically and socially disadvantaged.

In its response to Pathways, Jesuit Social Services was sceptical at the possibility of large-scale movement into the private sector. "For some, but clearly not all tenants, capacity might be built so that they can enter employment and transition out of public housing. It is important that the expectations about the potential for this outcome are realistic … [age and disability] pensions are the primary source of income for a large majority of public housing tenants. Individuals in receipt of these benefits have been assessed as unable to work."

The Jesuits say strong evidence shows only a very small number of tenants successfully move out for the long term. If the government knows this, its ambitions seem to disregard it, as if it views securing a public housing unit as the battler's version of winning Tattslotto, only with better odds.

"You do wonder sometimes if people know who they are talking about, if they get inside the skin of the very people they are making decisions about, that are really dramatic and life-changing [decisions]," says Jesuit Social Services chief executive Julie Edwards.

Pathways suggests that fairness might improve with regular tenancy reviews so residents would need to demonstrate that they were still deserving of a place. Short-term leases are another option, as the report expressed it: "to reframe some public housing as a time-limited intervention that responds to an immediate need".

Swinburne University's Terry Burke says the government's ambitions defy the facts. "They don't seem to understand their own data, which shows that the bulk of their tenants are on Centrelink benefits, and on incomes which require a full [rent] subsidy."

Few residents, he says, pay anything like the rent the private sector would demand. "They are expected to pay 25 per cent of their incomes in rent and for many tenants that's too high, so any discussions about getting a higher rent from them is enormously problematic."

Burke says encouraging tenants to move out may not help if all it means is they churn through homelessness and the social housing sector.

THE government says its problems are compounded since much of its housing stock was built for larger working families, yet its longest waiting list is for single-bedroom units.

"This inflexibility in the system is leading to longer waiting lists … as tenants wait for an appropriate [dwelling]," according to the government's report.

Perhaps too much should not be made of this since the waiting list for three and four-bedroom accommodation remains substantial, at 8068 families. The government's rhetoric, however, creates the impression of a generally dysfunctional system.

Lower rental income is limiting the ability to maintain housing stock, the government says. The auditor's office says that the $56 million gap between rental income and operating costs caused by targeting to greatest need is expected to grow to $115 million in 2015.

Viewing the housing deficit from another perspective, Fiona Kranenbroek says that at present it is almost matched by the annual subsidy for the formula one Australian Grand Prix.

The government's report paints a bleak picture of public housing. The government also asked consultants KPMG to propose future ways of supporting the sector. KPMG suggested public-private partnerships as a way of renewing housing stock, transferring government housing to non-profit agencies, or privatising government housing to lease back from investors.

Burke says none of these options will do much to increase the supply of affordable housing. "Whether it's housing bonds, public-private partnerships, all of them require the ability to service some sort of debt, and with incomes so low, public housing agencies do not have the ability to provide a viable interest repayment on bonds, a viable return to PPPs, unless they are subsidised," he says.

"The big problem for all the states is that the national affordable housing agreement, which largely funds public housing, does not supply enough money, and that started really with the Howard era," says Burke.

"We should just see housing as a merit good in the same way we see education, transport and healthcare, where government puts in a subsidy in recognition there are going to be some people whose incomes are too low to live in the private housing market."

He says there may be a place for shorter-term leases but the debate the government has begun neglects two important things: that federal funding cuts are the core of the problem, and public housing's relationship to the wider housing market. Greater security for private-market tenants, and rejigging negative gearing to foster investment in new dwellings rather than existing housing, have a role.

"You need solutions in the wider housing market to deal with problems in public housing," says Burke. "You can't look to internal solutions, refinancing, to solve the problem if you don't deal with the Commonwealth and the failure of the private sector to supply affordable, appropriate housing."

The government spokeswoman says no decisions have been made about alternative funding, including PPPs, but it is necessary to explore possible financing models.

"We have inherited a public housing system in crisis as a result of the poor management of the housing asset portfolio over a number of years," she said. Despite that, already new houses had been delivered in Westmeadows and Norlane, in Geelong, with more to follow.

Opposition spokesman Richard Wynne responds that both Westmeadows and Norlane were begun when Labor was in office. He says the Baillieu government has contributed no new funding to public housing in its two budgets.

"The financial challenges Victoria faces are the same as those confronting every housing authority in the country," says Wynne. "That's despite the fact that every year in office Labor committed funding above its obligations to the federal government, including a record $500 million in 2009, the largest one-off injection by a state government ever."


20 August, 2012

Private schools to get more funding

With 40% of Australian teenagers going to private schools, this was a no-brainer. The parents concerned also vote. The Labor party has obviously not forgotten Mark Latham's rout over private school funding. It was a conservative government (in 1963 under Menzies) that initiated Federal funding for private schools and conservatives have owned the issue ever since

THE Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, will today reveal that every independent school will receive an increase in government funding regardless of its wealth.

The announcement, a significant victory for the private school lobby, goes beyond the government's previous pledge that no school would lose a dollar under funding reforms.

It is designed to head off the Coalition scare campaign that private schools would have to increase fees because their funding would not increase in real terms under the long-awaited overhaul of school funding.

At an independent education forum in Canberra today, Ms Gillard will say there should be government support to educate every child from the poorest and most remote school to the best known and best resourced.

"Every independent school in Australia will see their funding increase under our plan," she is expected to say. "This plan will lift school standards, not school fees.

"No matter how rich or poor your parents are or where you go to school, our nation should provide a basic degree of support to your education."

Speaking to the Herald this month, Ms Gillard signalled she wanted to swing the national debate back to Labor policy strengths such as education, disability and industrial relations.

Today's funding pledge is a massive departure from former Labor leader Mark Latham's notorious private school "hit list", which would have resulted in 67 of the nation's wealthiest schools losing funding.

Labor has been determined not to antagonise the private school sector after the "hit list" was one of the policies blamed for its 2004 election loss.

David Gonski, who chaired the first major review into school funding in 40 years, was given the task of ensuring no school would lose a dollar as a result of its recommendations. But Ms Gillard will today go a step further and say every independent school will receive a funding increase.

The states and independent and Catholic education systems have raised concerns that modelling showed 3254 schools could lose out if the Gonski model was strictly applied. This includes 227 Catholic schools, 720 government schools and 103 independent schools in NSW.

However, the Gonski modelling assumes government and Catholic education systems would redistribute funding to ensure no school was worse off.

The federal government's final response to the Gonski review was initially expected this week but is now expected next month.

The review recommended the federal and state governments boost spending on education by $5 billion a year, with the majority to go to public schools.

The model aims to address disadvantage by allocating a standard amount per student, with loadings for students with a disability and those from low-income, indigenous and non-English speaking backgrounds.

The Commonwealth is expected to tip in $3 billion - double the amount the Gonski review suggested - with the states also required to contribute.

However, the funding will be conditional on schools submitting a performance plan on how they would improve student results and more training and annual performance reviews for teachers.


Carbon pain registers for businesses

STRUGGLING small business owners are reporting a hit to their profits from the carbon tax - but are unwilling to pass increased costs on to customers because of the tough retail environment.

A national survey of 186 small firms has found 50 per cent are reporting carbon tax-related price hikes to power bills and other supplies. But only 33 per cent are making their clientele pay.

With many high street retailers experiencing slow trading conditions, a mere 8 per cent favoured the carbon tax, according to a News Limited survey.

And in more bad news for Prime Minister Julia Gillard, backing for Labor among small businesses has plunged.

Only 7 per cent said they would vote Labor at the next election. Eighteen per cent voted for the ALP at the 2010 federal poll.

About 66 per cent of the businesses surveyed - including bookshops, cafes, shoe stores, automotive outlets and other retailers - say they have absorbed the tax and have taken a hit to their profits.

Some businesses claimed the effect of the tax is so bad they may have to close some operations. "We have to consider closing one business down to keep the other business open because of the carbon tax," said Doug Cush, the owner of Bellata Gold Pasta, in the northern NSW electorate of New England.

Adrian Sykes, owner of the Autosmart vehicle cleaning products business at Rathmines, on the Central Coast, estimated a 5 per cent increase in wholesale costs with half a dozen suppliers lifting prices within a week of the carbon tax commencing.

"People are using the carbon tax as an excuse; there hasn't been enough time for there to be a real impact," Mr Sykes said.

Small Business Minister Brendan O'Connor is more upbeat and said business angst was dissipating. "The overall cost impact is negligible. Treasury has confirmed the cost (of carbon tax on energy) is 0.2 per cent to overall costs of business," he said.

Mick Carroll, who owns a plastics moulding firm in Victoria with annual revenues of about $1 million, has recently been told that his electricity rates are going up by 47 per cent from September 1.While the carbon tax is only responsible for some of this hike, Mr Carroll said he would find it hard to make further savings to offset the increase in his $2500 a month power bill. "I'm already to the bone in terms of our margins. This will be the final nail in manufacturing as I know it," he said.

The survey was conducted across 10 electorates in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and the ACT, regions which are held by those who helped introduce the scheme.

These include Ms Gillard's seat of Lalor, Treasurer Wayne Swan's seat of Lilley, Climate Change Minister Greg Combet's seat of Charlton and the two NSW seats held by independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor.

While worried about prices, small firms said the carbon tax has had only a marginal impact on cutting paperwork. But this has done little to allay concerns about the tax's impact.

One Canberra bookshop owner believes his prices will increase by "at least" $10,000 a year, mainly due to extra power and rent.


Furious fishermen protest government plans for marine park plans and Coral Sea fishing

HUNDREDS of angry fishmongers and trawlers rallied against Federal Government plans to introduce new marine parks yesterday, voicing fears of a dramatic increase in the proportion of imported seafood on Queensland plates.

Also in their sights were proposals to shut down significant sections of the Coral Sea to fishing.

The rally was organised by Hamilton seafood identity Kristina Georges, who operates Samies Girl Fresh Seafood Market.

Industry members descended on Shorncliffe to express their concerns.

Moreton Bay Seafood Industry Association net delegate Dave Thomson said recreational and commercial fishermen would be hurt by the proposed changes.

"I've been in this industry all my life and I'm 62 years old," he said. "It's just sad to see that the whole thing is getting eroded away. Eventually, it's got to stop. Let's just continue with the sustainable fishing that we've got. "They're trying to raise issues that aren't really there."

Mr Thomson said the "green push" driving the changes would lead to changes in importation levels. "There's going to be less local seafood available," he said. "Eventually, we're going to have to feed the place. I'm struggling to understand the actual reasoning behind it all."

Prawn trawler couple Sam and Steve Anderson attended the rally with the hope of sending a message to the Federal Government.

"That's the most important thing," Mrs Anderson said.

"There is going to be no fresh seafood, there's going to be no Australian seafood. Where are we going to get our seafood from? It's going to come from overseas."


Students troubled by role adults play in school bullying

AS SCHOOLS struggle with the problem of bullying, the role that adults play is often overlooked.

According to students who previewed a confronting new American documentary on the subject, threatening and violent behaviour gets worse when adults ignore it, condone it or just play it down as "kids just being kids".

"It was just scary because of how the adults reacted to the bullying that was happening," said Ashley Colaco, 15. "They just didn't do really anything about it.

"They tried to make the children sort it out for themselves and there was really no support there for the kids."

The film centres on five troubling cases in middle America: a lonely boy whose bus trip to school is a violent ordeal, a girl who is ostracised when she comes out as gay, a teenager who fights back by pointing a loaded gun at her taunters and the grieving families of two boys driven to take their own lives. They are reputedly among more than 13 million American students bullied every year.

The class seemed stunned by the violence shown in American schools compared with the "safe haven" of their own.

For Rachel Djoeandy, 16, it was confronting seeing a boy being strangled on a school bus and others being pushed into lockers.

"A lot of bullying that exists is nowhere near that kind of standard but it obviously starts at a very small stage and just gets magnified and magnified," said Nick Iliadis, 17.

And while the latest CensusAtSchool survey suggests Australian students are more concerned about reducing bullying than any other social issue, the Caringbah class say they are taught how to handle it.

"They definitely give us options of who to speak to," said Ashley Colaco. "They definitely tell us 'ok, if something is happening, go to … the welfare adviser or your teacher or your parents', so that you're not just alone. I have friends who'd support me through anything so I'd definitely go to them as well."

The school's year adviser, Craig Cantor, found himself getting angry at the adults in the film, including a senior school official and a police officer who gave little support to the victims. He believes schools have improved how they handle the issue, with less of a "boys will be boys" attitude and more understanding that bullying can be psychological rather than just physical.

For the school's welfare teacher, Rosie Miller, it was troubling that parents and teachers in the film were putting the responsibility on children to solve the problem.

But she found the toughest part was "the raw grief" of parents whose children had taken their own lives.


19 August, 2012

Union corruption: Julia Gillard lost her job after law firm's secret investigation

This revelation could well be the beginning of the end for her as PM

JULIA Gillard left her job as a partner with law firm Slater & Gordon as a direct result of a secret internal probe in 1995 into controversial work she had done for her then boyfriend, a union boss accused of corruption, The Weekend Australian can reveal.

Nick Styant-Browne, a former equity partner of the firm, broke a 17-year silence yesterday to reveal that the firm's probe included a confidential formal interview with the Prime Minister - then an industrial lawyer - on September 11, 1995, which was "recorded and transcribed".

In the interview, Ms Gillard stated that she could not categorically rule out that she had personally benefited from union funds in the renovation of her Melbourne house, according to Mr Styant-Browne.

She said in the interview that she believed she had paid for all the work and materials, and had receipts, which she later produced.

Mr Styant-Browne's revelations today mark the first time that anyone among the former and present partners of her employer before she started her political career has spoken on the record about matters that have controversially dogged Ms Gillard since 1995.

Mr Styant-Browne, now a Seattle-based lawyer, said the partnership "took a very serious view" of these and other matters, "and accepted her resignation".

The legal entity that Ms Gillard began to establish for Mr Wilson from mid-1992 was used by Mr Wilson and his then friend, AWU bagman and West Australian branch head Ralph Blewitt, to allegedly corruptly receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from large companies.

The companies were told their money would pay for safety and training of AWU members on major work sites. However, the funds were allegedly siphoned off for purposes including the personal use of Mr Wilson and Mr Blewitt.

Mr Cambridge called on the federal Labor government to establish a royal commission into what he regarded as serious and criminal rorting by union officials.

Ms Gillard has repeatedly and strenuously denied that she had any knowledge of what the association that she had set up was going to be used for. She has also denied receiving any benefit from the funds. She has repeatedly rejected claims made in parliament that renovations to her own house in Melbourne in the early-to-mid 1990s were part-funded by money allegedly siphoned off by Mr Wilson.


Bosses' rights to sack workers for drug and alcohol use go up in smoke

BOSSES are being warned they may breach anti-discrimination laws if they sack workers for alcohol or drug use - and this may include smokers.

The latest legal advice to Queensland and NSW small business has raised concerns that the warnings may also apply to smokers.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland president David Goodwin accused smokers of costing the state "millions and millions" of dollars in lost productivity each year, and questioned why industrial relations laws defied common sense.

"They (smokers) can't always make it up in their own time," he said. "If you miss that sales call because you're outside smoking, you've cost your organisation."

Cancer Council Victoria recently cited research that found smokers who took four 15-minute breaks daily spent 1.2 years smoking on the job over an average working life.

Mr Goodwin said he believed business could dismiss an employee for ignoring smoking policies after verbal and written warnings, although the legal advice had raised some questions.

The Australian Business Lawyers and Advisors, which provides in-house counsel for Queensland and NSW's chambers of commerce and industry, urged firms to introduce smoking guidelines that were well explained.

However, it flagged the potential for discrimination.

"A decision to dismiss an employee on the basis of alcohol or drug use may infringe various pieces of federal and state legislation that prohibit discrimination on the ground of impairment and/or disability," it said. "Recent case law has established that drug and alcohol dependency can be characterised as an impairment ... (and) the use of drug and alcohol policies against an employee must be carefully considered to ensure that discrimination laws are not breached."

Australian Council on Smoking and Health professor Mike Daube said smokers had no entitlement to special consideration in the workplace. "They can manage without cigarettes on aircraft, in cinemas, churches and in a whole host of circumstances," he said. "Work is no different. Staff are employed to work."


Abbott: I'll revive Howard's golden age

Tony Abbott has promised to return Australia to the "golden age" of the Howard government under his "incoming Coalition government".

In a speech to the South Australian Liberal Party yesterday, the federal Opposition Leader emphasised the connection between the Coalition under his leadership and the government of John Howard, which was voted out in 2007 after 11 years.

The tradition of the Howard government would live on, Mr Abbott declared, in no small part because of the similarities between his frontbench and Mr Howard's ministerial team.

"Sixteen members of my frontbench were ministers in the Howard government," Mr Abbott said.

"We won't have to learn on the job because we have done the job before. There won't be questions about the judgment of an incoming Coalition government because an incoming Coalition government has shown good judgment in the past and that's where there is going to be such a contrast between an incoming Coalition government and the government that we currently have."

The number of former Howard government ministers on the frontbench could increase after the next election if Mal Brough, who served as the minister for indigenous affairs, is successful in his bid to return to federal politics.

Mr Abbott, who once described himself as the political love child of Mr Howard and the Liberal MP Bronwyn Bishop, has previously been criticised for the number of long-serving MPs he has kept on his frontbench at the expense of up-and-comers.

Many of the names mentioned as being at the forefront of the next generation of Liberal Party politicians were aides in the Howard government years, such as Kelly O'Dwyer and Josh Frydenberg.

Despite his sustained lead in the polls, Mr Abbott has stressed his team must remain disciplined and focused to win the next election, due in the second half of next year.

Mr Abbott's vision for the next Coalition government, as outlined in his speech, made it seem as if the two terms of Labor government were no more than an inconvenient blip on the radar of political history.

Last week, the federal government all but reinstated the immigration policies of the Howard government, one of the most defining and controversial features of its time in office.

"If you want to get John Howard's results on border protection, you've got to show John Howard's resolve on border protection," Mr Abbott said.

"That's why the longer this government lasts, the better the Howard government looks and that's why the Howard government now looks like it created a golden age of prosperity, which is lost."


Federal tax bullies meet their Waterloo -- again

The Wickenby enquiries are notorious for their shallow reasoning, lack of scruple and low success rates. They are just scalp hunters

TWO high-profile targets of Project Wickenby have scored a major victory after the New South Wales Supreme Court found their right to a fair trial had been so compromised by authorities' handling of material against them that criminal charges should be permanently quashed.

The ruling raises questions about whether other Wickenby prosecutions have also been compromised.

Lawyer Ross Edward Seller and Patrick David McCarthy were charged in March this year over an alleged tax fraud, which involved a Scotch whisky operation, and their links to the Wickenby-targeted Swiss-based firm Strachans, run by Richard and Philip Egglishaw.

The pair, in a Wickenby operation code named Operation Polbeam, were compulsorily examined by the Australian Crime Commission in 2007 over their business dealings in 2001-02.

The men's appeal centred on material obtained during the crime commission hearings - transcripts of their examinations that were forwarded to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, and also the role of a key witness in the coming trial. The expert witness had been seconded from the Australian Taxation Office and had observed the men's crime commission examinations.

A "very happy" Mr Seller said he would "let the judgment speak for itself [about his opinion of the Wickenby investigations]".

"The relevant thing is if this is [happening] on other cases. I think it's an issue that flows."

When asked about seeking compensation, he said: "These things are being mooted at the moment, but I think it's early days yet. We have to see if there's any appeal."

Justice Peter Garling yesterday found the "conduct of the Crime Commission, in conjunction with the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, has deprived them of the protection which the law ensured. Any trial would not be fair."

He noted that charges were only stayed by courts in "extreme" circumstances, as there was a strong public interest for criminal allegations to be prosecuted.

But he said it would offend the "administration of justice for the applicants to be confronted by prosecution authorities who have had access to material ordinarily caught by the privilege against self-incrimination, but which has been compulsorily obtained".


Hospital coverup in Canberra

A Canberra Hospital nurse almost killed on the job by an electric shock says she has exposed serious flaws in the official report into her accident, saying the mishap ended her nursing career and plunged her into financial crisis.

Nurse Kate Virtue has come forward for the first time to say the publicly released ACT government report wrongly claims she returned to work after just three days.

Two years after being thrown up to three metres across a room by an electric shock, she has confirmed she never resumed work at the hospital.

She told the Sunday Canberra Times she was still on cardiac medication and suffers from other serious ongoing medical problems. She has had to rely on financial support from her family to support her two children.

"I feel they tried to sweep this case under the carpet," she said. "[It is] as if they're trying to avoid recognising the significance of the accident."

Ms Virtue said she attempted three return-to-work programs at Canberra Hospital, the first of which was several months after the accident.

These failed to get her back to work at the hospital where she had worked for most of the past 19 years as a registered nurse.

To make matters worse, Ms Virtue said she had temporarily reduced her working hours to eight hours a week because of family reasons.

She was due to return to at least three times this amount of hours the week following the accident.

The fact she was working fewer hours at the time of the incident meant her weekly payments from Comcare - which has not paid her a lump sum - were considerably less than they could have been.

In July 2010, Ms Virtue was working in the surgical recovery unit when she received an electric shock, believed to have been caused by exposed wires in a power cord.

Staff heard a loud bang and saw a blue flame. The report into her accident, which claimed she returned to work after three days, was written by an investigator from the Justice and Community Safety Directorate as well as the ACT Work Safety Commissioner.

Ms Virtue said she was not interviewed by investigators.

Liberal MLA Vicki Dunne will be taking Ms Virtue's complaint to ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell who tabled the report in the assembly.

"There's an apparent attempt to minimise the seriousness of the incident if not a straight cover-up," Ms Dunne said.

Ms Dunne said there had been not enough follow up by the hospital into Ms Virtue's health.

After the report was tabled in the ACT Legislative Assembly, Ms Virtue complained in an email to a senior manager at WorkSafe ACT in August last year.

Work Safety commissioner Mark McCabe said there was no point interviewing Ms Virtue because the facts about what happened were easily established and not contested.

Mr McCabe said the inaccurate information provided to his office about when she returned to work did not change his assessment of the accident as being in the most serious category.

A Health Directorate spokeswoman said she could not discuss Ms Virtue's specific case. However, injured staff were encouraged to return to work as part of a planned rehabilitation program when appropriate.


17 August, 2012

Australia's Banks Are Now Worth More Than Europe's -— How Is That Possible?

Some additional background not mentioned below here

We finally know the real winner of the euro crisis. It's Australia.

Would you believe it if I told you that Australia's financial sector is worth more than the eurozone's financial sector? Well, it doesn't matter if you believe it or not. It's true. The technical term for this is "jaw-dropping." The chart below, from Cullen Roche of Pragmatic Capitalism, puts it all in rather stunning picture perspective. It turns out that depressions aren't so good for banks.

A big chunk of this shouldn't surprise us. European banks loaded up on subprime debt. Australian banks didn't. European banks made their own bad real estate loans. Australian banks didn't. And European banks are sitting on top of piles of dodgy sovereign debt. Australian banks aren't.

But this doesn't really make sense. It explains why Europe's financial sector fell much more in 2008 than Australia's financial sector did, but it doesn't explain why Europe's has kept falling and Australia's hasn't. The answer, as always, is that it's about the economy. Commodity exports -- thanks, China! -- have powered Australia, while the eurozone has self-immolated in a crisis of the common currency. What does that have to do with banks? Well, financial contracts assume that incomes will steadily go up. When incomes -- and the economy -- do not grow as expected, debts that should not have gone bad go bad.

Something incredibly bad and incredibly rare has happened to Europe's periphery since 2008. The total size of their economies have fallen. So-called nominal GDP, which is just inflation plus real growth, usually increases 5 percent a year -- and that's what banks count on when they make loans. If the economy grows less than that, otherwise creditworthy borrowers will have a harder and harder time paying back their debts. Including governments.

The chart below looks at nominal GDP "growth" (or lack thereof) in Australia and Europe's periphery since 2008. As Evan Soltas said, Europe's problems are nominal.

Australia's nominal GDP has grown at a healthy rate. Europe's has not. That simple fact explains why Australia's banks have rebounded from the financial crisis and Europe's banks have not. Until or unless Europe gets its nominal GDP back to something close to trend, its financial sector will keep falling behind Australia's (and everybody else's).
In other words, Europe's banking crisis will only end when Europe's economic crisis does -- which in turn is being held back by its banking crisis. It's a never-ending cycle of awful that only the European Central Bank can break. Maybe they will.


Industry taskforce points finger at carbon tax

A TASKFORCE comprising trade unions and manufacturers has cited the carbon price as adding to the pressures on the struggling industry sector in a report to government containing more than 40 recommendations, sources say.

The report by the manufacturing taskforce, a tripartite body established last year by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, is believed to recommend a raft of measures ranging from creating a sovereign wealth fund, buying more Australian-made cars and giving tax breaks, to bolstering the export potential of the local food industry.

Ms Gillard established the taskforce to explore ways to help the manufacturing sector, which has been suffering from the pressures of the high dollar, high labour costs and other pressures of the mining boom.

Sources familiar with the report say despite the involvement of the Labor-aligned trade union movement - the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), the Australian Workers Union and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Unions - the report cites rising energy costs caused by the carbon price as having an additional impact in an already competitive environment.

The body of the report calls for the effect of the fixed $23-a-tonne carbon price to be "ameliorated in the current competitive environment" for energy-intensive businesses and that the industry assistance provided for trade-exposed emitters be monitored and refined if necessary.

One recommendation says "energy prices directly impact on the competitiveness of Australian manufacturers and can be attenuated".

It suggests linking the carbon price scheme to international schemes, something already done, rationalising state and federal green schemes, a process also in train, and reforming energy markets, which Ms Gillard called for last week, and assisting business with implementing energy efficient measures.

The taskforce comprises Ms Gillard, senior ministers, the heads of the ACTU and the other unions, the Australian Industry Group and the chief executives of the companies OneSteel, Boeing, Holden and Kraft.

Today's report has been put forward by the unions, companies and the Ai Group, not the government, which will respond to it over time.

Sources familiar with its contents say the recommendations reflect the individual agendas of the participants as well as broader measures designed to help manufacturing as a whole.

One recommendation is the creation of a sovereign wealth fund which the AWU has argued previously would help take pressure off the dollar and create a savings pool for times of need.

It is also understood there is a recommendation for a full and independent inquiry into why small- and medium-sized businesses are struggling to secure capital, a problem that arose during the global financial crisis when access to credit dried up.

Other recommendations include skewing government purchases on cars further towards Australian-made vehicles, increasing the proportion of Australian goods and services that the Defence Department procures every year with its multibillion-dollar budget, and increasing the level of Australian content used in government spending on residential and commercial construction.

It also recommends an annual dialogue between the unions, government and business.

Chief executives of global companies have met and blamed the carbon tax for creating investment uncertainty.


Stupid woman

Being much in the public eye, she might unfortunately lead other women into similar foolish optimism

IF being fit and healthy were the only conditions needed for a healthy pregnancy then Sonia Kruger would come out on top.

The energetic 47-year-old, who features on the front cover of Woman’s Day this week, told the magazine she is still very open to the idea of having kids.

But being in peak physical condition does not affect your biological ability to fall pregnant, especially when you’re a woman over 40.

That’s the advice of obstetrician and gynaecologist Andrew Zuschmann, who is also a spokesperson for the Australian Medical Association.

“From about 45 onwards a woman’s chances of falling pregnant spontaneously are almost impossible,” Dr Zuschmann said. “Most need IVF or donor eggs to fall pregnant.”


Australia risks no growth without productivity boost

And with unions in the box-seat under Gillard, the prospects for productivity growth are slim

One of the world's leading management consultancies says Australia risks a future of no economic growth unless it dramatically improves its productivity performance.

A report by McKinsey Global Institute offers four scenarios for Australia's national income growth to 2017 - in the worst case, where productivity continues falling at the same rate as it has been in recent years and commodity prices keep declining to long-run averages, national income would rise just 0.5 per cent a year.

Even in the best case scenario, where productivity growth returns to long-run averages and commodity prices remain roughly where they are, Australia's income growth is likely to be 3.7 per cent - slower than it was in the pre-financial crisis years.
Audio: McKinsey's Chris Bradley warns of a low growth future (ABC News)

The report estimates a $135 billion gap in national income by 2017 between that best case scenario and the worst case outcome.

"If we don't fix productivity and the terms of trade settles back to its long run level, we could have almost no income growth in the next seven years," said Sydney-based McKinsey principal and report co-author Chris Bradley.

"In the best case where we sustain strong terms of trade and we do well on productivity, even in that case we'll probably have slower income growth than we've had historically."

He says Australia's income growth in the period between 2005-2011 was more about good luck than good management.

"Australia's added about $250 billion of income in the last seven years. About 90 per cent of that is explained by terms of trade, which is a better price for exports versus imports, and by investment, increased investment," Mr Bradley explained.

"When you strip back what's normal and what's not, our estimate is about half of Australia's growth in that era is kind of temporary. So if it weren't for the boom, we would have experienced more like 2 per cent income growth instead of 4."

The McKinsey report singles out productivity as the problem, with a 0.7 per cent annual decline between 2005 and 2011, compared to a 2.4 per cent increase between 1993-1999.

For those who are not sure what productivity measures, Mr Bradley gives a succinct definition. "Productivity is simply a measure of how well we take our inputs and transform them into outputs," he explained.

"So labour productivity is very simply how much we get per hour of work and capital productivity is very simply how much we get per unit of fixed capital investment. So it is about more for less."

In that effort to get more from less, labour productivity has improved 0.3 per cent year since 2005 and added $17 billion to income - but this is far lower than its growth in the 1990s which added an estimated $57 billion.

However, capital productivity - that is the return businesses are generating from new buildings, plant, machinery and equipment - has been dismal, wiping an estimated $43 billion from national income.

Some of this - Mr Bradley estimates around two-thirds - is related to upfront spending on big mining projects that has not yet yielded a return, but soon will.

However, he says that leaves plenty of scope for businesses to be more efficient about where they spend their money, particularly on the big resource developments.

"The difference we've seen of doing a very, very good job on project design and execution can be 20 to 30 per cent," he said.

"But there's background factors too. You need enough people with the right skills and the enabling infrastructure to be able to deliver these projects.

"And then there's also probably a role for things like planning laws and just making it easier and faster to do projects in the best way."


Ombudsman slams Victorian University over soft marking allegations

VICTORIA'S Ombudsman has slammed Swinburne University in his annual report.

According to Ombudsman George Brouwer, a whistleblower reported that “a supervisor had directed a teacher to pass all of their students to ensure the university received upcoming federal government funding".

Mr Brouwer referred the allegation to the university for independent investigation, which found the claim was baseless.

However the Ombudsman criticises the process on seven counts, including a refusal by the investigator to address the federal funding issue and because; “the conclusions did not contain any analysis of the facts and findings of the investigation; specifically, there was no discussion of evidence that appeared to support the allegation”.

Although the university revised the report when challenged by the Ombudsman’s staff, “even the revision was inadequate, addressing only four of the concerns I had raised".

"I determined to finalise the matter in any case, as I considered that the outstanding issues were unlikely to significantly affect the outcome of the investigation, especially at such a late stage,” Mr Brouwer’s report states.


16 August, 2012

Five Australian universities in world's top 100

The Shanghai Jiaotong University ranking is a respected judgment but all these rankings are arbitrary in various ways. Still, it's notable that Australian universities do pretty well in all of them. The Shanghai Jiaotong ranking compares 1200 higher education institutions worldwide

The University of Melbourne has been named as Australia's top university in a prestigious global ranking of tertiary institutions.

The latest Academic Ranking of World Universities puts the University of Melbourne as the top placed Australian institution at number 57. That is up from 60th spot in 2011.

The Australian National University was ranked number 64, making it Australia's second top-ranked university. It was ranked 70th in 2011.

For the first time Australia has five universities in the top 100, including the University of Queensland in 90th spot, the University of Sydney at 93rd, and the University of Western Australia at 96th. Nineteen of Australia's 39 universities made the top 500.

Harvard University in the United States was ranked number one.

American universities made up eight of the top 10, with Stanford University second, Massachusetts Institute of Technology third, and the University of California, Berkeley, in fourth spot.

The United Kingdom's Cambridge University came in at number five and the University of Oxford was ranked 10th.


School has to be cool

TASMANIANS must change attitudes about education, demographer Bernard Salt said yesterday. Unskilled jobs were evaporating from Australia and skills training was imperative. "It needs to be cool to stay on and uncool to leave school at 15," he said.

"Every Tasmanian must send the right message to kids, that the expectation is to get some form of training.

"Ten years of focus on this could change the shape of the state." Without a cultural shift, the Tasmania of the future could be a dangerous place, he said, with social discontent increasing as large numbers of people fell into welfare and became disconnected from the rest of society.

"The best thing you can do is make sure kids have some education," he said.

Mr Salt was visiting Hobart yesterday to outline the changing patterns of work and life in Australia to a national workshop of motoring clubs, organised by the Australian Automobile Association and the RACT. "Australia is not a great, bland amorphous place," he told the workshop. "It is a patchwork."

He pointed to fundamental shifts in Australian life, which threw up many challenges. One was the geographic shift of people from country to coast and city.

Within urban areas, two kinds of cities were emerging, with a growing clash of cultures between the inner-city elite and the outer suburban culture of "middle Australia".

The ethnic make-up of large parts of Australia was changing too, with the arrival of aspirational Indian and East Asian students and migrants.

One of the biggest changes was the mass retirement of the baby boomers. Here he saw opportunities for Tasmania.

"The lifestyle and value for money here is appealing to many baby boomers in Melbourne and Sydney," he said.

"Hobart is grooving up. It is becoming quite a metropolitan, cosmopolitan and fashionable city."


Milk has never been so illegal

Hundreds, perhaps thousands of Perth people bathe in milk regularly, or so they say. Perth Organics is just one of the companies that sell raw milk; they sell hundreds of litres of it each week. Raw milk is milk in its unpasteurised natural form - and it is illegal to sell for consumption.

Perth Organics, run by husband and wife team David and Lisa Bolt and based in Lesmurdie sell the milk for cosmetic purposes.

A disclaimer on their website points out exactly what the milk should be used for. "Note that unpasteurised milk is sold only for purposes such as bathing milk or cosmetic milk as recommended by the Australian Health Dept. Those that mention that purchase is for human consumption purposes, will not be supplied," the website says.

The topic is so contentious Mrs Bolt does not even discuss whether she drinks raw milk. She does however admit that she thinks the matter of whether raw milk can be sold for consumption should be reviewed.

Mrs Bolt said she respected the law that was in place but said it was quite strict. "You sell a can of cat food and tell people it is pet food, if they are going to eat it, that's their choice, they are choosing to take that risk," she said.

Mrs Bolt said the company sourced the milk from farms in the south-west and there was a big demand for it. "We sell whatever we can get," Mrs Bolt said.

Some believe raw milk is a healthier option to drinking pastuerised milk because of its nutritional content.

A group called the Australia Alliance for Raw Milk is made up of farmers and consumers who believe they should have the freedom to choose what food or drink they consume, including raw milk. "We believe in our right to farm our own private land and trade/share the produce with others without undue government or corporate interference," their Facebook page says.

Their page directs people looking for raw milk in Western Australia to Perth Organics.

Associate professor in health sciences Sebely Pal said she recommended that if a person had access to pasteurised milk, they should drink pasteurised milk rather than raw milk.

"If it's not pasteurised it can have bacteria and viruses which children are especially susceptible to," she said. "It's best not to take chances.

"In the old days there were higher incidences of tuberculosis and other diseases that we think could've been from drinking unpasteurised milk."

Associate professor Pal admitted that people in countries such as India drank unpasteurised milk but there was little research done into the effects of it.

She said it was difficult to assess the rate of disease without comparing people from the same population drinking pasteurised and unpasteurised milk, which would be illegal in Australia.


Fast-food giants trying to avoid paying teens weekend penalties

AUSTRALIA'S fast-food chains are trying to wriggle out of changes to national wage laws that will soon force them to pay employees penalty rates on weekends.

The move comes as an independent senator attempts to introduce laws that would remove double-time weekend wages, which, he says, are crippling small businesses.

Fast-food outlets, restaurants, retailers and unions have this week filed submissions to a major review of the nation's awards system by Fair Work Australia.

Among the more significant submissions is a push by Hungry Jack's, McDonald's, Red Rooster, Pizza Hut, KFC and other big chains - which together represent 47 per cent of the industry - to remove the requirement to pay compulsory weekend penalty rates.

The fast-food companies' submission, made on their behalf by the Australian Industry Group, asks the workplace umpire to do away with weekend penalties altogether. Big fast-food outlets such as McDonald's have enterprise agreements, covering thousands of staff, which until now have not awarded penalty rates to most employees.

McDonald's current agreement, which expires in 2013, covers 80,000 employees - about a quarter of them young people. If nothing is changed, from next year it would be forced to pay these workers 25 per cent extra on Saturdays and 50 per cent more on Sundays.

McDonald's human resources director Joanne Taylor has told Fair Work Australia the chain could not enter into a new agreement with staff under the new award, because of the "substantially higher costs". Pizza Hut franchisees have also said they could not afford the penalties.

Under the plan put forward by fast-food retailers, workers at all fast-food outlets would get 10 per cent extra if they worked after 10 on any night of the week and 15 per cent extra after midnight.

All obligations to pay extra on weekends from next year would be removed. Penalties in the fast-food industry for most major employers were imposed for the first time in 2010, when the current award came into place.

The national secretary of the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association, Joe de Bruyn, said the fast-food chains were trying to wriggle out of new conditions they had known were coming since 2008.

The push is part of a wider move by employers to remove penalty rates, particularly across the retail and hospitality sectors. ACTU president Ged Kearney said yesterday that unions would fight hard on the issue.

Meanwhile, independent senator Nick Xenophon is attempting to change workplace laws over double-time weekend wages, which, he says, are costing young people their jobs.

Senator Xenophon's proposed amendment would see penalty rates still payable, but only where an employee worked more than 38 hours in seven days, or more than 10 hours in a day. The changes would only apply to small businesses employing fewer than 20 full-time staff.


Business-hating "Green" councils must be weeded out

THIS is a case study of what is wrong with the O’Farrell government.

Just across the Richmond River from Ballina’s Big Prawn, Bernard and Rikki Grinberg run a caravan park on eight pretty hectares behind South Ballina beach.

They have ploughed their retirement savings into restoring an old camping ground into a low-key, affordable, family-friendly eco-resort.

But now, like property owners all over NSW, their livelihood is under threat, as green-dominated councils use a new statewide planning template effectively to “sterilise” land of human influence.

The Grinberg’s Ballina Beach Village has been rezoned from a recreational zone to the environmentally sensitive category of E2, which is the next stage down from a national park, and forbids tourist activity. While, technically, they are allowed to keep operating their eco-resort under an “existing uses” clause, the reality is the opposite.

Now, every time they want to change anything, whether it is to use crockery at their kiosk, hire a singer to play in their piano bar, renovate the interior of an old shed to turn it into a yoga studio, even trim a branch off a termite-infested tree that might fall on a tent, they have to submit a development application and prove to Ballina Shire Council they are not “intensifying” the use of their land.

The effect is that their thriving business is becoming unviable.

From leafy Sydney suburbs such as Terrey Hills and Frenchs Forest in Warringah to Eurobodalla on the south coast, to Ballina and Byron Bay and inland to Lismore and Kyogle, wherever there is bush and greenies, councils are deciding to impose excessively restrictive environmental zones on private property.

Landowners rezoned to E2 or E3 have found their property values slashed overnight, leaving them unable to improve their land or even farm it effectively. In Ballina and Byron shires as much as one third of agricultural land has been rezoned.

What an E2 zoning does is stop, for example, a macadamia farmer leaving a paddock fallow for a year, a standard farming practice to rest the soil. If he wants to replant macadamias on that paddock, or even switch to mangoes, he has to apply for a DA.

Rezoning land to a more restrictive regime is known as dezoning, but Rikki, 55, and Bernard, 65, describe it as “land theft”.

E2 and E3 zonings are “the exocet missile of green bureaucracy”, they say. Planning laws have “given very powerful weapons to very misguided people”.

A nearby farmer, who asks not to be named, has valuations which show the E2 dezoning has halved the value of his land.

On January 5, 2006, his farm was worth $5.6 million. On February 1, this year, it was worth just $2.6 million.

In their report, valuers Herron Todd White explained: “Ballina Shire Council draft LEP (Local Environment Plan) designates substantial parts of the [farm] as E2 Environmental Conservation zoning. This significantly limits the use (to) which this land can be put.” No kidding.

So far, the Grinbergs have had to spend $150,000 on lawyers and town planners just to defend their right to conduct business as usual.

They blame the previous state Labor government for imposing a new planning template across the state’s 150 councils. But after 16 months in office the O’Farrell government has done nothing to fix the problem.

Frank Sartor, the former Labor planning minister who signed off on the changes, defends the template, known as a “standard instrument”. It was intended to standardise the confusing mishmash of different definitions across NSW into 30 to 40 standard zonings.

“The template provides a great deal of flexibility. It is absolute nonsense to blame the template for planning problems that are of local councils’ own making,” he says.

But who will protect landowners from rogue councils? Not Premier Barry O’Farrell.

The election of a new Coalition government on a planning platform of empowering local councils has created a perfect storm. The template provides the opportunity for councils arbitrarily to rezone land, and the laissez faire attitude of the O’Farrell government gives them the freedom to do it.

And in case deep greens are applauding at this point, freedom cuts both ways, depending on the ideology of the council involved - whether that is the green ethos of locking land away from humans, or the white shoe brigade’s ideal of the concrete jungle.

NSW Planning Minister Brad Hazzard is overhauling planning laws but says he is stuck with the template inherited from Labor.

“Where I have had major concerns I have stepped in to excise areas (from E2 and E3 zonings and require councils to) go back to the community and look at the science, look at the evidence,” to determine if land should be locked up, he said.

“It is truly a challenge for state government because we came into power (promising) to devolve more power to local communities ...

“The challenge is to make sure councils properly consult local communities.”

But he questions “whether it is appropriate for state government to take a heavy-handed interventionist approach”.

Why not? Real people are being smashed.

The Grinbergs say the government is just “rejigging” rather than finding a permanent solution. “You’re just back having the fight with council,” says Bernard. “The zoning will still be manipulated by councils imposing expensive DA processes and red tape to drive owners off their land.”

They say “scientific evidence” just means council ecologists will pay $150,000 to like-minded environmental consultants to produce reports proving the area is environmentally sensitive.

The Grinbergs have put elbow grease and their retirement savings into the land they fell in love with. They’ve turned a rundown slum into a tranquil ecohaven, accessible to families of moderate means.

“We’re the ideal owners,” Rikki says. “We’re very environmentally conscious, clean living, and non-development. “Yet we’re the bad guys.”

This is why the NSW economy is still on its knees. The O’Farrell government is squandering a huge mandate with its timid and ineffectual approach. It is more determined to be loved by everyone than to do the tough job it was elected to do: fix 11 years of Labor mismanagement.

We have an insane planning regime which is cutting the value of people’s property in half. Just fix it.


15 August, 2012

Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney and Perth among the world's most liveable cities

I have seen a fair bit of cities overseas and some do have their charms but I always feel like kissing the ground when I arrive back in Australia -- so I concur with the judgment below that Australia's State capitals are hard to beat for livability

One has to laugh a little bit, however, over the fact that the people doing the rating were Engish -- because 8 out of the top 10 cities were in either Australia or Canada, places in which English people tend to feel very much at ease because of similar language and customs. You even keep the Queen as your Head of State when you move from Britain to either Australia or Canada! But given U.S. crime rates, I am not surprised that no American city rated highly

FOUR of Australia's capital cities have been named among the world's most liveable - with Melbourne once again being named the best.

And in another coup for southerners unassuming Adelaide has overtaken Sydney in the fiercely contested rankings.

Melbourne outperformed 140 rivals to receive the Global Liveability Survey gong for a second year in a row with a near perfect score of 97.5 per cent.

It only lost points for climate, culture and petty crime.

Sydney dropped one place to seventh position despite an unchanged score, while Adelaide rocketed three places to joint fifth thanks to infrastructure improvements. Perth was ninth, down one place.

Economist Intelligence Unit survey editor Jon Copestake said just 1.6 percentage points separated the five Aussie cities surveyed.

"Australian cities continue to thrive in terms of liveability not only do they benefit from the natural advantages of low population density, but they have continued to improve with some high profile infrastructure investments," Mr Copestake said from London.

"In Adelaide, projects completed in recent years under the Strategic Infrastructure Plan for South Australia have been enough to move the city above Sydney, whose score is unchanged," Mr Copestake said.

"Melbourne may claim national bragging rights (in topping the rankings), but four of the five Australian cities surveyed are in the top 10 of the global index, and are separated by just 1.6 percentage points," he said.

Elsewhere in the world the impact of the Arab Spring, and the fallout from the Euro zone crisis, are still being felt.

Many cities in the Middle East and North Africa have seen downward revisions of their scores due to civil unrest.

The ongoing civil war in Syria saw the capital, Damascus, fall furthest as violence intensified, dropping 13 places to 130th and into the very bottom tier of liveability with a score of 46.3 per cent.

London, which recently hosted the Olympic Games, saw a drop in score as a result of riots that took place in the UK last year, causing it to fall two places to 55th in the ranking.

Dhaka in Bangladesh has the unenviable title of being the least liveable location surveyed.

The global liveability report surveys 140 locations around the world to assess the best or the worst living conditions.

It originated as a means of testing whether human resource departments needed to assign a hardship allowance as part of expatriate relocation packages.

It has since evolved as a broad benchmarking tool used by city councils, organisations or corporate entities looking to test locations against one another.

Cities are scored on political and social stability, crime rates and access to quality health care.

It also measures the diversity and standard of cultural events and the natural environment; education (school and university); and the standard of infrastructure, including public transport.


Pervasive anti-man attitudes

NEWS that Virgin Airlines asked Sydney fireman Johnny McGirr, 33, to change seats on a flight because it was company policy that men not be seated next to unaccompanied minors, prompted a public backlash that has forced Virgin to review their stance.

A number of child abuse experts have come forward and denounced the policy, claiming it's an over-reaction and potentially discriminatory.

That Jetstar, Qantas and Air New Zealand share these guidelines was something Virgin was quick to point out last week.

What is significant about this entire situation is not that it's a reflection on these companies so much as it is on a society that persists in demonising men.

We live in a world where "stranger danger" is a catch phrase, but it's become a gendered/sexed term that constructs men almost exclusively as potential predators or, as McGirr bluntly stated in relation to the Virgin fiasco, potential paedophile(s). In other words: guilty until proven innocent.

We've allowed fear to govern common sense and now inform policy - and at the expense of men.

Don't think for a moment this type of unfair reckoning is only happening in our skies. The notion that men can cause sexual and physical harm to children anywhere, anytime, is firmly grounded in our culture. You've only to talk to male schoolteachers (a vanishing breed) to discover how much aspects of their professionalism, for example, is curtailed on a daily basis purely because of their sex.

Men (and some women) of my acquaintance often express how uneasy they feel that they can no longer offer comfort to a child in distress, start conversations, coach, play with, be alone in a room or, God forbid, enjoy a light tussle, for fear of how their actions will be read.

The prevailing attitude that men are predators needing to be policed and leashed is affecting relationships everywhere - from the classroom to the family room.

The Virgin policy is simply a manifestation of this invidious creep in attitude towards men, one that has some women and mothers able to declare quite openly and without risk of being called to account, that they feel comfortable with Virgin's stance.

How can anyone be comfortable that an entire sex is basically maligned for the actions of a few depraved brutes? How can we accept that we're altering our behaviours and perceptions of others because of this?

Would these same women be comfortable if their intentions regarding their own and others children were called into question?

As McGirr stated, this kind of approach ignores the good that any male does regardless of his standing in society.

Sadly, no matter what measures we put in place, there will always be monsters who abuse children. I know, because I survived the sick attentions of one. Every day between the ages of nine and 11, my mother's then male partner sexually abused me.

In many ways, what happened to me reflects the statistics of abuse and that is, overwhelmingly, it's someone close to the child and the family (usually a man) who is the abuser - not a stranger.

Regardless of this awful statistic, abuse is not the norm. Yet, as a society, we allow the minority of sick and perverted people to govern our lives and, lately, the opportunity to form new connections as well.

Children need positive male role models. But if we keep construing men as potentially unsafe, how are children to discover them? How are good men to be given the chance to be these role models?

And let's face it, there are some evil women too - you can't let an entire sex off the hook here.

We make rules and laws to protect our children (and ourselves) from something that most likely will never happen. We regard men and strangers with suspicion, second-guess their intentions; look askance at their professional and personal conduct. Consequently, we develop a toxic and unhealthy relationship with each other.

We suffer the little children and turn them and those we silently accuse into victims of crimes that have never been committed, thus giving us all life sentences.


Child Safety Inquiry hears at-risk children in Queensland Indigenous communities has no easy solution

More children being "stolen", it seems

THE problem of poor parenting in Queensland Indigenous communities is rapidly getting worse, with four in ten kids removed from home coming from Indigenous households.

The Child Safety Inquiry heard this morning the problem of at-risk children in Queensland Indigenous communities had no easy solutions.

Commissioner Tim Carmody said 40 per cent of out-of-home care was needed by Indigenous kids who were staying there longer and "at significant cost to government."

Mr Carmody said Queenslanders had a right to ask what was happening to the millions of dollars in funding designed to remedy the problem. "People who pay taxes have expectations, not unreasonably, that their money is well spent," Mr Carmody said.

Former Director General of the Communities Department Linda Apelt said the high rates of removal of Indigenous kids mirrored a serious social problem. "It is a reflecion of what is going on in our communities," Ms Apelt said. "Indigenous groups in Queensland continue to be some of the most marginalised, disadvantaged groups in Australia."

Ms Apelt said the troubled Indigenous community of Palm Island off Townsville had created a local group making positive steps in protecting vulnerable kids.

The Palm Island Community Company was looking after at-risk children on the island using well trained local people, she said.

A safe house allowed children to be temporarily protected from violence and other dangers:

"There is absolutely no doubt now that children are better cared for than being picked up by a helicopter in the middle of the night and taken to some strange place elsewhere in Queensland," Ms Apelt said.



Three articles below

Coalition will back Nauru, Manus centres

Tony and Julia stared one-another down and Julia crumpled first. She needed to. It is a great triumph for Abbott's political judgment. The new scheme won't work under Labor but it gives Tony the tools to make it work when he gains power next year

URGENT government legislation to reinstate offshore processing of asylum seekers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea will have the support of the federal opposition.

"We've been asking the prime minister to do this for four years," opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison told ABC television on Tuesday.

But the coalition won't back any attempt to resurrect the Malaysia people-swap deal through the "back door".

The legislation, likely to be rushed into parliament on Tuesday, will not nominate specific sites for offshore processing.

Instead that will be done by ministerial regulation, a measure that could be overturned by a vote of parliament.

Mr Morrison described the Malaysia deal, quashed by the High Court last year, as a "purely hypothetical" option. Immigration Minister Chris Bowen welcomed Mr Morrison's support.

The man who headed an expert panel on asylum seeker policy options says processing centres in Nauru and on Manus Island in PNG will not operate as detention centres.

"It will be quite different to what was set up last time," former defence force chief Angus Houston told ABC radio. "These will be much better conditions for people to live in."

However offshore processing would still act as a deterrent to people risking their lives at sea.

"We believe spending time at Nauru or Manus will reduce the attractiveness of the option of trying to come to Australia on a leaky boat," Mr Houston said.


No 5-star treatment for refugees: Abbott

ASYLUM seekers who may be stuck in tents on Nauru under new laws to revive offshore processing cannot expect five-star or even three-star treatment, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says.

New legislation before parliament, modelled on the recommendations of former defence chief Angus Houston's expert panel, is still being debated after a marathon session into Tuesday night.

It means offshore processing on Nauru and Papua New Guinea will be allowed to proceed with coalition support.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has conceded asylum seekers initially may be living in tents.

Mr Abbott says Ms Gillard could have had the centres ready by now.

"If they got cracking on Nauru at Christmas time, as they should have, the centre would be done and they wouldn't be living in tents," he told the Nine Network on Wednesday.

However, Mr Abbott said if people were living in tents, "so be it". "People who arrive illegally by boat need to be treated humanely, but they can't expect five-star treatment or even three-star treatment," he said. "The important thing is we have rigorous offshore processing.

Australian Greens leader Christine Milne does not believe it is humane to house people in tents. She also says it's costly to set up the tents and the army doesn't have the resources to man the centres.

"It just highlights, on the one hand Angus Houston is saying people will be treated better this time, and in the next breath we are going to be setting up these huge, temporary tent camps, and we are taking away people's human rights," Senator Milne told reporters.

Mental illness programs will be needed to deal with people who have been "driven to despair" by the situation, she said.

Nationals senate leader Barnaby Joyce says asylum seekers will regard the prospect of living in a tent as a better alternative than losing their life at sea.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon wants a robust parliamentary debate about the government's plan. "It ought to be debated thoroughly, it ought not to be gagged," he told reporters.


Processing to start in weeks but detention to last years

THE first asylum seekers will be processed on Nauru and Manus Island within a month but kept there for years under plans by the government to speed up the establishment of detention camps on the islands.

The government said today these could include some 200 asylum seekers who have been picked up since 4.45pm on Monday, the cut-off time set by the government for being guaranteed processing on Christmas Island and resettlement in Australia.
The Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers comprised by Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston c Professor Michael L'Estrange R and Paris Aristotle

With legislation to re-establish a harsher version of the "Pacific solution" set to pass the House of Representatives today, and the Senate by the end of the week, the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, will send a team of defence officials to each location on Friday to scope out sites for new detention facilities.

These will take several months to build, but Ms Gillard said the first people sent there would be housed in temporary accommodation, such as tents.

She reaffirmed that those sent there would be subject to "no advantage" principles and would be resettled no sooner than if they were in a refugee camp in Malaysia, Indonesia or elsewhere. The government would discuss with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees a suitable time but estimates range as high as four to five years.

The government is acting after an expert panel, comprising the former Defence Force chief Angus Houston, the refugee expert Paris Aristotle and the former diplomat Michael L'Estrange, issued 22 recommendations.

It said until a long-term regional solution was reached, short-term circuit breakers such as Nauru and Manus Island were needed. They also said the Malaysia plan was integral to stopping the boats but it needed further negotiated safeguards for vulnerable asylum seekers sent back to Malaysia before it should be implemented.

Ms Gillard rang her Malaysian counterpart yesterday to get talks under way, but even if a deal is reached, the Parliament would never allow Malaysia, meaning Nauru and Manus Island will become the centrepieces of the new policy.

Ms Gillard phoned the President of Nauru, Sprent Dabwido, and the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Peter O'Neill, yesterday to request the use of their territory. They agreed but last night a Papua New Guinean politician, Powes Parkop, protested against the use of Manus Island.

The opposition has agreed to pass the legislation enabling the "Pacific solution" but was merciless in in its attacks on the government yesterday for abandoning the policy four years ago.

The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, said Ms Gillard bore responsibility for the 22,000 "illegal immigrants" who had arrived in that time, the almost 1000 who died trying to reach Australia and for the $4.7 billion hit to the budget.

Mr Abbott said he was not blaming Ms Gillard personally for the deaths but "the government's policy failures gave the people smugglers a business model".

"Let us thank God that after four years the government has come to its senses and admitted that it was wrong," he said.

Ms Gillard refused to engage but said as either Prime Minister, deputy prime minster or just an MP: "I accept responsibility for my actions".

Mr Aristotle said adopting the recommendations would not blow the budget but save money.

Presently, the government has budgeted $5 billion over four years to accommodate 450 boat arrivals each month but this figure would have blown out because about 1800 a month are arriving at the moment.

The panel was advised by the Department of Finance that all its recommendations, including Malaysia, would cost $4.6 billion over four years.


14 August, 2012

"Hate speech" to be unsympathetic to illegal immigrants?

The article below refers to "boat people" -- mainly Afghans and Pakistanis why fly from Pakistan to Indonesia aboard commercial airliners and then undertake a rather risky trip to Australia aboard Indonesian fishing boats. They are clearly not refugees but rather illegal immigrants. The Australiian government, however, refers to them as "asylum seekers" -- but they are basically frauds relying on a Leftist government's sympathy for lawbreakers.

THE Jewish community should not be misled by compassion from the Holocaust into supporting Muslim boat people, the owner of The Australian Jewish News has argued in an article condemned by some as hate speech.

In the latest edition, under the headline "Curb the compassion", Robert Magid said Jews tended to want to appear more compassionate than others because of their history of suffering oppression and persecution, but "the Jews who fled the Holocaust fled certain death. I doubt there is a single boat person in that situation."

Mr Magid said "unscrupulous" illegal immigrants pushed genuine asylum seekers down the queue and that immigration in other countries had led to ghettos and calls for Islamic law. He suggested that hiding among Muslim boat people who had destroyed their documents would be an ideal way for al-Qaeda to smuggle a terrorist network into Australia.

The backlash came quickly. An open letter on Facebook by the Australian Jewish Democratic Society had attracted nearly 400 signatures last night, while liberal and conservative religious leaders united against Mr Magid.

Leading Orthodox Rabbi Ralph Genende wrote that although he was scared of Islamic extremism, there were no limits to compassion, and most fears about Muslim immigration were unfounded.

Jewish author Arnold Zable said: "Refugees and asylum seekers are only doing what we would do in their shoes, what Jews did in the immediate post-war era as they sought a way to a better life, and what Jews have done for centuries - including the massive emigration in the wake of the 1880s pogroms in Russia."

Last night, Mr Magid said he stood by every word. "I think the majority of people agree with me but they are not willing to come out and say what I am prepared to say. It is a very cogent statement." He said he was neither xenophobic nor racist.


Julia caves in on "asylum seekers"

Prime Minister Julia Gillard wants asylum seekers to be processed on Nauru and Manus Island with the government to introduce legislation to parliament tomorrow.

Family reunion for boat arrivals will also be scrapped as a matter of urgency and all 22 recommendations from the Houston panel report adopted in principle by the government.

Ms Gillard said she wouldn’t claim a “victory” in the asylum debate.

The panel’s recommendation dealt a blow to the government’s Malaysia people swap, deeming the deal not yet up to protection and security standards needed.

After more than a year of clinging to the deal and refusing to adopt Nauru without the people swap, Ms Gillard said she would move immediately to reinstate the Howard government processing centres in Nauru and Manus Island. “I will compromise in order to enact the recommendations of this report,” Ms Gillard said.

The government has accepted recommendations that more work be done on its Malaysia deal.


Patients reject eHealth

Or does it reject them? I tried to register but the system bombed in the middle of the very lengthy process concerned

Only 5029 people have joined the federal government's controversial $466 million eHealth system since it was launched on July 1.

Figures obtained from the Department of Health and Ageing show that each individual to take up the personally controlled electronic health record system has so far cost the government $92,662.

Patients can volunteer to join the system, which stores all their health information, including test results and prescriptions, in a national database. It is the first time patients will be able to access their medical details.

The Coalition's eHealth spokesman, Andrew Southcott, compared the slow adoption to the government's problems with the Building the Education Revolution program and pink batts installation.

"The government's own target and benchmark was 500,000 sign-ups in the first year," he said.

"At the current rate, if they maintain this pace they will get approximately 60,000 so well short of the 500,000 and they are anticipating 6.8 million within four years.

"The low take-up shows that doctors and patients don't see it as being of much value at this point in time. This is the government that brought us school halls [BER refurbishment] and pink batts and lost control of our borders."

Dr Southcott said the Health Minister, Tanya Plibersek, was avoiding talking about the scheme.

"The government doesn't want to be associated with another disaster," he said. "They championed it before the last election but they don't really seem to have a lot of enthusiasm for it now."

A spokesman for Ms Plibersek said the service's introduction was a "marathon, not a sprint".

"That's the sensible way to deliver this significant reform," he said.

The Department of Health and Ageing said the implementation of eHealth was always going to be a staged process. "We are delighted that without any fanfare or publicity that so many Australians have already registered, and a constant daily growth in registrations, the vast majority online," a spokeswoman said.

The Australian Medical Association's national president Steve Hambleton said the sign-up figures were evidence the government should have made inclusion in the eHealth system automatic and let patients choose to "opt out".

Dr Hambleton said the medical profession supported a one-stop source of medical information, but a critical mass of people was needed for it to function properly.

"There is no health information on the system yet anyway and GPs, for example, still haven't got software in their computers that lets them talk to the system."

Of the 5029 registered so far 89 per cent of them had registered online while the remainder registered by phone, in writing or in person at a Medicare shopfront.


Male nurse 'humiliated' by Qantas policy

A nurse was made to feel as if he had a sign that read "kiddie fiddler" over his head after he was moved away from a young girl on a Qantas flight, he said. Daniel McCluskie said he had a similar experience to a firefighter on a Virgin Australia flight when he was made to switch seats with a woman because he was sitting next to an unaccompanied child.

Qantas has defended its policy, saying it is consistent with that of other airlines around the world and reflects parents' concerns.

Mr McCluskie, 31, is a senior nurse at the local health district in Wagga Wagga and was flying from the city to Sydney in June when he said he was humiliated by the cabin crew. He was seated in the second last row of the flight next to a girl he estimated to be 10 years old.

After the safety demonstration, a flight attendant asked a woman on the opposite side of the aisle to swap seats with Mr McCluskie.

After the plane was in the air and the meals had been served, Mr McCluskie said he went to the back of the aircraft to ask why he had been moved and was told it was the policy of Qantas not to have men sit next to unaccompanied children.

"There were people that looked during the actual move, people looked at me or looked around because there was a bit of a ruckus at the back of the plane," he said. "And then the man in front of me throughout the flight kept looking at me and obviously my sense of paranoia was heightened, if you want to call it that, because of what had occurred.

"After the plane had taken off, the air hostess thanked the woman that had moved but not me, which kind of hurt me or pissed me off a bit more because it appeared I was in the wrong, because it seemed I had this sign I couldn't see above my head that said 'child molester' or 'kiddie fiddler' whereas she did the gracious thing and moved to protect the greater good of the child."

Mr McCluskie said he has working-with-children checks almost yearly and told the flight staff he found his treatment and the policy insulting and discriminatory. He asked to speak to a manager when the plane landed in Sydney and was told there was no one available on the weekend who could talk to him. Instead he was given a customer care card to fill out with his feedback.

Mr McCluskie said he did not hear back from Qantas and followed up his complaint with an email more than a week ago but still did not hear back from the airline.

It was not until he tweeted about it last Wednesday – two days before the news broke of Virgin's treatment of one its male customers – that he got a response. "They got back with a semi-sympathetic apology, if that," he said.

"I was just told it was the policy and it was what people who send unaccompanied minors on flights want and it's not their fault, which I disagreed with at the time ... "I think it absolutely sucks; it's totally and utterly discriminatory in my mind. It's a complete and utter generalisation ...

"You don't know who the person is and it's highly unlikely [that a child will be harmed on a flight]. If a child is going to be harmed or hurt it's probably going to be by someone closer to them than a stranger on a flight. "I was absolutely fuming. I couldn't have been angrier at Qantas."

Mr McCluskie said he would like to see the policy either scrapped completely, have parents fly with their children if they were really concerned or have Qantas chaperones fly with children and look after them. "I hate to say this but it is a sign of that reverse discrimination that occasionally exists out there," he said.

Virgin Australia announced a review of its policy on Friday after a backlash to the story of fireman Johnny McGirr, who was asked to move seats away from two children on a Brisbane to Sydney flight in April.

A Qantas spokesman confirmed the policy, but said it was rare that a passenger was asked to swap seats after boarding the plane.

"Qantas's policy is consistent with other airlines around the world and is designed to minimise risk," he said. [What risk? Are males automatically risky] "The policy reflects parents' concerns and the need to maximise the child's safety and well-being.

"In most instances unaccompanied children are allocated seats prior to boarding and there are no issues. "On the rare occasion where a male passenger is seated next to an unaccompanied child, airlines need to take care when moving passengers to ensure this is done discreetly and respectfully."

Qantas policy states that unaccompanied minors must not be seated next to an adult male customer or in an exit row and in some circumstances, a window seat.

Where possible Qantas aims to seat children near crew areas or next to an empty seat. "We try to pre-seat children in the most appropriate areas. However, due to late bookings we will sometimes need to move the child to seat them in a more appropriate area," the spokesman said.

In 2010, British Airways changed its policy that men travelling alone could not sit next to unaccompanied children after they were taken to court for contravening the Sex Discrimination Act.

British Airways now seats unaccompanied children in their own area after businessman Mirko Fischer sued the company when flight staff asked him to move away from a child after he had switched seats with his pregnant wife. BA denied its policy was discriminatory but admitted to sex discrimination in Mr Fisher's case and agreed to pay him £2161 in costs and £750 in damages.


Cushy public servicejobs going in Qld.

Flowers were delivered to the women whose public servant temporary contracts finished, George Street desks were cleared out and many tears were shed.

But sacked public servant "Graham Smith"* had just one question for Premier Campbell Newman: "What impact will our job losses have on your jobs target?" "The first thing I will be doing on Monday is going down to Centrelink and registering as an unemployed person," Graham said.

"Campbell Newman has his four per cent election promise and with thousands of jobs going today and thousands more going in the coming months, it is important that people are registering as unemployed," he said.

"So I am going to make sure that I am being counted as an unemployed person ... so that the premier knows the impact that this is really having on the economy and the unemployment rate."

"Graham" is bitterly frustrated. His particular skill makes him readily identifiable in the public service.

The temporary research job he took in February was his dream job, and his boss personally wrote to his director-general and pleaded for his job to be continued. "They didn’t even read it he said," Graham said.

In January this year, then-LNP leader Campbell Newman promised to cut Queensland’s unemployment rate to 4 per cent over six years and create 420,000 jobs. In May, Queensland’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased from 5.1 per cent to 5.7 per cent in May, according to figures released on June 7.

Around 3000 temporary, casual and contract postitions finished in the Queensland public service.

Mr Newman has already indicated the Queensland public service is employing around 20,000 more public servants than it can afford.

The State Government on Thursday night reduced the retrenchment notice period from six months to four months for permanent public servants. And on Thursday, confirmed that Mr Newman had set up a formal group to look at future public sector job and budget cuts for government departments.

Yesterday, Mr Newman said he did not know how many positions finished on Friday, a point scoffed at by public service union boss Alex Scott.

"Director’s-general are reporting on a fortnightly basis to the director-general of Premiers (Department) about employment levels and what is happening with temporaries," Mr Scott said. "The politicians needed to only ask one person and they would have had an accurate figure."

Meanwhile, Queensland’s leading business organisation said the types of jobs being shed from the public sector could be absorbed in the private sector. Queensland’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry president David Goodwin said there was work in the administration, information technology, planning and research areas. "There is ready made equivalents in the private sector," Mr Goodwin said.

He said many private sector operator believed the public sector had swollen during the last term of the Bligh government. "We had 28,000 new public servants taken in the last term of the Bligh Government," he said.

Mr Goodwin said he did feel for public servants that lost contracts yesterday. "Many of them who were on contracts were paid very well for a number of years," he said. "They were paid well over market rate. "They have had their good years and my hope is that they have put away for those years when they don’t have that job security."

Mr Goodwin said some individuals might find it hard, but said most people recognised the private sector - the media and banking sectors - were two areas really shedding staff.

"I really do think there is nothing sacred about being a public servant. There is a financial reality that applies to the private sector as well as the public sector."

Centrelink is offering financial help to public servants who have unexpectedly lost their positions. "These include support services, such as social workers and financial information officers, who can provide free financial information to help people maximise their financial situation," media spokesperson Kevin Room said.


13 August, 2012

There is something good in the Anglosphere

Our Foreign Minister can be very emphatic. Bob Carr told an audience last month it is "too risky" for Australia "even to glance in the direction of talk of an Anglosphere".

That is, to even think about talking about the deep relationship we have with the English-speaking world would be international relations suicide - we would offend our neighbours and lose our friends.

It was clear who Carr was criticising. His speech didn't mention the Opposition Leader, but Tony Abbott is a big fan of the Anglosphere. Earlier this year, Carr's predecessor Kevin Rudd was explicit: Abbott's belief in the Anglosphere is one reason he must be kept out of government.

But Abbott is right. Our heritage is not something to be ashamed of. It is not a coincidence the oldest surviving democracies are in the Anglosphere. Or that a tradition of liberty, stretching back to the Magna Carta, has given English-speaking nations a greater protection of human rights and private property. We ought to be proud, not bashful. Sure, it's more fashionable to talk of the "Asian century". But the Anglosphere will shape Australia's cultural and political views for a century. It's a shame only conservatives feel comfortable talking about it.

To accept that old relationships should endure isn't to close us off from the Asian century. Instead, the acceptance will allow us to engage that future more confidently.

Because the Anglosphere is not about the language. It is about a collection of values - individual liberty, the common law, parliamentary democracy and open markets - we share with Britain, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and the US. It recognises that different nations are joined by a common political culture. Carr and Rudd can protest all they want: the existence of that common culture is beyond question.

Yet in his speech, Carr threw every barb he could at the Anglosphere, dragging up the spectre of Pauline Hanson. This is a standard trope when anybody raises our English-speaking heritage - a suggestion that conservatives are not so much interested in the Anglosphere, per se, but the Anglo-Saxon race.

That charge is total nonsense. The English-speaking world includes the most successful multicultural nations. All but Britain and Ireland are built almost entirely on immigration. And their success is entirely due to their institutional heritage - a liberalism that says all people, regardless of background, can peacefully coexist under a legal system that treats them neutrally. It is thanks to our inheritance that Australia's multiculturalism functions as well as it does. We must not forget the former while we pursue the latter.

And spruikers of the Asian century ought to be cautious. A highly praised book was published in 2005 titled Why Europe Will Run the 21st Century. That didn't work out. Likewise, the Asian century may turn out very different from what our best and brightest predict.

For instance, if China's economy takes a dive, the region may well be led by India - a country almost as big, certainly more free, and more closely integrated with Australia.

Geography is less important than ever. And regions are less important than ever. Globalisation, technology, and near-zero shipping costs have taken care of that. The 21st century will be about relationships and ideas, not proximity.

The Labor Party's intellectuals have said for decades Australia must assert its independence. You know the drill. We must not play deputy sheriff for the US. We ought to pursue a strong, self-sufficient foreign policy. We must be confident in our identity.

So it's bizarre to hear our Foreign Minister claim that Australia should downplay its historical relationship with the English-speaking world - not because that relationship doesn't exist, but because simply stating it might offend our neighbours.

You would think that was the opposite of what a confident nation should do


Welcomed with open attitudes

By Eliza Sum

I LOVE the disbelieving reactions from Australians when they find out that I'm not one of them and have spent half my life elsewhere. A common response is: "What? But you're more Aussie than I am!"

It's true. I'm an alien - albeit a legal one - and spent more than half of my life growing up in tropical Singapore before moving to suburban Geelong as a 15-year-old.

But despite my red passport and inherent love for laksa, I feel more welcome Down Under than in my birth country.

This, it seems, puts me at odds with Dr Stanley Chiang, the Victorian Chinese Community Council president, who believes Asians are still treated as foreigners.

"As soon as people see your face, they say, 'Where do you come from?'," he was reported as saying in yesterday's Herald Sun. "Unfortunately, in Australia people still tend to think you're not Australian - if you look Asian you can't be Australian, which is not right," Dr Chiang said, adding the attitude could be traced back to the White Australia policy.

I've met hundreds of people from varying walks of life through high school, university and my work as a journalist, and can confidently say that Dr Chiang's views go against most of my experiences with Australians in the past nine years.

Almost all my friends and colleagues are Caucasian. So I like to think I have a pretty good handle on the Aussie lifestyle and outlook, which has been nothing but warm, cordial and embracing regardless of my skin colour.

Despite the perceived racism in this country, I've never been called a "chink" (not to my face, anyway), and have even been dubbeda "true-blue Aussie" on occasion. That's pretty welcoming, don't you think?

I still remember my first day of year 10 public school as an awkward tomboy - it was already the early noughties, but I was one of only two Asian females in the entire student population.

A group of girls in my year level went out of their way to befriend me, even though I was shy, quiet and hyper-aware of my foreign accent.

As we grew closer, they gently ribbed me about my inability to pronounce the "th" sound, (froth became froff, three was tree), but it was all in jest. I gave as good as I got, teasing them when they failed to stomach spicy food and couldn't use chopsticks at my family's dinner table.

Still, life as an Asian in a mostly Anglo regional town wasn't without challenges and the occasional insensitive, ignorant comment.

One day at school, a boy I'd never met asked if I arrived on a boat. Naively, I asked a classmate: "Does that mean they think I'm poor and can't afford a plane ticket?"

That was especially awkward, confusing and hurtful, but I moved on from it.

Today, I write for a regional newspaper, barrack loud and proud for the mighty Cats and love feeling the sea breeze in my hair down at Bells Beach.

I've travelled to every mainland state, panned for gold at Sovereign Hill and trekked around Uluru.

I adore Australians and their unique sense of humour and chronic inability to take anything seriously.

And even though I haven't developed a taste for beer or Vegemite, and can't stand on a surfboard to save my life, I feel more at home in Oz than anywhere else.

Yes, I still identify with being Singaporean but just don't see any point in the us-versus-them mentality that so many Asians have adopted, especially among older generations.

"My father says the Aussies will always treat us as second-class citizens just because we're Asian," an international student once friend moaned. "He would never let me work here."

Sure, I can't change my skin tone, eyes or the colour of my hair, but I can control the way I behave - I don't feel like a foreigner because I don't act like one.

I'm comfortable in this country whether I'm screaming like a banshee at Kardinia Park while rifling into a bucket of hot chips, or tucking into a delicious yum cha lunch in Chinatown with my parents.

People occasionally ask where I'm from, but I don't get shirty when they do.

Of course, the odd idiot who lets fly with puerile remarks will still exist, but my experiences of good Aussies outweigh any fleeting moments of racism.

My fellow Asians, it's time to let go of the identity insecurity, educate the ignorant ... and maybe even share a laksa or two with them.


Tasmanian trade-off: jobs or trees

These are good times for Tasmanian trees but less so for Tasmanians.

Gunns, formerly the island state's biggest company, this week all but ended its eight-year battle to build a $2.3 billion pulp mill in northern Tasmania. With it goes potentially thousands of jobs.

And tomorrow, state and federal ministers meet yet again to try to salvage a $276 million "peace deal" between loggers and conservationists to end three decades of the "forest wars."

Although unrelated, the two events highlight the challenges facing Australia's least populous and poorest state, unkindly dubbed by one West Australian MP "the Greece of Australia".

While comparisons to Europe's crisis epicentre may be stretching it, the economic gulf between Tasmanians and the mainland has lately been growing deeper and wider.

July's figures out today show the island's 6.5 per cent jobless rate is the nation's highest - albeit a sizeable improvement on a much worse showing in June at 7.4 per cent.

In the most recent full-year national accounts, covering 2010-11, Tasmania's growth lagged all but flood-hit Queensland. The 0.8 per cent expansion rate was barely a third of Victoria and NSW, which like Tasmania, share little direct benefit from the mining boom.

The median Tassie household generated weekly income of $948, according to the 2011 census, roughly three-quarters of the national average. That gap would have been greater if the Commonwealth hadn't been funding about 60 per cent of the Tasmanian state budget, roughly double the rate in Victoria and NSW.

The demographics aren't encouraging, either.

For years, younger Tasmanians have flocked interstate in search of work and education, while older Australians headed to the island for retirement, leaving Tassie with the highest average age.

Along with the ageing population, about one in four claim some form of disability, the country's highest ratio, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics....

Few dispute Mr Eslake's call for Tasmania to move from low- to high-value products and services. Many, though, question how fast such a transition can be made.

Speed, in other contexts, may be the problem, says Neil MacKinnon, chief executive officer of the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

He says Tasmania's government is "rushing too fast" towards environmental agreements and "locking up" too much of Tasmania's dormant wealth.

If too much forest is quarantined, "it's an asset turned into a liability”, Mr MacKinnon argues.

"There's very large assets there. One of the concerns... is if those assets are not going to be able to be managed profitably, the eventual outcome will be degradation as nobody will be able to look after [the forests]."

Mr MacKinnon questions an assumption in some political quarters that Tasmanians can replace their jobs in old “brown” industries with new “green” ones.

"One of the concerns is that people will have been employed in the forestry industry for many years and it's difficult for them given their education levels and age to convert out of what you might call heavy industries to high tech.

“I think there's no doubt that we are in a transition period but it needs to be a sensibly staged transition... That might be over a generation. In the meantime we need to take advantage of existing standing assets. There's minerals to be mined ... there's opportunities for the commodity industries."

Conservation proponents, though, argue that protecting ancient forests preserves them for future generations and retains important carbon sinks. And they remain important attractions for mainlanders and overseas visitors.

The proposed forest pact also guarantees sufficient timber supplies for industry's needs - some say, too much.

Another emerging flashpoint is the push to save most if not all of the Tarkine wilderness in the state's north-west. The region holds a range of minerals that mining companies are clamouring to extract.

Gunns pushing up roses?

Somewhat ironically, it was the decision by Gunns, the state's major processor of native forest sawlogs and woodchips, to exit native forestry - after years of battles with conservationists - that served as a key prompt for a state and federal push to restructure the industry.

Gunns, founded in 1875 and one of the country's oldest companies, had pinned its future on developing a pulp mill that it said would create as many as 3100 jobs. Since it would use plantation timber, it no longer needed access to great swathes of forests.

While securing most of its environmental permits, though, Gunns has failed to arrange the necessary finance.

Its own viability has not been helped by what it described this week as the "substantial decline in stumpage prices" that will force it to cop a $700-$800 million write-down.

The wording on its statement implies that the high dollar and low global pulp prices make the mill unviable. So much, in other words, for value-adding.

Whatever the outcome of tomorrow's talks over a forest pact, Tasmania will need to look beyond the trees for viable job creation.

One sure bet, then, is that while there are trees to be chopped and minerals to be dug - and not enough alternative work - passions on both sides of the issue are unlikely to subside.


Cairns Base Hospital condition critical

ALMOST 800 patients at risk of bowel cancer are being forced to wait up to 10 months for a procedure at Cairns Base Hospital, despite a recommended wait time of no more than 30 days.

Cairns and Hinterland Health Service District CEO Julie Hartley-Jones said there were 791 Category 1 patients waiting to have an endoscopy or colonoscopy, which checks a person’s stomach or bowel area for cancer or other disease with an endoscope. Cancerous polyps can also be removed via an endoscopy, if detected early.

The wait exceeds a Queensland Health recommendation that any Category 1 patient undergoing an elective surgery should only wait up to 30 days.

Ms Hartley-Jones said overcrowding pressures on the hospital had forced the extensive wait times.

"The delay is due to the sheer volume of referrals for endoscopies including a surge of referrals from the highly successful bowel cancer screening awareness program," she said.

The hospital was able to send 83 endoscopy patients to Cairns Private Hospital for treatment to ease waiting list pressures after receiving special funding. She said the board would meet next week to discuss the situation as part of its review of service priorities for the State Government funding of $3.75 million.

A reader of The Cairns Post, who asked not to be named, alerted the paper to the situation after her husband, a Category 1 patient, was told by hospital staff he would have to wait up to eight months. However, because of his condition, he waited only six weeks.

The reader also raised concerns about the way in which patients recovering from endoscopy surgery were managed.

"It was seven o’clock at night in a clinic only set up for day patients and the queue of beds with inpatients was running up the corridor waiting for the last day procedure patients to finally wake up and come out of the tiny recovery area," she said.

"It was organised ‘people soup’, with an army of porters with equipment and bedding on trolleys queuing to come in with stuff needed for the night. The whole lot goes in reverse as the sun goes up."

Ms Hartley-Jones said the endoscopy recovery day unit was used by inpatients for overnight stays, but the planned 12-bed flex-bed unit would help prevent this in future.

She also said the overnight stays did not affect the number of endoscopies performed.

Senior Medical Staff Association secretary Paul Howat said the waiting list was a serious issue for patients as well as hospital staff.

"If you have a long waiting list and some of those patients have cancer, then there’s obviously a delay in diagnosis and a delay in treatment," he said.

Dr Howat said Townsville Hospital had four full-time gastroenterologists compared with Cairns’s one, despite both cities having similar populations.

"We don’t blame the administration, they’re given a budget and that’s all they can do," he said.

"It largely comes down to one person trying to manage a very large problem, rather than three or four specialists."

Dr Howat said the hospital could increase the operating hours of its second endoscopy room from two to five days a week, if funding and extra staff were available.

There are 65 endoscopies performed at Cairns Base Hospital each week.


Top schools ban homework on weekends and holidays

Probably a reasonable balance

AT least two of WA's top private schools have banned homework for younger children at weekends and during school holidays "to allow kids to just be kids".

The policies are in line with international expert Phil Beadle, author, trainer, speaker and a former UK Teacher of the Year, who says the traditional form of homework is akin to abuse for primary school children.

Presbyterian Ladies' College has ruled out homework at those times for Years 7 and 8, and Methodist Ladies' College does not advocate "traditional" homework for primary pupils.

Mr Beadle, who is in Australia as a teacher-in-residence at Sydney's Knox Grammar School, told The Sunday Times this week: "We blithely accept homework as an intrinsic part of schooling, despite the fact that everyone (teachers and students) hates it.

"No educator is in receipt of hard, incontrovertible evidence that homework is entirely necessary. However, any parent will tell you that at certain ages it has an enormously destructive effect on family life."

PLC principal Beth Blackwood said homework remains "an area for debate".

"For every piece of research that says homework is beneficial, there's another piece that says it's not," she said. "I think there are other benefits of homework not just achievement orientated.

"It's about developing good study habits and skills, developing self-direction, organisational skills, independent problem-solving, and it's also about parents getting involved in the schooling process.

"With that research in mind, we did look at our homework policy for the middle school. We were trying to strike a balance between the benefits of homework and having some homework but also allowing the girls to just be girls, and to have down time, and family time and time for recreation."

Ms Blackwood said she expected Year 12 students to complete at least 18 hours of homework and study each week, but expectations on younger students were not so high.

"It is not that effective in primary school and yet parents will judge schools by the amount of homework that is given," she said. "I think the most important thing is getting that balance." At MLC, based on research indicating that traditional homework does not work in younger years, primary school students are encouraged to read every day and engage in 30 minutes of nature play or outdoor activities.

"Our main objective is to move away from the negative connotations of home learning and celebrate true learning," the school said. "The second objective is to challenge today's technocentric society and move children away from spending too much time watching TV, playing computer games or surfing the internet.

"We want students to learn because it's enjoyable, stimulating and worthwhile. We have designed a new approach towards home learning that encompasses our philosophy of nurturing academically able and emotionally confident young women."

For students in Years 7 to 9, MLC recommends one, 1 1/2 and two hours of study each weeknight respectively, but homework is not set over long weekends or holidays, and a 24-hour deadline is usually avoided.

Mr Beadle said homework for primary school children should be illegal. He believes children would benefit more from "developing a love of reading and writing for fun", than homework.

"I think all children have a right to leisure and joy," he said. "Making their after-school life one in which they are compelled to obey the dictate to slave for something that is almost entirely intangible could be argued to be abusive.

"Yes, after a certain age, you will be unable to complete the essay in class time. Yes, after a certain age you will need to broaden your knowledge at home but really the most important thing you can receive at home is love and care and perhaps a love of reading.

"Spending your home life, constantly engaged, at the age of seven, in compulsory acts of negligible benefit should be illegal."

Education Department statewide services acting executive director Martin Clery said every public school set its own homework policy and there was no "blanket rule".

Many schools encouraged younger students to read every night with their parents to boost literacy and develop a joy for reading, but it was not technically considered homework. However, the department expected homework, when set, to relate directly to school work and "increase accordingly" throughout the year groups.

Education Minister Peter Collier said "primary school aged children don't need to be doing hours of homework each night" but it should be balanced with family time and revision of school work.


12 August, 2012

An unempirical Asian languages debate

It takes an enormous effort for an English speaker to learn an Asian language and Australia has about a million people of Chinese origins anyway, many of whom do speak a Chinese language. So we already have all the intermediaries to China that we could want

A recent article in The Age typifies the unempirical nature of the debate about Asia literacy. The article cites Professor David Hill from Murdoch University as warning of the ‘dismal educational, economic and security consequences’ that will result from the ‘decline in the number of students studying Asian languages.’

Given how bold such a claim is, one would expect details of what these ‘dismal consequences’ might be. No such explanation is offered.

Later, Professor Kent Anderson, Pro-Vice Chancellor (International) at the University of Adelaide, is quoted as saying that Australia needs to improve its language education because we compare poorly with Asian and European countries, where they teach students the ‘mother tongue, plus two foreign languages.’

The article fails to note Professor Anderson’s key omission: As well as not offering as much language education as Asian and European countries, Australia does not have as much of a need to teach languages. Unlike most Asian and European countries, Australia’s national language is also conveniently the world’s lingua franca.

Those in favour of teaching more students Asian languages need to provide a sound educational rationale. Failing that, we should not let an unempirical debate about Asia literacy scare us into thinking that current language programs need to be expanded.


Queensland Attorney-General to try and overturn legal decision on motels having to host prostitution services

THE Queensland Government will try to overturn a legal decision in favour of a sex worker who claimed a ban on her operating out of a regional motel was discriminatory.

The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal found the operators of a Moranbah motel had breached the Anti-Discrimination Act by denying a sex worker a room.

Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said the government had concerns about the decision and had requested Crown Law advice.

"The Government stands on the side of business owners and supports their ability to make decisions about what does or does not occur on their premises," said Mr Bleijie.

"If a conflict exists between the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 and the Liquor Act 1992, the Government will change the laws to ensure this inconsistency is resolved. "This will also give certainty to our business owners that they are in control of their establishments."

He said he was seeking legal advice on whether the government could intervene in any appeal the motel owner may wish to make, or appeal the decision directly.


Labor government puts web surveillance plans on ice

A CONTROVERSIAL internet security plan to store the web history of all Australians for up to two years has been stalled by the federal government until after the next election.

Security bureaucrats have drafted legislation to expand internet surveillance and security powers, but Attorney-General Nicola Roxon decided to first refer a discussion paper to a parliamentary committee.

Senior intelligence officials, who have been pushing for the increased powers, complain the legislation will be delayed until after the election due next year.

The national security discussion paper released last month by Ms Roxon canvasses proposals for compulsory internet data retention, forcing people to give up computer passwords, streamlining telecommunications interception approvals, and enhancing stop and search powers for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

A senior national security official told Fairfax Media yesterday that Ms Roxon's decision to refer the proposals to the parliamentary joint committee for intelligence and security was symptomatic of "the risk adverse character of the government".

"These reforms are urgently needed to deal with a rapidly evolving security environment, but there isn't much appetite within the government for anything that attracts controversy," the official said.

National security community dissatisfaction with Ms Roxon comes as Prime Minister Julia Gillard yesterday announced a long delayed review of federal and state counter-terrorism laws introduced after the 2005 London terrorist bombings.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said yesterday a committee led by retired NSW judge Anthony Whealy, QC, would review legislation governing control orders, preventative detention and "certain emergency stop, question and search powers held by police". The review had originally been scheduled to commence in 2010.

Attorney-General's department briefing papers released under freedom of information legislation show that when Ms Roxon took office as Attorney-General last December, her department had already prepared an "exposure draft" of amendments to Australia's security and intelligence laws.

Subject to Ms Roxon's agreement and consultation with the security watchdog, the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security, it was proposed by her department that the draft legislative package be considered by the National Committee of Cabinet in February, and the full cabinet in May.

However, the department also warned that amendments to surveillance powers "usually draw media and public attention" and that "the scale of changes being developed will mean that it is highly likely that there will be significant public interest".

In a recent interview, Ms Roxon said she was "not yet convinced" about the merits of the proposal for compulsory data retention that would enable intelligence and security agencies to examine a person's internet usage.

A spokesman for Ms Roxon has confirmed she rejected the approach of her predecessor, former attorney-general Robert McClelland, who had approved the development of the legislative package.


Carbon tax price hike jolts Anglican Church Grammar School electricity bills

THE carbon tax has begun hitting Queensland small businesses, including a Brisbane private school which faces a $70,000-a-year hike in its electricity bill.

Six weeks into the carbon tax regime, price hikes are starting to hit hip pockets as power bills drop into letterboxes.

Queensland Chamber of Commerce and Industry president David Goodwin said the "weird distortions" were becoming apparent.

"We are finding that ordinary supermarkets like the local IGA may be up for up to $15,000 on the carbon tax alone if they have to re-gas their giant refrigeration system," Mr Goodwin said. "Somehow these guys are going to have find ways to cover these extra costs."

The Anglican Church Grammar School (Churchie) faces a 30 per cent increase in electricity for the month of July, well above the 9 per cent increase predicted by the Federal Government.

Headmaster Jonathan Hensman said Churchie had struggled to become energy-efficient, employing everything from external louvres to power factor connection mechanisms to stop power leakage. Now he estimates the school will have to find an extra $1400 a week to meet the cost of the carbon tax.

"Given what we have done it's a bit disappointing," he said.

He said that in the post-GST environment, passing on the cost to parents through higher fees was not an option.

Electricity broker Peter Phillips said several schools were reeling from the steep increases.

A spokesman for federal Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said the average rise would be 9 per cent, and consumers had been compensated for businesses that passed on the cost of steeper rises.

The carbon tax component for Churchie for the month of July is $5600 - about 15 per cent of the entire bill of $38,000.

The school negotiated low-cost power through Mr Phillips, but now estimates it will have to find about $70,000 a year extra to cover the tax.

Mr Phillips, owner of Mantel Solutions, said many high-end users used brokers to secure cheap electricity discounts of up to 50 per cent over the average householder. But brokers could not secure concessions to the carbon tax.

The Federal Government predicted businesses may face steeper hikes and had compensated households, the spokesman said.

"That is why we are providing households with tax cuts, higher family payments and pension increases to meet the increase in the cost of living, which Treasury estimates will be an increase in the CPI of 0.7 per cent," he said.

"Businesses concerned that they are being charged too much for electricity should consider shopping around for a better deal."

Queensland Energy Minister Mark McArdle seized on the bill as an transparent example of how the carbon tax impacted commercial electricity bills.

"For most domestic customers the price of the carbon tax is hidden in the total cost of the electricity tariff," Mr McArdle said. "In the case of market contracts, such as this, each of the components that make up a bill is clearly identified.

"It shows that off-peak energy is attracting an 80 per cent increase directly related to the carbon tax."


Electric car sales lose spark around the world and in Australia

SALES of electric vehicles have been so slow that Mitsubishi has temporarily halted production of two cars.

The slow global take-up of EVs has been mirrored in Australia, with only 18 sold privately this year and 45 sold to government and business.

After sales of less than 1000 each, Mitsubishi has now temporarily stopped producing the Citroen C-Zero and Peugeot iOn, which are rebadged versions of its i-MiEV. In Australia, Mitsubishi has sold only 12 i-MiEVs this year and none last month.

This follows disappointing global sales for the Nissan Leaf, which has sold 51 here this year, and the Chevrolet Volt, which goes on sale next month with a Holden badge.

While many blame high prices Mitsubishi i-MiEV retails at $48,800, Nissan Leaf at $51,500 and Holden Volt at $59,990 Australian industry figures point to a lack of government subsidies.

Fuel economy campaigner and former Australian Rally champion Ed Ordynski said the issue of subsidies for electric vehicles was "way too bogged down in politics".

"I don't think we'll see changes until there is a shake-out of local manufacturers," he said, pointing out that local manufacturers had no plans to produce electric vehicles, although several Australian companies are converting conventional cars to electric power.

"I don't think the government will offer incentives to produce locally, so subsidies for electric vehicles would only be for full imports and that isn't going to happen."

BMW Group Australia boss Phil Horton said government incentives would be a "relatively easy thing to do" and not necessarily expensive.

He suggested incentives such as cheap or free tolls, use of transit lanes, cheaper parking spaces and discounts on registration and stamp duties.

"Unless they take some steps to encourage electric vehicles, people won't buy them," he said.

BMW is about to release its ActiveHybrid 5, followed by a 3 Series model later this year, a 7 Series early next year, with a full electric car, the i3 in 2014 and a plug-in hybrid i8 after that.

"But there doesn't seem any interest from the government to do anything to encourage their take-up," Mr Horton said.

The BMW ActiveHybrid 5 will be among the highlights of a GreenZone Drive today on the Gold Coast.


11 August, 2012

Airline's insulting and discriminatory seating policy causes storm

I don't normally post anything on Saturday (my Sabbath) but I am a bit fired up about this excreta. The guy below should lodge a formal complaint. This was patently illegal. Queensland has anti-discrimination legislation that explicitly forbids discrimination on the basis of sex. See Section 7(1)a of the ANTI-DISCRIMINATION ACT of 1991. No-one deserves to be publicly humiliated for no reason the way this guy was

In his inimitable way, Boris Johnson (now Mayor of London) had a story about this some years back. He was harassed on a British Airways flight for sitting next to HIS OWN SONS. British Airways ended the policy concerned a couple of years ago so Virgin are prehistoric about this

Virgin Australia has promised a review after facing a firestorm of criticism from men outraged at its policy of barring males from sitting next to unaccompanied children.

The company was today widely criticised after a Sydney fireman reported his experience of being asked to swap seats because he was sat beside two unaccompanied boys.

After this morning defending its policy, the airline this afternoon announced via Twitter it was reviewing its stance. "We understand the concerns raised around our policy for children travelling alone, a long-standing policy initially based on customer feedback," @VirginAustralia said. "In light of recent feedback, we're now reviewing this policy. Our intention is certainly not to discriminate in any way." [Except that they do]

A Virgin spokeswoman said the policy was shared by Qantas, Jetstar and Air New Zealand.

Earlier today Fairfax Media reported the story of Johnny McGirr, 33, who said he was flying home from Brisbane in April when he took his seat next to two boys he estimated to be aged between eight and 10.

He was assigned the window seat but sat in the aisle seat so the two boys could look out the window. However, a flight attendant approached him just as passengers were asked to put on their seatbelts, asking him to move. Mr McGirr said when he asked why, he was told, "Well you can't sit next to two unaccompanied minors."

"She said it was the policy and I said, 'Well, that's pretty sexist and discriminatory. You can't just say because I'm a man I can't sit there,' and she just apologised and said that was the policy.

"By this stage everyone around me had started looking." Mr McGirr said the attendant then asked a fellow female passenger, "Can you please sit in this seat because he is not allowed to sit next to minors."

"After that I got really embarrassed because she didn't even explain. I just got up and shook my head a little, trying to get some dignity out of the situation," he said. "And that was it. I pretty much sat through the flight getting angrier."

Mr McGirr pointed out that he works as a fireman in Newtown in Sydney and was trusted in his job to look out for the welfare of children. "[The attitude of the airline] is 'we respect you but as soon as you board a Virgin airline you are a potential paedophile', and that strips away all the good that any male does regardless of his standing in society, his profession or his moral attitudes," he said.

A spokeswoman for Virgin Australia this morning confirmed the policy and said while the airline did not want to offend male passengers, its priority was the safety of children. [So all men are unsafe near children? What an insult!] "In our experience, most guests thoroughly understand that the welfare of the child is our priority," she said.

The spokeswoman said staff usually tried to keep the seat empty but, when that was not possible, a woman was seated next to the child. "Virgin Australia takes the safety of all guests very seriously and, in the case of unaccompanied minors, we take additional steps to ensure their flight is safe and trouble free in every respect."

Mr McGirr, who wrote to Virgin to complain, said the policy was flawed.

"[It's] blatant discrimination that just because I'm a male I can't sit there," he said. "They apologised that it happened on the flight and said it shouldn't have happened then but my issue is not with the mistakes made there; my issue is with the policy in general.

"The majority of sexual assaults are [also] committed by men. Does that mean that we can't sit next to women? Should we just have a seat by ourselves and that way women and children will be protected?"

Mr McGirr said he understood the children were vulnerable when not with an adult but said that fears about crimes committed by a small minority of people should not rule society.

Mr McGirr said Virgin should either allocate a chaperone for children to sit with them for the entire flight, have staff do regular checks on the children to see if they were all right or ask parents to purchase the seat that is vacant so it is always left empty.

Among other Australian airlines, budget carriers Jetstar and Tiger Airways do not accept unaccompanied minors on their flights, though the two airlines have different definitions of what constitutes a minor.

Qantas, which does allow unaccompanied minors over the age of five to travel on its flights, has not returned calls requesting information on its policy on seating male passengers next to unaccompanied children.

Online outcry

Criticism of the airline swelled online today, with the story attracting more than 700 comments across Fairfax Media news sites by 4pm.

More than 44,000 readers nationwide responded to an online poll asking whether the airline’s policy was fair, with 87 per cent agreeing the rule was "sexist and suggests all men are potential pedophiles".

Twitter users were quick to voice their poor opinion of the policy under the hashtag #VirginDiscrimination, while Facebook users also responded with criticism.

One person wrote on Virgin Australia's Facebook page: "As a male school teacher, it saddens me that men are turned away from being a positive role model for children, because people have the attitude ‘male = potential molester’."

Another Facebook user wrote the policy was "disgracefully discriminatory", while another user said it was a "stupid load of nonsense" that insulted half the country’s population.

However, some on Facebook jumped to the airline’s defence, with one mother saying she appreciated the policy. "I do recall once at check-in the seats being changed around so that my children were not seated beside a man. But it was done very discretely [sic] and you know what, as a mum I was comfortable with the decision," she wrote.

While Virgin Australia was adamant that it was not alone in implementing such a policy, Qantas has not responded to repeated attempts to clarify its position from Fairfax Media today.

However, the BBC reported Qantas and Air New Zealand had a similar policy in 2005, after a businessman successfully sued British Airways on the grounds of sex discrimination after he was moved away from an unaccompanied child on a flight.


10 August, 2012

The death of ethnic humour

After Muslims "energetically" protested cartoons about themselves, the attack on humor seems to have gained a new lease on life. As the episode below illustrates, any jokes at the expense of a minority come under huge attack and are rapidly censored.

The story below concerns jokes about Australian Aborigines, a group of people virtually unknown outside Australia. Ethnic jokes of course center on characteristics widely ascribed to the group concerned so non-Australians would simply be puzzled by most of the jokes.

Nonetheless there was a worldwide pile-on to the jokes concerned by the Left-dominated media, resulting in the jokes being taken down by Facebook, their host.

To assist informed debate, I think I need to give examples of what was censored. Via a Google image search, I have recovered some of the cartoons but putting them up would be futile as any image host would undoubtedly take them down again. So what I will do is reproduce just some of the texts without the accompanying illustrations.
Back in my day meth was a drink

Methylated spirits is ethyl alcohol with a small amount of poisonous methyl alcohol added, akin to rubbing alcohol in the USA. It is used for cleaning etc. but Aborigines have been known to drink it for a cheap high.

"I think we're out of petrol" says white car driver. Aboriginal in back seat says "Sorry"

Petrol is gasoline. Petrol-sniffing is a pervasive form of substance abuse among young Aborigines

"Sense of ownership is so white". Complains when white folk take his land

Some Aborigines do say both those things

"Been here 40 thousand years. Invented a stick"

Aborigines were still very primitive when white men arrived.

Oh! You're Aboriginal. Please tell me more about how I'm a white c*nt"

Words put into the mouth of a white comedian. Aborigines are in general exceptionally polite but such utterances can be heard from Aboriginal activists, who in general have only a small amount of Aboriginal ancestry

As almost any evening of viewing TV advertisements will show you, it is perfectly permissible to mock white men as stupid, clumsy etc. so why not mock other groups in similar ways? Why the double standard? Answer: There is no standard. The Leftist aim is to tear everyone down a similar low level and anything goes in pursuit of that. And the media are solidly onboard with that discriminatory aim.

An excerpt from one of the media reports follows:
Facebook exploded yesterday, with users angrily reporting a page called "Aboriginal Memes" that makes racist "jokes" about Australia's indigenous people.

The page, which has over 4000 Likes, shows pictures of Aboriginal people with supposedly "funny" captions that reference petrol and begging.

In spite of reports pouring in from angry users, though, Facebook's response was to do just enough to show that it doesn't actually care.

After 5pm GMT +10, Facebook started emailing reporters with the following message:

Thanks for your recent report of a potential violation on Facebook. After reviewing your report, we were not able to confirm that the specific page you reported violates Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.

However, the Facebook Community Standards document clearly states:

Facebook does not permit hate speech. While we encourage you to challenge ideas, institutions, events and practices, it is a serious violation to attack a person based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition.

At approximately 9.30pm GMT +10, Facebook removed any posts linking to the page, and the page itself disappeared — only to reappear around two hours later, with its name changed to "[Controversial Humor] Aboriginal Memes". [And that is down now too]


Note that the jokes were NOT in breach of Facebook rules in that no individual was targeted.

Little Green Lies

Introduction to a new book from Australia

Fibre network does the usual shuffle for a government enterprise

Escalating costs and delayed completion

OPPOSITION communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull says delays and blowouts in the next stage of the national broadband network (NBN) project show the federal government has let taxpayers down.

NBN Co chief Mike Quigley and communications minister Stephen Conroy on Wednesday released an updated plan covering the three years to mid-2015. It showed construction costs will rise by 3.9 per cent to $37.4 billion, leading to a six-month extension in the construction timetable to June 2021.

Mr Turnbull said the plan, which updates the initial program laid out in December 2010, showed more investment would come from the Commonwealth.

"Labor's national broadband network is falling disastrously behind every benchmark the government has set for it except one - the amount of taxpayers money being spent," he said in a statement.

An increase in "indirect" operating expenses - primarily staff costs - from $3.7 billion to $7.8 billion was "even more insulting to taxpayers", Mr Turnbull said.

"NBN Co may not be able to put together a budget or roll out a network, but it knows how to take care of itself," he said.

He said NBN Co should be given a definitive budget and stick to it.

"And the Productivity Commission should be asked to conduct a thorough cost benefit analysis to assess the most efficient means of upgrading Australians' broadband as quickly as possible," Mr Turnbull said.

Mr Turnbull has said previously a coalition government would deliver broadband services through a cheaper and quicker plan, albeit at slower speeds, through a mix of copper, fibre, wireless and satellite technologies.


Whites who gain advantages by claiming to be Aborigines

Discussion of Indigenous identity on SBS’s Insight program this week drew attention to one of the worst kept secrets in the country.

A fierce debate is underway within the Indigenous community concerning who the ‘real Aborigines’ are with respect to who should and shouldn’t be entitled to the range of benefits available to address Indigenous disadvantage.

The bitter exchanges that featured on Insight exposed the legal persecution and silencing of Andrew Bolt for raising these issues in his newspaper columns to be a ridiculous example of shooting the messenger.

One can understand the sensitivities of people who identify with their Indigenous heritage ‘but don’t look Aboriginal.’ It is also easy to understand the resentment generated when some are suspected of identifying as Aboriginal as a flag of convenience to gain educational and employment advantages.

The problem is that the rules governing Aboriginal benefits treat aboriginality as a proxy for need. Affirmative action-style programs were designed to address the institutional and casual racism and prejudice that impeded Aboriginal social advancement.

Many of the increasing numbers of people who identify as Aboriginal have mixed heritages, face few institutional or casual impediments to rising on their merits, and many (as Helen Hughes has repeatedly pointed out) are generally doing as well as other Australians living and working in major population centres.

Clearly, identity alone can no longer be the basis for awarding Indigenous benefits. For people to qualify for Indigenous-specific entitlements, some kind of disadvantage test is needed.

This might mimic the points system used to assess potential immigrants. A list of the factors that establish need would have to be compiled and given appropriate weighting. Living in a remote community, being raised by welfare-dependent parents, low quality schooling, poor English literacy, chronic health problems, and a history of child abuse – all (lamentably) spring to mind.


Dodgy Islamic school

A clothing company that supplies school uniforms has applied to wind up Malek Fahd Islamic School in Sydney because of its alleged failure to pay debts of $286,303.

Duboke, trading as Oz Fashions, made the application, which will be heard by the Federal Court on August 17.

Documents filed with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission show that Duboke and Malek Fahd's parent company, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, share the same business address at 932 Bourke Street, Waterloo.

Court documents allege that Malek Fahd has failed to pay 11 invoices dating from January 18 to February 14 this year.

The application was made on July 19, which was 11 days before the NSW Minister for Education, Adrian Piccoli, wrote to the school asking it to repay $9 million in state government funding.

Mr Piccoli said the school had breached funding requirements, which prevented it operating for profit. He said the school was transferring money to the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils without receiving any services in return.

In his letter to school principal Dr Intaj Ali, Mr Piccoli said he had instructed the NSW Department of Education and Communities to terminate the school's funding.

He also wrote to the Association of Independent Schools of NSW to terminate its National Partnership funding. The school receives more than $1 million in annual funding for disadvantaged students through the five-year national partnership agreement between state and federal governments.

Mr Piccoli said that, for the school's state government funding to be reinstated, it would need to provide credible evidence that services were being provided in return for the money being transferred to the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils.

"I continue to have serious concerns about other financial transactions at the school, including the systemic lack of record keeping and documentation," he said.

Mr Piccoli also wrote to the federal Minister for Education, Peter Garrett, saying that he had referred the matter to police and the Australian Securities and Investment Commission.

The federal Department of Education commissioned an independent audit of the school last December to find whether it was spending its public funding on the education of students.

Mr Garrett has said that definitions of what it meant for a school to be operating for profit needed to be tightened.

He has said that while the vast majority of non-government schools are doing the right thing with taxpayers' money, vigilance was needed to ensure public funding was being properly spent.

In a statement, Dr Ali said he disputed Mr Piccoli's findings that the school was operating for profit and he intended to challenge the decision to terminate the school's funding. "The school will take the appropriate steps to have this decision reviewed and is confident that ultimately the correct outcome will be achieved," he said. "Malek Fahd wishes to reassure all parents, students, staff and the wider community that its focus remains on the delivery of quality education for our students and it will continue to work with both the NSW and the federal Education Departments."

The Herald was unable to contact Dr Ali for comment today. The Herald also sought comment from the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils which declined to comment and Duboke's solicitor Marc Ryckmans, who did not return calls.

Adam Shepard has been appointed to act as liquidator to Malek Fahd if it is made insolvent.

The school has a history of excluding year 11 and 12 students who are not high performers. The Herald revealed some of its past students were forced to complete HSC subjects at TAFE because they were not achieving high marks in those subjects.

Dominic Bossi writes: Malek Fahd Islamic School has become one of the leaders in Islamic education in Australia and its reputation has convinced families to relocate interstate so their children can attend. Its potential closure has now shocked parents of pupils who have made significant sacrifices for their children's schooling and has left families with few viable alternatives.

"I actually wouldn't know where to go. I moved from the Gold Coast for this school. That was the only thing that was sending me back to Sydney because I wanted my kids to have a good education. When I got a spot here, I ran back [to Sydney]," Said Diane, a parent of a year 1 student.

"This school isn't just about religion, it's about what they're teaching them and what us parents teach their children. I can't even express what I feel, and what I would feel if this school closes down. I probably would [leave Sydney]."

While there are other Islamic schools in Sydney, most parents said they were proud of the balance between religious and academic education offered at Malek Fahd and would not be satisfied to relocate their children.

"My older one is doing medicine now and she got 99.6 per cent from this school. Its [potential closure is] really saddening for me," Seema Mahmood said. "I'm really satisfied with the performance of this school, religious as well as academic. I don't know; it's really shocking. I'm really shocked. It's a big worry for me now if it's closing."


9 August, 2012

Cafe sign 'joke' slammed as racist slur

The core of the joke is the very low educational level of Aborigines and there has been any amount of media reports about that. Many Aborigines are functionally illiterate. But we are not allowed to allude to that, apparently.

The "stolen generation" is a myth created by Leftists, using the fact that abused children taken by social workers from Aboriginal homes were sometimes relocated to white homes

A Caboolture cafe is at the centre of a brewing storm after numerous people branded a sign outside the Queensland shop as racist.

Caboolture man Ranald Link said he was disgusted when he saw it at Tarmac Takeaways, in Aerodrome Rd, on Friday and further angered when staff refused to remove it. Mr Link, an Aboriginal man whose grandmother and great grandmother were members of the stolen generations, said the message was disrespectful of the pain they experienced at being taken from their families.

Mr Link said the sign also stereotyped Aboriginal people as thieves. "We don't go around saying every white person is a thief... so why should they stereotype us?"

There have been more than 90 comments on his Facebook page since he posted a photo of the sign on Sunday.

Mr Link said he had also received more than 300 other messages.

The shop's owner, who wanted to be known only as Janelle, said the "joke" was something her daughter had seen on Facebook and was not something she had made up to cause offence.

Janelle said she had been putting jokes about various groups, such as blondes and New Zealanders, outside her shop for 10 years and this was the first time someone had complained. "I'm not actually having a go at them," she said.

People who contacted the Northern Times were outraged by the sign.

Cassy Stewart said: "Shame on Tarmac Takeaways... . There is no place for racism anywhere."

Sharlea Nicholson from Bribie Island said it was "disgusting". "This is just a step backwards for the Aboriginal community in Caboolture," she said.

Some who commented on Mr Link's Facebook page were fired up, but older people urged calm.

Janelle said she would be more careful in future. "I'll definitely not put anything like that out again. I'll keep it pretty bland," she said.


Motels not allowed to keep out prostitutes

No right to say whom you will have on your own private property?

SEX workers were last night celebrating a stunning victory in their battle against motel owners in the booming mining towns, after the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal ruled in favour of a prostitute who complained of discrimination after being told she could not rent a room.

The decision is likely to have ramifications for hotel and motel operators across Australia, who could now find themselves in breach of the anti-discrimination laws that exist in every state if they try to turn away prostitutes.

Prostitutes have descended upon small towns near the large mines in record numbers over the past few years, determined to take a slice of the mining boom.

They advertise their arrival in town in the local newspaper and see up to 10 clients a night. Motel owners claim they deter other customers.

But when the owners of the Drover's Rest Motel in the mining town of Moranbah, which services the Peak Downs mine in Queensland, tried to turn away a sex worker known as "Karlaa" she sued in the tribunal, using the Anti-Discrimination Act, which bans discrimination on the basis of lawful sexual activity.

She argued her use of the bed was no different from somebody who checked into a motel and used the phone or internet for business. Prostitution is legal in Queensland.

Karlaa told The Australian yesterday: "At the end of the day, it's not acceptable to discriminate against people. What I do might not be to everyone's taste but it's legal, and it's how I make my living.

"Not everyone would choose to do the job I do, but it's not right that they can treat me like a second-class citizen. They wanted me to go away, but I am a tenacious little terrier and I would not give up."

The full judgment has not yet been released, but QCAT confirmed Karlaa's victory. She is seeking $30,000 compensation.

Accommodation Association of Australia chief executive Richard Munro said the industry would have to examine the judgment before deciding whether to appeal "but in general terms, we say that it should be up to the owner, the proprietor, the licensee, to protect the amenity of their business".

"People go to motels to sleep, to enjoy the premises, and if they can't do that because of the activities of another guest, the motel owner should be allowed to protect their business."


Buffalo milk hits red tape

SYDNEYSIDERS are missing out on a global super milk, and its value-added products, with buffalo milk farmers weighed down by legislation and restrictive permits that deal with feral pests.

Buffalo milk production in the Asian-Pacific region exceeds 45 million tonnes annually, with more than 30 million tonnes produced in India alone, and it is much sought-after in Italy for mozzarella cheese.

Despite the demand, just a few hundred head of buffalo produce milk in Australia.

Kim and Ian Massingham, who fell in love with the product during a trip to Italy, have 14 head of buffalo at their East Kurrajong property and another nine in Bathurst. They are forced to use milk from Cairns to make their artisan AusBuff Stuff cheese and gelato, plus lean meat products, as their property is not registered for milk production.

Water buffalo fall under non-indigenous species 3B and the Massingham's pay a three-year licence fee to keep the animals behind electric fences. Owners must have a permit to keep water buffalo as they are considered an introduced pest similar to camels.

Only recently a $100 transport fee, between farms or to the abattoir, was dropped.

The Massinghams said buffalo milk had a far lower cholesterol level than cow's milk, 11 per cent higher protein, 9 per cent more calcium, 37 per cent more iron and more phosphorus.

Buffalo also metabolise all dietary carotene into vitamin A, which is passed into the milk.

The presence of higher levels of immunoglobulins, lactoferrin, lysozyme, lactoperoxidase also make buffalo milk suitable for special dietary and health foods. Lactose intolerant people rarely have a reaction to buffalo milk.

As opposed to the feral beast in northern Australia, domestic buffalo, in human care, are placid and patient. "There is definitely a pecking order,"Mr Massingham said. "If we were doing a business plan it would never happen."

The Massinghams hope to move to a more suitable property and set up their own buffalo dairy.

While they do not need pasture and can live off feed, buffalo produce about half the milk of normal dairy cows.


Elderly South Australian woman waited two hours in the open for an ambulance after breaking hip

Aren't "free" government services wonderful?

AN elderly Elizabeth North woman has been forced to wait nearly two hours for an ambulance after falling and breaking her hip. Irene Derby, 81, was found by her husband about 12.20pm on Tuesday afternoon after falling on their concrete driveway.

SA Ambulance is now reviewing their response to the case, apologising to the woman's family and admitting a higher priority should have been assigned to the call.

Ambulance pager messages show the call to the Elizabeth North property was listed as a priority five. Priority one is the highest level or urgency.

SA Ambulance spokesman Keith Driscoll said a large number of calls in the area at the time of the incident extended the delay. "We had quite a number of cases occurring in that area during the timeframe," he said. "What we didn't do well was that we didn't upgrade the case when it started to get protracted because she was out in the open.

"It's obviously less than satisfactory, we're not happy with the situation. We need to look at what caused it and then look at ways of ensuring that it doesn't occur again."

Mr Driscoll said senior clinicians in the call centre were in contact with the family throughout the wait. "We had one of the senior clinicians in the comms room call them a number of times and asked them to let us know if anything changed with the patient's condition," he said.

"Each time we rang we re-assessed the patient to ensure there were no life-threatening issues occurring. "If the patient's condition had changed we would have upgraded the case and immediately deemed a lights and sirens response."

The woman's husband, Jim Derby, told Channel Seven he and a neighbour made seven calls to emergency services but an ambulance did not arrive until after 1pm. "I kept telling them she's in agony. Can you do something about it," he said. "They said we'll be there as soon as we can."

When crews arrived a paramedic told Mr Derby she would report the delay, which she agreed was unacceptable.

Mrs Derby will undergo surgery today.


8 August, 2012

Facebook won't remove abuse page targeting Aborigines

I can't find the page concerned so maybe it has now been blocked or taken down. I guess we must not be allowed to make our own judgments of the matter. But there have been frequent media reports of high rates of criminality and alcohol abuse among Aborigines so I am inclined to suspect that truth might have been a defence to what the page said

FACEBOOK is continuing to defy petitions to remove an Australian "fan page" dedicated to stereotyping Aborigines as hopeless drunks.

The page, which has more than 4000 "likes", posts pictures of indigenous people with captions that some Facebook users say are offensive and, in some cases, hate speech, The Australian reports.

"How do you kill 1000 flies at once? Slap me in the face," reads one of the photo captions.

The page, created on on June 4, has attracted hundreds of vitriolic comments on at least a dozen offensive posts.

Other Facebook users have created online petitions calling for the page to be removed.

One campaign titled "Take down racist Facebook page" has 10 signatures, while another has 31 members.

The outrage has spread to Twitter with numerous people calling for the page to be shut down.

A Facebook spokeswoman told The Australian the site had no current plans to take action.

Aboriginal elder Ian Hunter, from the Wurundjeri tribe, said he wasn’t opposed to Aboriginal humour but was offended by the anonymous posts on the page.

“If it is another Aboriginal person I don’t have any problems but if it is a so-called redneck putting these things up on the internet I’m offended by it,” Mr Hunter said.


'WE ARE NOT MUSEUM PIECES': Aboriginal Elders blast Greens crusader Bob Brown

An Aboriginal elder in Western Australia's Kimberley region has hand-delivered a stinging letter to Bob Brown, urging the former Greens leader to back off from his protest against a major gas project.

In the letter, Jabirr Jabirr elder Rita Augustine tells Mr Brown that "The only thing we need saving from is people who disrespect our decisions and want to see our people locked up in a wilderness and treated as museum pieces".

She also says, "what saddens me most is your complete disregard for Aboriginal people. I know you care about the whales and the dinosaur footprints, but what about people?"

Mr Brown joined the environmental activist group Sea Shepherd this week as mission leader of a two week trip in the whale calving grounds around James Price Point, site of the proposed $45 billion Browse gas development.

The Browse project was negotiated in conjunction with Woodside, the WA Government and the Kimberley Land council (KLC), which is the native title representative body for Kimberley traditional owners.

As part of the deal, traditional owners in the Kimberley will receive a whopping $1.5 billion in assistance over the next 30 years. The money will go towards housing, education and health programs and will go directly to the people rather than being funnelled through the KLC.

Traditional owners told that they accept the Browse project will be "a minor environmental hit", but they believe it was wiser to negotiate one massive development rather than as many as 20 smaller projects up and down the coast.

But there remains opposition to the Browse project from the local Goolarabooloo people, who share the same native title claim as Rita Augustine's group, the Jabirr Jabirr.

It is the Goolarabooloo people who invited Brown on the Sea Shepherd mission, and the two groups may be set for a legal showdown.


Queensland Premier Campbell Newman to defy union and poll members

PUBLIC servants will be polled by the State Government on a new pay deal as early as this Thursday in an effort to resolve the potentially damaging deadlock.

The public sector union Together were expecting the government to ballot workers on the new pay deal from this Thursday, to try to reach agreement without union involvement.

A direct ballot of employees is allowed under new Industrial Relations laws passed by the Government in June.

Yesterday a government source said they believed the ballot would reveal the majority of public servants supported the pay offer.

But Mr Scott said he believed the ballot would show the union was more on touch with its members than the government was with its workforce.

"This will become a referendum on whether they trust the Campbell Newman leadership, and a referendum on the way that this government is governing Queensland," he said.

Together Queensland would suspend any industrial action for the duration of the ballot, expected to be two weeks, Mr Scott said.

The union dared the Queensland government to take the new pay offer directly to public servants, and expects it will be roundly rejected.

The public sector union Together says the new offer restores conditions that were stripped away and would have amounted to a pay cut for public servants.

A government spokesman has told AAP the new deal will mean a 2.2 per cent pay rise, something Together secretary Alex Scott says is a step in the right direction.

But he says members will almost certainly reject it because it appears to do nothing to address their primary concern - job security.

Mr Scott dared the government to take the offer directly to a workers' ballot, which it can now do under changes to industrial relations laws.

"We would certainly be very surprised if members accepted it," he told AAP.

The State Government is offering a new pay deal this week designed to break the deadlock.

The new offer retains the 2.2 per cent a year pay rise but does not include the freeze on pay level rises that unions had strongly condemned.

It comes after a volatile week in which unions threatened prolonged strikes in response to a new government directive that removed "employment security" from work agreements.


Former NSW Labor government: Black loans, burnt boats and fast cars

Sir Lunchalot (Ian Macdonald) in happier days

A SPECTACULAR boat explosion, pointed guns, BRW rich listers and secret shareholdings in the British Virgin Islands are just some of the intriguing elements involving former government ministers, investors and controversial coalmining deals worth tens of millions of dollars.

The dramatic allegations of corruption against three former Labor ministers - Eddie Obeid, Ian Macdonald and Eric Roozendaal - are now part of an inquiry that will begin on November 1 and run at least until April.

At the heart of the investigations by the Independent Commission Against Corruption are the mysterious dealings involving the granting of coal exploration licences to friends and associates of the family of Labor kingpin Eddie Obeid, who quit politics last year.

Also under scrutiny is the disgraced former mining minister Ian Macdonald, whose department was responsible for awarding the licences. This will be the second ICAC inquiry into Mr Macdonald's alleged abuse of his government position to do favours for mates.

Last Friday ICAC began serving summonses on witnesses to give evidence at a public inquiry. Apart from the main players Mr Obeid, Mr Macdonald and Mr Roozendaal, the only one still in Parliament, there is a fascinating cast of support players.

Take Sydney playboy Justin Kennedy Lewis, 41, who is a close friend of Eddie Obeid's son Moses. Mr Lewis was one of those who, along with the Obeid family, bought land in the Bylong Valley, near Mudgee.

Like the Obeid family, Mr Lewis later received a multi-million-dollar windfall from Cascade Coal for an option over his property.

Friends of Moses Obeid claim he was furious when Mr Lewis then splashed out on a $500,000 Lamborghini Gallardo. "Mo said it was stupid of him to do that because it drew attention to himself," said an associate.

Documents tendered in a recent court case involving the Obeids show that in October 2010 an Obeid trust company made a $100,000 payment to Mr Lewis.

The previous year Mr Lewis received a $300,000 insurance payout after his seven-metre luxury yacht was destroyed by fire while in dry dock at the Rozelle Bay Superyacht Marina.

Associates of the Obeids have said the coalmining venture was an ill-kept secret and some of those who are alleged to have invested in it are colourful figures and sporting identities who are unhappy at the way things have panned out.

One insider has told the Herald he had a gun pointed at him in broad daylight after tensions boiled over. "Do you have any f---ing idea who you are dealing with!" he was told.

Of particular interest to the inquiry will be the identities of the investors in Cascade Coal, a private company that tried to sell its two coal licences - acquired for $1 million - to the publicly listed White Energy for $500 million.

Travers Duncan, Brian Flannery, John McGuigan, John Atkinson and John Kinghorn, through associated companies, were shareholders in Cascade Coal but they were also directors of White Energy. Duncan and Flannery are BRW rich-listers.

A backlash by White Energy shareholders resulted in the deal, which would have netted the five an estimated $60 million each, being scrapped. But who was to pocket the rest of the Cascade windfall remains a mystery as 40 per cent of the company is hidden through nominee companies.

When asked the identity of the other shareholders, Mr McGuigan said this year: "There's a bunch of, you know, well-known business people … I am not going into that because it is a private company."

Also of interest to the commission will be the Obeid associate Andrew Kaidbay.

While working as a mortgage broker at Yellow Brick Road with Mark Bouris's son Dane, Mr Kaidbay's $1 company successfully tendered for three of the 11 licences, despite having no experience in the resources industry.

Mr Kaidbay proceeded with only one licence. Shortly after its acquisition he sold most of his stake for $2.4 million to a big player, Coalworks.

Again, the identity of the shareholders, who still hold a minority stake in this coal licence and stand to make tens of millions of dollars if a mine goes into production, are hidden behind various companies.

One of these is registered at the office of the Obeid family's long-time accountant, Sid Sassine. The other is a company registered in the British Virgin Islands which belongs to Gardner Brook, an elusive merchant banker now living in Singapore. Mr Brook, then a Lehman Brothers executive, promised one prospective tenderer an inside run on the controversial Macdonald tender.


Global cooling hits my home town

IT felt like a fridge in parts of southeast Queensland this morning but clear skies and sunshine should keep daytime temperatures warm until Friday, when the Ekka south westerly hits the region.

The cool conditions are part of Brisbane's longest single-digit cold snap in 17 years, after 11 days straight where overnight temperatures haven't reached double figures, and it will continue into the Ekka tomorrow.

In Brisbane this morning the mercury bottomed out at 6.7C and 5.6C at the airport. At Archerfield temperatures dropped to 4.4C but Ipswich was -0.5C.

It was -3.9C at Oakey on the Darling Downs, -1C at Gatton and a freezing -4.6C at Applethorpe.

Coolangatta recorded an overnight minimum of 5.9C while the Sunshine Coast dropped to 6.1C early this morning.

Bureau meteorologist Amber Young said the cool nights and beautiful days were all thanks to a static weather pattern affecting the region for almost two weeks.

"There's been a persistent static pattern with stable conditions, clear skies overnight, very light winds and because there have been no showers and moisture around it has just been able to dry out, giving us dry air as well," she said.

"As a result of those three things, the temperature has been dropping out overnight. And we're seeing that further west and in inland parts as well, all the way to Mount Isa."

Despite cold overnight conditions, Brisbane's days have been fabulous. It hit 23.1C yesterday and will get to 24C today and 26C tomorrow, the first day of the Ekka.[Show]

Weather bureau forecasters expect the temperature to ease to a chilly top of just 18C on Friday. Although it will remain sunny, it will be cold, with a substantial wind-chill factor.


7 August, 2012

Prime Minister Julia Gillard blames Queensland for soaring electricity costs

THE Prime Minister who introduced a carbon tax will today blame state governments for soaring electricity costs, calling on them to do more to cut the bills that are crippling families.

Just a month after the carbon tax started, PM Julia Gillard will today point the finger back at the states, weighing in on the the cost of living battleground Premier Campbell Newman has tried to own since storming to power.

Ms Gillard will say that state governments, including Queensland, are "doing very well" out of electricity prices.

"Revenue for enterprises wholly owned by state governments is up 50 per cent over the previous five-year period," Ms Gillard will tell the Energy Policy Institute of Australia today.

Ms Gillard will say the current rate of electricity price increases cannot continue, describing power bills as "the new petrol prices".

She will describe electricity network charges as "a threat to fairness in our society" and call for a more efficient market.

"Indeed, in many places around Australia, the state governments both own lucrative electricity assets and regulate parts of the electricity market," she will say.

"The comparison between the private and publicly owned utilities shows the states are doing very well out of this arrangement."

Figures provided to The Courier-Mail show the Queensland Government is raking in $431 in revenue per household from state-owned network service providers.

A large proportion of electricity bills for households comes from the cost of the electricity network, opposed to electricity consumed.

Queensland spent billions expanding and upgrading its network following the 2004 Somerville report.

"For too long, some state governments have been increasing their revenue at the expense of the family electricity bill that has to stop," Ms Gillard will say.

The PM will argue that the impact of price rises is falling too heavily on battlers, who can't afford new, more efficient whitegoods or solar panels.


Queensland Teachers' Union rejects flaw claims in assessments

QUEENSLAND'S senior student assessment system is open to rorting, is prejudicial towards well resourced schools and creates unrealistic student and teacher workloads, a group of teachers claim.

But academics and the Queensland Teachers' Union say the system, set to be reviewed by the State Government, is world class.

The heated and long-running debate hit a new high last week with the Queensland Studies Authority releasing a defence on its website to teachers' claims.

"The QSA welcomes feedback from the education and wider communities ... However, it is vital that debate and discussion about curriculum and assessment is based on factual information," the QSA website states, before addressing 11 "issues".

The Courier-Mail has heard from about a dozen of more than 100 teachers who met recently to step up claims against Queensland's externally moderated school-based assessment system.

Represented by James Cook University academic Professor Peter Ridd, the teachers dismissed views of Stanford University's Linda Darling-Hammond and Australian College of Educators chair Professor Robert Lingard that Queensland's system inspired higher-order thinking skills among students and was world class.

However, the teachers say the system is open to rorting, with better resourced schools able to facilitate continuous student drafts until written pieces were effectively done by the teacher. They also claim teachers are more likely to teach to the test because they are writing them and can more easily manipulate marks.

The teachers are calling for more external exams, for some maths and science assessments to have a lesser workload and to be allowed to use numerical marks rather than "confusing" criteria.

Prof Ridd said academics who thought the system was world class lived "in fairyland".

"It is the overuse of writing, it is the overuse of assignments which is one of the biggest problems," he said.

A QSA spokeswoman said elite schools and those in disadvantaged areas had similar student result curves, proving there was no bias, and while any system had a potential for rorting, no evidence had been offered.


Vitamins often a waste of money,  says Australian consumer watchdog

POPPING a daily multivitamin pill could be a waste of time and money, says consumer watchdog Choice.

Healthy individuals who already eat a balanced diet but also take multivitamins could be spending money unnecessarily, an investigation by Choice found.

Although there is sometimes clinical evidence to support taking a supplement, the doses can often be way below levels required to have a significant impact, the organisation said.

"If you have a healthy diet and you're not a person with specific nutritional requirements, there's a good chance you're wasting your money," Choice spokeswoman Ingrid Just said.

"At 20 to 70 cents per day for multivitamin products we priced, the 'worried well' can spend several hundred dollars a year simply by taking a daily pill.

"Marketing messages, often backed up by high-profile sporting celebrities, give the impression that we all need multivitamins to be fit and healthy," she said in a statement.

People taking a range of multivitamins without checking the recommended daily intake (RDI) requirements could be exceeding the RDI for some vitamins and potentially putting their health at risk, as not all vitamins are safe in high doses.

But most multivitamins contain lower doses of ingredients so it's harder for them to be over-consumed, the investigation found.

Vitamin labelling could also confuse consumers, with some labels stating the vitamin name such as B3, while others using the chemical name, niacin.

"An untrained person probably wouldn't know that the two things are one and the same," Ms Just said.

Manufacturers of products sold in Australia are not required to list how each ingredient amount relates to RDI.

"We want manufacturers to list vitamin and mineral values according to the percentage of an appropriate RDI in each dose to help consumers compare apples with apples," Choice's investigation concluded.

Multivitamins are big business, with Choice identifying eight different multivitamin products marketed by both Blackmores and Nature's Own, 11 by Nature's Way and 16 by Swisse.

But some groups definitely benefit from supplements, including pregnant women taking folate before and after conception, the study pointed out.

Choice recommends individuals consult a dietician or GP about their nutritional needs before opting for multivitamin or other supplements.


The Roots of Green Politics in German Romanticism

Brian Wimborne

The apparently sudden decision of the leader of the Australian Greens, Bob Brown, to resign from federal parliament came as a surprise to most Australians but there were probably fewer raised eyebrows at his decision to visit Germany. Even without an invitation to address the Greens in Stuttgart, Bob Brown would likely still have visited the sacred home of environmentalism at some time, if only to pay respect to the founders of the movement from which his party arose.

At this point it is important to distinguish between the ideology of environmentalism and a love of nature. Most people enjoy beaches, mountains and forests, and would oppose their wanton destruction. They may consider themselves to be environmentalists because of their love of nature but they are not infused with the politics of environmentalism; nor are they ideologues with a ‘sacred’ mission. Many would not know that the ideology of environmentalism contains a dark secret of which Bob Brown must surely be aware.

To understand that secret one needs to look to Europe of the nineteenth century, in particular to the ideas of Romanticism, which were a reaction to the Enlightenment.

Not surprisingly, the Romantic movement embarked on a path that was essentially regressive and anti-rational; characteristics that all too common today among left-wing environmentalists. At its forefront was German Romanticism; a home-grown ideology that was to become highly influential in melding primitive naturalism and German nationalism.

Prior to the 1870s, Germany did not exist as a unified nation but comprised a number of independent provinces, principalities and city-states. If a common language brought the Germanic people together under Otto von Bismarck, it was belief in a mythological rustic nationalism that forged them into a nation and helped develop belief in a destiny that reached its apotheosis between 1933 and 1945.

An early exponent of the naturalist-nationalist cause was Johann Gottlieb Fichte. In a series of essays entitled Addresses to the German Nation (1808), he emphasised the ‘particular spiritual nature of the human environment’ and urged the German peoples to ‘have character and be German’. In common with later German environmentalists his idea of Germanness was bound up with anti-Semitism. Fichte argued that ‘making Jews free German citizens would hurt the German nation.’

In 1815 Ernst Arndt published an essay, On the Care and Conservation of Forests, in which he laments the exploitation of the countryside and the encroachment of German industrial expansion leading to despoliation, especially of forests. Like many of today’s environmentalists and animal rights activists, he preached the inter-dependence of all things in nature.

German land and its peasantry were at the heart of Arndt’s polemics. By combining his love of Teutonic blood and soil with a hatred of Jews, Slavs and the French, he successfully welded environmentalism with German nationalism.

Extolment of the German peasant was also a major feature of Wilhelm Riehl’s opposition to the growth of cities and industry. A disciple of Arndt, Riehl wrote in his 1853 essay, Field and Forest, ‘We must save the forest, not only so that our ovens do not become cold in winter, but also so that the pulse of life of the people continues to beat warm and joyfully, so that Germany remains German.’ His entreaty to fight for ‘the rights of wilderness’ anticipated the kind of thinking that inspires Green activists today. Known as the founder of agrarian romanticism and anti-urbanism, Riehl contrasted the glorious German peasantry with cosmopolitan Jews.

Fichte, Riehl and Arndt looked back to a simplistic agrarian utopia that had never existed; it was an imaginary landscape where purity of blood was combined with German soil to produce a Teutonic paradise that could be compared to the purgatory of urban civilisation.

The views of all three thinkers were important in the development of a movement known as the Völkisch, a loose grouping of nationalistic conservatives who combined German history and folklore with anti-urbanism and a back-to-the-land ideology.

In the words of Petteri Pietikainen, the Völkisch movement was ‘a cauldron of beliefs, fears and hopes that found expression in various movements and were often articulated in an emotional tone... Völkisch ideology was originally an ultra-nationalist reaction against the dominant social, political and cultural trends of the 1870s and 1880s.’ (‘The Völk and its Unconscious: Jung, Hauer and the German Revolution’, Journal of Contemporary History 35.4, October 2000: p. 524)

The idealised image of simple, honest, upright country farmers building a self-sufficient and sustainable lifestyle underpinned by mystical union with the soil resonated with members of the Völkisch movement. To this lifestyle were added arcane and esoteric beliefs and a worship of German folk mythology to produce an ethnic nationalism that was to find its most emphatic artistic expression in the operas of Richard Wagner. Not surprisingly, cosmopolitan Jews were to have no place in this movement, or in the idealised German nation of the future.

The hackneyed word ecology was coined by the German zoologist Ernst Haeckel, who propounded a variation of social Darwinism combined with a materialistic interpretation of Spinoza and Bruno that he termed, monism—the premise that all true questions have only one true answer, all other answers being false. Haeckel’s anti-humanist philosophy aimed to reduce man to the level of just another animal; a view that is not uncommon among many environmentalists. His firm belief in the benefits of eugenics is echoed today by those who advocate the early disposal of retarded children and the elderly.

A believer in the superiority of the Nordic race, Haeckel brought together mystical racism with environmentalism, and preached a rabid nationalism and anti-Semitism that became an enduring feature of the German ecological movement.

In the view of Peter Staudenmaier (‘Fascist Ecology: The “Green Wing” of the Nazi Party and its Historical Antecedents’, online essay) ‘ecology was bound up in an intensely reactionary political framework. The specific contours of this early marriage of ecology and authoritarian social views are highly instructive.’ Indeed they are, as the Greens consistently demonstrate.

Another of the most influential early ecologists was the German philosopher, Ludwig Klages. An opponent of rational thought, one who condemned ideas of progress and reason, Klages was also a fanatical anti-Semite. In the opinion of Walter Laqueur, he was ‘an intellectual pacemaker of the Third Reich’ who ‘paved the way for fascist philosophy in many important respects.’ (Young Germany: A History of the German Youth Movement, London, 1962, p. 34)

In his 1913 essay Man and Earth, Klages rails against the extinction of species, deforestation, destruction of the habitats of animals and indigenous people, urban expansion, human consumption, killing of whales and the increasing alienation of man from nature. Almost a hundred years later, the Greens express identical views and it is not surprising that Man and Earth was republished in 1980 to coincide with the founding of the German Greens Party.

At this point it is pertinent to seek an explanation for the high correlation between early environmentalism and anti-Semitism. In the first place, anti-Semitism had been preached in Germany for centuries by both the Catholic and Lutheran churches. Added to this, as far as German environmentalists were concerned, Jews were the antithesis of the idealised, conservative peasant who was bound to the soil and lived in perfect equilibrium with nature.

By contrast, German Jews were largely urbanised, increasingly educated, engaged in trade and commerce, and well represented in professions such as medicine and law. Aided by the influence of the Enlightenment, many had risen to positions of importance in German society. Nevertheless, Jews had never embraced Nordic mythology with its panoply of gods and spirits, and were too progressive to opt for a rural, subsistence lifestyle that environmentalists embrace.

The toxic mixture of mystical naturalism, extreme nationalism and anti-Semitism that characterised German environmentalism was to play an important part in the ideology of the Nazi Party.

In 1935, under the guidance of Hermann Göring, Germany passed the Reichsnaturschutzgesetz, a national conservation law that spelt out safeguards for flora, fauna and natural monuments. Wilhelm Lienenkamper, a leading conservationist of the day, saw the law not as ‘an accidental by-product of Nazi rule but a direct expression of the “new Weltanschauung”’. (Frank Uekoetter, The Green and the Brown, Cambridge, USA, 2006, p. 1)

One of the most influential thinkers in the formation of Nazi environmental ideology was Richard Walther Darré, who provided the party with an agrarian mystique that appealed to the German peasantry as well as to party leaders such as Rosenberg, Himmler and Hess. Referred to as ‘the father of the Greens’ (Anna Bramwell, ‘Darré. Was This Man “Father of the Greens”?’ History Today, Sept. 1984, Vol. 34, pp 7-13), Darré was Minister for Agriculture and Peasant Leader between 1933 and 1942.

Darré proposed that Europe should return to ruralism founded on a yeoman peasantry that would ensure racial health and ecological sustainability (Peter Staudenmaier, op. cit.). In a speech in 1930 entitled ‘Blood and Soil as the Foundations of the Nordic Race’, Darré claimed that ‘The unity of blood and soil must be restored.’

Another influential Nazi was Reichminister Fritz Todt, who established rigid criteria for protecting wetlands, forests and other sensitive areas. His chief adviser, Alwin Seifert, who was known within the party as ‘Mr Mother Earth’ advocated the total conversion of technology to nature.

In view of the Nazis’ wanton destruction, it is hard to imagine them in the vanguard of a movement that appeared committed to the environment, yet there was ‘an ideological overlap between Nazi ideas and conservationist agendas ... The Nazis created nature preserves, championed sustainable forestry, curbed air pollution, and designed the autobahn highway network as a way of bringing Germans closer to Nature’. (How Green were the Nazis? Nature, Environment, and Nation in the Third Reich, Franz-Josef Bruggemeier, Mark Cioc, and Thomas Zeller (eds.), 2005)

Robert Pois (National Socialism and the Religion of Nature, London, 1985, p. 40) describes Nazism as ‘a volatile admixture of teutonic nature mysticism, pseudo-scientific ecology, irrationalist anti-humanism, and a mythology of racial salvation through a return to the land. Its predominant themes were “natural order”, organicist holism and denigration of humanity.’

The subservience of mankind to nature is emphasised in the following quotation that might well have been written by contemporary environmentalists who so delight in doomsday prophesies: ‘When people attempt to rebel against the iron logic of nature, they come into conflict with the very same principles to which they owe their existence as human beings. Their actions against nature must lead to their own downfall.’ In fact, these words were written by Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf.

Interestingly, although powerful elements within the Nazi party were dedicated environmentalists, Hitler’s attempt at European domination ensured that conservation of nature took second place to rapid industrialisation. The protection of nature was never the most urgent aspect of Nazi policy.

Nevertheless, the ties that bound environmentalism to Nazism are easy to account for since, according to Jurriaan Maessen, ‘environmental fanatics care nothing for matters of liberty, gladly surrendering it to tyrants and their promises of environmental sustainability...most environmentalists love collectivism and are prepared to marry almost every regime that claims to work for a clean and green environment’. (‘The Green Nazis: Environmentalism in the Third Reich’, online essay; Frank Uekoetter, op. cit., p. 2).

No doubt Bob Brown would publicly distance himself from the extremism associated with the German founders of the environmental movement and the brutal excesses of the Nazis. To openly support them would attract few votes and the Australian Greens are hardly the Nazi party by another name.

Parallels between the Greens and [Nazis] are not in regard to policies but rather in respect of their common environmentalist roots, their quasi-religious dogmatism and their shared image of themselves as superior beings intent on converting modern, industrial society to an agrarian utopia.

Of utopias and movements that pertain to the perfect life, Sir Isaiah Berlin says: ‘it seems as if the doctrine that all kinds on monstrous cruelties must be permitted, because without these the ideal state of affairs cannot be attained … the perfect universe is not merely unattainable but inconceivable, and everything done to bring it about is founded on an enormous intellectual fallacy.’ (‘My Intellectual Path’ in The Power of Ideas. H. Hardy (ed.), London, 2001, p. 23)

Having taken it upon themselves to save the environment from trumped-up destruction, the Greens have become message-bearers of messianic significance. Yet their environmental and ecological policies are no more that the recycled detritus of German romanticism. Despite masquerading as a modern, progressive political force, the Greens are a party of reactionaries founded on hatred (or fear) of modernity and an unrealistic glorification of primitivism.

In an echo of the past, anti-Semitism of some party’s members, camouflaged as anti-Zionism, has come to the fore. An example was the decision in December 2010 of the NSW State Conference of the Australian Greens to support a boycott of Israel, and the failure of the Greens to support Senator Ron Boswell’s motion on 18 August 2011 condemning the boycott of Israeli-owned Max Brenner chocolate stores and all other Israeli companies.

To these decisions might be added the presence of Green’s Senator, Lee Rhiannon, at anti-Israel rallies accompanied by Sheikh Taj el-Din Hilaly who denounced Israel as a “terrorist state”, and her accusation that Israel had committed “crimes against humanity”. Support also came from her fellow senator, Sarah Hanson-Young, who attended an ‘Australians for Palestine’ rally where the mainly Muslim crowd carried swastikas and anti-Jewish banners.

Significantly, the Australian Greens do not protest against Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Gaza, etc where real crimes against humanity are everyday events, and where hatred of Israel and death to all Jews are sentiments that are officially encouraged.

The combination of the Green’s historical environmental credentials with an aggressive, anti-Israel posturing of some of the party’s senators—posturing that Bob Brown refused to condemn unequivocally—might appear to be a re-run of history. This was pointed-out by the NSW Attorney-General, Greg Smith, who accused the Greens of echoing the worst aspects of historical anti-Semitism in Europe (Australian, 24 August 2011).


6 August, 2012

Abbott flags changes to discrimination law

OPPOSITION Leader Tony Abbott has recommitted a coalition government to removing parts of the Racial Discrimination Act that make it illegal to make statements that offend based on race or ethnicity.

Mr Abbott said the coalition, if elected, will repeal section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, which prohibits statements that offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people on grounds of race or ethnicity.

This section of the act was a "threat" to freedom of speech in Australia, Mr Abbott wrote in The Australian on Monday.  "Expression or advocacy should never be unlawful merely because it is offensive," he wrote.  "It ought to be inconceivable that a commentator offering an opinion should fall foul of the law just because offence was taken or might be expected to be taken."

The coalition would be prepared to maintain a prohibition on inciting hatred against or intimidation of particular racial groups, Mr Abbott said.

He again defended News Limited columnist Andrew Bolt, who was ruled to have breached the Racial Discrimination Act in articles he wrote on fair-skinned Aborigines.  The articles, published in 2009, were headlined "It's so hip to be black" and "White fellas in the black".

Mr Abbott said while the articles were not Mr Bolt's finest, the commentator should have been afforded the right of freedom of speech.  "Speech that has to be inoffensive is not free, just unerringly politically correct," he said.

"If it's all right for (former Fairfax journalist) David Marr to upset conservative Christians, why is it not all right for Bolt to upset activist Aborigines?"

Labor MP Ed Husic said there wasn't any room in public debate for inciting of hate.  "I think there's a place for reasoned argument ... but not one that seeks to marginalise one section of the community from the other," he told Sky News.


Tattooed thug refused entry to Gold Coast nightclub

It would be a sad days if the government dictated whom we must have on our own private premises

A HUMAN rights lawyer has attacked Queensland's anti-discrimination laws after Gold Coast identity Ken Lacey was refused entry to a nightspot because of his tattoos.

Lawyer Ron Behlau said bars, clubs and restaurants should not be allowed to discriminate on the basis of a person's physical appearance.

Mr Lacey is claiming discrimination after being refused entry to Broadbeach nightclub East because of his tattoos, which include the words "revenge'' and "respect'' inked on his neck.

The millionaire businessman, and father of the Gold Coast's notorious Lacey brothers, says he has also been barred from other venues as bouncers enforce a 'no exposed tattoos' policy.

East nightclub boss James Tweddell says the Liquor Act allows venues to refuse entry to "anyone we chose''.

But Mr Behlau, a member of the Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, said the policy was discriminatory and out of step with other jurisdictions.

Last week, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission stepped in after a man claimed he was refused entry to a Ballarat bar because of his tattoos.

Mr Behlau, of Nyst Lawyers, said Queensland's anti-discrimination laws should be overhauled to reflect those in Victoria.

"Discriminating against people based on physical attributes is the thin edge of the wedge. If we allow discrimination of this kind the next thing we will see is discrimination based on piercings, hair styles and weight," he said.  "To deny someone entry in to a nightspot or a job because of a particular characteristic or attribute they hold is inherently discriminatory and should be guarded against at all costs."

Mr Lacey says a 'no tattoos' policy would see many celebrities and sports stars barred from licensed venues.


Low income earners burnt as cost of solar subsidy spirals

RENTERS, pensioners and other low-income earners are paying for their wealthier neighbours to enjoy cheaper power under the state's skyrocketing solar subsidy system.

The Queensland Consumers Association says costs to subsidise solar are forecast to triple, as the state's bill to fund the scheme continues to grow.

More than 100,000 applications were received last month from homeowners wanting to profit from the state's generous 44c per kilowatt hour tariff - twice the retail power rate - which will continue for 16 years.

By installing solar systems up to 5kW, the mostly well-heeled applicants stand to earn $200-$300 a quarter from a subsidy that is costing their non-solar neighbours more each year.

One of those who applied was Algester resident Ron Ruys, who feels badly for his neighbours who are indirectly helping to pay for a $10,000 5kW system that will earn him extra income.

"I'm going to do it and I'm going to make money out of it," he said. "But it is unfair to other people because of the subsidy. I don't think people know what the 44c means to their bill."

Energy Minister Mark McArdle has estimated the tariff would cost $1.8 billion by 2028 if the scheme remained unchanged. The July 9 deadline limiting future payments at an 8c cent rate.

The Government projects that the annual cost of the subsidy will rise from $50 to $100 for each household from the surge in applications, and another $50 for upgrades to the power grid.

Whether the increases will become a reality depends on whether the Government is successful in cutting expenses elsewhere in the budgets of power suppliers, including "community services".

Queensland Consumers Association vice-president Ian Jarratt said the threat of a $100 annual hike should be a concern for many people trying to stretch their income.

"A dollar is always more for a pensioner," he said.

The association said it voiced concerns about the scheme's cost several years ago to state officials. "Things had been done far too quickly and not thought through enough, especially about the cost to consumers who could not afford to install solar systems," Mr Jarratt said.

The solar scheme has had some benefits: creating employment for thousands of installers, reducing the state's dependence on coal and lowering carbon emissions.

Prices of home solar systems have dropped 50 per cent.

Installer numbers have increased from 78 in 2008 to more than 1100 today. The number of customers has increased from 1200 to around 180,000.

On the downside, "all Queensland households and small businesses indirectly foot the bill", Mr McArdle said.

The Government said it was obliged by legislation to continue the 44c tariff for the next 16 years, and risked lawsuits if it reneged.


Ramadan riot in Sydney

RAMADAN festivities turned nasty last night when two men were arrested for offensive language toward police in south west Sydney.

More than a dozen men of Middle Eastern appearance gathered on Waterloo Rd, Greenacre for a barbecue setup on the street for what is believed to have been Ramadan.

Police arrived at the scene about 1am following reports of loud and offensive language coming from the area.

Two males were arrested for allegedly yelling obscene language at officers.

Riot police and the dog squad also attended the incident.

Some members of the crowd were wearing 'Brothers 4 Life' jackets.


Olympic boss calls for more sport in schools

AUSTRALIA'S Olympic boss John Coates believes there needs to be a greater emphasis on sport in schools in the hope of finding the next Cathy Freeman or Ian Thorpe.

The Australian team so far has failed to live up to Coates' expectations of a top-five finish at the London Games, languishing at 24 on the medals tally after the first week of competition.

The Australian Olympic Committee president says before the next Olympics in 2016 Australia needs to "talent-build" by making sport a focus in schools.

He has called on the federal government to consider changing its policy and funding to give priority to school sports.

"Perhaps the area that needs a lot of attention - and if not, funding and government intention in terms of policy - is getting sport back into the school curricula," Coates told the ABC on Monday.

The British were making "a big thing" of that being one of the legacies they're looking towards, he said.

"They've been achieving that, a greater emphasis on sport in the schools."

Some children would benefit from the health and fitness, but the next Freeman or Thorpe may also be discovered, Coates said.

Federal Sports Minister Kate Lundy is happy with the level of sports participation in schools.

"What we're seeing over at the Olympics at the moment is that we're coming so close so many times ... and it's just not going our way," she told ABC radio.

"But we're still way up there with the best of the best in the world in sport."

Senator Lundy said it was important to continue to innovate to keep sports programs strong.

"Australia's great strength is we've always punched above our weight in sport and we need to be smarter about how we use our resources to stay right up there," she said.


5 August, 2012

Leftists can dish it out but can't take it

Calling Tony Abbott the "mad monk" because of his Catholic background was OK but we must not call Julia Gillard an old cow

Australians who think they have permission to make "sexist and silly" remarks about the leader of the country should think again, Attorney-General Nicola Roxon says.

Ms Roxon said cattle company chief executive David Farley no doubt had egg on his face after comparing Prime Minister Julia Gillard to an "old cow".

The comments, reportedly made during a speech in Adelaide on Thursday, were picked up nationally.  They have been slammed on social media and by federal politicians.

Ms Roxon said voters and public figures were free to criticise government policy but political leaders should not be subject to personal attacks.

"There's no need to make these sort of sexist and silly remarks," Ms Roxon told reporters in Sydney on Saturday.

"I am concerned that people think that there is permission to make these sorts of comments about the prime minister ... in the footy parlance, play the ball, not the man."

Federal Minister for Women Julie Collins said the comments were unacceptable. "They amount to destructive prejudices long past their use-by date in our modern, diverse society," she said in a statement on Friday.

Mr Farley was reportedly explaining his business plans for a new abattoir designed to process old cows when he made the comparison.

"So the old cows that become non-productive, instead of making a decision to either let her die in the paddock or put her in the truck, this gives us a chance to take non-productive animals off and put them through the processing system," Mr Farley reportedly said.

"So it's designed for non-productive old cows. Julia Gillard's got to watch out."

Mr Farley's comment was met with laughter.


Premier Newman lashes out at union bosses

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman has come out swinging against union leaders, calling them wealthy Labor operatives who are organising strikes that will hurt workers’ hip pockets.

Mr Newman’s comments on Saturday came a day after a dozen irate school cleaners stormed the state government’s headquarters in Brisbane and two days after unions vowed they would hold a statewide day of strikes in September.

The union officials organising the strikes had large salaries, expense accounts and cab vouchers, Mr Newman said.  "These union officials are also Labor Party operatives," he told reporters at the launch of an anti-graffiti task force in Brisbane.  "They’re not going to lose a day’s pay if people go on strike (but) the hard-working workers will."

Mr Newman said Friday’s action was led by the same man who paid people to protest against him before the election - United Voice secretary Gary Bullock.

"He’s anti Campbell Newman. He always has been, he always will be," the premier said.  "He won’t lose a day’s pay if people go on strike.  "He’s on his fat union salary, with his expense card, with his Cabcharge vouchers."

Mr Newman also attacked Queensland Council of Unions president John Battams.  He said the union leader should declare that he worked on the Labor campaign at the last election before every press conference.  "Don’t pretend to be some impartial person, because you’re not," Mr Newman said.

Mr Bullock said the premier obviously hadn’t seen Friday’s protest.  He said one member present was an 80-year-old female teacher aide who thought Mr Newman’s government was far was worse than anything she’d seen when Joh Bjelke-Petersen was premier.   "They are angry. This isn’t me needing to whip them up," he said.

Mr Battams said he’d worked on the 2009 Labor campaign - not the one in 2012 - and the premier should stick to the issues.

"He would have plenty of associates who represent employer associations who are in the LNP," he said.  "I’m sure he doesn’t question their motives."


Back to school for Queensland teachers who get Ds

UNDER-PERFORMING teachers will be identified and given extra training and development under a new national framework signed off by Education Ministers yesterday.

School Education Minister Peter Garrett said the Australian Teacher Performance and Development Framework, which entitles teachers to annual performance reviews, would be rolled out in Queensland schools from next year.

While Queensland teachers currently undergo performance reviews, not all schools carry them out annually.

"For the first time, teachers will be entitled to a yearly review of their progress, and will receive ongoing support and training throughout their career to help them become even better teachers," Mr Garrett said.

"Once implemented, the new agreement signed off today means that schools will offer their teachers feedback on their performance, based on evidence including classroom observation, parental and student feedback and student results.

"Teachers will have to set goals for the year and will be helped to reach their goals. Those who are found to be under-performing or who need extra support will be given access to more training and development opportunities."

The new framework will assess teachers against the National Professional Standards for Teachers developed by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL).

Under the standards teachers will be able to apply to become a highly accomplished or lead teacher and receive a one-off bonus in 2014, based on their status in 2013.

Ministers also endorsed the Australian Charter for the Professional Learning of Teachers and School Leaders.

AITSL chair Anthony Mackay said the endorsement reinforced that developing teachers was the best way to improve student learning.

Education Ministers also agreed to continue working on improving the regulation and oversight of non-Government schools to ensure public funds are spent appropriately and a national curriculum for the National Trade Cadetships scheme Years 11 and 12.


The jury's out - and could stay out, judging from trends

Are we seeing the quiet, steady disintegration of the 800-year-old jury system? There are telltale signs that it may be going the way of the dodo, another victim of the creative-destructive forces beyond our control.

A few local examples are interesting pointers.

The Lloyd Rayney murder trial in Western Australia is being conducted without a jury. Justice Brian Martin, a judge imported from another jurisdiction, has the task of deciding alone the facts and the law.

It's a high-profile case. The accused is a former criminal prosecutor accused of murdering his glamorous wife, who was a Supreme Court registrar. It's a trial that has gripped media consumers beyond the boundaries of Perth.

What it shows is that those who determine how the system functions do not have sufficient faith in juries when it comes to a long trial of some complexity that might be difficult to protect from "prejudice".

It could be interpreted as insulting - that jurors who can keep their minds on the task and remain undistracted by whatever the rest of the world thinks cannot be mustered for the trial of a man for murder.

Juries for murder have been one of the bedrocks of the criminal justice system and to see them shunted is an extraordinary indication of the delicacy of their condition.

Steadily, jurors have been expunged from the civil trial process, but cling on in a strange one-foot-in, one-foot-out manner in defamation trials.

They can decide the basics, whether something is defamatory, but when it comes to the money, they are not to be trusted. They might award either too much or too little, so the damages decision goes back to the judge.

It is here that judges can recast the findings of juries in a way that better reflects the judicial perspective.

We can see this in a Sydney case decided last month in the Supreme Court called Holt v Channel Nine. A jury found found that four meanings pleaded by Andrew Holt, a Gold Coast carpenter, were not true, and they all related to the way he was said to have treated his wife, who was dying of cancer: that he abandoned his wife to die in hospital; he behaved disgracefully by refusing to allow his wife to return home from hospital; he treated his wife like a dying animal; and that he wanted his wife to die.

Channel Nine also succeeded with some meanings of its own drawn from the program: that Holt callously withheld insurance money from his dying wife and that he misused thousands of dollars paid to her as part of her insurance.

Justice Christine Adamson could not have been impressed with the jury's verdict and that was reflected in her awarding the plaintiff a miserable $4500.

She took into account a number of factors adverse to Holt, which she spelt out in her judgment - including an acceptance that he took $75,000 of his wife's money and used it in a "morally despicable" way.

Appeal courts quite systematically overturn jury findings and replace them with their own verdicts. This was done in another famous defamation case in which this newspaper was sued by restaurateurs who ran the Coco Roco establishment at King Street Wharf. The High Court affirmed that appeal judges can supplant a jury's interpretation of the meaning of words with their own version.

We've also seen some big murder verdicts overturned by the criminal appeal courts, with no order for the case to go back before another jury for retrial. Most recently this was a unanimous decision in the Gordon Wood case.

So you wonder, what is the point of the extravagant luxury of juries when their findings can be cast aside by judges? In the end, to whom would you prefer to trust your fate, a judge or a jury? There can be bad juries and some god-awful judges - so in some situations each can be a check on the other.

But what ultimately will bury the ancient system is digital technology. Already suppression orders, the sanctity of pending trials, the law of contempt, and internet take-down orders are all routinely ignored by thousands of citizens who have become instant publishers, courtesy of open media platforms.

This can be seen in the case of Kieran Loveridge, accused of the murder in Kings Cross of Thomas Kelly. The social media landscape blossomed with opinions about the accused and the police, all outside the boundary of the courts traditional cordon sanitaire.

The old model where everyone dutifully did what they were told by courts is finished. While the legacy media generally abide by the rules, on Twitter and Facebook people have other ideas and are able to generate large alternative waves of defiant opinion.

We saw recently in Britain privacy superinjunctions heroically squelched by twitterers. Orders here to take down potentially prejudicial online news stories that might affect a criminal trial are also widely ignored or are beyond jurisdiction.


3 August, 2012

Man dies after waiting four hours in an ambulance outside  hospital

A MAN died after spending more than four hours in an ambulance awaiting admission to a hospital, in the first confirmed death relating to the practice of "ramping".

Documents obtained by The Courier-Mail under Right to Information laws show that the man was admitted to Nambour Hospital's emergency department only after he "deteriorated and he became unconscious".

On the night he died the hospital's emergency department was "under extreme capacity", the documents show. Ambulances were forced to "ramp" queue with patients on board.

The report into the man's death shows handwritten notes indicating he was in the care of Queensland Ambulance Service from 6.20pm before being "brought directly to resus (resuscitation) bay" at 10.30pm in May 2010.

The man had been diagnosed as category three or "urgent" after complaining of abdominal pains. Category three patients are supposed to be treated within 30 minutes.

Later there were "apologies for ramping and circumstances of death" along with "condolences to family".

The revelations came as Health Minister Lawrence Springborg announced a major shakeup of the state's hospitals from January 1.

Hospitals will be banned from diverting ambulances to other facilities when emergency departments are full.

Emergency patients will also increasingly be transferred from ramped, or queued, ambulances into specialised hospital waiting rooms overseen by new senior nurses, helping mitigate the risks of poor supervision.

Mr Springborg pledged to adopt all 15 recommendations of the Metropolitan Emergency Department Access Initiative, headed by emergency physician David Rosengren, who warned the performance of state emergency departments had rapidly declined.

The union representing ambulance officers said ramping was still a major problem but the new measures to combat ramping announced by the State Government yesterday would "save lives".

"In a cardiac arrest, seconds count," United Voice Queensland Ambulance State Councillor Craig Crawford said.  "Most hospitals are running at extreme capacity at the moment but these new changes should turn it around."  Mr Crawford said banning hospitals going on bypass would make a "huge difference" in Brisbane.


New submarines urgently needed  -- the existing ones are so bad

The cheeky headline last week from Defence media read "HMAS Farncomb celebrates successful sinking at RIMPAC" and I quietly cheered for the crew of the submarine for sinking their target ship during the 22-nation exercise off Hawaii.

The maintenance and sustainment issues that have dogged our Collins Class submarines must be very challenging on the morale of our dedicated submariners and this was a rare glimpse of what the sub can do.

But then came the following day's announcement from Defence, HMAS Farncomb had suffered a minor flood while at periscope depth after a hose split and the vessel was forced to surface. Farncomb was now returning to Pearl Harbour for repairs.

Farncomb is no stranger to this kind of incident as the boat and its crew had two separate emergencies last year.

In August it lost both its propulsion motor and emergency back up in deep water off the Western Australian coast. The second, a few months later in the South China Sea, involved a build up of toxic gases that had the crew wearing oxygen masks and blowing its emergency ballast tanks for a rapid ascent.

In May last year another Collins Class submarine, HMAS Dechaineux was forced to return to Singapore for repairs after breaking down on its way to a training exercise, also in the South China Sea. It was the only submarine due to participate in the 5-nation exercise and the embarrassment was amplified when the Navy News published a pre-written account of its daring exploits on the presumption nothing could go wrong.

More concerning was the 2003 incident with HMAS Dechaineux off the Western Australian coast when the submarine had a burst seawater hose which allowed a flood ingress of 15 tonnes of water in 9 seconds just when the vessel was at its deepest diving depth.

The bravery and skill of HMAS Dechaineux's 55 crew ensured they avoided the worst military disaster since Voyager. I have often said that submarines, along with our Special Forces, are our nation's most important force element group.

Yet this year alone we will spend close to $1 billion on maintenance and sustainment of the Collins Class with sometimes two, sometimes one, and occasionally none out of six submarines operationally ready at any one time. So depressingly bad are the figures for Unit Ready Days for the Collins Class that Defence no longer publish them – citing security concerns even though they were regularly published up until 2009.

I readily accept the problems of our submarines transcend both Labor and Coalition governments. But what the Rudd/Gillard governments and the three Defence Ministers over that period have failed to do is to get the ball rolling on the Collins replacement submarine.

In May 2009, the Defence White Paper outlined ambitious plans for 12 new submarines to be assembled in South Australia under a project known as SEA 1000, with the first to be in the water by 2025. I say ambitious because there was no detail whatsoever as to how we were going to pay for them in the White Paper and conservative estimates have the cost at $36 billion although I believe it will be closer to $50 billion.

For three years after the launch of the White Paper the SEA 1000 project sat in a file on successive Defence Minister's desks with no action whatsoever. Defence commentators and experts all began to get nervous and earlier this year the government's own funded thinktank, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, published a damming report warning of a significant capability gap and noting inaction was not a responsible option.

The ASPI report described the gap between when all the Collins Class have been retired and the time it would take to build a replacement as ''nothing short of catastrophic'' where Australia's submarine capability would ''essentially be run down and restarted'' and there are three years ''of no submarines at all''.

The Defence Minister's recent answer to that was to repeat the announcement from three years ago that the Navy was to acquire 12 new submarines, and there was to be a $214 million 'scoping study' to look at the options.

Why wasn't that done after the White Paper launch? These past three years of sitting on their hands will come back to haunt our submarine capability long after this government is consigned to the history books. After some prodding the Minister also declared a final decision on the replacement would not be made until late 2013 or 2014 – in other words, not until after the next election. He wants to make it someone else's problem, not his.

This is all against the backdrop of our submarines being so operationally fragile that competing in exercises with allies becomes a case of going in with fingers crossed that nothing goes wrong.

We also have our submariners reluctantly leaving the Navy because they simply don't get time at sea doing what they signed up to do. We are losing some of our most experienced submariners and it is precisely that experience that has probably prevented these incidents becoming major tragedies for the Navy and the nation.

If the latest incident with HMAS Farncomb tells us anything about the state of the submarine fleet, it is that the time for talk of a replacement for the Collins Class is over.

It is now five minutes to midnight if we want a viable submarine capability to defend our island nation over the next 20 to 30 years and we cannot afford to wait any longer.


Desalination white elephant in Melbourne

Water is the last thing Victorians need. Since the drought broke, their dams are almost 80 per cent full and they may not require desalinated water for years, although they will pay for it at a cost of $500 million a year.

So the desal plant looks like being one of the fanciest and most monumental white elephants ever to grace the PPP landscape.  It is also is a legacy of the previous [Labor party] Victorian government, and like the abortive Ararat Prison project, the private partners in the PPP are being forced to make good on their part of the contract.

In Suez's case, its joint venture with local contractor Thiess was contracted to deliver a desalination plant by June 30 - the deadline has just passed a month ago in other words.

And now, the Degremont joint venture is copping penalties of $1.8 million a day. As the state, quite appropriately plays hardball, Suez and its partner Thiess are not happy.

For Suez, it has suffered the double whammy of recession in Europe and troubles abroad. In its latest accounts, lodged last night, losses of 310 million euros ($365 million) have already been recognised on the Melbourne Desalination Plant (MDP).

The Australian parent company (Suez Environnement Australia Holding Pty Ltd or SEAH) has pumped $365 million of equity into Degremont Pty Ltd to cover its losses to date. SEAH is a 35 per cent partner with Thiess (65 per cent) in the design and construction of the MDP.

While the joint venture is facing fines of as much as $1.8 million a day for failing to complete the MDP it has, in turn, also made claims and variations of up to $1 billion to the Victorian government.  The government has rejected these claims and also refused to extend the contractual deadline.

The losses in Melbourne have caused havoc with the Suez share price.  The stock is down 30 per cent or so in the past year - against the fall of 6 per cent in the broader French market – and Suez is so desperate it got the French Ambassador to visit the Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu to see what could be done about the Degremont deal. As yet, there is no variation.

Adding to its woes, Suez debt increased by 321 million euros during the past six months despite its stated objective of reducing debt. A dividend payment of 441 million euros during the half was largely responsible for the debt blowout.

Its heavy debt levels are mirrored in the leverage levels of its rival Veolia, the other major water company on the Australian PPP scene. Both have an 'A' credit rating.

Veolia, which provides water services to Sydney, is in a similar poor financial position although at least it is selling assets to reduce its debt. A consolation prize, of sorts.


Law protects early-term fetus, judge says

A JUDGE has rejected a man's last-ditch attempt to have his trial for killing an unborn baby thrown out, ruling the legislation was wide enough to protect the early-term fetus.  The man was accused of causing a miscarriage after he assaulted his wife, who was 15 to 18 weeks pregnant.

He pleaded not guilty in the Supreme Court in Cairns last month to killing an unborn child in December 2004 at Saibai Island in the Torres Strait.

The man was acquitted at the end of the trial, but not before his lawyer tried to have the charge thrown out after the crown closed its case.

His lawyer argued there was no case to answer as the fetus was not a child within the meaning of the law because it was too young to survive outside its mother's womb.

Justice Jim Henry rejected the argument and published his reasons for doing so on Thursday.  Justice Henry found the law did not qualify the age of unborn children covered under the piece of legislation used to prosecute the charge.

He acknowledged the matter attracted significant philosophical debate but said that had no relevance to the interpretation of this section of law.


2 August, 2012

Gillard gives her own industrial relations regulator the stamp of approval

THE Gillard government's review of the Fair Work Act has found the laws have not had a negative impact on productivity, delivering fairness for workers and flexibility for employers.

Despite sustained criticism of the legislation by business, The Australian understands the review, to be released by Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten today, finds the act is working as intended, and has not decreased competitiveness or led to excessive cost increases.

While not proposing sweeping changes, it is understood the three-member panel that conducted the review provides the government with about 50 options for change, many of which are technical in nature.

It is believed the review supports giving employers assistance when unions stall negotiations over greenfield agreements.

Greenfield agreements outline employment conditions on new projects before workers are employed. Under the act, it is possible for employers to make greenfield agreements only with unions.

Business groups and industrial lawyers claim unions often seek to delay making deals knowing that, the longer talks go on, project costs will increase and then companies will be more likely to make concessions.

The Australian has previously revealed that the government supports changes to ensure resources projects are not subject to excessive delays.

However, it is understood the review panel does not support a return to Work Choices-era employer-only greenfield deals, where companies could set pay and conditions on new projects without reference to unions.

It is also believed the review does not support new limits on unfair dismissal claims or a return to individual statutory contracts as operated under Work Choices.

It is understood the review explicitly notes the development of the act, which was introduced by Labor to roll back many of the Work Choices industrial relations reforms introduced by the Howard government, was subject to extensive consultation before its introduction,

The panel that conducted the review concluded productivity growth had been "disappointing" under the workplace systems of the past decade, including the Fair Work Act and Work Choices. But it said it was "not persuaded" the legislative industrial relations framework "accounted for this productivity slowdown". "The Fair Work Act itself is not three years old and judicial interpretation of some of its provisions is still evolving as issues are brought before the courts," the report says.

"The panel was disinclined to recommend legislative changes where there was a reasonable prospect that judicial interpretation of existing provisions would resolve the problem."

Mr Shorten has promised to consult on the review's findings before announcing any proposed changes in about a month.

But it is understood the government's focus during forthcoming consultations will be on the review detail and not about accepting business or union attempts to re-prosecute elements of their submissions not adopted by the panel. It is understood the government will seek to use today's release of the report to try to increase pressure on Tony Abbott to detail the Coalition's workplace policy.

While resource employers will welcome the proposed changes to the greenfields provisions, business groups are expected to express strong disappointment with the overall review findings, given their long-running campaign for substantial changes.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said yesterday it was "vital that the government recognise the flaws" in the legislation and introduce amendments to achieve a more productive, flexible and fair workplace relations system.

"When the Fair Work Act was implemented, union rights were expanded in over 120 areas," Mr Willox said. "It is clear from businesses across a range of sectors that the introduction of the act has led to increased union activity generally, increased disputation and increased union militancy in several key sectors of the economy at a time of rising costs and global competition."

ACTU president Ged Kearney said unions would push back against any employer campaign to use the review's release to further their agenda for changes. "Any reasonable objective review would conclude the Fair Work Act was achieving its objective of delivering fairness in the workplace and economic growth. It is lazy opportunism to blame the three-year-old (act) for a decade-plus slowdown in productivity growth."

Australian Mines and Metals Association chief executive Steve Knott said while employers "expect some crumbs in terms of minor IR reforms, the scene has been set by the PM, Minister Shorten and the array of usual suspects not to expect much change".

"The government needs to stop the paternalistic approach to IR and allow employees and employers to work with creativity and innovation," he said. "If this occurs, come four years Australia can qualify for the next productivity olympics."

According to government answers to opposition questions on notice, the review is expected to cost taxpayers about $900,000. The three members of the panel worked between 229 and 236 hours each, at an hourly rate of $550. The Coalition estimates the trio were paid $382,000.

Opposition workplace relations spokesman Eric Abetz said a fundamental test for Mr Shorten would be "whether or not he addresses concerns surrounding productivity, militancy and workplace flexibility".

"If he simply decides to do nothing, it will be further proof of his ostrich-like approach to the growing body of evidence suggesting reform."


Qld. Health Minister Lawrence Springborg announces banning of 'hospital bypassing' from January 1

QUEENSLAND hospitals will soon be banned from diverting ambulances to other facilities when their emergency departments become full.

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg today said “hospital bypass” would be outlawed from January 1 as the Newman Government implements the recommendations of a major report designed to address ambulance ramping.

The report was prepared by David Rosengren, a Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital emergency physician who also chairs the Emergency Medicine Research Foundation and is emergency medicine director at Greenslopes Private Hospital.

“According to Rosengren, no Queensland hospital should have the authority to divert ambulances elsewhere,” Mr Springborg said.

“Senior level clinician initiative nurses will be introduced to all major emergency departments to improve the flows through the front doors of our hospitals.”

Mr Springborg said addressing ramping required a whole-of-hospital approach, particularly the timely discharge of patients to prevent bed blocking.

“The report makes it clear that simply going on bypass, which is effectively diverting a patient to another facility, is an unacceptable mechanism for managing demand on emergency departments,” he said.

He promised to implement Mr Rosengren’s 15 recommendations in full.

Queensland Health director-general Tony O’Connell will also establish a special working group to drive the changes.

The recommendations:

1. Each Hospital and Health Service provide a 24-hour single point of non-ED Executive Director level (or higher) contact for the QAS on ED access issues.

2. Queensland Health includes a key performance indicator relating to Patient off-Stretcher Time (POST) in future Service Level Agreements for Hospital and Health Services.

3. Queensland Health reviews the current hospital capacity escalation framework and mandate implementation by 1 January 2013.

4. Queensland Health review the role of the Emergency Capacity Hospital Overview (ECHO) and internal ED capacity (SAPhTE) scores.

5. Patient flow and bed management strategies are implemented into all Queensland public hospitals and each Hospital and Health Service must demonstrate active use of same.

6. As at 1 January 2012 no hospital will have the authority to divert ambulances (activate ambulance bypass) to another hospital.

7. QAS is responsible for ambulance load share into emergency departments.

8. Triage must occur on arrival.

9. The introduction of senior level Clinical Initiative Nurses to the waiting room of all major EDs.

10. Patients are not to return to the back of an ambulance post triage.

11. Queensland Health and QAS introduce formal education modules into respective mandatory training ensure QAS paramedics and Queensland Health triage staff have a clear understanding of each other’s role and scope of practice.

12. That a Patient off Stretcher Time (POST) Policy directed at ensuring the time from arrival to clinical handover from QAS to the hospital is less than 30 minutes, be reviewed and implemented as a mandatory directive from Queensland Health by 1 January 2013.

13. QAS review the role of the QAS Hospital Liaison Officer (HLO), to optimise its contribution in the environment created by implementation of these recommendations.

14. Development of an Inter-hospital transfer Directive whereby patients not requiring specialist emergency medical care do not transit through the ED.

15. Establishment of a high-level Emergency Services Management Committee (ESMC) to provide policy advice to the Minister on issues affecting consumer access to (and delivery of) public hospital emergency and monitor implementation of the MEDAI recommendations.


Unwanted mosque in NSW

A MUSLIM prayer room in use in a house in South Hurstville for more than 20 years is facing closure because neighbours have complained about parking and noise. But Anthony Mundine, the former footballer and world boxing champion who used the prayer room, believes the problem is prejudice, not parking.

Mr Mundine's mother, Lyn, lives next door to the home he considers his local mosque, which belongs to the El Maneh family. He stays at his mother's when he is in training for fights and lives at nearby Blakehurst. He said the street was big and wide, and every house had off-street parking, so was "baffled" by the objections. "I think it is just an excuse to shut the mosque down".

Mr Mundine said Muslims have "the worst rap on a Western scale than anybody. All that is shown is negativity; all that is shown is terrorism. I am sure if there was a church there, there would not be any petitions".

Alex Psarras, one of those who complained to Kogarah Council about the prayer room, has lived next door for 35 years. He said the El Maneh family were "very, very good neighbours" and it was nothing personal, but he was concerned the number of people attending was growing.

Kogarah Council's director of planning and environmental services, Rod Logan, said the council cautioned against further use of the site for public worship after temporary consent lapsed in March. A new development application has been lodged but will not be determined until after council elections in September, Mr Logan said.

The earlier consent restricted the number of attendees to 40. Prayer times were confined to 90 minutes at Friday lunchtimes and an hour each night during Ramadan.

Mr Logan said the council had received petitions with 16 households for and 23 against the application, but this was not reliable because many signatures appeared both for and against.

Amin Nasser of Hurstville, representing the El Maneh family, said he had never counted more than 46 people attending at a time, and all were local residents or employees. He said the family was content to accept the earlier restrictions permanently. He said they didn't want any trouble.

Mr Mundine said the closure of the prayer room made it more difficult for him to practise his faith. But it was worse for the elderly who "relied on this mosque and can't get to other mosques". There were typically 50 to 80 people at the prayer sessions he had attended, Mr Mundine said.


Unwanted mosque in Canberra

A controversial anti-mosque flyer distributed in Gungahlin has probably not breached the ACT’s Discrimination Act, but has prompted the Human Rights Commissioner to again call for stronger anti-discrimination laws in the territory in a report on the matter released today.

The flyer, distributed in Gungahlin by a group calling themselves the Concerned Citizens of Canberra, urged residents to oppose the construction of a mosque on The Valley Avenue because of its "social impact" on the "Australian neighbours" in the northern Canberra region.

The flyer also raised concerns about traffic and noise, "public interest" and the proposed size of the development.

ACT Human Rights and Discrimination Commissioner Dr Helen Watchirs, who was asked to investigate concerns the flyer constituted racist material, released her advice on the matter today.

Dr Watchirs said that while the flyer was "undoubtedly offensive", the ACT’s current discrimination laws had too high a test for racial vilification for the flyer to be considered in breach of the Discrimination Act.

"It is unlikely that the flyer regarding a proposed  development of a Mosque circulated in Gungahlin would breach s.66 of the ACT Discrimination Act because it is entirely concerned with religious issues, rather than race. It is also unclear if the flyer would satisfy the high test for vilification in the Discrimination Act, which has an ‘incitement’ requirement," the advice said.

However, Dr Watchirs said complainants would likely have more success under Federal discrimination laws.

"An ACT complainant of the Muslim faith who received this flyer may have more success in the Federal jurisdiction, with the advantage of a lower threshold to establish racial hatred, as well as relying on the Explanatory Statement which explicitly envisages that Muslim people represent a racial group."

In the advice, Dr Watchirs pointed towards a review of the ACT's current discrimination laws, and recommended the Act be reformed to include better provisions for discrimination against religious groups.

"I would recommend that the ground of religious conviction be added to the current vilification protection in the Discrimination Act as a matter of priority, given the increasing incidents of this kind being reported in the media."


1 August, 2012

Say no to boat arrivals, ex-Immigration official

A FORMER top Immigration Department official says Australia must close the door on boat people.

Former first assistant secretary Des Storer has told the Gillard Government's expert panel on asylum seekers that the current system was a confusing and contradictory farce.

Mr Storer, who was highly respected by both the Coalition and Labor governments, said in his submission that the only solution was for Australia to change migration laws to stop boat arrivals applying for visas.

"This can be done by excising Australia for the purposes of migration. This would mean that all unauthorised arrivals would be detained," he said in the submission co-authored by fellow Monash academic Adrienne Millbank.

Mr Storer told the Herald Sun yesterday that asylum seekers should be given options such as being sent back to Indonesia, returned to their home countries or sent to refugee camps of their choice.

"If you really want to stop the boats and protect people's lives that is the best way," he said.

Under the proposal, Australia would legally not be in breach of its international refugee obligations, and High Court challenges to offshore processing would be avoided.

Mr Storer and Ms Millbank said the money saved from processing and detaining asylum seekers could be used to double Australias official refugee intake to up to 25,000, with priority given to people in most need in overseas camps.

Mr Storer, who retired in 2008 and is now an adjunct professor at Monash University, said that many of those reaching Indonesia had the money to pay people smugglers who promised access to Australia's attractive legal system.

"Some may or may not be escaping serious persecution...they're taking advantage of the opportunities to be able to utilise the system better than other people can who are trapped in camps in much more serious conditions," he said.


The  Queensland government's assault on bureaucracy continues

PUBLIC sector workers who cost more than private sector labour can now be sacked with a mere stroke of a pen.

A new directive issued by the Public Service Commission to enable mass cuts to Transport and Main Roads, has effectively stripped job security for all but police and health workers.

The Public Service Commissioner confirmed employment security and contracting out clauses had been removed from "industrial instruments" late yesterday.

"Removing these clauses, allows for the efficient restructure of Government departments which will in turn lead to greater efficiencies and savings for the public sector," Commissioner Dr Brett Heyward said.  "For example, the recent restructure announced by the Minister for Transport and Main Roads."

Unions declared the directive would be challenged in the Supreme Court.

Alex Scott from Together Queensland said the move had given Government free rein to retrench workers and hire private sector labour.

"It means the Government can pretty much decide on a day-to-day basis what their policy is about employment security," he said.    "Given it was introduced with absolutely no consultation we're looking at our options in relation to Supreme Court action around it."

The bombshell came at the end of another shattering day for public servants, who learned almost 2000 jobs would go from Transport and Main Roads before Christmas, including 600 in RoadTek and 70 at Translink.

Another 360 jobs are set to disappear from QBuild with more cuts in coming days.

Transport and Main Roads director-general Michael Caltabiano announced the restructure to staff in an email that did not mention the number of jobs being axed.

Many workers found out from reports of Minister Scott Emerson's announcement in Parliament of 1970 job cuts to save $287 million over four years.

As part of the restructure, 16 of 37 senior executives will go but Translink CEO Neil Scales will be spared, becoming a new deputy director-general.

The TMR and QBuild cuts take the number of "official" job losses in the public sector to more than 6700.

Mr Scott said another 15,000 cuts were expected in the lead up to the September 11 budget.


Queensland government cuts Green tape

THE Queensland government insists new laws that make it faster and cheaper for developers to apply for environmental approval won't lower environmental standards.  The Greentape (Greentape) Reduction Bill was passed in parliament on Tuesday afternoon.

Environment Minister Andrew Powell says "green tape" has been strangling Queensland businesses.

He says the bill is the most significant reform to licensing processes in a decade and will save businesses thousands of dollars.

"It is crucial that we work with industry, particularly with the small business sector, to encourage economic growth and reduce government spending," he said in a statement.

The bill reduces the Environmental Protection Act by 90 pages by removing duplications.

A standard application for environmental approval will save companies on average $20,000, 150 pages in paper work and 68 days in processing time, while the environmental approval process will also be changed to ensure greater flexibility for operators, Mr Powell said.

The government will also save $12.5 million in administrative costs.

Mr Powell said the government had consulted "every step of the way" with industry, the community and government organisations on the changes.

"This in no way lowers environmental standards," he said.  "It merely simplifies the approval process, saving applicants time and money."

The new process will apply from March 2013.


It's great to have a conscience, now tell us how we'll pay for it

You may not have noticed, but last week was among the most significant of the Gillard government's term. The commitments made may do great good, but they will also cause much pain and gnashing of teeth in the years ahead.

Last week the nation made it crystal clear to its political leaders - federal and state - it wanted them to get on with implementing the national disability insurance scheme. After decades of turning a blind eye to the difficulties faced by the disabled and their carers, last week conscience struck.

Fine. You're a believer; so am I. But the scheme is very expensive: when fully implemented in 2018, an additional $8 billion a year. Or, as the politicians and the media usually prefer to put it, $32 billion over four years.

To give you an idea, $8 billion a year is more than will be raised each year by the carbon tax or more than twice what will be raised by the new mining tax.

So how will the disability scheme be paid for? No one has any idea. The pollies were arguing about that very question when - urged on by the same radio shock jocks who on other days rail against "debt and deficit" - the electorate put a rocket under them: Just do it!

That's why I have reservations. We behaved like a teenager with his first pay packet who goes out and buys a car on the never-never, without a moment's thought about how he'll fit the repayments into his budget.

Perhaps this was the only way an increasingly self-centred nation was ever going to commit to something so caring but expensive. Had we dwelt on how much it would cost and how we'd be paying for it, we might have made an excuse and passed on.

Even so, the accountant in me remains uneasy. Sometimes in politics, good deeds aren't born of the purest motives. The Productivity Commission report that recommended the scheme called for the pilot programs to begin in 2014.

I suspect Julia Gillard brought it forward a year because she wanted to be seen doing something worthwhile - and something that didn't have Kevin Rudd's fingerprints on it. She committed to spending just $1 billion over the four-year trial phase.

If Gillard has a clear idea of how she would afford the scheme when fully implemented, she's given no hint of it. All we know is that, contrary to the commission's advice, she expects the states to bear some of the cost.

I suspect she's fingered the states as a red herring, intending to draw attention away from her own lack of forethought. That's where we got to last week. She put the wood on the premiers to make a small contribution to the cost of their state's pilot scheme, but many declined. This could have been the usual story - whenever the feds require the premiers' co-operation, their hands go out: What's it worth to you?

If that was the premiers' motivation, I'm sympathetic. Though the states are responsible for provision of many costly public services - law and order, roads and transport, schools and hospitals - their taxing powers have been greatly constrained by the High Court, leaving them heavily dependent on the feds.

John Howard's decision to grant them the full proceeds from the goods and services tax was intended to solve their problem, but it's no longer the "growth tax" it was. Our consumer spending no longer outstrips our income the way it did, and an ever-growing proportion of our spending goes on items excluded from the tax, particularly private education and health.

So the premiers can't reasonably be expected to stump up for anything much. And, indeed, it's the feds who'll have to come up with a solution to their chronic revenue problem. This week a poll shows 84 per cent of respondents oppose increasing the rate of the GST to 12.5 per cent.

But only the Liberal premiers jacked up last week. The remaining Labor state and territory leaders played along. So maybe it wasn't the standard premiers' money-motivated bail-up.

There isn't a politician in the country with the courage to openly oppose the disability scheme. Gillard's lack of courage comes in telling us how she proposes to pay for it. Maybe she's decided she'll worry about that only if she wins the next election.

Tony Abbott's more likely to win it, of course. I suspect the hard-heads on his side had been intending to relegate implementation of the full scheme to the status of an "aspiration" to be afforded only when finances permit.

That now would be a lot harder to do, following the surge of public pressure that forced the premiers of NSW and Victoria to back down after just a day or so. Such forceful expressions of the public's will stay burnt on politicians' brains long after you and I have forgotten them.

Abbott's shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, is saying it would be cruel to offer hope to the disabled when there was no guarantee the money could be found. In contrast, his more slick-tongued finance spokesman, Andrew Robb, says the full scheme would be introduced in 2018, but this "probably would require the removal or scaling back of other programs".

Don't forget Abbott would first have to cover the cost of abolishing the carbon tax and the mining tax. This is a man who professes to believe taxes must go down and may never go up. Now he's got to find a further $8 billion a year in spending cuts.

I find it hard to believe this would happen. But whatever happens, I foresee much pain and gnashing of teeth.


Postings from Brisbane, Australia by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.) -- former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party.

Most academics are lockstep Leftists so readers do sometimes doubt that I have the qualifications mentioned above. Photocopies of my academic and military certificates are however all viewable here

For overseas readers: The "ALP" is the Australian Labor Party -- Australia's major Leftist party. The "Liberal" party is Australia's major conservative political party.

Again for overseas readers: Like the USA, Germany and India, Australia has State governments as well as the Federal government. So it may be useful to know the usual abbreviations for the Australian States: QLD (Queensland), NSW (New South Wales), WA (Western Australia), VIC (Victoria), TAS (Tasmania), SA (South Australia).

For American readers: A "pensioner" is a retired person living on Social Security

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

On all my blogs, I express my view of what is important primarily by the readings that I select for posting. I do however on occasions add personal comments in italicized form at the beginning of an article.

I am rather pleased to report that I am a lifelong conservative. Out of intellectual curiosity, I did in my youth join organizations from right across the political spectrum so I am certainly not closed-minded and am very familiar with the full spectrum of political thinking. Nonetheless, I did not have to undergo the lurch from Left to Right that so many people undergo. At age 13 I used my pocket-money to subscribe to the "Reader's Digest" -- the main conservative organ available in small town Australia of the 1950s. I have learnt much since but am pleased and amused to note that history has since confirmed most of what I thought at that early age.

I imagine that the the RD is still sending mailouts to my 1950s address!

I am an army man. Although my service in the Australian army was chiefly noted for its un-notability, I DID join voluntarily in the Vietnam era, I DID reach the rank of Sergeant, and I DID volunteer for a posting in Vietnam. So I think I may be forgiven for saying something that most army men think but which most don't say because they think it is too obvious: The profession of arms is the noblest profession of all because it is the only profession where you offer to lay down your life in performing your duties. Our men fought so that people could say and think what they like but I myself always treat military men with great respect -- respect which in my view is simply their due.

The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody. And I have NO investments in oil companies, mining companies or "Big Pharma"

UPDATE: Despite my (statistical) aversion to mining stocks, I have recently bought a few shares in BHP -- the world's biggest miner, I gather. I run the grave risk of becoming a speaker of famous last words for saying this but I suspect that BHP is now so big as to be largely immune from the risks that plague most mining companies. I also know of no issue affecting BHP where my writings would have any relevance. The Left seem to have a visceral hatred of miners. I have never quite figured out why.

Although I have been an atheist for all my adult life, I have no hesitation in saying that the single book which has influenced me most is the New Testament. And my Scripture blog will show that I know whereof I speak.

A delightful story about a great Australian conservative