Looking at Australian politics from a libertarian/conservative perspective...  

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28 February, 2006


Drug companies refuse to import abortion pill: "Abortion pill RU486 will not be freely available to Australian women, despite this month's emotional Federal Parliament debate. Major pharmaceutical companies have informally advised their peak industry group, Medicines Australia, they have no intention of importing the drug. They have decided the move would be too costly and controversial. This month's rare conscience vote, releasing MPs from the constraints of voting along party lines, stripped Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott of his veto over the pill. More than 150 members and senators spoke on the Bill during the five sitting days it took to pass through both houses of Parliament. It was hailed by supporters as a breakthrough giving all women access to the drug - particularly rural women who might not be able to easily obtain a surgical abortion. But given the unwillingness of Australian-based drug companies to get involved, the dream of Federal MPs who voted for RU486 - that it be readily available across the pharmacy counter - is unlikely to be realised. Well-placed sources said the decision not to import RU486 was based on two factors. The first is that the market is limited and the elaborate approval process would not make commercial sense. But the second reason is more important. Pharmaceutical companies understand that their industry is not particularly well regarded by the community and they believe it is not worth stirring up a high-profile campaign against them by the pro-life movement".

Christians singled out, says senator: "Christians are seen as fair game when it comes to poking fun at religious icons, while Jews and Muslims are seemingly off-limits, Family First senator Steve Fielding said on Sunday. The Victorian senator has called for the Federal Government to ban an episode of US cartoon South Park titled "Bloody Mary" for its depiction of the Virgin Mary menstruating. SBS Television has decided to "defer" the airing of the controversial episode, because of the "current worldwide controversy over cartoons of religious figures". Overseas riots in reaction to newspapers publishing satirical cartoons of the Muslim prophet Mohammed led to the death of nearly 30 people. "How come Christians are such easy targets? How come it's okay to make fun of symbols at the heart of Christianity, such as the Crucifix or the Virgin Mary, but people seem to think twice before having a go at the Star of David or the Koran?" Senator Fielding said.

Australia: Gun ownership explodes: "Gun ownership is on the rise in Queensland with evidence the tough restrictions introduced after the Port Arthur massacre nearly a decade ago are losing their effectiveness. Despite bans on certain types of weapons and a successful buyback and amnesty, police figures show there are more firearms in the community now than three years ago. Police Minister Judy Spence yesterday foreshadowed possible changes to the Weapons Act, to be reviewed this year, saying she was 'aware of some operational suggestions from police and these will be considered as part of this review.' Queensland police Weapons Licensing Branch manager, Inspector Mike Crowley, said gun ownership applications had increased 30 per cent since 2002. Up to 11,000 of last year's 26,000 applicants were first-timers. 'There has not been a decrease in the number of firearms, but an increase. It shows they do not really depreciate and are a resilient commodity,' Insp Crowley said."

Health insurance price rises not as bad this year: "Private health fund premiums will climb an average of 5.7 per cent from April 1, adding $3 a week on a typical family policy. But the increases - which will fall to an average weekly slug of $2 after the federal Government's 30 per cent rebate - are the lowest annual price hikes for five years. Health funds say increased payouts to members, which rose 8.1 per cent to almost $5.9billion for hospital benefits alone in 2004-05, are one factor behind the rises. Other drivers were said to be a 20 per cent rise in payouts for prostheses and the popularity and spread of "gap cover" products that in some cases paid the doctor's entire fee. Private health fund membership is increasing. There are now about 8.8 million Australians with hospital cover - 43.1 per cent of the population - and 8.6 million with ancillary cover. Almost all the increase is among people aged more than 60, who place the greatest pressure on health funds."

Paramedic shortage in Queensland: "A paramedic shortage has forced the Queensland government to search interstate and overseas for ambulance staff. The Department of Emergency Services today launched a major advertising campaign in newspapers throughout Australia and New Zealand to fill 144 paramedic positions. However, Queensland Emergency Services Minister Pat Purcell said he was not concerned by the staff shortage and the need to search beyond the state. "Paramedics are not coming here at the moment so that is why we are going elsewhere with the advertising," Mr Purcell said. "I don't know why they wouldn't want to come and work here as it's the most professional (paramedic) service in Australia." [Pay?] The positions needed to be filled throughout Queensland by September next year, he said.

Andrew Bolt reflects

The Currency Lad has a transcript of the speech and questions at the recent launch of Andrew Bolt's book. A few excerpts:

"I am not brave but I am not here on my own. The things I write about are expressions of a wider culture. I first started in journalism and learnt through asking. An example of how we have group thinking - I exempt the Herald Sun - is when I first started at the Age. What woke me up to that? I was a boy from the country, from a migrant family. John Leahy, a lovely and experienced journo, went to cover a women's protest at Pine Gap with all its street theatre and mother earth stuff. Leahy thought it funny and wrote a piece on how funny and silly it all was, and the journalists at The Age including some leading prize-winning journos, doyens of the profession, signed a petition and posted it above the staff book attacking him and ordering him to be silenced. I thought it was so professionally shocking. That was an obvious manifestation of the group-think.

When I started at the Herald Sun as industrial correspondent, Piers Akerman (one-time editor in chief of The Herald) was taking on the Kennett government. Our office covering IR was in the Trades Hall. That is an intimidating environment, if you don't go along with the agenda. I was singled out, `Look at that great booby!', but not intimidating for the journos captive of Trades Hall. It was supposed to be unbiased coverage. It was an unstated assumption that Trades Hall is where our sympathy was.....

I would be still (nowhere) except someone gave me a job and a page, namely Peter Blunden at the Herald Sun. I began a campaign early during the controversy over injecting rooms for addicts. The Liberal government approved of one room and the Labor government then came in and said we should have five, and everyone was behind the concept. Dr David Pennington and his expert committee claimed often that injecting rooms have been tried overseas and had cut the death rate by up to 95%. I thought it would be checkable and where I checked , eg on the Swiss experience, the claim was false; the opposite happened. During five years from introduction of injecting rooms, the death toll trebled. You would have thought people would have stopped making the claim but The Age kept running it.

There was lobbying at high level to have me apologise and legal action was threatened. This was the first campaign I had mounted and Peter Blunden for the first time wondered what was going on and asked me, `Are you sure?'. That was the only interference I have had in 7-8 years. I said, `I am sure.' I won that one. You must imagine how much pressure that man Blunden comes under. Sometimes I get complaints copied to me (cc'd). Many people have been lobbied at the Herald Sun to `pull me into line'. But not once has Peter Blunden ever said to me `don't'. It is quite funny, Peter is so worried of being seen to steer me, he normally says nothing....."

Top boys' school accepts goods in lieu of fees

Anything to escape far-Left government schools

Private schools are allowing financially stretched parents to pay fees with cows, valuable art collections and even the embryos of livestock in lieu of cash payments. And with the ongoing drought having a major impact on the ability of many rural families to pay their children's fees, some schools now allow parents to pay when a crop comes in or a herd of cattle is sold at the market, education experts say.

The Council of Catholic School Parents executive director Danielle Cronin said the barter of goods for fees is one of several flexible payment options available. "Country families can often pay according to their crops or when they sell their cattle," Ms Cronin said. "There is even payment in kind being made to schools. If the school has an outdoor education centre, the family may give them cattle."

As well, rising school fees have caused an increasing number of people to dip into their home mortgages. "They might get a second job, they might dip into savings they have put aside for things other than education, and they may also consider dipping into the equity in their home," Ms Cronin said. "Fees can be a major cause of stress and concern for parents, particularly when there's a degree of uncertainty around how much they will increase each year."

Among the Sydney schools to consider the alternative and often creative payment options is The King's School at North Parramatta. "Any Christian and compassionate school has to be open to reasonable suggestions," headmaster Tim Hawkes said. "With the best will in the world people's financial situations change often for reasons that are out of their control, like drought. This time last year 120 families were seriously affected by drought. They asked the school to show creativity and compassion in handling the situation. "Some parents are cash poor but asset rich. So sometimes payment in kind is seen as an option. We have agricultural studies and the school has its own farm. We can introduce cattle there. There has even been an incident in the past where the school was offered cattle embryos." Dr Hawkes said any alternative payment arrangement had to be conducted carefully. "We can't have a wholesale defection to payment of school fees in kind," he said.

It is not unusual for schools to accept other items of value. Victorian school St Leonards College had accepted part of a valuable art collection from a family in lieu of a student's fees, Dr Hawkes said. He stressed that the most common outcome when a family was struggling financially was to waive part of the fees. "We also have a range of scholarships and bursaries available and we have increased those over the past few years." A fee deferment system may also be put in place to continue after the student has graduated.

NSW Parents Council executive officer Duncan McInnes said many top private schools would once not have considered such flexible fee options. "Schools are becoming more accommodating to family situations," Mr McInnes said. "I think it's healthy. Rather than being embarrassed or ashamed of their situation parents should be opening up to schools." Cranbrook School headmaster Jeremy Madin said: "The school dispenses about $1 million in financial aid a year. Schools are very human places; we have to be understanding."


27 February, 2006

More official realism about Islam

Preachers of hate were targeting vulnerable young Muslim men, posing serious problems for Australia, the federal Liberal frontbencher responsible for multiculturalism said yesterday. Throwing strong support behind Peter Costello's call to Muslim Australians to obey domestic laws or else, Andrew Robb said only education and jobs would stop the young male Muslims from falling prey to extremists. Responding to angry retorts that Mr Costello's comments reflected an anti-Muslim bias, he said the Islamic community should not ignore its problems.

Ahead of an inaugural meeting of the Government-appointed Muslim reference group, Mr Robb painted a grim picture of a vast pool of idle, isolated young Muslim males being targeted as potential terrorists by radical preachers. "Fifty per cent of the 300,000 Muslims in Australia are [aged] 24 or less, and in some areas have very high unemployment," he said. "These are the young guys who are potential targets. We know there are radicals out there looking for vulnerable young men. "We need to identify how we get these young blokes into real jobs. That's how you get real tolerance and understanding."

Mr Robb said he had a message for the "99.9 per cent of the Muslim community who are as quintessentially Australian as the rest of us". They needed to acknowledge there was legitimate anxiety in the community following the bombings in the US, Bali and London, which were the work of fringe elements in their communities. "We don't solve problems by sweeping them under the carpet," Mr Robb said. "Islam has been, is, and will be here in Australia, so it is very proper to confront the extremists. But it is very wrong to demonise the religion."

The 14-member Muslim Reference Group will meet for the first time on Monday and Tuesday in Canberra, to look at ways of stamping out extremism and fighting the terrorism threat. Mr Robb said he fully expected to be tackled by members over Mr Costello's comments, but said the Treasurer was only reflecting a majority view held by Australians in the wake of terrorist bombings. In his opening remarks, Mr Robb will tell the group they have a great responsibility to come up with a plan of action to rein in extremist imams. "They have been chosen to help develop an action plan, they have been chosen for their different perspectives."

The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils has also responded to Government calls to fight extremism by calling Muslim religious leaders to a summit next month. The aim is to develop a code of conduct to muzzle inflammatory statements by Muslim clerics. Controversial Melbourne-based preacher Sheik Mohammed Omran has defied his fellow imams, saying his community did not have the power to restrict his sermons.


Playing politics puts mothers' and their babies' lives at risk

The tragic case of baby Natalia Lalic, who died five days after being born at Camden Hospital in 2003, should serve as a warning of the potential consequences of political and ideological meddling in childbirth. The increasing demands by feminist ideologues for "women-centred" birth centres with midwives providing exclusive care neatly dovetail with the desire by the State Government to cut health costs while appearing to deliver new facilities in marginal seats.

Natalia was born five days after the 2003 state election in Camden Hospital's new $3.5 million maternity unit, which had been opened with great fanfare six weeks earlier. Camden was a marginal seat, and the only seat the ALP won from the Liberals. At the time, then health minister Craig Knowles, member for the neighbouring seat of Macquarie Fields, was under siege from whistleblower nurses. Though Camden was just a 20-minute drive from Campbelltown Hospital's fully staffed maternity unit, which could have done with the extra money, the Government opened the new ward against the advice of the South Western Sydney Area Health Service board, which was concerned about duplicating resources and a shortage of specialists. When no anaesthetists could be found for Camden, a bureaucrat was flown to South Africa to recruit. No expense was spared.

But, as the NSW Medical Tribunal has heard, there was no pediatrician on hand to resuscitate Natalia when she was born without a heartbeat after a difficult labour in which the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. Some anaesthetists on roster lived 40 minutes away and pediatricians 30 minutes away. Crucially, the hospital required 69 minutes to set up an emergency caesarean section. So even when it was clear the baby was in distress, the obstetrician on duty made the decision that it would be faster for her to be born by assisted vaginal delivery. She died five days later.

The doctor has since endured three debilitating years of blame for the judgement calls he made that terrible morning. The Health Care Complaints Commission alleged he should have organised a caesarean and called a pediatrician earlier. Last week the obstetrician, whose name has been suppressed, was cleared of any wrongdoing by the tribunal. There was no guarantee the baby would have lived if a caesarean had been ordered.

But an anaesthetist who works in northern Sydney says Natalia might have had a better chance in a bigger hospital. When an emergency caesarean is needed, the ideal time from "decision to incision" is less than 20 minutes, not 69 minutes, he says. At a hospital such as Royal North Shore a woman can be on the operating table in 10 minutes.

And yet, a recent review of maternity services in the Northern Sydney Central Coast Health service area has recommended fewer births at RNS (down 15 births a month to 200) and more at smaller, less-resourced units, such as Mona Vale and Ryde. The anaesthetist says health bureaucrats want to reduce the 2400 annual births at RNS by 600 or 700, for budgetary reasons. The amalgamation of northern Sydney with the Central Coast in January, he says, has led to a transfer of resources from northern Sydney's budget to the Central Coast, where, he cynically points out, Gosford is a marginal Liberal seat that Labor is targeting. "Politicians use obstetric services as a vote-winner," he says.

The review has not addressed specialist concerns about safety at small units and makes only politically palatable recommendations, he says. While it states that duplication of obstetric services between Manly and Mona Vale is "not sustainable", it advocates the "development of shared positions across the two sites". Specialist doctors also feel the review report was released stealthily, on January 2, "when everyone is on holidays", with comments due by January 16. The report states that "volumes of births across the seven sites are not sufficient to support seven traditional maternity units" with full services of obstetricians, anaesthetists and midwives. But it does not recommend closing Ryde and Wyong obstetric units, as many specialists think should happen.

If the safety of mother and child were paramount, common sense would dictate that you would make most use of hospitals such as Royal North Shore, instead of using every means to reduce births there. And just because there is an anaesthetist across the corridor ready for an emergency caesarean or to provide pain relief, doesn't mean a mother can't have a drug-free natural birth. It just means she has a choice.


The real (unmentioned) stupidity below is having women police doing a man's job

Police Minister Carl Scully yesterday swung into damage control following the shooting of a female police officer, who was staffing the counter of a police station in a high-crime region on her own. He has ordered Police Commissioner Ken Moroney to conduct an immediate safety review after Constable Elizabeth Roth, 34, was shot at point-blank range at Wetherill Park police station yesterday. Her assailant jumped the counter, grabbed Constable Roth's service revolver, shot her and then ran away. A hunt is under way for the man, who is known to police.

Mr Moroney said Constable Roth, a former bank officer, raised the alarm over police radio and alerted a highway patrol officer, who was in the station at the time. She was taken to Liverpool Hospital where her condition was described as stable after she had surgery to remove bullet fragments from her abdomen. Mr Moroney, who visited Constable Roth in hospital, said she was in good spirits and would return to work when she had made a full recovery. A security audit, by NSW Police Director of Security Julie Wills, was ordered as senior police and the State Opposition reacted angrily to the circumstances of the shooting.

Coalition leader Peter Debnam said it was "unbelievable" that the female officer was on her own at the counter, especially because the station was in a high-crime region. Police have confirmed that a second officer was on the premises at the time but he was in a back room.

NSW Police Association president Bob Pritchard said: "The female officer is very lucky to be alive. "It's just good luck that this incident wasn't worse. We could have had a real tragedy." Mr Pritchard said he would be calling on police bosses to install security screens at the counter of all police stations, but especially those that have minimum overnight staffing. "We've had a half a dozen incidents in recent times, which could have been prevented if screens had kept assailants at bay," he said. "We've got to protect our people who are face-to-face with the public. We believe security screens offer the best protection - people can't jump the counter and assault on-duty officers. "Screens have been fitted at a few stations but there is a big rigmarole including risk assessment before they can be installed. I think we should just forego that process and start fitting them in every station." Shadow police minister Mike Gallacher said the incident showed that NSW police were "overstretched and under-resourced". "It's alarming that, in a high-workload area like Wetherill Park, an officer was left alone overnight to man the counter at the station," he said. "If more officers were present, the situation could have been better controlled or even avoided."

Mr Scully said the top-level inquiry would examine the circumstances of the incident as well as policy procedures and training of officers. "The review will also look at whether any further steps need to be taken in terms of the safety and wellbeing of officers," he said. Mr Moroney said a full-scale hunt was under way to find the attacker, who was described as being armed and dangerous. The 32-year-old Bonnyrigg man is described as being of Asian appearance and, when last seen, was clean-shaven and dressed in black....

More here

Greenies take on the bottled water nonsense

Drinking water must be one of the most harmless things people can do so I think the Greenies should be aiming their fire elsewhere (at soil erosion and uneconomic farming, for instance) but I do think they have got a point about what a lot of nonsense bottled water is

Australians' love affair with bottled water may be making healthy-living advocates happy but environmentalists say it's taking a heavy toll on the planet. With 65 per cent of plastic drink bottles ending up in landfill, environmentalists are calling for better recycling services to stop an increasingly popular healthy drinking habit from wreaking further damage. The popularity of buying water from a shop fridge is rising at a rate of 10 per cent a year as consumers become increasingly aware that staying well-hydrated is healthy. About 550 million litres of bottled water were consumed in 2004-05, the Australian Beverage Council said. Most purchases were in addition to consuming soft drinks rather than replacing them, it said. But the plastic containers are becoming a big environmental hazard because they use valuable fuels to manufacture and create mountains of rubbish when thrown away, environmentalists say.

Environmental scientist Tim Grant said it was "counterintuitive" that bottled water was such a successful product. "People pay $2.50 for something that's [otherwise] free," Mr Grant said. A recent report by the Washington-based Earth Policy Institute found that the global consumption of bottled water had risen by 57 per cent since 1999 to 154 billion litres in 2004. Much of the growth came from countries such as Australia, where most tap water was as high quality as any water that could be bought. The report's author Emily Arnold said bottled water worldwide required 2.7 million tonnes of plastic each year for its packaging. She said the manufacture of plastic water bottles used 1.5 million barrels of crude oil in the United States alone. "In contrast to tap water, which is distributed through an energy-efficient infrastructure, transporting bottled water long distances involves burning massive quantities of fossil fuels."

More here

26 February, 2006


Another cowardly Muslim gang attack: "Two men are being questioned over an attack on a man in Melbourne's CBD this morning. The men were arrested early this afternoon but have not been charged, police said. The alleged attack involved a group of men kicking an unconscious man, 26, as he lay in the gutter. A second man tried to intervene but the group then turned on him, police said. Doctors today operated on an injury to his hand. The first victim was taken from St Vincent's Hospital by his parents before doctors could treat him, hospital spokesman Mike Griffin said. Mr Griffin said the victim was conscious when he arrived at hospital, but was believed to have been unconscious for two or three minutes during the attack. The attack happened on Elizabeth Street, south of Little Bourke Street, about 6am (AEDT) today. Members of the group were described by police as being of Middle-Eastern appearance and left the scene in a yellow car.

Bloody Australia: "Tourism chiefs in Australia have ditched the country's highbrow sales pitch to attract foreign visitors in exchange for a more rustic approach: swearing. "So where the bloody hell are you?" is the new slogan, which was announced yesterday as part of a $180 million campaign that will appeal to people in Britain, Europe, the United States and Asia. The "bloody hell" advertisement replaces the "Australia - a different light" campaign of 2004, which featured Australian artists and British celebrities such as Michael Parkinson. It was artistically acclaimed but was a marketing flop. The latest advertisement marks a return to the use of rustic Australian idioms made famous by the actor Paul Hogan's "Throw another shrimp on the barbie" campaign of the 1980s. It begins in an Outback pub with a man saying, "We've poured you a beer". Then follows a sequence of idyllic images including a boy at the seaside saying, "We've got the sharks out of the pool", and partygoers watching Sydney harbour fireworks saying, "We turned on the lights". A traditional Aboriginal dancer says, "And we've been rehearsing for more than 40,000 years". The advert ends with a bikini-clad young woman stepping out of the sea asking: "So where the bloody hell are you?""

Good old Arthur Tunstall is still as straight as a die: "Controversial sports administrator Arthur Tunstall has done it again - this time he risks managing to offend everyone on the planet who doesn't speak English. The outspoken official who in the past has ruffled the sensitivities of Aborigines and the disabled, today said one of the best things about the coming Commonwealth Games is that "everybody" speaks English. The former Australian Commonwealth Games boss said the lack of language barriers and need for interpreters was one of the big advantages the Games had over the Olympics. Tunstall and his wife Peggy will be VIP guests at next month's Commonwealth Games in Melbourne at the invitation of Melbourne 2006 supremo Ron Walker. "When you get to the Games you are able to converse with people from many, many different countries who speak the same language," said the 84-year-old, continuing a career-long disregard for political correctness.... Tunstall is noted for the controversies he has caused.... The greatest stir he caused was four years later in Victoria, Canada, when he criticised track star Cathy Freeman for carrying an Aboriginal flag and questioned the inclusion of disabled athletes at the Games...."

Clinton snubbed: "An army of senior golfers have shot down a former US president in the Battle of Medway. Maidstone's Medway Golf Club refused former president Bill Clinton a round of golf on Thursday because the crowded course was hosting its midweek championships. The rejected Mr Clinton instead played at Sanctuary Lakes Golf Club at Point Cook, where he happily signed autographs and posed for photos. The incident has left Medway red-faced, but yesterday members were standing firm on their presidential snub. "We can't deprive the paying members of their golf, even for an ex-president," said 62-year-old member Wendy Alley. "But it would have been a buzz for the ladies. There's no Monica Lewinsky here -- we're better." Ms Alley's regular golf partner, Lorraine Bramley, agreed: "We would have played with him -- golf, that is." Head club pro John Dixon took the phone call from Mr Clinton's people, but thought it was a hoax. "Being our midweek championships, I politely told him we didn't have room," Mr Dixon told the Herald Sun".


Three reports:

Militant Islam invades NSW school curriculum

A radical Muslim thinker who inspired al-Qa'ida is being served up as subject matter for high school students in NSW. Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian militant hanged in 1966 but still a powerful influence on violent Islamists, and the Pakistani fundamentalist Sayyid Maududi are the only two modern Muslim thinkers on a revised syllabus for studies of religion.

Experts this week condemned the prominence of political Islam in the new syllabus, and especially the inclusion of Qutb. "I am surprised and dismayed that the NSW religion syllabus narrows modern Islamic thinkers to its totalitarians," said Daniel Pipes, whose US-based Middle East Forum agitates against Islamic extremism. "Islam has a rich intellectual tradition. To pick these two writers is like representing modern German culture with Marx and Hitler."

Under the revised Higher School Certificate syllabus, students can choose to examine the "contribution to Islam" of Qutb and Maududi. Others they can study include two wives of the prophet Mohammed, legal scholars and Sufi mystics. Qutb figured as a "teacher and interpreter" in the old syllabus.

NSW Board of Studies president Gordon Stanley said experts and community leaders had had plenty of opportunity to comment on the syllabus. He was surprised to hear of criticism and offered a parallel: "If you study the Holocaust you've got to know something about Hitler, but that doesn't mean people are concerned about students becoming Nazis."

Catholic educationist John McGrath defended the syllabus, which he helped write: "Qutb was a significant figure in 20th-century Islam. "(His writings are) one expression of Islamic revival. We're not suggesting that he's representative of all Muslims."

But Ahmad Shboul, chair of Arabic and Islamic studies at Sydney University, said political Islamists did not fit easily within the study of religion. "Qutb has contributed to modern commentary on the Koran, but the influence of (Qutb and Maududi) has turned out to be more on the political side," he said, adding that Qutb was simply too controversial and complex a figure for study at school.

Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, commentators have pointed to Qutb as the intellectual inspiration for violent campaigns against the West and Muslim states seen as corrupted by modern values. Among those influenced by Qutb's writings is Ayman al-Zawahiri, seen as the intellectual force of al-Qa'ida. But Professor Shboul doubted Qutb would have approved of al-Qa'ida's violence.

In Pakistan, Maududi founded an Islamic political party, Jamaat-e-Islami, with the aim of making society and state wholly subject to Islamic law. His critics say he left a legacy of extremism; his followers say he opposed violence. Abdullah Saeed, director of the centre for the study of contemporary Islam at Melbourne University, said Muhammad Abduh, an Egyptian reformer, would have been a safer choice for the syllabus than Qutb. "Especially in the current political climate and context, the inclusion of Qutb presents more problems than it solves," Professor Saeed said. "When this becomes public I guess there would be various groups - Muslim and non-Muslim - who would feel very strongly about this."


NSW report card ban challenged

Far-Left teachers resist the requirement to identify differences in achievement. All kids are equal, don't you know?

A ban by teachers on new report cards which grade students from A to E will be challenged by the Government in the courts on Monday. Premier Morris Iemma yesterday pledged to take public school teachers to the industrial relations commission. He accused teachers of "holding parents to ransom" over the issue, saying every family was entitled to performance data on their children. He also claimed that the NSW Teachers Federation was putting $3.7billion in Commonwealth funding at risk by breaching the National Schools Funding Agreement, which includes the new reports.

About 430,000 primary school students should have received an A to E grade for academic performance this year. But the Teachers Federation has advised its 50,000 school-based members to "continue to use their own reporting system". General secretary Barry Johnson [Stalin was a General Secretary too] said in a memo to members: "Many of the reporting requirements being foisted on schools are professionally and educationally unacceptable."

But Mr Iemma said the Government would protect the right of parents to receive clear and concise information. "The NSW Government will take the issue to the Industrial Relations Commission to have it resolved as a matter of urgency," he said. "I absolutely reject the position put by the federation. "It is the right of every parent to have this information and we will not allow this to be compromised by a blinkered and politically correct over-reaction. "We will not allow NSW parents to be held to ransom."

In August last year, the Government released the format of the new reports which provide detail on:

* A CHILD'S overall achievement rated in bands from A to E;

* MORE detail on how they are performing in English and Maths; and

* SIMPLER information identifying strengths and weaknesses and details of their social skills and development.

"The reports make it easier to track the progress of students and provide greater consistency," Mr Iemma said. "Every parent has a right to information that tells them in plain English whether their child is progressing well or falling behind and in need of help."

The federation said it had grave concerns about the philosophical underpinnings of the new report cards. Mr Johnson said it opposed the Federal Government's imposition of "simplistic and regressive" student reporting requirements as a pre-condition for continued federal funding. Mr Johnson said the new reports also had potential to greatly increase teachers' workload.


Australian private school student numbers soaring

Australia's private schools have recorded record enrolments with an exodus of 200,000 students from the public education system in the past decade. The trend is strongest in Year 11 and 12, where 41 per cent of teenagers now attend private schools. Despite rising fees of up to $20,000 a year, new figures confirm a shift towards private schools since the election of the Howard Government in 1996. The Australian Bureau of Statistics' School Census yesterday revealed the number of children enrolled in private schools has jumped by 22 per cent in the past decade. The growth continued last year, with enrolments at independent and Catholic schools jumping by a further 20,000 students, to 1.1 million students.

John Howard, who once blamed the exodus from the nation's public schools on the "politically correct" attitude of the public system, last night welcomed the figures. Despite challenging the "university or bust" culture in Australia and urging teenagers who are offered a job or an apprenticeship to consider taking up the opportunity, he also welcomed an increase in retention rates. The census data also show the proportion of 17-year-olds enrolled as full-time students increased and the number of indigenous students enrolled increased from 87,200 to 135,100. "The figures show a strong increase in retention rates," the Prime Minister said. "I am particularly pleased with the very significant increase in the number of indigenous students. That is something to be very warmly welcomed."

Since 1996, the Howard Government has doubled spending on private schools, from $2.3 billion to $4.7 billion last year. Private schools now secure more taxpayer-funded grants than Australia's publicly funded universities. However, the proportion of male schoolteachers has continued to decline over the past decade. Almost 80 per cent of teachers in primary schools are now women. [I am surprised that ANY male teachers risk it] Despite recent data suggesting a surge in enrolments in public high schools in NSW, the figures confirm the 10-year trend away from public schools.


25 February, 2006

John Howard

This Thursday, John Howard will have been Prime Minister of Australia for 10 years. In his unassuming way, he dominates Australian politics. I have therefore added his picture to the top of this blog. Some excerpts from an Editorial in "The Australian" newspaper:

When John Howard marks 10 years in office this Thursday, he will be celebrating a decade during which his leadership dramatically changed Australian society. Be it politically, economically, or culturally, the Prime Minister has - for both better and worse - transformed the way this country operates. Yet for all his success, Mr Howard may be one of the most misunderstood politicians of all time: his opponents, regularly confounded by the Prime Minister's underlying pragmatism, native understanding of the Australian psyche, and always-on campaign style, resort to crude stereotypes of Bible-thumping conservatives who want to take Australia back to the 1950s. This is unfortunate, because this failure to grapple with Mr Howard's true nature and style has a tendency to bleed over into the national conversation. Like his opponents on the other side of the aisle in Canberra, the authors of the vast number of books published about the Howard government almost always manage to get things spectacularly wrong. ....

The obvious place to begin any assessment of the Howard decade in office is to examine his economic stewardship. And on the face of it, he has done extremely well. Though he had the good fortune to take office after Bob Hawke and Paul Keating set the economic reform ball in motion, it is hard to quibble with unemployment rates that have fallen from about 8 per cent to just 5 per cent, and with inflation and interest rates have taken similarly impressive nose dives. Indeed, the economy's success has been so dramatic at enriching individuals all along the economic spectrum that it has been taken up as a cudgel against Mr Howard by commentators who seem to resent such widespread material prosperity.

But this economic growth, which has been borne of booms in the housing and resources sectors, has not been the result of any sort of vicious dog-eat-dog economic rationalism, as his critics complain. No, the success of the Howard economy has been accompanied by some fairly populist tactics, namely the creation of a vast middle class welfare state where a family made up of a mum, dad, and two kids can earn up to $56,000 a year and effectively pay no tax. Family payments ranging from the baby bonus - which pays $3,000 to any woman who has a child, even if her name is Gretel Packer - to the Family Tax Benefit Part B, all bind households to the government in ways that, say, a small fortnightly windfall from a reduction in income tax cannot do. And it has not just been family payments: all told, social security and welfare payments have risen from 35.4 per cent of the federal budget in the last year of the Keating government to about 42.5 per cent today. These social benefits have come at the price of a punishing tax burden, and some mischievously point out that Australia's top marginal tax rate has long been far higher than that of next-door New Zealand, where the hard-left Helen Clark has been in charge for nearly as long. In 2000, the 10 per cent GST was supposed to lessen Canberra's bite on income tax - instead, the bite has never been larger.

Underlying these seemingly wet economic practices is a far more important cultural change, one which goes to the heart of how Mr Howard has managed to transform Australia. For where once this country was fiercely divided between warring tribes representing labour and management, today economic class warfare is largely a thing of the past. This can be directly traced to Mr Howard's leadership in creating an entrepreneurial "ownership society", where very often labour and capital are the same person. Amusingly, this shift has disturbed many Howard-hating cultural elitists - if the studies that claim it's not wealth that makes you happy, but your wealth relative to everyone else, are true, then the paroxysms of outrage from leftists in their lovingly restored inner-city terraces and coastal retreats are totally understandable. Some of the joy of settling down for an evening of SBS in a cramped Victorian-era lounge room must evaporate when you realise that the plumber who just fixed the one and only loo is driving home to watch an evening of cricket on a flat-screen plasma TV in his own home theatre room with dedicated WC. In what are often called the "culture wars", Mr Howard's instinct has always been much closer to those of the plumber, because they are his own - earned the hard way working at his father's petrol station in Sydney's inner-western Dulwich Hill. And these instincts have served him well, even if they have meant a rising tax burden....

At least Australia has a government that stands up to the Muslim thugs

Prime Minister John Howard has defended Treasurer Peter Costello's comments about Islamic extremism that have angered the Muslim community. In a speech to the Sydney Institute last night, Mr Costello said anyone not prepared to accept Australian values, and who had citizenship of another country, should not remain an Australian citizen. He said anyone who believed Islamic sharia law could co-exist with Australian law should move to a country where they felt more comfortable.

Muslim leaders hit back today, calling on Mr Howard to censure Mr Costello over his remarks. But Mr Howard told Southern Cross Broadcasting the Treasurer's comments were similar to some of his own and Mr Costello should not be censured. Asked why not, Mr Howard said: "Because what he said was fundamentally accurate." "He's not trying to stir up hostilities with Islamic people any more than I was when I made some comments three days before the Cronulla riots," he said. "I made some comments to the effect that there was a section of the Islamic community, because of its extreme views and its rejection of the fundamentals of our society that posed a problem," he said. "I also expressed a concern about the attitude of some, I stress some, in the Islamic community towards women. "I thought both those statements were perfectly acceptable."

Mr Howard refused to be drawn on whether those who advocated sharia law - society run according to a fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic teaching - should leave the country. "I think what Peter was doing was to make the point that a belief in that would be inconsistent with Australian values," he said. Mr Howard said he supported multiculturalism if it meant simply showing respect and tolerance for other people's cultures. But he said Australia could not have a federation of cultures. "Over the years at its zenith the more zealous multiculturalism base said that this country should be a federation of cultures," he said. "You can't have a nation with a federation of cultures. "You can have a nation where a whole variety of cultures constantly influence and mould and change and blend in with the mainstream culture."

Mr Howard said Australia had a core culture as an offshoot of Western civilisation with a heavily Anglo-Saxon identity and Christianity as the great moral shaping force."


Below is a report of Mr Costello's speech:

"Peter Costello has called for a tougher US-style citizenship oath that demands loyalty to the Australian "compact" as he outlined his vision for a more muscular nationalism. Lambasting the spread of "mushy multiculturalism", the Treasurer has bluntly called for hard-line Muslims and others who don't observe Australian values to be stripped of their citizenship. And he said people coming to Australia should have the same respect for Australian values as visitors to a mosque who are asked to take off their shoes.

In another provocative speech by a senior Government figure, Mr Costello warned of a second generation of immigrants from the Middle East living in a "twilight zone", unable to properly distinguish between the values of their parents' old country and Australia. "To deal with this we must clearly state the values of Australia and explain how we expect them to be respected," he said. "I suspect there would be more respect for these values if we made more of the demanding requirements of citizenship."

Addressing the Sydney Institute last night, the Prime Ministerial aspirant again criticised those who wanted to live under sharia law, saying Australia's citizenship pledge should act as a "big flashing warning sign". "A person who does not acknowledge the supremacy of civil law laid down by democratic processes cannot truthfully take the pledge of allegiance," he said. "As such they do not meet the pre-condition for citizenship." He said Australia would have a problem if a second generation of immigrants lived "in a twilight zone where the values of their parents old country have been lost but the values of the new country not fully embraced".

To address these concerns, Mr Costello suggested the Government may consider toughening up the citizenship oath. "I suspect there would be more respect for (Australian) values if we made more of the demanding requirements of citizenship," he said.

The Treasurer's speech, coming on the eve of the Coalition's tenth anniversary in power, shows him trying to broaden his image. The speech will appeal to conservative elements in the Coalition, amid concerns that MrCostello needs to shed his "small-l" image. His comments come just weeks after angry Muslims rioted when the prophet Mohammed was depicted in cartoons in Europe. In a veiled reference to these riots, Mr Costello said he did not like "putrid representations" like Piss Christ, the controversial photograph of a crucifix submerged in urine that was displayed in Melbourne in 1997.

Laying down a template for religious tolerance, Mr Costello said he did not think galleries should show such displays. "But I do recognise they should be able to practise their offensive taste without fear of violence or a riot. "Muslims do not like representation of the Prophet. But so too they must recognise this does not justify violence against newspapers, or countries that allow newspapers to publish them."

Mr Costello's speech comes just days after The Australian published comments by John Howard, who also railed against fragments of Muslim society that were "utterly antagonistic" to Australian values. Yesterday, the Prime Minister hailed Australia as the "least-discriminatory country in the world". "We welcome people from the four corners of the earth. The only thing we ask of them is that when they come here they become Australians before anything else," he said."

Some support from the Left as well:

"NSW Labor Premier Morris Iemma has backed federal Treasurer Peter Costello's calls for immigrants who do not support Australian values to leave. Federal Labor has criticised Mr Costello for saying people who are not prepared to accept Australian values should not remain citizens and those who want Islamic sharia law should move to other countries. But Mr Iemma, whose western Sydney electorate of Lakemba contains a large Islamic population, today said Mr Costello's comments were reasonable and practical. People moving to Australia from overseas should "leave the disputes, leave the extremism and leave the fights behind,'' Mr Iemma said. Mr Costello's proposal should apply to people living in Australia on long-term visas as well as those applying for citizenship, he said. "It shouldn't stay with just those taking out citizenship, there are many people in this country who are on visas, long-term visas, and he ought to look to make it apply to them as well.""


Pauline Hanson calls for action as well as speeches: "Former One Nation leader Pauline Hanson said Treasurer Peter Costello's comments that people who come to live in Australia should show loyalty to its values were a vindication of her own views. Ms Hanson said she was "crucified" and called a racist during her political career. "I could foresee what was happening to our country," Ms Hanson told ABC radio. In a speech last night to the Sydney Institute, the Treasurer said people who wanted to live under Islamic sharia law should move to a country where they would feel "more at ease". He said anyone not prepared to accept Australian values, and who had citizenship of another country, should not remain an Australian citizen. Ms Hanson called on Mr Costello to follow through with his claims. "If Peter Costello is wanting to be a future prime minister of this country he needs to take a tough stand on this," she said. "He needs to deal with it harshly. "He needs to throw these people out of this country who do not embrace Australia".

Howard backs nuclear power: "Prime Minister John Howard has reignited the nuclear energy debate in a wide-ranging interview to mark his 10th anniversary next week as prime minister. Mr Howard said he "had no hang-ups at all" about taking advantage of nuclear energy when it was economically viable. "I can't for the life of me understand why (Opposition Leader Kim) Beazley has categorically ruled it out," he said. Mr Howard said he did not think there was any argument that continuing to use fossil fuels and making them cleaner was more in Australia's long-term interest than renewable or nuclear energy. "That doesn't mean to say you stop the other two, but you can't ignore market forces," he said. "But we also have vast supplies of uranium. The economics of nuclear energy might change and if it does, well, we'll take advantage of it. But I have no hang-ups at all about nuclear energy."

NSW police manage to arrest a few more Muslims: "One of New South Wales's most senior detectives has warned Cronulla's rioters they have a week to come forward or face being hunted through the national media. Strike force Enoggera has already arrested 54 people in connection with the December 11 riot and the reprisals that followed. Enoggera boss Superintendent Ken McKay yesterday revealed he has another 50 in his sights. If they do not give themselves up in the next seven to 10 days, 25 of those will find their faces splashed across the national media. The blunt warning came after police announced 10 more arrests - seven yesterday in dawn raids across southwestern Sydney. These seven people of Middle Eastern appearance, aged 19 to 23, allegedly pelted police and ambulance officers with rocks and projectiles at Hashem's car park in Brighton-le-Sands on the night of December 11. Supt McKay vowed those whose pictures will be released will be identified and arrested." [The Muslims will get off with a slap on the wrist, of course]

Negligent NSW police (surprise!): "A Sydney magistrate yesterday lashed out at police inaction over a group of alleged rioting ringleaders. A group of men were yesterday charged almost three months after they allegedly pelted police with projectiles and verbally abused the officers called in to quell unrest at Brighton-Le-Sands on the night of December 11. As one of those arrested, Ahmad El-Ahmad, applied for bail in Sutherland Local Court, magistrate Paul Falzon expressed disbelief why the police arrested the men that night, took their details and then released them. "Wouldn't it be better to stop the civil unrest by putting them in the back of the truck?" Mr Falzon said. "[Police] let them go at the height of what was happening, then 2 1/2 months later you go and arrest them." When the prosecution asked him to refuse bail, Mr Falzon said El-Ahmad was unlikely to flee the jurisdiction or commit further offences, and so granted him bail. El-Ahmad will reappear in the same court on April 5."

24 February, 2006


"Jobs for the Girls" comes unstuck: "A rogue lawyer has ignited a major stoush with Queensland Information Commissioner Cathi Taylor, and is applying for her to be "committed to Her Majesty's correctional centre at Wacol for her contempt of court". Paul Henderson, who has infamously taken on the Queensland Law Society and had a close shave with a carving knife wielded by one of its executives, is waging a fresh battle with the equally controversial Ms Taylor. Ms Taylor is the senior public servant in Queensland responsible for reviewing Freedom of Information decisions. Mr Henderson's legal action stems from the Information Commission's handling of one of his FOI applications for material from the Crime and Misconduct Commission. It appears the rebel solicitor is determined to tie Ms Taylor - whose office has itself been dogged by controversy since her arrival a year ago tomorrow - in a morass of litigation and FOI applications.... The battle between Ms Taylor, whose appointment provoked a furore because of her lack of legal qualifications and closeness to the Beattie Government, is continuing in the Supreme Court, where Mr Henderson is seeking her imprisonment".

Honest Leftist kicked out by his party: "A former federal Labor politician has been expelled from the party after leaking information about alleged irregularities in a branch campaign fund to the Queensland Opposition. Brian Courtice - the former MP for the Bundaberg-based seat of Hinkler - received a hand-delivered letter earlier this week informing him he had been expelled from the party on the grounds he had brought it into disrepute. He had been a member for 32 years. The decision came after Mr Courtice raised the ire of the party hierarchy last year when he claimed his wife Marcia had missed out on pre-selection for the state seat of Bundaberg in October because of a "dirty factional deal". He then leaked financial records about the defunct Bundaberg Electorate Executive Committee - which allegedly showed $7000 was missing - to state Nationals MP Rob Messenger."

Bolt now in a book: "Few things in life are as illusory as the power of the press, according to someone who should know -- the Herald Sun's controversial columnist Andrew Bolt. "If I was to write tomorrow that Mark Latham is the leader we have to have, nobody is going to listen to me," he said. "The point is, you don't get power when you are a columnist; you don't have any influence unless you write something which strikes a chord, something which the reader agrees with." Bolt was speaking at the first of two sell-out literary lunches at Crown to launch his book, The Best Of Andrew Bolt -- still not sorry, a collection of his columns over the past seven years. And the first two questions from the audience were: do you get many threats and do you fancy a run at politics? Bolt said legal threats were more of a problem than the other kind. "When people start screaming and lose control it's a sign that they've lost the argument.... And it wasn't insults, such as being called a racist, that annoyed him as much as making a mistake. "It kills me when I make a mistake, even a minor spelling error causes me misery for weeks."

Cultural snob replies to his critics

David Williamson is a much acclaimed Australian playwright. He also revealed himself as a colossal snob in an article he wrote about his cruise on an ocean liner in the company of a lot of ordinary Australians. He had hardly a good word to say of any of them and heaps of contempt instead. He was roundly and rightly criticized for that (See e.g. here and here and here). Apparently after a long period of smouldering, however, he has now got up enough steam to reply to his many critics. It is difficult to excerpt his reply however as it consists of little more than a collage of bromides about how people are all different etc.

And the sad thing is that he has learned nothing from his critics. As far back as 2003, the economics editor of The Australian, Alan Wood, attacked Williamson for not sticking to the facts about global warming but Williamson is unrepentant. He continues to spout standard Greenie boilerplate with no apparent awareness of how contentious it all is scientifically. He is clearly out of his depth when it comes to the real world. He should stick to writing fiction. He does that well.

Leftists whine at getting what they agitated for

They say that there is no such thing as right and wrong and then get all high and mighty over the idea that more people are acting that way

Straining for relevance, The Sydney Morning Herald has had a true William Tell moment and drawn an extremely long bow to demonstrate its new-found thesis that Australians are meaner now than they were before the Howard Government came to office 10 years ago. The first example veteran feature writer Tony Stephens offers as evidence of "our new mean streak" in an article yesterday was the quality of the sledging offered by the cricket crowd to champion Sri Lankan bowler Muttiah Muralitharan. "No one blames the Prime Minister," he wrote, "but such behaviour wouldn't have happened 10 years ago. "It reveals a mean streak in Australian society."

The use of the hoary "no one blames" line is about as loud a dog whistle as this old dog will ever hear but such a shallow illustration better exemplifies the problem faced by the unfortunate Fairfax organisation's ideologically-blinkered editors as they strive to play the name-and-blame game, then finger John Howard as the person responsible for some imagined increase in the national meanness quotient.

Robert "Crash" Craddock, The Daily Telegraph's illustrious cricket writer, and the ABC's sagacious cricket commentator Jim Maxwell were quick to provide evidence of past examples of crowd sledging that were, in their day, as disgraceful as anything the Sri Lankan (an accused chucker) ever received. These Solons of the wicket traced the emergence of the unfortunately more vigorous crowd participation to the younger, more vocal crowd that was attracted to one-day matches in Australia in the 1970s and '80s. The call of "Hadlee is a w. . .er" which so tormented the New Zealand captain and bowler (now Sir) Richard Hadlee in the mid-80s is a case in point, as is the reality there is now a Chappell-Hadlee Trophy, despite the 1981 underarm ball at the MCG in 1981 masterminded by Greg Chappell, delivered by Trevor Chappell and roundly condemned by Ian Chappell.

But, as an ICC survey found a few years ago, the Melbourne crowd's base behaviour was pretty much on a par with that of the mob at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg and the masses attracted to Eden Gardens in Calcutta, not that it makes for an attractive sight at any venue.

The trans-Tasman rivalry has long brought out the worst in Australian crowds and our Kiwi cousins have historically copped far more sledging than teams from the West Indies, Pakistan or India. The disgusting sledging of the South African team at the WACA in Perth seemed largely to come from a core of former South Africans whose use of the Afrikaans language showed why some Yarpies can be such boors.

But poor behaviour is no new phenomenon. English captain Ray Illingworth took his team off the field at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1971 after a drunk grabbed fast bowler John Snow. Indeed, it may well be that when the Barmy Army turns up to cheer the Poms next year, the Australian sledgers may meet their match. There is also evidence that many cricket fans are showing a distinct lack of willingness to be part of any meanness by increasingly staying home, as crowds at the Melbourne one-day games have been well down, possibly because of a reluctance on the part of the aficionados to be part of that atmosphere or because they are bored by the repetitious nature of the one-day game.

In his bid to prove a decline in all that is good about Australia in the 10 years of the Howard Government, Stephens stitches together a peculiar argument that embraces the rather curious notion mateship is a symbol of radical nationalism once owned by Labor (tell that to the Anzacs) and has left a legacy of a growing inequality that "threatens the prospect of an underclass that throws up teenage girls who kill taxi drivers". Unfortunately any examination of Australian society today, as compared with the spiteful years of envy politics that eventually torpedoed Paul Keating's government a decade ago, shows that there is far greater harmony between such groups such as Protestants and Catholics, straights and homosexuals, even Aboriginal Australians and others, where friction traditionally existed.

There may well be teenage girls who kill taxi drivers but it is too much, even for the politically correct latte-lappers at The Sydney Morning Herald, to blame the Howard years for society's decline. It might be easier to make a case against those who, since the Whitlam years, have denigrated those who find comfort in religion, scorned traditional parenting and undermined the basic canons of education, for the problems that beset Australia.

The numbskull hypocrisy of the argument is staggering. For much of the past 10 years, Fairfax has argued that John Howard has tried to drag Australia backwards to a past era. That era, it now believes, was of greater civility. The Howard years have been marked by increases for those on welfare (to the chagrin of many conservatives), increases in immigration from non-Anglo countries (counter to the wishes of many Anglo-Australians), and greater grants to the arts than past Labor governments. With that sort of a record, the comments by the Fairfax press reflect the true spirit of mean.


23 February, 2006


A Leftist who really backs the troops: "Sending 200 more Australian troops into Afghanistan was the right thing to do to battle terrorism, Opposition Leader Kim Beazley said today. "I think it's the right thing to do. Afghanistan is terror central," Mr Beazley said n Perth today. "We got involved in Afghanistan after the 9-11 events and we evoked the ANZAS alliance and we sent troops." Prime Minister John Howard yesterday announced deployment of a 200-member Australian Defence Force provincial reconstruction team (PRT) into Oruzgan province in south-central Afghanistan. The announcement came as General John Abizaid, commander of the US Central Command, warned Mr Howard of a rising tempo of violence across southern Afghanistan.

Students out to quench flag-burners: "Some University of Queensland students aim to put a dampener on moves to set fire to an Australian flag. The university's Liberal Club president Julian Simmonds says he has several buckets of free water available today to anyone who objects to "the madness". Youth Socialist group Resistance has been selling $5 flag-burning kits in the Great Court of the university's St Lucia campus. "We have seen them around, they have been selling them but no-one has lit up any flags yet," Mr Simmonds said. "We are just trying to show people this isn't the way to go. "So, if someone exercises their free right to burn the flag, we will exercise our free right to throw water around." "They haven't been game enough to burn a flag yet, but we will be watching them." The Federal Government, the Opposition and the RSL have denounced Resistance's plan to sell the kits."

The ultimate public-service job: "The [NSW] State Government faces intense pressure to dump a scheme in which hundreds of "displaced" public servants are paid full salary even though they have no job to do and which costs taxpayers more than $17 million a year. An audit of the Government's finances is expected to heavily criticise the displaced person's list when it is released tomorrow. Almost 300 public servants who have left or been sacked from their jobs are employed by the Premier's Department under the displaced persons list. More public servants feature on similar lists in other departments but the Government has so far refused to reveal how many. Heavy-hitters who were on the list include: the former RTA chief executive Paul Forward, who spent two months on the list on a $342,000 salary before receiving a payout from the Government; and the former Housing Department chief Terry Barnes, who was sacked last month and was on a salary of more than $290,000. Sue Sinclair, who resigned as Sydney Ferries chief on Friday, is on leave but will go on the unattached list if the Government does not find her a job on her return. She is on a salary of $265,000. The list, also known as the unattached list, was introduced by the Carr Government in 1996.

Blacks choose the dole over work

Pretty logical from their viewpoint: Why work when you don't have to?

Australia's peak indigenous land management body wants the welfare rules for Aborigines tightened, after revealing more than 40 per cent of its workforce is white because Aborigines are refusing regular paid work. The Indigenous Land Corporation, a taxpayer-funded body charged with buying land and businesses to support indigenous entrepreneurs, has put forward a "get to work" plan after years of frustration at trying to recruit and retain workers from Aboriginal communities. The situation is so dire the ILC has had to recruit backpackers to run some of its eight cattle properties and tourist resorts, which are intended to provide work opportunities and hope for indigenous Australians.

ILC chairwoman Shirley McPherson will meet Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough next week to present the plan, which she warns is vital to "breaking the welfare dependence trap" of young Aborigines and islanders. In an article published in The Australian today, Ms McPherson said the dole and mutual obligation programs, offering part-time, mostly unskilled labour under Community Development Employment Projects, were regarded as preferable to hard work. "It's time to look outside the square," she told The Australian. "The board of the ILC believes that if an indigenous person is fit to work and lives within travelling distance of a job vacancy, paid unemployment should not be available. "It is incongruous that a major indigenous corporation, with strategically placed land holdings, the capacity to pay good wages and an active policy of training, supporting and hiring indigenous workers, is sometimes forced to rely on overseas backpackers for its workforce."

Ms McPherson said the size of the welfare payments had exacerbated the ILC's core problem in not being able to retain indigenous workers. "The problem is there is no penalty for forsaking full-time or seasonal work for CDEP or unemployment benefits," she said. The ILC proposal appears to have already won in-principle support from the Howard Government, with Mr Brough yesterday confirming he intended to canvass the issues with ministerial colleagues, including Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews, who oversees the CDEP program. "It is unacceptable that any able-bodied Australian moves from permanent employment to any form of welfare unnecessarily," he said. "It's not the Australian way." Under the ILC plan, six properties would be identified across northern Australia as centres to make the transition from welfare to regular paid work. They would include the tourism resort of Home Valley Station, 120km west of Kununurra, Western Australia; the cattle property of Roebuck Plains Station, 20km east of Broome, Western Australia, and Murrayfield, a sheep station on Bruny Island, south of Hobart.

The move to toughen dole and mutual obligation tests follows the Howard Government's efforts to end the era of "sit down" money for Aborigines in remote communities. Until last year, about 8000 indigenous people were exempt from the mutual obligation programs.


The Sydney riots show that multicultural brainwashing in the schools has failed to lead to the "tolerance" that was preached

Cultural diversity is uncritically celebrated in the classroom, while our Anglo-Celtic heritage is thoroughly repudiated, writes Kevin Donnelly

If there is one positive thing to come out of the violence in Cronulla, it will be a long hard look at how schoolchildren are educated about Australian culture and what they are taught about their responsibilities as members of a civil society.

Judged by the age of many of those involved in abusing women, the mob violence at Cronulla beach and the subsequent destruction of personal property, many would have been of school age during the 1980s and '90s. While Al Grassby and Gough Whitlam sowed the seeds, this was a time when governments under the leadership of Malcolm Fraser, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating spent millions on the multicultural industry. With the support of left-liberal academics, teacher unions and curriculum writers, the prevailing orthodoxy uncritically promoted cultural diversity, denigrated or ignored Australia's mainstream Anglo-Celtic tradition and taught children that our society is riddled with racism, inequality and social injustice.

The national Studies of Society and Environment curriculum developed during the Keating years argued that children must be taught "an awareness of and pride in Australia's multicultural society" and "develop an understanding of Australia's cultural and linguistic diversity". The 1993 Australian Education Union's curriculum policy argued that children must be taught that they "are living in a multicultural and class-based society that is diverse and characterised by inequality and social conflict".

Not only was the then academically-based school curriculum, especially in subjects such as history and literature, condemned as Eurocentric, patriarchal and socially unjust, but examinations were seen as favouring rich, white kids and culturally biased against recent migrants. Fast forward to more recent years and little has changed. The 1999 Australian Education Union policy on combating racism argues that government polices "are founded upon a legal system which is inherently racist in so much as its prime purpose is to serve the needs of the dominant Anglo-Australian culture". The AEU also states that racism in Australia is both overt and covert and that "both forms of racism are still widely practised in Australian society", especially as a result of the school curriculum supposedly being based on "the knowledge and values of the Anglo-Australian culture".

Politically correct

On reading curriculum documents developed during the '90s, once again, it becomes obvious that all adopt a politically correct approach to issues such as multiculturalism and how we define ourselves as a nation. Cultural diversity is uncritically celebrated and students are taught, in the words of the Queensland curriculum, to "deconstruct dominant views of society" on the basis that the Australian community is riven with "privilege and marginalisation".

In Western Australia, as evidenced by the Curriculum Framework document, students are told they must value "the perspective of different cultures" and "recognise the cultural mores that underpin groups and appreciate why these are valued and important".

The curriculum policy of the South Australian branch of the AEU is underpinned by "five core values". One of the underlying values is that there should be respect for diversity and "no discrimination on any grounds".

The contradictions and weaknesses evident in the way multiculturalism has been taught in schools are manifold. Tolerance, the rule of law and a commitment to the common good are the very values needed if people are to live peacefully together. Cultural relativism and an uncritical acceptance of diversity deny such values and lead to what Robert Hughes terms, in his book The Culture of Complaint, the balkanisation of society.

It's also the case that Australia's legal and political system, while imperfect, best safeguards such values. Instead of denigrating Australian society, students should be taught the benefits of our Anglo-Celtic culture: a culture strongly influenced by the Judeo-Christian tradition and from which our laws and morality have grown.

Much of the way history and politics is now taught also centres on the rights of the individual. Instead of emphasising responsibilities and giving allegiance to what we hold in common, individuals are free to define themselves how they will and to act as they wish.

By defining Australian society as socially unjust and divisive there is also the danger of promoting a victim mentality. Whereas past generations felt part of a wider community and believed that hard work would be rewarded, recent generations see only inequality and their right to be supported.

Nobody should condone the violence in Cronulla perpetrated by those wearing the Australian flag or the actions of young Lebanese Muslims abusing women, destroying property and burning churches. But we also need to recognise that the PC approach to teaching multiculturalism in schools in part underpins the recent violence.

As the American liberal historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr has argued: "The militants of ethnicity now contend that the main objective of public education should be the protection, strengthening, celebration and perpetuation of ethnic origins and identities. Separatism, however, nourishes prejudice, magnifies differences and stirs antagonisms."


22 February, 2006


Plan to teach Muslims local values: Muslim leaders will call on Australia's Islamic youth to assimilate and refrain from extremism in an effort to prevent a repeat of Sydney's racial violence. A meeting of the nation's imams next month would urge Islamic community and religious leaders to teach "Australian values" and promote tolerance and harmony, conference organiser Munir Hussain said today. The two-day conference, originally scheduled for this week but postponed until March 25-26 because of logistical problems, will be held at Greenacre in south-western Sydney, heart of Sydney's Islamic community. Dr Hussain said the conference, organised by the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, would be a crucial step in improving relations between Muslims and non-Muslims after the December 11 Cronulla riot and retaliatory attacks. He said Islamic leaders wanted to shun extremism and play a greater role in helping young Muslims to feel connected to the communities in which they lived.

Australian pop singer Dannii Minogue arrives for the Elle Style Awards in London. Elle MacPherson won the Style Icon Award, while Hollywood star Charlize Theron was named Woman of the Year. The awards were held at the Atlantis Gallery in the Old Trueman Brewery, East London

Chicken eggs may help prevent ovarian cancer deaths: "Humble backyard chooks Pippin, Jaffa and Jade could hold the key to developing a simple life-saving blood test to detect ovarian cancer. The clucky trio are also the unlikely base for the fortunes of an $11 million pharmaceutical company. The three chickens share a coop in the back yard of Gynaecological Cancer Research Centre director Prof Gary Rice's Warranwood home. Their eggs, and the protein antibodies within the yolks, could potentially save the lives of thousands of women around the world. Prof Rice has been working for more than four years to find biomarkers. These are the signatures of ovarian cancer in the blood. "We are looking for substances in the blood that change with cancer," he said yesterday. But some proteins in the blood are present in high concentrations and they hinder the search for cancer markers. By immunising the chickens against the proteins, they create antibodies that can be used to remove the interfering proteins from the blood before scientists start looking for cancer biomarkers. "The great thing about chickens is that antibodies are concentrated in the egg yolk, so to collect the antibodies we need we just collect the eggs," he said... If detected early it can be cured, but the disease is usually diagnosed in its late stages after it has spread to the abdomen, colon or other vital organs. There is no early screening test."

Swastika flag-flying to stay legal

It is not an offence to burn the Australian flag. Neither is it an offence to fly the Nazi swastika and the Government has no plans to make it one. But Prime Minister John Howard did say today that there were occasions when displaying a swastika flag could result in prosecution. "Under current commonwealth legislation there may be particular circumstances such as displaying the swastika at a polling place or flying the swastika with seditious intent which may already constitute an offence," he said in answer to a question on notice from Kelly Hoare (ALP, NSW).

The swastika issue surfaced last year when a NSW central coast couple displayed a Nazi flag for a week in their backyard, only removing it after intense pressure from neighbours, Jewish groups and the RSL. Jenni Duncombe told the media at the time she did not know what the flag signified and could not understand what all the fuss was about.

Mr Howard said many people would be offended by display of the swastika, the symbol of the Nazi regime responsible for about 35 million dead during World War II. "I would expect that a substantial proportion of the Australian population find Nazism and its imagery repugnant and that the flying of the swastika would be offensive to many individuals including Jewish and migrant Australians," he said.

Yesterday, the Government ruled out making it an offence to burn the Australian flag. That followed plans by the socialist youth group Resistance to sell flag burning kits during university orientation week activities.


Dumb university teachers

A university graduate student abandoned the institution in frustration after a marking fiasco during which a lecturer told him to produce "more smarter writing". Former Queensland University of Technology Master of Business Marketing student Rohan Duggan, 38, said his nine-month ordeal included seven meetings and hundreds of pages of correspondence, some farcical. The original marking of a 2000-word paper included a comment from lecturer Edwina Luck advising Mr Duggan to present "more smarter writing".

After Ms Luck graded the paper at 65 per cent, Mr Duggan questioned the grade and Ms Luck passed it to another staffer, Dr Yunus Ali, who downgraded it to 35 per cent. In re-marking, Dr Ali questioned the use of the terms "Yin" and "Yang", a Chinese concept of balance, and said they should have been listed as references in the bibliography (a list of the books used as reference material). Yesterday, Dr Ali admitted he had "no idea" what the terms meant and thought they were references to people's names. "We don't go into the deeper meaning," he said.

In response to further queries, Ms Luck sent Mr Duggan a short e-mail which, because her "s" key was not functioning, read as: "I knew you would be di appointed, o what I have done i taken the middle ground. I am uppo ed to take the econd mark, but I did not want to kill you that much. I do hope that you have learned from thi . Not the point of a king for explanation, but that we a lecturer are not totally illy!! Academic writing i difficult. I hope all our comment can be helpful in the future. Edwina."

Mr Duggan then took his complaint to higher authorities and his original mark was restored. Mr Duggan said the restored mark helped him achieve a distinction in the subject, although when he learned that Dr Ali would have been teaching him in second year he decided to go elsewhere and has now completed a Master of Marketing Managing degree at Griffith University.

QUT registrar Dr Carol Dickenson and Business Dean Professor Peter Little said that both Ms Luck and Dr Ali had been reprimanded and made to attend a seminar on Learning and Teaching Issues. They agreed their conduct was "obviously unacceptable". Professor Little said if due process had been applied, Ms Luck would have given the assignment to her (Luck's) head of department who would have selected a staff member himself to do the re-marking. He insisted Dr Ali was "very well qualified academically". [No evidence to the contrary is allowed, obviously]


21 February, 2006

Prime Minister criticizes Muslims

John Howard has strongly criticised aspects of Muslim culture, warning they pose an unprecedented challenge for Australia's immigration program. While he remained confident that the overwhelming majority of Muslims would be successfully integrated, the Prime Minister said there were two unique problems that previous intakes of migrants from Europe and Asia did not have. "I do think there is this particular complication because there is a fragment which is utterly antagonistic to our kind of society, and that is a difficulty," Mr Howard told The Australian. "You can't find any equivalent in Italian, or Greek, or [Christian] Lebanese, or Chinese or Baltic immigration to Australia. There is no equivalent of raving on about jihad, but that is the major problem."

The Prime Minister also expressed concern about Muslim attitudes to women. "I think some of the associated attitudes towards women (are) a problem," he said. "For all the conservatism towards women and so forth within some of the Mediterranean cultures, it's as nothing compared with some of the more extreme attitudes. "The second one of those things is a broader problem, but to be fair to them, it's an attitude that is changing with the younger ones."

The comments are contained in a new book to mark the 10th anniversary of Mr Howard's rise to power. Written by The Australian's team of journalists and commentators, The Howard Factor - a decade that changed the nation will be published on February 27 and launched by the Prime Minister on March 2. Mr Howard conducted a series of interviews for the book on December 9, the final sitting day of the parliamentary year for 2005. This happened to be just two days before the race riots in the Sydney beachside suburb of Cronulla.

The Prime Minister did not specify which Muslim source nations he was concerned about. But by placing Lebanese immigrants in the same category as the Italian, Greek, Chinese and Baltic, he appears to have been referring to the Christian rather than the Muslim intake from the Middle East.

The president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Ameer Ali, said the conservative Muslims about whom Mr Howard was talking represented only a "tiny fraction". "There is (also) a tiny fraction of Australians who believe in white supremacy," said Dr Ali, who chairs Mr Howard's Muslim advisory group. "I think he (Mr Howard) understands that the large majority of Muslims are like everyone else. "In any society there are immigrants who try to hold on to their traditions, and it takes time to change. My faith is in the following generation - the next generation will be more adaptive."

In the interview, Mr Howard was upbeat about the immigration program. Australia crossed two immigrant thresholds in 2003-04, which is the latest year for which Bureau of Statistics tables are available. The overseas-born population rose to 24 per cent - its highest proportion since the 1890s. And the European share of the immigrant total fell below 50 per cent for the first time. The previous Labor government of Paul Keating had the overseas-born at 23 per cent of the population, and the European component was 57 per cent. Mr Howard seemed genuinely pleased when the numbers were read out to him. "Really? I think what it demonstrates is that we have run a truly non-discriminatory immigration policy." After slashing immigration in his first term between 1996 and 1998, Mr Howard has steadily ratcheted up the intake to levels that now exceed those under Labor's Bob Hawke in the 1980s.

As Opposition Leader in 1988, Mr Howard attacked Asian immigration. He has since apologised for the comment and conceded it cost him his job at the time. His comment in August 1988 was: "I wouldn't like to see it (the rate of Asian immigration) greater. I'm not in favour of going back to a White Australia policy. I do believe that if it is in the eyes of some in the community that it's too great, it would be in our immediate-term interest and supporting of social cohesion if it were slowed down a little, so the capacity of the community to absorb it was greater."

Mr Howard's latest observations on Muslim culture are not in the same category, because they do not suggest the rate of Muslim immigration should be slowed down in the interests of social cohesion.

"The public sometimes mixes up attitudes to immigration with attitudes to our identity and our history," he told The Australian. "I think one of the reasons why people have been accepting of all of this is that they feel they have a government and a prime minister that is in favour of what I might call a slightly less zealous multiculturalism than was practised by my predecessor. "Not a return to assimilation so much, but somewhere in between, which is what people want. "What resonates most with people, I find, is they don't mind where new people come from, as long as they've got skills, and as long as they become Australians when they arrive. "But that doesn't mean they should forget where they were born, that is really what the average person thinks."


Five-year wait for dentist

Even with very limited eligibility

Waiting times for basic check-ups in Queensland's public dental services can be as long as up to five years, according to the Australian Dental Association. This is despite the State Government spending more on public dental services than any other state, allocating about $132 million compared with NSW, which spends about $100 million. Yet Queenslanders still have the worst teeth in the nation, while the government and councils are engaged in an argument over the provision of fluoride in drinking water.

Figures provided by Queensland Health and Health Minister Stephen Robertson confirm the length of time people were waiting for public dental services. He said that it should be noted that the majority of dental services in Queensland are provided by the private sector. "Queensland has the most generous eligibility criteria for public oral health services of any state or territory," he said. "Around 1.8 million Queenslanders, adults and children, are eligible for free oral health care."

Mr Robertson said consultant Peter Forster's Health Systems Review acknowledged the high demand for oral health services and the difficulties experienced in meeting that demand. "Workforce shortages [Translation: Measly wages for dentists] are a significant issue in meeting demand. The shortage of dentists is a national issue. Queensland Health currently has about 300 full-time dentist positions. In January 2006, 20 per cent of these positions were vacant," he said.

"Patients with dental emergencies are generally seen within 24 hours. Those with non-emergency conditions will wait longer. "It is unlikely that waiting times for non-urgent care will improve greatly in 2006."

Opposition health spokesman Dr Bruce Flegg said public dental services were effectively being rationed. "There is a means test and only people with pension or health care cards can access the service," Dr Flegg said. "It would be a pretence for the state government to say we have a universal free dental service because we do not."


Leftists try to teach Catholicism to a Cardinal!

Including the usual Leftist "Nazi" slur. They can't help themselves

A group of leading liberal Catholics has complained to the Vatican that Cardinal George Pell is teaching inaccurate and misleading doctrine. Spokesman Frank Purcell went further, accusing the cardinal of fostering an "Eichmann mentality" whereby people in the church did not think for themselves but simply obeyed orders. (Adolf Eichmann was the Nazi in charge of exterminating Jews in World War II.)

The Catholics wrote in November to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - formerly the Holy Inquisition, and a body on which Cardinal Pell served under the present Pope - but have had no reply. They are calling for the Vatican's direct intervention because they say Cardinal Pell's "explication of Catholic doctrine is inaccurate, misleading, and not true to the Catholic tradition".

The doctrinal dispute centres on the ultimate right of Catholics to make moral judgements based on their individual conscience even if it is in error. It lies at the heart of debate in the church over the use of contraception and on moral and ethical questions surrounding bioethics, euthanasia and abortion. The letter said a number of statements by the cardinal about the role of conscience were difficult to reconcile with the priority church teaching placed on conscience. Given Cardinal Pell's prominence, many Australians took his views as representing doctrine. The letter was signed by 24 Catholics, including Sister Veronica Brady, Professor Max Charlesworth, historian Paul Collins, NSW judge Chris Geraghty and several Melbourne priests.

Cardinal Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, yesterday said: "This is a real hoot. Such well-known defenders of orthodoxy as Paul Collins, Veronica Brady and Max Charlesworth appealing to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith." He said what was in dispute was not the importance of conscience, but whether conscience must be oriented to truth, to the word of God.

More here

The Leftist blindness of cartoonist Michael Leunig

Excerpt below from a comment by Piers Akerman. I excerpted on 17th. a comment by "Age" editor Gawenda about Leunig's antisemitism:

Leunig's pitiful attempt to depict a moral equivalence between the Holocaust and the protective barrier the Israelis constructed to block Palestinian suicide bombers from murdering innocent civilians was not the last cartoon rejected by Gawenda on taste grounds. The following year, the ABC's Media Watch host David Marr, who exhibited the rejected Auschwitz cartoon on air and published it on the taxpayer-funded program's website, treated his tiny audience to another of Leunig's dumped drawings and similarly lodged it on the ABC site, while attempting to make Gawenda look like a censorious opponent of free speech.

For some peculiar reason, a search through the files of Media Watch under its serial hosts would indicate that the ABC's spotlight on the media has never looked at the mountains of anti-Western, anti-Semitic material distributed through Islamic outlets in Australia.

Media Watch's latest host, Monica Attard, indicated the program might have published the Danish cartoons which triggered the series of extraordinarily well-orchestrated riots in which more than 10 Muslims died in Islamic countries far removed from the tang of either herring or Danish blue, but "ABC managing director Russell Balding says that we can't". That's the same Mr Balding whose respect for free speech is such that he refused to front a Senate estimate's committee last year and who is now cutting short his contract with the ABC to pick up a more lucrative gig running Sydney airport.

Leunig has told the press from his bushland hideaway that he is devastated to find that his drawing had been entered into an anti-Semitic competition run by the Iranian newspaper, Hamshahri. In an opinion piece, Leunig says has "had more than a gutful of hostility and hate mail in the past three years, all because I have resisted the rise of fascism - the idea of war."

But the cartoon was sent to Tehran by a writer from the puerile ABC program, The Chaser, and although that individual has apologised to the cartoonist, whether he will still have the police pursue this "malicious", "dark" and "sinister" perpetrator is to be seen. You see, The Chaser is not usually lumped in with the fascist conspiracy that obsesses The Age, its stellar cartoonist and its readers.

Curiously, the most obvious fascism around, Islamofascism, does not appear to have made an impression on Leunig nor do the suicide bombers who target the innocent. Maybe the cartoonist, like the Organisation of Islamic Countries which has for the past nine years refused to let the UN define terrorism, doesn't know a terrorist when he sees one.

As for his cartooning, he told an ABC audience in Perth earlier this week that he would never do a cartoon about the prophet Mohammed and neither would he do a cartoon about a deceased Aboriginal because it was offensive to indigenous people, nor cartoons which depicted racial stereotypes, for fear of causing offence. As for lampooning Jesus, however, he enthusiastically said he would, because it was important to do so.

The young Leunig was one of my colleagues and friends on Victoria's now-defunct Newsday newspaper and I still have a couple of caricatures he drew of me which bring back fond memories of those heady days. His selective sensitivities now leave me cold. That his cartoons could slot so easily into an anti-holocaust competition run by a newspaper under the control of a regime headed by a lunatic who has pledged to wipe Israel off the map and who dismisses the deaths of some six million people as a "myth" is something he should be really concerned about, not whether his drawing was sent off without his permission.

20 February, 2006


About time!: "Defence Minister Brendan Nelson has ordered two independent reviews into military equipment and spending amid concerns about mismanagement. Soldiers last week revealed problems with equipment including flammable combat jackets, boots that caused serious foot injuries, ill-fitting body armour and camouflage clothing that glowed when seen through night-vision goggles. And questions have been raised in Auditor-General reports about over-spending and deadline blowouts in major military projects. Dr Nelson said while he had been assured by defence chiefs that there were no problems with military equipment being used by troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, he had ordered a review of the supply system. "What I want is a person with specific accounting and financial expertise and probably two people with seniority who are very familiar with defence and defence personnel and their requirements," Dr Nelson told the Nine Network.

The rise and rise of a certain Australian actress: "Australian Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman will return to the Academy Awards stage next month, this time to hand out one of cinema's highest honours. The 38-year-old actor has joined the star-studded list of Oscars presenters at the 78th annual Academy Awards show that will be held in Hollywood on March 5. The star of To Die For, Dead Calm and The Stepford Wives won the best actress Oscar in 2003 for playing British author Virginia Woolf in The Hours. She was also nominated for the 2001 musical Moulin Rouge. Kidman, who first became known in Hollywood as the young wife of superstar Tom Cruise but who is now one of cinema's most powerful stars, will next be seen in The Visiting and Fur. She will join celebrity Oscar presenters including movie legends Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood, as well as stars such as Will Smith and Keanu Reeves at this year's show."

Our very own wine lake -- Cheap quaffs coming:: "Good news for drinkers everywhere last week as Foster's lifted the lid on the Australian wine industry. We are the proud owners of a wine lake. If you filled every Olympic pool in Australia to the brim with wine, you would take less than five percent of our total surplus; and this year's harvest has only just begun. Those poor South Australians. Their future swings on the success of the Mitsubishi 380 and wine. Pain as well for investors who poured cash into wine assets over the last 20 years. Take investors in "premium" WA brand Evans and Tate. Evans and Tate was once worth $150million. Today's value is less than $20million. Perhaps much less...."

Slow and steady didn't win this race: "A turtle shell usually keeps it safe from harm - but not on this occasion. These amazing photographs show the moment a monster crocodile emerged from the sea on remote Cape York Peninsula and snapped up its unsuspecting prey. Mine worker Aaron Vickers and his wife Naomi, who captured the image, looked on in wonder as they watched nature at its most brutal. "It's amazing to see something like that," Mrs Vickers told The Sunday Mail. "You don't often see the big ones, so to see him feeding like that was amazing... [I hope the shell gave the croc indigestion]

Officialese: "Pity the person who has to work out what some government grants are for. According the the Australia Council, its grant issued to the group Art Nexus would "provide leadership and facilitation infrastructure for strategic, sustainable development across the developmental, cultural and creative industries in far north Queensland". What? It is just another example of how management jargon is invading our lives - particularly the job market where some government advertisements really need a translator. Language students say the new government-speak is a misguided attempt to appear cutting-edge that instead ends up as gobbledygook. Prospective employees seeking public service jobs as Principal Corporate Governance Officers or Organisational Communication Strategists are likely to be asked to "implement strategic communication" or "provide high-level input into the development of strategic vision". Put simply - have a yarn with their colleagues. They warned management jargon was "sucking the meaning out of words" and providing a smokescreen for governments."

Union rhetoric drives parents from public schools

The community wants its own values taught to children, not necessarily those of teachers, writes Kevin Donnelly

Much of the education debate focuses on issues such as resources, standards and accountability and the respective quality and standing of government and non-government schools. Equally important, evidenced by the way politically correct teacher unions, professional associations and teacher academics define education as a key instrument in reshaping society, is the way the education system is used to promote a one-sided view of society. While it is wrong to say that education should be values-neutral, the traditional approach is one that sees education as impartial and balanced. Education is not indoctrination, and social engineering should not be confused with critical inquiry and searching for the truth.

On reading the 2005 and 2006 Australian Education Union annual general meeting speeches by the union's federal president Pat Byrne, it is clear she is in no doubt on the need to promote certain values and the union's right to shape the social debate and the work of schools. Byrne's 2006 speech attacks what she sees as a federally inspired, backward-looking education agenda, the Government's industrial relations policy and human rights record, the Prime Minister's response to the Cronulla riots, the Government's anti-terrorism legislation and what she sees as its conservative response to the availability of the abortion pill RU-486. Byrne describes 2006 as "the greatest period of social and political change since Australia's federation" and believes the AEU has a special role in influencing Australia's education system and how we define ourselves as a nation. She states: "The Australian union movement has a track record of over 100 years of shaping the very values that we regard as quintessentially Australian" and argues teacher unionists "need to continue to speak out, to fill the growing vacuum in thoughtful public discourse on issues of social justice and human rights".

Byrne's 2005 speech also places the union centre stage in the battle of ideas, when she states: "Through well articulated policies, courage, commitment and campaigning over more than a century, we have significantly influenced the way our society functions." In addition to arguing that unions best reflect Australian values, Byrne also contends, as a result of upholding values such as "empathy, responsibility, protection, fairness, fulfilment, freedom, honesty, trust, co-operation, strength, community", the AEU is the true guardian of the public education system.

Wrong on both accounts. Instead of reflecting mainstream opinions, the AEU, according to Byrne's own admission, champions a left-wing view of the world enmeshed in the culture wars against conservative values. In bemoaning the re-election of the Howard, Bush and Blair governments, the AEU president admits: "This is not a good time to be progressive in Australia; or for that matter anywhere else in the world." Anyone familiar with AEU policies will know the teacher union, along with other cultural elite groups such as the ABC, teacher academics and assorted artists and intellectuals, consistently attacks Australian society as socially unjust and champions a range of left-wing causes.

The union also argues that Australian society is riven with "inequality and social conflict" and that education, instead of representing a ladder of opportunity, reinforces privilege and meritocracy. The result? Given the union's commitment to overthrowing the status quo, the school curriculum is no longer impartial or balanced since teachers are asked to embrace a politically correct approach in areas such as gender, ethnicity and class.

Traditional academic studies, a belief in competition and the right of parents to choose non-government schools are all attacked by the AEU as simply ways by which the more privileged in society are able to maintain power and prestige. Equally as facile as the AEU's argument that it best represents mainstream values is Byrne's argument that the union is the guardian of the public education system. Instead of strengthening the government system, the union has been instrumental in causing the move to non-government schools.

By imposing a politically correct curriculum, in opposition to one with a strong academic focus, by adopting feel-good student reports where all are winners and by failing to hold teachers accountable for performance, the AEU undermines confidence in government schools. By becoming politically active in its support for the ALP, by aligning itself with the trade union movement and by refusing to free government schools from provider capture, the AEU also shows that it cares more about politics than it does about education.

Evidence that the AEU's approach to education is counterproductive is found in a survey carried out by Irving Saulwick and Associates. On being asked why they chose non-government schools, "respondents talked about the reduction, as they saw it, in educational standards -- a lack of rigour in teaching the 'three Rs', a lack of discipline and respect in schools, and poor teaching. "They did not think that all state-employed teachers were poor teachers. Far from it. But many did think that they were teaching under difficult conditions, and that some, who were poor teachers, could not be dismissed."

After reviewing NSW government schools, Tony Vinson, a defender of the public system, reaches a similar conclusion: "Some parents expressed doubts about the environment of such schools, the handling of unsatisfactory teachers, and whether sufficient emphasis is placed upon students' acquisition of good values." If Byrne and the AEU were serious about strengthening government schools, the way forward, as in the US and England, is with innovations such as charter schools and vouchers. Empowering local communities by allowing parents to establish charter schools improves standards and builds the types of values embedded in social capital.


A good comment on the post below:

From a reader with a memory

The interesting thing about all the reductions in beds in Qld Health now seems to be a flawed "modelling." If you believe that then I have parking spaces to sell on Sydney Harbour Bridge and Ocean Front Land at the base of Uluru. Two things intrigue me. Why can't the Australian Public have the names of these "modelers?" If we had them we might not be so confident that the same people can get it right this time. If they are not the same people who are they? Are they clinicians -- almost certainly not. The unfortunate truth of Medical Administrators are that they are failed clinicians (at least it keeps them away from the patients) or non-clinicians whose backgrounds are quite suspect.

Queensland two decades ago had an enviable health system [Under a long-term conservative State government]. Now it runs close to a third world country standard. Bundaberg, Caboolture and Patel are merely symptoms of a very sick system created by a "model" (for model read delusion) that we can budget-drive hospitals rather than needs-drive them. Awful language but there you are. Of course we need to have a good eye on budgets but they should be the driving force. With an increasing population in Queensland there should be more beds not fewer. Not really rocket science is it? And if you think that Bundaberg and Caboolture hospitals are bad, just wait for the exposures to come. Unfortunately many of those who could expose the problems are either dead or in the "shut yo mouth" group. Fradulent waiting lists, surgery lists not allowed to proceed even when the surgeons were willing to work on (they were sent to libraries and paid to do nothing), outspoken critics muzzled and threatened, (even the Forster report was flawed as the people "assisting the inquiry" were in some cases the worst bullies in the system), a rise of manager numbers coinciding with a fall in real clinicians (remember a lot of so called clinicians are not hands on clinicians -- which has never come out), the increasing scourge of excessive documentation and reduction in care/ treatment giving, and so on. The bus is moving but without drivers. In all good remedies it is important to realize that the incumbents were and are part of the problem. They will merely change the decor and documentation. They have no real will to work or practice medicine.

Now to medical graduate numbers. Even with the figures looking bad you must remember that now medical school intakes have 50% plus female graduates. There is nothing wrong with female medicos IF they practice full time. Many don't - quite apart from maternity leave many choose now to work 2-3 days a week and even restricted hours at that. Of course they have that right BUT medical graduates are expensive for the community to train, unlike lawyers and other courses who simply need a barn, a few talking heads, and access to the internet (why we don't even need a good Law Library these days - just access to the internet). As to the problem of country needs and medicos, it could be solved simply by giving a 3x factor to medicare rebates for remote areas and defined areas of need and reducing the benefits to urban medicos. I can hear the howls of "unfair and conscription" already.

19 February, 2006

Growing population but shrinking hospitals? -- that's government!

Queensland has almost 500 fewer hospital beds than when the Beattie Government took office in 1998, figures released late yesterday show. Health Minister Stephen Robertson provided the data following questions this week and admitted he had given incorrect information to Parliament on the subject. He said the information supplied to him by his department about bed numbers at the end of last financial year had inadvertently included neonatal cots in the count. So rather than 9994 available beds as Mr Robertson told Parliament, the figure was actually 7017. The number compares with 7515 when Labor took office.

Mr Robertson said bed numbers had been reduced because of health care models that predicted a reduced reliance on overnight hospital stays. "Advice from hospital experts at the time was that less beds would be needed in future because many people requiring simple surgery would be in hospital for a matter of hours instead of occupying beds for several days." Premier Peter Beattie acknowledged last month that the modelling had been flawed.

The Opposition this week attacked the Government for promising to open an extra 66 beds to address problems in emergency departments, when it had shut down hundreds since coming to office. Liberal leader Bob Quinn last night said the figures highlighted why patients struggled to get their surgery on time in Queensland hospitals. "Under this Government, there's been a loss of 500 beds and at one stage they were actually 800 beds down," Mr Quinn said. "When you combine the closure of beds with the exodus of doctors out of the system, you see why people can't get their operation on time, while the waiting lists have blown out and why emergency departments have been closed. "All of this points to how badly the hospitals have been managed by Labor in the past seven years. "This loss of 500 beds has occurred at the same time that Queensland's population has increased by 500,000."

Mr Robertson said the number of available beds had also declined under the Coalition government, falling by 149 in 2 years. But he said bed numbers was "a very poor measure of hospital system performance, because it is subject to significant estimation error". "There is also no way of verifying data from earlier years to determine whether current definitions were rigorously followed.

More here


Leisel evolves into a lovely mermaid: "It's a face her mother hardly recognises: Leisel Jones, rosy-cheeked with golden, braided hair, staring out from the cover of a glamour magazine. It marks the 20-year-old Queensland swimmer's transition from precocious talent to confident world beater. "I went and bought it yesterday and showed Mum," the world's dominant female breaststroker said of the magazine. "Mum thought I looked like Paris Hilton. I would like to look like Paris but I would not want to be like her. While Hilton's never been accused of lacking self-esteem, Jones revealed this month that she battled personal demons. After bursting on to the scene at 15 with a silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, she failed to fulfil her expectations and grew to hate herself. But that's finished. About three months before she revealed her battle with low self-esteem, she stripped to a G-string and some electric blue orchids for the February-March edition of Aura magazine. "It was a little bit daunting at first. I've never done anything like that before but I really enjoyed it," she said."

Flag burning kits to be sold: A socialist youth organisation wants to sell hundreds of flag burning kits to university students next week .. to highlight anger at the Federal Government. Resistance says the kits contain an Australian flag, a lighter, a fire lighting cube and Resistance material. They'll be sold during university orientation week for five dollars. But National President of the RSL, Major General Bill Crews finds the plan highly offensive. He says the Australian flag shouldn't be a vehicle for protest and burning it should be a criminal offence. [The libertarian view is that they are entitled to burn it if they own it]

Victorian smokers hit: "Smokers have just 11 days before being banned from puffing away at train stations. From March 1, smoking will be banned in the sheltered areas of bus and tram stops as well as railway stations. Public transport ticket inspectors will have the power to fine offending commuters. The new laws, passed by State Parliament last year, will also clamp down on so-called buzz marketing and non-branded tobacco advertising. Smoking, and the sale of cigarettes, will be banned at underage music and dance events. The new bans will extend to all enclosed workplaces, with the exception of licensed premises. Drinkers can continue to smoke with their beer until July next year. Other workplace exclusions include sole-operated businesses not frequented by visitors, inside vehicles, prison cells and exercise yards, immigration detention centres and Crown's high-roller rooms."

Abortion Bill celebration attacked: "Fallout from this week's heated showdown over abortion continued yesterday after supporters of the new law were pictured celebrating their victory. Victorian Liberal MP Chris Pearce criticised a group of female MPs and senators for sipping champagne soon after Parliament paved the way for RU486's use in Australia. Senators Lyn Allison, Judith Troeth and Fiona Nash, and Labor MPs Kelly Hoare and Julia Gillard were among those drinking to their success after the conscience vote. Mr Pearce, who backed the Bill, said it was a tasteless gesture. "Pictures of the women sipping champagne was outrageous and over the top," he said yesterday. "Members and senators had to dig very deep to make decisions on this. That kind of celebratory behaviour is very wrong." With many on both sides of the debate agreeing there are too many abortions in Australia, the Howard Government is to consider a $60 million plan to boost counselling for women with unplanned pregnancies. Medicare-funded counselling and a 24-hour phone hotline are among initiatives to be examined. But Ms Gillard, who said no offence was intended by the champagne, said counselling should not be restricted to abortion".

18 February, 2006

Hooray! Some Muslim gunmen arrested at long last

A primary school's wall was used for target practice hours before a series of drive-by shootings across four suburbs, police have revealed. Officers from Task Force Gain and the State Protection Group closed Canterbury Road at Punchbowl yesterday for more than an hour during the morning peak and raided a house next to Punchbowl Public School. They arrested Mahmoud Ahmad, 23, of Punchbowl, and a 17-year-old youth and seized some ammunition and an air rifle.

Scientific police spent several hours examining a fence bordering the school, from which it was alleged shots were fired into a classroom wall on the night of Sunday, September 11, last year. Yesterday's raid followed a five-month investigation of shootings on September 11 between 9pm and 10.30pm in inner-western and south-western suburbs and for which no one has been charged.

At one of those shootings a 25-year-old man was wounded in Canterbury Road, Campsie, by men who stole his car. The wounded man's home in Lawler Street, Panania, where he lived with his parents, was later hit by a dozen rounds fired from a moving car. Police believe the same car was used in drive-by shootings at a town house in Webb Street, Croydon, and at a home in Moxon Road, Punchbowl. Police alleged at the time that the gunmen also threatened men walking in Augusta Street, Condell Park, earlier that night. No one else was injured in the shootings.

The two males arrested in yesterday's raid were charged with firearms offences at Bankstown police station after being questioned about the ammunition and air rifle found at the premises. There is no evidence linking the two with the drive-by shootings. Ahmad was refused bail when he appeared in Burwood Local Court and will reappear today.


Sneaky green mafia: Andrew Bolt digs up some facts our Leftist public broadcaster strangely forgot to mention

At last the ABC agrees: there is indeed a "greenhouse mafia" that's keeping you from the truth. Its Four Corners program on Monday was right to warn that the Government's climate policy was "hijacked" by cause-pushers who gagged debate. But here's the hitch. Reporter Janine Cohen, winner of a United Nations environment award, says this "mafia" is made up of lobbyists from gas-belching businesses.

Yet the facts show that the real "greenhouse mafia" to menace us is staffed by green lobbyists and their media mates. Exhibit A? This very same Four Corners report. Four Corners made two claims: First, big polluters virtually dictate the Howard Government's greenhouse policy, even drafting Cabinet documents. Second, CSIRO scientists trying to warn us to cut emissions are gagged.

But let's see if this passes the fertiliser detector. This Government is silencing green-preaching scientists? Then why does it spend $60 million a year on the Australian Greenhouse Office, which hires nothing but? It's under the thumb of polluters? Then why is Environment Minister Ian Campbell now the holiest of green rollers, declaring the debate on global warming "over" and insisting we must cut our emissions by 60 per cent?

I sniff something that makes my roses bloom. So who convinced Four Corners of this wild conspiracy theory? Meet Dr Guy Pearse, introduced by the show as just a Liberal Party member and speech-writer for then environment minister Senator Robert Hill. Pearse claimed that during later research for a PhD, he met lobbyists from the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network, representing very gassy businesses, who told him they were the "greenhouse mafia" and boasted of feeding the environment minister his lines. Hmm. Would Pearse name these lobbyists? Uh, no. And that was Four Corners' proof - hearsay about the alleged skiting of anonymous guys.

Worse, these claims were denied by Campbell, the Australian Coal Association and the AIGN, yet Four Corners still built its show around them - presumably because Pearse had credibility. What axe could he have to grind, being a loyal Liberal who even owned coal shares? But check his CV, and . . . gosh! I see he worked on the 1996 re-election campaign of United States Vice-President Al Gore, a Democrat and global warming alarmist. I see that PhD of his is co-supervised by Clive Hamilton, head of the deep-green Australia Institute. I see his favourite websites include those of the World Wildlife Fund, Environmental Defence Fund, Australian Conservation Foundation and Michael "Fahrenheit 9/11" Moore. ALL very odd for a man painted by Four Corners as the bluest of Liberals. Even odder that he got a job in 1997 with the Howard Government's environment minister.

And now he works for the AEC Group, lobbyists who boast of winning "contracts from government to directly assist in the policy making process". Among his past clients he lists the Australian Conservation Foundation and Australian Greenhouse Office. Pearse seems an earnest and honest man. But forgive me if I think he might have misinterpreted whatever he was told, and if I repeat that the real "greenhouse mafia" to worry about is made up not of brown polluters, but green activists.

But what about this claim that CSIRO scientists were censored when they tried to warn us to cut emissions? Here, Four Corners relied mainly on the word of the CSIRO's former climate director, Graeme Pearman, who has a reputation for integrity, but is also, in my opinion, an activist. Indeed, he joined a climate group formed by the World Wide Fund for Nature. It's this that led his bosses to tell him debating greenhouse science was fine, but debating government policy was not for a public servant.

So does the CSIRO truly censor debate on global warming? Yes, but in the very opposite way to one Pearman claims, says Emeritus Professor Garth Paltridge, who led the University of Tasmania's Institute of Antarctic and Southern Ocean Studies and was chief research scientist of the CSIRO's Division of Atmospheric Research. Says Paltridge: "In the early '90s I was involved in setting up the Antarctic Co-operative Research Centre, which was, and still is, a sizeable research institution specifically designed to examine the role of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean in global climate. "I made the error of mentioning in a media interview that there were (as there still are) lots of doubts about the science of global warming. "Suffice it to say that within a couple of days it was made very clear to me from the highest levels of CSIRO that, should I make such public comments again, then it would pull out of the process of forming the new centre."

THAT would have killed his centre stone dead, so Paltridge says he shut up. He says the CSIRO didn't want global warming questioned because it was after big grants from the Australian Greenhouse Office, and he says other scientists have also learned it is "too dangerous to go against accepted wisdom that the impact of global warming will be disastrous". So do be worried that there is a "greenhouse mafia", just as the ABC says. But watch out: the ABC is on its side.


High home prices the fault of government restrictions

When astronaut Jack Swigert uttered the words "Houston we have a problem", he could not have comprehended either the gravity of the situation on board his spacecraft, nor the way in which those words, later immortalised by Tom Hanks in the film Apollo 13, would come into common usage as a cry for help in stressful circumstances.

Although the circumstances may be quite different, young Australians are experiencing unprecedented stress brought about by a collapse in housing affordability. Over the past 10 years, house prices have doubled. And, while house construction costs have remained relatively stable, land prices have gone through the roof. When asked about Sydney house prices and their impact on the economy, Prime Minister John Howard said that he had never been accosted by angry citizens complaining that the value of their house had dramatically increased. That may be true. But Treasurer Peter Costello has been drawing our attention to the low birthrate, famously advising Australians to have one baby for each parent, and then to have one for Australia.

The fact that a couple on the median wage cannot contemplate buying a house - which in some places is now nearly nine times their yearly before-tax income (banks will lend no more than four times that income) - and thus provide a home of their own in which to bring up the three children the Treasurer would like them to have, seems to have escaped the attention of our political leaders and those economists within the Treasury and the Productivity Commission who ascribe the rise in metropolitan house prices to demand stimulators such as capital gains tax exemptions, negative gearing and new home buyer grants.

The Productivity Commission's claim, for example, that constraints on land release were not a leading contributor to the house price boom is at complete odds with international evidence and basic supply-demand economics. Housing affordability - or first-home ownership - is about the entry level, and entry-level housing happens on the urban fringe. If you restrict supply at the entry point, up goes the price and down goes the affordability.

In a significant breakthrough, we can now compare housing affordability in different cities across the world by using the Housing Affordability Index developed by US-based urban geographer Wendell Cox. Like all extremely useful things, this index is very easily calculated: simply divide the median house price in the city under investigation by the median household income in that city.

Historically, a multiple of three is considered to be affordable. When a house is three times the median wage, young couples can pay off a home on one income and begin a family before they turn 30. At six times the median wage, they have no hope at all. Brisbane and Perth house prices are about six times annual income, Melbourne is seven times and Sydney a whopping nine times the median household income.

In the US, the HAI in Dallas, Atlanta and Houston is about 2.7. All these three US cities are growing rapidly, yet the affordability of housing in those cities is not affected by the burgeoning demand. I went to Houston in 2005 to seek the answer to the question: Why does Houston have affordable housing and the cities of Australia do not? The first thing I discovered was Houston is much hated in town planning circles throughout the Western world as the city that has repeatedly rejected, at numerous referendums, proposals to introduce zoning. The zoning/no-zoning debate is an interesting one, but as the comparison between Houston and Dallas (which has zoning) shows, it does not necessarily impinge upon housing affordability. The explanation for Houston's housing affordability does not lie in the absence of zoning regulations.

In Houston, growth is in, controls are out. Its citizens are proud of their city and its growing significance in state and national politics. Although 30km from the Gulf of Mexico, Houston has, by virtue of a large shipping channel, the busiest port in the US. It is also a city where civic philanthropy has provided an opera house, a ballet company, an internationally renowned medical precinct comprising a dozen or so large hospitals, and a number of university based research institutes, Rice University being one of the more famous. In Houston, because there are no restrictions on development, the price ratio of land used for residential development and land used for agriculture is effectively 1:1. In Australia it is more like 10:1.

It is this fact that provides Houston with affordable housing, a fact replicated in cities such as Dallas and Atlanta, which also have no barriers to urban growth or "urban sprawl". The supply of land is the key.

In Australia, urban sprawl has become a pejorative term without any serious examination of its qualities or benefits and without any critical analysis of its troubled alternative: urban consolidation, or to be more accurate, urban congestion. The notion that sprawl is bad has so infected the planning industry that any thought to the contrary is now quashed in an instant.

Ironically, the case for urban consolidation has been advanced on the back of a number of arguments: namely, that it is good for the environment, that it stems the loss of agricultural land, that it encourages people on to public transport, that it leads to a reduction in motor vehicle use and that it saves on infrastructure costs for government. None of these is true.

Pricing those on low and moderate incomes out of home ownership has serious economic and social consequences. Research, including the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index released earlier this week, confirms what we intuitively know: that people who own their own homes experience better health, greater self-confidence, move less frequently, are more involved in their communities, have greater financial independence and much greater wealth than their renting peers. Their children do better at school and those children in turn are more likely to also become homeowners. Home ownership also results in a reduced cost of living on a whole-of-life basis and a wider range of choices in retirement. As we all know only too well, if you don't own your home by the time you retire, you're in big trouble.

The erosion of self-reliance and the damage to family life that comes when people are precluded from home ownership will of course not be borne by existing home owners living comfortably within the leafy bounds of current urban growth boundaries but by those excluded from home ownership because they have been priced out of the housing market.

The significance of home ownership for a democracy was described by former prime minister Robert Menzies in his famous "forgotten people" speeches: "I do not believe that the real life of this nation is to be found either in the great luxury hotels or so called fashionable suburbs," he said. "It is to be found in the homes of people who are nameless and unadvertised, and who, whatever their individual religious conviction, see in their children their greatest contribution to the immortality of the race. "The home is the foundation of sanity and sobriety; it is the indispensable condition of continuity; its health determines the health of society as a whole."



Cure for the cold? "A virus that causes the common cold is in the sights of Melbourne pharmaceutical researchers. Biota yesterday announced it would begin human trials of its anti-human rhinovirus drug BTA-798 to prevent and treat the virus. Human rhinovirus is believed responsible for up to half of all adult colds. It is a major cause of problems for infants, asthma sufferers and patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The double-blind trial will take place in Britain this year."

Australian bird flu vaccine coming? "Shares in CSL have surged more than 3 per cent after the vaccine maker said testing of a potential bird flu shot showed it was possible to vaccinate people against the virus. CSL shares rose $1.50 or 3.2 per cent to an intraday high of $48.60 after the company said results from an initial clinical trial for the potential treatment of an H5N1 pandemic were encouraging. Shaw Stockbroking research manager Brent Mitchell said the bird flu announcement had caused the spike. "People have looked on it positively and have pushed the share price (up) on the back of that," Mr Mitchell said. "Obviously it's a positive, but we see it as still some time off before you start to get benefits from it."

Hep B vaccine being trialled in Australia: "A world first trial of a new hepatitis B vaccine is to be conducted at Adelaide's Flinders Medical Centre. The vaccine has been developed at the hospital and includes a special agent or booster taken from a natural sugar in dahlia flowers. Flinders Medical Centre clinician Nikolai Petrovsky said the vaccine was considered safer and more effective than other existing vaccines. "It is designed to encourage the immune system to attack and destroy the hepatitis infection more effectively," he said. "This new vaccine should be of major benefit to people who respond poorly to current hepatitis B vaccines, including people with immunodeficiency, diabetes, the elderly and people with kidney disease".

17 February, 2006

The antisemitic Leunig cartoon

There has been a minor stir in the Australian media over the fact that an antisemitic cartoon by a far-Left (wouldn't you guess?) Australian cartoonist (Leunig) was submitted to the Iranian quest for cartoons that mock or question the Holocaust. The stir is rather puzzling because Lenig DID draw the cartoon and it did suit the Iranian agenda. An apt comment on the stir below (excerpt):

"In the article published in The Age, Leunig says nothing at all about this competition, how vile it is, how racist, how it shocked him that anyone would ever think that he would have anything to do with such an outrageous campaign.

The journalist who interviewed Leunig characterises the competition as one designed to "find a cartoon on the Holocaust insulting to Jews". This is a downright depressing way to characterise this competition, for it isn't a "Jewish" issue, a matter that concerns only Jews, just as any form of racism is not just an offence against the people against whom it is directed.

But there is nothing from Leunig on all this, not even a moment's reflection on the fact that the competition's organisers thought his cartoon - which is not a hoax - was a perfectly fine entry for this racist exercise. Indeed, Leunig goes out of his way to praise the Iranians who were "courteously apologising, they had been co-operative. They cared."

Nothing on the competition and his shock that people could think he'd take part in something like this. Instead, there is his victimhood, the fact that people have been nasty to him, that "pro-war lobbyists" have made his life miserable and he has had "a gutful of hostility and hate mail all because I have resisted the rise of fascism - the idea of war".

Frankly, it is beyond belief that Leunig does not understand that his cartoons, in which he excoriates "pro-war lobbyists", and often any other people who do not share his view on the "rise of fascism", are inevitably going to draw passionate responses - from people, incidentally, who do not have Leunig's public platform and public support.

Leunig is a renowned and celebrated cartoonist, as well paid as any cartoonist, or journalist for that matter, in Australia. He is loved by many many people who consider him a genuine Australian genius. So this sense of victimhood can be hard to understand. And take. If Leunig needs an example of someone who has paid a real price for journalistic bravery, who is a real victim, he should consider the case of the Jordanian editor who ran one of the least offensive of the prophet Muhammad cartoons to give his readers a sense of what is causing the outrage and who now sits in a Jordanian jail unsure of the charges against him or the prison term that he faces."

More here


Rapid Hollywood progress for Queenslander

Should Sophie Monk run into Carmen Electra walking down Sunset Boulevard, she might want to duck out of sight, or just get ready to duck. Despite having arrived in Hollywood just 10 months ago, Monk has already done the former Baywatch babe out of roles in two major films. Producers apparently had Electra pegged for the role of sex siren ex-girlfriend in Date Movie, but backtracked after seeing Monk. And the pattern repeated itself with the new Adam Sandler film Click. It has been a big turnaround for the 26-year-old Queenslander, once a Marilyn Monroe impersonator at Warner Bros Movieworld. Twelve months ago, Sophie Monk was just another reality TV graduate whose star was already fading. But shrugging off those who warned her against making the move, Monk followed the well-worn path of many a wannabe star and went to Hollywood. Now she not only has the movie roles, but her stalled music career looks like taking off again. Monk's dramatic change of fortune began with a simple decision. "I thought I would just come over here and give it a go," Monk recalls. "Everyone said, 'You really think you'll make it?'. I had so many people saying, 'Seriously Sophie, you haven't even done acting'. I said, 'I know I can do it, it's easy' and I just came over and met my agent and it just kind of worked out." Monk says within days of arriving she was auditioning and winning parts. First she got a part in a TV pilot, then the film roles".

Stupid airline "security" in Australia too: "American rocker and writer Henry Rollins was reported to the National Security hotline during his recent Australian tour because of a book he was reading on a flight to Brisbane. A furious Rollins was informed he was "nominated as a possible threat" for reading Jihad: The Rise Of Militant Islam In Central Asia, writes Kathy McCabe. The incident happened on a flight from Auckland on the recent Big Day Out tour. Rollins told Australian fans during his tour that he received a letter from a "nice woman" who worked "in one of those government areas that deals with anti-terrorism matters." He posted the letter on his website. "Please tell your Government and everyone in your office to go f... themselves. Baghdad's safer than my hometown and your PM is a sissy," he wrote".

The usual efficient government record-keeping: "Almost 1.5 million Centrelink customers [i.e. welfare recipients] are dead, a new report shows. More than 27,000 have never been born, 33 died but never saw the light of day, and one customer was born two months after he or she died. An audit of Centrelink's customer records has identified a series of anomalies and errors that increase the risk of incorrect payments. The audit report, released yesterday, showed that 1.46 million customers had a date of death recorded in their active Centrelink file. A small number of these customers were still receiving welfare payments, but most were not. The welfare agency's huge customer database, the Income Security Integrated System, stores 23 million records and 6.2 million are for customers receiving benefits."

Another brilliant military equipment purchase: "Defence chiefs yesterday admitted they had made a $1 billion mistake in buying Vietnam-era helicopters in the belief they could upgrade them. Dr Stephen Gumley, head of the Defence Material Organisation said it was apparent the Defence department's Seasprite helicopter program had been an embarrassingly costly blunder. "It's now clear that we made a mistake back in the mid-90s in going down this path," he told a Senate estimates committee. "We are now looking at future capabilities and we are treating upgrades with a lot more caution than we did in the mid-90s." Ordered in 1997, the choppers -- which cost $100 million each -- are likely to begin full service only next year. The Defence department bought 11 Seasprite air frames -- some of which were 40 years old at the time -- in the belief they could gut and rebuild them. But cost blow-outs and problems with sub-contractors meant the first of the 11 was delivered three years late, and even then did not work as billed. The plan was to see the navy place the 11 aircraft aboard Anzac frigates. So far only nine have been delivered and they are confined to land duties because of software problems."

16 February, 2006

Imre socks it to Australia's Arty-Farties

It was probably as close as I've come to an epiphany. A few years ago I was listening to a paper by a bright student whose PhD candidature was sponsored by the Department of Education under a program for indigenous research. Her subject was the kind of reading material that was being offered to children in rural primary schools and whether it was serving to increase their tolerance and understanding of indigenous Australians.

It was a very bright paper, without internal problems of fact or logic. So when the discussion period began, I decided to ask a general question about the fundamental assumption that lay behind the research: that culture, in the broad sense of the attitudes and values held throughout the community, was something in need of management by the bureaucracy. Was there evidence that bureaucratic intervention had ever changed, or could change, a culture for the better?

The sense of general stupefaction that accompanied my question, along with a certain inner amazement that I had asked it at all, made me realise I had struck up against one of the motherhood clauses of the Australian intelligentsia: the belief, possibly Whitlamite in origin, that it is the fit role of government to develop, protect and oversee a national culture.

David Throsby certainly holds fast to that clause. However, he also believes government has largely evacuated the cultural terrain in the Howard era, a development that has inspired him to reformulate the case for cultural management in a pamphlet, Does Australia Need a Cultural Policy? .... His claim that artists, film-makers and public broadcasters have been cruelly abandoned by their public patrons is supported not by facts and numbers but by such statements as: "There is a general sense in the air that we are economically wealthy but culturally impoverished." Well, I guess that depends on the air you happen to be breathing. These are hardly precise arguments from somebody who calls himself an economist.

Nor does he provide solid evidence for the claim that "there is a lot of creative potential in the arts that could be unlocked if only more funding were available". In poetry, for example, the age of public funding has accompanied a virtual creative dead zone. Earlier important figures such as T.S. Eliot and Wallace Stevens simply accepted that a poet needed a day job. It did nothing to hinder the unlocking of their muse, and may well have encouraged it.....

Throsby's subject is the supposed need for an overall government policy guiding such efforts. Models for sound policy, he argues, include the Keating government's Creative Nation statement - a document crafted by cultural producers, for cultural producers - and the UN convention on cultural diversity...

It is when Throsby arrives at the cultural failings that an overarching policy would be designed to remedy that the real weaknesses in his case emerge. Apparently we need cultural policy because, under Howard, civilised values have given way to rapacious greed. In a chapter on "Cultural change under Howard", Throsby laments the backward-looking vision that, since 1996, has bedevilled an Australia that was steadily marching towards a progressive utopian vision under Paul Keating. Once, we welcomed refugees, but now we "demonise" them; once, we sought reconciliation with Aborigines, but now we refuse even to apologise to them; once, we were within grasping distance of a republic, but Howard "scuttled" it.

These are all positions for which persuasive arguments can be mounted. But they are tendentious. It could be pointed out that Australia, per capita, still operates the most generous refugee program in the world; that a new generation of indigenous leaders believes symbolic gestures such as an apology are a sideshow; and that it was Phil Cleary and Ted Mack who "scuttled" the republic.

Throsby believes that the apology to Aborigines read by John Howard's namesake on the ABC television comedy The Games was "dignified and heartfelt" and showed how far we have gone culturally astray. I believe it showed how it is possible to do to the English language more or less what white settlement did to the Aborigines.

The point is not who is right about this. The point is that any cultural policy that presents itself as an attempt to bring the majority of Australians around to the version of right thinking found in the latte belt is hardly likely to meet with approval, either from the Coalition or from a Labor Party increasingly nervous about its capture by minority interests.

Throsby powerfully dismisses the vision of "hard" cultural policy that leads to Soviet-style mind control. But he has not convinced me that his vision of "soft" cultural policy, which is more or less what has obtained since the '70s, is not responsible for the process that has increasingly undermined the role of the arts in Australia: their corruption by groupthink.

More here

Electricity privatization happening

An editorial from "The Australian":

Old-fashioned socialists might complain about the decision by the NSW, federal and Victorian governments to sell off the Snowy River Hydro scheme. But most Australians will welcome the move as a positive step on the road to achieving a competitive national electricity market. The Snowy River hydro scheme is a national icon and will always remain firm in Australians' affections. In the collective national memory, however, it has become wrapped up as much with the romance of the high country, brumby musters and Banjo Paterson's The Man from Snowy River as with electricity generation.

As a nation-building exercise of grand proportions and vision, the Snowy scheme expressed the optimism and dynamism of the post-war era. For the more than 100,000 people who constructed its dams and tunnels over 25 years, many of them immigrants from a war-torn Europe, the Snowy represented a new beginning and faith in a future. That much is clear. That Australia today is very different from the nation that launched the scheme in 1949 is just as plain. In the intervening years the economy has been transformed into a modern one based on competition and efficiency and propelled by a thriving private sector. With demand for power growing exponentially in some regions and blackouts increasing, more reform is urgently needed to expand the national electricity grid.

The fact that the NSW Government flagged the sale of its 58 per cent share of Snowy Hydro Ltd worth an estimated $1.8 billion to fill a gaping hole in the state's coffers takes nothing from the good sense in the move. Critics of the plan are living in a past in which stodgy state enterprises held sway and should explain why governments need to own dams any more than they do airlines or telephone services. The answer, of course, is that they don't. Victoria's Bracks Labor Government, a 29 per cent Snowy shareholder, conceded as much yesterday when it agreed to join the Iemma and Howard governments in a deal that will ultimately see the hydro company in a $3 billion public float and the resulting boost to state revenues reinvested into infrastructure and schools.

Last December, apparently swayed by influential environmental refusniks in its ranks, the Victorian Government declared its opposition to the plan over a supposed risk to Snowy and Murray water flows and downstream irrigators. This was always nonsense. The issue of managing the flows within the Snowy scheme is quite separate from the question of its ownership. It is, and should remain, the subject of government regulation, a point confirmed in the deal Victoria struck with the NSW Government and Snowy Hydro Ltd yesterday, which will see flows increase from 21 per cent to 28 per cent and Victorian irrigators retain their water rights. Apart from these arguments the NSW Government has little choice but to sell. Snowy Hydro has begun to expand its operations, buying up and building power stations in Victoria as well as purchasing a power retailer in NSW. Mr Iemma has made a responsible choice in deciding his fiscally stretched state is in no shape to underwrite the risk involved in the company's diversification.

The Snowy deal should increase pressure on the NSW Government to privatise the rest of its power generating industry and open it to competition. Ultimately NSW will have a price to pay for its slow pace of reform, experts say. Over the last two hot summer months, demand for power in NSW outstripped demand by as much as 1100 megawatts; only the Snowy scheme working at capacity and exports from Victoria kept the lights on in NSW. A seamless national electricity grid would encourage power investment where it is most cost efficient to generate it, rather than requiring every state to be self-sufficient in meeting its power needs.


But white drunk-drivers go to jail, of course

Contrast the report below with how a black drunk-driver (also in Victoria) was recently treated -- See my post of 14th. also below

A drunk driver who lost control of his car in a crash that killed one of his passengers has been sentenced in Melbourne to at least four-and-a-half years' jail. Dion Anthony Griffiths, 27, of Wheelers Hill, has pleaded guilty to culpable driving and negligently causing serious injury. He was sentenced by the Victorian County Court to a maximum jail term of six-and-a-half years' jail. The court was told the carpenter was at least three times over the blood-alcohol limit when he was driving his three friends into the city and crashed after midnight on March 20, 2004. The car was travelling up to 110km/h when he lost control on a bend on the Yarra Boulevard in Burnley and slammed into a tree, the court was told. Back-seat passenger Michelle Fors, 20, died shortly after the crash and another back-seat passenger Joshua Young, now 22, suffered serious injuries and brain damage. Judge Tom Wodak said in sentencing he took into account Griffiths's age, his remorse and good prospects for rehabilitation. However, he said Griffiths did not seem to have learnt much from a previous conviction for careless driving.

About bleeding time!: "South Australian drivers engaging police in high-speed or dangerous pursuits risk spending up to five years in jail under proposed laws. The state Government says it is moving to support a police proposal for engaging in chases to be considered a specific offence. As well as a maximum jail term of five years, the drivers will face a mandatory two-year loss of licence. Premier Mike Rann described pursuits as foolish and deliberate acts that endangered the lives of police and others. "I won't tolerate this type of insanity on our roads," Mr Rann said. "Trying to evade police is not a traffic offence, it's a serious crime and we'll deal with it in that way. "On average, police become involved in one chase a day and that's placing too many innocent lives at risk."

15 February, 2006

Young Muslims blame Muslim leaders

A Muslim youth leader has accused the old guard of contributing to the alienation, violence and crime rate among young Islamic men. Mustapha Kara-Ali, a member of the Prime Minister's Muslim Community Reference Group, said the integration of young Islamic people into the wider Australian society was being thwarted by immigrant leaders opposed to change. "They want to run community affairs on their terms. and their terms are different to the terms of the young people who have a natural tendency to be with the big community," he told The Australian yesterday. "No new blood is flowing into community organisations, because they don't trust the Australian-born second generation in leading the community."

Mr Kara-Ali warned that a lack of youth involvement and representation within the Muslim community would only create more violent "young thugs" such as those who were involved in the revenge attacks following the Cronulla riots last year. Young Muslims were experiencing a "crisis of identity", he said. "These youths have grown up in a so-called Muslim community with all its rifts and all its challenges and all its crises, and in that capacity they're part of the Muslim community's problems," he said. But immigrant leaders and radical imams preferred that Islamic youth remained isolated from the mainstream. Immigrant leaders would much rather "pocket" government grants that were intended for community purposes, he said, while radical imams saw alienated young men as potential recruits for their cause.

Mr Kara-Ali is one of only three youth representatives on the 17-member Muslim Community Reference Group that John Howard established in August last year. Another young Muslim spokesman, Kuranda Seyit, agreed with Mr Kara-Ali that it was time for generational change in the Islamic community. "We would have hoped that by this stage we would have had more developed youth programs and resources to deal with youth problems," said Mr Seyit, executive director of the Forum on Australia's Islamic Relations. Immigrant leaders were too out of touch with young people to deal with the rising number of young Lebanese Muslims who were turning to the "convenience of crime" for the sake of "camaraderie and belonging", Mr Seyit said. "There's a lot of information that shows there's an increase in criminal activity among some of these young Lebanese people who are now resorting to serious crime, including car rebirthing, prostitution, gun smuggling and drugs," he said. "When Muslims are engaging in criminal activity, then they have no one else to blame if people have negative attitudes towards them."


Plenty of tolerance, little understanding

By Matt Price

Dumbstruck by the violence, intimidation and murder committed under the guise of anger over the Danish cartoons, I've been wondering whether the fruitcakes directly involved in the global mayhem, along with well-meaning people preaching "tolerance and understanding", recognise what's been surrendered this week. I'm all for tolerance and understanding. When its practitioners argue Islam is a peaceful creed, I'm prepared to ignore the religion's violent history and focus instead on ample evidence of Mohammed's modesty, humour and willingness to accommodate alternative viewpoints. I can empathise with devout Muslims who must peer from behind their veils at a modern world where Big Brother contestants flash their knobs on prime-time television and teenage magazines contain instruction manuals to assist pre-pubescent girls perform oral sex and wonder what in Allah's name has become of us all.

As a not-especially devout Catholic who still attends church, I can even vaguely relate to the indignation felt by followers confronted with gratuitous, childish insults to their gods and icons. But after the senseless savagery committed in the name of Islam, the tolerance-and-understanding-meter is fast running out of coinage.

Having paddled through an ocean of punditry and reportage, it was a letter to Melbourne's The Age newspaper that best encapsulated the sadness and significance of the disgraceful cartoon backlash. "I ask myself what is in the minds of people who cannot tolerate any questioning of their ways, their society and their religion," writes James from Prahran. "As a formerly tolerant and open-minded Australian who used to believe that we can accept and live with each others' differences, I now strongly believe that Western traditions, beliefs and freedoms are incompatible with the Muslim world. "I ask now, why do Muslims wish to live in Western societies if they find our freedoms so abhorrent? I ask, what do they bring to our society but venom and anger? I ask, why should we allow them into our tolerant society? I am now a racist."

If Jimmy's being tough on himself, who in the tolerance-and-understanding brigade can't relate to his misery? That a series of poorly drawn, mainly unfunny scribblings can trigger a murderous jihad defies belief. Had a dozen of Australia's prominent cartoonists - comfortably the world's best - been instructed to turn their attention to Mohammed, we'd now be preparing for World War III.

Bill Leak, this newspaper's resident inkster and incorrigible shit-stirrer, would not, I suspect, be an automatic inclusion in any reliable list of prominent neo-cons. "I'm not sure if I've been infected with something," he told me this week during a discussion about the cartoon wars. "But for the first time in my life I've found myself in violent agreement with Janet Albrechtsen. I mean, by any measure these were very ordinary cartoons - not funny, lamely drawn. And what is it now? Ten people dead, riots around the globe. Imagine the consequences had the cartoons been any good."

Members of the T&U brigade acknowledge that nobody has a right to dictate what others must find insulting or offensive. We accept the overwhelming majority of Muslims demonstrating around the world this past week were not involved in the violence and vandalism and would have been appalled at the havoc wrought in alleged defence of their faith. But what's utterly bewildering is that millions of people who find themselves driven to protest over drawings of Mohammed, first published six months ago in an otherwise completely obscure Scandinavian magazine, seem incongruously unharried by other disturbing images.

For example, the videotaped beheading of kidnap victims or people hijacking aircraft full of passengers and flying them into crowded buildings. Unsurprisingly, most newspaper editors have resisted the natural instinct to let readers know exactly what the fuss has been about by publishing the offending cartoons. It's not been worth the potential grief and public curiosity can easily be sated with a glance at the internet.

Up in Brisbane, where The Courier-Mail ran one image last week, local Muslims arranged talks with editor David Fagan. Islamic Council of Queensland president Abdul Jalal entered yesterday's meeting declaring: "I'm hoping that we'd agree on some sort of basis we could put through The Courier-Mail a weekly article portraying the correct image of Islam, and what Islam in the wider community should be doing to build a better relationship."

Read that sentence again and you get a sense of the magnitude of Mr Jalal's problem. We columnists can be remarkably persuasive but no amount of newsprint can erase the reality - forget image - of what's occurred this past week. And while Australian Muslims have been sensibly restrained in their complaints about the cartoons, I suggest what members of the wider Islamic community should be doing to build a better relationship is to direct the lion's share of their ire and disappointment towards violent members of its brethren rather than newspaper editors.

How deeply depressing all this must be for decent, law-abiding Muslims in Australia and elsewhere. What confounds T&U brigadeers as much as anything is that this spate of global mayhem comes at a time when Islam is under intense scrutiny and its image, correct or otherwise, has taken a pounding. If fanatics and extremists aren't swayed by logic, more sober believers must bury their heads in despair at the timing and context of the cartoon over-reaction....


Death sentence for drug smuggler: "Andrew Chan, the alleged godfather of the Bali Nine has been sentenced to death for heroin trafficking. Judges in Denpasar today condemned him to death by firing squad for trying to smuggle heroin from Indonesia to Australia. The sentence is the first death penalty handed down to a member of the Bali Nine. Judges also ordered that co-accused, Brisbane man Michael Czugaj, serve a life term for his role in the plot to carry heroin from Indonesia to Australia. The court's decision to impose the death penalty on Chan was not unexpected - when co-accused Renae Lawrence was sentenced on Monday prosecutors had asked for a 20-year term because she had assisted police in their investigations, but judges imposed a life term anyway."

Greenie bureaucrat still being as obstructive as she can: "The public will be able to continue feeding two wild dolphins at Tin Can Bay. Environment Minister Desley Boyle said today that agreement had been reached with the owners of Barnacles Cafe to allow the dolphin feeding to continue under strict conditions. Under the agreement, only two dolphins - Mystique and White Patch - will be fed a maximum of three kilograms of fresh fish between 8am and noon each day. The owners of the cafe, 220km north of Brisbane, will have to ensure data on the feeding is collated daily and sent to the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. Government officers will be allowed on site to monitor the program. Ms Boyle banned feeding last year, saying it was endangering the dolphins, but her decision was overturned by Premier Peter Beattie following a public outcry. Ms Boyle today conceded she had been wrong to ban the feeding and said the new conditions would "go a long way towards protecting the dolphins".

Muslims outbreeding Anglo-Australians: "Pro-Life Liberal MP Danna Vale has warned that Australia risks becoming a Muslim nation if women continue to abort children at the current rate. The surprising warning was delivered at the launch yesterday of an anti-RU486 amendment, which would ensure ministerial responsibility and parliamentary oversight of the abortion pill. Former veterans affairs minister Mrs Vale outlined her concerns about abortion on "economic grounds". "A certain imam from the Lakemba mosque actually says Australia is going to be a Muslim nation in 50 years time," Mrs Vale said. "I didn't believe him at the time. But when you look at the birth rates ... we are aborting ourselves almost out of existence by 100,000 abortions every year. You multiply that by 50 years -- that's 5million potential Australians we won't have here." .... The amendment to be introduced this week to the House of Representatives would ensure parliament could vote on the drug if it was approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration by making any decision "a disallowable instrument". The legislation passed by the Senate last week would strip the Health Minister of the power to veto any decision by the TGA that the drug was safe.

14 February, 2006

Cowardly response to Muslim riot from NSW police HQ

Police in Sydney have recovered controversial lost recordings of radio communications during the revenge attacks that followed the Cronulla riots. The Australian has learned that one of the channels of digital recordings thought lost due to technical failure, Channel G, has been successfully accessed using an internal police back-up system. Most of Channel L remains unrecovered. However, the recovered recording will not be made public because of an internal review into the police response to the riots last December 11 and the revenge attacks the following night.

The original loss of the recordings -- the first time such a failure has occurred since the current system was installed in 2000 -- fuelled claims police had been told to go soft on Middle Eastern crime. But a police spokeswoman told The Australian yesterday police were simply instructed to withdraw and monitor angry groups of Middle Eastern men as they gathered at Punchbowl, in western Sydney, on the night of December 12 last year. She strongly denied they were told to hang back for fear of antagonising the men.

Eventually, a convoy of cars was allowed to proceed, unintercepted, from Punchbowl to the beachside suburbs of Cronulla and Maroubra, where more than 100 ethnic men were involved in retaliatory attacks that included smashing up cars and assaulting bystanders. Later that week the NSW Labor Government gave police emergency powers that would have allowed them to intervene at Punchbowl....

NSW Opposition Leader Peter Debnam told The Australian yesterday the NSW Government lacked the "political will to take these thugs on". His comments came after the Sunday program on the Nine Network broadcast unofficial recordings of police communications at Punchbowl. On those recordings, some of which have aired previously, a police radio operator is heard telling riot police on the ground at Punchbowl their patrol commander is going to "have a cup of tea and get back to us" regarding an urgent request for riot gear. The police spokeswoman yesterday confirmed that the "cup of tea" remark was "inappropriate" and was the subject of an investigation.

Later on the Nine tape, amazed police are heard describing the convoy of cars from Punchbowl as it proceeds unhindered through red traffic lights. "Frontline police will tell you they have never been given the resources to surround these gangs on the spot, or to investigate the crimes they later commit," Mr Debnam said. He said Labor has political debts to ethnic communities and "doesn't like strong policing". "There's no way they're going to arrest all these gangs."

More here

Repeat offender injures five kids but no jail

He's a poor unfortunate black, you see. His victims are a lot more unfortunate though.

A drunk driver who injured five children when he drove into a wall at a Melbourne primary school has been handed a three-year suspended jail sentence. Sudanese refugee Taban Gany, 32, of Doveton, had a blood alcohol reading of .175 - more than three times the legal limit - when his car smashed into the brick wall at Dandenong West Primary School on May 19, 2005. The bricks crushed a six-year-old boy, whose right foot had to be amputated while an 11-year-old girl received multiple leg fractures. Another 11-year-old girl needed 35 stitches in her head.

Gany pleaded guilty at the Victorian County Court to four counts of negligently causing serious injury, one count of drink driving and one count of reckless conduct endangering life. Today, Judge Peter Gebhardt sentenced him to three years jail, suspended for three years. He also cancelled Gany's licence and banned him from applying for another for three years.

Report here

Further comment:

The mother of a boy who lost his foot when a drunk driver crashed his car into a schoolyard has slammed a judge's decision to let the culprit walk from court. The suspended sentence handed down to disqualified driver Taban Gany, 32, was an outrage, said the mother of seven-year-old Sabi Mashid. "It is not fair because Sabi's life has been ruined and the man is free," Farida Mashid said. "He must go to jail. He's not a good man. He does not care about people if he's drink driving." Sabi was one of four children seriously injured when Gany crashed into the yard of Dandenong West Primary School on May 19 last year. The youngster, who has had to learn to walk again and change schools after the trauma, said last night he wasn't happy with the sentence....

People Against Lenient Sentencing spokesman Steve Medcraft said the sentence was deplorable, and called on County Court Judge Peter Gebhardt to step down. "There's a child who's going to live the rest of his life without a foot. Is that justice?" Mr Medcraft asked. "I think we should go back to the old Bible law of an eye for an eye, or a foot for a foot." ....

The father of two had four cups of cask wine and was three times over the blood-alcohol limit when he got behind the wheel. The court heard Gany had two previous drink-driving convictions and was driving while disqualified at the time of the accident.

Comment on yesterday's posts about the Queensland education meltdown

(From Education Unbound)

Recent reports out of Brisbane concerning the poor literacy standards of Queensland Year 7 students should make all parents sit up and take notice, but there is more to the story and the official responses to it than just the issue of poor literacy.

Colin Lamont who has had experience both as a teacher and as Queensland chairman of the Australian Council of Educational Standards has put his finger on the real issue when he lays the blame squarely on educational bureaucrats and not the teachers. This is not to say that teachers are all perfect. Many who went through the system in the later 70's and 80's were themselves products of a flawed education, but on the whole most teachers try hard and let's be honest they are teaching primary and secondary kids here not university students. So why is there so much fuss about teacher standards? Because it deflects attention from the real masters of the system and the real culprits in the mess that is public education - the educational nomenclature in their ivory towers in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane etc. What made the Sunday Mail test so relevant is that its marking was not controlled by the bureaucracy and so could not be massaged to hide the failings of the system.

Make no mistake - it is the system that is at fault not teachers as a group. The response of the Education Minister was clearly written for him by a member of his Department. It is designed to soothe and reassure that the Department is doing something about literacy but that in general all is well in the cloud-cuckoo land of state education. Likewise the response of the Teacher's Union reflects only the cosy relationship of the leadership of that group with the Department. Both have a vested interest in things as they are. Both will screw the actual teachers in the front line as the easiest scapegoats. When I was growing up, "professional" meant working "autonomously" today it means keeping your mouth shut about the failures of the system. The failure of the current Education System is systemic not individual. It is time we got rid of bureaucrats and employed more teachers to teach basic knowledge that kids can use to access other areas of life. Education is about opening doors not giving guided tours.


More Muslim gang violence: "A teenager is in a serious condition after a convenience store stabbing in Sydney's south overnight. The 18-year-old was stabbed twice in the body during an altercation between a number of males in the carpark of the Rockdale store. He was rushed to St George Hospital in a serious but stable condition, police said. Police want to speak with a man of Middle Eastern appearance in his late teens or early 20s who fled the scene in a light-coloured car with some of the other men. They were last seen heading east towards the Rockdale Seven Ways".

The ostriches of Australia's arty Left: "Last Sunday, as Muslims enraged by cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed torched Danish diplomatic missions in Lebanon and Syria, Melbourne's artists rallied to defend free speech.... As The Age noted in a profile of comedian Dave O'Neil, another of the stars, "it's the cartoonists and comedians who are the first" to be punished when we lose the right to speak our mind. Too true. Pity now the Danish cartoonists, several now in hiding. Or their editor, now under guard, and facing an inquiry by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights.... Daring Dave knew well the risk he was running by turning up on Sunday to defend free speech, but welcomed martyrdom: "I'd love to get locked up for doing this." Dave and his artist friends weren't defending that right to free speech. No, they weren't defending that right against the very real threat of violence by Muslims. They were there to defend free speech instead from the completely imaginary threat of prosecution by the Howard Government, under sedition laws we've actually had for decades. Here again was our cultural elite at play, pretending our greatest danger comes not from radical Islam, but those protecting us from it".

Miserable Leftists again: "Is it aircraft noise, John Howard's long reign, or being overworked and underpaid that makes the so-called chardonnay socialists of Sydney's inner west the most disgruntled people in Australia? A new survey that compares the wellbeing of people in all 150 federal electorates reveals the safe Labor seat of Grayndler, covering Annandale, Leichhardt, Petersham, Newtown, Marrickville and Summer Hill, tops the national list for all-round unhappiness".

13 February, 2006

Summary of the great decline in educational standards in Queensland

An example of a phenomenon to be seen in most of the English-speaking world today

The State Government has launched an urgent overhaul of child literacy as a former education boss accuses Queensland schools of failing students. Education Minister Rod Welford told The Sunday Mail the reforms would target reading, writing and spelling skills amid widespread public concern about falling standards. The announcement came as Colin Lamont, former state chairman of the Australian Council for Education Standards, warned our children had been "dumbed down" and today's students would be no match for their counterparts of 50 years ago.

The shocking appraisal was backed by the dismal results of a basic spelling test set by The Sunday Mail for a Brisbane Year 7 class. Almost two-thirds of the 11 and 12-year-olds failed, with some unable to spell any of the words. Mr Lamont, a former Liberal MP, blamed the state's education bureaucrats for an "appalling" lack of child literacy and numeracy skills - not teachers, whom he says are overburdened with administrative work and are given limited in-service training. "Thirteen and 14-year-olds today do not understand basic literacy and numeracy," Mr Lamont told The Sunday Mail. "They learn about fundamental, day-to-day stuff - like how to send a text message - because it is supposed to be relevant."

Mr Welford acknowledged growing public concern over a decline in standards. "I am aware that there is a lot of interest in the community, especially from parents, with literacy and numeracy," he said. "That is why this year literacy is going to be one of the key areas we focus on." Mr Welford said the literacy overhaul would involve the release of an information guide to schools this week. It would include a "framework" on how to change the curriculum to deal with the teaching and learning of literacy from pre-school to Year 10. Mr Welford had also commissioned the Queensland Studies Authority to do a general review of the curriculum up to Year 10. "We will look at what are the essential things that young people must learn to be competent by Year 10," he said. "Literacy will be one of the top priorities."

However, Mr Welford urged caution when comparing the scholastic ability of children today with those in the past. "Children in the 1950s could do some things better than some children do now and there are children doing things today that kids 30 years ago would not have had a clue about - such as Powerpoint presentations and designing things on computers," he said. "The skills we need to focus on today are different from the past, but that does not mean literacy." Mr Welford said it was crucial that youngsters were better prepared for life after school. "Children are getting a very good education in our schools, one that is more relevant to the 21st century. However, that doesn't mean that literacy and numeracy skills should be neglected," he said. The State Government last year announced a $127 million reform package aimed at delivering better education and higher skills.


NOTE: You can find here the English exam taken in 1955 by Queensland schoolchildren at the end of Primary school. Most High School graduates would have difficulty with it today.

More on the betrayal of Queensland children by the education bureaucracy

A former education boss has delivered a damning assessment of Queensland's schools, accusing bureaucrats of failing our children. Colin Lamont, a former Liberal state MP and Queensland chairman of the Australian Council for Education Standards, warned children were being "dumbed down". Mr Lamont, who teaches at Griffith University, said he was appalled at the lack of literacy and numeracy skills. Spelling and grammar had been "sacrificed on the altar of relevance" and primary school students in 2006 were no match for their counterparts of 1955. "Thirteen and 14-year-olds today do not understand basic literacy and numeracy," said Mr Lamont, who also taught English and history at secondary school. "They do not have a reference to our rich, cultural heritage. They learn about fundamental, day-to-day stuff - like how to send a text message - because it is supposed to be relevant."

He blames the bureaucrats, not the teachers, who are overburdened with administrative work and have change thrust upon them almost invariably without relevant in-service training. In a stark example of how education standards had diminished, Mr Lamont said 50-year-old scholarship papers (which all primary school children had to pass before gaining free secondary education) would be too difficult for children today. "The degree of difficulty in the maths paper is such that I doubt many of today's teachers would pass it. But we were 13 at the time and found little or no difficulty with the content," he said.

"The English paper was equally beyond today's teacher, but of course no one is taught grammar any more, so there is a distinct disadvantage. "Nothing in it was irrelevant to a good, sound preparation to turn out articulate and literate graduates, to a level unknown today. "Even the social studies paper reveals a wide general knowledge of the world which is non-existent today - in a classroom that deals with suburban history and geography in the name of 'relevance'."

The two-hour, eight-question English and social studies exams were sat on the same day. The mathematics paper - done without the aid of a calculator - came the following morning. The Sunday Mail has provided two questions from each exam (with pounds, shillings and pence adjusted to dollars, and miles to kilometres) for our readers' interest.

Education commentator Christopher Bantick said that 50 years ago children straight out of Year 8 - then the last year of primary school - were employable at that young age because they knew how to read, write and add-up. "Kids today don't know enough about the structure of words to spell," Mr Bantick said. He said a Federal Government report last year revealed students could not pass primary school tests from 50 years ago. "The curriculum of 50 years ago was a lot narrower. A lot of time was dedicated to spelling, grammar and arithmetic. "The performance level today across a range of subjects might be better . . . but the great black hole is that they don't know their own country, they don't have a sense of their own place and what makes it up geographically or economically."

State Opposition education spokesman Stuart Copeland said there were "real concerns" in the community about the standards of education. "A lot of the basics are being neglected . . . they are out of vogue, not as trendy," he said. He said parents told him students were not being taught simple numeracy and literacy. "It is affecting us as a nation and our viability on the international stage. We have got to make sure our children are well educated."


Results of the Queensland spelling survey

Tech-savvy Queensland children are struggling to spell even common words. While many six-year-olds know how to write mobile-phone text, children are failing basic classroom spelling and grammar. The results of a spelling test given this week to pupils aged 11 and 12 will shock parents. The Sunday Mail gave the test, compiled by a former teacher and education expert, to a typical class of students. They were words the expert considered that a "typical" child of that age should be able to spell.

More than 7 per cent of students could not spell a single word from the list of 23. More than 65 per cent misspelled half of the words or more. Almost 8 per cent of the students got just three words right. Less than 12 per cent got 20 or more right. One student aged 11 was able to spell every word in the test except one. The results fuel fears the growth of text messaging is affecting children's spelling and grammar.

Education expert Christopher Bantick said he was not surprised by the results and said the situation was "shameful". He said people a generation ago could "spell infinitely better" and there was a whole generation who had not been taught spelling and grammar. "Imagine if we did not have spell-checkers," Mr Bantick said. "These are common words which are used in the media, in conversation, in advertising and in society. "Kids will learn to spell if they are taught properly . . . and teachers have to carry part of the weight. "You have 22-year-olds and 24-year-old who are teaching kids . . . and they have never been taught themselves. "We are making kids dumber and we are making them dumber because we are not giving them what they need." Mr Bantick said texting was changing the way society used language. "My concern is that kids will start to spell as they text and text will become the new speech."

Queensland Teachers Union president Steve Ryan said the test results were not representative of the student population. He said Australian students rated very highly internationally for literacy. "We shouldn't condemn a whole cohort of students based on a narrow test," Mr Ryan said. "Yes, the issue of spelling is a concern and has to be addressed but in general we'd expect the results would be better than that. "Schools are doing the best they can with the resources being given the them." [So how come the schools of yesteryear with far fewer resources did so much better?]

The children were asked to spell article, disappoint, government, height, knowledge, privilege, permanent, announcement, trousers, mountainous, improvement, elastic, obstinately, referee, chimney, thieves, principal, principle, stationary, stationery, separate, orchardist and civil.


It's simple, Sydney needs another dam

EUREKA! Premier Morris Iemma has "discovered" a secret stash of underground drinking water and suddenly we're drought-proof. Sure, and next the Premier will be telling us the Cross City Tunnel is a bargain. He might get away with the ruse, since the drought has broken and the dams are filling. But the "vast underground lakes" beneath Penrith and the Southern Highlands that have given the Government the excuse to shelve its dud desalination program haven't miraculously appeared overnight. Geology students have been mapping the aquifers and farmers have been drilling water bores from them for 100 years. Some secret.

The aquifers are just a fig leaf to hide Iemma's embarrassment at canning the desalination plant that was only ever a diversionary tactic to stop drought-affected Sydneysiders clamouring for a new dam. Any engineer with a clear head will tell you that, even with water restrictions and a better effort recycling water for industrial use, at the rate Sydney is growing (700 new residents a week at last count), it is long overdue for a new storage facility. Dams have been the tried and true way of storing water since civilisation began. They are designed to tide you over between wet spells.

When Warragamba was built in 1960, Sydney had half the population of today and the catchment designers always envisaged expansion to keep up with the needs of a growing city. For 40 years successive state governments bought up land near Braidwood for the planned Welcome Reef Dam on the Shoalhaven River. By 1997 about half the land needed had been bought - 87 properties or more than 20,000 hectares. But in 2000 the deep-green former Premier Bob Carr announced that the dam, tipped then to cost $400 million, was on "indefinite deferral". He then locked up the land that had been set aside, stealthily transferring 6000 crucial hectares into a nature reserve, thus destroying any prospect the plan could be revived.

So last week our dams were 44.2 per cent full after hitting an all-time low on June 29 last year when Warragamba fell to 34.7 per cent. If more people are drawing water out of a dam, it is obvious it will empty faster. It's not global warming but simple maths. Sydney hasn't built a new dam since Tallowa in 1976, yet projections are for an extra 1 million people living in Sydney by 2021.

Now the Iemma Government has even blinked over raising the Tallowa dam walls, billed by last year's Utilities Minister Frank "the Punisher" Sartor as a central plank of the Government's water strategy. Sartor's plans included applying ever more draconian water restrictions, squeezing the last dregs out of Warragamba dam, piping excess water from the Shoalhaven to Warragamba, increasing the price of water, reducing leaks and maximising recycling. A bit of this and a bit of that.

It was just seven months ago that Dubai Bob, as Carr was dubbed after his $120,000 tour of London and Dubai two weeks before he resigned, announced his grand plan for a desalination plant at Kurnell. It was always an expensive, environmentally unsound, technological furphy aimed at diverting attention from the dam that was so glaringly needed.

Yet the Government will spend a reported $120 million on this aborted folly, compensating private companies, buying land and setting up pilot plants.

Not that the NSW Opposition is any better. When asked for Peter Debnam's policy on a new dam, his spokesman said: "We haven't spoken about building a new dam at any stage. Our water policy at this stage revolves around recycling . . . We've maintained that Sydney doesn't have a rainwater problem, it has a catchment problem." Well, duh.

Welcome Reef would have cost $1.8 billion. But the desalination plant would have cost $2 billion with environmental costs arguably greater than any dam, and benefits far less. Instead of frightening the populace with apocalyptic visions of the future, dreaming up mad schemes and encouraging ideologically warped councils to ban swimming pools, couldn't one politician make a rational decision, wear the greenie protests and earn the respect of the voters?


Big day for Torah Bright today

Torah Bright has the 10,000 watt smile, the six-figure contracts and half a dozen World Cup medals. The next number she wants is one, two or three at the Winter Olympics on Monday. Australia's premier halfpipe rider goes into event a big show of a medal but says she feels no real pressure about being earmarked for success here. "I really don't like to listen to anything like that because anything can happen on the day," she said. "I just want to be the best snowboarder I can be and I'm learning these tricks so I can do that." In the kitbag of six tricks she has at the ready, Bright will perform an alleyoop backside 540 (one and half rotations in an opposing stance), something no woman has done in competition before. She has two runs to qualify for the 12-woman final, which she is expected to do comfortably, before another two runs with the highest individual score from a single assault down the halfpipe taking the gold. Bright won't decide exactly which tricks to pull out on competition day until the night before.

More here

Australia's former Miss universe still flashing it

A red-faced Jennifer Hawkins once caused a sensation when she accidentally flashed her knickers on a catwalk. Now the former Miss Universe can proudly reveal her underwear to the world after wrapping up a million-dollar deal with the lingerie company Lovable. Hawkins has signed a three-year agreement with the company to promote their "intimates" throughout Australia, New Zealand and maybe even Asia. As the new "ambassador" for Lovable, the 22-year-old Newcastle beauty will combine modelling with helping to design products and create advertising campaigns.

More here

12 February, 2006

Gun bans don't affect Muslims, of course

Pistols have been used in two separate street muggings in Sydney to steal cash, mobile phones and a personal stereo. Police said two thieves produced a handgun and a knife to threaten a 21-year-old man walking on Station Street West in Harris Park, in Sydney's west, about 10pm (AEDT) yesterday. The men stole a sum of cash, a mobile phone and an mp3 player before fleeing on foot. In the second unrelated attack, about an hour later in Newtown, in Sydney's inner west, two men threatened four teenagers with a handgun. Police said the four youths, aged 15 and 16, were robbed at gunpoint of their phones and wallets about 11pm (AEDT) Holmwood Street at Newtown. A police spokeswoman said detectives were not linking the two robberies at this stage. Police said the men involved in both attacks were described as being of Mediterranean or Middle Eastern appearance.


Army bungling goes on forever

Unbelievable stuff but British and American troops have made equally serious complaints -- and none of it will surprise ex-Army men anywhere

The safety of Australian troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the elite SAS force, has been compromised by defective body armour, combat jackets and helmets, according to explosive Defence Department documents. The faults include combat jackets that glow in the dark, giving enemies an easy target, as well as body armour that cracks easily. The helmets issued to soldiers have harnesses that are "worn, rusted and damaged" and are shaped in a way that makes it "impossible to sight a live claymore (landmine) in the prone position while wearing any of the helmets".

The documents reveal that the safety of SAS members - on deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan - has been compromised by body armour that does not match the grey colour of their wetsuits for underwater operations. In one case, a protective vest called Ultima issued to soldiers was so faulty its use was "suspended immediately" for troops at home. However, those in the field were forced to wear the vest until a replacement became available. "The operational use of the armour is to be suspended as soon as practicable," the reports say.

The Defence documents were obtained by The Weekend Australian under Freedom of Information laws following a successful challenge in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. They contain a comprehensive log of defects, reported by troops at home and overseas, in combat armour, combat jackets, helmets, combat packs and boots. The reports reveal faulty equipment is a more serious and widespread problem than has been admitted by the Government, at times jeopardising the operations and safety of troops.

A Defence spokesman yesterday defended the performance of the Defence Materiel Organisation, the agency that buys combat gear, saying it had followed "strict government procurement guidelines". [Doesn't say much for the guidelines] "Army is committed to continual development and improvement of combat clothing and personal equipment," he said.

The documents warn that the new combat jackets issued to troops not only failed to offer camouflage protection but were "highly visible". "It appears as a bright glowing beacon when observed through night-fighting equipment," the reports say. They reveal that no combat jackets fit women. "Females are forced to wear a jacket several sizes too big to accommodate hips. This leads to sleeves completely covering hands."

The jackets were highly flammable and collected such an amount of "dirt, sticks and prickles" in the field that they would be "unsuitable for operations overseas, due to the likelihood of AQIS requiring complete removal of all plant matter".

The documents say the combat body armour used by troops in Iraq was faulty, with the plastic clips used to fasten the vest to the torso "continually fracturing and breaking". And the ballistic body plates designed to stop small arms fire were subject to cracking at the front and the back....

Soldiers reported poorly designed combat boots led to large blisters, with one soldier saying: "It takes a good deal of my blood to soak into the leather to make them more comfortable." .....

More here

Anti-Catholic bigotry from the Left

Australian Health Minister Tony Abbott, a Catholic, has come under fire over his caution about authorizing sale of the "morning after" pill. Catholics were once major supporters of the Left in Australia but the Left now seems determined to drive away whatever remains of that support

Abbott's position on abortion in general and RU486 has been bizarrely misrepresented. It is neither noticeably Catholic nor even particularly Christian. As he said on Wednesday, it's a view shared by most people with religious convictions, from the Dalai Lama to Mohandas Gandhi. The Catholic Church is comprehensively opposed to abortion. But Abbott says he would not support withdrawing Medicare funding for the procedure, let alone any attempt to recriminalise it. He went further and invoked Bill Clinton's line: "There's much to be said for ensuring that abortion is safe, legal and rare."

In doing so, he departed from Catholic orthodoxy and guaranteed himself an endless stream of hate-mail from fundamentalist lobby groups such as Family Life International. Labor's shadow minister for health, Julia Gillard, was quick to spot the chance to have her cake and eat it too; on the one hand disdaining Abbott's principles and on the other accusing him of selling out on them in a desperate bid to stay in the race for the Liberal leadership.

Gillard is an aggressively pro-abortion politician, who has benefited from the patronage of Emily's List, a feminist cabal within the Labor Party. In an earlier, more nuanced attack, she wondered whether he had the maturity to contribute to the debate -- the suggestion being that any position at odds with her own was evidence of arrested emotional development.

It's not only his political opponents who rely on demeaning attacks. An unidentified Catholic colleague, who plainly hasn't darkened a church doorstep in years, told Glenn Milne: "Tony Abbott is a Catholic before he is a Liberal. I don't think it is the role of a Liberal politician to use Liberal endorsement as a cover for bringing in a Catholic social agenda." Though demonstrably untrue, it's just the kind of slur that the first querulous generation of Catholics in the Liberal Party used to throw at one another in Menzies' twilight years.

Allison, the leader of the Australian Democrats, is another who seems to regard Catholicism as a form of intellectual incapacity. She spoke of "the problem of a health minister who, for his own personal religious reasons, is not prepared to consider all of the evidence, both medical and social".

Abbott replied by pointing out that no application to use RU486 had yet been finalised by the Therapeutic Goods Administration for ministerial consideration and that guessing what his decision might be was presumptuous. He also gave a short list of considerations, outside the TGA's realm of expertise, that would weigh with him as minister. The first of these was satisfying himself that the doctors who prescribed the drug would do so responsibly, having made sure that patients were conversant with the alternatives and risks. Fully informed consent remains a big problem in the abortion industry and raising it is simply common sense. This objection might be no more than an argument for restricting the right to prescribe, rather than conferring it on every general practitioner.

Abbott said he'd also want to be confident that the rules surrounding the use of the drug would not be readily flouted, as was reportedly the case with the morning-after pill being dispensed to 13-year-olds without any counselling, thanks to a bureaucratic rule change. Isn't that the kind of rudimentary precaution we expect of health ministers?

The third main concern was over the development of an internet black market in the drug, a problem which has yet to receive much consideration. The US Food and Drug Administration takes it seriously enough to issue warnings about RU486 sales on the net. It hasn't yet become an issue in Australia, largely thanks to the blanket ban in force. But is there any reason for thinking that a prescription drug that comes with strings attached won't create a black market among people who, for whatever reason, want unregulated access? The internet provides an ideal vehicle for such trafficking and -- once started -- governments have so far found it almost impossible to control. Unregulated access is a nightmare that RU486 advocates don't seem to have paid much heed to or perhaps don't feel confident to address. Nonetheless, the private character of pharmaceutical abortion leaves it wide open to abuse. Think of coercive parents or a boyfriend pressuring a young woman, or worse, an underage girl, into having a discreet termination no one will know about unless it all goes horribly wrong.

These are scarcely the arguments of a zealot. In making them, in deploring Australia's high rate of abortion and even in urging fellow Catholics to have their say on the issue, he's representing the views of a great many - arguably, on the latest polling, a majority of - Australians. Yet judging from the reactions of other politicians and many commentators, the fact that he's a Catholic in itself disqualifies him from mounting an argument about public policy or exercising the responsibilities of a health minister. It's as though there's a religious test that determines who's fit to administer the portfolio and only people who hold unwavering pro-choice convictions are deemed suitable. It's an outrageous proposition, of course, but even when it's not quite explicit, that's the sub-text.

The Greens Senator Kerry Nettle said: "Mr Abbott has made several anti-choice statements, including one on the front page of The Catholic Weekly, urging people to campaign for changes to abortion law - an incredibly inappropriate thing for a federal minister to be doing. Mr Abbott needs to understand that his comments have no place in 21st century Australia." Returning to the theme four months later, Nettle said: "But it's not just Mr Abbott's philosophical views that are hard to unpack. The scientific basis for his claims about safety are just as hard to understand. Abbott is playing a dangerous game with the lives and well-being of half of Australia's population."

Sarah Maddison, from the Women's Electoral Lobby, decided that ranting was in order: "Mr Abbott comes up with some medieval views on morality that should make most Australians shudder at the thought of his ever assuming the Liberal leadership. Mr Abbott views abortion through the cloudy, moralistic lens of his own conservative Catholicism. While he is quite entitled to his views he is not entitled to dress them up as fact, nor to air them in such a way as to be seen as Government policy. To do so is not only irresponsible but also immeasurably damaging and offensive to Australian women."

Elspeth Probyn, a professor of gender studies at the University of Sydney, reckons she knows an ex-seminarian rugger bugger when she sees one. Reflecting on Abbott's James McAuley lecture, she indulges in a little psychobiography: "He departs from general Christian principles to further his own muscular Christianity, which sometimes seems more indebted to the rugby field than to the Catholic Church. For Abbott [our federal Health Minister, let's remember], sex is the source of evil and seemingly the only reason for religion. In his speech, he dwelt on the Virgin birth. "Apparently we can accept the irrationality of the biological claim if we accept that Christ's conception was free from sexual intercourse. From immaculate conception, he quickly moved to the evils of teenage sex and abomination of abortion as 'the easy way out'. Sex as the original sin makes Abbott deeply fearful: of gays and lesbians, teenage girls, single mothers - a terrifying group. His fear will be stemmed by legislation, not by consulting his conscience or allowing others to do the same."

As a series of arguments, these are barely worth the bother of rebutting. They do, however, serve as a kind of catalogue aria - a feminist version of the vulgar misconceptions, tribal hostilities and strains of anti-Catholic bigotry that did so much to poison Australian politics for most of the last century.

More here

11 February, 2006

Courts still soft on Muslims

Changing the law has apparently changed nothing

The NSW government wants the Director of Public Prosecutions to appeal against bail decisions handed down today to seven of nine people arrested in connection with Sydney's Cronulla riot and retaliatory attacks. Eight [Muslim] males, aged between 16 and 21, were arrested early today in relation to "violent and anti-social behaviour" at the beachside suburb of Maroubra on December 11. They were allegedly in a convoy of cars, carrying people of Middle Eastern appearance, that drove from Punchbowl Park to Maroubra after 8.30pm for revenge attacks following rioting in Cronulla earlier the same day.

Police later said a man was also arrested in connection with the Cronulla riot, in which people of Middle Eastern descent were chased and attacked.

More than 50 officers from Strike Force Enoggera this morning went to 10 homes simultaneously in Yagoona, Riverwood, Punchbowl, Greenacre and Bankstown in Sydney's west. All eight arrested in that operation, including four juveniles, were charged with riot and affray. Seven of the eight were today bailed when they appeared in Sydney magistrates and children's courts, despite new emergency laws which introduced a presumption against bail in such cases. One of the youths refused bail was a 15 year-old when he allegedly drove one of the cars to Maroubra, and faces a charge of unlicensed driving as well as the charge of riot and affray.

The convoy of cars is alleged to have carried people armed with baseball bats and iron bars, who smashed more than 50 vehicles on Malabar Rd and Marine Parade and attacked and threatened bystanders.

Police Minister Carl Scully today asked NSW police to consider asking the Director of Public Prosecutions to appeal the bail decisions. "I'm disgusted by the leniency of the courts in granting bail in these cases today," Mr Scully said. "They do not appear to have received the strong message which we sent on behalf of the community when we recalled parliament last December to make it harder to get bail for these types of offences. "These are very serious offences which would warrant people being locked up pending their trials. "Accordingly, I have requested the commissioner (of police) lodge an application with the DPP for appeals against these unjustifiable decisions.

Police had earlier announced they would ask the DPP to appeal a sentence handed down yesterday to a Sydney teenager convicted of rioting. Geoffrey John Atkinson, 18, who bashed a man with a beer bottle during the Cronulla riot, spent 29 days in jail before he walked free from Sutherland Local Court yesterday. Magistrate William Brydon sentenced Atkinson to nine months in prison with a non-parole period of a month, and allowed him to go because the non-parole period expired yesterday. Atkinson, of Elderslie in Sydney's south, was caught on camera bashing Safi Merhi repeatedly with a beer bottle as others kicked and punched the victim. He was the first person to be sentenced following the mob violence on December 11 at Cronulla and subsequent revenge attacks. Police issued a statement saying they would refer a request to the DPP to appeal Atkinson's sentence.

Following today's raids, Mr Scully praised police for their work in the aftermath of the Cronulla riot and said criticism of officers must stop. "(Liberals leader) Peter Debnam had better stop being an armchair general and let the cops do their work like they have been doing," he said. But Mr Debnam said there had been no headway in rounding up those involved in revenge attacks. "Until the government gets all those thugs locked up, I'll just keep raising this issue every single day," he said.


Expanding Brisbane joins the "anything but a new dam" brigade

As if adding 2% to the water supply were even worth talking about! It's just cowardice in the face of the Greenie hatred of dams

Southeast Queensland's water crisis has become so dire Brisbane City Council will spend up to $30 million going underground to find a new source. Eight locations in Brisbane's southern suburbs have been identified as sites of potential aquifers and will be drilled from next month. Liberal spokeswoman for water Jane Prentice yesterday admitted the region was now in a perilous situation and the council would invest millions in the aquifer project to ensure southeast Queensland residents had adequate drinking water in the future. "We're at a crisis point now," she said. "We've got about three weeks left of the wet season and we have to start looking at drought-proofing this city." Cr Prentice said the council would commit $5 million in the first phase of the aquifer project, which would involve drilling 40 product bore holes to determine whether the aquifers held a sustainable water supply.

If all eight council and state-government-owned sites - two each at Darra and Runcorn, and properties in Eight Mile Plains, Sunnybank, Calamvale and Algester - prove viable, the aquifers could supply southeast Queensland with an extra 20 million litres each day, or 2 per cent of the region's current water use. If the water was too polluted with minerals and other deposits, it could be used for irrigation or to supply industrial or commercial operations, like the Swanbank Power Station, she said.

Water and city business committee chairman John Campbell said it was impossible to determine whether the underground water could be used as drinking water at this stage. "There's variations of water quality in underground water, and we don't have enough information about the costs of treatment," he said. Cr Campbell said residents in affected areas would be consulted about the potential environmental impacts of the drilling, but he said it would not dry up nearby bores. The SEQWater regional plan also recommends council and the State Government investigate extracting water from the Oxley Creek aquifer at a cost of $7 million.

The Queensland aquifer project follows the NSW Government's decision to extract water from an untapped Sydney aquifer holding approximately 15 billion litres. More than 100 Australian towns and cities use groundwater supplies to add to their drinking supply, and Water Services Association of Australia executive director Ross Young said Perth relied on the resource for 40 per cent of its supply.

Southeast Queensland's dams were yesterday at 33.02 per cent capacity, with Lord Mayor Campbell Newman estimating the dams held enough water to supply the region for just two years. Other contingency plans include programs to reduce water pressure and detect pipe leakage, developing a new weir at Cedar Grove and a $250 million State Government pipeline to connect the Wivenhoe and Hinze dams.


Good Vegemite news

Kraft has vowed to continue producing Vegemite in Melbourne. The maker of the famous Aussie spread yesterday dismissed reports of a planned shift in production to China. Kraft spokesman Andrew Kilsby said the company had recently invested $20 million in its Port Melbourne plant. Speculation followed the moving of Kraft's biscuit-making operations from Broadmeadows to China, with the loss of 151 jobs.


Wasp trials could end fly menace

A tiny insect has raised scientific hopes of an end to the great Australian salute. Primary Industries Department researchers are using tiny native wasps to control blow flies in a cattle feedlot near Toogoolawah in the Brisbane Valley. If the trials of the spalangia wasp prove successful it could have wider applications to help reduce the impact of nuisance flies on the Queensland lifestyle. DPI principal scientist Rudolf Urech said the results of the first tests should be known in about a month. The female wasps laid eggs into immature fly pupae, killing the developing fly and producing another wasp. Scientists had known for a long time that the wasp attacked the fly. "But obviously there are still too many flies so we are trying a mass or inundative release approach," Dr Urech said. "For this pilot study the company is producing about 250,000 house fly pupae (hosts) and 130,000 spalangia wasps per week for release on cattle feedlots." If current and follow-up trials demonstrated successful control of fly populations, the wasps could be produced commercially and made available to feedlot operators as a biological fly control, Dr Urech said.


10 February, 2006

Australian National Pride is soaring

Demand for Australian Flags and symbols have risen dramatically in the wake up the Cronulla "riots". Tattooists and retailers have fielded a huge demand for symbolic paraphernalia as the line between patriotism and nationalism becomes blurred. Union Jacks and Southern Crosses are being permanently recorded on the bodies of young Australians as tattoos. This nascent nationalism is also reflected in the rise in the sale of Australian flags and a growing tendency to tote them in public.

Nelson Iturrieta, a tattooist a Liverpool's Dutchy and Son Tattoo Studio, says he is inking between 30 and 40 Southern Crosses a week. "It's really just become really popular, all that national pride stuff, particularly with the younger guys," he says. "The Southern Cross is one of the most popular tattoos at the moment. "Were also getting people asking to get the words `Aussie Pride' tattooed on them, usually next to a Southern Cross."

It's the same story at Panania, where Chuck Sekulla, from the Body Art Tattoo and Body Piercing studio, says the flag is poplar with clients. "We do the flag a fair bit, and even the Eureka Stockade flag, but none of them are as popular as the Southern Cross," he says. "There's a real national pride thing going on."

Bulk flag supplier Australiana Flags has experienced a boom in business recently. "I've never seen so many flags on Australia Day-or any other day, for that matter," managing director John Vaughen says.

Sociology Professor John Carroll, of Latrobe University, says Australia's new found nationalism stems from terrorism. "There's a growing sense of the value of our (Western) civilisation and what it stands for, and at the same time a decline in the language of multiculturalism," he says.

Source. (This article is no longer online at its original source but articles in the Sydney "Telegraph" and "Sunday Telegraph" are often taken down after only a short time)

More Muslims arrested?

With the usual media coverup, it is difficult to tell what is actually going on here but I believe that at least one of the arrests mentioned below is of someone who threatened 2GB radio announcer Brian Wilshire. If you read my earlier post about Wilshire, you will see that it would be a Muslim who had best cause to threaten him -- though it could also be a crazy Leftist. Crazy Leftists and Muslims have a lot in common. Either way, the arrests sound well and truly due.

Two men have been charged over separate incidents of allegedly sending threatening emails to radio talkback hosts following the Cronulla riot. Detectives from Strike Force Enoggera, investigating the December riot and subsequent revenge attacks, today arrested a 19-year-old man during a raid on a home in McGirr Parade, Warwick Farm, during which they also seized a home computer. The man was taken to Liverpool police station and charged with using a carriage service (the email system) to make threats and a second offence of using a carriage service to menace, harass and offend. He was refused bail to appear at Liverpool Local Court later today.

A second man also was arrested today for allegedly sending threatening emails to another radio talkback host in December. The 21-year-old was arrested at his home in Emmet Street, Callala Bay, near Nowra and police also seized a computer for forensic examination. The man was taken to Nowra police station and charged with one offence of using a carriage service to threaten serious harm and a second offence of using a carriage service to menace, harass and offend. Police will allege the man sent two threatening emails from his home computer. He was granted conditional bail to appear at Nowra Local Court on March 13, 2006.


Crooked Hispanic cop caught

"A North Queensland detective and father of six has been charged with extortion after a week-long covert operation. Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson yesterday denied corruption was rife in the service and said younger officers didn't want to go through the "agony" of the Fitzgerald Inquiry. Detective Senior Constable Michael Cifuentes, of Mareeba, was charged on Tuesday night by Crime and Misconduct Commission investigators. Det-Sen-Constable Cifuentes, 39, allegedly "threatened to cause detriment" to a person, believed to be an alleged criminal, if he refused to pay a large sum of money. The CMC alleges that a person gave him $8000 in the two days leading up to his arrest".

More here

Sex still sells

Jetstar might have banned slinky imagery flogging Lynx deodorant on the outside of its planes in December but that hasn't stopped a provocative "fantasy airline" called Lynx Jet from triggering one of the biggest sales runs on the brand in 20 years. More than 1.7 million cans of Lynx deodorant have walked off supermarket shelves since the campaign started in late November and more than 500,000 people have flocked to the Lynx Jet website to download a line-up of saucy TV commercials and to book tickets - yes, many still believe the airline is real.... The public rush for Lynx Jet propaganda and products is due almost entirely to testosterone-charged adolescent males, at whom Lynx squarely aims its brand. To ensure the young blokes remain hooked, the imagery and advertising messages are laden with maidens kitted out in skimpy airline uniforms promising in-flight services unmatched by rivals.... "It's aimed at adolescent males, so if we take that as being 13- to 17-year-olds, there's a fairly narrow interest they have and that's what we capitalise on," says Unilever spokesman Nick Goddard. "That's where we aim. In reality, it picks up much younger boys - 10- to 12-year-olds are using the product. They're spraying themselves, their rooms, their clothing. That's anecdotal evidence from partners in the business."... The latest Lynx Jet campaign has gained notoriety because the advertising was placed in mainstream media rather than niche titles and the controversy surrounding Jetstar's Lynx advertising ban has worked for the brand, he says.

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Pandering to Greenies costs taxpayers a heap -- and all for nothing so far

The NSW government needs more water for Sydney's growing population but they are just thrashing about looking at different implausible alternatives rather than doing the obvious: build another dam. They were going to build a desalination plant but eventually faced how much it would cost to run so are now talking about bringing up underground water instead -- a modern version of the old village well!

The State Government will squander $120 million on its desalination plant debacle. It is yet another of Bob Carr's costly legacies for his embattled successor, Morris Iemma. The Iemma Government will outlay at least $10 million to compensate the two consortiums bidding to build the stalled desalination plant, part of $120 million it will still spend on the project even though it has been shelved indefinitely. This is the latest in a series of policy U-turns as the Premier, Morris Iemma, tries to grapple with the political legacy of his predecessor, Bob Carr. The spending on the plant will raise new questions about Labor's competence in managing the state, especially as the Government is now trying to find savings of at least $300 million in an audit of expenditure. "It's an F Troop exercise," said a member of one consortium, referring to the 1960s TV show about bungling US cavalrymen.

More here

9 February, 2006

Aggressive Muslim youths caught

Not that you would know that they were Lebanese Muslims from the report below:

A Sudanese refugee allegedly bashed to death in Sydney's southwest had thrown a soft drink can at a carload of youths after they hurled eggs at passers-by, a court has been told. Two 17-year-old males, from Auburn and North Parramatta, were remanded in custody today over the bashing murder of 28-year-old Ruol Agang at Auburn a week ago. Police Prosecutor Sergeant Graeme Wedge told the court the youths and another boy, who has not been charged, were driving along Harrow Road throwing eggs at passers-by. He said Mr Agang, a father of four from Granville, threw a soft drink can at the car after an egg was thrown at him, but missed.

The driver, the North Parramatta youth, turned the car around and all three boys allegedly confronted Mr Agang, the court was told. The Auburn boy is accused of hitting Mr Agang once before the group fled. Police allege the youth said to Mr Agang: "You want more, I'll be back", before fleeing the scene. "The blow was of such significance that he was lifted off the ground," Sgt Wedge told the court. Mr Agang "sustained a 10cm crack to his skull" and died four days later in hospital, he said.

Defence barrister Michael Coroneos, representing the North Parramatta youth, said Mr Agang had behaved aggressively towards the group by throwing the can and confronting the boys. At one point he had to be restrained by an onlooker, he said. "Three specific aggressive acts by a 28-year-old person, 200cm in height approaching a motor vehicle with three young persons in it, this is the setting of this case," Mr Coroneos told the court. "Alarm bells are ringing already for a self-defence case for this person (the North Parramatta youth)." He said it was unlikely his client would be convicted of murder.

Magistrate Daniel Reiss granted the North Parramatta youth bail, but the prosecution appealed against the decision. The youth will remain in custody until the bail application is heard in the NSW Supreme Court on Friday. His co-accused was refused bail and will reappear in the same court on March 15.


Pauline Hanson update

She founded a political party that was anti-affirmative-action and anti-immigration so the political establishment hated her -- and persecuted her. But she got lots of votes from ordinary Australians and was probably responsible for the tough stance against illegal immigration now adopted by both major Australian political parties

She went from selling fish and chips to turning Australian politics on its head in a few short years. Then there was the wrongful jailing, and a star turn on a national ballroom dancing show. You would think she had had enough of the spotlight. Wrong. Meet Pauline Hanson, licensed real estate agent. The former One Nation leader began her new career late last year but has yet to seal a deal. "Everything I have had a go at I have done reasonably well. I think it is a great honour that people would want me to sell their house, that they believe I will do a good job. I have always been honest and straight-forward," Ms Hanson said.

And as the word begins to spread that Ms Hanson has joined forces with son Tony Zagorski, principal of Professionals Annerley, she has become hot property. "What mother does not want to support her children. I thought about it years ago (sister Judy Smith has been in real estate for 17 years and daughter Lee was selling for five years) and it is now another avenue and why not try something different," she said. And on the prospect of her notoriety helping sales: "I am not going to knock it. Of course I will utilise everything to my advantage."

An advertisement in Brisbane's Southern News said: "Please explain why you don't choose Pauline Hanson to sell, buy or rent your property. She has personal experience buying, selling and renting properties and . . . if you truly want someone who is honest, hard-working and prepared to fight for your best interest, don't go past Pauline - GIVE HER A GO."

Coincidentally, Ms Hanson almost lost her house when jailed for three years following a conviction for electoral fraud in August 2003 and having to repay $502,000 of electoral funding to the Electoral Commission. Her conviction was overturned by the Queensland Court of Appeal in November 2003 after she served 78 days in prison. Earlier this week, the commission knocked back an application for the money to be returned, but Ms Hanson plans to appeal.


At Sydney airport the more things change the more they remain the same

It was the same when it was government-owned

Irate, exhausted travellers. Embarrassed staff. Embattled management. And bags and bags of complaints, as Sydney Airport struggles to process the morning rush of international passengers. "This is absurd, just totally unacceptable," said Ron Bowden, a businessman, yesterday morning, after his 15-hour trip home from Los Angeles was extended by a long wait for his baggage. Surveying the chaos, he shook his head. Some of the carousels were overloaded and had ground to a halt; others stood empty. "For many people this is their first impression of Sydney. It's just not good enough," he said. Mr Bowden, a regular traveller, who is the chief executive of the Service Station Association, was not alone in criticising what Qantas and immigration staff say is a regular occurrence.

The Sydney Airport Corporation blamed the problem on immigration staffing, airline scheduling and new scanning requirements for incoming baggage. But airline and customs staff said the problems were due to cost-cutting.

Meredith Thompson, a clinical specialist who had also flown from Los Angeles, was resigned to missing her connecting flight to Canberra after waiting almost an hour to claim bags. "The travelling public deserves better service," she said, before queuing for a shuttle bus, where "they were cramming people in like it was a Tokyo suburban train". In future, she said, she would fly via Melbourne. Sarah Breier-Mackie, a professor of nursing in Missouri, also said she would avoid Sydney when she, her husband and two young children, next returned to visit her family in Launceston. "After a long flight, this is just awful. Worse than LA." The family headed to catch a taxi to the domestic terminal, only to face another long wait.

Airline, customs and quarantine staff said they were fed up dealing with angry passengers, but were powerless to hasten arrivals. "The problems are behind the scenes with the Sydney Airport Corporation," said an anonymous Qantas ground staffer. "It's all about cutting costs, making more money."

More here

Australian paper runs cartoons

Premier Peter Beattie has strongly supported freedom of speech after a second Queensland newspaper published a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed. The Rockhampton Morning Bulletin today joined Brisbane's Courier-Mail in publishing one of 12 cartoons first printed in Denmark and which have sparked a violent backlash across the Muslim world. Any depiction of Mohammed is considered blasphemous and banned in Arab countries, although not in some non-Arab Islamic countries. But Mr Beattie said he felt strongly about freedom of the press in Australia. "I strongly support their right to publish these cartoons," Mr Beattie said. "For someone who is committed to multiculturalism, I just say to our Muslim community with whom I have a good relationship, that our way, the Australian way is the right to freedom of expression and the right to be critical in a cynical way and that is the strength of our democracy. "Nobody is off limits. I am not off limits. Jesus Christ is not off limits. No one's off limits and we all know that." Mr Beattie, himself the subject of many a cartoonist's barbed hand, said he had often seen anti-Christian depictions printed in the press.


The right way to do conservation

A $2 million pledge from entrepreneur Dick Smith has saved a historically significant site in southern Tasmania from logging. Premier Paul Lennon today announced a plan to ensure the preservation of Recherche Bay, south-east of Hobart. The private land where French explorers landed in 1792 and 1793 will be purchased for $2.21 million, ending three years of lobbying for its preservation. Mr Smith's $2 million pledge comprises a $100,000 donation and a $1.9 million loan. The remainder of the purchase price will be collected from community donations and government funds. Mr Lennon said the deal to purchase the 142ha block, which its owners had planned to log to supply woodchips to timber giant Gunns Limited, had been brokered at the suggestion of Mr Smith. "Dick Smith is a great Australian and he deserves recognition for his substantial financial commitment to Recherche Bay," Mr Lennon said.


8 February, 2006

Queensland police lurch into action at last

Rogue surgeon Jayant Patel is set to face charges over only four of the 17 patient deaths to which he has been linked. A 10-month investigation has recommended the former Bundaberg Base Hospital doctor face four counts of manslaughter, eight of grievous bodily harm and 16 counts of fraud. Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson will fly to Bundaberg tomorrow to explain to grieving families why detectives are not pursuing charges in relation to the other 13 deaths.

A brief of evidence, which included 35,000 documents, 350 witness statements and 400 pages of supporting documents from the US, was yesterday referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions Leanne Clare. If the DPP agrees there is enough evidence to prosecute Dr Patel, it will advise the Federal Government to begin extradition proceedings in the US, where he is believed to be living.

Premier Peter Beattie yesterday warned there was no guarantee Dr Patel would be returned to Queensland with US courts set to determine if he could receive a fair trial. "This will not happen overnight," Mr Beattie said. "If there's any perception that he cannot get a fair trial then this whole thing can be a waste of time." Dr Patel has refused to be interviewed by detectives and there is nothing preventing him from relocating to a country which does not have an extradition treaty with Australia.

More here


Hospital waiting lists blow-out hits 544 per cent

You see why about a third of Australians go private

Queenslanders are being forced to wait longer for urgent surgery in the state's troubled public hospital system, which is performing fewer operations than it did a year ago, according to elective surgery waiting-list figures released yesterday. In spite of more than $170 million promised by the Beattie Government in the past three years to reduce waiting times for elective surgery, yesterday's waiting list report indicates the Government has failed to make any inroads into waiting times.

The number of people waiting more than 30 days for urgent category one operations increased by a massive 544 per cent during the last three months of last year compared with the same period 12 months before. Category one operations include most cancer and heart procedures which can lead to death if not performed. In the same period the number of people waiting more than 90 days for semi-urgent category two operations increased by 281 per cent. Patients in category two are likely to have severe pain, severe fractures, blocked arteries, some tumours, and some types of bowel surgery.

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Baby dies 'waiting for ambulance'

Queensland health authorities have launched an investigation after a 14-month-old girl died while waiting for an ambulance. The girl's grandmother, who did not want to be named, said today the baby died yesterday afternoon after waiting to be transferred by ambulance from Gympie Hospital in south-east Queensland to Nambour Hospital in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. "She had to wait over three hours for an ambulance," the grandmother said. "As she was getting into the ambulance, my granddaughter started frothing at the mouth and my daughter asked a registered nurse what's wrong." The mother was told to get into the ambulance with her daughter. "Within two to three minutes, my granddaughter was dead in my daughter's arms," the grandmother said.

Emergency Services Minister Pat Purcell said the death of the girl was a tragedy but the ambulance had not taken three hours to arrive. "The Gympie Hospital requested an ambulance transfer within two hours to another hospital and the ambulance crew arrived in one hour and 25 minutes," Mr Purcell said. He could not comment further until the matter had been fully investigated. A spokesman for Queensland Health Minister Stephen Robertson said the matter had been referred to the coroner.

Opposition emergency services spokesman Ted Malone called for an open inquiry into the response time of the ambulance. "Sadly, we are hearing of long delays for ambulances every day," Mr Malone said. "In this case, the minister may be saying that the ambulance got there within a reasonable time, but long delays for ambulances are occurring all too often."

Last week, a pregnant 15-year-old Mareeba girl with life-threatening complications was left waiting two-and-half hours for an ambulance to take her from Mareeba Hospital in north Queensland to Cairns, about 60km away. The baby died at Cairns Hospital the following morning. A preliminary report by the Queensland Ambulance Service into that incident blamed "human error" but recognised that while mistakes had been made, it appeared to be a one-off occurrence and not a systemic issue.


Australian Leftists blame capitalism for the incivility that their own policies have created

NSW Chief Justice Jim Spigelman has identified a growing tide of incivility in our society. He points to widespread incidence of road rage, insensitive use of mobile phones, careless littering, "ugly parent syndrome" at junior sports events and the increasing boorishness of the mass media and popular culture.

The Prime Minister has expressed support for Spigelman's comments. He is particularly critical of the race to the bottom in television shows such as Big Brother, and he warns of a trend towards increasing vulgarity. But John Howard's comments have generated some predictable reactions. Sociologists have assured us that society is no cruder or ruder than it used to be, but this complacent claim is easily refuted. In TV, for example, today's guidelines prohibit "very coarse language which is aggressive and very frequent". Forty years ago, "coarse language" was ruled out completely....

Another reaction to Howard's comments was to blame him for the decline in manners. As a letter-writer to this newspaper put it yesterday: "Howard's policies ... have created a society where people only look after number one." So next time you see someone on the train with their feet on the seats, blame the Government's workplace reforms.

This too is obviously absurd. Adam Smith explained two centuries ago how a market society does not destroy civility but generates it. For strangers to trade with each other, they must be able to trust one another. Shared norms of behaviour emerge to make transactions between individuals possible, and it is in the interest of all parties to observe them.

The idea that pro-market reforms lead to incivility and boorishness actually turns reality on its head. Reducing the role of government in our lives places greater responsibility on individuals. It is when government assumes the responsibility for looking after us and making decisions for us that we are most likely to behave like irresponsible children.

Last year British Labour MP and anti-poverty campaigner Frank Field gave a Centre for Independent Studies lecture on the topic of respect. He has no doubt civility is fraying: his constituents complain to him of little else. He puts it down to a boorish popular culture, widespread welfare dependency and, primarily, the erosion of the two-parent family. Field thinks the spread of single-parent female-headed households means many boys now grow up without the steadying influence of a mature, responsible male. He also bemoans the loss of parenting skills, which has left increasing numbers of children unsocialised and rudderless. It is within the family, he says, that we first learn consideration for others, and as family life has collapsed, so too has civil virtue.

We should not exaggerate the scale of our difficulties, however. A series of focus groups conducted by CIS in 2002 found that most Australians, young and old, affluent and battlers, understood the importance of civility and wanted to behave respectfully towards others. Their problem was that the rules have got blurred. Fifty years ago we knew that a man should hold open a door for a woman and offer his seat on the bus. Today we are not so sure.

Because there is now so much uncertainty about what the rules of conduct are, many people feel reluctant to intervene when they encounter bad behaviour. If I tell a youth to remove his feet from the seats, will others support me or will they think I'm an interfering old busybody? Am I alone in deploring gratuitous swearing and loutish behaviour, or do others think as I do?

This is where public figures such as the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice can play a role. They cannot create civility where none exists, but they can help strengthen an existing public ethic of respect by acknowledging the existence of common rules and expressing support for them.

In his lecture, Field noted that "rules and guidelines are necessary, even for the best of us". Even for those who behave well, rules provide reassurance that their instincts are good and are shared by most other people. This insight is crucial. Most people want to behave properly, to be civil and respectful to others, but our shared norms of behaviour are repeatedly being challenged, and this generation probably feels less certain of itself than any other before it. In a situation like this, it is vital that people in authority reaffirm our shared, instinctive ethical judgments and do not undermine them. It is called providing leadership.

In the past, when the norms governing public behaviour were clearer than they are today, public figures such as teachers and police officers felt confident about expressing and enforcing them. They knew the rest of the community (including those higher up) would back them up. Today, this confidence is ebbing away. Last October, Sydney magistrate Pat O'Shane dismissed a case brought against a youth who had drunkenly sworn obscenities at police in a public street, and she ordered the police to pay the offender's costs of $2600. She told her court: "I'm not sure there is such a thing as community standards any more."

Statements like this from people in authority can cause huge damage. There are still community standards, but they take a hammering when prominent people such as magistrates refuse to acknowledge them. If we want to safeguard civility, our teachers, politicians, broadcasters, magistrates and judges must understand how important it is for them not only to recognise that community standards of behaviour still exist, but also to defend them wholeheartedly and tenaciously. If we cannot rely on this, then we are indeed in trouble.


7 February, 2006

Bail for Muslims only

(Post lifted from A Western Heart:)

A teenager accused by police of being one of the main offenders in the Cronulla riots was refused bail yesterday after turning himself in to police. Murray, an air-conditioning mechanic of Bardon Ridge, appeared in Parramatta Bail Court yesterday, charged with two counts each of riot and affray.

"Police prosecutor Sergeant Rebbecca Becroft, in asking that bail be refused, said the police photographs "clearly depicted" Murray "assaulting a male and striking him on the head with closed fist". She said other photos clearly depicted Murray "damaging property by kicking it", described his actions as "shameful and disgraceful", and said Murray was facing a "real likelihood" of a long custodial sentence."

I have no problem with the justice system coming down hard on people who break the law; beating up people and damaging property should not be tolerated and must be punished severely. However, the credibility of the justice system is eroded when the law is not applied consistently, like the following case, which to me appears a lot more serious. Then again I could have just flown in from a whole different dimension and hence have no clue.

"The 28-year-old unnamed Sudanese man, believed to be a recently arrived refugee, remains critically ill in Westmead Hospital. He was found unconscious and with serious head injuries in Harrow Road, Auburn, in Sydney's west, about 11.40pm (AEDT) yesterday. Police were called to the scene after reports of an assault by a number of people on the father of four from Granville. A 17-year-old North Parramatta male today was arrested and charged with one count of maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm. He appeared in Lidcombe Children's Court and was granted conditional bail -- to reappear in the court on March 15."

Was it because the attackers were described to be of Middle Eastern appearance? Can the public be blamed for having little faith in the justice system?

An update: The victim, Ruol Agang, died over the weekend from his injuries.

Prominent Leftist bully to be prosecuted

Former federal Opposition leader Mark Latham has been charged with assault and other offences after an incident at a Campbelltown food outlet involving a news photographer last month. Police were told that about 2pm on Thursday, January 19, Mr Latham allegedly snatched a camera from a news photographer and started to walk towards his car. When the photographer demanded his camera back, he allegedly tried to hit him before leaving in his car with his children. The photographer was not injured. Police investigating the matter discovered the camera was later allegedly destroyed. Detectives met Mr Latham and his legal representatives this afternoon. He was subsequently issued with court attendance notices for assault, malicious damage and steal from person.


Another Australian in Hollywood

This is sizzling Sophie Monk in her first Hollywood film. The bikini-clad former Bardot singer from the Gold Coast burns up the screen as a temptress in the new teen picture Date Movie. Monk is starting to make headway in Los Angeles where the 26-year-old Aussie is already edging out some well-known actors for roles. She has been in LA for just 10 months but apparently beat Baywatch star Carmen Electra for the role in Date Movie and then nudged out the same actress again for a part in the new Adam Sandler film Click.

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A quality affirmative action appointment

Magistrate O'Shane is both a woman and part-Aboriginal -- and Left-leaning, funnily enough. And she hates the police

Controversial Magistrate Pat O'Shane yesterday showed that the judiciary was just as vulnerable to bad manners as the rest of society. Just two days after Chief Justice Jim Spigelman accused the community of low standards, Ms O'Shane abused a former police officer - and then stormed out of court. The magistrate aimed a volley of offensive remarks at former senior constable Graham Wardell, who, through his barrister, argued politely that he would not get a fair hearing from Ms O'Shane. This was because he had appeared before her some years ago, and feared there could be a conflict in her hearing the case.

Ms O'Shane exploded at the request, telling a stunned court: "He thinks that because he makes a complaint against me that I am going to be biased?" "He can go to another court! "Do I care? No I don't. Mr Wardell can be assured that he is not so important in my life. "He can go to another court!" Ms O'Shane said again, before storming away from the bench.

The outburst comes four months after Ms O'Shane sparked public outcry when she dismissed charges against a man who screamed at police: "Youse are f....." She then awarded more than $2600 in costs to Rufus Richardson, adding she was "not sure that there is such a thing as community standards any more".

Lawyers present were stunned by yesterday's incident and Ms O'Shane's subsequent disappearance. Barrister Kate Traill said she had not seen such a display from a member of the judiciary in 17 years at the bar. Ms Traill said Ms O'Shane's conduct was not only rude but had left her client out of pocket. "Barristers like me don't come cheap and I was booked to appear for the full day today," she said. "I'm a lawyer and I can cop a bit of stick but her comments in relation to my client were totally unnecessary."

Mr Wardell said he was "furious" and that he only wanted Ms O'Shane to step down from his case - an application for an Apprehended Violence Order - because she attacked his credibility when he appeared as a police witness in 1995. The case, heard by Ms O'Shane at Redfern Local Court, involved a young Aboriginal man who Mr Wardell claimed he had "caught red handed" stealing a car in George St. At that time a senior constable, Mr Wardell was so devastated by the alleged verbal barrage from Ms O'Shane that he lodged a formal complaint to the Attorney-General's Department.

But Ms O'Shane said yesterday she did not remember Mr Wardell. Ms O'Shane's walkout meant both parties were forced to register their application for an AVO in a different court. The matter has been adjourned until May. Mr Wardell expects to pay $4500 in barristers' fees for yesterday.

Chief Justice James Spigelman this week blamed poor parenting, reality television and a general decline in basis manners for the decay of civilised society. He said "ugly parent syndrome" and the "vulgarity and rudeness" of reality television was to blame. Ms O'Shane's direct boss, Chief Magistrate Derek Price, last night refused to comment on her performance but said he agreed with the remarks of the Chief Justice.


Another public hospital system has to be bailed out by the private sector

Australia following Britain's lead

The Victorian state government has turned to private hospitals for help with reducing its surgery waiting lists. The Government will pay them to operate on 500 public patients. Up to 30 private hospitals, including Epworth and Healthscope, are believed to be interested in the six-month scheme, The Age newspaper says. The scheme would involve performing high-demand procedures in the private hospitals - including non-urgent orthopedic, vascular and plastic surgery - at a rate of $4000 per operation.

The plan has upset health unions, which believe the government should increase funding of the public system, but has been welcomed by private hospitals. Health Services Union state secretary Jeff Jackson said the government provided hospitals with "substantial sums of additional money, and that doesn't appear to have eased or resolved waiting lists in our hospitals".

Australian Medical Association Victorian vice-president Doug Travis said the money should buy more staff to open more beds. Opposition health spokeswoman Helen Shardey said the government's waiting list management had been "very poor". "This is ad hoc policy-making," Ms Shardey said. "It's not part of an overall strategy; it's grabbing at anything to try to fix the system and try to make people believe they're doing something."


6 February, 2006

More on the stabbings of beachgoing Anglo-Australians by Lebanese Muslims

The stabbings took place at Sydney's most famous, popular and heavily-policed beach -- Bondi. A comment on Tim Blair's site sums it up:

Every time I go to Bondi, I see the police hanging around en masse, at the restaurants, cafes and shops. Meanwhile, I see the thugs all alone in their hotted up HSV's sitting down in the car, being left alone by the police, surely due to cowardice if not strategic order. Where do you think the crime happened? In a "known hotspot" according to the Commander, despite a massive police operation. From The Sydney Morning Herald:

"These guys have just no hesitation in pulling a knife out and stabbing you to do damage, possibly to kill. "If the knife had gone in much further, it was right next to [my son's] main artery." Police say the incident happened in two waves. The attackers had earlier left Bondi after an argument about two teenage girls being hassled. They then showed up several minutes later, armed and in two vehicles."

Pretty standard behaviour at Bondi as I recall. One or two `men of Middle Eastern appearance' sporting Adidas trackies and a rude haircut, would loudly call a girl a "slut" or a "pig". If the girl's boyfriend or husband should so much as look at the perpetrator, they would feign offence "what you looking at?" and all of a sudden ten of his mates would back him up, and it was on as they practiced this week's kickboxing moves. Additional carloads were always a phone call away, making a cellphone a dangerous weapon.

Immigration of little benefit to Australia

An abiding and unshakeable belief of Australian business is that immigration is good for the economy and we need a lot more of it than we're getting. But is the belief soundly based? According to a Productivity Commission paper on Economic Impacts of Migration and Population Growth, not really. The economic benefits are "very small".

The first point to make is that, if you use immigration to add to our population, then obviously you make our economy bigger. After all, every extra person has to be fed, clothed and housed, and this adds to economic activity. I guess if you're from, say, the housing industry, that's all you care about. Immigration adds to the demand for houses. But we're not running the economy for the benefit of the housing industry, or any other industry. We're running it for the benefit of the people, not the producers. So the real test of whether immigration is good for the economy is not whether it makes the economy bigger but whether it makes the people in the economy better off. By the same token, we're not running an immigration program for the benefit of the immigrants, but for the benefit of the people already here.

And the test of whether the existing population is better off - in narrow material terms, anyway - is whether immigration leads to an increase in income per person (that is, gross domestic product divided by the population). In other words, whether it increases our material standard of living. And, as a matter of arithmetic, this requires that, on average, the immigrants make an above-average contribution to income per person. They have to add enough for themselves, plus a bit more for the rest of us.

Immigration has played a big part in the growth of Australia's population and its economy. Had there been no net migration since World War II, our population today would be not 20 million, but 13 million. And about a quarter of both the population and the workforce was born overseas. For most of that period, most immigrants were admitted on the basis of "family reunion" - that is, people who wanted to come here to join their relatives. But the big change, particularly under the Howard Government, has been to greatly increase the emphasis on admitting people of working age with scarce skills. Increasingly, these are Asians who've just completed their (fully charged) educations at Australian universities.

At the most fundamental level, the main thing immigration does is add to the demand for labour (because of the additional demand for food, clothing, shelter and all the rest), but also add to the supply of labour (by those immigrants of working age who want to work). It follows that the more skilled the immigrants are who add to the supply of labour, the more immigration is likely to add to GDP per person. Which is why the experiment the Productivity Commission performed in its study was giving immigration every chance to get a good result. It used an econometric model of the economy to get an idea of what would happen if we increased the skilled migrant intake by half (about 39,000 extra immigrants each year) for the next 20 years. It found that, by 2024-25, this would cause annual real GDP to be 3.5 per cent greater than otherwise. But get this: by then, real GDP per person would be only $335 a year (or 0.6 per cent) higher than otherwise. In the report's words, such a result is "neutral to mildly positive". Translation: chicken feed.

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A very young conservative politician

Budding politician Jessica Weber (pictured) could be the complete package - young, intelligent, charismatic and determined. Throw in feisty, passionate and articulate, and the 21-year-old spells trouble for Labor at the next state election. Ms Weber is the Liberal candidate for the electorate of Townsville, who will go head-to-head with ALP incumbent Mike Reynolds at the next poll. She describes her youth as a virtue in her bid to unseat the 59-year-old Minister for Child Safety. "Age is irrelevant when it comes to being passionate about the electorate," Ms Weber said. "What I lack in years I hope to make up for in enthusiasm."

The final-year Bachelor of Law and Economics student at James Cook University has the confidence of senior party figures, with Deputy Leader Bruce Flegg warning Mr Reynolds not to underestimate his opponent. "She's very articulate, very intelligent, passionate about Townsville and 100 per cent local," he said.

The former St Patrick's College vice-captain, who represented Arcadian SLSC as a junior, is well versed in health, an issue likely to decide the 2007 election. Eight of her relatives are nurses. "My mum, grandmother and aunties used to talk about how good the health system was. Now they're telling me how hard it's become. It's fallen to pieces." The born-and-bred north Queenslander was 17 when she joined the Liberal Party, but was 14 when a career in politics started to look attractive. She served as JCU Student Association president last year, and remains active on its council.


Dud teachers protected at the expense of students

This article is about the situation in New South Wales but a similar problem can be found almost anywhere in the Western world

If you want to know who the bad teachers are in a school, ask the students. They are good judges. So when the year 5 students in an OC - opportunity class for the gifted and talented - complained about their teacher, detailing scenes of unusual classroom chaos, parents took notice. They contacted the school. At first their voices fell on deaf ears. So some parents protested with their feet; several students were taken out of the prized OC places they had won through competitive examination and went back to their local primary school. "There was no control in the classroom and no evidence of any work being done," a parent told me. Another said: "She was floundering, out of her depth." Parents felt sympathy for the teacher, who had one year's teaching experience and was trying. But the inadequacies could not be ignored.

The parents got lucky. They were middle-class and assertive, and angry at the broken promise of special "opportunity" for their children. As well, they had the option of putting the children back into local schools. The threat of mass defections with attendant bad publicity could have undermined the reputation of the OC program. Their concerns were heeded. It took only until mid-second term for the teacher to be shifted to a non-teaching job out of the school. It was done mainly for "health reasons", much easier grounds for removal than incompetence.

Most children in regular schools are not so lucky. It is notoriously difficult to remove poor-performing teachers. "Teachers have to have two heads to be kicked out," a former Department of Education bureaucrat told me. Principals have no real incentives to weed out the time-servers and non-performers. They have no motivation to rock the boat. There is no pressure of competition in the public sector; most parents are trapped, feeling they must wear the dud teacher. There is no performance-based remuneration for principals or teachers, so nothing is lost or gained by confronting the non-performers. And there is no stomach to fight the NSW Teachers Federation. Industrial relations concerns rather than professional ethics have dominated thinking about bad teachers.

Teachers' rights need to be protected from malicious students and interfering parents with absurd expectations. Not every teacher is a Mr Chips; mediocrities abound in any profession and are not the issue here. Terrible teachers are easy enough to identify. Just ask the children. But in any dispute over teacher competence, the customer - the student - is rarely right. The balance of rights and responsibilities is out of kilter.

With another school year under way, parents can only cross their fingers that the good teacher falls their way. It is no secret what constitutes a good teacher. When Tony Vinson conducted his inquiry into public education in NSW, he found students identified the qualities easily - expertise in the subject, ability to control the classroom without shouting, dedication, and being approachable and fair.

Most students can survive a year, or a subject, taught by an incompetent teacher. But sometimes the consequences are more serious. It can colour a year or shape a life. In the junior years, it can determine whether a child learns to read, and by the end of high school, a bad teacher can ruin a child's chance of getting into a desired university course. The OC students, for example, suffered further instability, after their teacher's removal, under two casual placements before a permanent teacher started at the beginning of term four. She had only a few weeks to turn things around before the children sat the in-school and, in March, the external exams for entry to selective high schools. Compared with previous years when virtually all the OC students made it to the local selective high schools, few of the crop for this year did so. And while there may be several explanations, including the possibility that the group overall was not so bright, and the instability was not the factor, parents have been left thinking the system let them down.

Wonderful teachers change lives, are remembered forever, though rarely thanked. But in today's workforce, teachers occupy an unusual place. They have virtual life tenure, yet are protected from the scrutiny most other professionals undergo. No one can follow them into the classroom, except the children, whose views are often discounted. Teachers spend years marking and assessing children's work, yet get no systematic feedback from the children on their own strengths and weaknesses.

If there is a beacon of hope it lies with the new NSW Institute of Teachers, an independent statutory body, which has put in place a mechanism for accrediting and licensing teachers, and even for differentiating between the competent, the accomplished, and the leaders. For the first time this year, teachers with about one year's experience will have to be accredited in order to continue to teach after meeting stipulated standards, providing evidence of classroom work, and assessment by the principal or a senior teacher. It will make it easier for principals to be freer in their comments, and ensure poor teachers are not accredited. With a high proportion of teachers due to retire over the next seven years, it was considered a waste of resources to try to cover the old hands. It is a start. But what a pity students will have no input into the teacher evaluations when they are the real experts.


5 February, 2006

More Muslim violence on Sydney beach

Two men have been arrested over a stabbing attack on a group of six people at Sydney's Bondi Beach. The five males and a female were injured after one group, described as being of Middle Eastern or Mediterranean appearance, set upon the other about midnight (AEDT), police said. Police said two men were arrested in Chester Hill, in Sydney's southwest about 2pm (AEDT) today, in relation to the attack. Police also seized a car for forensic examination. The attackers had left Bondi after an altercation with the other group, only to return armed with knives and bottles and in two vehicles a short time later. The injured, all aged in their late teens and early 20s, suffered multiple stab wounds to the neck, legs, back and arms. Five were taken to Prince of Wales Hospital and one to St Vincent's Hospital. Two were seriously injured, police said.


Beazley gets personal on kids' health

Australia's current chief Leftist is rather a nice man. I think his concern that pregnant mums get their vitamins is a hell of a lot better than the idiocy that preoccupies many of the world's other Leftist leaders -- such as their obsessive hatred of the USA. Beazley is actually fairly pro-American

Drawing on his childhood experiences, Kim Beazley will unveil plans today to tackle declining health standards among children, including taking steps to ensure pregnant women get sufficient vitamins. As part of his health statement - Goals for Aussie Kids - the Opposition Leader will also commit to a special children's centre in the Health Department to co-ordinate a national response to rising health problems. With obesity and diabetes on the rise, Labor is hoping its latest policy blueprint will be popular with parents. But Labor's pledge to ensure women get enough folate by adding it to flour is likely to prove contentious, with some industry representatives questioning the approach. Mr Beazley and the Opposition's health spokeswoman, Julia Gillard, plan to work with children's experts and industry to fix the problem of folate deficiencies in pregnant women. And the Labor leader, who continues to battle weight problems and who fought off polio as a six-year-old, will draw on his personal experience.

More here

Abortion manslaughter trial date set

A landmark case against a Sydney doctor charged with the manslaughter of a foetus and performing an illegal late-term abortion will begin in July. Suman Sood, the former owner of the Fairfield Women's Health Clinic, is the first doctor in New South Wales to be charged with the manslaughter of a foetus in more than 34 years. Appearing in the NSW Supreme Court today, Sood was arraigned on both the manslaughter charge and one count of administering a drug with intent to procure a miscarriage. Sood, who is on bail, entered a not guilty plea to both charges. NSW Supreme Court Justice Graham Barr today said Sood's trial would begin on July 3, 2006 and a directions hearing would be held on April 7. "Bail will continue under present conditions," Justice Barr told the court. Sood is alleged to have failed to counsel a 20-year-old who wanted a late-term abortion. The Crown alleges the woman claims Sood gave her some tablets and sent her home, where she gave birth on the toilet to a baby boy, who lived for four hours. Sood's lawyers have argued the young woman's evidence was unreliable because she could not remember all details of the May 2002 consultation with Sood.


You even wait to get on a waiting list in Victorian public hospitals

Covered up by government deception, of course. Imagine how bad it would be if so many Australians did not go to private hospitals instead

The Victorian Government has been accused by the opposition of manipulating hospital statistics and spending money on advertising to mislead voters on the parlous condition of the state's health system. Elective surgery waiting lists put out by the Victoria Government were vastly underestimated, opposition health spokeswoman Helen Shardey said today. Mrs Shardey said there were 20,000 people at least still waiting to visit specialists before they could be placed on surgery waiting lists. "This is what I call the waiting waiting list," she said. The numbers included about 700 children who were waiting to get an appointment in the Royal Children's Hospital.

"I appreciate not all people waiting to attend an appointment are going to be lining up for elective surgery but it's likely a high proportion will," she said. "The figures the Government is presenting are not a true indication of the parlous state of health in Victoria. "(They) should take action to reduce the waiting lists instead of wasting money on advertising, trying to con Victorians into thinking that the health system is running well."

The Victorian Government has recently launched an advertising campaign highlighting a reduction in the time that people wait for surgery. The Government has provided $30 million funding for 16,260 additional outpatient beds at 18 clinics across the state as part of a blitz on waiting lists planned over the next six months. "This is all part of a major push to reduce times for Victorians waiting for outpatient consultation," Victorian Health Minister Bronwyn Pike said today.

But, Mrs Shardye said the $30 million announced in last year's budget. She said the Victorian Government was deliberately hiding the problem by modifying the information that was released. "They changed the quarterly hospital reporting it is now only six monthly with less information (and) they changed the method by which ambulance bypass is being recorded... to cover up (the fact) there were probably about 4000 bypasses of hospitals occurring last year," she said. Mrs Shardey said the Liberal Party was yet to release its health policy and could not guarantee it would direct more funds to the health budget


Too much tolerance: Australia needs leaders to show the way on respect

Below is an editorial from "The Australian" newspaper

AS the violence that erupted in the Sydney beachside suburb of Cronulla and the revenge attacks that followed demonstrated, civility matters. At its most extreme, an absence of civility can result in social collapse. Australia has clearly not reached that stage, but NSW Chief Justice Jim Spigelman is nonetheless on the mark to issue a warning about the deterioration of Australians' ordinary manners and the dangers this poses to our social fabric. As the Prime Minister agreed in response, good manners are the basis of a more civilised society. Knowing how to use a fish fork, pass the port correctly and other fine points of etiquette are not at issue. Rather, Justice Spigelman called for a "zero-tolerance" policy to reverse a decline in Australians' ordinary manners, evident in the alarming incidence of road rage, ugly behaviour by parents at school sporting events, the expanding use of offensive language, lack of courtesy when it comes to mobile phone use, the virtual disappearance in everyday interaction of the words please, sorry and thank you and the vulgarity of reality TV shows.

Zeroing in on the role of broadcast media, Mr Howard aired his view that TV networks were leading the collapse in manners and proposed they should adopt a voluntary curb on the use of foul language. He might add to his list the increasingly frequent presence of gratuitous violence on television that mars its value as family entertainment. Certainly offensive language is ubiquitous across much of popular culture - any parent who takes the time to read the lyrics of their teenagers gangsta rap CDs is in for a nasty shock - and reality television programs such as Channel 10's Big Brother and its "uncut" version are among the worst offenders. When gutter-level language, full frontal nudity, casual and hot-tub sex, drunkenness and discussion of masturbation are the common currency of Australians' evening viewing, it can only have the result of legitimising the lowest common denominator when it comes to standards of behaviour in social interaction. While reverting to censorship is unpalatable, there is sense in the Prime Minister's call for more voluntary restraint by broadcasters when it comes to violence, sexually explicit material and obscene language. Similarly there is a strong case for more parental guidance and supervision over what our youngsters consume on a daily basis.

Television, however, is not the only culprit. Leaders in many areas of Australian life are letting down the community by failing to provide role models on civility. NSW magistrate Pat O'Shane, for instance, did the Australian community no favour last year when she threw out a case of offensive behaviour against a 27-year-old man who told police "youse are f. . .ed", arguing she was "not sure there is such a thing as a community standard any more". Most Australians would disagree that as a society we should tolerate anti-social behaviour, whether it involves abusing police, schoolyard bullying, defacing property with graffiti, breaking windows or other forms of petty vandalism. The many parents fleeing to private schools believe, on the contrary, that there is too much tolerance in the public school system when it comes to disciplining bad behaviour. Unfortunately parents wanting to raise polite, respectful offspring are not being helped by the example of boorish behaviour from many in public life. From Nationals defector Julian McGauran giving Opposition senators the finger or former Labor leader Mark Latham calling Mr Howard an "arse-licker" and the Coalition "a conga-line of suckholes", role models are thin on the ground. Institutions such as courts, parliament and schools must not sanction ill-civility, or as a society we will suffer

4 February, 2006


(There seems to have been a lot that is of interest happening lately so I am just presenting brief notes on everything today)

The Leftist distortions that are taught in schools about early Australian settlement

Below is a comment on the lead post here of 2nd. Feb. about Australia's history wars. Comment emailed to me by the author of Emotional Rex

It is bad enough that this self-disordered view of Australian history is taught to Australian youth. But it doesn't stop there. Last year when I met my wife's family in Sweden, her much younger sister proudly brought out her high school English textbook. When young Swedes learn English, they also learn the histories of the English speaking peoples. When I turned to the section about Australia I was dismayed. Page upon page of Henry Reynold's inspired crap. White Australians were portrayed very much as disgraceful villains. The Aborigines angels. There was a small sub-section where an urban, white-skinned Aboriginal girl, spoke disdainfully about her experiences in white Australia. I suspect this whole Australian section was writen by Australians. White Australians preaching this nasty self-loathing version of our history to young Swedes(and how many others?).

Later, during my Swedish trip, my wife's teenage brother, in his best English, told me how my whole family seemed so nice and so unlike the Australians he had been learned about at school(I swear this is true). He added, "What you did to the Aborigines was not nice." Unfortunately, he knew little about our many achievements.

Reduced sentence for Muslim gang rapist

The High Court has denied the crown special leave to appeal against a reduced jail term for notorious gang rapist Bilal Skaf. The decision means Skaf, who committed a string of gang rapes in Sydney's south west, could be free as early as 2023. Skaf, now 24, was originally jailed for up to 55 years after being convicted of a string of gang rapes in 2000. That sentence was reduced to a maximum 46 years by the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal after Skaf successfully appealed against his conviction for one victim, known as Ms D. Last September, the Court of Criminal Appeal further reduced that sentence to a maximum 28 years, finding Skaf's crimes did not fall into the worst category of gang rape and that the District Court imposed too heavy a sentence. The NSW government sought leave to challenge that decision, but the High Court today refused leave to appeal.


Multiculturalism: One Leftist gets it right

A south-east Queensland Labor MP says the word 'multiculturalism' should be abandoned because it implies there is not an Australian culture. The state Member for Hervey Bay, Andrew McNamara, says Australia's culture is based on equality. He says the idea of multiculturalism is divisive because it suggests people do not have to accept those values. "We need to understand that the Australian culture of tolerance, freedom of religion and equality before the law and democracy, that culture is not divisible," said. "That is our national culture and it can accommodate all manner of diversity but anyone who isn't accepting that culture is attacking it." Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Susan Booth does not agree that multiculturalism is divisive. "Multiculturalism is about embracing a dual role of a country ... and the new Australian culture that you come to also embrace," she said.


An Australian encounters TSA stupidity

"Margaret Jackson is the blond, bespectacled, fiftyish chairman of Qantas Airlines. She seems as Australian as kangaroos and koalas: cheerful, plucky, and no-nonsense. Only someone completely bonkers could suspect her of being an Islamic terrorist a la the 9/11 hijackers. Which means, of course, that the TSA did. A screener named Bill rifled Maggie's briefcase last year at Los Angeles International Airport. In it he found the sorts of papers you might expect an airline's CEO to carry, specifically, cross-sections and diagrams of an aircraft. Well. The nitwits who strive to protect us from deadly nail clippers and grandmothers in sandals came out swinging. According to Maggie, our man Bill asked her, 'Why have you got all of this?' She told him, 'I'm the chairman of an airline. I'm the chairman of Qantas.' And this black guy, who was, like, eight foot tall, said, 'But you're a woman'. Boy, nothing gets past the TSA these days."


Elle voted No. 1

(Her real name is Eleanor Gow -- all 6' of her)

Supermodel Elle Macpherson has been voted Australia's hottest babe ever. Mens magazine FHM has selected the top 50 hot Aussie babes for its latest edition - among them Sigrid Thornton, Marcia Hines, Lynda Stoner and Germaine Greer. "It's not easy to reduce over 200 years of gorgeous Australian women down to a top 50 but, in the end, it simply had to be done," said FHM deputy editor Ben Smithurst. "We love a sunburnt country, but not as much as we love the women who live here. I don't think any country in the world could compete with Australia, and Australian women." Coming in second on the list was pop princess Kylie Minogue, followed by Delvene Delaney, Jana Wendt, Jennifer Hawkins, Sandra Sully, Natalie Imbruglia, Chrissie Amphlett, Jo Beth Taylor and Olivia Newton John.

More here

3 February, 2006

Teacher training absurdities

What is the best way to raise standards and to ensure that students are well educated? Forget about more money and smaller classes. Why not, as Newsweek has argued, close the schools of education? Those schools, instead of giving beginning teachers a mastery of their subject matter, especially in areas such as primary literacy and numeracy, are more concerned with inculcating politically correct values.

The late 1960s and '70s was not only about Woodstock, moratoriums and flower power: equally important was the Left's long march through the institutions and the way education was targeted as a key instrument in the culture wars. In the US, academics such as Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis argue that "inequalities in education are part of the web of capitalist society" and that "an equal and liberating school system requires a revolutionary transformation of economic life". In England, sociologists such as M.F.D. Young argue that there is nothing inherently superior or worthwhile about academic studies. What counts as knowledge is a socio-cultural construct used to marginalise so-called disadvantaged groups.

As Monash-based teacher educator Georgina Tsolidis notes in her summary of teacher training in Australia, education is redefined as a political process whereby students have to be empowered to challenge the status quo. "Many of us cut our teaching teeth in a climate of advocacy related to student-centred pedagogy, curriculum and assessment," she says. "Notions of empowerment [popularised by Paulo Freire] have been the bread and butter for those of us concerned with teaching, particularly teaching involving the 'other'. Our job was to produce young adults who would challenge the status quo through skills of critical inquiry. Within the classroom of the self-styled liberatory pedagogue there existed clear distinctions between the marginal and the mainstream."

Judged by teacher training at many Australian universities and the work of professional groups such as the Australian Council of Deans of Education and the Australian Curriculum Studies Association, little has changed. Future teachers at Deakin University are taught "a clear awareness of the sociopolitical role of education in society, an understanding of the impact of economic and ideological change on the practice of educators" and are urged to "work for social justice". Charles Sturt University also expects teachers to develop a "socially and politically responsive view of education", a "commitment to social justice" and to view schooling as "socially and historically constructed". Flinders University expects teachers to act as "agents for social change and justice". The Victorian University of Technology's school of education proclaims its "commitment to social justice and equity as the purpose and outcome of both school and teacher education".

Literacy was once about reading and writing. Not so at Griffith University, where literacy is taught within a "critical social-constructivist framework" and defined as "multi-modal mediated texts that are influenced by cultural and social factors".

To make matters worse, teachers are generally given a left-wing view of such matters. As argued in Making the Difference, widely set for education courses during the 1980s, Australian society is "disfigured by class exploitation, sexual and racial oppression and in chronic danger of war and environmental destruction".

Education, instead of providing a ladder of opportunity or dealing with what Matthew Arnold termed the best that has been thought and said, is defined as "the process of liberation" and teachers are told "to decide whose side they are on". The ACSA also views education as a "social and historical construction" that "typically serves the interests of particular social groups at the expense of others". Based on the work of the French leftist Pierre Bourdieu, the association argues that teachers must acknowledge the "role of education in the reproduction and transformation of society".

The traditional academic curriculum, competition and a belief in merit and ability are attacked as socially unjust and instrumental in maintaining the power of dominant groups in society. In addition to promoting a left-wing view of education, of equal concern is that those responsible for teacher education uncritically promote a new-age, faddish view of curriculum. The University of Tasmania's faculty of education describes its agenda as embracing "radical curriculum change in Tasmanian schools by adopting the new Essential Learnings Framework". Ignored is that the framework is full of education jargon and has little academic merit. Melbourne's RMIT adopts all the cliches associated with a social-constructivist view of learning: so-called new learners have to think strategically, be risk takers, juggle multiple perspectives and become deep and lifelong learners.

As the ACDE has argued in New Learning: A Charter for Australian Education, old-fashioned ideas about right and wrong answers and teaching the three R's have to be jettisoned in favour of the new basics. The new basics are defined as developing "self-awareness, problem-solving and intercultural skills" so that learners are equipped with "multiple strategies for tackling a task and a flexible solutions-orientation to knowledge".

What's ignored is that high standards and higher order skills depend on rote learning and mastering the basics. Also ignored is that in the real world there are right and wrong answers and that generic skills such as problem solving are subject-specific.


Business lobby seeks radical tax changes

The federal government should consider a top income tax rate of 20 per cent with a radical change in deductions, credits and offsets, Australia's peak business tax lobby group says. The Business Coalition for Tax Reform is calling on the government to appoint an eminent person to head a review of the personal tax system. In a bid to spur on debate over tax reform, the coalition has released a discussion paper which raises three possible directions for reform. Coalition chairperson John Stanhope said the three scenarios - which he described as modest, midway and major - would cut personal income tax and improve the system's simplicity.

The modest plan would cut the number of tax brackets from five to four with tax rates of 0, 15, 28 and 40 per cent, maintaining the existing tax-free threshold and Medicare levy, while increasing the low income rebate to $375. Mr Stanhope said the plan, which would cost about $8 billion a year, would give every taxpayer a cut and the top two brackets would be collapsed into one, started at $70,001.

The second scenario would cut the number of tax brackets from five to four, with tax rates of 0, 15, 25 and 35 per cent. The low income rebate would be scrapped and the tax-free threshold would be raised from $6,000 to $8,600. Deductions would not be removed entirely, but curtailed to fund lower tax rates.

Mr Stanhope said the midway proposal would cost about $10 billion a year but save billions in compliance costs. The most fundamental change, at a cost of about $22 billion a year, would creating a minimum tax-free threshold of $11,600 and a top rate of 20 per cent. This would require a radical change in deductions, credits, offsets and special interest concessions.

Mr Stanhope, who is also chief financial officer of Telstra, said the discussion paper represented the first time business leaders had taken a united stance on reforming income tax. "This discussion paper does not promote any one scenario as the automatic solution to Australia's personal income tax reform, but illustrates three possible proposals that a government-established review process would be able to examine," Mr Stanhope said.

More here

Wind-farm looniness not dead yet

The nation's largest wind farm will be built north of Adelaide by the Australian Gas Light Co (AGL). The 95MW, $236-million facility would be built at Hallett, next to its existing 180MW gas-fired power plant, AGL said today. Construction would begin in September with commissioning expected in December next year. With 45 turbines the farm would be bigger than the present largest wind farm, the 91MW plant 500km away at Wattle Point in South Australia. AGL managing director Greg Martin said Hallett was an ideal place for a wind farm, offering one of the largest wind resources on the mainland with close proximity to a high voltage electricity transmission system. "The Hallett wind farm will help AGL meet its commitment to increase the amount of electricity generated from renewable sources," Mr Martin said. "The strategic location at Hallett will also enable the development of an integrated gas-fired power plant and wind farm facility to ensure continuous operation during periods of high electricity demand."


Leaping crocs!

A crocodile has launched itself at a vehicle in Kakadu National Park - sparking an unusual warning from rangers in the Northern Territory. Croc expert Garry Lindner says the episode, on the Kakadu Highway near Jabiru, follows a swag of reports from motorists confronted by crocodiles on the roads of the world heritage-listed park. The 2m saltwater crocodile emerged from a culvert drain and leapt into the path of a four-wheel-drive vehicle driven by a local scientist who was travelling with traditional owners. "The croc just launched itself into the air with all four feet off the ground," Mr Lindner said. "The driver had no time to react and unfortunately the animal died on impact."

In another incident last week, a driver had to swerve to avoid a 3m [3 meters is ten feet] crocodile on the Arnhem Highway, he said. Mr Lindner said crocodiles were on the move during the Northern Territory wet season, and visitors to Kakadu should be careful when driving on the roads, especially near waterways. "Always expect that a crocodile may be in the area," he said. "Some crocs move into well-known culvert fishing locations and remain there for the duration of the wet season. "They are attracted - just like fishermen - to the fish."


2 February, 2006

Textbook case of making Australia's past a blame game

School's back. That means pressing uniforms, searching for the elusive school tie, scraping out last December's lunch from the bottom of the school bag and covering a new batch of textbooks. And, after last week's address by the Prime Minister, wondering what all the fuss is about when it comes to teaching our children about Australian history. So on Sunday I picked up a brand new history text book for first year high-school students. And, there, in chapter nine, under the heading of Australia 1788-1900: Colonisation and Contact are more than 30 pages devoted to the politics of shame. So this is what all the fuss is about.

Students learning about the colonisation of Australia are given a black and white portrait, so to speak. Black is good. White is bad. The textbook quotes a speech by Pat Dodson to describe the idyllic way Aboriginal Australians lived at the time "white invasion is just about to occur". "About three days in every week would be devoted to gathering your food," he says. "Hunting, collecting - a bit less in places of plenty, a bit more in the hard country. The rest of your time would be spent socialising, or in religious observances of different kinds." There is a "rich and complicated legal system" and the "children are more deeply loved than perhaps any children on earth".

Then, into this world comes the "white invader. Their first act is to say the land is terra nullius, that no one owns the land, that it is not used ... Thus begins the Australian Civil War." And that war continues to this day, Dodson says. The author of the text is on Dodson's side, complaining that "the myth of terra nullius" has been "left out of the history books". It is bad enough that this account is factually inaccurate. Terra nullius is not in the history books because, as Michael Connor has shown in his book, The Invention of Terra Nullius, it was a recent concoction. A bogus legal theory propounded to justify political objectives in securing Aboriginal land rights.

But even worse than the promotion of this legal mythology is the continued peddling of the romance of the noble savage. A pre-1788 utopia where much of the week is spent chatting among friends, bowing before spirits and loving children. Even for an alpha male such as Dodson, this is a stretch. One would have thought that, in between recounting the sense of community and sharing - and the bucolic pleasures that filled daily life before "the invasion" - students would also be told of the less sharing side to tribal life - the inter-tribal violence or the brutal treatment of women. But there is no rounding out of history here. Just a one-sided Disneyfication - more Fantasia than Mickey Mouse - of the noble savage. This is not just a dumbing down of history. This is ideology - inculcating a sense of shame in young students about Western civilisation.

There is no mention of British colonisation contributing anything much to Australia - no mention of civilised society or the rule of law. Instead, all the talk is of dark forces reaching Australian shores: forces that are individualistic and competitive and concerned with material gain. There are sneering references to Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Charles Darwin - as examples of Europeans who believed in the "superiority" of Western civilisation, over, say the hunter-gatherer existence of local indigenous people. Reading the text is like learning about Darwin's evolutionary theory in reverse gear. Progress is rather nasty and a source of embarrassment to the authors.

Last week, when John Howard criticised the way history is taught to Australian children, all he sought was some balance. Acknowledge the injustices to indigenous people, but also recognise the "great and enduring heritage of Western civilisation", he said. But the education commandos pounced. We've moved on from the PM's old-fashioned ideas of teaching, they complained. We're teaching children "more sophisticated historical skills, like using historical sources appropriately, questioning those sources, analysing and interpreting, looking at perspectives and interpretations", the NSW Board of Studies history inspector, Jennifer Lawless, said.

But if critical thinking is the aim, schoolchildren need critical information. They need to learn that historian Lyndall Ryan admitted that "historians are always making up figures" when she was challenged by Keith Windschuttle - author of The Fabrication of Aboriginal History - for inflating the number of Aborigines killed by white men. Instead, students are given a one-sided version that shuns critical analysis. This is history pressed into the service of progressive politics, imbuing students with political agendas, rather than encouraging genuine learning.

We know it is all about politics because the teachers unions have told us so. Last year Pat Byrne, the Australian teachers' union president crowed about the fact that progressive educators "had succeeded in influencing curriculum development in schools, education departments and universities". And she said those "conservatives" - presumably people such as Howard who are calling for a more balanced approach to teaching - "have a lot of work to undo the progressive curriculum". An audacious admission. And who can forget the less triumphant, but no less political, observation from Wayne Sawyer, a former chairman of the NSW Board of Studies English curriculum committee. He admonished teachers after the last federal election for failing to produce a more "questioning, critical generation" of students because they were now voting for Howard.

Brazen politicking is evident in how students are taught to read. In the politically charged nether world of academe sits Brian Cambourne, associate professor of education at the University of Wollongong. He is one of the driving forces behind the whole language approach to literacy where children are expected to learn to read by being immersed in literature rather than learning the sounds that make up the words. He has spoken openly about the whole language philosophy as "literacy for social equity and social justice". He regards literacy as innately political and language as simply a tool used by those interested in power and wealth. He says politicians criticise his philosophy because they "have become aware of just how threatening a school system which produced thousands of highly critically literate students might be to the current ways of power and wealth distributed in our society".

Indeed, Cambourne admits his educational philosophy is thick with his political views. "Most of the work I do is based on the political prejudices I have and these must of course impact on what I research, and how and why I teach the way I do," he says.

So, as you finish covering your child's school books, flick through them to see what all the fuss is about. There are many fine teachers trying to do their best with second-rate materials. But at least there is agreement on one point: there is much work to be done in undoing the progressive curriculum foisted on Australian schoolchildren.


A politicized public prosecutor

Cowardly Cowdery is always looking for excuses not to prosecute

NSW Opposition Leader Peter Debnam has reacted to criticism from the state's Director of Public Prosecutions by repeating a Coalition promise to rein in the DPP and limit the director's tenure. DPP Nicholas Cowdery QC said some comments about the Cronulla riot from Mr Debnam and Premier Morris Iemma, describing rioters as "thugs" and "grubs", were irresponsible and legally dangerous. Mr Debnam today said he took "no notice" of what Mr Cowdery had to say, and was more concerned about the director making his office a public issue. "A coalition government will establish an oversight committee in Parliament to oversee the office of the DPP, and its performance," Mr Debnam said. "And it will also limit future appointments of the DPP so they are appointed for seven years, not for life." Mr Debnam said his comments today about the DPP were not in direct response to Mr Cowdery's criticisms. "It's a long-standing Liberal Party policy and I'm happy to repeat it today now that Mr Cowdery has made an issue of it," Mr Debnam said.

More here

"Sydney Spy"

There is a rather striking and unusual angle on the Sydney harbour bridge and the opera house in a picture on this blog. The blogger is a student at the University of Sydney and he was rather put out to find that Brian Penton anticipated the name of his blog many decades ago when he used it for his column in the Daily Telegraph. I lived in Sydney for 15 years and am a graduate of Sydney university so the many graphics of Sydney and Sydney university were a pleasure for me to see.

CSIRO now warms to that evil coal

Australia's chief scientific organisation has thrown its weight behind the controversial "coal-friendly" technologies favoured by the Howard Government, backing away from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. The CSIRO revealed yesterday that it would boost resources in water, health and energy research, with a focus on developing low-emission projects such as capturing carbon and burying it underground in a process known as sequestration. CSIRO will spend $90million developing new energy and minerals projects, with $50million coming from government funding and $40million from "partnerships" with Australia's resources and power industry. But jobs will be shed from its current workforce of 6500 and cuts will also be made to the organisation's traditional research projects in agriculture and manufacturing.

The shift in research priorities for 2006-07 was blasted yesterday by the federal Opposition and the CSIRO's staff association. "Australia has the world's highest greenhouse emissions percapita but the CSIRO doesn't seem to care about renewable energy research," Labor science spokeswoman Jenny Macklin said.

But CSIRO chief executive Geoff Garrett told The Australian that, "like it or not", industry and consumers remained heavily dependent on coal to fire electricity and that reality was unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. CSIRO deputy chief executive Ron Sandland said: "We can have more impact by focusing our energies more in clean coal."

The new six-country Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate is focused on developing cleaner methods of developing power using the world's existing coal resources. The group - the US, Australia, Korea, Japan, India and China - has drawn fire from environmental groups concerned that the countries are ignoring renewable energy sources.

Four or five renewable energy projects will be wound up by CSIRO over the next couple of years in areas such as solar power, biological hydrogen and photo-catalytic water-splitting. CSIRO said it would be proceeding with major new R&D in areas such as solar-thermal technology and was not abandoning the renewables field altogether. But its shift in priorities indicates the organisation is conforming to government policy, which argues that the solution to fighting greenhouse gas lies with developing new technologies designed to capture and store carbon emissions.

Dr Garrett also stared down recent criticism of his organisation's pursuit of partnerships with industry, declaring he would continue to chase external revenue - like that generated by the recent best-selling Total Wellbeing Diet part-funded by Australia's meat and dairy industries. Despite the book's popularity, it created a storm of controversy, with some high-profile nutritionists such as Rosemary Stanton questioning the science behind the eating plan. "We have an internal mantra - partner or perish," Dr Garrett said. "Partnerships are absolutely pivotal to our overall strategy. The key point is making great science and great research accessible to Joe Public."


1 February, 2006

Refugee speaks out about the terror tactics of Muslim Indonesia

The Melanesian refugees who recently landed in Australia are both good people and genuine refugees, unfortunately for them

The Indonesian military is using the same tactics of terror in West Papua that were employed during its bloody reign in East Timor, and Australia should step in to mediate a peace settlement, warns separatist Herman Wainggai. Mr Wainggai, the leader of the 43 asylum-seekers who arrived in Australia two weeks ago, said ongoing abuses by the Indonesian military, often in cahoots with militias, were terrifying the indigenous community. "It's the same as with East Timor," he told the Herald yesterday from Christmas Island, where the asylum-seekers are being processed by immigration officials. "They have created militias and jihadis in West Papua. The people, and especially activists for independence, are very scared." The military and police regularly raided campuses and villages searching for independence sympathisers, while Indonesia's intelligence network kept constant tabs on their activities, Mr Wainggai said.

Jailed twice for his political activism, Mr Wainggai said he had no faith in the promise by the Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, that, if they returned home, the Papuans would face no reprisals. Many such promises had been made in the past, he said, and bitter experience meant they could not be accepted at face value. "We don't trust Indonesia," he said. "If I was sent back to Indonesia, I would die. The Government and the military treats West Papuans like animals. They have killed us like animals." Incorporated into Indonesia in 1969 after a vote widely discredited as a sham, Papua's distinct Melanesian population has been running a long, unsuccessful campaign for independence. Mr Wainggai said it was now time for other countries, particularly Australia, to take the fate of his people more seriously. "I'm asking the international community to help facilitate a meeting between the Government in Jakarta and West Papuan independence leaders," he said. "This way we can resolve these problems. Our struggle is non-violent. We believe in dialogue but we need a mediator, like the Australian Government."

Dr Yudhoyono's personal intervention in the case of the asylum-seekers - he called John Howard directly to ask for their return - reflects the acute sensitivity in Jakarta about its resource-rich province.

The Greens senator, Kerry Nettle, said Australia should heed the lessons of the past. "This Government likes to talk up its role in East Timor. It was good, but it was also very late," she said. "There's an opportunity to get in here and do something before it's too late."

Dr Yudhoyono has floated a new type of "special autonomy" for West Papua, including the creation of an indigenous upper house of parliament in the province and more development assistance. But it is already unravelling, with promised elections for the body seemingly permanently stalled as the Yudhoyono Government instead hand-picks its members. Mr Wainggai said the enticements of autonomy within the Indonesian republic were not new, and not to be believed. "We have heard this kind of talk so many times. We even heard it with the Act of Free Choice [the 1969 vote] and so many people have died since then, 400,000 people," he said. "We have struggled for independence for 40 years and we struggled for full independence, not another so-called autonomy package."


More lying Leftist history

Excerpt from a column by Gerard Henderson

A problem with history is that it is invariably taught by historians. And some historians, who are not into postmodernism and who recognise the importance of chronology, still have their own agendas. Take, for example, the increasingly stated case that there was a fascist movement in Australia in the 1930s which went close to taking power in a civil war. This view is advocated by, among others, historians Andrew Moore and Michael Cathcart and has received uncritical acceptance by such important institutions as ABC TV's Lateline in 2003 and the ABC's Social History Unit (Radio National's Summer Breakfast, January 17). The theme links in with the views of some critics of the national security legislation that contemporary Australia is again in a pre-fascist condition.

The thesis got a reworking in the November issue of Labour History, which is published by the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History and in Moore's recently published book Francis de Groot: Irish Fascist, Australian Legend. Moore presided over the collection of essays in Labour History which appeared under the title The 'Extreme Right' in Twentieth Century Australia. In his introduction, Moore acknowledged that, from his point of view, "the purpose of studying the history of the Australian Right is 'to know the enemy"'. Yes, we know.

Writing in Workers Online in 2003, Moore alleged the New Guard was "Australia's equivalent of Hitler's Nazis". Its two best known identities are antique dealer de Groot - who improperly cut the ribbon to open Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932 to spite the Labor premier, Jack Lang - and the solicitor Eric Campbell.

Both de Groot and Campbell were returned servicemen from World War I. In Labour History Moore downgrades his earlier assessment and depicts the New Guard as "Australia's rather premature manifestation of inter-war fascism". In his entry on de Groot in the recently released Australian Dictionary of Biography Supplement the New Guard is further downgraded to "proto-fascist" and de Groot is depicted as a fascist, albeit with the word in inverted commas. This suggests editors of the Supplement insisted on some hyperbole reduction.

What's going on here? A political agenda, it seems. The New Guard was formed in the early 1930s by returned soldiers and small businessmen who were concerned about the direction in which Lang was taking NSW. It was a "King and country" type organisation, consisting predominantly of Protestants, and it did have an anti-democratic tendency. But the New Guard was never fascist in any sensible understanding of the term and there was never any serious suggestion of civil war in the early 1930s in any part of Australia. The New Guard was already in decline when the NSW governor, Sir Philip Game, dismissed the Lang government in 1932 on account of its illegal actions.

There is no evidence de Groot was a fascist and Moore produces none in his taxpayer-funded biography. It seems that, to the author, fascism is very much in the eye of the beholder. In his 1995 book The Right Road, Moore suggested that in 1951, "Australian fascism's headquarters were in the Lodge, Canberra". Get it? To Moore, even the Liberal Party founder, Robert Menzies, was a fascist - with or without inverted commas, it is not clear. Moore is on safer ground in claiming Campbell was an admirer of Mussolini and Hitler but he had fallen out with the New Guard by 1933 and was not regarded as a security risk during World War II.

In his de Groot biography, Moore writes that Howard's father was "possibly a member of the New Guard". It turns out the author's source for this allegation is his own article in Workers Online. But a reading of this piece reveals there is no documentary evidence whatsoever to support the claim. In his Labour History article, Moore acknowledged the linking of the New Guard with "right-wing extremism" was a "deliberate political strategy" developed by the Communist Party in the 1950s. Which suggests that the contemporary left has a not dissimilar agenda.

Recent studies demonstrate just how far away Australia was, and is, from real fascism or Nazism. In Mussolini's Italy the Perth academic Richard Bosworth has documented that Italian fascism "was a vicious and retrograde tyranny" from as early as 1922. In The Third Reich in Power, Richard Evans demonstrates that the Nazis were involved in "top-down terror and intimidation" from the moment Hitler assumed power in 1933.

Like others, some historians will believe what they want to believe. While this remains the case, there is more to good history than the junking of themes and the restoration of a sense of structured narrative.

Good policy, dubious reasoning

The post below is reproduced from Dan Mitchell:

There's good news and bad news in Australia. The good news is that the government wants to reduce one of the extra layers of taxation imposed on private retirement savings (Australia has one of the world's best private Social Security systems). This is a good step toward a system that taxes income only one time. The bad news is that the Finance Minister makes deeply flawed Keynesian-style arguments against another pro-growth tax cut option. Lower income tax rates do not cause inflation. The left made that argument against the Reagan tax cuts, yet inflation dropped from 13 percent to 4 percent. An argument can be made that reducing double-taxation of saving is the best approach at this point in time, but Mr. Minchin is hurting good tax policy in the long-run by making a bad argument against another supply-side tax cut. reports:

Australian Finance Minister Nick Minchin has proposed that the government should abolish the superannuation tax in the next budget rather than cutting income taxes which, he argues, could help overheat the economy by boosting consumer spending and increasing inflation. ...Senator Minchin cautioned that further income tax cuts which boosted consumer spending might force the Reserve Bank to raise interest rates to keep inflation in check. "There is however a very obvious way to reduce taxation without unduly stimulating the economy and putting upward pressure on interest rates, and that is to look at how we tax savings as opposed to spending or income," Senator Minchin argued. "Abolishing Labor's tax on super contributions would deliver a very real benefit to Australian workers without overheating the economy," he concluded.

Knife mania!

Queenslanders are going under the knife at a rate of up to 100 a day in the quest to create the perfect body. Cosmetic surgeons say demand for their services is rocketing, especially among women desperate to look hot on the beach during summer. Queensland surgeons performed about 32,000 cosmetic operations last year - a rise of 35 per cent on 2004. Demand is highest for breast enlargements, with doctors in Brisbane and the Gold Coast carrying out more of the procedures than anywhere else in the country. Prominent Gold Coast cosmetic surgery figure Pamela Noon said 90 per cent of inquiries from Queensland women were about breast implants, which cost $6000-$9000. "We see four times as many patients now as we did three years ago, and in the past two months we've had a blitz on breasts which has coincided with the lovely weather," she said. "Women are far more body-conscious in Queensland than in other states because they want to look good in their bikinis."

Renee Van Dohren believes surgery at Ms Noon's has given her perfect breasts. The 21-year-old, from Surfers Paradise, recently boosted her cup size from a B to a DD and has never felt better. "I wanted an enlargement since I was a teenager and I'm so happy with the result," she said. "Now they sit up nicely without a padded bra and I get plenty of admiring glances from men when I hit the beach."

It's not just women who are taking plastic action. Surgeons say more and more men are opting for cosmetic procedures, with eyelid surgery, nose jobs and liposuction the most popular choices. The "baby boomer" generation is also contributing to the surge, as they fight to keep the wrinkles at bay. Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons spokesman Dan Kennedy said the number of operations had gone up in line with Britain and America. In Britain, the number of people having cosmetic surgery increased about 33 per cent in the past year, with more than 22,000 procedures performed....

But surgeons stress they cannot perform miracles. Sometimes people expect they'll look like Elle Macpherson, but I tell them looking like that is a full-time career and can't just be achieved with liposuction," Ms Noon said. "Cosmetic surgery doesn't offer perfection, we can only make improvements."