Friday, February 29, 2008

Another instance of bureaucracy that harms rather than helps

In good Leftist style, the NSW government has legislated for penalties rather than incentives in the child abuse area and the results are predictable. People should be REWARDED for detecting real abuse, not punished for failing to report suspicions

The NSW Department of Community Service's disastrous system of mandatory reporting of children at risk - which has clogged caseworkers' in-trays and potentially cost lives - will be changed. The embattled department has conceded that the system, which is creating almost 300,000 notifications a year, has become an unworkable monster in its current form.

DOCS has recommended to the special commission of inquiry into child protection services that a "higher standard" should be required from those reporting cases in future. In a bid to stem the flow of unnecessary reports police, health workers, teachers and other groups will have to produce "reasonable evidence a child or young person is exposed to risk or harm". DOCS has also suggested it might reduce the $22,000 fines slapped on people who fail to lodge a report. Pressure on the department is intensifying as the Ombudsman's Office investigates the deaths of 114 children known to DOCS in 2006-2007.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal that primary school principals are among those who have admitted to "reporting excessively out of fear of legal consequences". The Public Schools Principals' Forum said cases of child neglect were often overlooked because of the heavy emphasis on physical and sexual abuse. "Reports of neglect and allegations of physical abuse no longer receive high priority or early intervention from DOCS," the forum said in its submission to the special inquiry. "Principals perceive that the bar has been lowered significantly. DOCS personnel are so overwhelmed with notifications they are unable to cope. "Long waiting lists for investigation have resulted ... the unintended outcome is that the children most urgently in need of assistance are frequently lost in the thousands of reports."

DOCS director of legal services Roderick Best said it was expected changes to the standard required for mandatory reporting would reduce the number of unnecessary notifications. Currently anyone else who works with children must report any child at "risk of harm". But the criteria is so open-ended that referrals may be made for children who turn up at school without their lunch or with dirty clothing. "The system has created a mindset whereby professionals do not feel free any more to use their judgment," an insider said.

Retiring DOCS director-general Neil Shepherd has warned that caseworkers are drowning in paperwork. A decade ago DOCS received 72,800 reports on children feared to be in harm's way. In 2006-2007 there were 286,033 reports - 5501 per week and a 19 per cent increase over the previous year. By DOCS' own numbers, 22 per cent of NSW children have been subject to a notification. [Quite absurd]

Ombudsman Bruce Barbour has described the quality of the department's work as well as its failure to properly deal with its workload and liaise with other agencies, as "unacceptable".


Alcoholic black parents force children to suckle dogs

Aboriginal children in Outback Australia are so neglected by their alcoholic parents that some have suckled from dogs' teats in a desperate search for food, it has been reported. The shocking revelation came from a coroner investigating the appalling rates of suicide among Aborigines living in the remote and beautiful Kimberley region of Western Australia. Earlier this month the prime minister, Kevin Rudd, delivered a much-publicised apology to Aborigines for past injustices, but critics questioned whether his words would lead to any practical improvement in the wretched lives of indigenous people

"The plight of the little children was especially pathetic and, for many of these, the future is bleak," said coroner Alastair Hope. He was presenting a 122 page report into the deaths of 22 men and women in the region since 2000, some by suicide but all linked to alcohol and drugs. During his research, he heard evidence that malnourished children had been sucking the teats of dogs for food and that young men had attempted suicide after being refused a can of beer.

Aborigines in isolated towns like Fitzroy Crossing lived in overcrowded, ramshackle houses surrounded by rubbish and with little furniture. People slept on filthy foam mattresses beside diseased dogs in temperatures which reach 40C or more in summer. "In these communities there is nothing to do for most of the inhabitants for most of the time. Alcohol and drugs provide an escape," Mr Hope said. There was "little refinement" about the binge drinking, with Aborigines becoming stone drunk on warm beer and wine mixed together. Some died after wandering onto roads and being hit by cars. The welfare of Aboriginal people was nothing less than "a disaster", Mr Hope said, in a report which highlighted how little Aborigines have benefited from Australia's 17-year run of economic prosperity.

"These are horrific findings from the coronial inquiry," said indigenous affairs minister Jenny Macklin. "Findings that I'm sorry to say are repeated in many parts of remote Australia." Alcohol abuse was so entrenched among Aborigines in the Kimberley that foetal alcohol syndrome was 21.5 times higher compared with the rest of Western Australia.

Mr Hope said that widespread alcohol abuse and extreme negligence left Aboriginal children vulnerable to sexual abuse. Despite spending GBP 565 million a year on tackling Aboriginal disadvantage, the Western Australian government's approach was "seriously flawed" because funds were allocated to 22 different agencies with little coordination. The coroner called for restrictions on the availability of full-strength alcohol and the linking of welfare payments with adults' caring adequately for their children.

"Even if we did everything right as from today, we are still heading into hell. We have a huge problem from the legacy of the past," said a local MP, Tom Stephens. "Even just tackling everything right from now, we've got a descent into chaos and crisis like you would never believe possible."


Leftist black welfare policy just a pale imitation of conservative policies

By Andrew Bolt

JENNY Macklin should praise John Howard for daring to do it first. It was Howard as prime minister who had to cop the most obscene vilification for deciding that Aborigines in the Northern Territory's worst communities would have their pensions quarantined to make sure their kids were fed. Typical was the National Sorry Day Committee, which shamefully abused him as the "dog of white supremacy" wanting "to return to its vomit". But this same committee was this week silent as Macklin, Indigenous Affairs Minister in the new Rudd Government, extended part of Howard's evil reforms to Western Australia. Out of breath, I guess.

Macklin on Wednesday announced a mini-Howard. She'd give Centrelink the power to hold back part of the pensions it gave to dysfunctional Aboriginal families to make sure they went to feeding the children. Pray for the children whose parents need to be forced to feed them. Macklin's policy is less broad-brush than that imposed by Howard on the NT. It affects only some individuals rather than whole communities, and doesn't come with other sweeping changes - which is probably why it won't work as well. But without Howard's example last year, it's doubtful Labor would have dared even this little. And even then it took a truly shocking report by the West Australian coroner to force Macklin's hand.

Alistair Hope had investigated the deaths of 22 young Aboriginal people from the Kimberley, and found that many young Aboriginal men and women in the region were so drunk or drugged they killed themselves, while others were so paralytic that they died on the road as they left the pub. "It appears that Aboriginal welfare, particularly in the Kimberley, constitutes a disaster, but no one is in charge of the disaster response," Hope wrote. Welfare money vanished on booze, drugs, gambling or hard porn, leaving many children hungry. The children of Aboriginal parents were also more than 20 times more likely to suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome. "The plight of the little children was especially pathetic and, for many of these, the future is bleak," Hope said. No kidding?

In fact, it should run like 240 volts through our complacency that Hope heard evidence that some children were so starved they allegedly sucked the teats of their dogs.

A little quarantining of welfare is, of course, hopelessly inadequate. Why in God's name don't we at least scoop up such children and save them? But that battle was lost with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's foolish sorry to the "stolen generations". By saying sorry to 50,000 "stolen" children who didn't exist, Rudd has made it harder to "steal" thousands of children who very much do exist and desperately need help. Thanks to him, the counterattack against saving such children is on for real. Newspaper reports this week revealed Aboriginal activists were now fighting the Northern Territory's Family and Children's Services to return children they'd saved from struggling communities.

Indeed, Glen Dooley, of the Northern Australian Aboriginal Justice Association, even claimed that sending more welfare workers to help children in black communities might cause "destructive effects" to "rival the fallout from the stolen generation". Excuse me, Mr Dooley, but doesn't the sickening evidence show that if we err it is in removing too few black children, not too many? What a nightmare we've made with our fake history and fake guilt.

Even discussing the only solution left is not possible in polite society. And, no, I don't mean crudely stealing black children from destructive families in hellish communities. I mean turning off the welfare that keeps those sick communities alive, far from jobs, schools, opportunities and hope. Integration, not separation, is the only solution. In a couple of decades more of suffering, we may at last debate this. Pity today's children.


Another crooked Italian politician in the Leftist NSW government

A PROPERTY developer who donated more than $160,000 to the NSW ALP has been given a $200 million windfall in a land rezoning deal - despite the Government's own expert panel warning Planning Minister Frank Sartor against the move. The Daily Telegraph can reveal that the Village Building Company has donated $164,900 to the NSW ALP over the past five years and hired a former Labor minister to pressure the State Government to rezone 2000 lots of land.

The Government did - turning the company's estimated $4 million investment in a rural lot into an estimated $200 million worth of residential property. The company, run by Bob Winnel, has also donated thousands of dollars to Wollongong City councillors - including independent Mayor Alex Darling - and more than $10,000 directly to Police Minister David Campbell, who has already been dragged into the ICAC sex-for-development scandal.

The site, next to the ACT in an area called Tralee, is under the Canberra airport flight path and was deemed unsuitable for habitation by an expert panel chaired by respected former public servant and businessman Brian Gilligan. The independent report, which was commissioned by the Government, told Mr Sartor in 2006 not to rezone, saying residents would suffer from aircraft noise. A visit by The Daily Telegraph to the site revealed planes roaring overhead as they came in to land.

Canberra airport has also warned that noise in the area would be unbearable as it increased its air traffic. The ACT Government and Federal Labor also condemned the move. Yet despite this, Mr Sartor approved the land release in April last year after extensive lobbying from the company, which donated more than $100,000 to the ALP in the past three years alone.

The revelation comes amid the beleaguered Government's move to overhaul the donations system and a Daily Telegraph online poll showing 82 per cent of respondents believe developer donations should be banned outright.

Mr Gilligan yesterday said he was unaware of the ALP connection and he stood by his findings that the area should not be inhabited. "I think they are very clear," he said. Labor's federal transport spokesman at the time, Martin Ferguson, also raised concerns.

Source. Details of another crooked NSW Leftist Italian politician in the news at the moment here

Global cooling good for Australia's ski resorts too

Note that it was SUMMER when the above picture was taken a day or two ago

The final day of summer in the Snowy Mountains has taken on a wintry chill after snow fell last night at the ski resorts of Perisher Blue and Thredbo. A light dusting of snow blanketed the NSW ski resorts overnight as temperatures dropped to a low of minus 3.8 degrees Celcius at Perisher and minus 3 degrees at Thredbo. Intermittent light snow flurries continued to fall into the morning on Mount Perisher.

Weather forecasters are already predicting a bumper snow season for 2008, according to resort management. Temperatures are expected to remain low with persistent precipitation throughout winter. "We have barely had a summer this year," said Gary Grant, Perisher Blue's general manager of marketing. "It's felt as though it's remained cold since the end of the 2007 season, apart from a few warm days, there air has always had a nip in it."



AUSTRALIA will meet its Kyoto Protocol emissions targets but greenhouse pollution is growing, mainly due to heavy reliance on coal for electricity. A report from the Federal Government's Department of Climate Change shows that although the rate of growth is slowing, Australia's greenhouse gas emissions are likely to increase by 20 per cent by 2020.

The Minister for Climate Change, Penny Wong, said the figures were good for the country, and showed a cut in expected emissions: "[The analysis] shows that the Rudd Government's policies, such as increasing the use of renewable energy, will trigger much greater emissions reductions in the longer term than had been forecast in 2006 under the previous government." The analysis said emissions would have grown faster under the previous government's policies, rising by 27 per cent by 2020.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

The religion of peace in Australia again

GANGS of Middle Eastern youths have threatened to bash staff in popular city and suburban nightclubs. Adelaide hoteliers say the notorious "Middle East Boys" - or MEB - have said they'd find staff members' homes to exact a violent revenge after being refused entry to bars and pubs. One hotelier, who declined to be identified for fear of retribution, said gangs were barred from most Adelaide pubs but members occasionally slipped into late-night clubs undetected. He says gangs are infiltrating bars and clubs to sell drugs to young patrons. "We had one of them say: `We'll find out where you live and come around and get you' after he was chucked out," the hotelier said. "They were coming in pretty regularly for a while there but we have a strict policy now; we just don't let them in."

Chief Inspector Scott Duval, Officer in Charge of the Licensing Enforcement Branch, said he would "encourage any licensee who is experiencing problems with any patron/s to contact police". "A licensee currently has the power to bar persons from their licensed premises under Section 125 of the Liquor Licensing Act for periods of up to three months, six months or indefinitely," he said. "A person barred for over one month may apply to the Liquor and Gambling Commissioner for a review. Maximum penalty for breaching a barring order is a $1250 fine. "Amendments to the Liquor Licensing Act have been drafted which will give police the power to bar persons from licensed premises, however this power is not currently available to police."

MEB, linked by an ethnic background, is one of three groups of young men who are "of interest" to police, along with RTS (Rule the Streets) and TR (Team Revolution). All have associations with bikie gangs. The hotelier said gangs targeted the nightclubs most popular with young people because they were most likely to buy amphetamines and cannabis. Problems of gang intimidation peaked several months ago but strong crowd controls and stricter entry standards were making an impact. Hotelies have the power to ban, or bar, patrons for unruly behaviour but police urge them to also report threats of violence from anybody who might be associated with a gang.

Hotel security vision can be used to identify troublemakers. Police say they will advise hoteliers on their legislative rights and how to stop troublemakers entering hotels. MEB members had been involved in pub fights and a group describing themselves as "Persian" took part in a brawl involving dozens of young Caucasian men at Glenelg last new year's eve. Persia is the former official name of Iran.


Labor Party sticking with tax cuts

Terry McCrann comments:

RIGHT on. Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner has come out swinging with a robust defence of the promised tax cuts against the inane calls to ditch them. The issue has become extremely if surprisingly useful as a mechanism to judge the competence of an economist. Apparently, we have a very large number of dud economists in this country. Interestingly they are more than happy to advertise their incompetence. You should be grateful that Mr Tanner and Treasurer Wayne Swan are treating them with profound ignore. Otherwise $31 billion of your money - an extra $31 billion - would be needlessly sucked into the Canberra fiscal maw.

Over the next four years to 2011-12, personal income tax is going to suck up $530 billion - a $70 billion increase on the $460 billion or so in the four years to 2007-08. The anti-tax cut duds want it to be a $100 billion increase, to $560 billion. And you'd still get higher interest rates to boot - with another one coming next week. Talk about a double whammy. The fiscal duo are absolutely rock solid and of one mind: there will be only one whammy. They are Thatcher-style not for turning. They will deliver the cuts in the May budget.

Mr Tanner delivered his five-part defence of the cuts at Gerard Henderson's Sydney Institute on Tuesday. He was crushingly if arguably too gently cutting in his big point. "A number of commentators don't appear to have grasped the fact that the tax cuts don't all hit the Australian economy on July 1. The total value of the tax cuts for the 2008-09 year is not suddenly carpet-bombed on the Australian economy. It is progressively rolled out over the year.''

He could've- but understandably didn't - make two very big associated and rather obvious points -- but they are also not grasped by most of the economentariat. That an $8 billion tax cut (for the full 2008-09 year) that started to dribble out in July, would be neither a sufficient nor a timely substitute for rate rises now. That's to say, if you seriously wanted to tighten fiscal policy to "take pressure off rates'', you tighten it now. Just to spell that out. Forget about ditching the tax cuts. Mr Swan would have to announce today an $8 billion-a-year tax increase. Starting in the next pay packet.

That would also make another obvious point. That ditching the tax cuts is not some sort of "painless'' alternative to higher interest rates. Both tax and rate hikes cause financial pain. That is the intention. The linked critical points made by Mr Tanner was the reforms to marginal rates were crucial to boosting workforce participation at a time of full --over-full - employment. If they were ditched unions and workers would want higher wages to compensate.

His last two points were that tax cuts could be saved, helping families repair household balance sheets, and delivering the election promise was basic to the government's moral authority. I'd add a sixth. To bow to stupidity so early in the term would be unwise.


Smacking children is not assault, say police

New Zealand take note

South Australian police accept parents using "minor force" to discipline their child, Police Minister Paul Holloway has told State Parliament. The Minister said SA Police did not have a "specific official policy" regarding smacking of children by parents, but accepted the community standard. Mr Holloway, in a written response to a question in State Parliament, said officers would only act if they believed the "application of force was more serious than an act of minor discipline, he said, and could then charge them with aggravated assault. "Police would take action against a parent in those circumstances where they believe that the force applied was or is excessive," he said. "SAPOL accept the community standard that on occasion some parents apply minor force to their child as an act of discipline," he said.

But Family First MP Dennis Hood yesterday said SA Police needed to develop an official policy to establish a consistent approach to the issue. Mr Hood said he was trying to protect the rights of parents to discipline their children by smacking in a bill introduced into Parliament late last year, which was not supported by the Government. Under his bill, parents would be protected under law from being charged if they smacked their children with an open hand on the bottom, hand or back of legs.

"I haven't pushed the legislation to a vote because the Government has said it won't support it and so it would be unsuccessful," Mr Hood said. "If somebody gives their child a whack on the bottom or the hands or legs they shouldn't be facing potential court action over that - as happened in other states and there are reports of it having happened here in South Australia as well." "Clearly there are inconsistencies with the way this issue is handled. I am not endorsing the beating of children or any form of child abuse whatsoever."

Mr Holloway said police don't keep records of parents charged with smacking their children because if action was taken, the parent would be charged with aggravated assault. Mr Hood said smacking children is illegal in New Zealand. Last week a retired Victorian family court judge called called on state governments to follow New Zealand's move to abolish the legal defence of "reasonable chastisement" for parents who hit their children.

Officers have the power to remove children from dangerous situations if they believe the child was in serious danger and they had to protect the child from harm, Mr Holloway said.


Better teacher selection needed

Elements in the NSW Teachers Federation have strongly resisted the mild proposals put forward by the NSW Director-General of Education, Michael Coutts-Trotter, to improve the processes of selecting teachers for our public schools. Principals of NSW secondary public schools have for years been seeking a more effective system of staffing their schools, and see the latest proposals as a small step in the right direction. A balance between local selection by school-based panels and statewide staffing processes would bring NSW into the 21st century, as well as ensuring students were being taught by teachers who really wanted to be in their school.

The NSW Secondary Principals' Council, the professional association that represents the vast majority of principals in the government sector, has developed a position paper that calls for just that: a balance. The SPC would like to have 50 per cent of staff chosen through local selection, with the remainder determined by state needs. Principals are rightly held more accountable than they used to be for the educational outcomes of students in their schools, but have very little say over the selection of their teachers. Greater authority to do this would lead to a better match of teachers for every school, and teachers would be able to make more informed decisions about where they might like to teach.

Schools in all parts of NSW would benefit from the adoption of the principals' position paper, as it calls for improved incentives to attract and retain teachers in rural and remote areas. Salary increases and termination bonuses after five years' service might well attract more teachers to these schools. Students in isolated areas deserve experienced teachers just as much as students in coastal and metropolitan schools do, and genuine incentives would make this possible.

The current transfer system works against the interests of many teachers who don't attract enough points to be able to move to a school that they would like to be in and to which they could make a great contribution. Some of our really great young teachers resign after a few years and either travel or work in the private sector once they realise that the present selection process is an impediment to them. More Generation Y teachers are teaching in our schools and they have a much more flexible approach to work. They don't want to be locked into a system that sees them as points on a scale rather than as a teacher who wants to work in a variety of locations. A young teacher told me a couple of weeks ago that this would be one issue he wouldn't take industrial action on. He wants the option of seeing what is available in a school before applying. He is not alone in thinking like this.

Parents want the best for their children. Knowing that the teachers of their children want to be in their school, have been selected through proper, fair processes to be there, and will be professionally developing themselves to enhance their future prospects should give parents much more confidence in their local public school.

Let's hope that NSW schools can move into the 21st century, and that the proposal by our school leaders for an improved staffing process will influence both the department and the Teachers Federation.


Over ten years of dodgy doctoring and only now is immigrant doctor stopped

"Your government will look after you", once again

An investigation into a Czech-trained obstetrician and gynaecologist, whose Queensland registration was suspended last night, has found two suspect cases in his work in the state. Dr Roman Hasil worked as a locum at Rockhampton Hospital, in central Queensland, from December 18, 2006, to January 12, 2007. After working for one day at the Redcliffe Hospital, on Brisbane's northern bayside, on March 7, 2007, he disappeared following an inquiry into his performance in New Zealand.

The Medical Board of Queensland last night suspended Dr Hasil's registration after receiving a damning report into his professional conduct from New Zealand authorities. An investigation into Dr Hasil's practices was launched in New Zealand last March after women who underwent sterilisation at Wanganui Hospital later fell pregnant. A NZ Health and Disability Commission report found Dr Hasil had not placed clips correctly on patients' fallopian tubes.

NZ authorities also noted Dr Hasil had a chequered work history in Australia from 1996 to 2005. He had lied about a criminal conviction for domestic violence in Singapore and left Lismore Base Hospital in NSW in 2005 after an allegation against him for "fiddling" timesheets, an accusation he denied. He had been dismissed from a Victorian hospital in 2005 for recording a blood alcohol reading of 0.2 while on call, the New Zealand report said.

Queensland Health acting director-general Andrew Wilson said today a specialist had reviewed Dr Hasil's work in the state and found two cases "indicating an unexpected outcome or deviation from standard practice". The findings of the two cases had been passed on to the medical board, he said. Dr Wilson said Dr Hasil had been involved in 17 obstetric and gynaecological related procedures in Queensland.

Beryl Crosby, who has advocated on behalf of patients of rogue surgeon Dr Jayant Patel, said health authorities needed to improve checks on overseas-trained doctors. Indian-trained Dr Patel, dubbed "Dr Death", is being sought for extradition from the United States on manslaughter charges relating to his work at Bundaberg Base Hospital in southeast Queensland. "They (medical authorities) need to be bloody thorough in their checks and not hire anyone with a record that harmed people," Ms Crosby said. "We don't want this here in Queensland - we've had a gutful. I know we are desperate for doctors, but we are not that desperate that we want to put people in harm's way again. It's just not on."

Dr Hasil remains registered to practice in NSW. The chief executive of the NSW Medical Board, Andrew Dix, said the board was aware of concerns about Dr Hasil, but no complaints had been received in NSW. "We will be taking urgent action to see whether there are grounds for referring him to the medical tribunal," he said on Fairfax radio today. Without a decision from the tribunal, the board did not have the power to deregister, he said.

NZ authorities declined to refer Dr Hasil to prosecutors, but the inquiry report concluded: "Many women of Wanganui have been deeply affected by the substandard care provided by Dr Hasil, and some women have been harmed".


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Literacy taught by illiterates

By Christopher Bantick

It is not just this newspaper that is questioned by Ilana Snyder over its position on literacy. In her book The Literacy Wars: Why Teaching Children to Read and Write is a Battleground in Australia, I am cited several times, and not because I have written on this page. I do hold the view that literacy can be taught with rigour and tested for performance. Snyder suggests: "It was the Murdoch paper's crusade against contemporary approaches to literacy education that motivated me to write the book. In recent years, The Australian's in-house opinion shapers have been accorded astonishing privilege and power. Their goal has been to dictate a reactionary model for the secondary-school curriculum. It is time to hold them to account." But while Snyder can attempt to marginalise The Australian's role in the literacy debate, this is misleading.

It is not my intention to examine and dismiss Snyder's often fatuous, niggardly arguments in her intemperate book. The point here about Snyder and fellow travellers who endorse the view that literacy is an experience rather than a learned discipline is that opposition of any kind - call it conservatism - is ridiculed. It is a neat ploy to say that the so-called Right, for which this newspaper is supposedly a mouthpiece, is narrow and prescriptive in its appreciation of literacy. The enemy has been identified. Meanwhile, those on the Left are expansive, welcome new ideas, are progressive and embrace theory. But this is a deceptive argument.

Literacy transcends the Right or Left positions. It is critics such as Snyder who wish to reduce it to the old Left-Right debate. Moreover, if opinion is even marginally conservative, it is immediately treated as suspect. The problem with Snyder's reductive argument is that she denies the reality that literacy education in Australia is in serious trouble. There are many children who cannot read, write, spell, understand grammar, construct a clear sentence and punctuate with meaning. The reason is palpably obvious.

The students accepted into university teaching courses are often simply the leavings, the lees if you like, after the better students have opted to undertake more prestigious and ambitious degrees. One has only to look at the entrance scores for teaching, some as low as 56, to see that high-flyers are not entering the classroom. The result is teachers who are not proficient in literacy are teaching children. Is it any wonder that Australia is producing illiterate children when they are taught by illiterates? It is for this reason that the NSW Government has introduced tests for five-year-olds in literacy and numeracy from this year in an attempt to head off early learning difficulties. It makes sense.

The reality is that literacy instruction in Australia has been of questionable quality for decades. It is also easy to trace the decline in proficiency to the introduction of progressive, child-centred, jargon-based theory that took over many Australian classrooms during the 1970s. What Snyder and the strident voices of the Left do not grasp, or seem to care about, is that if children are not taught literacy, then they are effectively disenfranchised for life.

Recent research by Australian National University economists Andrew Leigh and Chris Ryan, entitled How Has School Productivity Changed in Australia, points out that today's teenagers are less literate than those of the '60s. The reason is simple: poor teaching.

While Kevin Rudd makes much of his so-called education revolution, which is supposedly going to leap off a laptop keyboard, he has been noticeably silent on the much harder question: will the federal Government be insistent that schools lift their literacy standards? Before the election, Rudd promised to publish primary and secondary school results in reading and writing and numeracy in years three, five and nine. Earlier this month Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Julia Gillard, when referring to the national action plan for literacy and numeracy, said: "The Rudd Government understands that literacy and numeracy are the building blocks of a good education." Well, prove it.

The Rudd Government needs the will and preparedness to take on the entrenched interests in university education departments that work against structured, phonetically based language instruction. It should expose where literacy instruction is deficient and take necessary remedial action. This can be measured by a published state-by-state, school-by-school comparison. But these results should not ossify hidden in some departmental journal but be published in newspapers, much as the Year 12 results and school rankings are done in Victoria. It will soon become evident why it is that some schools in the same socioeconomic band, with the same cohort of children, are doing better than others. This does two things: expose the schools and expose deficient teachers.

While Snyder's book will be welcomed by the literacy luvvies as a justification for their failure to instruct children properly, the truth is that the Left resists accountability. Do parents really care about the literacy wars? Hardly. They just want their children to learn to read and write.


The English are fleeing Britain for Australia

More British people are moving to Australia than ever. For the first time, Australia is the preferred destination for British emigrants, more popular than America and the Med. In 2006-7, 23,223 British people emigrated to Australia, according to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship; of the total, 3,837 were members of families who had uprooted, and 18,115 were "skilled migrants" granted resident visas under the more relaxed residential points system. The figure is double that of a decade ago, and compares with 18,000 in 2004. British people make up almost a quarter of foreigners applying for Australian citizenship: in 2005-6, Australian citizenship was conferred on 103,350 people from over 175 different countries. Of those, people of British origin numbered 22,143, or 21.4% of the total.

Hundreds of thousands of British people go to Australia every year - for a holiday, a long-term stay, or to test the waters prior to emigrating. In the 12 months to July 2007, nearly 200,000 native British citizens packed their bags for Australia, the highest number to leave since the heavily subsidised mass emigration Down Under in the 1960s (1 in 12 Britons now lives abroad, a total of about 5.5m, according to a study by the Institute for Public Policy Research).

And the British easily top the census lists of foreigners resident in Australia and eligible to apply for citizenship. In 2001 they numbered 346,000, or 36.9% of the total ahead of the New Zealanders with 204,900 and Italians with 44,200. In fact, a quarter of a million British people (245,311) living in Australia claimed a British pension in 2006.....

Local trades, too, such as plumbing, electrical services, building and bricklaying, are in need of skilled labour, and often advertise in Britain. While the salaries are about the same as in the UK, their purchasing power is greater because the cost of living in Australia is lower. Others go in search of love, or the promise of it. Australia's outback regions are severely short of women, especially "young wife fodder", said one farmer.

Many recent newcomers are middle-class professionals with young families, drawn by an immigration policy that appeals to the highly skilled. Australian cities fiercely compete for the most talented. Among last year's British emigres were a Sikh family - the father an investment banker, the mother a dentist - who settled here, their third country of residence, to enjoy better prospects and a more child-friendly environment.....

In the 1950s, over 90% of Australians saw themselves as proudly British or Irish, regardless of whether they traced their lineage to a Georgian pickpocket, an East End prostitute, a declasse aristocrat, a potato-famine refugee or a family of graziers (cattle herders) and squatters.

Today's influx has subtly different motives for emigrating: they tend to be pursuing a realisable dream, rather than escaping a nightmare. Asked why they emigrated, most cite: sun and coastal living, lots of space, affordable housing (outside city centres), a generally reliable public health system, good, cheap schools, many jobs and relative security. They are also drawn by some of the world's last unspoilt natural wildernesses, ie, Uluru (Ayers Rock), Tasmania, Kakadu and the Great Barrier Reef. Holidays to exotic South Pacific islands - Vanuatu, Fiji, New Caledonia - are relatively cheap and a few hours away.

But the latest wave of emigrants are motivated by deeper social and economic impulses. Christopher Wade, the director of British Council Australia, said: "Australia has a great work ethic, but a very good after-work ethic too." He especially admires the "fair go" and egalitarian spirit. This is best expressed, he said, in the culture of "volunteerism": for example, many parents commonly coach their children's sports teams. There is such a thing as a community here, Wade insists.

Of course, it is Wade's job to talk up the Australian-British relationship. But the nation's rude economic success and political stability are strong magnets. During the past 15 years, Australia's standard of living has risen constantly and in 2006 it surpassed that of all Group of Eight countries except the US, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Since 1990, Australia's real economy grew by an average of around 3.3% a year, coupled with low inflation averaging around 2.5% (however, it recently exceeded the Reserve Bank's threshold, driving up variable interest rates to a mortgage-busting 8.97%, and rendering the cost of inner-city homes, as a multiple of income, less affordable than that of any other developed nation). There are jobs aplenty, however: the rate of unemployment fell from a peak of nearly 11% in 1992 to below 5% last year - its lowest level since the early 1970s.

The unprecedented Asian, chiefly Chinese, demand for Australia's mineral resources is behind this boom. Australia has some of the world's largest coal, iron ore and uranium reserves, and is one of the biggest gold and diamond producers. Western Australia, lavishly endowed with natural gas and minerals, is enjoying the biggest mining-led surge in its history, and Perth is one of the most expensive cities.

Buttressing that success is the world's oldest continuous democracy. At first glance, Australian standards of public debate suggest an Anglo-Celtic version of Italy's saloon-bar atmosphere. Yet the nation's raucous politicians - witness the Welsh-born deputy prime minister, Julia Gillard, herself the daughter of 10-pound poms, who last year called an opponent "a snivelling little grub", and the former prime minister Paul Keating, who regularly emerges from retirement to toss in a little more rebarbative Aussie wit (the former treasurer Paul Costello, he said last year, was "all tip and no iceberg") - are constrained by a parliamentary system that draws on the best of the Westminster tradition and the English and Scots enlightenment. The November 2007 general election was a sublime example of Australian democracy. When the incumbent prime minister, John Howard, lost the election - and his seat - after 11 years in power, the leadership shifted seamlessly to Labor's Kevin Rudd. Thanks to the compulsory system of preferential voting, the transition was gracious, popular, representative and bloodless....

Gratitude is never far away, either. More Australians seem to realise how good they've got it, and how hard won. Every year more than 10,000 young Australians gather on the shores of Gallipoli on Anzac Day to commemorate the fallen Australian troops. The Kokoda Track and Milne Bay in Papua - the battleground on which Australian forces, many of them untrained militia, first defeated the imperial Japanese army on land - is now considered to be hallowed turf.

And as I watched younger Australians and British backpackers dance in the New Year and partying on the beaches of Sydney, it occurred to me that perhaps Britain had made a terrible mistake - surely they should have left the convicts at home and emigrated?

More here

Bureaucracy hopeless at dealing with black problems

West Australian Coroner Alastair Hope has painted an appalling picture of life as a Kimberley Aborigine, revealing billions of dollars wasted as a result of confused government policy, attacking a lack of leadership in indigenous affairs and criticising the "seriously flawed" delivery of health and education services to remote communities.

In handing down his long-awaited 212-page report into the deaths of 22 Kimberley men and women - including the suicide of an 11-year-old boy - Mr Hope said the plight of the indigenous children of the region was "especially pathetic" and described their future as bleak. He was particularly scathing of the performances of government agencies in health and housing and the "inexplicable" suicides of 21 young Kimberley Aborigines in 2006, a jump of more than 100 per cent from the previous year. "In addition to commonwealth funding, the state is providing $1.2 billion each year for services and programs targeted to indigenous people in Western Australia ... in spite of this allocation of funding, conditions are getting even worse for Aboriginal people in the Kimberley and the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people is now a vast gulf," he said.

Claiming the state Department of Indigenous Affairs "is not, and never has been capable" of providing leadership in addressing the problem, he also attacked the Department of Child Protection which acted in a "reactive rather than proactive" manner.

The first of his 27 recommendations calls on the commonwealth and state governments to jointly appoint an organisation or individual to lead efforts and take responsibility for improving conditions. "In simple terms, it appears that Aboriginal welfare, particularly in the Kimberley, constitutes a disaster, but no one is in charge of the disaster response," Mr Hope said.

The report sparked immediate action from the state Government, with Premier Alan Carpenter reshuffling his cabinet to clear the decks of Indigenous Affairs Minister Michelle Roberts to allow her to concentrate on the report and implement the findings.

Mr Hope wants some remote communities assessed to find out if they are sustainable before more taxpayer dollars are invested in them. If they are found to be sustainable, a "real commitment" should be made to support them. He also recommended allowing the Department for Child Protection to decide whether parents of at-risk children should receive food vouchers and value cards for approved purchases such as groceries and clothing, stopping them from spending cash on alcohol, drugs, gambling or pornography. Mr Hope, who was visibly appalled by the lack of food and poor hygiene he saw during his visit to the squalid homes of Aboriginal people in Fitzroy Crossing last October, also recommended teaching home-maker skills and providing basic furniture. Mr Hope also wants to retain the Community Development Employment Project under which Aborigines effectively work for the dole for four hours a day. He recommended extending Fitzroy Crossing's ban on full-strength takeaway alcohol to other Kimberley towns.

Child health expert Fiona Stanley - the 2003 Australian of the Year - called on the Government to act swiftly, saying the report could not afford to gather dust on a shelf. "We need to make sure that people are accountable and I think possibly the Coroner didn't go far enough with that," she said. "We should be saying that the directors-general of all of those services have two major commitments, one is to deliver the services, and if they don't, there should be some retribution for that. The other thing they have to do is deliver those services collectively."

Labor MLA Tom Stephens, who was instrumental in having the deaths investigated, said the Kimberley Aborigines were "heading into hell" and their situation could worsen before it improved.

The Carpenter Government defended its work, claiming its efforts and achievements had been under-estimated. "There is no superficial answer to the dysfunction and the alienation and the disadvantage in a lot of Aboriginal communities," Mr Carpenter said. "If there were a simple answer then that answer would have been put in place a long time ago."

Ms Roberts admitted hundreds of millions of dollars would need to be spent to address the problems identified by the Coroner. She said the extra $47 million spent at Halls Creek in the past two years was the sort of spending now needed to be replicated across a range of other towns in the Kimberley and also the Pilbara and Goldfields...

Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre co-ordinator Wes Morris - who lobbied the Coroner for the inquest - said the report was a milestone contribution to the well-being of Aboriginal people in the region. Mr Morris said he was pleased that Mr Hope had recognised the incompetence of state and commonwealth government agencies...


Your regulators will protect you (NOT)

Children abused, lost in day care

CHILDREN have been abused, battered and abandoned in childcare centres across Victoria. A Herald Sun investigation found more than 53 children and babies have been mistreated or lost in three years. Some were subjected to shocking and illegal punishments. One carer picked babies up by one arm and dropped them on the ground to discipline them. Toddlers at two centres had their mouths taped shut. A five-year-old at one centre was put in a nappy and placed in a cot as a disciplinary measure. The lives of five youngsters were put at risk by medication mix-ups. And 25 children, as young as 17 months, roamed free from centres.

The revelations come as the State Government delays a critical review of staff levels. Victoria has the worst ratio of qualified staff to children in the nation. Even so, the Brumby Government granted 134 exemptions to staff requirements last year.

Documents obtained by the Herald Sun reveal investigations into 45 incidents led to cautions against 24 centres from 2004-06 - but their names cannot be revealed. The Government refuses to identify the centres, claiming it would be a breach of confidence and inhibit its capacity to collect such information in future. The Herald Sun was given access to executive briefings on cautions after a four-month Freedom of Information battle and a demand for $1000 in charges. Only four centres were prosecuted in the same period - all for allowing children to wander off.

One carer said many incidents went unreported, despite mandatory reporting laws. "Some parents are never even told of incidents involving their children," the carer said. The documents show unreported incidents, including force feeding babies, were uncovered during other investigations. A worker accused of smacking three children, pushing one off a swing, pinching another and pulling a child's hair, was allowed to continue to work under supervision because the claims could not be proved. The worker who dropped babies on the ground and force fed them was sacked. Claims the same worker hit a baby with a laminated sheet could not be substantiated. The documents also show:

A CRYING boy was found locked in a small cupboard when his father came to collect him.

A CHILD spent a night in hospital after being given 15 times the required amount of medication.

CHILDREN at one centre were left unattended in fenced-off areas.

STAFF at another centre were instructed not to comfort crying children.

Childcare worker Bronwen Jefferson - whose daughter Miranda, 3, is in care - said parents had a right to expect their children to be properly cared for. "You want to think when you drop your child off that they will be safe. "But the ratio of childcare workers to children in Victoria is not adequate . . . you'd have to be superhuman to carry out that all day diligently." Centres should have one qualified carer for every five infants up to two years old, and one carer for every 15 youngsters aged three to five.

"I hear from our members repeatedly that it's just too hard to look after that many children and they're completely burnt out," union boss Jess Walsh said. "It's not just a matter of ratios, it's the other tasks, such as cleaning, that staff are required to do." Staff are also in short supply, with the award wage for a qualified carer of three or more years' experience being $39,401.

The Government promised to review staff levels before current childcare regulations expired in May. But just four days before Christmas, centres were told the rules would remain in place another year to allow for "further consultation". Opposition children and early development spokeswoman Wendy Lovell said the Government has had eight years to review the rules.

Children and Early Development Minister Maxine Morand said Victoria had Australia's most robust on-the-spot inspections regime. "There were more than 4000 on-the-spot inspections last year," Ms Morand said. She said the Government planned to strengthen laws to let parents check safety records on line and to boost the power of inspectors and stiffen penalties. Ms Morand said staffing exemptions were vital to keep some centres open. "We will work hard to make sure Victoria gets its fair share of the fully funded 8000 new early childhood TAFE places promised by the new Rudd Government," she said.

A Department source said there was a reluctance to prosecute centres because the bad publicity would place further strain on already over-stretched services. "If the public heard what happened at some centres there would be a stampede to get kids out," the source said.

One of the four centres prosecuted was the ABC centre at Hoppers Crossing, where an autistic toddler with a fascination for cars was almost run over in busy Werribee Park Plaza car park after wandering unnoticed from care. The boy was rescued by a motorist 25 minutes after he disappeared. Police found a two-year-old playing in the middle of a busy street when he crossed rail tracks after walking from a centre at Trackside Sporting Centre in Hampton. The centre, which was operating without a licence despite being told three years earlier that it needed to get one, has since closed. A four-year-old who dodged cars to cross busy Bourke Rd after leaving Samantha's Child Care in Camberwell was found by police metres from his home.


Government sorry over 'mutilation doctor'

"Your government will look after you", once again

The NSW Government says it is sorry, but it can't yet explain why a doctor banned from obstetrics was able to continue performing operations which allegedy left many women mutilated. Dr Graeme Steven Reeves is alleged to have mutilated or sexually abused as many as 800 patients. The NSW Medical Board ruled in 1997 that Graeme Stephen Reeves "suffers from personality and relations problems and depression that detrimentally affects his mental capacity to practise medicine". The board ordered him to stop practising obstetrics, but he defied the ban and took up a position in 2001 as a specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist for the Southern Area Health Service, working at Bega and Pambula hospitals. He was struck off the medical register in 2004.

NSW Health Minister Reba Meagher was today asked by reporters how Dr Reeves had continued to practise when hospital and nursing staff must have known about the type of surgery he was performing. "I don't know what was known then by others around Dr Reeves, but I do know this Government radically overhauled the Health Care Complaints Commission to ensure a greater level of protection for patients that have complaints," Ms Meagher said. Since 2005, hospitals had taken greater care in confirming a doctor's references with the NSW medical board, which has increased its transparency in relation to deregistered doctors.

The NSW Government and police have begun investigations following new allegations about Dr Reeves but it will be some time before authorities determine how he was able to continue to practice as an obstetrician and gynaecologist. "I can't explain that," Ms Meagher said. "But what I can assure the women who are coming forward now is that we will support them in every way we possibly can. "I am sorry that they have had such an awful, awful experience at the hands of somebody who was not fit to deliver a medical service."


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Faddish educational experimentation condemned

It is time to stop introducing change in the nation's classrooms without discovering whether students' learning improved as a result. In an interview with The Australian just before stepping down as president of the NSW Board of Studies, Gordon Stanley also questioned whether school curriculums contained too many subjects, making it difficult to sustain quality across the board.

He said school systems had placed a premium on innovation for its own sake, without evaluating what worked. "The people most opposed to the collection of evidence hold a strong philosophical position, and they're not interested in any challenges to that position," he said. "But one needs to support those belief positions. It's unfortunate if you just want to have debates about philosophical positions without coming down to an analysis of what the implications of these are for learning. "When you're focused on evidence-based practice, you keep focus on the question of what really works instead of having a debate about the philosophy you hold."

Professor Stanley is stepping down after 10 years to become the Pearson professor of educational assessment at Oxford University, and the founding director of the Oxford University Centre for Educational Assessment. During his tenure, the NSW Higher School Certificate has been held up as the gold standard for the nation and is recognised internationally.

While Professor Stanley nominates the integration of vocational courses in the HSC as one of his biggest successes, he questioned the range of subject choices facing students. "I suspect we have too much choice, and too much choice can be confusing for students," he said. "It's worth asking the question whether we've gone too far in differentiating the curriculum. "The more offerings you have, the harder it is to provide well-trained teachers in all these areas. At an individual school level, it's hard to provide all those options for students. And the more differentiated the curriculum, the more expensive it is to deliver."

NSW has also been more successful than other states and territories in withstanding the fads that pass through education, such as integrating history and geography into Studies of Society and the Environment, as occurred elsewhere in the nation. Professor Stanley said NSW "connects with (educational fads) but we don't yield to them without trying to get an understanding of whether in balance they're the appropriate direction to go".


Some climate skepticism that has generally gone unnoticed

The media have noted only the drastic cuts in emissions that the Garnaut report said would be needed. But that pesky Andrew Bolt has looked at the report in detail:

KEVIN Rudd's global warming adviser has had a rude surprise. Professor Ross Garnaut has invigorated a debate on catastrophic man-made global warming that Al Gore, and most journalists and politicians, keep claiming was over years ago. In fact, he's even wondering if some scientists have played funny buggers.

Garnaut, hired to tell Labor how to cut greenhouse gases, yesterday released his interim report, saying most scientists felt we were running out of time: "The world is moving towards high risks of dangerous climate change more rapidly than has generally been understood." This was honey to alarmists, but Garnaut also admits his review of the global warming science "takes the work of the IPCC as its starting point".

That's a problem. This Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change is the United Nations body that persuaded governments we're doomed unless we get less gassy. But Garnaut concedes the IPCC has in fact been accused - not least by an all-party British House of Lords inquiry into climate change - of using dodgy science, excluding dissenters and sexying up findings. Or in Garnaut's more polite words, of lacking "objectivity" and giving in to "political considerations".

As Garnaut says, its critics include top scientists such as hurricane expert Chris Landsea, who quit the IPCC to protest (in Garnaut's words) the "mispresentation of climate science" by colleagues.What's more, despite claims the "science is settled", Garnaut found the science of man-made warming was of a "qualified and contested nature", and he was in "no position to adjudicate on the relative merits of various expert scientific opinions". He just had to go "on the balance of probabilities" - with this controversial IPCC and the majority of scientists whose views it represented.

But he urged that the global debate be made "open to alternative perspectives beyond the IPCC", and said he'd recommend a "strengthening (of) the pluralist character of the Australian research efforts".

Meanwhile, Britain's Hadley Centre reports a global drop in temperature in the past 12 months, backing up predictions that 1998 will still remain the hottest year on record. No one knows if global warming has stopped. But with even Garnaut wanting a more balanced debate, it's best to be wary of the people shouting once more that it's time to panic.


Time to put an end to inflationary, profligate spending

THE Business Council of Australia's budget submission is a devastating critique of the short-sighted policies and wasted opportunities of the Howard years. It paints a picture of a bloated, spendthrift government squandering a windfall in revenue of $87 billion that dropped into its lap from the China boom from mid-2002 until 2007. It reveals a government that took the easy option of handing out largesse through welfare transfers, even as the need for welfare dwindled and unemployment all but disappeared across most of the country. Despite the small-government rhetoric of his party, Mr Howard baulked at cutting government expenditure, presiding over an ever larger bureaucracy. Public service numbers increased by 40,000 in the past five years, with a 16 per cent increase in past two.

The BCA report, which echoes The Australian's major criticism of the Howard administration, will ring true with former treasurer Peter Costello who tried, with little success, to rein in his boss's profligate spending. From this point of view the report will gladden the hearts of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Treasurer Wayne Swan and Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner, who have incessantly reminded us of the failings of the previous government. Nonetheless, the challenges for the Rudd government outlined in the report are huge. Mr Rudd, Mr Swan and Mr Tanner have so far talked the talk on fiscal conservatism, spending cuts and federal-state reforms but now they have to walk the walk.

The Australian strongly supports the government's $31 billion tax cuts because as we said in our February 15 editorial they will provide the incentives for an additional 65,000 workers to join the labour force, precisely what is needed with workers in such short supply. We also argued, and the BCA sets out the case eloquently, that to ensure the tax cuts are not inflationary, the Government must reduce expenditure by $31 billion over the same period. To do this requires taking an axe to welfare, and as the BCA report demonstrates, welfare transfers have boomed even as unemployment has plummeted. Taking away handouts, even from people who patently don't need them, is never easy. But Mr Swan would be well advised to make the deepest cuts in his first budget both because it is now that he needs to reduce inflationary pressures and because he is at the greatest distance from the next election.

The greatest challenge facing the government at the moment is how to grow the economy without accelerating inflation. With unemployment at 30-year lows the question is where to find workers. One very good place to start is the Government. Reducing the size of the public sector, where wealth is distributed, frees up people and resources to work in the private sector, where wealth is created. Smaller governments are also more efficient. As the BCA report shows, despite the massive increase in government expenditure per person in real terms since the early 1990s, the gap between the rich and the poor hardly changed. Despite the protests from class warriors on the Left throughout the Howard era, incomes in 2005-06 were distributed almost exactly as they were in 1994-95 with the share of income earned by the bottom 20 per cent unchanged. Since then the incomes of the bottom 20 per cent have improved but not, significantly, because of welfare transfers but because more people in the bottom 20 per cent have entered the workforce.

Up to now, Mr Rudd has enjoyed massive approval for undertaking major symbolic acts - signing the Kyoto protocol, saying sorry to the Stolen Generations - but the time for easy, pain-free politics, is over. In Aboriginal affairs it is time to make practical reconciliation work, in climate change it is time to face up to the fact that cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are going to push up the price of power, water, petrol and food. In economics it is time to recognise that in order to manage inflationary pressures it is essential to put an end to undisciplined government spending and to make government smaller and more efficient.

Although the task is daunting it is not without precedent. During the Hawke-Keating era, Labor undertook unpopular and painful economic reform and won four elections. Mr Rudd can make equally tough reforms if he stares down the Left of his party and brings the public with him.



Three current articles below

Ambulances wait three hours to hand over patients

No reserve capacity at hospital for surges in demand

This scene outside Cairns Base Hospital's emergency department yesterday is another stark reminder why the region needs a new hospital, now. Ten ambulances were queued outside the choked department by early afternoon, forcing frustrated paramedics to wait for up to three hours before unloading patients.

Officers said they had been putting up with the "bad old days" of no emergency beds for at least a week but yesterday's jam-up had gone from bad to worse as the day went on. "It's beyond a joke," one told The Cairns Post. "Something's got to change." Queensland Ambulance Service area director Warren Martin, who oversees a fleet of 12 vehicles across Cairns, Smithfield and Edmonton, said up to 10 ambulances were effectively out of action for hours. The situation peaked about 2pm when several patients arrived around the same time, causing 10 or 11 ambulances to back up, Mr Martin said.

But he stressed that while the ambulance gridlock outside the emergency department, also known as "ramping", was still happening, new systems to fast-track patients were helping. "It means that when we do ramp, it's not lasting as long," Mr Martin said. "Today was just one of those days." All the patients forced to wait in ambulances yesterday were being closely monitored by emergency doctors, and were in the mid-urgency rather than high-urgency categories, he said. "It's a bit of a cross-section, everything from gastro upset tummies to someone with abdominal pain . I think the hot weather back with a vengeance today has been knocking older people around a bit," Mr Martin said.

Mr Martin said he was "really looking forward" to next year's expected completion of a major expansion to the emergency department, which would double its size and add 12 more beds. A Queensland Health spokesman attributed the delays to a rush of patients at once, with 30 arriving during the most intense period of 12.30pm to 3pm, or about 12 an hour. On a normal day, the department averages five patients per hour. The spokesman said his information was that the maximum number of ambulances waiting at one time had been eight.


Butcher doctor. Your regulators will protect you (NOT)

THEY call him the Butcher of Bega - a NSW doctor who has committed such monstrous acts that hundreds of terrified victims have remained silent for more than five years. Dr Graeme Stephen Reeves is alleged to have routinely mutilated or sexually abused as many as 500 female patients while he was working as a gynaecologist and obstetrician at various hospitals across Sydney and the NSW south coast.

Despite the NSW Medical Board ruling he had psychiatric problems which "detrimentally affect his mental capacity to practice medicine" more than a decade ago, he managed to continue treating women without detection in a devastating trail of botched operations and negligence.

Hundreds of former patients have come forward with harrowing and graphic evidence about Dr Reeves, who was struck off in 2004 for breaching practice restrictions. As many as 500 emails from women were received by the private watchdog, Medical Error Action Group, last week telling of their humiliation and pain after parts of their genitals were removed or sewn up without their consent.

The outpouring came after a former patient of Dr Reeves, Carolyn Dewaegeneire, broke her five-year silence with two other women to give a public account of her ordeal on Channel 9's Sunday program last weekend.

Despite the shocking revelations on the program, Dr Reeves is still not being investigated by the police, the NSW Medical Board or the Health Care Complaints Commission, over the latest allegations. He is also free to re-apply to return to medical work at any time after serving a three-year ban. Dr Reeves has refused to comment on the allegations. The hospitals where Dr Reeves has practised include Hornsby Ku-ring-gai, Sydney Adventist at Wahroonga, The Hills Private at Baulkham Hills, Royal Hospital for Women and the Bega and Pambula hospitals.

Source. More here and here

Rudd guarantees private health rebates

With over 40% of Australians having private health insurance, any other policy would lose him heaps of votes next time

KEVIN Rudd has guaranteed private health insurance rebates will remain in place despite a"root and branch" review of health spending announced today.

Mr Rudd has also appointed one of the architects of Labor's 2004 Medicare Gold policy to provide free medical care for people aged over 75 to the new commission to overhaul health and hospital spending. In an opinion piece written for in 2004 titled Why Labor should stick with Medicare Gold, Professor Stephen Duckett, a respected health economist, argued the principles of the policy still stand. He has also argued the take up of private health insurance has led to longer waiting lists at public hospitals.

The Prime Minister announced today that cabinet had signed off on a new commission to examine hospital and health spending. "There's no point just tinkering with the system. We've got to look at this root and branch,'' Mr Rudd said today. But asked today whether the new National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission would consider changes to the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate, which was opposed by Labor in the past, Mr Rudd said the rebate was safe. "The private health insurance rebate remains unchanged and will remain unchanged,'' Mr Rudd said today.

The new Health and Hospitals Reform Commission will be headed by Dr Christine Bennett, a former chief medical officer for private insurer MBF. Dr Bennett is CEO of Research Australia who has also worked as a specialist paediatrician focussing on population health and research in child and women's health. She has also worked as the chief executive at Westmead - Australia's largest teaching hospital.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon said today the appointees where "top quality people". "This is a new chance to design some of the features required to have a sustainable system into the future,'' she said. Mr Rudd said there would be three reporting deadlines. The first deadline would be mid-year to provide some interim advice for the COAG working groups on hospital reform, with an interim report at the end of the year and a final report in 2009. "Critically, the need for a greater focus on prevention,'' Mr Rudd said. "Unless we deal with these, the impact on our community in terms of well-being.and workforce participation will be huge.''

Professor Duckett, an economist, curently heads the Queensland Health Reform Team. He was Secretary of the Australian Health Department from 1994 - 1996 and has held leadership positions in the Victorian Health Department, at La Trobe University and as Chair of the Boards governing The Alfred and the Brotherhood of St Laurence. But the Medicare Gold policy was lampooned during that election campaign by former Treasurer Peter Costello as "underfunded, undercosted, unsustainable and unbelievable" was later dumped by then opposition health spokeswoman Julia Gillard after the 2004 election.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Labor government considers US missile shield

PINE Gap may become part of a US-led strategic missile defence shield as Labor considers reversing its opposition to the controversial scheme - a move that could create tensions with China and Russia. In Opposition, Labor was against Australian involvement in a program to build a national missile shield protecting the US, but supported a limited theatre-based system that could be deployed in war zones.

But Foreign Minister Stephen Smith yesterday said missile defence technology had evolved and that the Government was now giving "careful consideration" to participating in the missile shield. Last year, then defence minister Brendan Nelson told parliament the US-Australian defence facility at Pine Gap could form part of a missile shield by providing early warnings of ballistic missile launches.

Any about-face on missile defence could stoke tensions within the Labor Party, with opposition to the joint facilities being an article of faith for many on the party's Left. In his former incarnation as lead singer of activist rock group Midnight Oil, Environment Minister Peter Garrett was a trenchant opponent of Pine Gap.

However, Mr Smith said yesterday: "The technology has moved on, and so what we've said is that in conversation with our ally, with the US, we're happy to give consideration to the missile defence arrangements."

A strategic missile defence system, or strategic defence initiative, as it was originally known, was first proposed in the 1980s by then US president Ronald Reagan. The idea was shelved by president Bill Clinton, but revived by President George W.Bush. The system would offer protection to the US, but could in the future be extended to provide limited cover to Washington's allies, including Australia, through the use of ship-based missiles. Critics say the system would spark a regional arms race and relies on uncertain technology.

Any Australian involvement in a missile shield would generate tensions with nuclear powers China and Russia, both of which are implacably opposed to the scheme, which they fear is aimed at containing their strategic influence. But it would guarantee that Australia would continue to benefit from US intelligence and would give Australian defence contractors access to lucrative work during its development.

Mr Smith said the Government had yet to be persuaded about the viability of a such a system, citing the unknown high cost as well as doubts over the technology. "We're not rushing to embrace it, we are just giving very careful consideration to it and we'll do that in conjunction with our US ally," he said. Mr Smith said the matter had been under discussion during the weekend's Ausmin talks with US Defence Secretary Robert Gates. He denied the two governments were locked in secret talks over the idea, but said certain aspects of the discussions had to remain confidential. The Rudd Government would consider the matter in a "deliberative and sober way", but no decision was imminent. Participation in the scheme might prove to be in Australia's national interest, Mr Smith said. "We don't want to make any decisions which would deprive us of technology which might in the end be in our national security interest and be able to protect our forces in the field," he said.

Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Andrew Robb said Mr Smith's remarks were inconsistent with Labor's pre-election position on the subject. "They need to clearly explain what their position is," he said.

Strategic and defence expert Ross Babbage said that Mr Smith's remarks were a case of "reality biting". "Australia is already involved in a range of things related to missile defence, particularly in monitoring launches," he said. Improved detection, tracking and targeting technology was rendering the distinction between theatre-based and region-based missile defence systems indivisible, Professor Babbage said. He said Australian co-operation in the project would come in the form of research and development as well as surveillance and technology.

Mr Smith also expressed alarm at the trend towards trade protectionism in the US.


Muslims want university classes to fit prayer times

They will push and push for more and more special treatment until someone says No

MUSLIM university students want lectures to be rescheduledto fit in with prayer timetables and separate male and female eating and recreational areas established on Australian campuses. International Muslim students, predominantly from Saudi Arabia, have asked universities in Melbourne to change class times so they can attend congregational prayers. They also want a female-only area for Muslim students to eat and relax. But at least one institution has rejected their demands, arguing that the university is secular and it does not want to set a precedent for requests granted in the name of religious beliefs.

La Trobe University International chief executive director John Molony said several students had approached the Bundoora institution about rearranging class times to fit in with daily prayers. Mr Molony said the university was attempting to "meet the needs" of an increasing number of Muslim international students, including doubling the size of the prayer room on campus.

La Trobe University International College director Martin Van Run said that although it was involved in discussions with the Muslim students who had made the requests, the university was not planning to change any timetables. "That would seriously inconvenience other people at the college and it is not institutionally viable," he told The Australian. "We are a secular institution ... and we need to have a structured timetable." Mr Van Run said that Saudi students were fully aware that the university was secular before coming to study there. "They know well in advance the class times," he said.

A spokesman for RMIT University would neither confirm nor deny reports that Muslim students had requested timetable changes.

One university source told The Australian that the requests by Muslim international students for timetable changes included a petition. "Some of the students would prefer that lecture times were organised so it would be easy for them to attend prayers," he said. "But it wouldn't be a good precedent to set."

Islamic leaders yesterday backed the push by Muslim students to have their lectures arranged to accommodate prayer sessions, but said such a move would be essential only for congregational Friday prayers. Female Muslim leader Aziza Abdel-Halim said yesterday it was a religious duty for those who followed Islam to preach with their fellow believers on Fridays. But the former senior member of John Howard's Muslim reference board said there was nothing in Islam that indicated men and women be segregated when it came to educational activities. "There's nothing in Islam that says there should be complete segregation, especially in educational institutions," said Sister Abdel-Halim.

She said afternoon prayers for Muslims - Zhohor, at 1.10pm, and Asr, at 4.50pm - could be performed until 10 minutes before the following daily prayer, so it was more appropriate to alter prayer times than lecture schedules. "It's reasonable to ask for the lectures to be shifted around on Friday," Sister Abdel-Halim said. "But if it's going to cause havoc with the timetable, I don't think it's really feasible to ask for every single prayer to be catered for


Muslim versus anti-Muslim youth gangs in Melbourne

A TEEN bashed with a tomahawk is fighting for his life as youths warn of a Cronulla-type gang explosion in Melbourne. Sunshine Hospital was forced to call police and shut its emergency department as about 100 youths descended, angered by the brutal attack on their friend. In another unprecedented escalation of gang violence, a molotov cocktail was hurled on a suburban train last week. More attacks were pledged as part of a bitter conflict between two of Melbourne's biggest gangs that has seen 10 youth stabbings.

Police are demanding measures to stem the growing scourge of youth gang activity. They want a Youth Crime Taskforce established, new anti-assembly powers to break up loitering crowds of teens and portable knife scanners. Shopping centres and rail operators are also changing their operations to cope with the rising gang challenge.

Four men have been charged with attempted murder and serious assault over the attack on the 17-year-old on Friday. The teenager and four friends were "pulverised" in the St Albans attack. Their assailants - one 16 - allegedly used a tomahawk, baseball bats and hockey sticks in the violence, destroying their car and putting the five in hospital. One of the teens caught in the attack said the violent onslaught had been triggered by them being on someone else's turf. The teen, who would not give his name, had facial bruising and injured ribs and described the attack as ruthless and against innocent victims. As well as being territorial, he said the attack was carried out for fun.

Police, social workers and even gang members said gang violence was flaring across Melbourne's suburbs. The Police Association - representing 11,000 officers - said the youth gang crisis demanded a regional taskforce on youth crime and anti-assembly powers. "They're under-18 and they're coming in from the outer suburbs and causing mayhem in the city and the inner suburbs," assistant secretary Bruce McKenzie said. "This is happening. And we do know it's of considerable concern to our members." The association is expected to lobby Premier John Brumby for anti-assembly powers to break up big groups of teens and expressed a desire for British-style portable walk-through metal scanners.

In an escalating stoush between two of the city's biggest gangs, an Arab coalition from Melbourne's north was seething over a rap song released by enemy gang South-East Boys, threatening "another Cronulla". The song, Lullaby, derides the Dandenong gang's Arab enemies as "p*****s" and threatens a local Cronulla-style race clash.

Gang members said the rivalry between the north and south gangs had already led to 10 stabbings. "Give it tomorrow, give it a year. We will hit back 10 times harder," said Ronni, leader of northern gang ASAD or Arabian Soldiers Arab Defenders. Gang members are aged 17 to 26 and brawl with machetes, bottles, poles, knuckle-dusters and knives. The North-West Boys, who have a distinct double-fist handshake, are made up of gangs including ASAD, which has spread from Newport, and The Clan.

The North-West Boys said their opposing gang, based around Dandenong, was a mix of white "Aussie bogans", Sudanese, Afghans, Italians and Greeks. "We were hunting them for almost seven hours," The Clan leader Hash said. "If the South-East want war, then so be it." The gangs have sophisticated fight strategies and youths are attacked if they stray into another gang's side of the city. "Something in the future is going to happen to them," Ronni said. Hash said they tried to isolate their activities so members of the public would not get hurt.


NSW public hospital kitchens fail hygiene, safety tests

GRUBBY benchtops, sloppy pest control and off deli meats were found during independent audits of NSW public hospital kitchens that found 94 per cent did not comply with new hygiene and safety laws. The Daily Telegraph can reveal 166 of 171 hospitals checked during voluntary audits "required one or more corrective actions" for them to meet new guidelines set down by the NSW Food Authority. Four public hospitals were deemed so bad they failed completely, scoring an "unacceptable" rating for their operations.

But the hospitals won't be named and shamed as the Food Authority claims it would be a breach of their business affairs - considered more important than patients' right to know of threats to their health. It was also claimed identifying the hospitals would make them unco-operative in complying in future audits.

Overall, documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws show there were 719 areas of corrective action required for the 166 hospitals. Censored audit reports for the failed public hospitals show the detail of how poor some hospitals are on hygiene and safety. One of the reports shows a coolroom was running at an unhealthy warm temperature, a precondition for food poisoning. The same kitchen had frozen meats and milk powder stored beyond use-by dates, with sliced deli meats with a 24-hour life found stored for four days. Another report of a public hospital found unclean can openers, no records on pest control and food handling concerns.

Staff involved in food preparation wearing gloves were observed picking up food off the floor. One staff member was "observed coughing into her glove and not removing it".

The unhealthy kitchens are the latest blow to the NSW health system, already reeling over scandals including mismanagement of Royal North Shore Hospital and the bungled construction of the new Bathurst Hospital. A NSW Health spokeswoman said none of the issues incurred penalty notices and there was no threat to public health. [Really??] "In all cases where there was an issue found at audit, remedial action was undertaken immediately."

Brian Holloway, 56, had nothing but praise for the medical staff at Mona Vale Hospital during his long stay last year - but he had no love for the hospital's menu. He was appalled at being served what he said was quiches served flat like pancakes, rice tough enough to put through a slug gun and mashed potato like "quick-set cement".


Academics criticize newspaper

I guess it must be doing a good job of challenging West Australia's notoriously corrupt Leftist government

SENIOR journalism academics have attacked The West Australian newspaper, claiming dubious reporting is costing it the community's trust. A group of seven academics, two of whom are in charge of journalism schools at Perth universities, told The West Australian this week that its reports had "increasingly crossed the line into beat-up and misrepresentation" and the newspaper "is losing its authority".

The mauling came when The West Australian asked Murdoch University's head of journalism, Chris Smyth, to comment on Attorney-General Jim McGinty's decision to exclude the newspaper's reporters from mobile phone media alerts. But Mr Smyth and colleagues at Murdoch and Edith Cowan University accused the newspaper of risking confidence in journalism in general. "Mr McGinty is unwise to deny media conference alerts to The West Australian newspaper, but many people would understand the frustration that has led to this imprudent action," they wrote in a statement.

"Decisions in recent years against the newspaper by the industry's own regulator, the Australian Press Council, demonstrate the paper's style has increasingly crossed the line into beat-up and misrepresentation. "This type of reporting has reduced the paper's authority ... (and) when a major news organisation loses community confidence, we risk a loss of confidence in journalism generally."

In 2004, the press council upheld a complaint against a story about a family of 10 previously homeless Aborigines, titled "The true cost of bludgers", with a picture of the smiling family in front of their new home. Retired Supreme Court judge Henry Wallwork said The West Australian's article, which followed a report in The Australian about the family, was "cowardly in the extreme as it attacks a relatively defenceless family, including innocent children".

Editor Paul Armstrong was unrepentant yesterday. "The press council has issued six findings against The West Australian on reports published since I became editor in September 2003 compared with 10 against The Australian," he said. "By the academics' measure, The Australian must be the biggest beat-up merchant in the country."

In the past week shares in West Australian Newspapers have fallen more than 4.7 per cent. Readership of the paper's flagship weekend edition has fallen by 4.6 per cent in a year while circulation has fallen 3.5 per cent.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Must not tell the truth about blacks

BRISBANE magistrate Walter Ehrich has been criticised for claiming Aborigines do not follow court-imposed orders. Magistrate Walter Ehrich told a Brisbane Magistrates Court hearing last weekend: "Aborigines don't report." He was referring to bail conditions requiring defendants to report to police. "It is very dangerous to put them on reporting conditions because you can set them up to fail," Magistrate Walter Ehrich later told The Sunday Mail.

Mr Ehrich made the comment when asked by prosecutor Sgt Kerrilee Lovaszy to impose a weekly reporting condition on an Aboriginal man about to be bailed. The comment was made on February 16, just days after the Federal Government's apology to the Stolen Generations. A reporting condition requires a defendant on bail to report regularly to a police station. Lewis Desmond Saunders, 39, was charged with assaulting police, obstructing police and a public nuisance offence on February 15 at Stafford, in Brisbane's north. Mr Ehrich released Saunders on bail, without any reporting conditions, to reappear in court on May 6. There was no discussion with Saunders' Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service lawyer about his ability to report to police. Mr Ehrich told the lawyer: "You'll look after him."

Aboriginal community spokesman Sam Watson said the magistrate's comment about Aborigines was "appalling" and indigenous academic Prof Boni Robertson said it was "crazy" as well as "inappropriate". "To a hear a magistrate make such a comment from the bench is appalling. It's condemning an entire race of people," Mr Watson said. Prof Robertson said there were no cultural or community factors substantiating the claim that Aborigines did not report. "It's a very generalised assessment of us being irresponsible about meeting obligations," she said.

But Mr Ehrich defended his statement saying "it's not inappropriate at all". "You don't want to set people up to fail," he said. "At no stage was there any intent to make any derogatory remarks about any particular group of people."

Queensland's Chief Magistrate, Judge Marshall Irwin, said indigenous offenders were not habitually given lesser bail conditions than others. "It is certainly not a situation that depends on the defendant's race," Judge Irwin said.


Shockingly low levels of literacy in Australia

AUSTRALIANS are putting their lives at risk because they can't understand medical prescriptions or basic health information, a new study has revealed. The Adult Literacy and Life Skills survey, conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, found six in 10 people aged between 15 and 74 do not have the basic knowledge and skills to take care of their health and prevent disease. The findings reveal too many people are:

* Unable to perform basic health checks for diseases such as breast, skin or testicular cancer.

* Not aware when they need to contact a doctor.

* Unable to understand instructions on prescribed medication.

* Unable to interpret food labels in order to follow a special diet, such as low fat or low sugar.

The survey, the first of its kind in Australia, has alarmed health experts, who are calling for the Federal Government to introduce a national focus on "health literacy". Prof Robert Bush, director of Queensland's Health Communities Research Centre, said people were putting themselves in danger. "This information should send alarm bells ringing," he said. "Many of our health-promotion initiatives assume a basic level of literacy, such as reading a prescription label so people don't overdose, following a basic health promotion guide, or deciding when it's time to consult a doctor. "Without this basic knowledge then people are putting their lives at risk."

Prof Bush urged the Government to launch a health education program to run in schools, workplaces and aged care homes. "Achieving even a basic level of health literacy to join in ways to better health would seem a fundamental aspiration for Australia," he said. The Adult Literacy and Life Skills survey was completed by 9000 Australians living in urban and rural areas across all states and territories.


Too many dickless Tracys

Another example of the stupid old politically correct pretense that a woman can do anything a man can do. A female cop facing a violent male in a punchup just puts others at risk as they try to rescue her

Former assistant commissioner Noel Ashby has questioned Victoria Police's policies of seeking equal numbers of men and women in the force and of bringing in older recruits. Mr Ashby said older and female recruits were unlikely to remain in the force as long as traditionally recruited young males and were often unwilling or unable to fill important operational roles. He suggested a better gender balance of 60% male and 40% female might be "more realistic".

Mr Ashby, who faces possible charges of perjury and misconduct in public office following an Office of Public Integrity inquiry, said the gender balance and age policies could lead to a drain of officers within seven to 10 years. He also said the current gender quota was preventing good male candidates from becoming policemen. "On pure quotas it's a fact that men are trying to join Victoria Police in far greater numbers than women, but women are joining in far greater numbers because of the quota."

Earlier this week Mr Ashby revealed that operational police numbers had been secretly cut back in a number of areas since Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon took office. There are 28% fewer transit police on public transport; 13% fewer traffic police; and the force response unit, which provides back-up to operational police, had been halved.

The age and gender policies were issues that "need to be thought out very carefully", said Mr Ashby. "It's a fact that we don't keep women, as a general rule and aged recruits, obviously, as long. And that could mean a serious further downstream problem in staffing." "That's not a discriminatory statement; it means we need to look at the demographics and age profile in a way that plans for delivery of police services seven to 10 years hence. It causes long-term planning risks." He said people who joined the force at a later age were often reluctant to do a range of duties such as regular night shifts. "That is also an issue for young mums because they don't want to be away from their kids. We're already seeing those stresses come into the organisation where we're unable to attract women to some areas. "It's difficult to attract women to some of the specialist traffic areas, such as booze buses because seven shifts out of nine are late, after 6pm, for obvious reasons. It's also very difficult to attract women to specialist taskforces because of the periods of time they have to be away."

Mr Ashby said he was not saying the force did not have to do more to make the environment easier for women or for special interest groups. "But should it therefore follow that quotas of 40% would be more realistic?"

A spokeswoman for Ms Nixon said the ratio of women within Victoria Police was currently low compared with other states. "We are working hard to change that. The fact is that everyone who comes into the force does so on the basis of merit." She said the current attrition rate within the force was only 2% a year. "So the perception of people leaving the force in droves is just not right."


Australia: Disgusting Muslim child molester gets off free

Note that the garbage was in a position of trust

Queensland's Attorney-General has failed to secure a criminal conviction for a Brisbane medical student who tried to give an 11-year-old boy a penis "massage". Shakee Mirza, escaped with only 12 months probation over his attempt to molest the boy in the child's bedroom in February 2006, sparking outrage that without a black mark against his name, the 27 year-old would-be doctor would be allowed to treat children once qualified.

Attorney General Kerry Shine launched an appeal against the leniency of the sentence earlier this month, but it was dismissed by the full bench of the Supreme Court of Appeal this morning, which found Mirza had suffered enough. "The recording of a conviction for this offence could well have an impact on Mr Mirza's economic and social wellbeing and his chances of finding employment," Justice Margaret McMurdo said in sentencing remarks, handed down this morning. [Too bad about the kids, apparently] "That, placed together with the circumstances of the offence and Mr Mirza's character and age, placed the matter into that rare category of sexual offence against a child where the recording of a conviction, although certainly open, was not mandatory."

In the Brisbane District Court in October, Mirza pleaded guilty to the attempted indecent treatment of the boy, who he had been assigned to as a mentor by charity organisation the Lions Club of Australia under its Aunties and Uncles program. The court heard he had been in the family home, rubbing the child's head to relax him when he offered to massage the child's penis instead because "it would feel better". The boy managed to fend off Mirza's advances.

It was later suggested Mirza had been inspired to touch the boy after watching the comedy film Spaceballs, which had been playing in the room at the time. Lawyers for Ms Shine had argued the disparity in age and Mirza's "gross breach of trust" warranted a jail term. However, the Court of Appeal today found that the third year University of Queensland medical student would still have to inform the university and any future employer of the offence, which was "an adequate deterrent for minor offenders like Mr Mirza". "A significant consideration in this case is that there was no actual physical indecent touching of the compalinant," Justice McMurdo said. "The offence was not premeditated and was comitted in front of others."


A farcical public hospital

Even under great public pressure, the bumbling NSW government still manages to do zilch

THE state of the disastrous new $100 million Bathurst Base Hospital has descended into farce after a head doctor bought an air horn from a sports store so he could be summoned in an emergency because he did not trust the alarm system. It was hoped that non-urgent surgery - suspended indefinitely more than a week ago because of safety concerns - would resume yesterday but doctors instead voted to postpone all operations booked for the next week, calling the situation a "crisis".

A representative on the Medical Staff Council, Dr Stavros Prineas, said the alarm system had serious communication problems, putting patients at risk. The emergency alarm could not be heard across the theatre complex - despite sounding in other areas of the hospital - so nurses had resorted to running through corridors looking for doctors during an emergency, he said. He said Telstra was working yesterday to give the hospital mobile phone coverage. Surgery lists would be reviewed weekly but operations would probably be suspended for at least a further three weeks, Dr Prineas said.

The Health Minister, Reba Meagher, has agreed to a potentially multimillion-dollar redesign because the hospital does not meet national health standards. The co-director of the intensive care unit, Brendan Smith, said nothing had improved after Ms Meagher's visit on Thursday. "We still do not have an effective alarm system in the theatres and recovery. Yesterday we did a couple of cases in the theatre and the only way we were able to do it was because I went to the shop and bought an air horn," Dr Smith said.

"We actually gave it to the director-general [of NSW Health], Professor Debora Picone, and said this was what we've been reduced to and she looked shocked and there were a few comments from her minions in the hospital that said, 'I don't know if that's legal', and we said, 'It might not be legal but it's effective', and they got the message loud and clear."

He said doctors were also considering closing maternity because anaesthetists felt they could not provide a safe service. "Everything but the most dire urgent surgery is being cancelled and it's probably that the obstetrics unit will be closed down because we can't give anaesthetic cover," Dr Smith said.

The doctors have issued a list of demands to Ms Meagher including that a purpose-built annex be urgently constructed for services they say were promised but not delivered such as the ambulatory care unit and outpatient clinics.

The State Government yesterday tabled its response to the Nile inquiry into Royal North Shore Hospital and said it would implement all but two of the 45 recommendations. Doctors say the recommendations do not address the basic problems of bed and staff shortages.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

A black Leftist sees the reality of black problems

And our blinkered Prime Minister thinks bigger government is the answer

THE Rudd Government must stare down the indigenous service provider industry that profits from entrenched Aboriginal disadvantage or risk dooming the federal intervention into Northern Territory communities, former Labor president Warren Mundine has warned. Mr Mundine urged his party to "have courage" in challenging the "old guard" whose political power base lay within remote Aboriginal communities and who opposed aspects of the intervention. He warned that a welfare industry had built up around Aboriginal people that could derail Kevin Rudd's pledge to "close the gap" between indigenous and non-indigenous life expectancy rates.

"What we have created in Australia is an indigenous industry that lives off people's poverty and misery," Mr Mundine said. "It's destroyed incentives. There's a whole culture that developed over a period of time of dependency." He said some Labor powerbrokers in remote Australia, such as Defence Science and Personnel Minister Warren Snowdon, had been key players in the land rights political movement and were pushing for the party to return to the "status quo" prior to the intervention. "There's no doubt there's a split in the party about what needs to be done," Mr Mundine said. "And we have people whoare harping back to keeping the status quo prior to the intervention."

His comments came as Reconciliation Australia director Fred Chaney labelled remote Australia a "failed state" with little electoral clout that had been abandoned by federal, state and territory governments. "Government have essentially stepped outside and left these communities to their own devices," Mr Chaney said. "This intervention has had to make it up as it goes along. There is a serious gap in governance of the governments themselves." ....

The Northern Territory Government this week introduced legislation to reform disparate local government authorities into a series of "super-shires", but the reforms that were crafted by Australia's father of reconciliation, Pat Dodson, were watered down at the last minute when the Government exempted the Top End shire, dominated by white pastoralists, from the super-shire structure. The exemption prompted the resignation of NT local government minister Elliot McAdam.

Visiting the northwest NSW town of Walgett yesterday, the Prime Minister said the Government had begun formulating a plan to attack duplication and infighting among Aboriginal service providers and government agencies by creating local boards for remote indigenous communities that would be responsible for ground-level service delivery.

Speaking on his first visit to an outback indigenous community as Prime Minister, Mr Rudd said he was considering bringing together service providers and local, state and federal government agencies to co-ordinate indigenous service delivery on a community-by-community basis. "Maybe it's time for us to look at much more of a whole-of-local-community focus whereby you have around the one table not just all the representatives of organisations and groups but the various levels of government," he said.

But Mr Mundine said the "indigenous industry" would prove difficult to reform. "There's a whole culture that's developed over a period of time of dependence," he said. "I have never seen a place in the world where they've got more governance of people. "We've got to get bureaucrats out of the way. Let's stop spending money on bureaucrats and get money on to the ground."

Mr Mundine's comments come after former indigenous affairs minister Mal Brough told a dinner for Quadrant magazine in Sydney last week that political correctness hampered many of the people working within the indigenous sector who wanted to bring about change...

Mr Rudd said that governance was one of two key messages from his five-hour visit to Walgett. The other was creating a flexible approach to housing that would allow private ownership in one community and communal title in another. With a majority of indigenous residents, Walgett is one of the most disadvantaged communities in the state. Mr Rudd toured two Aboriginal reserves and was taken to task by Ann Dennis about the level of duplication and lack of communication by service providers. She said funding was not the problem. "It's the co-ordination and planning, not the money coming in," she said. [That would be right. That's typical bureaucracy]

Mr Rudd said he was committed to ending a one-size-fits-all approach. "It may be that in the 300 to 400 remote indigenous communities in Australia that we'll end up with lots of different housing models from full private ownership, through to leasehold through to community ownership," he said. He asked Ms Dennis if they wanted private ownership of homes, and she said the community did.


Black settlement taskforce gets "star chamber" powers

An extreme abuse of liberties but there are exceptions to every rule and the circumstances here may warrant it. The crimes being investigated are certainly extreme

A FEDERAL investigation into child sexual abuse and violence in Aboriginal communities has been given star chamber powers to imprison unco-operative witnesses after its 18-month investigation hit a wall of silence in the outback. The granting of the status of a special intelligence operation is a significant upgrade of the Alice Springs-based taskforce running the investigation, and came only after members had to argue its case in front of Australia's eight police commissioners.

The new powers put violence and child sexual abuse in Aboriginal communities on a par with outlaw motorcycle gangs and international crime syndicates as priority for law enforcement. The powers investigators will use are similar to those granted to people investigating a terrorist plot.

The Australian understands that investigators, while having significant success uncovering information, have been frustrated by the unwillingness of non-government organisations to provide formal disclosures. In addition, people in Aboriginal communities are often intimidated into not disclosing crimes, such as child sexual abuse and domestic violence. Critically, the investigators have uncovered many communities run through intimidation and standover tactics by men involved in criminal activity, including abuse. Anyone questioned in what is known as the star chamber is legally prevented from revealing that the interview occurred, except to their lawyer.

Australian Crime Commission chief executive Alastair Milroy told The Australian yesterday the aim of the new powers was to obtain specific intelligence relating to violence, child abuse and related offences of substance abuse and pornography. "Coercive powers will provide a clear legal basis and protection for non-government organisations, state and territory authorities, service providers and individuals to provide confidential information, as well as an environment that is more conducive to gathering personal testimony," he said. "The approval of coercive powers was considered essential to overcome impediments in accessing information collection relating to indigenous violence and child abuse."

Mr Milroy said the powers would not be used to target victims. The star chamber may travel to communities, if necessary, taking into greater account the need in many cases to protect the identity of witnesses being questioned.

The 31-strong National Indigenous Violence and Child Abuse Intelligence Task Force has made significant inroads exposing an epidemic of child sexual abuse and violence similar to revelations contained in the Little Children Are Sacred report, which was released in June last year and prompted the Howard government's emergency intervention in the NT. As of Tuesday, the taskforce had provided police and child protection authorities in every state and the NT with 236 reports that could be used in subsequent investigations.

The star chamber inquiry is carried out by an independent examiner. The findings of inquiries cannot be used in court but the disclosures can be passed to police to investigate later. Initially, the powers would be used to force organisations and individuals to produce documents from which further inquiries would be launched, Mr Milroy said. "The ACC will utilise coercive powers in a culturally sensitive manner in order to identify offenders and obtain specific intelligence relating to violence, child abuse and related offences of substances abuse and pornography," Mr Milroy said. The taskforce is expected to continue its work until the end of this year before presenting a comprehensive report to the nation's police commissioners in the middle of next year.


Public hospital negligence kills again

A DEVASTATED family has been left angry and searching for answers since their beloved grandmother died after tripping on unfinished roadworks outside the Royal Hobart Hospital. Margaret Wakefield, 77, died in hospital last week after falling near the entrance to the new emergency department. The fit and active grandmother had been going to the hospital to visit a sick relative, and now her family is struggling to comprehend how a simple day out turned to tragedy.

Katie Wakefield, 20, was with her grandmother going to visit a relative in the hospital last Thursday. Miss Wakefield, 20, from Rokeby, was carrying her 18-month-old daughter, Shaelah, while her four-year-old son Justin was holding his great grandma's hand. Then Mrs Wakefield tripped on a section of raised footpath, believed to be the base of an old emergency department sign that had been removed. Miss Wakefield and her children were horrified to see their nan on the ground with blood streaming from her face. "She hit her face on the ground. I thought she'd broken her nose. There was blood everywhere and her glasses were stuck to her face," Miss Wakefield said.

She managed to get her conscious grandmother to the emergency department and waited about two hours for attention. They then spent several hours waiting for scans before being sent home. But soon after leaving the elderly woman's condition worsened. "On the way home she started vomiting so we called an ambulance," Miss Wakefield said. "She just got really confused and couldn't walk, she started deteriorating and they did a scan and found she had a blood clot forming in her brain. "She went into a coma and was on life support, and after that she died."

Miss Wakefield reported the problem pavement to hospital staff and a safety barricade was erected. The pavement has since been repaired. But they can't ignore the irony of having their grandmother die from an accident outside a hospital. "You come to hospital to get better, not to die," Miss Wakefield said. "It's simple: if things hadn't been sticking out of the footpath, she wouldn't have died. "And because of her age they should never have sent her home from hospital in the first place, she should have been kept in for observation."

Hospital community relations director Pene Snashall said condolences had been extended to the family in what was obviously a very sad time for them. She said the RHH was unable to comment further until a coronial inquiry was held.


MORE corruption in the West Australian police

Spin, spin, spin in the State of Corruption

A SENIOR police officer has resigned after 15 months with WA Police, to take up a job as the chief executive of the Shire of Ravensthorpe. Superintendent Paul Richards resigned from the State Intelligence Division on Monday. He was recruited from the United Kingdom 15 months ago as a highly qualified and regarded intelligence specialist and change manager.

His resignation comes after an internal investigation into the alleged misuse of resources by the State Intelligence Division, one of the state's most top-secret police squads. The Sunday Times revealed on January 27 that an internal investigation had been ordered into allegations that officers from the State Intelligence Division misspent thousands of dollars -- possibly on alcohol, entertainment and accommodation -- during a schoolies week "operation'' in November. It was alleged that officers from the State Intelligence Branch spent $15,000 during several days in Busselton.

Deputy Commissioner Chris Dawson today told PerthNow that the internal investigation had been thoroughly investigated and the complaint was not sustained. Mr Dawson rejected suggestions the resignation was a poor reflection on the success of the Direct Entry Accelerated Training (DEAT) program, which international recruits complete, because Supt Richards was not recruited through the program and paid his own relocation expenses.

"Supt Richard's departure does not reflect on the success of the DEAT program in any way,'' Mr Dawson said. "Since the DEAT program program began, WA Police has recruited over 360 overseas officers. Just under 10 per cent of those officers have since resigned for a variety of reasons,'' he said. "Given the logistics and family ramifications for these people of moving to the other side of the world this is a figure that was expected, and overall the DEAT program has been an outstanding success in bringing experienced, well qualified officers to WA.

"I'm sorry to see Paul go as he is a highly regarded professional officer who's achieved much in his short time with WA Police. We wish him well with his appointment as the CEO of the Shire of Ravensthorpe."


Friday, February 22, 2008

Rudd Government cool on extremist climate report

The Federal Government has tried to play down its chief climate change adviser's call for even deeper cuts to dangerous greenhouse gases. Economist Ross Garnaut, in his interim report on climate change policy released yesterday, said the Government should set a 2020 greenhouse target this year and consider setting a tougher 2050 target. "Australia should be ready to go beyond its stated 60 per cent reduction target by 2050 in an effective global agreement that includes developing nations," Professor Garnaut said. The report said such an approach would mean Australia played a positive role in global talks for a post-Kyoto regime. [Sounds like a very political economist -- which he is. He has been a Labor party adviser for many years]

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said Professor Garnaut's report would be an "important input" to Government policy. "We welcome Professor Garnaut's input . . . of course we will also be looking at other inputs, such as modelling from the Australian Treasury," she said. "We are conscious of the impact on the Australian economy and we will ensure the scheme addresses the impacts on households and also on industry."

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has championed the issue of climate change and one of his first acts was to ratify the Kyoto agreement. He also pledged to put an emissions trading scheme in place by 2010. Senator Wong called yesterday's report - the final document is due in September - "early thinking" on the policy response to climate change.

But Australian Greens leader Bob Brown said the Government was trying to minimise the importance of Professor Garnaut because he had followed the science. "Penny Wong has reduced Ross Garnaut to input," Senator Brown said. "There are huge vested interests at play here; the coal industry, the aluminium industry, the forest logging industry and it's up to the Rudd Government to put this country ahead of those vested interests."

Professor Garnaut also cast doubt on the Government's renewable energy target, saying it might not be needed once the emissions trading scheme (ETS) was established. He said it was inevitable there would be extra costs on households but income from selling ETS permits could help ease the burden on low-income earners. "This is a hard reform but get it right and the transition to a low-emissions economy will be manageable . . . get it wrong and this is going to be a painful adjustment," he said. "We're only going to solve this problem if we find a way of keeping economic growth going and prosperity going but breaking the link between economic growth and emissions."

The Garnaut Review was commissioned last year by federal Labor while in opposition, in co-operation with state governments. State premiers, including Queensland's Anna Bligh, yesterday vowed to act quickly on the report's recommendations.

Speaking from Adelaide, where the report was released, Ms Bligh said the report was "very sobering". "There's no doubt it's one of the biggest issues to face Australia and the planet," she said. Leading environmental groups admitted they were surprised by the strength of the report.


Carbon emissions cuts must be realistic

WITH less than two years to implement an emissions trading system, a leading point of interest in the business community is how the Rudd Government will keep the economy competitive under the scheme, as the aim is to increase the cost of energy. The expectation was that this would be high on the agenda of the Garnaut review. Following the preview Ross Garnaut gave yesterday of his interim report for state premiers, they will now not be so sure.

Garnaut first sent a signal that he considers the European Union aim to reduce emissions by between 20 per cent and 30 per cent by 2020 a good move. He also indicated support for Al Gore's extreme proposition that by 2050, emissions should have been cut by more than 80 per cent. Labor's platform requires a 60 per cent cut by 2050, a difficult enough target as it is.

He also made clear that he believes Australia should make serious cuts in emissions, even though he believes the Bali process will not produce overall reductions in emissions in the foreseeable future. And he gave no indication that he considered strong cuts would generate any problem in international trade, despite the sharp focus on this in Brussels and Washington, DC, during the past month.

Garnaut's leading interest evidently is in how Australia can be a world climate-change leader. He thinks cuts by Australia will encourage developing countries to make cuts, and argues that regional collaborative arrangements between Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea would set global precedents.

But he is making the same mistake European Greens made over the Kyoto Protocol. They believed developing countries would follow the example of industrialised countries and make cuts. They didn't, and they demonstrated at Bali that they expect to increase, not reduce, emissions in the future. China has been clear: it accepts the effects of climate change, it will adapt to them, but economic growth will remain the priority.

The impact on competitiveness has been highlighted by developments in Brussels and Washington during the past month. Emissions trading in Europe is harming competitiveness. In a bid to get business on side, the EU environment directorate argues that the EU should restrict trade with countries that don't cut emissions.

And a US congressional energy committee has just released a white paper on emissions trading. It considers that commitments by developing countries to reduce emissions should be a precondition to the implementation of emissions trading in the US.

Anybody who thinks the World Trade Organisation multilateral trading system is important should be concerned. Such EU trade bans would generate extreme tensions and encourage proposals to amend the WTO in ways that could seriously weaken it. And before anybody starts to muse "Why not amend the WTO?", consider applying that approach to agricultural trade.

Rather than insisting the EU and the US align their agricultural policies with WTO principles, the approach here is to change WTO rules to legitimise their policies.

The risk of trade conflict nicely brings the competitiveness question back to the centre.

Until now, the attitude in Canberra has been that the impact on trade rules will be sorted out after the emission trading rules have been settled. This is the wrong approach, as there is prospectively an inherent conflict between the free-market philosophy of the WTO and the cap element of emissions trading.

The cap means government directs and regulates an economic activity: the production of energy. It is an economic command and control tool. When governments try to protect capped activity from cheaper products from uncapped jurisdictions, you get conflict with WTO rules. This is why the trade and competitiveness dimension needs to be an integral part of the planning for the emissions trading system, not something considered after the fact. The ideal result would be a system with measures that preserved competitiveness and were consistent with WTO rules.

Garnaut needs to give priority to developing a system that protects Australian competitiveness. We have put competitiveness in second place in the past, to our cost. A little more than 100 years ago, justice H.B. Higgins ruled that higher wages were more important in the Sunshine Harvester case. This drove Australia's first globally competitive manufacturer out of business, and manufacturing did not regain competitiveness until the tariff reform in the 1980s, in which Garnaut played a key role.


Crime surge rocks Victoria

Since so many Victorian police have been transferred to "community" functions (e.g. "gay and lesbian liason") by Victoria's big fat pro-Lesbian top cop (See above), this is not exactly a surprise

VICTORIA has witnessed staggering rises in assaults over the past five years, with Melbourne and the outer suburbs hardest hit. That is the picture painted by a comparison of official Victoria Police figures for the 2000-01 period with those for last year. In the metropolitan area, Melton tops the list, registering a 160.6 per cent increase from 226 to 589 cases reported in 2007. Close behind is Casey, where assaults jumped from 595 to 1358 over the same period, an increase of 128.2 per cent. Moreland, Mornington, Wyndham and Cardinia are close behind, all seeing five-year increases in excess of 100 per cent. Across the state, assaults climbed from 21,939 in the 2000-01 reporting year to 31,020, an increase of 41.4 per cent.

Deputy Commissioner Kieran Walsh blamed alcohol and domestic violence for the increases, insisting that much of the surge was due to a campaign aimed at encouraging victims of spousal abuse to report attacks. "We've been concentrating on family violence and encouraging people to report that violence," he said. "The other driver is alcohol, and we're addressing that."

Casey councillor Steve Beardon said the figures demonstrated the need for drastic measures. "We have hoons on our roads, and shopping strips and parks are magnets for kids hanging out and causing trouble," he said. "I've taken up a petition with 1500 signatures of local residents, which called for a curfew. "It was tabled in parliament and then forgotten, even though the same measure has worked very well in Western Australia. "Bottom line: we need more cops and we need them now."

In Dandenong, where in the past five years assaults have risen from 709 to 1151 -- a 62.3 per cent hike -- councillor and anti-crime campaigner Peter Brown echoed the call for more police. "After the trouble we had last year in Noble Park," he said, referring to the beating death of 19-year-old Liep Gony, "the police blitzed the area and we saw problems with gangs drop off. "Give them credit, they did a good job but it didn't solve the problem. What it did was move it somewhere else . . . "On Monday night as I was driving by, there was a mob of these kids -- drunk or high, I'm not sure which, probably both -- spilling out into the street and playing havoc with the traffic. You don't cure a problem in Noble Park by moving it to Dandenong."

Across Melbourne, Werribee activist Lori McLean hailed police efforts to curb violence and hooning, saying that a "tough-minded approach" was working. "Big, burly male coppers; they're the ones that get taken seriously, and they are the ones that have been getting the results."

Country Victoria also had major increases in assaults, with Whittlesea experiencing a 104 per cent increase from 375 to 765. In Bendigo it was 49.3 per cent and in Geelong it was 38.1 per cent.


Othello becomes a tragedy of the system

LITERATURE, the soul of the English language, has been marginalised by ideology and social theory in its study in schools and universities. Reader in English at the Australian National University Simon Haines said the literature part of the subject English had been squashed and marginalised during the past 30 years, pushed aside to teach theories from other disciplines. "Literature is the heart of English and if we're not doing that, then the subject loses its soul," he said after addressing the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney yesterday.

Dr Haines said university academics in English and literature over the past two generations had "colonised" other disciplines such as anthropology, sociology and linguistics. As a result, it had become the attitude in English schools to question the primacy of the text in the belief that the text should be used to illustrate theories from the other disciplines. "And so Othello has become a tragedy of race rather than a tragedy of jealousy," he said. "It hasn't always been; up until the 1960s, it was a tragedy of jealousy. "It's not the teachers' fault - they're just reflecting what they've heard for two generations in universities, which is that literature as core of the subject English is in the end dispensable and theoretical."

Dr Haines is the director for the ANU of the International Centre for Human Values, a joint venture with the Chinese University in Hong Kong. He holds a doctorate in philosophy from Oxford University and is a former diplomat and analyst with the Office of National Assessments, and was chairman for three years of the OECD budget committee before pursuing a career in academia.

Dr Haines said the English syllabus in schools had become much more crowded over the past three or four decades. "It's all the more reason not to dilute English with other disciplinary or ideological approaches. There just isn't time," he said. "The best you can hope to have is an understanding of the context of the play, so you don't want to narrow it down into one ideological approach. What you get then is a teacher who doesn't understand Marxism and feminist theory as thoroughly as a university academic trying to give students a half-baked version at the same time as teaching Othello. Students end up with a mishmash.

"By all means study Marxist theory when you're at university, where you can study it thoroughly, but don't try to do it in a half-baked way at school." Dr Haines said in this way, Othello had become a tragedy of race not jealousy, which makes the play narrower, more polemical and ideological than Shakespeare intended.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

NSW public hospital agonies continuing

Yet another general manager of the Royal North Shore Hospital has left, increasing pressure on the beleaguered Health Minister, Reba Meagher, who tomorrow travels to Bathurst to face the latest debacle in the state's public hospitals. Mary Bonner, who was appointed two years ago, is the eighth general manager in 11 years to walk out of Royal North Shore, the hospital that has become the symbol of all that is wrong with the state's public health system. It is not clear why Ms Bonner has left but her departure follows the recent resignations of two other health chiefs in the Northern Sydney Central Coast Area Health Service: the project manager for Royal North Shore redevelopment, Andrew Bott, and the general manager of Central Coast Health, Ken Cahill.

Ms Bonner had vowed to do all she could to help turn the hospital around but the Herald understands budget constraints and pressure to meet performance targets despite several years of under-resourcing made her task insurmountable. It is also understood that she felt recommendations from the recent parliamentary inquiry into Royal North Shore were so vague they would not rectify problems, and more funding was needed for real change. Several clinicians told the inquiry of their criticisms of the hospital's redevelopment, including a lack of beds and poor cancer and pathology services.

The latest resignation came as Ms Meagher yesterday dodged questions on how the Department of Health or the builders or project managers of the new $98 million Bathurst Base Hospital got the redevelopment so wrong that it failed to meet national patient safety guidelines. The Department of Health also remained silent on how the Bathurst plans were approved when some areas in such acute services as intensive care and emergency were too small to function adequately. The building company, the John Holland Group, and the project manager, Capital Insight, also refused to comment.

"It's a bloody scandal," a Bathurst doctor, who did not want to be named, said yesterday. "Somebody somewhere has to put their hand up and say they caused this mess ... heads are going to roll." The Herald visited Bathurst Hospital yesterday, where all but the most urgent surgery has been suspended indefinitely due to problems with communications.

One doctor, who did not want to be named, said he was concerned for a patient due to undergo breast cancer surgery tomorrow, and was searching for another hospital. He said patients had been sent to Nepean, Mudgee, Lithgow and Orange hospitals for surgery. "There was no surgery here over the weekend apart from two emergency obstetrics patients - one was an emergency caesar and the other was a miscarriage," he said.

The doctor said he had been told that it could take months before the problems were fixed. The paging system had broken down several times a day, the alarm system and backup were inadequate and the situation was so desperate that inquiries were made about whether the fire alarm system could be connected to the switchboard as a public address system. There is also no mobile phone coverage. Telstra maintained yesterday it had always told the Department of Health that it could not complete the required infrastructure until at least the end of March.

The department has denied rumours that the John Holland Group was given $2.8 million in bonuses for finishing the job early. The department said the project was incomplete because the old hospital had to be demolished and the finishing touches put on the new one. It said no bonuses were paid.

One department, ambulatory care, has been left out altogether from the new hospital, and the Bathurst Medical Staff Council is asking for it to move into the mental health unit. Staff are refusing to occupy that section because they say it is unsafe for patients because there are sheer drops and potential hanging points.

Ms Meagher was due to turn the first sod for the Orange hospital redevelopment tomorrow. Yesterday the Greater Western Area Health Service said it would delay construction after doctors there complained that plans are also flawed. "I won't be turning the sod and I have required the Infrastructure Board to undertake a complete audit of the Orange plans to ensure we are not going to have a repeat of the Bathurst incident," Ms Meagher said.

The Opposition Leader, Barry O'Farrell, said the Health Infrastructure Board, set up last year to oversee big projects, "was just another short-term fix designed to distract from the Iemma Government's ongoing incompetence in delivering health facilities". "Reba Meagher can't even tell the public who is responsible for this latest infrastructure disaster," Mr O'Farrell said. "The public can have no confidence Reba Meagher will not repeat the mistakes at Bathurst at similar hospital upgrades at Orange or Royal North Shore."

Brendan Smith, the co-director of intensive care at Bathurst, said doctors had told the John Holland Group that there was no mobile reception as early as September last year. "In this day and age every doctor and his dog has a mobile phone and that's the standard way we communicate ... none of the areas where we have to run to fairly regularly have mobile reception. We pointed that out at the time."

Dr Smith said there had been "very, very limited consultation". "We were never allowed to see the plans; we were never allowed to have copies of the plans," he said. "With the operating theatres, two of the four were meant to be 50 square metres and that's a national standard ... there's 39 square metres. How the hell did they lose 11 square metres?" A spokeswoman for the Greater Western Area Health Service said it was discussing problems with Telstra. The Bathurst Medical Staff Council said the area health service appeared committed to fixing the problems.



Four current articles below -- no good news

Rudd's education "revolution" at work

THE Rudd Government will axe a $1.2 billion program which has allowed schools across NSW to upgrade toilets, landscape their grounds and improve facilities. The Investing in Our Schools scheme - one of the most popular policies of the former Howard government - will not be continued after the money runs out this year.

Angry primary principals are seeking an urgent meeting with new Federal Education Minister Julia Gillard at which they are expected to voice a strong complaint about the decision. A storm of protest following The Daily Telegraph's report this morning has forced Ms Gillard to defend the decision. She said the Government would continue investing in schools via other means. "The Investing in Our Schools program was only ever a four-year program," Ms Gillard said.

Ms Gillard's office earlier confirmed to The Daily Telegraph that Labor's "education revolution" - with heavy emphasis on computers and trade schools - does not extend to Investing in Our Schools. A spokeswoman said the $1.2 billion already promised to schools would be delivered, allowing schools to "build and repair vital infrastructure". "Under the previous Liberal Government there was no funding provided for the program beyond the 2007-08 Budget and therefore the program cannot be continued," the spokeswoman said.

Primary Principals' Association president Geoff Scott said schools - particularly in the government sector - were disappointed to learn the program had been dropped. "It will be a terrific shame if it is not replaced by something else that gets funds to schools," Mr Scott said. "Under this scheme a little bush school could get equal access to funds. It allowed them to get money directly for a host of things such as covered walkways, outdoor learning areas and play equipment."

One recipient of Investing in Our Schools funds has been Oxley High School at Tamworth, where students use old railway carriages as a study centre and computer room. Parents & Citizens' president Wendy Newby said the school had received $100,000 from the program which would be "put to good use". "We are very grateful for the funds . .. the P&C does as much as it can," she said.

State Opposition education spokesman Andrew Stoner said principals "could not speak more highly of the Investing In Our Schools program". "This was a $1.2 billion program making a real difference to NSW schools - often where the State Government had failed to provide adequate facilities," he said.


Rudd's school computer promise comes unplugged

THE Rudd Government has backed away from an election pledge to provide every upper secondary school student with their own computer. Education Minister Julia Gillard said yesterday the Government would provide the resources but conceded it could not force schools to provide individual computers to each student.

The Opposition seized on the concession, accusing the Government of reneging on its promise and disappointing the almost one million private and public students in Years 9-12.

Mr Rudd's education revolution, including the $1 billion National Secondary Schools Computer Fund, helped him steamroll into Government last year. A 15-page policy document labelled A Digital Education Revolution said: "A Rudd Labor Government will revolutionise classroom education by putting a computer on the desk of every upper secondary student. It said: "Students will have their own computer and access to the school's extranet and classroom content - both from their desktop and remotely. Schools will be able to apply for grants of up to $1 million . . . this could include personal laptops."

But in fiery exchange in a Senate standing committee yesterday, bureaucrats told Queensland Liberal Senator Brett Mason there was never a pledge to give students their own computers. Some schools might choose to have computer laboratories on school campuses, they said. An animated Senator Mason seized on the comments, offering to read the ALP brochure to Innovation Minister Kim Carr. "Unless I'm stupid and every 9-12 student I know is stupid, every one of them thought the Government would be providing them with a computer," Senator Mason said.

During an interview later in the day, Ms Gillard argued the Government had not changed the goalposts. "There will be sufficient resources so that schools can put a computer on each child's desk for Years 9 to 12," she said. "We are leaving it to the school how they do it , we are not mandating that every desk have a computer on it but we are saying the aim of the program is to make sure every student has access to a computer."

Senator Mason also accused the Government of fudging costs because the costs of maintaining broadband connections were not included in the $100 m broadband plan. "During the election, Kevin Rudd said that the buck would stop with him. We now discover that the buck has been passed on to others, including hard-working parents trying to put their children through school," he said. "As anyone with internet knows there are monthly costs associated with maintaining a connection."


Mathematics education still a low priority

CASH-STRAPPED university administrations diverted most of the millions of dollars meant to reverse the maths and statistics skills crisis to other purposes, confidential research has found. At least 50 per cent and as much as 80 per cent of new money allocated by the former Coalition government to the national priority disciplines appears to have been retained for administration, a draft report to the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute suggests.

The report on a national questionnaire of university maths departments found that despite the $2729 in extra funds for each student place in maths and statistics granted by former education minister Julie Bishop last May, there were almost 40 fewer maths teaching and research staff at the start of this year compared with 2007.

National Committee for Mathematical Sciences chairman and University of Melbourne professor Hyam Rubinstein told the HES that, based on the survey, he estimated about $25 million nationally had been allocated to universities to support the recruitment of new staff and teaching students in maths and statistics. "But we are only getting 20per cent or less, or about $4 million to $5 million actually flowing to departments nationally," he said. Professor Rubinstein said he understood that universities were in a tight financial situation. "Universities have to make money. This issue of national priorities has become secondary to what will pay the bills. That's the difficulty."

Australian Mathematical Society president and Melbourne University professor Peter Hall thought Rubinstein's estimate was generous. "I understand that some universities need the freedom to put these funds where they are haemorrhaging most seriously, but it's clear they don't see offering maths as playing a serious role in science." Professor Hall said that having a sufficient supply of maths-qualified researchers was increasingly influential in multinationals' decisions to locate significant research facilities.

Only five of the 10 universities contacted by the HES yesterday responded to queries about how much extra they earned from enrolling maths and statistics students and how much was passed on to departments. The Australian National University rejected the suggestion it had not passed on the increase, saying it had allocated 85 per cent to the relevant areas and the rest to student support. The University of NSW failed to provide figures but said it had advertised for three professorial chairs following retirements and resignations. The University of Western Australia said it had upwardly adjusted funding weightings for maths, and the University of Adelaide employed four extra maths staff.

The AMSI report said despite initial euphoria over the funding boost and high starting salaries for graduates sparked by the skills shortage, an air of pessimism had descended on many university maths departments. One respondent said that when a senior university administrator was confronted with the failure to pass on extra funding, he said the federal education department wouldn't be concerned and that the minister wouldn't get involved in such detail.

Australian Council of Deans of Science president John Rice said he was hopeful the Rudd Government's planned $111 million maths and science HECS relief plan would encourage far greater numbers of students. Australian Council of Engineering Deans president Elizabeth Taylor said universities were working with schools as hard as they could to encourage greater numbers of students. "Students see maths and science as harder options, which would come at the expense of a nicer life and their social life," she said.

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Julia Gillard said universities had discretion over the funds. The proportion of Australian school-leavers taking advanced maths fell from 14 per cent in 1995 to 10.4 per cent in 2006, according to AMSI figures.


A bleak future for those with poor literacy and numeracy

No matter how much spin you put on the recent benchmark figures for Queensland's literacy and numeracy, the state is not doing well. Cold comfort though it may be, it is not alone. Victoria has one in five students falling short in maths and besides the Northern Territory, Tasmania remains the national bottom feeder. ...

What is unambiguous is that the long-term fallout of poor literacy and numeracy affects the economy. While federal Treasurer Wayne Swan can say: "Around the kitchen tables Australians understand absolutely that inflation has been rising", to do this, you need numeracy skills. In Britain, a country which has had a national curriculum for 20 years - plus entrenched and continuing low literacy and numeracy levels - the economic danger signs of what this means are evident. People who require the greatest welfare support are those with low numeracy and literacy skills.

While Australia has low housing affordability, the fact is that buying a house is the biggest financial decision we make. If we don't understand the numbers, such as interest rates and repayments, then this is potentially disastrous.

British MP Boris Johnson, a candidate for Mayor of London and former editor of The Spectator magazine, recently summed up the reality of low numeracy skills for people securing a mortgage: "It involves concepts of percentages and interest and there is abundant evidence that millions of Britons either do not care about the debt they are taking on, or do not really understand the meaning of these squiggly figures for their future prosperity. It's not that they are stupid. It's just that they haven't been educated to understand the maths."

Johnson could have as easily been talking about Australia. The key word here is education. It is something recognised by one of the country's biggest charities, The Smith Family. As from this year, the charity has stopped welfare and put its emphasis on education. The reason is that "passive assistance", as The Smith Family describes welfare services, does not support children's education.

The reality is that in Queensland, as is apparent elsewhere, the most economically vulnerable are those who have not succeeded in education. The importance of high levels of competence in literacy and numeracy cannot be stressed enough. To this end, Queensland's indifferent performance on the benchmarks is cause for concern. The long-term health of the economy is dependent on high educational standards underpinning it. Some children do not have them.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Well done, Kevvy!

Hokey "apology" now an excuse for mob violence by blacks

PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd's national apology to the stolen generation has sparked a spate of racial violence in Darwin. Five people had to be admitted to hospital after one brawl. The Caucasian men were attacked by a group of 10 Aboriginal men, who demanded that their victims "say sorry".

A 28-year-old Territory woman watched helplessly as her friend was king-hit and kicked to the ground outside a Darwin 24-hour eatery on Sunday morning. She said three men ran at them from across the road, when they looked at the group yelling at two women. "They just started king-hitting him. They got him on the ground and then two others came over and started kicking him," she said. "They kept screaming that we were not sorry at all - 'Say sorry to us'. You just couldn't stop them."

The woman said three more men grabbed another Caucasian man and punched him in the middle of Smith St. "That's when I called the police. He managed to roll into the gutter but they kept on kicking him," she said. They and her friend ran to the Mitchell St police station, where they met up with other victims of the racial attack.

"The police officer said since the sorry apology on Wednesday, it had been completely out of control."

The woman said there were four other victims of racial violence in the emergency room at Royal Darwin Hospital. Her friend had fractured ribs and bad bruising. Others had head injuries and bruises. "I don't know why they did it," she said. "They're just making it worse for everyone. It was gutless. It doesn't have to be this way."

Another big brawl occurred at Fairway Waters in Palmerston on Saturday night. Police said witnesses and victims of the "series" of assaults on Sunday were being questioned. Senior Sergeant Steve Martin warned that "thugs" and "troublemakers" had no place in Darwin. "Police take a zero tolerance approach to violence and antisocial behaviour and any assaults of this nature will be thoroughly investigated," he said. Constable Michael Lunney, officer-in-charge of the investigation, said he was confident police would find the men responsible for the attacks.


Hundreds of active police transferred to political correctness and bureaucratic duties

Among the roles expanded were "gay and lesbian liaison" officers. Sexual abnormality gets you special privileges these days

VICTORIA Police yesterday admitted transit and traffic police numbers had been cut, and that it hadn't been made public. But Deputy Commissioner Simon Overland said the size of the cuts was not as great as claimed by former assistant commissioner Noel Ashby. And he denied the cuts were secret, saying nobody had asked for the information.

The police union said yesterday hundreds of officers could not be accounted for and an audit was urgently needed. "On the force's own admission there are 655 operational police officers missing from the front line," union legal manager Sen-Sgt Greg Davies said. "And yes, non-operational areas have increased under the current Chief Commissioner." ...

Mr Ashby said he'd be prepared to name those figures to a royal commission or permanent anti-corruption body, which was needed to examine what he believed was probable prior knowledge by the Government of the OPI probe and of a government-police force plot to oust Sen-Sgt Mullett. "The relationships between the State Government, Victoria Police, the OPI and the Police Association are murky and suspicious," he said. ...

Sen-Sgt Davies yesterday backed Mr Ashby's call for an independent inquiry or permanent anti-corruption body. He said Sen-Sgt Mullett had tried to use last year's OPI hearings to publicly air similar allegations to Mr Ashby's, "but every time he ventured towards that sort of ground he was cut off and stymied".

Mr Overland said there had been a 14 per cent cut in transit police and a 4.5 per cent cut in traffic police in the past eight years; Mr Ashby alleged cuts of 28 per cent and 13 per cent. "I stand by my claim," Mr Ashby said yesterday. Mr Overland denied Mr Ashby had raised concerns about cuts. "When Noel actually stayed at executive meetings, I didn't actually hear him say anything of the sort," he said.


Tasmania: Parents are too dumb to be told all the facts

That is the elitist and typically Leftist attitude we see below, anyway

EDUCATION Minister David Bartlett has rejected a call to make league tables of school performance available to parents.

Liberal education spokeswoman Sue Napier yesterday called on the Government to release more data to help parents compare schools. Her call comes after the Mercury revealed that government schools were developing a new series of key performance indicators to measure and improve their results in areas such as literacy, numeracy, attendance and retention. "This is exactly the sort of information to which parents are entitled, particularly after 10 years of a state Labor government during which time the performance of our students in many key areas has actually gone backwards," Mrs Napier said. "This is about transparency and accountability and the desperate need to boost education standards in our schools."

But Mr Bartlett said he would not allow the Opposition to use figures to stigmatise struggling schools. "Every Tasmanian school already reports directly to its parent body about its performance on literacy and numeracy and a number of other benchmarks," he said. "Every single individual school produces an annual report to its school community with relative figures of literacy and numeracy and improvement or otherwise and I think that's very important. "That data is being used already for school improvement and, as I've said, in a disaggregated fashion most of that data is already publicly available. "What I won't ever stand for is people like Sue Napier using this data for political purposes to berate or run down particular schools."

Mr Bartlett said there was already sufficient information for people who needed it. "What we're talking about here of course is my goal to empower principals to make more local decisions about their school that reflect the aspirations of their school community," he said. "The public has access to data already ... and they can research that data and compare schools as they see fit."

Mrs Napier said the current push to implement performance indicators was "hardly rocket science".


Prosecutor pushes for tougher sentences

Not a moment too soon. The courts seem to think that it is their role to keep people OUT of jail. They seize on the weakest of excuses to do so

VICTORIA'S top prosecutor will challenge the Court of Appeal to set tougher sentences for drug traffickers, murderers and frauds. Director of Public Prosecutions Jeremy Rapke, QC, is planning a series of "test case" appeals where he believes sentences have not met the expectations of lawmakers or the community. Mr Rapke said he believed some crimes had been "devalued" by light sentences.

He was particularly concerned by sentences in some serious drug cases. "That's one area which we're looking at very carefully to try and pick our mark for the appropriate case to test this on. "You've got people convicted of trafficking large commercial quantities of drugs, where the legislation says that's life imprisonment, and they're getting suspended sentences. "The Parliament says you can go to jail for life and they don't go to jail for one minute. I can't work it out."

The longest maximum sentence in Victoria in the past five years for large commercial drug trafficking was 16 years. The longest total effective sentence, including related charges, was 23 years with a 17-year minimum.

Mr Rapke also revealed:

THE recent decision that some sex cases would in future be heard in the Supreme Court would also work in reverse, with some other offences traditionally heard in the top court transferred to the County Court.

WORKING parties and management consultants were looking at ways to reduce delays in court hearings.

DELAYS in forensic testing were still resulting in bail being granted in serious cases.

HE will continue to speak up on behalf of victims despite the furore over his recent comments about the insensitivity of some judges towards sexual assault victims.

Mr Rapke said sentences for some murders and major frauds were likely to be among cases he would take to the Court of Appeal. "Our argument will be that some sentencing courts are having insufficient regard for the maximum penalty imposed by the legislature," Mr Rapke said. "What they tend to look at is what other courts have imposed in this type of case, rather than what they could have imposed." He said the Sentencing Act required sentencing judges to take account of the maximum penalty set by Parliament. "I think that's lost sometimes," he said.

Sentencing Advisory Council statistics show the longest sentence in the past five years for rape (maximum 25 years) was 20 years; the longest for armed robbery (25 years) was 11; for manslaughter (20 years) 15; and for fraud (10 years) six.

Mr Rapke has already lodged an appeal in the case of Cody Hutchings, 5, beaten to death by his mother's partner, Stuart John McMaster. "McMaster got a minimum of 10 years, which was then the longest manslaughter sentence for that type of crime ever handed down in Victoria," Mr Rapke said. "But I took the view that if the legislation says you can get 20 years for that, and this is in the highest category of that type of offence, why shouldn't the courts be looking at that as a guide? "One might say the offender 'got the tariff', but I'm trying to persuade the Court of Appeal that the tariff needs to be reviewed," he said. "I've taken the view in some cases that although the sentence being imposed might be said to be the current tariff, the current tariff may be said to be inadequate."

Mr Rapke succeeded Paul Coghlan, who launched more than 40 appeals in his last year as DPP before being appointed a Supreme Court judge last year. "I'm not keeping figures and I'm not interested in them, because I just view each case that comes to me entirely on its own," Mr Rapke said. "But I am trying to look for, one might say, test cases in a variety of different fields to see whether or not we can persuade the Court of Appeal to re-look at what has been regarded as the traditional tariff."


Hospital "planner" deservedly fired: "A senior planning official has been stood down over design faults at Bathurst Base Hospital, NSW Health Minister Reba Meagher says. Ms Meagher said following detailed briefings with health department heads and the health infrastructure office, she was not satisfied that the project had been handled appropriately at the local level. "The director-general of NSW Health has advised me that a senior planning official from the local area has been removed from their position," Ms Meagher told reporters today. She did not identify the official or say where he or she worked"." [Rare but pleasing to see an incompetent bureaucrat fired]

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Lawless behaviour by by law-enforcement officials

GUARDS at Victoria's largest women's prison were told by experienced officers to break rules, conducted improper strip searches and falsified records, according to secret prison documents. The documents, obtained by The Age, detail concerns raised in October 2006 by new prison officers at the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre. They included a complaint about inhumane policies that may have caused prisoners to harm themselves. The Age can also reveal that Victoria's ombudsman has spent several months investigating allegations of poor practices in the maximum-security jail, which can house up to 260 female prisoners.

The revelations come two months after Channel Nine aired secret files detailing claims that a few guards at the Deer Park prison had inappropriate sexual relationships with prisoners in 2003.

As part of the ombudsman's inquiry, investigators have interviewed a former senior prison manager who claims she was bullied after encouraging a fellow employee to raise concerns about staff involvement in contraband smuggling. The former senior prison manager told The Age that after arranging a meeting between the staff member and the general manager of women's prison, Brendan Money, in late 2006, the manager was ostracised and told to find a new job. She resigned from the prison last month. In a statement written late last year, Mr Money confirmed that the senior manager helped another staff member raise corruption concerns, but said they were unfounded. He denied that the senior manager had been bullied and said there had been performance issues.

The October 2006 documents reveal that when an officer was asked to describe a situation that had made them uncomfortable, a prison officer complained that an experienced officer had directed them "to do something you know is against procedures". Other guards said they had been "a second officer for a strip search which was not completed in accordance with procedures", and had recorded perimeter fence checks as being completed when in fact "they were not even conducted". One staff member said they had been ordered to treat a prisoner in a manner "which is in accordance with procedures but seems inhumane", and had to deal "with the consequence of that prisoner self-harming straight after you have completed the task".

When asked to list what they found most difficult at work, prison staff nominated: "When policies and procedures override humanity, there is inconsistency in the way that procedures are applied, people take short cuts." One prison guard criticised the lack of "direction, training, leadership, coaching, support in situations where you are working in a place for the first time". Other concerns included the flawed checking of prisoner numbers and cells, and a poisonous working environment in which staff talked about their sex lives, bullied others and refused to do work.

Victoria's Corrections Commissioner, Kelvin Anderson, said some of the conduct discussed in the 2006 documents appeared to be inappropriate, but stressed Victoria's prison system was humane. Not surprisingly, he said, when new staff arrived they found that existing staff had worked out "some short-cut ways" of doing things. "Our job is to stop that short-cut way of doing things," he said. "We go and look for those sort of inconsistencies so we can target our training and reinforce what we don't want done."

A separate departmental memo from December 2006, also obtained by The Age, raises concerns about staff training, saying: "There are a number of inconsistencies in the way we conduct urines (drug testing), searches, escorts and work in the gatehouse. "Some people do not follow Director's Instructions (perhaps because they don't know what they are)."


Policegoons in Queensland

No surprise to any Queenslander who has been around a bit

Police are investigating claims an officer tasered a handcuffed man three times in the Cleveland watchhouse last year to "shut him up". Three other complaints about police using the 50,000-volt stun guns inappropriately had been referred to the service's internal investigation unit, police said. Ethical Standards Command investigators dismissed one complaint against an officer who pulled out a Taser but did not fire it, according to a police spokeswoman.

Two matters are still under investigation and the other is subject to court proceedings, she said. Police Minister Judy Spence last month controversially announced a statewide rollout of Tasers to all frontline police despite being barely halfway through a 12-month trial. Ms Spence released only limited trial results and immediately faced heavy criticism from lawyers and civil libertarians who feared the weapons would become the standard police response even in non-dangerous situations.

Police have pulled out Tasers 128 times since the trial began in July last year, shooting them about 60 per cent of the time, according to police. The Tasers store data of the exact time, date, and duration of each shot.

Last August, police arrested concreter Nathan Brown, 23, near the Alexandra Hills Hotel and locked him in a cell at the Cleveland watchhouse. Mr Brown pleaded guilty to assault, assaulting police and being a public nuisance. However, he has claimed in a signed statement believed to have been given to investigators that he was tasered three times while handcuffed in the watchhouse. His sister Rebecca, 18, who was locked up that night after attempting to make an official complaint that police arresting her brother punched him, also gave an eyewitness statement.

Mr Brown admitted he lost control when police locked his sister up so he began "using aggressive language", telling officers to release her because she had done nothing wrong. "A policeman unlocked my cell to what I thought was going to be frisked-processed while still handcuffed and during this process I was hit with a Taser gun three times in a row by an older policeman," he said, according to the statement. Mr Brown's father Bryan, who has given statements to investigating officers, said about a week after the alleged incident he spoke to the officer who tasered his son. The officer said "it shut him up, didn't it?", and hung up, he said.

Police confirmed the ethical standards investigation was ongoing.


Bosses less likely to have cancer: Australian study

The stuff below is just a data dedging operation accompanied by a whole heap of speculation. Data dredging is when you look at a heap of data and highlight whatever differences you find there -- ignoring the fact that there will be a lot of differences there by chance alone. But that bosses are healthier is no surprise. That middle class people are healthier generally is a very common finding

Managers are less likely to have cancer, while shop assistants have a greater chance of suffering back pain and nurses have a higher rate of heart disease, according to a new Australian study. The survey, which is published Monday in the Medical Journal of Australia, analysed the records of more than 4,200 workers aged between 45 and 64 and found that about two-thirds had a medical condition.

It found that older workers with chronic conditions were more likely to be employed in certain industries such as retail, and health and community services, researcher Deborah Schofield said. "In the retail trade there was a significantly higher risk of musculoskeletal conditions -- so that's things like back injuries, or if you've injured your shoulder or arthritis," she told AFP on Sunday. "And then cardiovascular disease came out significantly higher in health and community services."

Schofield said that these findings jarred with the expectation that more muscle or bone injuries would be among construction workers or those in the transport, forestry or agriculture sectors where heavy lifting was required. "But, in fact, the reverse is what we found," she said.

"What we think happens is that retail, being part-time and not too heavy an occupation, that people, if they have those sort of injuries, (it means) they can remain in the workforce," she said.

Interpreting the data regarding cancer was also difficult. By occupation, the study found that the relative risk of a manager having neoplasms, or cancerous tumours, was found to be 0.25 compared to 0.40 for a tradesperson and 0.74 for labourers. "We don't know of any reason why they (managers) would be at lower risk as a result of being in that occupation," said Schofield, who is an associate professor at Sydney University, "What we think is that it may be that if you do have cancer that you're in secure jobs with very good sick leave arrangements so you're in a position to take time out of the workforce if you need to."

Schofield said it was possible that bosses sitting up in their corner offices were less exposed to carcinogens than other workers but this could not be proven. "So we don't think that you are necessarily, if you're in those jobs, less likely to get cancer. It's possibly more to do with your work arrangements when and if that does happen," she said.

Schofield said it was likely that illness forced people out of jobs, which resulted in lower rates of diseases in some industries. "This would seem to be the case for occupations such as tradespersons and labourers," which had low levels of all the medical conditions surveyed, she said.


More details here. Journal abstract here

Health watchdogs only interested in paperwork

OFFICIALS did not hear the cries of a dying man during a federal investigation into a fatal disease outbreak at a Melbourne nursing home last year because they never left the facility's office, preferring to check paperwork rather than patients.

Minister for Ageing Justine Elliot yesterday accused the former government of sitting on a report by the Aged Care Commissioner into the Broughton Hall nursing home outbreak for nine months. A summary of the report by Aged Care Commissioner Rhonda Parker, filed in May last year and tabled in parliament yesterday, revealed that departmental staff sent to investigate a gastroenteritis outbreak, which eventually killed five people, checked only the nursing home's paperwork and not its residents.

One nursing home resident, Merson Dunstan, who later died, had cried out for help during a departmental visit to Broughton Hall in April last year. But Ms Parker found his calls were not heard because the staff never left the nursing home's office. The departmental staff cited the need to respect infection control protocols for the failure to check on the physical state of residents.

Ms Elliot promised a strengthening of departmental guidelines in order to prevent a repeat of the mistake. "While it does not bring the matter to a close, I hope it is a step forward for the Dunstan family," she said. "It must have been a frustrating and indeed sad nine months for the Dunstan family, and our thoughts are with them as they face the coroner's investigation."

An Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency audit on Broughton Hall following the deaths said staff had not known what to do in the event of an outbreak, which delayed reporting and identification of the disease. It found other problems with staff training and in clinical-care management and evacuation procedures at the home.

Then ageing minister Christopher Pyne released the audit results last year, a month before he received the Aged Care Commissioner's report. He said at the time that the audit showed direct links between the breaches and the five deaths at Broughton Hall. Yesterday, Mr Pyne told parliament he had been grievously misrepresented by the new minister's claim that he had done nothing with Ms Parker's report, saying it had fed into later investigations. "Those parts of the report that were germane to the Department of Health and Ageing, which I was a part of, I asked to be implemented," he said.

Ms Elliot hand-delivered a copy of the Aged Care Commissioner's summary report to the Dunstan family earlier this month, but she said the full report could not be released publicly because of Privacy Act considerations. The Dunstan family said through Ms Elliot's office that they were declining comment on the matter. Ms Elliot said guidelines for nurses investigating clinical care in nursing homes were being revised with the help of state, territory and local health authorities. They would provide more specific pointers on how to identify potential problems, she said.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Rudd backs independent Kosovo

I applaud our Prime Minister for this. I don't see why people should have to cohabit with other people whom they loathe

PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd has given his backing to an independent Kosovo. The once war-torn former Yugoslav state declared its independence overnight, triggering celebrations in the capital Pristina, despite the lack of UN recognition and opposition from Serbia and Russia.

Mr Rudd said the Australian Government believed an independent Kosovo would be a good thing and it would give it official diplomatic recognition soon. "We've already indicated to our diplomatic representatives around the world that this (independence) would be an appropriate course of action," he said on ABC radio today. "The sorry history of Kosovo means we've got to do whatever we can to ensure that the citizens of that part of the world are protected into the future. "This would appear to be the right course of action. That's why, diplomatically, we would extend recognition at the earliest opportunity."


Paid maternity leave

There is undoubtedly much to gain by reviving the birthrate but, since the benefit is primarily public, employers should not be made to bear the burden of paying people not to work. If employers were burdened, they would avoid hiring young women -- so the burden of supporting the young women would fall to the government anyway

A year-long inquiry is about to begin into whether all new parents should be entitled to paid maternity and paternity leave. The Productivity Commission has been asked to examine ways the Federal Government can provide improved support to parents with newborn children. Australia and the United States are the only developed countries not to have legislated for minimum paid maternity leave across the workforce. Most female workers in Australia are entitled to 12 months' unpaid maternity leave, but only about 40 per cent have access to paid leave.

The Productivity Commission will evaluate the economic and social costs and benefits of paid maternity, paternity and parental leave. Treasurer Wayne Swan, Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Families Minister Jenny Macklin commissioned the inquiry, to report by February next year, today. "Any policy reforms in this area will be aimed at ensuring strong and sustainable economic growth, take into account our ageing population and the importance of early childhood development, and support Australian families balance work and family responsibilities," the ministers said in a joint statement.

"We want to explore ways to make it as easy as possible for working mums to balance their employment with the important job of raising a new generation of Australians." Members of the public are invited to make submissions and public hearings will be held.


Another disastrous public hospital

New hospital worse than the old one

THE new $98 million Bathurst hospital is so dysfunctional it is dangerous, doctors say, forcing the Health Department to halt demolition of the old one and raising serious concerns about the future of all hospital redevelopments. Surgeons have indefinitely suspended routine elective surgery at the new Bathurst Base Hospital, warning that serious design and construction flaws - such as an inadequate emergency alarm system and a pipe that leaked raw sewage into the maternity ward - are putting patients at risk.

It is the latest in countless public hospital blunders that have forced the Health Minister, Reba Meagher, to call a Special Commission of Inquiry into acute care services in NSW, which began last week. "The minister has sought urgent advice from the area health service about the issues from the redevelopment. This number of issues with a brand new hospital is unacceptable and we are getting to the bottom of that," a spokeswoman for Ms Meagher said yesterday. She said medical staff had been extensively consulted during the planning stage. But the Opposition and doctors say the debacle raises wider concern about the consultation process on all of the state's hospital redevelopments, including the $702 million Royal North Shore facility.

Significant problems with the new Bathurst hospital include possible hanging points and access to sheer drops outside the mental health unit - which has remained empty - and major communication failures with pagers and mobile phones. Medical Staff Council chairman Chris Halloway said areas in intensive care, operating theatres and accident and emergency were also too small. Dr Halloway said the hospital, which opened three weeks ago, was unsafe. "It's mainly accident and emergency and the surgical features that are the problem. The reason that we had to cut off elective surgery is simply . so we could cope with the dysfunction," he said. "We can't deliver a proper standard of patient care . the community in Bathurst don't have the health care facility that they had a couple of months ago."

The inadequate alarm system was "a pivotal safety issue" but also only half of the intensive care beds could be seen from the nurses station due to poor design, he said. "[It] seems to us to be clinically crazy."

Dozens of patients have had their surgery postponed. One Bathurst hospital doctor, who did not want to be named, said developers had decided to "shrink-fit the facility". "They didn't consult us and what consultation there was they didn't pay attention to," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Greater Western Area Health Service did not dispute the safety concerns. A team of technical experts had been at the hospital all weekend attempting to rectify the problems, she said. A fire and safety audit had been ordered as well as an audit on room sizes. "This is a really serious issue for us and we're working extremely hard to try and assess the issues," she said. She said area health service agreed to doctors' demands not to demolish the old hospital yet. "It was down to start tomorrow. It has been deferred until Wednesday," she said.

"It's just another case of the Iemma Government and Reba Meagher failing to listen to frontline health workers," the Opposition Leader, Barry O'Farrell, said. The GWAHS spokeswoman said clinicians were engaged in "extensive consultation".


Fuzzy feelings won't save anyone

A Leftist who sees that simplistic Leftist theories make the Aboriginal problems worse

I HAVE to confess that, unlike most other commentators, I watched last week's "Sorry" address by the PM with mingled emotions. Even as I felt my heart lift and swell - as it sought, dutifully, to do - a pinprick of doubt and fear crept up my spine. So much virtuous emotion has already been poured into a limitless vessel of ineffectual sympathy for Aboriginal Australia. So many people have allowed themselves to believe that emotional bonding can cause the wounds of the past to heal. And yet so much of this emotion has been, in effect, seed spilled upon barren ground.

Unlike the motley band of conservative dissenters, my anxiety isn't really to do with history. The official version of the history of the Stolen Generations is doubtless a partial and imperfect one. It's not clear that most Aboriginal children were actually taken from their families on explicitly racialist grounds, even though those arguments were certainly broadcast in the policy debates of the day. On the whole, Aboriginal families suffered disproportionately because they were disproportionately poor, disproportionately vulnerable, and disproportionately troubled. As they still are today.

Yet there are moments in the public history of all nations when the "official" version of historical events, for all its piety, takes on a role that is more as well as less than historical, and when its faults become excusable. In reality, we don't apologise for history, so much as for the tracks that history has left in the troubles of the present. As well as, on occasion, for the injustices of the present, dressed up for convenience's sake in historical garb. So, no, my mingled emotions weren't caused by history, or even that much-abused term truth.

Paradoxically, they were generated by the sheer emotional power of the occasion. As any student of the history of Christianity knows, conscience, guilt, atonement and forgiveness can be double-edged emotional swords. The person who gives also receives. Bestowing an apology on another can cause us a perverse kind of pleasure: the pleasure of feeling better about ourselves as apologisers.

Perhaps that's why so many of the people whose hearts were raised to the skies in sorrow managed at the same time to be so mean-spirited towards the hapless but basically well-intentioned Brendan Nelson. They were distancing themselves from the other Australians out there, those less virtuous than themselves. So seductive was the call of the moment that otherwise hard-nosed journalists (such as The 7.30 Report's Kerry O'Brien) seemed determined to adopt an aura not unlike that of Mother Teresa.

Now it's true that many commentators, as well as the PM himself, have striven almost ostentatiously to avoid any impression of losing hold of their faculties. So we've heard a great deal about the apology being the easy part, and how the hard part of the job is yet to begin. And Kevin Rudd has announced some decidedly bold benchmarks for attacking indigenous mortality rates, school attendance figures and housing availability.

And yet these gestures, I confess, serve only to stoke my anxiety. To be blunt, I worry whether a PM who seems increasingly to be cast as the deliverer of Aboriginal Australia will muster the strength of character to be hated (vociferously hated, perhaps) by many Australians - white and black alike - for making the kinds of unpopular decisions that are surely required.

Benchmarks are hardly a novelty in Aboriginal policy. Similarly stern aims to close the gap between the two nations have been invoked by every PM since Robert Menzies. Yet too often they have become ritual words, uttered without any tangible effect. No bread has turned into flesh; no wine has become blood. Indeed, so far as can be told from the publicly available figures, on some key indicators the gap has probably widened. To be frank, while I would dearly love to believe in them, I have no idea right now how the PM intends to turn his benchmarks into working reality. You can build as many new public houses as you like, but if they're built in communities with no jobs and no futures, they will simply be abandoned or neglected.

Surely it would be better if Aboriginal Australia were allowed to develop the life-savings to buy their own houses in places they might actually choose to live if they had a choice. And to take care of those houses, as other Australians do. But this is a strategy for a generation, not just the next five years.

Aboriginal literacy levels are a national scandal. Yet raising school attendance rates will have limited effect if the children concerned have no viable and stable home lives, free from violence and abuse. And this in turn means creating new communities, in some cases possibly far away from the old ones.

When public-housing and welfare-based communities composed primarily of white Australians become toxic and dysfunctional, policymakers seem to have nerve enough to bulldoze them and relocate their members elsewhere, to better places, on the whole. These are often unpopular decisions, especially among academics, who like to lament the loss of "old-style communities", in that romantic but perverse academic fashion. But they get made.

To put the matter crudely, policymakers have to put their duty of care towards Aboriginal citizens above their desire to be loved. In this respect there's no more dangerous emotion for a new PM than that inner glow that tells you you're the father of the nation. The danger is that in a generation's time we'll have a new apology to make. Put briefly, it might read something like this:

* It was we who kept Aboriginal people in chaotic communities without livelihoods, services or decent sanitation, in the belief that in this manner their culture might be preserved as an instructive reproach to our own

* It was we who persuaded ourselves that while we need decently paid jobs, financial assets and life security as part of our human and social rights, Aboriginal people were happier and more in touch with their true nature without those things

* It was we who went on long camping tours of the Top End, where we almost began to imagine ourselves as Aboriginal. Except that when we came back from these sentimental journeys we talked always of land, mysticism and the simple joys of community, and never of hygiene, employment opportunities or child safety.

* It was we who, having operatically distanced ourselves from the hard-hearted policies of another generation, let our soft-heartedness turn once again into pure, unadulterated funk.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

An update on Rudd's performance

A bit jocular but with some interesting points. Rudd is portrayed as a technocrat rather than an ideologue but politically astute nonetheless

For a short time it seemed as though only the name on the door had changed. Like his predecessor, new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd seemed to spend most of his summer holidays at the cricket. Then there was the lightning visit to a war zone, this time to Afghanistan, and the familiar sight of our PM dressed in army fatigues mixing it with the troops. Interest rates, grocery prices and daytime temperatures kept rising. None of the heads of the 18 commonwealth departments was taken out the back and shot, and Amanda Vanstone was advised that she was welcome to stay as ambassador in Rome for as many years as the former government had promised. Even the smaller things seemed destined to stay the same. The stewards on board the RAAF VIP plane kept stocking the jet's pantry with John Howard's favourite marmalade, refusing to heed polite requests that the new man hated the stuff, preferring Vegemite on his breakfast toast.

By the end of January, though, some points of difference had begun to emerge between the old regime and the new. The new Prime Minister appeared without warning at a Christian charity in Canberra, staying for a whole morning to dish out food to the homeless. At an afternoon soiree at the Lodge in late January to honour the Sri Lankan cricket team, it became clear that the new PM was determined that all and sundry address him by his first name, rather than the formal titles demanded by his predecessor. Not "Mr Rudd". Not even "Prime Minister". "I'll always be Kevin, mate," he said.

In something of a personal triumph, Rudd also managed to persuade Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and Gough Whitlam to sit down and share a meal with him at Kirribilli House - something no one had been able to do for a very long time.

But it wasn't until last Tuesday, when Parliament finally met - with Peter Costello sitting on the back bench for the first time, and the member for Bennelong [Maxine McKew] wearing a skirt - that the full impact of last year's election results seemed to sink in.

In the afterglow of those first few days, previously unheard of qualities were being ascribed to the Labor leader: inclusive, warm, attentive, friendly, popular. Only 76 days into his first term as Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd has made the practice of politics seem almost effortless, an early allaying of any doubts about his suitability for the job.

It has been a remarkable transition to power for a man who a decade ago was barely outside the inner circles of Queensland state politics. A tenet of Australian political wisdom used to be that anyone hoping to become prime minister had to first spend at least 20 years on the parliamentary stage getting himself known. It took John Howard almost 22 years to go from backbencher to prime minister, and Keating a few months more than 22 years. Malcolm Fraser and Gough Whitlam made it in 20 years, Billy McMahon in 21 years, and John Gorton in 18. Harold Holt had to wait 30 years. Not only did Rudd manage to rise from total obscurity to Prime Minister in a record nine years and 64 days, he did it virtually on his own, without the traditional block of factional support that has carried every Labor leader before him. Not bad for a bloke who the Liberals warned during the election campaign "would be the most inexperienced prime minister in Australia's history" and whose every decision would serve to "stuff our economy".

In a sunny, affable and efficient way, Rudd has all of a sudden managed to dissect and divide a crestfallen Opposition and unite the country. And only three-quarters of the way through his first 100 days, it seems that voters might already have a clear picture of what sort of prime minister Rudd will turn out to be. "What we see today is what we're going to get," says veteran Labor pollster Rod Cameron. "It's not going to change. He is governing with certainty and purpose, and he is already totally focused on winning the election."

Cameron identifies Rudd's political cunning, evident in last week's embrace of bipartisanship, which Cameron says could also be viewed as a tactic. "Politics is never far from the decision-making, and the politics of the apology was superbly constructed. This was something that for a long time there has been a majority against it. Yet in a very short time, Rudd has proved an ability to persuade and to carry people with him, as there now exists a very clear majority in favour of the apology. He's left those who opposed it looking like rednecks."

Cameron believes that Rudd may also have won the loyalty of an influential and noisy constituency - the elites who had grown so dispirited under Howard, yet remained sceptical of Rudd and his display of "me-tooism" throughout last year. "They will always remember this moment and be grateful for it. He silenced them, in effect, and bought a huge amount of political capital," says Cameron. Like Hawke, Rudd has avoided the breakneck speed of Whitlam, whose first 19 days of office were among the most tumultuous of his government.

According to historian Stuart Macintyre, a professor of history at Melbourne University and co-author of True Believers: The Story of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party, one of the advantages the Government has is a release of suppressed wishes. "The apology is an obvious beginning, but no less effective for that . Howard stamped down on 'symbolic reconciliation' but failed to deal with the deep feelings of many indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. Hence, a fairly simple apology becomes a momentous occasion," says Macintyre.

On the other hand, Macintyre identifies some flaws, and is cautious in his welcome of Rudd's announcement of the 2020 ideas summit. "The 1000 great minds, on the other hand, has its hazards. It is a welcome enlargement of the 'summit', but less specific in its purpose, so it will be harder to demonstrate its effectiveness. And as a few commentators have already observed, it lends itself to the sort of ridicule that affected Barry Jones' Commission for the Future."

Macintyre says Rudd has also failed to make as much as he might have of the scapegoat opportunities. "Yes, the last government allowed inflation to fire up and failed to deal with debt, but this is barely a shadow of the attack on (Kim) Beazley in 1996."

Macintyre identifies caution as a likely theme of the new Government. "He (Rudd) is also circumscribed by the failure to control the Senate. This is probably a long-term advantage - those whom the gods wish to destroy they first give a Senate majority - but means he has to work with many existing legislative arrangements. "The continuation of the Australian Fair Pay Commission, for example, is an absurdity, but public expectations of the new Government are low and this is an era that favours caution."

Leading conservative intellectual Greg Craven, now vice-chancellor of the Australian Catholic University, sees in Rudd something of the Hawke model of building a reform platform through consensus. "I think he is in substance, although very different in style, quite strikingly similar to Hawke, and what he is doing is working very, very hard to build up a consensus government," Craven says. "The thing about consensus government is that they not only form a consensus but they starve oppositions of life - when the stranglers take over the jungle, nothing else can grow. It can be a very useful political tactic."

When you consider how successful the Hawke government was, that could spell some lean years ahead for Liberal leader Brendan Nelson and his would-be assassin Malcolm Turnbull.

If Rudd continues to build on the consensus model, Craven sees the opportunity for more adventurous reforms not already on Rudd's public agenda. "What that sort of consensus government does is, it builds you a platform from which to tackle big issues, but it takes time to build the platform. We won't see any run-at-gate stuff. But if you do it properly, it does allow you to tackle big issues," Craven says.

Rudd biographer Robert Macklin also sees signs of a return to a style of government more in keeping with Robert Menzies and older Westminster traditions. "I find the most striking difference with his predecessor is the way that Rudd is taking the politics out of politics," says Macklin. "Rudd has the instincts of a manager and the training of a diplomat and businessman. He is not ideologically driven . He is more concerned about fixing problems and, in his view, deserving a win at the polls than 'wedging' the Opposition or stacking the boards and other instrumentalities with 'his people'.

"I was impressed by the speed with which he grew into the job of Opposition leader. I think he has what it takes for the same transformation - albeit at a slower pace and with a few stumbles along the way - into the prime ministership. He is, of course, assisted by the fact that Brendan Nelson is uncertain of his own identity, let alone what he and his party stand for."

A paradox of Rudd's leadership is that how he comes across to the public is not how he has come across inside his party. Watching Rudd at the centre of a crowd of autograph-seekers at the Prime Minister's XI match in Canberra last month, a Labor MP who has observed Rudd's rise from inside the caucus room remained mystified by Rudd's public appeal. Speaking before the fanfare of the opening week of Parliament, the MP said it remained the case that Rudd was unpopular among his fellow MPs, despite his election victory.

Rudd's sense of fun and the warmth of personality on display at the cricket were things not often on display inside the party room. "This is not the same person," the MP wryly observed. Speaking at the end of last week, the same MP was quick to name the decision to freeze MPs' salaries as a sign of bad times ahead. Still furious at Mark Latham's decision in 2004 to force the Howard government to abolish the generous superannuation scheme for all new politicians, the MP described the pay freeze as "appalling". "What do we do next year? Presumably we will be allowed a pay increase. Then we'll get flogged for it and people will forget about sacrifices we supposedly made. "How many people thank us all for giving up the super? No one does. The only thing Rudd achieved was to piss us all off a little bit. To do that, in the first week in Parliament, was stupid."

Rudd biographer Macklin points to other potential weaknesses, such as Rudd's presentation skills. "Rudd is not a natural performer in the House," he says. "He has yet to find his feet in some areas of public speaking. At times he can be sublime, such as the speech delivered with the apology on Wednesday, yet at other times only very ordinary. "He has an oddly old-fashioned, and in my view inappropriate, attitude to speech writing. He seems to feel that engaging wordsmiths somehow robs his speeches of their essential authenticity. In fact, it is often the best way to distil and encapsulate the prime ministerial vision and set the tone of a prime ministership and a government. And the audience is not just the Australian people but other members of the government itself. I think he is yet to learn that lesson. "But the one thing you can say with confidence about Kevin Rudd is that he's a mighty quick study," says Macklin.

Tales of Rudd driving his staff to the point of exhaustion are also dripping out of the executive offices. Standing in line for a cup of coffee at the Parliament House coffee shop last week, one Rudd adviser said it would be impossible to continue the current pace for much longer. "Sleep is good and one day someone should show Kevin how to do it. I'm sure he would enjoy it," the adviser said.

Business also remains sceptical, concerned about the impact of changes to workplace relations on labour market flexibility, and the dangers of a wages breakout. Economists, too, are concerned that Rudd may lack the political will to do what is really necessary to tame inflation, such as delaying the $31 billion in tax cuts, the first instalment of which - about $8 billion - is scheduled to start from July.

On the one hand, business groups such as Heather Ridout's Ai Group, which represents about 10,000 employers in manufacturing, construction, automotive, telecommunications and other industries, seem happy for now. "Strong and authoritative is how I would describe the start thus far," says Ridout. "I don't think he's engaged in a popularity contest. I think he is doing what he thinks is right and seems to me to be going about it in a very systematic way." With legislation to dismantle the Howard government's WorkChoices legislation already on the floor of the Parliament, Ridout praises Rudd and Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard for including her at every step. "They're listening and they're consulting. We can't complain."

On the other hand, it might be harder to keep the economic purists happier. As the ANZ's chief economist, Saul Eslake, warned last week, handing over such large tax cuts sets up conflicting pressures in the economy. "Monetary policy works by squeezing households, the budgets of people with debts and businesses, in the hope that they will be induced to reduce spending, and makes it harder to increase prices," said Eslake. "But if the impact higher interest rates is meant to have on constraining budgets is offset by tax cuts and government handouts, then business can continue to increase prices."

No matter how well Rudd performs, whether he sticks with his current style, or can adapt as the times change around him, he might do well to consider Paul Keating's advice that governments begin dying as soon as they are elected: "It doesn't matter what you do, it's difficult to hold on to power for longer than a decade."


Leftist politician signals return to era of ignorance about black welfare

A FEW hours after the Prime Minister apologised to the stolen generations last week, Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin appeared on ABC1's 7.30 Report. Why, asked Kerry O'Brien, had the Government made housing the priority of its new policy commission on indigenous disadvantage? "So that children can sleep safely at night, so that kids can do their homework in the afternoon, so that mothers and fathers can get ready for work the next day," she said.

What planet is she talking about where bricks and mortar can create such miracles? In the Northern Territory there are 2000 indigenous children who aren't even enrolled in school, and most remote communities think they're doing well to get 50per cent school attendance, so homework is hardly a norm. Nor is "mum and dad" or "work". As for the plan to send every indigenous four-year-old in remote Australia to preschool, how is the Government going to create a new preschool bureaucracy in remote communities when the existing school system doesn't work properly? Macklin's plan to "pay half of the HECS fees" of a new batch of early childhood teachers "to encourage them to go out into remote Australia" is hardly inspiring.

After 75 days in office, Macklin has not visited a single remote Aboriginal community. Her spokeswoman stressed on Friday that, as Opposition spokeswoman, she travelled to 15 communities last year and gained "a lot of corporate knowledge" to inform her decisions. But for a Government big on symbolism, the message is that the minister is listening only to the usual suspects from the old rights-based Aboriginal power establishment, who have vested interests in the rotten status quo that has been so disastrous for so many Aboriginal children. So disastrous that researchers in the latest Medical Journal Of Australia seriously advocate a mass antibiotic program in remote communities because of the soaring rate of sexually transmitted diseases among children. So dysfunctional that the former indigenous affairs minister Mal Brough tells of one community in which eight six-year-olds were raped by older children, aged eight to 10. In another, recent health checks identified 300 rat bites on children.

Yet when Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson began listing the unpalatable, well-documented facts of Aboriginal misery during his apology speech on Wednesday, he was attacked. The fact that people, including, famously, two Kevin Rudd staffers, slow-clapped and turned their backs on Nelson at precisely the moment he spoke of child sexual abuse shows how the deaf ear has been turned to the suffering of the most vulnerable. Instead we have a craven revival of the Keating-era victimhood agenda.

"They do not want to hear the truth because it's so offensive and insulting," says Brough, the former army officer whose passion to actually fix problems in dysfunctional Aboriginal communities drove the Northern Territory emergency intervention. The aim was to re-establish social norms the rest of Australia takes for granted, by inserting police, preventing alcohol and drug abuse, performing medical checks and instituting income management. Brough abolished the permit system which had long protected the potentates and predators of the communities from prying eyes. He also began dismantling the Community Development Employment Projects' work-for-the-dole schemes which had degenerated into fiefdoms with local standover men controlling all wages.

The expensive intervention was hardly a vote-winner, with Brough losing his seat. And while Rudd has promised to keep it going, at least until a 12-month review, Macklin has already wound back key aspects, including re-establishing permits, to placate lobbyists who have been queuing at her door.

Speaking on the phone last week, before flying overseas for an extended holiday, Brough urged Macklin to go to remote communities and listen to "those without a voice". On his ministerial visits, he was "careful not to be captured by the gatekeepers" who ensure "you see only what they want you to see". He outsmarted them by bringing his wife, Sue, unannounced, to "wander off to the women's shelter" where she would quickly learn what were the problems in the community. Brough says the obstacles to tackling Aboriginal disadvantage are political correctness, fear of being branded a racist and fear of failure. Macklin won't make progress without a fight. She will be defined by the enemies she is prepared to make.

The first test of the Government's commitment will be whether Rudd invites Brough to join his new bipartisan Policy Commission on indigenous reform, as Nelson requested. The former minister will no doubt be troublesome but no one can question his knowledge and passion. Nelson should make it a condition of his own involvement.


Rent crisis forces some realism about red tape in Victoria

The old era of Greenie restrictions and developers being treated as milch cows may be winding down. At least we now have a recognition of what restrictions on the supply of housing lead to

THE State Government has announced new fast-track home building rules as Melbourne rents jump 12.7% in just 12 months. The rent rise is more than double the previous year's increase and almost three times the average annual increase over the past eight years. The increase has pushed the proportion of rental properties that can be afforded by low-income earners down to just 25.2% - the lowest rate in eight years, the Victorian Office of Housing rental report for the September 2007 quarter shows. The rental crisis has become so critical that federal, state and territory housing ministers will meet in Sydney on Wednesday to discuss the problem. Rental vacancies across Melbourne are at just 1.4%, while the average vacancy rate for the period 2000-05 was 3.6%.

The surge in rent comes as the State Government moves to ease red tape for new homes. Planning Minister Justin Madden said proposed new laws would reclassify residential zones into three categories: "substantial change zone", "incremental change zone" and "limited change zone". These would replace the old residential zone one, two and three and are aimed at allowing councils to make faster housing development decisions. "These new reforms will make a big difference to councils, giving them the tools they need to manage development and change in their municipalities," Mr Madden said in a written statement. People living in a "substantial change zone", could see a rapid increase in housing and changes in style.

Opposition planning spokesman Matthew Guy said the proposed changes were an admission of failure for the Government's planning blueprint, Melbourne 2030.

Meanwhile, the Victorian Office of Housing rental report blamed tight supply for the sharp increase in Melbourne rents. The biggest rent rises were in inner-Melbourne, up 13.3% to $340 a week. Southern Melbourne jumped 13.2% to $300 a week and north-east Melbourne is up 13% to $260. For the September quarter, rents increased by another 2.6% across Melbourne.

Kate Colvin from the Victorian Council of Social Service said the figures showed that the crisis in affordable housing was getting worse. "With the state budget coming up in May we are hoping the Government will make a solid commitment to affordable rental housing," she said. "There is a particular issue for singles - it's very, very expensive to get a one-bedroom apartment, even in public housing where the bulk of public housing is focused on families," she said.

Housing Minister Richard Wynne's spokeswoman, Manika Naidoo, said "rising rents are a complex problem and need to be handled on a national basis". "The minister is meeting federal, state and territory housing ministers this week to start working on the national rental affordability scheme to put 50,000 affordable homes onto the market and make sure Victoria gets its fair share," she said.


Police Commissioner lashes out at 'lenient' magistrates

Sentencing is a joke in most of Australia. When there is no effective punishment it just must lead to more crime

Western Australia Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan says mandatory sentences may have to be introduced if magistrates continue to treat people who attack police officers leniently. The Commissioner says he knows of 12 recent cases where magistrates have failed to convict people who have assaulted police officers. Constable Barry Butcher, 32, remains in hospital after he was allegedly attacked while he was trying to break up a brawl at a Joondalup pub earlier this month. It is thought Constable Butcher may have suffered brain damage and paralysis.

Mr O'Callaghan says the State Government may have to step in if magistrates will not. "My view is that the magistrates have to step up to the plate and issue the type of penalties that are commensurate with the types of offences that are being committed," he said. "And if that doesn't happen, then I think the only option for us is to opt for mandatory penalties."


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Now we have the apology for an apology

Must not quote a black who is telling the truth on public record! And as for mentioning that PARENTAL CONSENT for child relocation was sought .... !

Federal Opposition leader Brendan Nelson has issued another very specific apology to a member of the Stolen Generations. In his speech in reply to the national apology this week, Dr Nelson referred to the story of a Victorian Aboriginal elder, Faye Lyman. But Ms Lyman says Dr Nelson did not ask her if he could use her story. When he incorporated it in what she describes as a "toxic speech", she says he took her comments out of context, misrepresented the way she was taken from her family, and made her feel "stolen all over again".

Dr Nelson phoned Ms Lyman to apologise for any offence he had caused. It was supposed to be a speech in support of saying sorry to the Stolen Generations but now Dr Nelson has had to apologise for his apology. On Wednesday he recounted part of the story of Victorian woman, Faye Lyman, a story she had given to the Many Voices oral history program at the National Library of Australia. "It was very hurtful to leave dad. Oh, it broke my heart. Dad said to me, 'It's hard for daddy and the authorities won't let you stay with me in a tent on the riverbank'," Dr Nelson recounted as Ms Lyman as saying, as part of his speech in Federal Parliament. "'You're a little girl and you need someone to look after you'. I remember him telling us that, and I cried, and I said, 'No, but Dad, you look after us'. "But they kept telling us it wasn't the right thing."

But Ms Lyman said that was not how it happened. "My Dad was not happy that I was taken," she said. "They cheated us, they cheated me of my life with him. Now, I feel like I'm stolen all over again. My dignity, and I'm ashamed he's done this to me, I'm so ashamed."

Speaking on ABC Radio in Melbourne, a clearly distressed Ms Lyman said Dr Nelson did not ask for permission. "He took my story of Many Voices oral history out of context," she said. The reporter who first came across Ms Lyman's story is Darren Linton from the Shepparton News. "Those words that you read out were sandwiched between an explanation as to the fact that some of these children were taken from squalid conditions for their own good, and that some ... it needed to be recognised that some good was done," Mr Linton said.

"And then immediately after reading out the quotes from Ms Lyman, Dr Nelson went on to say there is no compensation fund, and nor should there be. "Even the snippet of her story that was used doesn't represent what she says is the truth, and the truth is that her father gave her over to the authorities. "But only on the understanding, and she said both of them were of the understanding that they could see each other whenever they wanted." ....

Dr Nelson was unavailable to talk to ABC Radio's The World Today program, but a spokesman confirmed the Opposition Leader had a 20-minute conversation with Faye Lyman last night.

More here

Major regional hospital could not handle miscarriage

This hospital serves an area approximately the size of England

Bree Steele's shocking experience at Cairns Base Hospital is another tragic example of why the Far North is long overdue for a new, better-equipped hospital. Mrs Steele went to the Cairns Base Hospital emergency department the week before Christmas, with symptoms of an undiagnosed miscarriage. She was 13 weeks pregnant but was later told by her doctor that the fetus had died at eight weeks.

The mother of Adelaide, 1, said she was forced to wait six hours at the hospital and was eventually told to go home. She then spent another two days trying to get medical help through the hospital. Later she was told the hospital could not provide the treatment she required to remove the fetus, she told The Cairns Post. Eventually, on the advice of a midwife at the hospital, she went to Townsville for the surgery, which took only 15 minutes a day later.

"I didn't realise there was a problem with the hospital until I had to use it," Mrs Steele, 22, said. "It was traumatic event that was made worse. "I was in a totally desperate situation and no one could help me."

Queensland Health last night confirmed Mrs Steele had experienced a long wait, and had been told she would have to wait until the following week for an appointment to have the miscarried fetus removed. "Queensland Health deeply sympathises with Ms Steele's loss, and recognises what a deeply distressing experience this would have been for her," a Queensland Health spokesman said. "Queensland Health regrets that her experience with the health system was not to her satisfaction.

"While we appreciate how difficult it would have been for Ms Steele, the emergency department at Cairns Base Hospital was extremely busy that night, seeing 135 patients, which is more than the average daily attendance of 110 patients."

Mrs Steele said staff at the Cairns Base Hospital had their hands tied by a lack of facilities and resources. "I really hope this campaign comes to something because there would be other women out there like me," she said. "The hospital needs the services to cope with special needs." "They can't just rebuild the same hospital at a different location because we need more than that."


Rudd Government and the car industry. Will protectionism return?

Post below lifted from Leon Bertrand. See the original for links

There appears to be contradictory signals coming from the Rudd Labor Government. First of all the Productivity Commission's report into the automotive industry has been disregarded in favour of appointing former Victorian Premier Steve Bracks to head a new inquiry.

Senator Kim Carr has revealed his reservations on the Productivity Commission's report because he believed it was a "tick and flick" based on "grandiose theory". Given his keenness for a "green car" which could never survive without government-imposed protection, it does appear he is rather strongly hinting at tariffs and/or subsidies.

However, Wayne Swan on the other hand has gone on the record to say "I don't think the choice of Steve Bracks is a throwback to the protectionist past. As premier he was the architect of the national reform agenda." Swan has also stated that "there will be no going back to the ideas of the past".

So the question remains: who do you believe? Senator Carr or Mr Swan? Because at the moment they appear to be telling two very different tales concerning what is going on.

We are very strongly opposed to tariffs, for all the reasons we have previously explained. We wish that the Rudd Labor government would drop tafiffs from 15 per cent to 5 or 10 per cent. If this damages the automotive industry, so be it. Better to re-train the workers who lose their jobs into traditional trades, where there are serious skills shortages, instead of importing so many foreign workers.

Special treatment for homosexuals again

A New South Wales Assistant Police Commissioner says community concern about homophobia has been taken into account in a re-organisation of the Surry Hills police command in inner Sydney. Catherine Burn says a new strategy has been developed for the command, which will now focus more on crime prevention and enhancing relationships between police and the gay and lesbian community.

Assistant Commissioner Burn says there has been criticism about the command, especially in its handling of crimes against gay and lesbian people. She says action is being taken to restore [homosexual] community confidence in the police. "We will be conducting liaison training and education of our police in hate crimes, and how to engage appropriately with the community and also in building that confidence," she said.


Friday, February 15, 2008

Amazing legacy of the Howard government

The Labor government hasn't done anything other than talk yet so this is all thanks to the previous government. Australian unemployment is markedly lower than the UK (5.3%) or the USA (4.9%)

THE unemployment rate dropped to a fresh 33-year low of 4.1 per cent in January, fuelling speculation of another interest rate hike. The unemployment rate fell to a seasonally-adjusted 4.1 per cent in January compared with 4.3 per cent in December and surpassing last September's 4.2 per cent trough, data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows. The fall came as a further 26,800 jobs were created in the month, although full-time employment fell by 7,800.

Economists had expected total employment to rise by 15,000 and a steady jobless rate of 4.3 per cent. The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has repeatedly said a tight labour market risked fuelling wage inflation. The central bank forecast earlier this week that underlying inflation - already at a 16-year high - will rise further in coming months. It expects the inflation rate will moderate thereafter, but stay at or above the top of the bank's two-to-three per cent target range until June 2010.

Such was the central bank's blunt warning on the inflation outlook and its expectation that interest rates will likely have to rise again, economists generally think it will lift rates next month.


A totally mismanaged public hospital

A QUEENSLAND hospital forced to close its cardio-thoracic unit due to staff infighting refused surgery to an Aboriginal man due to his race, it has been alleged. Surgical services at Townsville Hospital ceased last November, after doctors claimed patient lives were at risk because of feuding between staff. The state's Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) has been called in to investigate the infighting, as well as claims hospital management failed to properly intervene.

Opposition Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander partnerships spokesman Rob Messenger said he had heard serious allegations from hospital whistleblowers. They allege that an Aboriginal man was refused surgery because of his race, and a surgeon whose patient death rate was three times the national average was allowed to operate, while whistleblower doctors were not.

One whistleblower tried to meet with Health Minister Stephen Robertson 10 months before the unit's closure, but was refused, Mr Messenger said. He said an independent inquiry was needed to shield whistleblowers from "vindictive bureaucrats". "I've asked the CMC to support my call for an independent public inquiry ... in order to find out the truth, and to protect and engender confidence in whistleblowers and witnesses," Mr Messenger said.


Teacher cleared after slapping student

Good to hear that SOME effective discipline for unruly children is still possible

CORPORAL punishment has been banned in Queensland schools for 13 years, but a Gold Coast magistrate has ruled it is legal for a teacher to slap a student in the face. An assault charge against a Gold Coast high school teacher who admitted slapping a Year 8 student in class was thrown out yesterday after the magistrate accepted he was practising "domestic discipline" - a 109-year-old law that allows a teacher to use reasonable force "by way of correction, discipline, management or control".

Slapped student Aidan Pascoe's parents Wayne and Michelle were furious. Mrs Pascoe stormed out of court after the decision, describing it as "disgusting". "Now all teachers can go and slap anyone they want and get away with it," she said. Mr Pascoe said Aidan had been "denied an education" as a result of the incident. "I had to pull him out of school and he's now doing an apprenticeship," Mr Pascoe said.

He said that in the six months leading up to the slapping incident, he had asked the school several times to remove Aidan from Justin Ransfield's classes because of a "personality conflict". "It's a bloody joke. A teacher has no right to hit a kid in the face," he said.

Southport Magistrate's Court was told Upper Coomera State College teacher Mr Ransfield slapped Aidan in the classroom in December 2006 and told another student to lie about what happened. The court was told Mr Ransfield, 37, and Aidan, 14, clashed physically after the student disobeyed a direction to start work. They tapped each other on the face before Mr Ransfield gave Aidan what fellow students testified was "a loud and hard slap" which left a red mark.

Arguing for the charge to be dismissed, barrister Frank Martin said while the slap may have been outside teachers' guidelines, it was not unlawful. "'He (Mr Ransfield) knew what he did was wrong . . . but there is no law that a teacher or a parent cannot discipline a child by striking," Mr Martin said. Mr Martin said Aidan had a history of misbehaviour, having been suspended from school four times.

Magistrate Graeme Lee ruled that the domestic discipline provision of the Criminal Code did apply in the case and dismissed the charge. "The defendant, as a teacher in charge of a classroom full of pupils, is entitled to manage the class in an orderly fashion," Mr Lee said. Mr Ransfield was congratulated in the courtroom by a tearful woman and was hugged outside by a student. Outside court, he would only say: "One in three male teachers are leaving the profession and I'm about to join them. "


'Rich' schools hit back

PRIVATE school lobby groups have denied being "wealthy" or "elitist". Catholic and independent school chiefs have hit back at revelations of exactly how much in government subsidies Tasmania's richest schools are receiving each year. Tasmanian private schools -- which educate 26 per cent of the state's school students -- will receive $170 million from state and federal governments this year.

Catholic education director Dan White said parents at private schools were entitled to government funding because they paid tax. "Parents at Catholic schools, along with all other parents, contribute fully to the taxation system," Dr White said. "It is only right and equitable that these parents are supported in the education of their children by both federal and state governments."

Recent research also indicated that, far from being wealthy, more than half of Catholic primary schools in Tasmania served communities that nationally fell into the low or very low socio-economic profile. "Based on information from the 2006 Census, four out of every five students in Tasmanian Catholic schools are from middle or low-income families," Dr White said.

The Association of Independent Schools of Tasmania accused the Mercury of "fanning the fires of envy and division" by publishing the funding breakdown. "Far from costing the taxpayer money, they are in fact saving government around $5.5 billion -- the additional expenditure it would require to educate those students in government schools," executive director Tony Crehan said.

Australia has one of the highest rates of public funding of private education in the OECD (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). Federal funding for private schools will top $7 billion this year and is growing at three times the rate of funding for public schools. Among local schools, Friends' School will be given $6.4 million this year, The Hutchins School $4.3 million and St Michael's Collegiate $3.8 million. The Federal Government has vowed to review funding after it was revealed that private schools would receive overpayments of $2.7 billion over the next four years.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Rudd has swallowed the myth whole

No mention that the tiny minority of black children who were removed from their Aboriginal environment were removed by social workers to rescue them from abuse and neglect. I wonder when all the white kids who have been removed by social workers will get an apology?

The Prime Minister used the word "sorry" three times in the 360 word statement read to parliament this morning. He said there came a time in history when people had to reconcile the past with their future.

"We apologise for the laws and policies of successive parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians," the apology read. "We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country. "For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry. "To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry. "And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry."

The apology also looked forward, heralding a renewed and united effort to close the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians in "life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity". Mr Rudd pledged action as well as words, calling for the equivalent a war cabinet to tackled indigenous issues. "I therefore propose a joint policy commission to be led by the Leader of the Opposition and myself," he said. The Prime Minister said the commission would first develop and implement an effective housing strategy for remote communities during the next five years. If that was successful the commission would then work on the constitutional recognition of first Australians.

More here. The full apology is here

There are some (Left-inspired) policies towards blacks that the government SHOULD apologize for

Today, the federal Government says sorry to the Stolen Generations. But others who share responsibility for the problems in indigenous communities should also apologise. And it should be a sincere sorry, with a real outcome.

The sorry debate has been hijacked by a misunderstanding of the sources of present dysfunction in Aboriginal Australia. It’s been hijacked by those who want to salve their consciences but who can’t stomach the hard decisions that have to be taken.

Most remote Aboriginal dysfunction has absolutely nothing to do with the Stolen Generations and Ronald Wilson’s Bringing Them Home report. Although some of those people have been wounded, it’s not the basis of wider dysfunction. It’s easy to apologise for what someone else did. And to tut-tut about failures of the past. But the problems a 10-year-old raped child in Aurukun is facing today were not created by the policies of removal in the early 20th century: they were fertilised in failures of the present generation and those who lead us.

The confusion starts at the top. Last week Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said we needed an apology before we could tackle the problems. But the people to whom he is apologising are a small proportion of the Aboriginal community. The majority weren’t part of the Stolen Generations and they have entrenched problems. The assumption that an apology to the minority will fix the entrenched problems of the majority is misplaced. Most people, moreover, think the apology is to the wider Aboriginal community for anything and everything they think it should be. It’s imprecise and misconceived.

Which brings me back to my opening proposition: there should be a real apology. The people who should be apologising are those who during the past 40 years presided over deeply flawed indigenous affairs policies that created separatism, nepotism, welfarism and isolationism: dysfunction and despair; the wide-scale abuse and neglect of Aboriginal children and the poorer health outcomes of Aboriginal people in general.

The apology should be from the Government, because it still has people who want to return to the failures of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission and some who participated in the politics of nepotism. It should be from the Howard government: after all, it persisted with those failed policies for much of its time in office as a political holding strategy because it was afraid, until its last year or so, to really do something.

It should be from the Keating and Hawke governments, which fostered and cultured the policies of separatism and gave real succour to the Aboriginal industry by building ATSIC into the monster it became. And it did so not because it didn’t know this caused problems, it did it because it didn’t want to face the political challenge that really tackling Aboriginal poverty would create in its own ranks.

Every premier in every state and every indigenous affairs minister for the past 40 years should apologise for failing to provide the safety and the education that Aboriginal children deserved. Every education minister who turned a blind eye to the appalling absenteeism of Aboriginal children should apologise for not treating those children with the same respect as white children by not enforcing the same rules.

The Whitlam and the Fraser governments, which championed policies that were never going to work (and in some cases still do), should apologise. While they railed, rightly, against an apartheid system in South Africa, they created one in Australia. Instead of moralising and commentating, they should face up to their share of the responsibility.

Leaders of ATSIC - every living former commissioner - who entrenched these dysfunctions, who cut funding for women’s programs and presided over a men’s rights agenda, should apologise. All the so-called leaders. They share responsibility. It would make it a genuine act of reconciliation if black leaders stood side by side with white leaders and they all apologised together for failing their people.

A symbolic apology for something we haven’t done is meaningless. Only real and sincere regret, a genuine apology and a steely determination to take the hard decisions will ensure we don’t lose more generations of Aboriginal Australians in the future.


Andrew Bolt comments

One election, and we're already back to group-think. Baa baa is the chorus of Chairman Rudd's Australia. Already commissars are rounding up our children for re-education, so they can chant like little Red Guards the authorised opinions of these new days. Note, for instance, this email to all schools from Victoria's Education Minister, Bronwyn Pike, a former board member of Greenpeace:

Sorry Day, Wednesday 13 February 2008, will be an historic day and I would strongly encourage all Victorian Schools to recognise and celebrate this significant event in Australia's history. It is a great opportunity for individual teachers to make sure that your students are aware of the significance of this important day by:

- Listening or watching the Apology live in your classrooms from 8.55am ...

- Reading stories which affirm Aboriginal culture and customs.

At a school level I strongly encourage you to consider the following suggestions:

- Hold a school assembly at 8.55am ... to acknowledge the Apology and listen or watch the Apology live.

- Hold a flag-raising ceremony with the Australian, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags as a sign of acknowledgment of the Apology ...

And so on.

You see it is not enough that students simply know of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's sorry to these "generations" of "stolen" children no one can actually find. To children we actually saved. They must also "celebrate" it and "acknowledge" it. For extra measure, they must also "affirm" Aboriginal customs and fly the Aboriginal flag - a flag that divides us by race. This is not teaching. This is indoctrinating. This is not passing on knowledge, but ramming home opinions of the most dubious kind.

Of course, Victoria is not alone in this extraordinary exercise, now that we enjoy the great efficiency of wall-to-wall Labor governments. NSW's 2240 state schools have also been ordered to fly the Aboriginal flag - on the very flagpoles that former prime minister John Howard made them put up to fly the Australian one. And, of course, the students were instructed not only to watch today's "sorry" on TV but yesterday's "welcome to country" at Parliament House - a ceremony by "traditional owners" welcoming our politicians to land that actually belongs to us all.

Were the children dutifully watching this made-up hocus-pocus, with its white feminist touches, told that even the local Aborigines couldn't agree who the rightful "traditional owner" truly was? Were they allowed to notice that the woman who finally did the welcoming, Matilda House-Williams, obviously had as much European ancestry as Aboriginal, making her as much invader as victim? Don't notice, children! Don't question, or even ask. And especially don't laugh at this farce - or not in front of your teacher, at least.

But what next? Must children march around the school oval waving Labor manifestos and chanting other famous Rudd slogans, such as "New Leadership!", "The buck stops with me!", "Climate change is real!" and "In answer to your question, let me say this, that in terms of what we do from 2009 on, I've got an open mind"?

But as with the children, so with many of their parents, who today will be hauled in for their own celebrations of Rudd's sorry and told to cheer. Take the staff of Victoria's Department of Human Services, who have already been given free screenings of An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore's global warming call to faith, to ensure they hold the Left's approved opinion on global warming. The department's secretary, Fran Thorn, now wants them to have the Left's approved opinion on this "sorry", too, and has emailed them all an "invitation" to a free screening - in work time - of Rudd's "significant" and "momentous" speech. "This is an opportunity for Department of Human Services staff to come together and promote greater understanding between all Australians," burbled Thorn.

Victoria's Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission is even rewarding staff who come to its own screening with tea and biscuits. No doubt some of HREOC's more censorious thought police, having already made criticism of the Koran all but illegal under our vilification laws, are now dreaming of ways to make questioning of the "stolen generations" a crime, too.

You may say I'm just twitching at Maoist shadows. But as the jubilant intelligentsia gathers for group hugs in this Rudd dawn, let ABC radio host Jon Faine make the censorious mood of the Left's new order clear. Faine, who today hosts ABC radio's coverage of Rudd's "sorry", last week asked the Herald Sun's editor in chief - on air - why he and The Australian hadn't yet done a "cleansing" of their "notorious" conservative columnists, who mock such things as I mock now. Writers like me were "out of step with the result of the election", Faine gloated, and the question now was "whether some of the staples of the media in the Howard era (had) worn out their usefulness" as we enter the Rudd era. In short: "You're not going through a cleansing process?" "Cleansing?" As of dirt, Jon? Or did you mean "fumigating", perhaps?

Let me astonish you, dear reader. Not once in Howard's four terms of Coalition rule did Faine suggest the ABC have a similar "cleansing" of its own great drain-clog of Leftists like himself, given they were "out of step with the results of the election". But more disturbing than Faine's hypocrisy is his apparent belief that the media should be "in step" with Labor, as so many of our cultural institutions are already, and that dissenters should be "cleansed". There is a totalitarian glint in young Faine's glasses, I fear. And it's a glint I now see in the eye of so many of our Leftist intelligentsia.

Take, for instance, Professor Robert Manne, voted by his peers as our "most influential public intellectual". Under Howard, Manne and other writers of the Left - David Marr, Clive Hamilton, Guy Rundle - flayed Howard for allegedly crushing dissenters just like . . . er, them? But the instant Rudd won, Manne called for all conservatives on the ABC board to resign, and said: "With the election of the Rudd Government . . . the culture war will come abruptly to an end." Is that an order, too?

Guy Rundle, an editor of the far-Left Arena magazine, similarly demanded The Australian "clean house" and sack all but one of its conservatives, and everywhere now we hear such cries from the Left for a cleansing. Hear it from former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser, now an agony aunt of The Age, who this week called for a cleansing of "a conservative group of ideologues" among the Victorian Liberals who'd taken the state party to the Right. Pardon? The state Liberals still have conservatives?

In fact, this Opposition has apologised to the "stolen generations", fretted about climate change, voted to turn a dam reservation into a national park, backed vilification laws against free speech, praised multiculturalism and, in almost every ideological battle, chosen the side of the ABC. Its leader, Ted Baillieu, is so fashionably Left that Fraser praises him as "one good piece of news" - despite his consequently terrible poll ratings. Yet Fraser still wants any conservatives still loitering in the sad shadows of this limp, lame and listless lump of a me-too party to be hunted down and cleansed. Oh dear. How intolerant is the new Left of what little debate and dissent remains.

What clean fiends they are, too. See them now getting out their hoses, disinfectant and scrubbing brushes. See them set to work, cleansing bad-thinking adults and washing the brains of our children. For hygiene's sake. Want to save yourself? Then say after me the great new chorus: Baa baa. And tell your children this morning to watch in sacred silence the sorry on their teacher's TV, and then clap. Very loudly and long.



Natural processes may prevent oceans from warming beyond a certain point, helping protect some coral reefs from the impacts of climate change, new research finds. The study, by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), finds evidence that an ocean "thermostat" appears to be helping to regulate sea-surface temperatures in a biologically diverse region of the western Pacific.

The research team, led by NCAR scientist Joan Kleypas, looked at the Western Pacific Warm Pool, a region northeast of Australia where naturally warm sea-surface temperatures have risen little in recent decades. As a result, the reefs in that region appear to have suffered relatively few episodes of coral bleaching, a phenomenon that has damaged reefs in other areas where temperature increases have been more pronounced.

The study lends support to a much-debated theory that a natural ocean thermostat prevents sea-surface temperatures from exceeding about 88 degrees Fahrenheit (31 degrees Celsius) in open oceans. If so, this thermostat would protect reefs that have evolved in naturally warm waters that will not warm much further, as opposed to reefs that live in slightly cooler waters that face more significant warming.


NSW bureaucrats ban the evil peanut

Peanut butter sandwiches have been banned from a Government building because of concerns the smell could trigger a deadly allergic reaction. The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission building in Sydney's CBD has outlawed all peanut products from the building for fear an employee could go into shock and die from the fumes. Taking the nanny state mentality to the extreme, the commission has begun erecting signs in hallways, kitchens and conference rooms declaring them a "Peanut Free Zone".

The ban, which came into effect this week, is believed to have followed a situation where a staff member became concerned after free peanut butter samples were handed out on Town Hall train station. An email to staff said: "You may have noticed the new peanut free zone posters we've just placed around the floor just to help us remember not to bring any peanut products to work. "For those who collected the freebie peanut butter samples from town hall (sic) this morning, please take these home as the smell will trigger a reaction."

As well as the peanut butter sandwiches, the ban prevents staff from eating chicken satay, Pad Thai, Snickers bars, Crunchy Nut Cornflakes and anything else containing peanuts at work. The email said the nut moratorium covers the entire floor of the building, which houses a total of seven government departments. They include the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commission, Asia-Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions, the Disability Discrimination Commission, Privacy Commission, Race Discrimination Commission and the Sex Discrimination Commission.

Staff said they were "bemused" by the new rule but were prepared to obey it to save a colleague's life. A Human Rights Commission spokesman said the ban was informal and was necessary because one staff member had such an acute allergy to peanuts they needed to constantly carry an adrenaline syringe in their pocket in case of a reaction. There was no enforcement process in place, and the signs were meant to inject humour into the situation.

Concerns about peanut allergies have grown after highly publicised deaths including Sydney schoolboy Hamidur Rahman, who died after being dared to eat peanut butter at a school camp. Royal Prince Alfred Hospital's Rob Loblay said it was impossible to trigger an allergic reaction from smell but a sufferer could become "extremely distressed and anxious".


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Federal fiscal restraint to destroy Greenie dreams

LINDSAY Tanner and Penny Wong are two of the most talented members of Kevin Rudd's new front bench. Both have had sure-footed starts to their executive careers. And both were on their feet last week.

The best compliment you can pay Tanner, the Finance Minister, is an oxymoron: he's a genuinely committed economic rationalist from the Left. Tanner in factional terms is a transgender politician: a fiscal conservative trapped inside the social policy body of an inner-city Melbourne latte sipper. This is a product of history. Tanner joined the Left on grounds of environmental politics but outgrew his base on economics. Preselection pressures have kept him from having the final reassignment operation he's crying out for. He's an inspired choice as Finance Minister and has been waiting for his moment in the sun - overseeing the fiscal structure of Labor's first budget - for his entire political life. Ultimately Tanner wants to be treasurer. He may get there: the first from the Left since Jim Cairns, though Tanner would cringe at the comparison. [Any treasurer would!]

Wong, as Minister for Climate Change, is also from the Left and another person who's been in training for this calling all her political life, from the campus tussles at Adelaide University on. Her moment came at the UN climate change summit in Bali, just before Christmas, where with 20 years of negotiated factional outcomes behind her, she shifted seamlessly on to the world stage to parlay the final deal on a post-Kyoto framework. Given her talents, she will inevitably have more such moments. And last week Tanner and Wong, rising stars of the shiny new Rudd Government, were at odds. Not that either of them knew it.

Let me explain. Tanner, for his part, was at the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday, delivering a finely calibrated speech in which he outlined the commitment of Rudd's budget razor gang to do its part in bearing down on inflation by cutting outlays by 1.5 per cent of gross domestic product when Labor's first spending document is brought down in May by Treasurer Wayne Swan. Wong, on the same day, was in Melbourne at the Park Hyatt Hotel, delivering a speech to the Australian Industry Group entitled Climate Change: A Responsibility Agenda.

Wong's rhetoric and sense of mission were uplifting: "I want to begin by taking stock of where we are," she said. "Over many years, scientists have gathered a body of evidence which makes the case that climate change is real and is being caused by human activity. "For some time now, that evidence has been irrefutable. [If it is irrefutable, it's not evidence] For some time now, people in Australia and around the world have been calling for action and, in their everyday lives, taking action themselves. "Businesses have been looking at the looming threat of climate change and at the new opportunities it presents, and also taking action for themselves. I acknowledge and encourage these existing industry efforts at climate change mitigation.

"So over the past decade, business and the community have been leading while our national elected leaders abdicated their responsibility. Now it's up to us. "Future generations will look back on us all and ask what we did. "With the prospect of sea levels encroaching upon our mostly coastal population, they will ask why it took so long to act. "Seeing our river systems die before our very eyes, they will ask how this was allowed to happen. "With our knowledge that climate change puts our food and water supplies at risk, they will hold us accountable.

"Two months ago, Australians delivered a clear message. They said we need a new sense of responsibility in this country: a responsibility to protect not only today's economy but also prepare for the economy of the future; responsibility for protecting our country, our values and lifestyles beyond the next electoral cycle."

Through these obvious adversities, Wong remained upbeat: "So it is no embellishment to say that climate change is the challenge of our generation. But it is also the opportunity of our generation," she said. "It's fair to say that most of the talk about the economic impact of climate change has been of the potential threat. Yet we should also look to the opportunity for new growth, for innovation, for a modern economy. "Australia is blessed with resources to exploit developments in clean energy, and we have the scientists, engineers, and capacity to deliver."

Trouble was, back at the National Press Club, Tanner was mounting the inflation case for cutting precisely the programs Wong was promoting in Melbourne. Immediately after his speech, the Finance Minister issued a statement detailing an immediate $643 million in spending cuts as a down payment on the promised rigours of the May budget.

The line items appeared obscure. But closer examination revealed that at least three measures - the defunding of the Asia Pacific Network for Energy Technology and the Low Emissions Technology and Abatement program, and the reduction in money for the Renewable Remote Power Generation Program - were going to contribute $49.2 million to Tanner's budget bottom line. And then there was the $3 million knife taken to the funding for the CSIRO research vessel Southern Surveyor.

A look at the vessel's website is instructive. Its lead item says: "On January 11, Australia's marine national facility RV Southern Surveyor embarks on a three-week voyage to survey deep-sea coral beds in the Tasman Sea and Southern Ocean. "The composition of deep-sea corals is used to determine previous deep ocean conditions, such as temperature, salinity and the mixing of surface and deep water layers over a time scale of tens to hundreds of thousands of years. Using specialised remotely operated underwater vehicles, sampling will occur down to depths of 4000m, deeper than ever before in Australian waters. "The findings will contribute to models of regional and global climate change based on deep-sea circulation patterns in the Southern Ocean as well as documenting the biodiversity of life at extreme depths."

In other words, the Southern Surveyor is an example of just the sort of "scientists, engineers and (research) capacity" Wong lauded in her Melbourne speech as being essential to the frontline battle against the effects of climate change.

This column brought these anomalies to the attention of Wong's office. In mitigation they say the Low Emissions Technology and Abatement money had not yet been committed and the Asia Pacific Network for Energy Technology constitutes an overlap with existing research and development programs. These details aside, the fact remains that the Tanner-Wong episode is an important symbol of an inevitable transitional phase for the new Labor Government. And the transition is from the high-minded rhetoric of election promises and goals on issues such as climate change to the realities of government, dirtied by the hard stuff of inflation and interest rates.

Cabinet ministers such as Wong, shut out from the budget razor gang process - which at this stage includes only Rudd, Swan, Tanner and Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard - are about to learn the speed limits that the responsibility of office will impose on their ambitions for their portfolios as well as their ideas about their station in public life. From Tanner's National Press Club speech henceforth the full stop of inflation will put paid to all ambit claims in both cases.

While Labor will not resort to the crudity of Howard's default position in 1996 of core (to be kept) and non-core (to be junked) promises, the effect in many more obscure areas, such as the fate of the Southern Surveyor, will be just the same. Welcome to the era of budget pain. It's a rite of passage that ministers as well as ordinary voters will have to share. Just ask Penny Wong.


Queensland's public hospitals fail health tests

QUEENSLAND'S beleaguered public hospitals are putting lives at risk by failing to deliver adequate care across a range of key areas. A new report into the performance of the state's 40 hospitals in 2006-07 has measured their outcomes according to 29 specific "clinical indicators". Across the indicator categories of surgical, medical, gynaecological/obstetric and mental health, the report found 26 instances where the outcomes were substandard.

An analysis of the overall performance of the state's public hospitals, released separately to the report, also identified areas where there were inferior outcomes compared to their private counterparts. Across 15 areas where comparisons were possible, the analysis found outcomes in the public sector were significantly worse than the private. It said there was a much higher stroke in-hospital mortality rate in the public sector while complications from prostate and hysterectomy surgery occurred far more frequently. The only area where private hospitals were significantly worse than public was in the frequency of patients catching pneumonia.

While similar data is not available from most other states, Health Minister Stephen Robertson this week insisted Queensland's hospitals were performing as well, and in some cases better, than those elsewhere in Australia. "However, this report highlights areas where individual hospitals need to do better in a particular category," he said. "In every case, where a hospital recorded an unfavourable result, it was investigated and where necessary a management plan was put into place to improve performance."

The report found nine instances where public hospitals failed one of the 13 surgical indicators, with the Gold Coast Hospital responsible for three of these. There were seven failures across the medical indicators with three hospitals - Redland, Townsville and Ingham - found to have unacceptable rates of in-hospital heart failure. Redland was also one of three hospitals that failed one of the gynaecological/obstetric indicators. Across the mental indicators, five hospitals recorded patients getting depressed during long stays at a rate twice that of the state average.

Coalition health spokesman John-Paul Langbroek said the Government's multi-billion-dollar plan to fix the state's public hospitals was failing. "The Bligh Government's band-aid solutions are not working," he said. "This Government is not treating patients and they are failing to fix Queensland's beleaguered public hospitals."


Judge Julie Dick raps prosecutor's office

The sisters are falling out - but rightly so. See also another recent report about the failing Qld. judicial system

A SENIOR Brisbane judge will ask for a "please explain" from Director of Public Prosecutions Leanne Clare after criticising her department's trial preparations as "not good enough". On Friday, District Court Judge Julie Dick dressed down several public prosecutors because they were not ready to proceed with trials. Judge Dick said she would report the matters to Chief Judge Patsy Wolfe and ask her to speak with Ms Clare.

Judge Dick became incensed when the DPP asked that a trial be postponed because the prosecuting lawyer was attending a conference. Another Crown prosecutor told her that subpoenas were still being sent to witnesses a week before the trial was due to start, despite the case having been postponed six times. The next prosecutor told the judge that two interpreters needed for a trial starting next week had not been secured.

"It is just not good enough to say the DPP is making these oversights. I will have these matters mentioned to the DPP and will ask the Chief Judge to speak with the director about this," Judge Dick said. "I do not understand that someone waits for the week before the trial to go look for the witnesses."


Putnam findings confirmed in Australia

Immigration destroys social cohesion and community spirit

Migrants from non-English speaking countries are less likely to be volunteers than Australian-born people or migrants from English-speaking nations, a new study shows. Ethnically diverse neighbourhoods have lower levels of volunteering - even among their Australian-born residents.

The study, by Ernest Healy, senior research fellow at the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University, challenges the notion that ethnic diversity leads to a stronger, more cohesive society. "When you create societies from mixed backgrounds it may not lead to overt violence . but to something scarier, a withdrawal from the civic sphere," Dr Healy said, "a feeling of less connectedness."

Using levels of volunteering as an indicator of social cohesion, the study shows that suburbs with a high degree of ethnic diversity have markedly lower rates of volunteering than more homogenous localities. The study, based on 2006 census data for Melbourne, shows migrants from non-English speaking countries are less likely to be volunteers than Australian-born or people from English-speaking countries, even when their income and age are similar. Length of residence in Australia makes little difference, and nor does citizenship, but English proficiency has a small impact. About 18 per cent of Australian-born middle-income earners aged 25-64 were volunteers, for example, but only 13 per cent of those from non-English speaking countries. But in ethnically diverse areas, both the Australian-born residents and the migrants from non-English speaking countries are less likely to volunteer than their counterparts in the more homogenous neighbourhoods.

Dr Healy said the results were likely to be similar for Sydney. He said it would be wrong to conclude migrants from non-English speaking countries were unfriendly and uncaring and less altruistic than Australian-born people. It was likely their altruism was directed to friends, families and neighbours, not through organised civic, sporting, and welfare organisations. However, altruism directed through formal groups represented a "commitment to the broader social good".

The findings appear to support research by Robert Putnam, of Harvard University, that ethnic diversity can hasten a withdrawal from "collective life". Dr Healy said the assumption multiculturalism would automatically lead to strong cohesive communities without government assistance may have been naive. [Idiotic, in fact]


Monday, February 11, 2008


Australia recently had one of its recurrent doughts, though it was only really bad for about a year. The Australian public were told at the time by all sorts of wise-sounding people that it was all because of global warming -- quite ignoring the fact that Australia's worst recorded drought was around 1901, long before most of the industrial activities that Greenies identify as "causing" global warming.

For about a year now, however, Australia has been affected by more and more flooding. Dam levels have approximately doubled in many places. It rains just about every day where I am. I was moved to write this by one of our many sudden downpours, in fact. The rain has finally been enough to stop the talk of drought (which went on for some time after the floods began) but there has not been a PEEP of a suggestion in the media to say that the floods might indicate global cooling -- DESPITE the fact that the world HAS cooled recently and despite the fact that the cooling has coincided with a period of reduced activity on the sun, which could explain the cooling. So we have a new form of "logic": Drought is caused by warming but floods are not caused by cooling.

Background: I have noted on GREENIE WATCH some of the many stories about disastrously cold Northern Hemisphere winters that have been appearing recently and they are very regularly noted on Astute Bloggers. One episode that I have not seen mentioned came to me in an email recently. A reader told me that earlier this month Baku (Azerbaijan) had it's coldest night for 75 years (-8.6C). There is also a report just in from China saying that China has had one-tenth of its forest resources wrecked by snow damage. And last Southern Hemisphere winter was exceptionally cold too -- particularly in Argentina.

The supposed connection between warming and drought always was a huge stretch. Warming should cause the seas to evaporate more and thus cause more rain to fall. So in a way the Greenies should be rejoicing at the current flooding. The flooding really COULD be a sign of warming. But it seems that even the Greenies are too embarrassed to turn around and march in the opposite direction straight away. No doubt they fear the ridicule that would attract. It's rather a delightful form of justice, actually. It shows how their own dishonesty ultimately defeats them

In truth, of course, Australia's cycles of drought and flood will go on as they always have. As one of Australia's best-loved poems (first published in 1908) reads:

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.


Education is a hot political issue in Australia at the moment. Four current articles below

Report shows students in 1960's better educated

DESPITE a much lower level of funding. Another proof that the constant teacher cry for more money is NOT the answer

SCHOOL students in the 1960s could read, write and count better than those today, according to a new report. Australian National University researchers found student literacy and numeracy had not improved since Sir Robert Menzies was prime minister and the Beatles topped the charts. Dr Andrew Leigh and Dr Chris Ryan tracked literacy and numeracy standards by comparing student results from the same tests over successive years for their report, How has school productivity changed in Australia? "Over the past three to four decades, neither literacy nor numeracy have improved, and may even have declined slightly," Dr Ryan said. "In numeracy, the typical young teenage student in 2003 was approximately a quarter of a grade level behind his or her counterpart in 1964."

The researchers said this was despite increased government spending on education over the past 40 years. Spending increased by 238 per cent from 1964-2003, they said. "It is possible the additional education spending over the past few decades was misdirected," Dr Leigh said. "This additional expenditure does not seem to have succeeded in raising literacy or numeracy."

Dr Leigh said government policy could have contributed to the declining student standards. "Decisions to reduce class sizes while allowing teacher salaries to decline relative to other professions may not have been in the best interests of students," he said. Dr Leigh said lower salaries had led to a fall in teacher quality from 1983-2003, which would have contributed to a decline in student results.

State education departments need to focus on evidence-based policy making, he said. "We need to measure different practices to see which are the best," Dr Leigh said. "Results from one class with small student numbers should be compared against another class which has a top teacher."

Victorian Education Minister Bronwyn Pike recently applauded grade 3, 5 and year 7 students for meeting, and often exceeding, national benchmarks for literacy and numeracy. Figures from the National Report on Schooling in Australia, released earlier this month, showed more than 96 per cent of grade 3 and 5 students met the writing benchmark, out-performing every state and territory in Australia. The Victorian Government has also committed $11.7 million to employ 45 literacy specialists.


'Back to basics' the key for Aboriginal schools

Recognition that trendy Left educational fads have badly harmed blacks

THE nation's most prominent Aboriginal academic, Marcia Langton, has called on federal, state and territory politicians to acknowledge the "comprehensive and systemic failure" of Aboriginal education and to implement back-to-basics reforms. Professor Langton, foundation professor of Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne, said there had been inadequate recognition of the "parlous" state of Aboriginal education and the "entrenched poverty" that flows from it.

"Reading Kevin Rudd's remarks about education, you would swear the biggest problem facing the nation is digital deprivation," she said. "There's been insufficient recognition of Aboriginal education by a prime minister who pledged an education revolution for all Australians. Are we not Australians?" She said the failures, reflected in the fact that less than 48 per cent of indigenous students met national benchmarks for numeracy in Year 7, while only 27 per cent of remote Aborigines met the literacy benchmark, could be sheeted home to federal, state and territory government inaction. She called for "clear and regular testing and reporting" on the performance of Aboriginal children, and a sustained attempt to build relationships between remote Aboriginal communities and schools.

"We need a structured curriculum, an emphasis on the students' capacities and competencies as well as the gaps and weaknesses in their learning, and intervention strategies to ensure children at the end of each year have learnt the required curriculum," she said. "If that means putting them into a special class then that's what you have to do. "So many of the unionists and the politically correct folk in the cities have such a poor understanding of the extremely low levels of literacy and numeracy in black communities and the poverty that stems from it. "They throw their hands up and say this (hard-line approach) is an abuse of human rights. But it's not. It's standard practice around the world."

Professor Langton criticised Aboriginal communities for their failure to ensure children attended school. "Nothing would be achieved without regular school attendance," she said.

An anthropologist with a PhD from Macquarie University, Professor Langton said several generations of Aborigines had been the victims of "ideological experiments" that had failed to deliver literacy and numeracy in the classroom. The time had come for specialised teacher training with a back-to-basics emphasis for remote communities, she said.

"Teachers need special training for this. We need teachers trained to work in remote-areas schools where the existence of Aboriginal languages, poverty and lack of social capital are the obstacles to children learning the pedagogy developed in the cities for kids with lots of social capital. When we train teachers, it's not enough to impart some fuzzy notion of Aboriginal children's special needs. We need to know precisely what those needs are."

She praised the achievements of the earlier generation of missionary teachers who recognised the importance of English while respecting Aboriginal languages. "The Aboriginal kids of that generation learned English because it was drummed into them in structured classes," she said.

Her remarks are supported by a paper on Aboriginal literacy released last year by the Cape York Institute, which acknowledged a "literacy crisis in Cape York without historical precedent", and conceded: "Many grandparents in Cape York communities possess greater functional literacy than their grandchildren."

The paper found more than 100 indigenous students leave Cape York schools every year unable to read at or above the minimum level expected for their age. "At every year level, indigenous students are up to four years behind the non-indigenous average." In some Cape York schools, less than 21 per cent of indigenous students achieved minimum benchmarks.


Australian medical schools going back to basics

Uni answers call to boost anatomy

THE teaching of anatomy will be more than doubled for medical students at the University of Sydney, and teaching of other basic sciences will be expanded, after students complained they were graduating with gaps in their knowledge. The changes, which come into effect with the new term starting tomorrow, will bring a huge increase in the number of lectures on basic sciences, with at least 50 new hourly sessions in the first eight weeks of the graduate-entry program. Over the entire four-year course, the amount of time for anatomy lectures will rise from 500 hours to 1200 hours.

The new curriculum - compiled after a year-long review - will also restore the practice of dissection as a means of teaching anatomy. In recent years dissection, in which students cut up body parts under the guidance of a tutor, has been largely replaced by other teaching methods, including "prosection" - where students observe specimens already cut open by somebody else. The new course will give students more scope to be involved in research, and will harmonise teaching practices among the university's six different clinical schools, after they were found to vary dramatically.

Students have welcomed the changes, which follow controversy over previous cuts to basic science teaching in Australia's medical schools generally. Australian Medical Students Association president Michael Bonning said: "We applaud Sydney for the fact they have listened to their student body." Mr Bonning's deputy Tim Smith, also a final-year medical student at the University of Queensland, said AMSA surveys in the past two years had shown "the vast majority" of medical students nationwide wanted to learn the scientific fundamentals. "From our experience, it's students in medical schools across the country that are asking for more basic science teaching," Mr Smith said.

Tessa Ho, Sydney University's head of medical education, said the review was launched because the previous curriculum was 11 years old and "had not adjusted to a number of changes in the healthcare system". "A number of key issues had been raised by clinicians and students about what was being offered in the curriculum," Associate Professor Ho said. Graduates felt unprepared in areas such as anatomy, physiology, pharmacology and pathology, she said. [And they were right to "feel" that!]


The 'fake' school teachers

There's a lot of this is Australian schools. I know something about it myself. I was twice hired to teach High School geography despite having studied it only up to middle school level. I have always taken an interest in the subject, however and it seemed to work well enough. I just kept a chapter ahead in the textbook. And the kids got good exam results. But if I had been asked to teach some other subjects -- such as mathematics or French -- it would have been a disaster

SCHOOL teachers are taking classes in subjects they know little or nothing about, such as languages they're not fluent in - new research has shown. A report by the Australian Council for Educational Research revealed 43 per cent of high school principals asked staff to take additional classes outside their area of expertise. Primary schools are also not exempt from the problem, with 14 per cent of principals getting teachers to work outside their area.

The findings were published in the 183-page report, commissioned by the Federal Government, and canvassed the responses of more than 10,000 teachers and 2000 heads of schools.

According to unions, the figures are further proof the nationwide teacher shortage is crippling the education sector. Angelo Gavrielatos, president of the Australian Education Union, said the severity of the shortage is being masked by teachers having to take classes outside their faculty. He added that until the Rudd Government can commit an extra $2.9 billion in funding for public schools, the problem will continue to manifest itself. Jim McAlpine, president of the NSW Secondary Principals' Council agreed that "it's a general problem in all education departments''.

The matter was magnified even more in rural and remote areas. "The difference there is that they are smaller schools with smaller numbers and because there are fewer teachers, you have less chance of having a trained teacher in that area.'' Music, creative arts, languages and information technology are the subjects considered to be the hardest hit as a result of the shortage.

Anthony Sleeman, a mathematics teacher at Ariah Park Central School in the Riverina region has been taking Spanish classes since 2005, even though he isn't fluent in the language. Mr Sleeman said, due to a lack of staff, he was asked to lead a combined Year 7/8 languages class and has continued to "bluff'' his way through since. "In a sense you have to use your skills as a teacher to try and teach something you don't know much about,'' he said.


Sunday, February 10, 2008


The essence of conservatism is humility and a rejection of dogmatism. Conservatives are cautious and know that the world is complex so they go by what works rather than being guided by simplistic theories and generalizations which they are sure just MUST be right. In that way they are unlike both Leftists and libertarians. But libertarian thinking is influential among conservatives because of the way it offers alternatives to the grand schemes of the Left. And that is why I lean towards libertarian ideas and call myself a libertarian conservative.

Leftists, on the other hand are heavily motivated by anger -- a constantly burning hatred of the world around them. Conservatives, by contrast, tend to be slow to anger. They are in general more happy and contented. And I am one of those. Conservative though I am, I have long thought that the centre-Left government that rules my home State of Queensland does a reasonable job by world standards. It is certainly no ideal of conservatism but is conservative enough to avoid the worst of Leftist follies.

So I am happy to acknowledge things that they get right as well as things that they get wrong. Even the thing that they get most disastrously wrong -- their public hospital system -- is less blameworthy than might at first appear when one considers that public hospitals are a worldwide folly and that NOBODY manages to get a socialized medicine system to work well. So I present below four recent reports about Queensland, of which only one is critical:
A government project that turns a profit!

I was sure that this was going to be a white-elephant when it was built. It is a huge complex with huge halls in it and I could not see them ever filling it. But it appears that I was wrong

Brisbane's Convention and Exhibition Centre will undergo a $130 million expansion as it struggles to cope with international and national demand. Premier Anna Bligh will today announce the Grey St .development to be built on vacant land next to the existing centre at South Bank.

The centre hosts about 900 events a year and the expansion will allow for another 250. "It has achieved record profits over each year of the past three years and generates more than $200 million in economic benefit for Brisbane and Queensland each year," Ms Bligh said.

The development would meet an urgent need to accommodate conventions of up to 600 delegates and several smaller events at the same time. It will feature five levels of "boutique" convention and event space, with an additional 18 meeting rooms, including two state-of-the-art tiered auditoriums.

Centre general manager Robert O'Keeffe said the expansion was timely. "Brisbane is experiencing a period of record growth with a 28 per cent increase in business tourism visitor nights, according to the most recent national visitors survey," he said. "The centre's forward booking levels are at an all-time high and as such the need to expand our facilities has become critical to our future business plans." Mr O'Keeffe said 2006-07 was the busiest year on record, with 1000 forward bookings and 50 new inquires every week.

The redevelopment is expected to start mid-year and is scheduled for completion in mid-2010. Ms Bligh said the Government would spend an additional $4.6 million on a water-harvesting project to supply South Bank Parklands' gardens and water features. It would include a diversion pit to collect water from existing drains; underground storage reservoir; treatment plant; irrigation system; and roof water harvesting from the Suncorp Piazza.

The article above is by Darrell Giles and appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on February 10, 2008. UPDATE: Story now online here

A public transport project that works

When the government spent a billion dollars on building a bus-only road alongside an already heavily-used freeway, I thought it was a hugely wasteful project that would be vastly underutilized and which should be opened to general traffic. Again it appears that I was wrong. It is heavily used and so transports large numbers of people very efficiently

BRISBANE'S flagship busway is in danger of gridlock just six years after the opening of the multimillion-dollar infrastructure project. A report commissioned by Lord Mayor Campbell Newman has warned that the South East Busway could soon have "traffic jams". The report, released this month, warns: "The South East Busway is rapidly reaching its vehicle-carrying capacity under the present operational approach. Clearly there is an urgent need to provide additional capacity to address existing capacity constraints and short-term growth. "The infrastructure capacity of the busways will, however, soon be exceeded if additional capacity is only provided by providing more standard buses."

In peak hour, the Cultural Centre stop has 179 buses an hour, or a bus every 20 seconds. At the busiest point of the busway, north of Woolloongabba, 294 inbound buses pass in the peak hour. That is a bus every 12 seconds. The report argues that if measures are not taken, the busway will soon experience traffic jams like normal roads.

It is a disturbing assessment for the State Government, which has invested more than $2 billion in busways across the city. The Eastern Busway, Northern Busway, Inner Northern Busway and the extension of the South East Busway to Springwood are under construction and have been flagged as solutions to the city's transport problems. The South East Busway was built by the State Government and is operated by the Government's Translink organisation.

But Translink general manager Luke Franzmann has insisted the route can cope with increasing demand. He said initiatives such as pre-paid tickets and larger buses would avoid gridlock. "We are rolling out a smart card system. Once that is in place there is less need to handle cash and less delays for the bus driver and that means we can get the buses through quicker," he said. "The Inner Northern Busway will take buses off the street through the central city and that will also improve the capacity through the South East Busway because you are getting buses through faster." The transport chief added that Translink was conducting a trial at the Cultural Centre station, with people paying for tickets before boarding the bus. Translink is also investigating the viability of hybrid electric buses that can carry up to 200 passengers.


A Leftist government shows fiscal restraint!

State Treasurer Andrew Fraser will take a Rudd Government Razor Gang-style approach to Queensland and slash up to $200 million from the State Budget. Mr Fraser, 31 - the nation's youngest Treasurer - will deliver his first Budget in June and yesterday promised to "cut the fat" from every government department in a bid to maintain a financial surplus. A spending audit will mean hundreds of jobs are slashed, with funding cut for items such as outside consultants, advertising and overseas trips by bureaucrats.

Mr Fraser said directors-general would be ordered to account for every dollar spent. "We have got to face up to reality . . . we are not immune from what is happening on the global market, rising inflation, construction costs," Mr Fraser said. "This will be the tightest Budget this Government has had to deliver in its 10 years in power."

Mr Fraser said an audit of the Queensland Ambulance Service late last year resulted in a $12 million saving and he expected that to be replicated across all departments. That audit - the first task handed out by Premier Anna Bligh to the Treasurer - revealed a top-heavy bureaucracy that had not used record funding properly. More than 100 head-office jobs were ordered to be axed and the money used to fund more frontline paramedics.

"We were not pleased about what we found in Emergency Services . . . we decided then we needed this sort of forensic examination led by Treasury across every government department and agency," Mr Fraser said. "We have to go to war against soft-padding . . . we need to make sure we can satisfy ourselves that every last dollar we give to them is going to the frontline."

The Government has spent more than $100 million in the past three years on consultants. There is $22 million a year spent on television and newspaper advertising, and another $20 million on travel by public servants. A tough-talking Ms Bligh [State Premier] has led the charge against "bums on seats" in head offices and Cabinet had been briefed in recent meetings on reducing the bureaucracy.

Mr Fraser said ministers had been directed to take a "hands-on approach" in coming up with savings in their departments. Ms Bligh delivered two Budgets in the black after previous Deputy Premier and Treasurer Terry Mackenroth had produced Budget deficits. Ms Bligh announced in June that Queensland would borrow money - $28 billion over four years - mostly to fund a building explosion. Queensland's Budget surplus was slashed by more than $50 million in December as increased taxes such as stamp duty failed to offset a drop in royalties from the coal-mining boom.

The mid-year economic review revealed the operating surplus was expected to be $213 million this financial year, down from $268 million. Mr Fraser said the Government was committed to a Budget surplus in June - but that could hinge on savings by his razor gang. He told The Sunday Mail last week that, despite Queensland's strong growth, poor investment returns triggered by the US sub-prime mortgage crisis could have a "negative impact" on his Budget.

The Rudd Government cost-cutting - including a $25 million grant for a redevelopment of the Ballymore rugby ground - had seen hundreds of millions saved as it tightened its belt. Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan, who met recently with Mr Fraser, said Queensland would be "in the front line in the war on inflation" as he delivered his first Budget in May.


Queensland failing at one of the most basic functions of government

QUEENSLAND'S justice system is in gridlock with a backlog of more than 34,000 criminal cases waiting to be processed. Figures from the Report on Government Services reveal delays in the state's magistrates courts are the worst in the country, with 33 per cent of cases more than six months old and 17 per cent waiting more than 12 months. In some instances, murder cases have taken as long as five years to reach the courts. Guidelines set by the Federal Government's Productivity Commission state no more than 10 per cent of lodgments should be more than six months old, and there should be no pending cases more than 12 months.

Queensland Liberal leader and Opposition spokesman on attorney-general matters Mark McArdle said the situation was appalling. "There is a very serious problem in the court system and it is the byproduct of poor planning and poor management," he said. "Victims of crime, as well as those accused of wrongdoing, deserve their day in court.

Just four years ago Queensland's court system was one of the best in the country, with a pending caseload just 4.8 per cent over the national standard. Figures show the problem is worsening, although the State Government stated in the latest report that the administration of justice had been "enhanced". The problem could be worse than the figures suggest, as defendants who fail to appear and have warrants issued are excluded from the pending caseload count.

Jonty Bush, chief executive officer of Queensland Homicide Support Group, said most murder cases were not reaching magistrates courts for at least 12 months and some were taking as long as five years. She said sending serious cases such as murder straight to the Supreme Court would speed up the process. "Waiting for a case to be dealt with is a really traumatic time for families," she said. "They don't even begin their grieving until after the trial because it is such a rollercoaster of emotions. "It is particularly difficult when the offenders are on bail, because they run into each other at the supermarket or pub. "What I find shocking about all of this is that there are guidelines in place that are just being ignored."

Queensland spent $173 million on court administration in the past year, compared with $348.5 million for New South Wales and $213 million in Victoria. Although Queensland has the busiest court system outside NSW, it has the lowest number of judicial officers per capita, according to the federal Productivity Commission. Attorney General and Minister for Justice Kerry Shine said he had created three extra magistrates positions in Queensland last year to help deal with the backlog.


The lesson in all the above, I believe, is that Australians are singularly unimpressed by bulldust so even Leftist politicians have to be seen as cautious and pragmatic in order to be voted into power. As a result, the centre-Leftists who have governed Queensland in recent years seem to me to be people who do sincerely try for most of the time to do their best for the State, with ideology intruding only at the margins.

It may be worth noting that in his two books of memoirs, Sir Robert Menzies, Australia's longest-ruling conservative Prime Minister, also credited most of his Leftist adversaries with being good and sincere men.

And perhaps I should finally note that the leader of Australia's new Federal government is also a Queenslander and he seems set to offer a form of government similar to what we have in Queensland -- good on Leftist tokenism but basically cautious and pragmatic.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Stolen Generations report attacked

Bringing Them Home, the landmark report that found indigenous children were systematically taken from their parents to "breed out" Aboriginality, was built on the "misrepresentations and misinterpretations" of professional historians, according to Keith Windschuttle. In a preliminary extract from his forthcoming book, Mr Windschuttle questions the existence of the Stolen Generations and claims the policies involved were largely benevolent and contained elements that should be revived today. His arguments have already been dismissed by some leading academic historians as absurd and blinkered.

Mr Windschuttle accuses University of Sydney history professor Peter Read of forming the NSW version of the Stolen Generations and says his own research has uncovered only one NSW file, among 800 examined, in which Aboriginality is cited as the reason for removal. The claim undermines one of Ronald Wilson's key findings in 'Bringing Them Home' in 1997, which was the basis for claiming the forced removal of Aboriginal children constituted "genocide".

Professor Read yesterday rejected Mr Windschuttle's interpretation of the files. "There are remarks made about the Aboriginality of the children, the way in which they were living or the number of brothers and sisters they had, where it is perfectly clear the children are being targeted because they are Aboriginal," Professor Read said.

Mr Windschuttle concedes there were "obnoxious" attempts to "breed out" Aboriginality in Western Australia and the Northern Territory but says those policies concentrated on intermarriage, not removal, and were undercut by the ineptitude of the bureaucrats involved. While he says his findings pull the rug out from under Kevin Rudd's planned apology, Mr Windschuttle insists the Prime Minister should accompany the symbolic gesture with $50 billion in compensation.

The conservative historian and incoming Quadrant editor, whose 2002 book The Fabrication of Aboriginal History questioned historians' claims of massacres of Aboriginal communities, estimates fewer than a third of the young Aborigines removed from their parents in NSW between 1915 and the late 1960s were aged under 12. Of these "almost all were welfare cases - orphans, neglected children (some severely malnourished), and children who were abandoned, deserted and homeless". In his new book, Mr Windschuttle says the vast majority of older Aboriginal minors were removed to be trained as apprentices, after which they returned to their families. "It is a policy that could well be revived today to rescue children from the sexual assault and substance abuse of the hellholes in the remote communities," he writes.

Mr Windschuttle said yesterday he anticipated a similarly strident reaction to The Fabrication of Australian History, Volume 2: The "Stolen Generations" as had greeted the earlier volume: "They will attempt to demonise me for my morals and they will make a lot of minor criticisms of my research and pretend that they are major."

Mr Windschuttle insisted he was not being mischievous by suggesting Mr Rudd's apology on Wednesday should be accompanied with $500,000 for every Aboriginal family in Australia. "Any apology in the parliament that is not backed by compensation will be a PR gesture in the best tradition of spin-doctoring in politics," he said.

Melbourne University history professor Stuart Macintyre, who is teaching at Harvard, dismissed Mr Windschuttle's claims against Professor Read as absurd. "He was involved in research on and for families that had been separated by the NSW government, under legislation that was racially discriminatory in its ambit and purpose," Professor Macintyre said. "It is refreshing to hear that Windschuttle thinks an apology ... should be accompanied by compensation, but disingenuous of him to suggest that this would involve the payment of $50 billion."

La Trobe University historian Robert Manne, who edited a collection of essays condemning Mr Windschuttle's earlier book, said he was "very pleased that Windschuttle has finally conceded that the chief protectors in both the Northern Territory and Western Australia during the 1930s supported a policy of 'breeding out the colour' of the Aborigines. Unfortunately, he does not understand the connection between this policy and systematic female 'half-caste' child removal". "The protectors believed the girls needed to be completely separated from the Aboriginal world to turn them into suitable wives for lower-class white males," Professor Manne said. "Windschuttle calls the policy 'obnoxious'. Why is he incapable of admitting that it was profoundly racist?"


NSW hospitals to knock back 'mildly ill' patients

Hospitals on the New South Wales north coast will begin turning away people with minor ailments, in a bid to make beds available for those who are more seriously ill. The North Coast Area Health Service says about 80 beds from 14 different public hospitals will be classified as "surge beds" which are mainly to be used during periods of high demand. It says if people with mild or chronic illnesses are treated in outpatient clinics or at home, then the "surge beds" will not be needed all the time.

Health Service chief executive Chris Crawford says the policy is not about cutting costs by reducing the number of beds that are available. "This means that rather than the beds being used for these mildly ill patients, we'll keep them and have them available for very seriously ill patients when you get high peaks in activity," he said.

The State Opposition says more hospital beds are needed across the state to help deal with the crisis. Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell is concerned about the policy. "Clearly a major contributing factor to the state's hospital crisis is a shortage of beds and the pressure that places upon our hospitals, particularly in being able to recruit and retain staff," he said. "Taking further beds out of the fastest-growing region in the state doesn't seem to make sense."


Tough TB strain 'could reach Australian shores'

A new study says urgent intervention is needed to stop the spread of tuberculosis (TB) from Papua New Guinea into Australia. The research, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, says strains of tuberculosis that are resistant to antibiotics are increasing in the western provinces of Papua New Guinea.

Dr Chris Coulter from Pathology Queensland says many people with the disease come to the Torres Strait Islands because a treaty allows free movement for traditional people between the islands and PNG He says because of this, there is a risk that the disease will spread into Queensland. "Multi-drug resistence is a major problem worldwide in the control of tuberculosis, and should spread of this organism occur in far north Queensland this would be a significant public health problem," he said.


West Australian health system cleansed of corrupt boss

The State of Corruption (and bad memories) once again. Maybe as bad as NYC

All links to former health chief Neale Fong [on right in pic above] are being systematically erased less than a week after his links to former premier Brian Burke were exposed. Health Minister Jim McGinty, who hand-picked Australia's highest-paid public servant, confirmed last night that Dr Fong's elite Subiaco offices - which were fitted out at a cost of $450,000 so he could move out of the Health Department building - would be the first thing to go. A string of lucrative external consultancies worth up to $4 million that Dr Fong awarded to a handful of fortunate firms will also be wound down if a review finds the work can be done in-house by public servants. And in a final purge, Dr Fong's $600,000 super salary package will not be seen again.

"All of these things were emblematic of the Fong era," Mr McGinty told The Australian yesterday. "They are associated with Neale Fong in the public mind, and it's time to move on."

Dr Fong was forced to resign when the Corruption and Crime Commission revealed he leaked restricted information to Mr Burke and lied about his relationship with the lobbyist to Mr McGinty and the CCC. The corruption watchdog is itself in hot water over some of its other recent findings. Premier Alan Carpenter yesterday admitted it might have dealt too harshly with some public servants.

The CCC has been under pressure for a week after a government investigator rejected misconduct findings it made against two senior planning officers, Paul Frewer and Mike Allen, over their dealings with Mr Burke. The internal review found they did nothing wrong. The pressure increased yesterday when former senior bureaucrat Wally Cox announced he was taking legal action against the CCC over a misconduct finding made against him.

Mr Carpenter said it was clear some people felt they had been dealt with harshly. "And it may be that in some circumstances, independent assessment of the CCC's judgment towards those individuals finds that they have been treated harshly," the Premier said. "That's very regrettable for those individuals. But at the same time the overall performance of the CCC, I believe, is going to deliver us a better system of government and politics in this state."

Opposition Leader Troy Buswell said the contradictory findings by the CCC and the internal government investigator about Mr Frewer and Mr Allen could not be allowed to stand. He said an investigation was needed into how two bodies could reach such contradictory conclusions from the same evidence.

Mr McGinty said Dr Fong had embedded a massive health reform agenda that would be continued but he conceded his legacy of costly external consultancies was a particular concern. Mr McGinty was full of praise for Dr Fong's replacement, acting director-general Peter Flett, who he said recognised the need to get past the Fong era.


Friday, February 08, 2008

Saying sorry for a great crime that never happened

By Andrew Bolt

It's over, and all I can do now is offer a sincere sorry of my own. You see, no matter what, a sorry to the "stolen generations" will be read out in Parliament next week by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Rudd will say that sorry to "stolen" children no one can actually find, but few commentators and politicians seem to mind. Or care to notice. Most Liberals, cowed and cringing, will just back whatever Rudd says. Most journalists, teary over their own goodness, will praise it. And most Australians will sigh with relief, hoping a bit of well-meaning humbuggery will let us "move on". So it's over. The only thing I can hope for now is that if Rudd must read out an apology, he reads out a compromise like mine.

What has divided us so far is that Rudd is a sentimentalist who wants to say sorry regardless of the facts about the "stolen generations". But I am a rationalist who can only say a sorry that respects the truth - and no apology I've read, including the ones on this page yesterday, comes close. Mine does - not that I have much hope that even this last appeal to reason will work. To Rudd and other Say-Sorries it simply doesn't matter that there's no evidence any Australian government had a policy to steal children just because they were Aboriginal. See the evidence they've ignored.

In Victoria, for instance, the state Stolen Generations Taskforce concluded there had been "no formal policy for removing children". Ever. In the Northern Territory, the Federal Court found no sign of "any policy of removal of part-Aboriginal children such as that alleged". In Tasmania, the Stolen Generations Alliance admitted "there were no removal policies as such". In South Australia, the Supreme Court last year found no government policy to steal Aboriginal children there, either. Rather, stealing black children had been "without legal authority, beyond power and contrary to authoritative legal advice".

But none of that evidence matters to Rudd. Nor does it matter that no one has yet named even 10 of these 100,000 children we are told were stolen - stolen not because we wanted to save children in trouble, but because we wanted to "keep White Australia pure", as "stolen generations" author Prof Robert Manne put it.

Name just 10, I asked Manne in debates in print and on stage. He couldn't. Name just 10, I asked Stolen Generations Alliance spokesman Brian Butler last week on Adelaide radio. He wouldn't. Name just 10, I now ask the Prime Minister. He won't.

Even the Liberals, now desperate to seem more "compassionate", seem to know they will be saying sorry for a great crime that never happened. Here is Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson, urging Rudd only to not say "stolen": "(I)t has pejorative connotations particularly for several generations of very good men and women from churches and other organisations who believed they were doing the right thing in removing these children."

But if these people really did steal Aboriginal children from good homes just to smash their culture and "keep White Australia pure", how on earth could they be "very good men and women"? That's like condemning slavery while praising slavers as "very good men" who only meant well.

But not even that matters. Rudd's apology is happening and all I can hope is that he can still hear a little voice telling him he has a duty to truth, and to the Aboriginal children today who will suffer if he lies. Because suffer they will. Already we read almost monthly of Aboriginal children who are bashed, raped or killed because social workers and magistrates are too scared by the "stolen generations" to "steal" them.

So, what is my own apology? No apology can do us good, dividing us by race and suffocating us with victimhood. But mine, I hope, can avoid most harm. My sorry will acknowledge that many Aboriginal children were indeed betrayed by their walk-away parents, white and black, and even by some institutions pledged to help them. But my sorry won't make our children ashamed for a society that still offers us all - Aborigines included - more freedom, health, justice and security than any before. My sorry will also have one other great virtue you'll see in almost none of the dozens of others suggested. Mine, at least, will tell no lies. That is because I have done what few others will: I have checked the histories of scores of the "stolen" children asking for this sorry, to see what it is we should be sorry for.

I've asked, for instance, why I'd say sorry to Lowitja O'Donoghue, the Stolen Generations Alliance's co-patron. O'Donoghue in fact was dumped at a children's home by her footloose Irish father, to be educated by missionaries.

For what should I say sorry to Peter Gunner, who sought compensation in the Federal Court for being "stolen"? Gunner, in fact, was sent to a home in Alice Springs with the written permission of his mother, to get a schooling.

For what should I say sorry to Topsy, named by Manne as a "stolen" child? Topsy, in fact, was just 12 when she was found, riddled with syphilis and far from hospitals, schools or police, with her parents unknown. For what should I say sorry to Mary Hooker, another Stolen Generations Alliance spokeswoman? Hooker, in fact, was removed with three of her 11 siblings because welfare officers thought she was neglected and "I was raped by my brother".

For what should I say sorry to Lorna Cubillo, who claimed compensation? Cubillo, in fact, was just seven, with no parents or even known guardian when she was found at a missionary-run ration camp in the bush, and sent to a home and school in Darwin.

For what should I say sorry to Molly, portrayed in Rabbit Proof Fence as a girl stolen to "breed out the colour"? Molly in fact was taken into care with the agreement of her tribal chief after warnings that she was in danger of sexual abuse and had been ostracised as a half-caste by her tribe.

For what should I say sorry to Archie Roach, famous for his song Took the Children Away? Roach, in fact, said yesterday he was removed when he was three because "word got around" he was neglected -- his parents weren't there, and his sister was trying to care for him.

For what should I say sorry to all the "stolen children" like these - activist Robert Riley, whose mother dumped him at a home; author Mudrooroo Narogin, who turned out to be neither stolen nor Aboriginal; claimant Joy Williams, whose mother gave away her illegitimate girl; bureaucrat Charlie Perkins, whose mother asked a boarding school to help her gifted boy; and "stolen generations" leader Annette Peardon, whose mother was jailed for three months for neglecting her children. And here's the sorry I say to them:

What makes us Australians helps make us human. As Australians, we believe in the dignity of each person, regardless of their race or place of birth, of their colour or creed. We believe that no one is a stranger to us, beyond our sympathy and our help. And we believe it is in offering such sympathy and help that we best realise our humanity.

But we are sorry. We are sorry that at times we have not as a nation, or as individuals, lived up to those ideals. We are but human, and, as all humans do, have failed and fail still. As a nation, we are sorry for those children that we harmed, when we meant to help. We are sorry that in helping many, we did not help all.

We have failed at other times as well. We are sorry for having taken, when we could have shared. We are sorry we have treated some as strangers, when in truth this is their sacred home.

But we are a people whose sins are small when set beside our virtues, which are great. We have as a nation desired to do good, just as we desire it now. We therefore commit ourselves anew to the purpose with which this nation was founded - to give every citizen the right and opportunity to live their life in peace, honour and freedom, under laws common to us all.

But more - we recommit ourselves, today especially, to our young, our lost, our helpless and our poor. They will not find us wanting as some have found us wanting before. This will be the measure of our repentance.

For our failings we are sorry. But for our ideals we are not. What has divided us can be overcome, and with the goodwill that compels us to say sorry today, overcome we surely will.


Rudd government to legislate income tax cuts

THE Federal Government has given the strongest indication yet it intends to deliver on an election promise to cut personal income tax. The Government has listed legislation, providing changes to personal income tax rates, thresholds and the low-income tax offset, as one of its priorities for the autumn sittings of parliament which start next Tuesday. The government has been under pressure to delay the cuts or pay them into superannuation accounts to ease inflationary pressures on the economy. But Treasurer Wayne Swan has said the Rudd Government won't renege on its promise to deliver $31 billion in tax cuts, with next year's instalment expected to cost $7.1 billion.

It will be the first time parliament sits since Labor won power from the coalition at the November 24 poll. As expected, the Government will introduce legislation to implement transitional arrangements for workplace agreements pending introduction of a new workplace relations system in 2010. The legislation, which could be introduced as early as next Wednesday, will start the process of paring back the former Howard government's controversial Work Choices laws which Labor promised to ditch during the election campaign. The legislation is likely to face opposition from the coalition-controlled Senate, especially on any abolition of Australian Workplace Agreements.

The Government's planned legislative program also includes establishing Infrastructure Australia - an advisory council with responsibility for developing a national strategy blueprint for the nation's infrastructure needs.

Changes will be made to social security laws to allow for the quarterly payment of the utilities and senior concessions allowances. The utilities allowance will be extended to recipients of carer payments and the disability support pension.

The military justice system will be given an overhaul with legislation putting into effect recommendations of a 2003 Senate inquiry.

The Government also intends to legislate for what it calls the "enhanced independence'' of the Reserve Bank of Australia. New laws will require the agreement of both houses of parliament before either the terms of the central bank's governor or deputy governor can be terminated.

Changes are also planned for vocational and indigenous education assistance.


NSW anti-spanking minister spanked own kids

The minister whose disgraced department broke up a family because a grandmother smacked her grandson has admitted he smacks his own children. The startling admission by embattled Community Services Minister Kevin Greene also puts the father of six in direct conflict with his own department's rule, which is that children should never be smacked.

The child protection sector is in an uproar following yesterday's revelation by The Daily Telegraph that children had been removed from their grandparents' home because the grandmother smacked her six-year-old grandson for playing in a stormwater drain. They were official DOCS carers and had looked after the three brothers and sister several times in the past six years.

Despite DOCS listing smacking as a "risk of harm" offence that must be reported, Mr Greene said spanking could have its place. "My wife and I have raised six children together. Three are now adults, two are in their late teens and our youngest is 12," he said. "There were times when our judgment has been that it was appropriate to smack the children. But we've moved past those days of toddler tantrums and disobedient kids." Mr Greene also said he supported the law in NSW that allows smacking but outlaws excessive physical punishment. "While discipline is a personal judgement for parents, one thing is paramount - the child's health and safety should never be threatened by the course of action parents take."

Foster care workers yesterday were asking how DOCS can punish foster carers for doing something their own minister has condoned. "It puts a lot of confusion in carers' minds when he is saying, 'Do as I say, not as I do'," Foster Care Association president Mary-Jane Beach said. "Some carers would agree that an occasional smack on the bottom doesn't hurt and they find the department's no smacking stipulation difficult. Why would you give a mixed message like that?"

The woman whose grandchildren have been taken away from her was furious at the apparent contradiction. "It is like the rich and the poor; you have one set of rules for one and one for another," Catherine (not her real name) said. "It was just to teach our grandson about getting down the drain. "If it's good for him (Greene) why isn't it good enough for the other parents and grandparents who only do it when a child mucks up?"

The fresh controversy comes amid calls to elevate the Community Services - currently a junior portfolio - to a senior Cabinet position. Mr Greene is a first-time minister accused of being out of his depth in his handling of recent child death cases. Andrew McCallum, from the Association of Children Welfare Agencies, said DOCS was not given enough importance by the Government.


Civil unions OK but weddings out for homosexual couples in Australia

The ACT is Australia's equivalent of DC

Gay civil unions are acceptable but an ACT bill that would allow couples to hold a public ceremony has been rejected by the Federal Government. Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland said clauses in the ACT's civil partnerships bill allowing couples to mark their union with a ceremony were unacceptable. "We think a civil unions register along the lines of Tasmania is appropriate," Mr McClelland told The Australian newspaper. "The ceremonial aspects of the ACT model were inappropriate."

ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell said this week the territory would not back from its plans to allow gay couples some form of ceremony. "We will stand by our commitment to our community for the legal option for a ceremony - that is our position," Mr Corbell told The Australian. Mr McClelland declined to say whether the Rudd government was prepared to override territory legislation if the ACT defied the commonwealth and passed the bill.

The government has previously opposed gay civil unions and prefers a system of state-based relationship registers. A relationship register differs from a civil union in that it encompasses a broader range of relationships, including non-intimate ones, such as carer relationships.


Thursday, February 07, 2008

The incredible DOCS (NSW child-welfare Dept.) again: They ignore feral parents and attack good ones

DOCS rips a good family apart because of an innocent smack. Today's story comes after another revelation yesterday that a six-year-old girl missed out on the chance of a stable family life after a DOCS bungle scared her loving foster parents off. And none of this double standard is accidental. As part of the Leftist class war, trainee social workers are taught in their university courses that tolerance must be shown to druggies etc. but "the bourgeoisie" are evil

Four young children have been wrenched from their grandparents home and fostered out to separate families because the grandmother gave a 6-year-old an innocent smack on the bottom. The move has horrified the foster care industry who are asking Community Services Minister Kevin Greene to explain how DOCS could leave 7-year-old Shellay Ward to allegedly starve to death - and then take four young children away from a loving home.

The couple in their 60s are official DOCS carers and have fostered the children on four occasions in the past six years without incident. Ranging in age from 18 months to eight years, the three brothers and one sister have grown up with the grandparents who stepped in to take care of the children when their own parents were unable to. But last October the siblings were split up and taken away without warning after a school-based DOCS assessment.

"The kids were asked if they were ever hit and said 'nanna smacks us'," the grandmother Catherine (not her real name) said. "I've smacked them on the bum maybe three or four times in one year - they don't need smacking, they're good kids. Most of the time you don't even have to raise your voice."

The Foster Care Association of NSW will use the case as part of their submission into the upcoming DOCS special commission of inquiry. "These grandparents have had all four children removed because the grandmother smacked a six-year-old on bottom," FCA president Mary Jane Beach said. "What we are missing here is accountability for DOCS - and the children are the ones paying the consequences."

The latest DOCS disaster places further pressure on Mr Greene, who has been faced with a string of horrific DOCS deaths including toddler Dean Shillingsworth, whose body was found in a suitcase in a western Sydney dam, four year old Tyra Kuehne, who was savaged to death by a neighbour's dogs, and Shellay Ward, who was allegedly kept prisoner in her parents' home. DOCS had been notified about each of the children before their deaths. Despite the catalogue of deaths and a scathing Ombudsman report that found 114 children known to DOCS died in 2006, Mr Greene has stubbornly refused to accede to impassioned calls to expand the DOCS inquiry into a royal commission.

The father-of-six has said in the past that he approves of non-harmful discipline for a disobedient child. Mr Greene was unable to respond it detail to the allegations but he said that a decision to remove a child from home was not ever taken lightly. "That decision is always taken in the best interests of the children ," he said.

The western Sydney grandmother said she smacked the three oldest children recently because she caught them throwing rocks and smacked her six year old grandson for climbing into a stormwater drain. "I just smack them on the bum, we were never told no smacking, I treat these kids the same as I treated my own kids, if they mucked up they got a smack on the bum," she said. "I've taken them to get every single one of their shots since the day they were born. I've been there for everyone first day of school, I've taken them to all their swimming lessons. "It is heartbreaking - their Christmas presents are still in the shed."

Opposition Community Services spokeswoman Katrina Hodgkinson said the Government should stop using the portfolio as a training ground for junior ministers. "Kevin Greene is way out of his depth with this portfolio," she said. "We have seen the most incredible bungles in this department and we can't afford to stop our calls for a royal commission."


Leftist love of "unity" (Translation: Hatred of dissent) on display again

Post below lifted from Taranto. See the original for links

Andrew Bolt of the Melbourne (Australia) Herald Sun transcribes a revealing interview that Jon Faine, an Australian Broadcast Corp. radio host, conducted with Herald Sun editor Bruce Guthrie. As background, Australia recently elected a left-wing government to replace the right-wing one that had been in power for more than a decade:
Faine: I want to expand our discussion to another aspect of media which I think is quite intriguing as the Rudd Government is about to start its first session in the parliament, and that is whether or not the media needs to go through a bit of a rethink, as it would seem, according to last year's election, the nation has. Have things moved on and have some of the staples of the media in the Howard era worn out their usefulness as we enter a Rudd era? . . . I'm going to talk in particular about columnists . . . and Bruce you have some notorious ones of your own? Although I'm going to here, stick my neck right out, and say I think the Australian newspaper has perhaps the most loyal band of Howard supporters amongst its current crop of columnists. And you have to wonder how they're quite going to adjust, and cope, and fit in when the people they are so well connected to, are no longer in office.

Guthrie: Yes, I'd probably take issue with the word notorious Jon, by the way. I'd say notable rather than notorious . . .

Faine: But it's more the columnists [on the Australian], the sort of Christopher Pearsons and Janet Albrechtsens and Mark Steyn was the American columnist who was used in the paper yesterday and so on. And you think, well, it kind of represents the thinking that's out of step with the result of the election in a way, some of the material that those people are very much making their own and their own beat.

Guthrie: I guess it comes down to whether you think newspapers need to be in step with the Government?

Faine: Oh no, not with the Government with the electorates. . . . But within your newspaper, rather than asking you to speculate about other things, within your own newspaper, does the result of the election mean you rethink any of the component parts that make up your weekly diet? . . .

Guthrie: I think it's very, very hard to contribute a column on a weekly basis over a long, long period of time and so we're forever monitoring that.

Faine: Very interesting, so you're not going through a cleansing process?

Guthrie: Definitely not.

Media criticism on the right usually centers on questions of balance--of opinion masquerading as news, and of opinion on the right being given short shrift. Media criticism on the left tends to be more authoritarian--the complaint, as in this case, is that the other side gets a forum at all.

Presumably Faine would not argue that the election of a conservative government should lead to a purge of liberal commentators. Yet he seems to think that because one election went his way, the opposition no longer has a right to be heard. That's not exactly how a democratic system is supposed to work.

Three crooked top cops in Victoria

A DISGRACED former policeman, a suspended police union boss and Victoria Police's former media director all face possible criminal charges after a damning report to the state Parliament today. Charges of making a false or misleading statement and perjury have been recommended against former assistant commissioner Noel Ashby, Police Association secretary Paul Mullett and former Victoria Police media director Stephen Linnell. A further charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice has also been recommended against Senior Sergeant Mullett. The charges are recommended in the report by Victoria's Office of Police Integrity (OPI), tabled in parliament today.

They follow an OPI public inquiry last November which heard secret telephone intercepts alleging Mr Linnell improperly passed information about the investigation into an underworld murder in 2002, in which a crime squad detective was a suspect. It was alleged at the hearings Mr Linnell passed the information on to Mr Ashby, who in turn told Sen Sgt Mullett, who then told Police Association president Brian Rix. The target of the investigation was eventually informed, it was alleged.

Sen Sgt Mullett was suspended from the force and both Mr Ashby and Mr Linnell resigned their positions as the inquiry unfolded. According to the OPI report, Mr Ashby and Mr Linnell distributed sensitive information to advance their standing in the police force. "Both Mr Ashby and Mr Linnell knew the value of information," it says. "The strategic leaking of it gave them both currency with which to advance their personal ambitions."

The report says the spectacular nosedive of the careers of Mr Ashby and Mr Linnell should serve as a warning for other police. "The public should take comfort from the fact that aside from those named in this report, no other current Victoria Police employee appears to have been caught up in Mr Ashby's drive for power," it says. "However the thwarting of Mr Ashby's ambitions and the demise of his and Mr Linnell's careers should serve as a salutary lesson for others who may be tempted to ignore the responsibilities that accompany police office."

In tabling the report today, the Director of Police Integrity, George Brouwer, said the departures of Mr Linnell and Mr Ashby made it a better organisation. "Notwithstanding the deeply concerning matters revealed in this investigation, the corrupting influences were contained to a few individuals," Mr Brouwer wrote. "The resignations of Mr Ashby and Mr Linnell, in particular, should have a cleansing effect on Victoria Police command. "Without their behind-the-scenes manoeuvering, Victoria Police command, led by Chief Commissioner Nixon, is now in a better position to progress its strategic reform agenda."

Comment was not immediately available from the Police Association, or from Mr Ashby's legal team. Mr Linnell's lawyer, barrister Martin Grinberg, said he was yet to read the report or speak to his client.


A great way to create drug-resistant bugs and unleash them on the community

Mass antibiotic treatment for Aboriginal communities planned

CANBERRA is considering mass antibiotic treatments in remote Aboriginal communities to combat the spread of sexually transmitted infections. An article in the Medical Journal of Australia suggests entire indigenous communities should be treated in places where infections are widespread. Report co-author Professor Frank Bowden says that in some northern Australian communities one in four young women is infected by either chlamydia, gonorrhoea or trichomoniasis.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon yesterday said she was alarmed by the situation and something must be done. "The current approach doesn't seem to be working. We haven't been able to reduce the number of STDs in indigenous communities - in fact they're increasing," Ms Roxon told ABC radio. "Obviously this is a serious public health issue and we do need to look carefully at how we can do things better."

The plan touted in the journal was a radical new approach to tackling rising STI rates based on a blanket treatment scheme similar to current practice for the infectious eye disease trachoma. The scheme would replace the current "screen and treat" programs, which have done little to improve the dire statistics showing one in four indigenous women has an STI. Under the plan, adults and children in indigenous communities with an STI rate over 10 per cent would automatically be offered a four-drug treatment covering chlamydia, gonorrhoea and a third disease, trichomoniasis - without being screened first to see if they have the disease. Treatment would start as young as 10 to combat rising STI rates in children.

Professor Bowden and Melbourne-based sexual health physician Katherine Fethers wrote in the journal that treating STIs in this way would be controversial because sex-related diseases were wrapped up in issues of morality, privacy, stigma, shame and discrimination. But they argue that the current health promotion approach for people in poverty and social hardship was problematic and even "dangerously naive". They said under-resourcing has meant that screening programs had had limited success in turning around rising rates. They said their proposal was in keeping with World Health Organisation practice for other types of diseases, and would be contingent on informed consent from each individual. However, the details of how it would be delivered would require "much debate and consideration", they said.


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Australia needs immigration to tackle skills shortage?

The article below is just a do-gooder opinion and is a lot of nonsense. Maybe a less airy-fairy educational system is needed and less generous welfare payments but immigration is entirely optional. China and India are undergoing rapid growth and they are not importing workers. They export workers! Japan's years of high growth were also 99% an indigenous Japanese effort. And with nearly 5% of the Australian workforce unemployed the sense of priorities here is crazy. There is plenty that could be done to get that 5% into work. In the long Menzies era, unemployment was generally under 2%. If Australia can manage that once it can do so again

Adding to the problems of a booming economy is Australia's looming labour shortage. A paper prepared for the Academy of Social Sciences Experts say the country needs to boost immigration by 30 per cent within the next 20 years to meet its growing work force demand. Many job vacancies will be created when millions of baby boomers retire. They will also create the need for more workers to care and cater for them as they age.

Australia has always relied on immigration to fill jobs and keep its economy growing, but there are now signs the level of immigration will have to ramped up to stop a skills shortage getting worse. Manpower recruitment company spokesman Steve Hinch says the skills shortage is already upon us. "We have 260,000 vacant jobs across this country at the moment," he said.

Australian National University demography professor, Peter McDonald, has been examining Australia's population and future labour force needs. He says rising fertility and immigration levels are not enough to keep the work force growing. "Over the last 20 years or so, we've had a growth rate as high as about 2 per cent, and it's now down to about 1.2 per cent per annum," he said. "If it were to be 1 per cent per annum from now on, the levels of immigration required would be higher than they are now. "At the moment, they're higher by historical standards."

Professor McDonald says that migration over the next 20 years would need to go up by about 50,000 per year, from about 170,000 to 220,000 each year. "Later on, after 20 years, it would be going up again to up around 300,000," he said. "We also say it's very important to consider domestic skills, that we need to be looking at the production of skills within Australia as well. "But the notion is that because of increased living standards, because of the need to renew a lot of infrastructure in Australia, because of the ageing of the population - a lot of different reasons - we expect the demand for labour in the future to remain very strong."

More here


Climate Change Minister Penny Wong has committed the Federal Government to setting a target for a medium-term cut in greenhouse gas emissions, rejecting advice from its climate adviser that it should be left to market forces. Speaking from the US-sponsored major economies meeting in Hawaii on climate change, Senator Wong said it would set a 2020 greenhouse target regardless of the advice of economist Ross Garnaut.

Professor Garnaut has warned that targets to slash greenhouse pollution could lead to more costs than benefits. But Senator Wong said yesterday Labor would set an interim target, as it promised before last year's election. "We think targets are important because they do send a signal for the market and to the community, and they also give an impetus to government policy action," she told ABC radio.


SCHISM: Homosexuality splits the Anglicans

Denials notwithstanding, refusing to attend Lambeth creates a virtual schism (splitting into two independent bodies)

The Anglican Archbishop of Sydney has revealed the Sydney diocese will boycott this year's worldwide gathering of Anglican bishops because of the church's stance on homosexuality. Dr Peter Jensen was forced to confirm the move after Sydney's strongest ally, the head of the church in Nigeria, Archbishop Peter Akinola, last week disclosed that Sydney, along with Nigeria, Uganda and Rwanda, would not be represented at the Lambeth Conference, which is held every 10 years for Anglican bishops from around the world.

The controversial consecration of Gene Robinson, the gay bishop of New Hampshire, by the US Episcopal Church in 2003 has embroiled the Anglican Church in a battle between rival factions in disagreement over the matter.

Dr Jensen described the state of the Anglican Communion as "tumultuous". He and Archbishop Akinola have emerged as two of the strongest leaders of the conservative faction and are the key movers in the setting up of a separate conference to Lambeth - the Global Anglican Future Conference - to be held in Jerusalem in June. Dr Jensen, pictured, yesterday confirmed he had phoned the office of the worldwide head of the church, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, to inform him that "with regret" neither he nor any of the bishops of Sydney would be going to the Lambeth Conference.

But he denied this was the start of a split in the church. "We're still completely committed to the Anglican Communion," he said. "We are committed to its future and its good health and we will be praying for the conference and continuing to pray for the Archbishop." He said the church had been "shaken by huge dissent over biblical authority, particularly as it works out in the area of human sexuality". "We think that these problems need to be attended to and we're not sure that the Lambeth Conference itself is set up to do that," he said.

Dr Jensen said the "ructions" were significant. "The growth of the number of Anglicans in the south [mainly African nations] has been stupendous and this has created a new set of circumstances," he said. Nigeria and Uganda now make up about half the Anglican Communion worldwide.

Source. Dr Jensen's own account of the matter is here

This is not THE Alan Bond again, is it?

Bondy conned around a billion from the banks and blew the lot so this could well be him again

A UK firm has unveiled plans for a hypersonic passenger jet that could take just five hours to fly from Europe to Australia. With funding from the European Space Agency, engineers and scientists have developed the A2 to carry 300 passengers at 3000mph (4828km/h), the Guardian reports.

Scientists were challenged to build a commercial plan using space travel technology, the paper reports. Designed by Reaction Engines, the A2 could be here within 25 years if there was a demand for it, said senior engineer and managing director Alan Bond. "The A2 is designed to leave Brussels international airport, fly quietly and subsonically out into the north Atlantic at mach 0.9 before reaching mach 5 across the North Pole and heading over the Pacific to Australia," he said.

"The flight time from Brussels to Australia, allowing for air traffic control, would be four hours 40 minutes. "It sounds incredible by today's standards but I don't see why future generations can't make day trips to Australasia." The engine would run on liquid hydrogen in order to reach the required speeds, and rather than producing carbon emissions, it gives off water vapour and nitrous oxide (laughing gas). "Our work shows that it is possible technically; now it's up to the world to decide if it wants it," said Mr Bond. The cost of the flight is estimated to be similar to a current first class fare.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

This will have the Left frothing

But they wouldn't say a word if it were Ramadan that was involved

Kevin Rudd is under pressure from the Jewish community to change the date of his Australia 2020 summit which clashes with Passover. The Prime Minister has been accused today of inadvertently locking out the Jewish community from political talkfest by holding it during a period which is the Jewish equivalent of "Christmas or Easter."

The nation's peak representative body representing the Jewish community, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, told The Australian Online today that it will lobby the Prime Minister to change the dates or develop alternative ways Jewish people can contribute. "We are not suggesting it was deliberate as opposed to inadvertent,'' President Robert Goot said. "(But) It is most unfortunate because regardless of your religiosity, the festival of Passover and in particular the first night of the festival is almost universally observed. It will preclude I would think practically anyone of the Jewish faith of attending. "I have written to the Prime Minister today pointing it out and seeing if it is at all possible to change the dates. But if not we are seeking an assurance that people who would have been invited but will be precluded will have the opportunity to make a contribution through alternative means."

The chief executive officer of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies Vic Alhadeff said he was also concerned. "It actually is a problem simply because the Passover is one of the most solemn days on the Jewish calendar. It makes it very difficult for Jewish people to be present,'' he told The Australian Online.

Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield raised the alarm this afternoon attacking Mr Rudd's decision to hold his Australia 2020 summit during Passover as "insensitive and discriminatory". "Mr Rudd says he wants to 'bring into the tent those who have got ideas to contribute to these long-term challenges', yet he has chosen dates that will preclude most of the Jewish community from attending,'' Senator Fifield said. "The Rudd Government can hardly plead ignorance. Passover is listed on the Calendar of Cultural and Religious Dates on the Federal Department of Immigration and Citizenship's website. "It is simply unacceptable for the summit to proceed on these dates. Kevin Rudd must announce new dates that do not clash with important faith festivals or national events."

Queensland Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce said today the 2020 Summit risked degenerating into a Jerry Springer-style fight club. "I'm very dubious that 1000 people, if they're truly given the chance to have their say, are going to come with a conclusive co-ordinated position," he told the ABC. "I do perceive that what we will end up with is some sort of mutli-faceted hothouse gab session with an outcome very similar to Jerry Springer. "


Queensland Health worse despite cash injection

Surprise! surprise! There's no cure for malignant bureaucracy other than abolishing it and starting again

QUEENSLAND'S health system continues to struggle and is getting worse in some areas despite a multibillion-dollar cash injection. A new report has found many patients are still waiting longer than recommended for critical surgery while record numbers are presenting to emergency departments. Queensland Health's Public Hospital Performance Report for the 2007 December quarter shows the department has already spent $5.5 million in 2007-08 outsourcing surgery to the private sector in an attempt to clear the backlog.

Health Minister Stephen Robertson yesterday said the report showed the system was performing more surgery, treating more patients and providing more outpatient services than ever before. "Now I am not for a second suggesting all of our problems are fixed," Mr Robertson said. "We still have a lot of work ahead of us to build a first-class health system for Queensland."

However, Coalition Health spokesman John-Paul Langbroek said the Government's $10 billion promise to fix the system was failing. "More Queenslanders are waiting longer for their surgery than ever before. We have never seen the situation this critical."

The report found the percentage of Category one patients who had waited longer than the recommended 30 days for surgery had almost doubled to 13.9 per cent in 12 months. The percentage of Category two patients overdue for surgery was 22.5 per cent while Category three was 29.9 per cent. Overall, 28,579 patients were waiting for elective surgery, slightly more than the number who were waiting a year earlier.

Some of the hospitals with the biggest percentage waiting lists across the elective surgery categories were Princess Alexandra (38.6 per cent), Royal Brisbane and Women's (37.6 per cent) and Mater Adult (34 per cent). The report found a record 842,725 patients were admitted to public hospitals in 2007, a 9.2 per cent increase on 2005.

Mr Robertson said the increasing number of emergency department patients was hurting the system's ability to reduce elective surgery waiting lists. "The same surgeons, the same nurses, the same operating theatres that you use to perform elective surgery are the ones where emergency surgery is performed," he said.

However, Mr Langbroek said the Government constantly had different excuses. "It begs the question about all the extra resources we keep hearing about and what is happening to it?" he said. [Most of it goes on more and more clerks and "administrators"]


Teacher unions balk at any suggestion of teacher merit

All teachers are equal, apparently

NSW schools will now be able to appoint teachers under a State Government shake-up of staffing arrangements, a move which has angered the teachers union. School principals will be able to advertise positions and select their own teachers from the second term in 2010, under changes announced by NSW education minister John Della Bosca. The Department of Education will have to sign off on appointments, but schools need no longer accept the teacher at the top of the department's transfer list.

School principals say the move will give them greater freedom, but the union has threatened industrial action over concerns the plan would leave schools in disadvantaged areas worse off and the transfer system would be dismantled.

Mr Della Bosca said the changes would not affect the number of positions or teacher tenure. "While the department will retain its obligation to ensure every class has a qualified teacher, we are giving principals the option of choosing the right teacher for their school from a larger number of qualified applicants," Mr Della Bosca said in a statement. "More schools will now have the option of either having a teacher centrally allocated or choosing their own through open advertisements." Mr Della Bosca said open advertisements had been used at schools in regional NSW and south-west Sydney, which had attracted large numbers of applicants. "Under the old system, fewer than 3 per cent of vacancies are open to all qualified teachers and a transfer can take many years," he said.

NSW Secondary Principals Council president Jim McAlpine said principals believed they could be more effective leaders if they had the right to select teachers. "Principals for years have been saying they would like a greater say in the staffing of their schools," he told Fairfax.

But NSW Teachers Federation president Maree O'Halloran said the move would benefit some school communities and disadvantage others. "We are taking this extraordinarily seriously," she told The Daily Telegraph. "It will result in unqualified teachers and larger class sizes." Teachers federation senior vice-president Gary Zadkovich also slammed the move, saying the statewide transfer system "provides security of employment ... and also ensures teachers are supplied to schools in western Sydney and country areas where teachers are less likely to want to work".

Mr Della Bosca said the incentive transfer system to attract teachers to remote and difficult to staff schools would continue. He said 50,000 teachers and principals were being briefed on the changes this week.


Total leniency for a disgusting Muslim

Previous report here

A Brisbane judge spared him a criminal conviction so as not to jeopardise his future career, but the would-be doctor who tried to give an 11-year-old boy a penis massage might not be so lucky a second time. State Attorney General Kerry Shine is seeking a jail term for disgraced University of Queensland medical student Shakeel Mirza, who escaped with only 12 months probation over his attempt to molest the boy in February 2006.

A criminal conviction was not formally recorded after his defence lawyers successfully argued that a black mark against his name could prevent Mirza, 27, from getting a government Blue Card - or security clearance - allowing him to treat children in hospital. But at an appeal hearing in Brisbane's Supreme Court today, barrister for the Crown, Michael Copely described Mirza's punishment as "manifestly inadequate", and accused sentencing judge David Searles of "closing his eyes" to other sentencing options. He asked the court to resentence Mirza to 12 months' jail - albeit wholly suspended - and record a criminal conviction. "The offence was serious enough in itself, given the age disparity of the parties and the breach of trust," Mr Copely argued.

The Pakistani-born medical student had been appointed as a mentor to the 11-year-old boy under the Lions Club's "Aunties and Uncles" program when he tried to force his hands down the youngster's pants at the family's Brisbane home.

The court heard he had been rubbing the child's head to relax him when he offered to massage the child's penis instead because "it would feel better". The boy managed to fend off Mirza's advances. It was later suggested Mirza had been inspired to touch the boy after watching the comedy film Spaceballs, which had been playing in the room at the time.

Today, Mirza's defence barrister Brad Farr argued that in some cases, shame was enough to deter people from reoffending, and that a jail sentence - even a wholly suspended one - was not warranted. He also maintained that a criminal conviction would cast a pall over his client's promising future as a doctor. [As indeed it should!] The court has reserved its decision.


Monday, February 04, 2008

Keating the Leftist scumbag

("Scumbag" is a term often used by Keating about others -- another good example of Leftist "projection")

When former dictator Suharto of Indonesia and reformist economist-journalist Paddy McGuinness of Balmain died last week, a prominent Australian referred to one as a liar and a fraud with a corrupt mind that suited "his miserable purpose at the time". The other he referred to as a shy and retiring personal friend who "devoted himself entirely to the development of social conditions".

No matter how bizarre it may appear, it was entirely in character for former prime minister Paul Keating to express such a negative opinion of McGuinness, who had dared to criticise him, and such favourable views of Suharto, a man with the blood of hundreds of thousands of people on his hands and with a well-earned reputation, shared by his acquisitive children, for corruption on a vast scale.

Keating had enjoyed a very close relationship with the dictator, having made many visits to Indonesia (but none to leading regional powers such as India) as prime minister, often accompanied by private sector mates wanting to do business there.

In his fulsome eulogy in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald at the weekend, Keating said he "was honoured to know" Suharto, whom he credited with turning Indonesia into "a model of harmony, cohesion and progress", without managing to make any mention in his couple of thousand words about Indonesia's colonialist oppression in West Papua, conflict in Aceh, environmental destruction for profit or Suharto's use of mass murder to silence discordant notes.

So despite the growing concerns in Australia about Suharto's regime, Keating told parliament that the election of the New Order government had been the most positive factor in the region for many years. He made the incredible statement that "the Indonesian government's response to the Dili killings (in East Timor) had been a credible one" and rather than challenging Indonesia's sovereignty over East Timor, he limited Australia's response to seeking to "assist where we could in measures for the welfare of the people", while doing no more diplomatically than smacking Suharto's hand with a feather by pointing out that "the unhappy situation in East Timor detracts from Indonesia's otherwise impressive achievements". Disgraceful and unacceptable would have been more appropriate words than "unhappy".

The great majority of Australians shed no tears for the dictator who had converted the former Dutch colony into a brutal colonial oppressor, and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd did not attend Suharto's funeral, leaving it to acting Foreign Minister Robert McClelland to represent Australia; Keating represented himself, with his presence at the funeral underlining his government's failure to take a moral stance on the occupation of East Timor: a situation corrected by the Howard administration.

But if the authoritarian Suharto attracted the former prime minister's approbation, Keating's habitual proclivity for abuse was directed at the anti-authoritarian McGuinness, who has been eulogised by a collection of intellects that make Keating (and his more moderately critical old mate from the thuggish NSW Labor Right, Bob Carr) the oddest of odd men out.

In contrast to the (politically astute) pomp and military ceremony of Suharto's funeral, the send-off for Padraic Pearse McGuinness was simple and attracted an impressive gathering of mourners, including former governor-general Bill Hayden, former prime minister John Howard, former Reserve Bank governor Ian Macfarlane, former Treasury secretary John Stone, former ministers and other politicians, ABC and Stock Exchange chairman Maurice Newman, poets Les Murray and Geoffrey Lehmann, film producer Margaret Fink, leading journalists and many readers of Quadrant under Paddy's 10-year editorship. But for all the eulogistic speeches and columns of the last week that have raised Paddy the atheist to near deity, McGuinness would, as his daughter Parnell said, have been even more delighted at having aroused such a "childish" response from Keating.

As former Quadrant editor Peter Coleman said, McGuinness had praised many of Keating's economic policies, particularly as treasurer, but strongly criticised him as prime minister, writing in 1998: "It was when Keating started to think that he knew what he was doing that he made his worst mistakes and listened to the most foolish advice, as witness the mess he made of economic management in his time as prime minister." And, Coleman adds, McGuinness "ridiculed his self-aggrandisement, his vulgarity, his passion for money, wealth and property, turning his back on his Bankstown roots".

Paddy had already expressed his pleasure at joining, back in 1989, the long list of those of us who have received foul-mouthed abuse from Keating and proposed the creation of the Keating Scumbags Society, with Howard (who was addressed as such in parliament) as chairman.

Keating's reputation as a great parliamentary performer depended far more on his vitriol than substance. Generally without being inhibited by parliamentary rules and granted licence by compliant Labor speakers, his contribution to popular discourse was to introduce such descriptions of his opponents as frauds, cheats, pigs, clowns, boxheads, criminal intellects, corporate crooks, hobos, harlots, loopy crims, stupid foul-mouthed grubs, dogs returning to their vomit and piece of criminal garbage, as well as the ever-popular scumbag and sleazebag. Over in the Senate we were "unrepresentative swill"; presumably the House of Reps was representative swill.


Rudd's plan to ease mortgage pain

This sounds very reasonable and very conservative. When did you last hear a Leftist planning a budget SURPLUS? Mostly they pine to spend MORE than they take in, not less

A five-point plan to battle inflation and a "very big" budget surplus will help ease the stress of struggling home-loan borrowers, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says. Hundreds of thousands of Australians are bracing for more mortgage pain as they await a Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) decision tomorrow on official interest rates.

Mr Rudd says the RBA has complete control of interest rates, but the Government is doing the best it can to battle inflation. "I've done that by announcing our five-point plan for dealing with it (inflation) including exercising restraint by producing a very big budget surplus this coming budget,'' Mr Rudd told Fairfax Radio Network. "I believe there is a strong economic case for budget belt-tightening by the national government if we want to do our bit in budget policy to make the job of the Reserve Bank easier over the course of 2008 to keep interest rates as low as possible.'' "Mortgage stress is huge," he said. "I understand fully how acute these problems are.''

Forecasts show a record number of Australians will face difficulty in paying their mortgages this year. An estimated 750,000 homeowners will suffer mortgage stress during 2008, research by JP Morgan and Fujitsu Consulting found. Up to 300,000 of those may default on their home loans and risk having their homes repossessed.

But Mr Rudd would not concede that Australians could expect a very tough budget in May. "I don't want to be excessively dramatic, we're still working our way through it ... but we take our job very seriously in producing a responsible budget.''


More in the never-ending saga of negligence from a government child welfare organization

A bungle that resulted in two women's confidential files ending up in the wrong hands has sparked yet another investigation into DOCS. Private files with names, addresses and phone number as well as medical and psychiatric reports and an entire case history were mixed up and sent to the wrong community services clients. DOCS is already facing a special commission of inquiry following a string of child deaths - and Premier Morris Iemma was recently forced to launch a similar inquiry into the entire health system.

Yesterday the collapse in government services continued, with Mr Iemma apologising to a hospital patient left in her own urine and Health Minister Reba Meagher left to explain a leaked memo that warned of an impending disaster at morgues.

The latest DOCS debacle began when Kylie, a community services client from the North Coast, was sent the case history of another woman. "If they can make a mistake like this, what kind of other mistakes could they be making regarding children?" the young mother, whose own file was also sent to the wrong address, said. "It is a complete breach of privacy. I know absolutely everything about this woman - psychological issues, why her child was removed. And my most intimate details are out there for anyone to read."

Community Services Minister Kevin Greene has ordered embattled DOCS director-general Neil Shepherd to investigate the mix-up. "I am disappointed that sensitive DOCS files have been handled in such a careless manner," he said. A DOCS spokeswoman has "apologised unreservedly" for the error: "It appears as though court documents prepared by the department were accidentally posted to the wrong address."

Mr Iemma was forced to apologise to the family of 82-year-old Elsa Facenda, who found the grandmother soaked in urine and lying on towels. He stopped short of turning the current inquiry into the health system into a royal commission. "Occasionally the system can break down. It doesn't bring the system into disrepute," he said. Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell said it was unacceptable a hospital could run out of basic resources such as incontinence pads.

In another blow for the Government, a leaked memo from Sydney West Area Health Service revealed the state's key morgues were inadequate and predicted a "backlog of cases". A spokeswoman for Ms Meagher said a worldwide shortage of forensic pathologists and the age of the facilities "puts pressure on the service from time to time".


South Australia aims to lure Britons

STOP whingeing, Poms. As the British economy falters, Australia is launching its most aggressive campaign yet to attract a new generation of immigrants from Britain. A recruitment drive by the state government of South Australia starts tomorrow with newspaper advertisements attacking life in Britain, with slogans such as "Sod London house prices" and "Screw working in Staines, hello Adelaide".

Fifty years after 1m Britons were lured down under with the 10 pound assisted-passage scheme, skilled tradespeople and professionals are once again being targeted. This time there will be no cheap flights or tickets for ocean liners but the promise that young people can buy a four-bedroom detached house on the beach with space for a swimming pool and "barbie" for as little as 200,000 pounds. In 2006 more than 200,000 Britons left the country to live abroad, and South Australia wants to snap up another 5,000 a year. Professionals in demand include chefs, butchers, physiotherapists, dentists and dermatologists. There is no upper age limit, but a points system based on job and parental status will in effect bar anyone over 45.

The slogans are the work of Bill Muirhead, a founder partner in the M & C Saatchi advertising firm, who has been appointed agent-general of South Australia. Muirhead, who was born in Adelaide, said: "It might appear we are being rude but a lot of things in Britain aren't good. You don't want to go to hospital in case you die of illness. It's fertile ground. We went for Staines because it sounds nasty too. I don't suppose the mayor of Staines is going to be too happy but it could easily have been Slough or Croydon."

South Australia is four times the size of Britain but has an ageing population of just 1.5m. David Travers, the state's migration expert at Australia House in London, said: "It's not like the old 10 pound-a-pom days but we are very hungry for people as a resource. Australian states don't just compete against each other at cricket. We fight to get skills."

Chris Finch, a landscape gardener from Bracknell, Berkshire, who plans to emigrate to Adelaide with his wife Teenachk in June, said: "We think we can provide our future children with a better life."

Mike Rann, South Australia's premier, who was born in Sidcup, southeast London, and is the architect of the migration scheme,said: "If someone has a vision for what they want to do, it's much easier to do it here than in Britain. I'm the grandson of a dustman." But Andrew Hirst, mayor of Spelthorne, the Surrey borough that includes Staines, said: "It's a great shame the Australians have to pick on Staines. It's an attractive riverside town with a lot more going for it than their weak beer. We have full employment and are close to both London and Windsor."


Sunday, February 03, 2008

Queen 'is OK with republic'

This is not really news. At the time of Australia's referendum on the subject, the Queen herself made it clear that she had no problems with it if Australia became a republic

An Australian republic would have the support of the Queen and her government, with historical ties too strong to allow a political formality to break the bond, the British Government announced yesterday.

The republican movement has seized on attacks on the "Anglocentric and out of touch" Governor-General Michael Jeffery, who during the recent devastating floods in New South Wales and Queensland toured sporting fixtures and talked about crowd etiquette. Some MPs, on both sides of the House, have privately said the action brought into question the relevance of the GG and questioned whether it was time again to have the republican debate.

During the election campaign, the pro-republic Prime Minister Kevin Rudd pledged to organise a referendum by 2010 to again allow Australians to decide whether the Queen - and through her the Governor-General - should be the head of state. The previous referendum was held in 1999. [Apparently we have to keep voting until we get it "right"]

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said any change was up to the Australian people but the relationship between the two nations was "dynamic", whichever course was taken. "It is a choice for Australians," Mr Miliband said. "I think the depth of our link is very, very strong and it's up to Australians to decide how to give these links formal recognition specifically on the issue of the position of the Queen. "Whatever the formal structures, it's very important the informal political, economic and social links are strong and I'm confident they will remain so. "We will work with Australians, the Government and the people in all circumstances and I think the Queen has said herself it was for the people to decide."


Fatally negligent government x-ray service

A Gold Coast breast cancer sufferer who sued Breast-Screen Queensland over botched mammogram readings has died, but her grieving husband has vowed to fight for answers about the bungle. Philippa Naismith was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer in July 2005 - 11 months after being given the all-clear by the state's breast-screening service. The cancer spread to her bones and she died at home on January 18, aged 54, with her husband Paul at her side.

Before she died, Mrs Naismith won a confidential out-of-court settlement from BreastScreen Queensland. Another Gold Coast victim's claim is still being finalised. The settlement followed revelations that Queensland Health had been forced to review 9300 women's mammograms after five radiologists contracted to BreastScreen had failed to detect some cancers.

Mr Naismith said yesterday that he was determined to ensure those responsible were held accountable. "Philippa died an absolutely horrendous death - she was coughing up lung tissue in the end - and I feel very angry," he said. "Presumably, these people are still working in the health system but they are not being made accountable for the lives they are supposed to protect. I'm not saying they gave my wife cancer but I am saying they took away any chance she had."


Do-gooders discover that even kids are not a blank slate!

No mention of genetics below, of course. Most personality traits, including aggressiveness and impulsiveness, are inherited so the chances of your changing them are very slim -- no matter what you do and no matter at what age you do it. But the Left and the do-gooders like to dream on about their ability to change people. That you cannot, the study below shows

PARENT training programs don't reduce reduce behavioural problems in toddlers, an Australian study shows, suggesting they may be a waste of time and money. On average, behavioural problems afflict every seventh child aged four to 17, previously studies have shown.

Aggressive or extremely defiant youngsters are said to have externalised problems, while those of kids who withdraw, or suffer anxiety and depression, are described as internalised. Troubles in childhood often have serious personal, social and economic consequences later in life, experts say. Left untreated, about 50 per cent of preschoolers with behaviour problems develop mental health problems, including depression. Besides the direct cost of treatment, there are social costs as well: unemployment, family stress or violence, drug use and increased crime have all been linked to behavioural difficulties very early in life.

One approach is to deal with the problems as they emerge through counselling, drug treatment, or psychiatry. But this is expensive, and not always effective. Another tack is to try to nip the problems in the bud by discouraging the kind of parenting that can lead to troubled behaviour, such as unduly harsh discipline and unrealistic expectations.

For the study, published in the British Medical Journal, researchers enrolled 300 mothers and their eight-month old tots in the Melbourne area into the training program. Unlike earlier studies, this one looked not just at high risk families, but a representative sampling of parents and children from poor, middle income and wealthier families. The scientists, led by Harriet Hiscock at the Centre for Community Child Health in Parkville, Australia, compared behaviour of the test group over an 18-month period with another set of mothers and kids who did not receive any special counselling.

The results showed very little difference between the two groups. Mothers in the program were somewhat less abusive and acquired more realistic expectations of how quickly their children would progress. But there was no significant difference is the level of behaviour problems in the children, or in the mental health of the mothers. "The outcome at two years are insufficient to support widespread introduction of a very early universal programme to prevent behavioural problems in toddlers,'' the researchers concluded.


Small classes labelled a waste of money

Decades of research finally heeded

AUSTRALIA'S new education tsar has surprisingly come out in support of large classes. Barry McGaw, charged with co-ordinating a new national curriculum, said reducing class sizes was a waste of money and more specialist teachers should be hired to help struggling students instead.

The decorated academic and policy maker argued that slow learners slipped through the cracks just as easily in smaller classes as they did in larger classes. "Teachers unions have pushed for reduced class sizes but I think it's not the most important thing," he said. "It's a waste of money, you don't get the best bang for your buck."

Finland, with the highest literacy rate of 15-year-olds in the world, invested heavily in the early years of education, Mr McGaw said.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd appointed Mr McGaw as chair of the National Curriculum Board this week. The 12-member board will include representatives from all state and territories and public, Catholic and independent schools. Expert consultants will be employed to develop a nation-wide curriculum from kindergarten to Year 12 in English, maths, science and history.

The Howard Government's Australian history curriculum for Years 9 and 10, which was developed before the coalition's defeat in the November election, would also be considered in the new plans.

But Mr McGaw's comments on class sizes have outraged Australian Education Union Victorian branch president Mary Bluett. [They would!] The powerful union boss labelled the remarks as absurd and said smaller classes were the best way to improve academic results and school retention rates. "There's no substitute or alternative to getting class sizes down," Ms Bluett said. She said studies had shown students in smaller classes had stronger friendships and also had more respect for their teachers. [But don't learn any more]


Friday, February 01, 2008

Apology wording tough, says Rudd

I applaud his caution. Seeing that no generation was in fact stolen, he is going to be reluctant to look a fool in the future when the lie about it all crumbles

WORDING the federal Government's apology to the Stolen Generations has been "really tough", Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says. The Prime Minister will deliver the apology in parliament on February 13, more than 10 years after a human rights report recommended the commonwealth say sorry.

Mr Rudd said the Government was "getting there" with the wording of the apology but it had not been easy.

"Next week we will go through a further round (of consultations) and we'll be closer to the content of that apology as we get closer to parliament itself," Mr Rudd told the Fairfax Media Network today.

But Mr Rudd said once the apology was delivered it would be "time to move on", again rejecting calls for compensation. "We will not under any circumstances be establishing any compensation arrangements or compensation fund," he said. "Absolutely blunt on that."


Australian airlines are becoming as disgusting as American ones

I hope that this incident -- "Jetstar" passengers kicked out onto the street -- becomes widely-known among potential customers of the airline concerned:

HUNDREDS of airline passengers stranded after bad weather closed Sydney's airport were kicked to the kerb when officials closed the building late last night. Four domestic Jetstar flights were cancelled and passengers booked on evening services to Melbourne, the Gold Coast and Launceston were caught up in a bureaucratic tangle involving the airline and airport authorities.

A storm which lashed Sydney during the evening peak hours forced the cancellation of a number of flights until early today. As a result, more than 300 stranded Jetstar passengers were turned out of Terminal Two when the airport closed its doors at the curfew time of 11pm.

One woman left stranded said she spent the night curled up in a bus shelter. The passenger, identified only as Stacey, said the airline had a moral responsibility to her and her two friends to look after them. "We were three young females left outside in the rain," Stacey said on ABC radio today. "There's got to be some sort of moral responsibility to look after us, not just kick us out and tell us to fend for ourselves." Stacey, along with 30 other passengers, found refuge in the bus shelter until the airport terminal reopened at 4am. "We spent the night on a bench in a bus shelter by Sydney Airport," she said. "We weren't sure how it was going to pan out but they ended up letting us back into the terminal when it opened at 4 o'clock in the morning.

However, a Sydney Airport statement released this morning confirmed announcements were made to passengers that a 24 hour waiting area, with toilets and amenities, was available in the International Terminal, and some Jetstar passengers went there. The statement also confirmed the T2 closing time was extended to around 1am to accommodate the stranded passengers. "At this time there were approximately 20 Jetstar passengers still in the terminal and no Jetstar staff were in attendance," said the statement. "People were again advised that a 24 hour waiting area was available in the International Terminal and some passengers departed the area in taxis."

Stacey said that as she and her fellow Jetstar passengers waited for flights, Virgin Blue continued to fly its passengers in and out of Sydney. "As the night went on we were hearing Virgin Blue flights leaving and arriving, and yet our flights were still delayed," she said. "The weather cleared up and we were unsure as to why we were still waiting when apparently the airport was closed - yet other airlines were leaving as per normal." She said she'd paying more than her $79 each way tickets next time she flew. "In the future I will pay a little more to get a reliable service," she said.

A Jetstar spokesman said some passengers in need of a hotel room were accommodated but said the airline's policy did not require it to assist passengers inconvenienced by bad weather. "As a condition of carriage for weather-related delays, we're not compelled to find accommodation," Jetstar spokesman Simon Westaway said. Mr Westaway said Jetstar would speak to airport officials today. "We want to know the reasons as to why the terminal was shut - to leave people on the footpath rather than inside the terminal, even if they were in a secure area," he said. "Unfortunately it was out of our hands."

A Sydney Airport spokeswoman said she was not aware of the incident but confirmed the terminal's 11pm curfew. "Generally, every evening, we do close the doors," she said.

Mr Westaway said the stranded passengers resumed their journeys on flights as early as 6am today and he expected all 300 would be on their way by noon.


Another one of Australia's charming Muslims?

The name is a Lebanese one and the behavior is barbaric so he almost certainly is a Muslim

A man [or an ape?] who tried to get a hitman to kill his teenage son's rape victim has lost an appeal against his 14-year sentence. Chaouki Bou-Antoun, 52, was jailed in 2006 for soliciting to murder. Bou-Antoun paid an undercover policeman posing as an assassin $3000 to shoot a 16-year-old girl who had accused his son of raping her. Bou-Antoun acted as a middle man between his son, Khater, and the undercover operative to arrange the $23,000 hit. He made a downpayment and told the officer he wanted the girl raped, shot in the stomach, eye and forehead to maximise the pain before death.

The father of five appealed against his 14-year term, arguing that his role had been overstated by the sentencing judge. But the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal today dismissed his bid, and upheld both the maximum and minimum 10-year terms. "Of course the killing was not in fact carried out, so that there was no involvement in gratuitous cruelty in committing the offence of soliciting to murder," said Justice Michael Grove. "However, it was intended. The criminal enterprise was embarked upon in all seriousness. "In this case,for the reasons given by his Honour (the sentencing judge) concerning the intended barbarism and cruelty, the level (of criminality) must be very high, and the finding that it is a crime above the mid-range of seriousness is unchallengeable." Justices Carolyn Simpson and Graham Barr agreed with Justice Grove's ruling.

Khater Bou-Antoun was also jailed for at least 14 years in 2006 for raping the girl and trying to have her killed. He will be eligible for parole in 2017, with his father eligible for release in 2013.

Source. More background and commentary here

Power bills to double to pay carbon costs

This could get the Rudd governments turfed out!

MAJOR Australian greenhouse gas emitters believe that emissions-trading costs of about $65 a tonne of carbon are inevitable, forcing household electricity bills to rise by almost 100 per cent.

The new director of the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network (AIGN), Mike Hitchens told The Australian business should look to evolving carbon markets in Europe to estimate the future cost of emissions trading. "We all need to understand that linking to other emissions-trading schemes outside of Australia is inevitable, whether done formally or informally," Mr Hitchens said. "That means that it's the world price of permits we need to incorporate into analysis about the impacts on the Australian economy, not simply the implications of setting our own targets. "The price of emissions in Australia will very likely be set in Europe. Australia is a price taker for commodities in all other global markets, and we will be a price taker in this global market as well."

The European Commission has estimated a future price of about $65 per tonne of carbon, with European banks predicting a price of between $60 and $80. The National Generators Forum said a price of more than $40 per tonne would eliminate the need for the Government's 20 per cent Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET), while a price at $80 per tonne would effectively double the price of retail electricity in Australia.

Ross Garnaut, who is heading an independent review of emissions-trading schemes for the Rudd Government, declined to comment yesterday, although he will be addressing the issue of international integration of emissions-trading schemes later this month at a climate change conference in Adelaide.

Treasury has enlisted the assistance of Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Reserve Bank economist Warwick McKibbin in modelling the economic impacts of different carbon prices to guide price-setting when the design of a domestic scheme is finalised later this year. Professor McKibbin said he could not speculate on the potential price of emissions in Australia, but said the risk of being forced to adopt higher world prices for carbon would be addressed if the Rudd Government implemented his own hybrid trading model.

He said his model framed a national emissions-trading scheme more like a currency than a commodity, allowing countries to set and manage their own price for emissions just as currencies trade at different values rather than creating a single world price. "We argue you don't want to trade your permits internationally except in specific circumstances, for the same reason you want to have independent monetary policies," Professor McKibbin said. "It just seems to me better to have a series of national systems that are co-ordinated. You can always map it on to a global trading system by having the same price if you want to."

Earlier this week, Professor Garnaut suggested the Government consider setting a budget for total greenhouse emissions until 2050 and then let the market determine the rate at which it wanted to make cuts. A working group to discuss how the NSW Government's Greenhouse Gas Abatement Scheme would be incorporated into a national regime will meet for the first time in Sydney today.


Private hospital funding growing -- as a response to long public hospital waiting lists

GOVERNMENT spending on private hospitals is growing at more than triple the rate of funding for the public sector, a report has revealed. The Report on Government Services, prepared by a committee of officials from the commonwealth, state and territory governments, found the total amount spent on public hospitals - excluding services such as community health, dental and ambulance services - was $22.5 billion in 2005-06. Public hospitals received a total of $24 billion from government ($22.5 billion) and non-government ($1.5 billion) sources, or 40.8 per cent of recurrent government health funding in 2005-06, down from 43.2 per cent one decade prior.

"This decline reflects the more rapid growth over the decade of government expenditure on private hospitals and medications," the report said. "The average annual growth rate of government real expenditure on private hospitals was 25 per cent between 1995-96 and 2005-06, compared with 9.3 per cent for medications and 7.9 per cent for public hospitals. "Policy measures introduced over the decade that were aimed at restraining growth in government health expenditure included the restriction of Medicare provider numbers, initiatives to encourage the use of generic medication brands, and increases in co-payments for medications."

Nationally, total recurrent and capital health expenditure per person in 2005-06 was $3758. Governments spent $139 million on breast cancer screening in 2005-06 and $4.1 billion on mental health in 2005-06.

The Private Health Insurance Incentive Scheme, which provides a 30 per cent rebate on private health insurance premiums, cost the Federal Government $2.1 billion in 2001-02 and blew out to $3.2 billion in 2005-06. The Federal Government spent $257.8 million in the year ending December 31, 2005, on the Medicare Safety Net, which was introduced in March 2004.

Nationally, it takes 237 days for 90 per cent of people waiting for elective surgery to be admitted to a public hospital, while 4.6 per cent of patients had to wait more than one year, the report shows. For 90 per cent of elective surgery patients in the ACT, the wait is longer than one year at 372 days. The next longest waiting period is in Tasmania, followed by the Northern Territory, NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland.

The Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision examined $120 billion in government expenditure - almost 13 per cent of Australia's gross domestic product. The committee was chaired by Productivity Commission chief, Gary Banks.

One in five aged care patients spent 35 days or more in a public hospital, the report shows. Federal Ageing Minister Justine Elliot said elderly people were stuck in hospitals because the Howard Government allowed the number of aged care beds to dwindle. She said it cost $937 million a year to accommodate 2300 elderly people in hospital when it would only cost $83 million to provide more appropriate aged care services. "If frail people are not receiving appropriate care services, this also means that much needed hospital beds are unavailable to Australians of all ages waiting for surgery or medical treatment," Ms Elliot said.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?