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

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


28 February, 2010

Those wicked ophthalmologists

The political Left worldwide seems to regard everyone but themselves as responsible for high medical costs. The vast load of paperwork that they impose on healthcare providers and drug companies is costless, apparently. And the high incomes of some doctors frequently come under jealous scrutiny.

A high income group in Australia is ophthalmologists. Everyone wants the very best chance of preserving their vision so people are prepared to pay for a high level of care in eye-doctoring. And Australia's Federal Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, was determined to rein those rogue eye-doctors in.

As part of its socialized medicine system, called "Medicare", the Australian government pays a large part of the cost of privately-contracted ophthalmological services, so Ms Roxon thought she had a good weapon to cut those rich eye-doctors down to size: She would halve the amount that her government pays for such services.

The conservatives in the Senate knocked back Ms Roxon's "reforms" however, so she eventually had to accept a compromise deal which cut the government payment by only 12%.

As it happens, all this affects me personally to a minor extent: I will shortly be having a cataract procedure on my right eye from a well established and formidably equipped private ophthalmological practice a short drive from where in live in Brisbane. So my ophthalmologist explained the cost structure to me.

The cost now includes a "facility fee" -- a fee for use of a private operating theatre that is common for most types of private medical procedures. I pay a similar fee when I go to my dermatologist to have skin cancers excised. The ophthalmologist remarked to me that they used not to charge such a fee. They used to absorb it into their general fees. But after Ms Roxon's "reforms", they have instituted such a fee.

So the income of the ophthalmologists remains largely the same. Ms Roxon's attack on them has been futile. What they lost on the swings, they gained on the roundabouts.

But what about the patients? Here's the catch: Facility fees do NOT attract any government refund. So the patient pays more. The government has indeed saved itself a bit of money, but at the expense of the patients, not at the expense of the doctors: A typical "unforeseen" result of Leftist intervention.

More of that brilliant government "planning"

The shortage of aged-care places is government-created. Governments are quick to impose limits and regulations on aged-care providers without heed to the compliance costs -- thus pricing many people out of the system. So patients end up in much more expensive hospital accomodation: More "unforeseen" consequences of Leftist stupidity and hostility

QUEENSLAND hospitals are bleeding $200,000 a day looking after elderly patients, due to a critical lack of aged-care homes around the state. On any given night in public hospitals, there are about 300 patients who should be in an aged care facility. Latest figures obtained by The Sunday Mail show that elderly patients (65 or older) used up almost half of the treatment days in the state's health system last year.

The State Government said aged care patients cost the health budget $85 million each year and, if those beds were available, more than 36,000 extra operations could be performed annually. "Hospitals are not meant to be aged-care facilities," AMA Queensland president Mason Stevenson said. "They are a high-level healthcare facility to treat sick patients and return them to the community. "This is one of the bigger problems requiring attention – we can and should be doing this better."

Aged-care providers are crying poor, saying they can no longer afford to provide high-care beds for the elderly since the previous federal government legislated against charging bonds for the beds. In 2007 Prime Minister Kevin Rudd promised to solve the problem, with 2000 "transition-care beds" for older Australians waiting in hospital for an aged-care place. So far, Queensland has received 129 of those beds – 43 in Townsville.

Queensland Health assessed public hospitals on June 9, 2009. On that night, 336 elderly people were in hospital beds. Of those, 223 – or the equivalent of Rockhampton Hospital, which has 225 beds – were awaiting placement in aged-care facilities. "This means that 4 per cent of hospital beds are being occupied inappropriately, and that is an enormous waste," Dr Stevenson said. "That is one in 25 beds, and at $700 a night, that is expensive. If this was fixed, it could speed up access to acute care and reduce the number of elective surgical patients."

The Queensland Hospital Admitted Patient Data Collection shows that 35 per cent of illnesses in Queensland public and private hospitals in 2008-09 were for those 65 and older. Of the 4,959,173 patient days, 46.5 per cent were for 65-plus patients.

Queensland Health Minister Paul Lucas said aged care was a core responsibility of the Federal Government. The Queensland Government currently operates 5 per cent of the state's homes in regional and remote locations. "I do expect that older people will use the hospital system more, and they have contributed through their taxes to being able to do that," Mr Lucas said. "What I am saying is when they are eligible for a nursing home, they should have a reasonable expectation that a place can be found for them in a place far more suitable."

Aged Care Queensland CEO Anton Kardash said providers were not applying for new licences because the return on their investment was less than 2 per cent. Mr Kardash said providers were losing money as aged care moved more and more into high needs. "It costs $175,000 to build a bed – which is a huge cost impost – and the fact is, those costs were offset by bonds," he said.

The Federal Government said Queensland would receive 382 transition-care places. This year there are 1265 community care places on offer in Queensland. As at June 30, 2009, there were 31,361 operational aged-care places in Queensland.


Coalition draws level with Labor as Abbott bites

But pollster for a Left-leaning newspaper thinks Abbott was just "lucky"!

THE Rudd Government's bungled home insulation program is costing it crucial support among NSW voters, who are turning to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott. An exclusive Sun-Herald/Taverner poll shows Labor is now level-pegging with the Coalition. On a two-party preferred basis, both sides have 50 per cent of the vote - a drop of almost 3 percentage points on Labor's election-winning 52.7 per cent in 2007.

The results come after a horrific run for the government in which it failed to shake off Coalition criticism and growing community concern about the safety of its home insulation scheme.

The poll of 609 NSW voters, conducted on Wednesday and Thursday nights, shows Mr Abbott has succeeded where his predecessors failed. Mr Abbott has shored up his own voter base while convincing swinging, and some Labor, voters to listen to his message.

But Prime Minister Kevin Rudd remains the preferred choice for prime minister - 53 per cent say he is the better man for the top job while 40 per cent favour Mr Abbott. It is a drop in popularity for Mr Rudd. At his best former opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull could convince only 22 per cent of people that he would be the better PM, according to Newspoll.

Pollster Philip Mitchell-Taverner said people were surveyed during an "atypical" period when several issues were rattling Labor. The ALP was also having to cope with a "tenacious" Mr Abbott, Mr Mitchell-Taverner said. "Malcolm Turnbull never had such an opportunity as the Rudd halo stayed so strong for so long and Mr Turnbull was never able to generate any viable negative emotions about the government," Mr Mitchell-Taverner said. "Times dramatically changed in such a short time and the swinging voters noticed. Mr Abbott must consider himself to be very lucky, coming into leadership when he did."

Mr Abbott might be basking in the sunshine of the customary honeymoon period enjoyed by new opposition leaders but Labor strategists believe the figures just reflect the public response to a new leader with an aggressive media presence. The strategists are still banking on a Labor victory later this year. Mr Rudd acknowledged yesterday the insulation program would cost the government in the polls but promised to fix the problems.

Labor still wants to get its emissions trading scheme up, but is prepared to go to an election with a broader message based on soon-to-be-revealed changes to the health system. It will also play its trump card - taking the plaudits for getting Australia through the global financial crisis.

Today's results show a majority of those polled (59 per cent) believe the government's economic stimulus package was justified. The Coalition's message about the size of the debt taken on to finance that stimulus is resonating only with its own supporters - 43 per cent of people think Australia is now in too much debt, while 47 per cent think it is manageable.

The poll also shows both Mr Rudd and Mr Abbott are the most popular choices to lead their parties. Close to half - 49 per cent - of those polled said Mr Rudd was more appealing, compared to 36 per cent who preferred Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Only 15 per cent of people said they would be more likely to vote for Labor if Ms Gillard was leader, while 23 per cent said they would be less likely to vote Labor.

Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey fared better, with 39 per cent of people saying they preferred him to lead the Coalition. But Mr Abbott is still ahead of the field, with 45 per cent of people saying he is the better leader for the Liberal Party.


Warnings about Lebanese Muslim "refugees" ignored -- to Australia's cost

The latest headache for NSW prison authorities is how to safely house the five terrorists convicted this month of plotting bomb attacks in Sydney. With sentences ranging up to 28 years, the challenge will be how to prevent these unrepentant Islamist extremists from radicalising other inmates in Goulburn's supermax high security prison. This week the Premier, Kristina Keneally, told Parliament the men are still a danger, as presumably were their four co-accused who were sentenced earlier. She has reportedly ordered a "deradicalisation program", although clearly the only surefire way is to keep them in isolation.

This reminder of the reality of home-grown terrorism came as the Prime Minister released the government's counter-terrorism white paper this week. As the Herald's Jonathan Pearlman reported, Rudd insisted on highlighting the threat from jihadist and home-grown terrorists in defiance of advice from departmental officials, who had deemed it inflammatory. The timing of the release of the white paper was questionable - in the middle of the insulation furore - but it is still a credit to Rudd that he did not follow advice to sugarcoat the truth about terrorist threats.

Among other things, the white paper states the scale of the threat of home-grown terrorism depends on "the size and make-up of local Muslim populations, including their ethnic and/or migrant origins, their geographical distribution and the success or otherwise of their integration into their host society".

This is something that is rarely discussed. Debate over the make-up of immigration programs has been largely shut down and marginalised as a redneck racist pastime. But we have vivid evidence of the consequences of poorly managed immigration in the disproportionate number of problems that have emerged from some Lebanese families who arrived in 1977 and integrated poorly into south-west Sydney.

The prime minister of the time, Malcolm Fraser, has been out and about lately, accusing the modern Liberal Party of extreme conservative tendencies, while promoting his new book. But he has never adequately explained why he ignored warnings from his immigration department that relaxing normal eligibility standards to accept thousands of Lebanese Muslims escaping the civil war was problematic.

As cabinet documents from 1976 revealed, he was warned that too many of the new arrivals were unskilled, illiterate and "of questionable character", and there was a danger "the conflicts, tensions and divisions within Lebanon will be transferred to Australia". The consequences of poor integration today include social unrest, which culminated in the Cronulla riots and their violent aftermath.

And some of our worst home-grown terrorists have come from that community. They include M, the 44-year-old ringleader of the five men convicted of preparing a terrorist act this month, who cannot be named for legal reasons. He came to south-west Sydney with his family from Lebanon in 1977, along with 11 siblings.

NSW Supreme Court Justice Anthony Whealy said in sentencing M this month: "There is no present indication that [he] will ever renounce the extremist views. [He] has all the hallmarks of an offender whose motivation is not that of financial or other material gain but … from an extremist religious conviction."

Also born in Lebanon was his co-conspirator, Mr K, 36, who migrated to Sydney in 1977 when he was three. Justice Whealy said K had "absolute contempt for the Australian government and its laws [and an] extremist conviction that sharia law should rule, even in this country." Also convicted was his brother, L, 32, born here and likely to represent a danger to the community "even upon his release many years hence".

The court heard the five men had bought laboratory equipment and chemicals that could be used to make bombs: vast quantities of battery acid, acetone, hydrogen peroxide,methylated spirits and sulphuric acid. They shopped at Bunnings for PVC pipe and silver tape.

Whealy said they had on a USB stick "step-by-step" instructions for manufacturing explosives; electronic copies of The Sniper Handbook; and DVDs "glorifying the 9/11 hijackers". There were videos showing the execution of hostages or prisoners by the mujahideen which were "particularly brutal, distressing and graphic".

Justice Whealy also refers to an instructional video found in all but one of the offender's houses. On it, "a masked mujahideen speaks in English with a very obvious Australian accent and says: 'You kill us, so you will be killed. You bomb us, so you will be bombed'. This is an overly simplistic but reasonably accurate summation of the mindset of each of the offenders in this trial."

It's hard to believe in hindsight, now the evidence has been laid out and the men found guilty, but in 2005, when counter-terrorism laws were being amended and the men arrested, there was strident criticism of police and the government. Instead we should have been thanking police and security agencies for protecting us from attack.

But as the white paper says, past successes "should not give us any false confidence that all plots here can be discovered and disrupted". "Australia is a terrorist target," it says. "Public statements by prominent terrorist leaders and other extremist propagandists have singled out Australia for criticism and encouraged attacks against us both before and after September 11, 2001. "There are Australians who are committed to supporting or engaging in violent jihad in Australia and elsewhere. Most of these were born in Australia or have lived here since childhood."

The paper says one of our strengths is our "inclusive multicultural society" and we must all work together to "reject ideologies that promote violence" and work at "reducing disadvantage, addressing real or perceived grievances and encouraging full participation in Australia's social and economic life".

Home-grown terrorism is as much a threat to the vast majority of law-abiding Australian Muslims as anyone else. So efforts to suppress the facts are counterproductive and ultimately lead to distrust and disharmony.


If more Muslims are truly a problem…

By Andrew Bolt

WE didn’t need the Rudd Government to tell us this week that, ahem, our own Muslim community is now a growing terrorist threat. What we needed was to hear what the Government planned to do about it.

And the answers in its new White Paper on counter-terrorism? Virtually zilch. Not even a word on whether it would be wise to cut immigration from Muslim nations, now running at about 28,000 a year. Nor was there anything about ending the mad multiculturalism that rewards most those who integrate least.

Rather the reverse. The Government promised more of the stuff that’s clearly not doing the job - more of that “multiculturalism and respect for cultural diversity to maintain a society that is resilient to the hate-based and divisive narratives that fuel terrorism”.

Hey, guys. If multiculturalism has made us so “resilient to the hate-based and divisive narratives” of jihadism, why does your White Paper admit that “numerous terrorist attacks” have had to be “thwarted” in Australia since 2001, and that we now have 20 people jailed on terrorism charges, 38 people charged after anti-terrorism operations (presumably all, or mostly, Muslims, too) and 40 more denied passports? That’s sure a lot of strife from just 340,000 Australian Muslims, as measured by the last census. We’ve actually got more Buddhists here, but when did you last hear of any plotting to blow us up?

Like I said, the threat from our own home-grown or imported jihadists was already perfectly clear. We could figure that out just from this month’s news that another five Muslims in Sydney had been jailed for plotting terrorism and gathering 12 firearms, 28,000 rounds of ammunition and four boxes of material for high explosives. But even more of a wake-up were the comments from so many leaders of our Muslim community. Uthman Badar, from the Australian arm of the extremist Hizb ut-Tahrir, cried persecution, and claimed poor Muslims were being prosecuted merely for their ideas: “The anti-terror laws were designed to silence Muslims through fear and intimidation.”

Samir Dandan, from the Lebanese Muslim Association, also fed the poor-us-against-them division, saying Muslims believed they were punished harder than the rest of us, while Keysar Trad, of them Islamic Friendship Association, blamed the “anger” of Muslims on our own alleged violence against Islamic countries. Even more worryingly, 10 imams and 20 Muslim “community leaders” met in Lakemba, at Australia’s biggest mosque, to sign a statement demanding police show them proof that the five jailed men had criminal intentions.

Never mind that the police evidence had been enough to convince an Australian jury: “Until we see the real evidence, we believe that the reason for the arrests and convictions is that these young men expressed or hold opinions that contradict Australia’s foreign policy towards majority Muslim countries." Meanwhile, outside the mosque, The Australian reported, “a group of young men pumped their fists in the air and accused ASIO of being dogs”.

This is the scenario, repeated so often over the past decade, that every Australian could see for themselves - of Muslims planning or waging jihad, only to be defended or excused by “community leaders”. And this is the reality that the Government’s White Paper now concedes in the frankest language I’ve heard in public.

“A ... shift apparent since 2004 has been the increase in the terrorist threat from people born or raised in Australia, who have become influenced by the violent jihadist message,” it warns. “A number of Australians are known to subscribe to this message, some of whom might be prepared to engage in violence. Many of these individuals were born in Australia and they come from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds.” And then this warning, so pregnant with implications: “The scale of the problem will continue to depend on factors such as the size and make-up of local Muslim populations, including their ethnic and/or migrant origins, their geographical distribution and the success or otherwise of their integration into their host society.”

Let me decode that. The Government admits the size of this growing terrorism threat depends on the size of our Muslim population. Isn’t that then the debate we must have? Yes, I know most Muslims here, my friends included, are peace-loving Australians, and I do not mean to offend them or expose them to unmerited suspicion. I also admire those Muslims I know who have stood against the extremists. But I do mean to have a frank conversation.

After all, this report also points out terrorism isn’t necessarily related to poverty, and that our wanna-be terrorists are often not the Muslims we accepted as immigrants, but their born-here children. What’s more, they come from a “wide range of ethnic groups”. That means we can’t keep out tomorrow’s terrorists just by bringing in only nice, hard-working Muslims from countries we trust. What of their later children, newly radicalised in mosques, universities or prisons?

Surely one way to minimise the danger, then, is to cut Muslim immigration, or at least freeze it until the jihadist wind blows out. Should we really be bringing in more than 28,000 people a year from Muslim lands such as Pakistan, the Middle East, North Africa, Bangladesh, Somalia, Afghanistan and Indonesia?

But on this issue the Government says nothing. Nor will it discuss dismantling multiculturalism, which at one stage had taxpayers funding the pro-bin Laden Islamic Youth Movement of Australia. But why is multiculturalism sacred, when even this White Paper says one “pathway to violent extremism” is through “identity politics”? After all, multiculturalism subsidises identity politics with your money while making Australia seem too weak or even shameful to deserve the first loyalty of a confused young man.

So what did the Government, badly needing a distraction from its insulation debacle, propose instead? Only easy, uncontroversial tinkering with controls at our borders, rather than anything to deal with the people who’ve got through already. There will be better border checks, for instance, and our spy agencies will help try to stop the flood of boat people unleashed by the Government’s rash softening of our laws.

I don’t mean to single this Government out as unusually weak on the threat within. In some ways the Howard government was even worse. Example? The White Paper warns that a “small number” of Muslims here support foreign terrorist groups that might use Australia as “a suitable or convenient location for an attack on their enemies”. It adds: “This includes groups with a long history of engaging in terrorist acts and a current capability to commit them, such as Lebanese Hizballah’s External Security Organisation.”

So Hezbollah (our spelling) has an active terrorist wing and could strike here? Then why did John Howard as prime minister pick for his Muslim Community Reference Group at least five Muslim leaders who defended Hezbollah, including Sheik Taj el-Din al-Hilali, then the Mufti of Australia, and Sheik Fehmi Naji el-Imam, who succeeded him?

I am not saying these men would ever support Hezbollah terrorist attacks here, but how many of their followers could be trusted to draw the line? Answer: no one knows, but our experts fear. So until we get more reassurance, we’ll need more action than this paper proposes.


Europcar again

Nobody in the know would deal with them. See previous post here (31 January)

My wife and I travelled on Virgin Blue recently for a weekend in Adelaide and we booked a car with Europcar.

When we returned the car at the airport, before our flight, it was given the all-clear during an inspection.

Imagine our surprise to receive a letter from Europcar saying that I had been charged, through my credit card, $435 for damage to the vehicle.

- Ray Lewis


Tony Abbott fears political correctness run riot in school curriculum: "Sorry Day and Anzac Day should not be treated similarly in the national school curriculum, Tony Abbott says. A draft curriculum for English, Maths, Science and History will be released for public consultation tomorrow. Newspaper reports have suggested there will be a strong focus on indigenous issues, with Sorry Day being taught as a community commemoration in the same way as Anzac Day is. The Opposition Leader said he didn't like the idea. "You always worry that there will be political correctness run riot in these things and I hope those reports are wrong," he said on Channel 10. "If that is what we do see, I think a lot of people will be very disappointed."

27 February, 2010

"The skull" sidelined yet again

He's a former rock singer and that's the limit of his talents. It was just expediency that the Labor party accepted him into their parliamentary ranks. He's only a token minister for the environment now. First Penny Wong took up global warming duties and that was just the beginning. Garrett still has some environmental responsibilities, however, so it's a sad day when part of Australia's government is put into the hands of such a dimwit and proven failure: Another destructive decision from the political Left

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd today demoted Peter Garrett as Environment Minister over the housing insulation debacle. Mr Rudd announced in Sydney the establishment of a new stand-alone department of climate change and energy efficiency, which will be headed by Penny Wong. Mr Rudd has appointed Greg Combet as the new Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.

This new department will be given responsibility for winding up the troubled insulation program and the roll-out of the new household renewable energy bonus scheme. Senator Wong will be Minister for Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Water. Mr Garrett will be the Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts.

Mr Rudd said Mr Garrett’s passion lay with the protection of Australia’s natural resources and his reduced range of responsibilities would be more suited to him. Under the changes announced by Mr Rudd, Mr Combet will be given the direct responsibility for the troubled insulation program.

Mr Rudd admitted the department changes were a demotion for Mr Garrett. This move is designed to achieve stronger co-ordination and greater efficiency in the development and delivery of climate change policies and programs, especially in relation to energy efficiency and renewable energy," Mr Rudd said. "There’s absolutely no use sugar-coating the facts; there have been some problems in the implementation of this program, problems that as Prime Minister I have taken responsibility for and problems that I'm therefore responsible for taking action to fix." By creating a single stand-alone department with a minister focused on the roll-out and implementation of energy programs, these arrangements will deliver better compliance management for the future, Mr Rudd said.

The Department of Environment will return to its core business of protecting the Australian environmental interests, he said. Mr Rudd said: "There’s no point sugar-coating this; this does mean a different range and reduced range of responsibilities for minister Garrett. Let us simply acknowledge that fact. The core responsibility of the Department of the Environment should focus on the protection of Australian endangered species and the wider remit of environment protection, and that of course is where the minister’s passions lie as well."

The Prime Minister said that he had had a long conversation earlier this afternoon with "Minister Garrett" and said: "I indicated to him the course of action I’d be taking." Mr Rudd said that Mr Garrett "accepted my decision. I indicated that's the decision I had taken. The minister accepted my decision".


Millions wasted on Greenie schemes

Tens of millions of dollars is being funnelled into the State Government's energy efficiency programs with little or no evidence to prove they are an effective use of taxpayers' money. A report tabled in State Parliament has revealed none of the power-saving schemes were independently evaluated and the outcomes were "difficult to isolate". The bipartisan committee's report also found few of the state's 1.39 million households or 390,000 businesses were participating in the green initiatives, despite generous rebates.

The poor take-up of power-saving schemes comes as Queensland grapples with its status as the most energy intensive state in the country.

The report highlights the "enormous task ahead" to attract households and businesses to power-saving programs It found one in 780, or a fraction of 1 per cent of businesses, were taking part in the ecoBiz program, which encourages eco-efficient practices in the workplace. Just one in five households have signed up for the much touted $60 million Climate Smart Home Service scheme. The program is worth $450 per house, with a $400 government subsidy and includes 15 free energy-saving light bulbs plus water-saving shower heads.

Committee member and Opposition energy spokesman Jeff Seeney said despite costing millions of taxpayer dollars, there was no evidence the Climate Smart Home Service achieved its energy-efficiency goals. "We have grave reservations about the expenditure of such amounts of public money with no attempt to quantify the outcomes achieved," Mr Seeney said.

Other key concerns were that green initiatives were duplicated across government levels and that the large number of programs, guides, rebates and incentives was confusing and unnecessarily complex. There were also questions about a lack of co-ordination across government levels and between agencies.

Energy Minister Stephen Robertson said he would respond to the report's recommendations "in due time".


Casualty department (emergency room) shutdowns in an already overstretched Sydney hospital system

MOST seriously injured accident victims in the city and eastern suburbs will no longer be taken to St Vincent's or Prince of Wales hospitals under a new trauma plan. They will be forced to travel across town to either Royal Prince Alfred in Camperdown or St George Hospital in Kogarah. NSW Health has quietly released its trauma services plan after 10 years of wrangling among doctors. Under the plan, due to start on Monday, all major trauma patients will be diverted from Nepean to Westmead Hospital.

There are concerns about the ability of RPA, St George and Westmead to take on the hundreds of extra patients. RPA is expected to be most seriously affected as it and St George will need to absorb more than 400 extra patients a year.

The NSW chairman of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, Richard Paoloni, said RPA already had the highest level of ambulance arrivals in Sydney and the plan would increase pressure on emergency beds.

The Health Services Union, which represents paramedics, is concerned about increased "trolley block" - where patients are banked up waiting to get into emergency - as well as increased travel times to RPA and Westmead.

Although Nepean will still take trauma patients, the most serious will go directly to Westmead, which will increase the patient load by more than 200 this year. Westmead is already struggling to see its emergency patients on time. The latest performance figures show it is failing to meet benchmarks in three of the five triage categories and has the worst record in the state for admitting patients within eight hours - 63 per cent of patients, well below the benchmark of 80 per cent.

RPA is also failing to see all its emergency patients on time, and is not meeting benchmarks for two of the five triage categories. The Garling inquiry recommended just three adult trauma centres in Sydney.

Richard Matthews, the deputy director-general for strategic development for NSW Health, said the changes would strengthen hospital trauma systems and paramedics would still have the power to exercise their best clinical judgment. "If someone is stabbed seriously on the street outside St Vincent's the ambos will take them into the emergency department there. In the end, they've got the responsibility of making the clinical decision about what's best for the patient," Dr Matthews said. He said the hospitals affected had received extra funding but did not say how much.


Frequent weapons seizures in Queensland government schools

MORE than 80 suspensions for violence with weapons or "objects" are handed out every week in Queensland state schools. As the State Government vowed to crack down on student violence and bullying yesterday, figures obtained by The Courier-Mail highlighted the extent of the problem. The figures, released by the Education Department, show more than 10,000 suspensions were handed out to state school students for "physical misconduct involving an object" over the past three financial years. More than two students were expelled every school week last financial year for the violation, with 89 recorded, up from 65 in 2003 to 2004.

Yesterday, Premier Anna Bligh announced state, Catholic and independent school representatives would form the Queensland Schools Alliance Against Violence, which will make recommendations on the best ways to stamp out the growing problem. It follows a recommendation from Professor Ken Rigby in his report on how the state is dealing with bullying, and the alleged fatal stabbing of 12-year-old Elliott Fletcher in his school's toilets at Shorncliffe last week.

Premier Anna Bligh acknowledged there was an "alarming culture of school violence", with the alliance set to address it. But Opposition deputy leader Lawrence Springborg accused the Government of "more talk and no action", saying it had established a youth violence taskforce in 2006 and claimed to have implemented its recommendations in 2009.

Education figures show there were 2797 short suspensions for "physical misconduct involving an object" in state schools last year, down from a six-year high in 2007 to 2008 when 3064 were recorded. But long suspensions – between six and 20 days – have climbed annually over the past six years in the category, reaching 456 in 2008 to 2009.

Education deputy director-general Lyn McKenzie said the type of objects used in the suspensions could include pencils and sticks, as well as knives. Replica guns have also been wielded by students.

Ms Bligh said while bullying had always existed, the playground no longer ended at the school fence and had been radically changed by technology, including social networking sites. She said the alliance would focus on preventative measures but also look at security and violent incidents in schools, including the use of weapons. The group is expected to meet within the weeks and start delivering recommendations within months.


Immigration Dept is racist, says Australia's most reviled conservative Prime Minister

Given Fraser's shaky attachment to the truth, one should ignore the claims below. He makes a great point of being "anti-racist" -- to the point of sucking up to African dictators. It is sad that he has no other claim on praise, given the many wasted opportunities for constructive reform he had whilst Prime Minister

Former prime minister Malcolm Fraser has blamed the immigration department for some policies such as remote detention centres that he believes may have racist motivations. He argues that white farmers fleeing Robert Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe would not have been held in remote detention centres like more recent asylum seekers have been.

"The whole idea for establishing a detention centre in a remote, harsh place ... that sort of idea came out of the department," Mr Fraser told ABC Television on Tuesday. Asked if there was a racist culture within the department, he replied: "Maybe."

Mr Fraser added the Rudd government was "a little" better than the former coalition government when it came to the treatment of asylum seekers. He also challenged the coalition argument that Labor had lost control of Australia's borders. The former prime minister has given media interviews to promote his book, Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs by Malcolm Fraser and Margaret Simons.


Note that my QANTAS/Jetstar and Queensland Police blogs are still getting frequent updates

26 February, 2010

UN: Aboriginal program violates human rights

It probably does but just about everything else has been tried and there is nothing that a knowall Hispanic lawyer like the Mr Anaya can say that will help. Maybe Mr Anaya should concentrate on Mexico. He might know something about that and there are certainly plenty of human rights abuses there. Anaya has bloviated on this before. See this reply to him. Mr Anaya seems curiously unconcerned about the rights of the abused Aboriginal children. State and Federal governments of all stripes have been trying for decades to solve the problems of Aborigines, using all sorts of "solutions", and this prick thinks he is wiser than all of them after just a two-week visit. Being a Hispanic-American lawyer must give you special wisdom, I guess -- more likely a chip on your shoulder. He works for the same U.N. that constantly maligns Israel while ignoring huge Arab abuses.

I personally think that the latest initiatives will fail like all others before them. Leave Aborigines to their own devices but provide a high level of policing to protect the women and children is what I would recommend. But I have known Aborigines for years, unlike Mr Anaya -- JR

An Australian government program imposing radical restrictions on Aborigines in a crackdown on child abuse is inherently racist, breaches international human rights obligations and must be changed immediately, a U.N. official said Wednesday.

In an advance copy of a report to be released next week, the United Nations special rapporteur on indigenous human rights, James Anaya, expressed serious concerns over the controversial initiative known as "the intervention." The program forced a series of tough rules on Aborigines in the Northern Territory _ including bans on alcohol and hard-core pornography _ in response to an investigation that found rampant child sex abuse in remote indigenous communities.

"The measures specifically target indigenous people and impair certain rights and freedoms," Anaya, a University of Arizona human rights law professor, told The Associated Press. "It does impair self-determination of Aboriginal communities, their ability to make certain choices about how their communities are run."

In August, Anaya traveled to several Aboriginal communities to hear residents' concerns. His conclusions and recommendations released Wednesday are part of a larger report Anaya wrote on Aboriginal issues that will be released next week.

Aborigines make up about 2 percent of Australia's population of 22 million and are the country's poorest, unhealthiest and most disadvantaged minority. Governments have spent billions of dollars on community programs, housing and education reforms over the past few decades, but living conditions for the nation's original inhabitants remain abysmal.

In 2007, a government-commissioned inquiry concluded that child sexual abuse in remote Aboriginal communities had grown to catastrophic levels, though it didn't provide actual numbers. The government quickly suspended its own anti-discrimination law _ the Racial Discrimination Act _ so it could ban alcohol and hard-core pornography in Aboriginal communities and restrict how Aborigines spend their welfare checks. The restrictions do not apply to Australians of other races.

The measures are "incompatible" with Australia's international human rights obligations, including the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Anaya said. Further, he said, there is no proof any of the measures have actually improved the lives of Aborigines. "Have the alcohol restrictions actually reduced consumption? There's no evidence for it," he said.

Anaya will present his report to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva in September. Australia would be given the opportunity to formally respond then.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin's spokeswoman Jessica Walker said in a statement that the government plans to roll out new rules for income management in July that will not discriminate based on race. She also said the government has introduced legislation that would reinstate the Racial Discrimination Act.

In August, Macklin defended the intervention after Anaya criticized the program in an address to reporters. "The most important human right that I feel as a minister I have to confront is the need to protect the rights of the most vulnerable, particularly children, and for them to have a safe and happy life," Macklin said at the time. "These are the rights that I think need to be balanced against other human rights."

Anaya believes there's a way to do both _ by giving Aborigines a say in how they can best be helped.


Your health bureaucrats will protect you (NOT)

What good is a "Medical Board" that doesn't do basic checks? All they had to do was to ask a secretary to make a phone call to the credentialling university but they were too lazy and complacent even to do that. So a fake doctor was found working at a government hospital

POLICE have arrested a man who had allegedly been masquerading as a doctor at a major Territory hospital for about six months. Police were interviewing the man last night. The man had been working as a doctor at Alice Springs Hospital for half a year without holding the appropriate qualifications, the Northern Territory News reports.

He was believed to be a graduate of the University of Adelaide but the facility has confirmed his qualification papers were fake. Senior hospital staff supervising the man were concerned about his performance before raising the alarm to police.

The NT Medical Board suspended the man's registration after the allegations were revealed yesterday.

He received conditional registration to work as intern medical practitioner at Alice Springs in May last year. His qualification documents stated he had completed his university degree in 2008. But the Northern Territory News understands the man attended the course for less than two years and never completed it.

The NT News sent Alice Springs hospital general manager Vicki Taylor several questions to ensure patients had not been put at risk by the man. But Ms Taylor refused to provide any answers. The questions we asked included:

WHAT part of the hospital was the man working in?

WERE any patients put at risk, injured or killed as a result of being treated by the man?

In a short prepared statement, Ms Taylor said: "Because a police investigation is under way the hospital is unable to make further comment at this time pending the outcome of the investigations."

NT Medical Board registrar Jill Huck said the board failed to cross-check the certified copy of his degree. "As far as I know it wasn't cross-checked but it was certified by a justice of peace," she said. "The fraudulent document looked very, very close to an original."

Health Minister Kon Vatskalis has demanded a full explanation from the board and an assurance that similar cases would be avoided.

The allegations come only three months after former Territory doctor John Chibanda was stood down over concerns he was working outside the scope of his credentials at Emerald Hospital in Queensland.


Solar Panels - another Silly Roof Scheme

The Carbon Sense Coalition today called for the immediate suspension of another of Mr Garrett’s silly roof schemes – the Roof Solar Panel Scheme

“This scheme is driven by the Renewable Energy Target Scheme, Renewable Energy Certificates and obligations on power companies to buy the inconsistent dribbles of electricity produced by solar panels on domestic homes.”

The Chairman of Carbon Sense, Mr Viv Forbes, said that like the roof insulation scheme, the Roof Solar Panel Scheme was dangerous, ill planned and a massive waste of community funds.

“There are two aspects of electricity demand. “First is base load demand, which is present 24 hours a day, every day. However, sun power is maximised for only a few hours around noon and fluctuates with the seasons. Thus solar panels cannot replace even one iota of base load generating capacity. Coal, gas, hydro, nuclear or some expensive power storage system must sit there, ready to supply 100% of base load demand every night and on all cloudy days. Any storage facility must be large enough to cope with several consecutive cloudy days.

“The second power consideration is peak load demand, which tends to occur around meal times, night and morning. Solar panels contribute nothing at these times either. “Therefore every dollar spent on roof solar panels duplicates capital already spent on conventional power generation – ie community capital is wasted. And the more panels, the more waste.

“Roof solar panels also induce householders into danger. “Even quite small amounts of dirt, dust, bird droppings, tree leaves or suicidal kites will dramatically reduce the electricity generated by a solar panel. Someone must climb onto the roof to clean the panel. Inevitably, someone will fall off.

“Solar power is not free. Whilst the sunshine is free, it can only be harnessed by the construction, collection, distribution, maintenance and replacement of solar panels and transmission lines, which are not free. Solar power is an expensive option that will always need taxes or hobble-chains on competitors, support from taxpayers or coercion of consumers to survive.

“Surely our parliament cannot be so negligent as to allow rock singers and lawyers to pretend that solar playthings have the reliability, capacity and safety to provide any useful contribution to the future energy needs of our homes, cities, trains, factories, mines and farms?

“If solar panels are so good, consumers will buy them without coercion and subsidies. In reality they are a dangerous waste, so why should other consumers and taxpayers be forced to fund such folly?

“Places like Germany and California have learned to their dismay that massive stimulation of the solar power industry has done three unwelcome things. It has driven up electricity prices, driven away other industries and stimulated the manufacture of solar panels in foreign lands, mainly China. And unless it is propped up by conventional power generation, the inevitable consequence will be network instability and blackouts.

“Solar energy is useful for solar hot water systems, for power in remote locations, for small installations with battery backup and for growing plants. It is not useful for generating electricity for modern power grids.

“The Roof Solar Panel Scheme should be suspended immediately and an independent enquiry made into its engineering and financial feasibility.”


Criminals get it too easy, Victoria's Justice Philip Cummins says

One of the nation's most experienced judges has attacked courts claiming they are being too soft on violent criminals. Victorian Supreme Court Justice Philip Cummins said yesterday the courts had "fallen short on sentence" in cases involving sex offences, violence, and especially domestic violence.

His sentiments were echoed by a veteran magistrate, who this week jailed a seven-time drink driver after lashing out at the leniency shown to him in previous court appearances.

Justice Cummins, 70, in his Supreme Court retirement speech to a packed courtroom of judges and lawyers, said: "I think that sentences imposed should better reflect parliamentary provision and community values." He said he had no doubt every judge respected and was concerned for victims. "(But) with sexual offences, violence, and especially domestic violence, I think courts have fallen short on sentence," he said. "Courts need to give significantly more attribution to personal responsibility and to the consequences of that responsibility," Justice Cummins said. "The even hand of justice requires that victims properly be acknowledged and properly be respected."

Courts had failed to translate respect and concern to action, leaving it to the media, Parliament, and commentators. "It was not the common law or the courts that rid us of the blight of provocation, behind which much domestic and other violence escaped its true consequence," he said.

Justice Cummins has been widely regarded as a champion of victims' rights. Last year, he made a landmark judgment that sex offenders on extended supervision orders should be identified. Yesterday he again called for open justice, saying: "Judges should not sit behind closed doors, hear parties in the absence of each other, or engage in undue pressure."

At Dandenong Magistrates' Court on Tuesday, Rodney Crisp, a magistrate for nearly 25 years, told Michael Sich the public was fed up with drink-drivers being freed on suspended sentences. He jailed Sich, 39, who has six prior drink-driving convictions but has twice been freed on suspended sentences for a year and disqualified him from driving for 10 years. "The community won't tolerate a seven-time drink driver being released. (It) could never stomach it. It would rightly lose all confidence in the system of sentencing," he said. Sich appealed but was denied bail and remanded until his appeal hearing on June 17.


The Leftist love of censorship again

Communications Minister's website removes references to filter

THE minister in charge of the Government's web censorship plan has been caught out censoring his own website. The front page of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's official website displays a list of topics connected to his portfolio, along with links to more information about each one. All the usual topics are there – cyber safety, the national broadband network, broadcasters ABC and SBS, digital television and so on.

All except one. It was revealed today a script within the minister's homepage deliberately removes references to internet filtering from the list. In the function that creates the list, or "tag cloud", there is a condition that if the words "ISP filtering" appear they should be skipped and not displayed. The discovery is unlikely to do any favours for Senator Conroy's web filtering policy, which has been criticised for its secrecy.

According to Google's cache records, the exception has been included on the minister's homepage since at least February 14. A message on the page says it was last updated in October last year.

Melbourne web developer David Johnson told the code was intended to remove references to internet filtering. "The code is a quick fix," said Mr Johnson of creative agency Lemonade. "If the developers of the minister’s site had wanted to do it properly they would have placed the 'ISP filtering' keyword exclusion on the server side where it is inaccessible to the public, instead of the front-end code which can be seen by anyone and understood by people with even a basic knowledge of scripting."


25 February, 2010

Private emergency room opens as an alternative to long waits at government hospitals

Patients who pay $195 can jump the queues at hospital emergency departments when the nation's largest health fund opens its first standalone clinic today. Medibank is guaranteeing patients with minor injuries and illnesses will be treated within one hour at its first Rapid Care Clinic in Brisbane. The fund is confident it will have a Sydney facility operating in June.

The clinics, staffed by specialist emergency doctors, will deal with urgent but non-life-threatening medical conditions such as broken bones, sprain, cuts and minor burns, viruses, headaches, earaches and sore eyes.

Twenty thousand patients a month wait more than the clinically-recommended one hour to be treated in the clogged emergency departments in public hospitals.

Single mother Kylie Endycott, who spent five hours at Sydney's Royal Prince Alfred Hospital yesterday after her one-year-old son Beau had difficulty breathing, said the clinics were a great idea but thought fees could be altered for different family situations.

Almost 170,000 people using a public hospital emergency department leave in frustration every year because of their wait for treatment. Medibank hopes to fill this gap. "Anybody who experienced attending a busy hospital emergency room with a minor injury or sick child, tried to get an appointment with their GP at short notice or out-of hours, will understand the Rapid Care Clinic," Medibank managing director George Savvides said.

The clinics will be open 365 days a year from 8am to 9pm to anyone, although Medibank members pay just $150 for a consultation and face no charge for X-rays, plaster or stitches. The clinics will refer conditions such as chest pain, severe breathing difficulty, acute stomach pain, severe burns, loss of consciousness, head and neck injuries or pregnancy-related conditions to the nearest hospital.

Emergency medicine specialist Dr Peter Herron - who runs the Brisbane clinic, which has been open for a week and a half - has treated seven people including several fractures, a bee sting, a laceration and an earache.

Australian Medical Association president Dr Andrew Pesce said the clinics would help those who could afford them but was disappointed that underfunding of the public hospital system had made them necessary. He is concerned they will lead to further fragmentation of patient care. Those who use these clinics can't claim for their treatment from their health fund or Medicare and must pay the full cost out of their own pocket. The Health Services arm of the fund has run similar clinics for corporate clients for years.


Rogue unions now off the leash and doing a lot of damage

Woodside chief executive Don Voelte has called on the Rudd government to toughen up laws to deal with illegal strikes. He declared the resource giant's timetable for shipping the first gas from its $12 billion Pluto liquefied natural gas project was contingent "on a productive industrial relations environment".

While Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard has repeatedly labelled wildcat strikes by Pluto workers as unacceptable, Mr Voelte said the laws should be changed to ensure employees returned to work sooner once their action was deemed illegal. "It's like a pendulum swung it too far one way with Work Choices. We're concerned maybe we swung it a little too far the other way," he said.

Woodside is a senior member of the Australian Mines and Metals Association, which this week called for legislative changes that would allow for immediate sanctions to be imposed on workers taking unlawful industrial action.

Asked what changes the company would like the government to make to the Fair Work Act, Mr Voelte said: "It's not the issue of collective bargaining. We understand that and we accept that. "When you have an agreement, we expect the unions to follow the law too. It took us eight days to get people back to work in an illegal strike. "The area we'd like to focus on is, `Hey, once it's declared illegal, get back to work'. "It's like a two-year tortuous battle to go through courts to pay fines for being illegal. It should be a bit different."

Mr Voelte said Woodside's target for the first liquefied natural gas exports in early 2011 was contingent on a "productive industrial relations environment" and the company had arranged emergency cargoes from other LNG producers for customers in the event of more strikes.

Ms Gillard, the Workplace Relations Minister, said the government would continue to take a tough position against unlawful industrial action. "Unlawful industrial action is wrong," she told the National Press Club. "People should expect to be punished . . . to feel the full force of the law."

A spokesman for Ms Gillard said last night that throughout the Pluto dispute, Fair Work Australia ordered strikers back to work within 24 hours of illegal industrial action. "Workers chose to ignore those orders, and the Federal Court, just as would have been the case under the previous government's industrial relations system, issued an injunction ordering workers to return to work," he said. "As would have been the case previously, these orders took a number of days to serve on individual workers."

ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence said yesterday Mr Voelte's comments showed that big business "continues to hark back to the days of Work Choices". "The increase in profits reported by Woodside Petroleum exposes the hypocrisy of big mining companies calling for changes to Australia's industrial relations system," he said.

While further industrial action has not been threatened at the Pluto project, unions have refused to rule out further strikes.

Workers, many of whom are being pursued by contractors for $22,000 fines over illegal strikes, said they were furious with the Rudd government's retention of construction watchdog the Australian Building & Construction Commissioner, which they said was being used to attack them. Militant West Australian Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union assistant secretary Joe McDonald, who attended a meeting of 2000 Pluto workers yesterday, said the federal government was deeply unpopular in the Pilbara.

"You wouldn't want to be a Labor Party politician in the northwest right now," he said. "The blokes think they've been betrayed by (Kevin) Rudd, by Gillard and (Resources Minister Martin) Ferguson. "They're seen as absolute traitors, (those) were the words that were used. The ABCC is still running around like thieves in the night."

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union state secretary Steve McCartney said Labor had turned its back on workers who felt vulnerable to court action by the ABCC.


Australian government suffers twin setbacks to carbon scheme

KEVIN Rudd's carbon pollution reduction scheme has been dealt a double blow, with the Senate pushing a vote off until at least May and the scheme's last influential industry supporter declaring it off the agenda.

After calling for the CPRS to be passed last November, Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout said yesterday the fracturing of consensus on climate change policy and the failure of international negotiations meant there was no clear way forward. The AI Group would now consider the opposition's direct action approach as well as other emissions reduction options through a high-level industry leaders group to "identify the best way forward".

Ms Ridout's comments came after the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry this month declared their opposition to implementing an emissions reduction plan ahead of the rest of the world.

Last night, the Coalition was pushing for a new Senate inquiry into the government's scheme after succeeding in delaying the debate until May. Ms Ridout said that, in the longer term, the AI Group continued to see a market-based approach as the best means of delivering "least-cost abatement" but a cap-and-trade system was not included in five principles that would guide the industry leaders group's deliberations. She described the chances of adopting an emissions trading scheme as "remote" in the near term. Ms Ridout said five key principles would guide deliberations:

* That the competitiveness of trade-exposed industries not be eroded;

* That Australia be able to meet its international emissions reduction commitments at least cost;

* That the continuity of energy supply should be assured in the transition to lower-emission energy;

* That research and development of new approaches to emissions reductions and refinement of existing approaches be supported; and

* That compliance costs and regulatory burdens be minimised.

Ms Ridout said that the AI Group had supported the amended CPRS legislation in good faith however the deal had still fallen apart. In trying to find a way forward on carbon reductions, the AI Group was being "realistic" rather than "idealistic".

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said the AI Group supported a market mechanism, as it had the most potential to deliver least-cost abatement. "The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is the only market-based solution being put forward by any party," she said.

Opposition climate action spokesman Greg Hunt said Australia's key business groups were distancing themselves from the Rudd government's ETS, which was looking "increasingly friendless".


Phonics to be enforced as part of literacy teaching throughout Australia

Ideology replaced by what works

ALL states and territories will be forced to follow a set program for teaching reading under the first national English curriculum, which stipulates the letters, sounds and words students must learn in each year of school. The curriculum, obtained by The Australian, dictates what students from kindergarten until the end of Year 9 are expected to know and be able to do in English, history, science and maths.

The English curriculum, to be released for public consultation next week, enshrines the importance of teaching letter-sound combinations, or phonics, giving examples of the sounds and words to be taught from the start of school. Students in their prep year will learn to sound out simple words such as "cat", recognising the initial, middle and end sounds; by Year 1, they will have learned two consonant sounds such as "st", "br" and "gl".

The national curriculum ends the piecemeal approach to what is taught in schools, with state curriculums emphasising different course content and teaching it at different stages of school. The new curriculum is a detailed document that provides specific examples and is longer than many existing state syllabuses, some of which are a couple of pages long for each subject.

The curriculum for the senior years of school, from Years 10 to 12, will be released separately by the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority later this year.

The English curriculum places a strong emphasis on the study of grammar, from learning different classes of words such as verbs and nouns in the early years through to the difference between finite and non-finite clauses in high school. In a speech to the National Press Club yesterday, Education Minister Julia Gillard welcomed the "strong appearance" of grammar in the national curriculum. Announcing its release next Monday, she said the curriculum set out the essential content for each year of learning as well as the achievement standards students should be expected to perform.

"This will not be a curriculum `guide' or a supplement to what states and territories currently teach," she said. "It will be a comprehensive new curriculum, providing a platform for the highest quality teaching."

Ms Gillard also outlined the next phase of Labor's education revolution, including the external assessment of schools and the introduction of student identity numbers to enable parents and schools to track a child's individual progress through school.

After the speech, a spokesman for Ms Gillard said the government would investigate different systems for assessing school performance in coming months, including a form of school inspectors and the method used in Britain, where the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills conducts detailed inspections of schools and publishes its findings. "The government believes that some external inspection or assessment of schools would be an additional way of ensuring that our schools are providing the best possible education for our children." the spokesman said.

Ms Gillard said the government would examine "how every school can get the right support and scrutiny to make sure it is performing well and improving in the areas where it needs to improve".

The idea of external assessment of schools was mooted by the national teachers union for public education, the Australian Education Union, in a charter of school accountability reported by The Australian in December. The AEU proposal advocates a system of regular assessments against a set of standards by a panel of principals, teachers and education experts, and then working with struggling schools to lift performance. AEU federal president Angelo Gavrielatos said yesterday teachers wanted to see the detail of the government's proposal on school assessment before giving their support, although they were still committed to the principle of accountability and external review.

"But the government must consult with teachers," he said. "We're seeing announcement after announcement without consultation and the Rudd government has to realise that it needs to consult with the profession. "Ultimately, we're the ones who implement education policy." Mr Gavrielatos said the union was also not opposed in principle to the idea of student identity numbers and welcomed moves to improve the measure of student progress than that currently used on the My School website.

Tony Abbott said students already had unique identifiers in the form of names, and questioned why their results could not be tracked using their names.


Australia sets spies on people smugglers

Australia is setting its domestic spy agency on people smuggling, handing the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation greater powers and allowing it to operate overseas.

The Government in Canberra is also boosting co-operation with Malaysia - another key link in the people-smuggling chain - improving intelligence-sharing, immigration controls and the interception of smugglers' operations.

The moves emerged yesterday as Attorney-General Robert McClelland introduced new laws that will widen ASIO's brief and introduce tough new penalties, and as Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor met Malaysian counterparts in Sydney. The Government's drive to clamp down on people smuggling has been pushed by a new wave of boats carrying asylum seekers from Indonesia, straining detention facilities on Christmas Island and raising a political storm in Australia.

The Opposition claims the influx has been sparked by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's relaxation of the tough regime imposed by conservative Liberal predecessor John Howard.

But introducing the new laws to Parliament yesterday, McClelland said a global surge in asylum seekers was being driven by conflicts and turmoil in Afghanistan, the Middle East and Sri Lanka. He said the most recent report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimated there were 42 million forcibly displaced people worldwide at the end of 2008, including 15.2 million mandated refugees and 827,000 asylum seekers.

The new laws will enable ASIO to specifically target people smugglers and other serious border threats, and will change the definition of "foreign intelligence" to allow the organisation and other national security agencies to collect people-smuggling intelligence overseas. ASIO is at present not able to directly act against people smuggling and can only use and pass on information it has indirectly obtained as part of its counterterrorism operations. The new legislation will allow it to specifically work against people smugglers, supported by extended interception and surveillance powers and the ability to collect foreign intelligence.

The gathering of foreign intelligence under present laws is restricted to information relating to foreign Governments and political organisations relevant to the defence of Australia or the conduct of the nation's international affairs. "This position no longer adequately reflects the contemporary threats to Australia's national interests," McClelland said. "In an increasingly interconnected global community, activities such as people smuggling are usually undertaken by non-state actors, and [the new law] will enable information about foreign individuals or groups operating without Government support to be collected."

The legislation also introduces a range of new offences, including providing material support for people smuggling, which will carry a maxi-mum penalty of 10 years' jail and/or a fine of A$110,000 ($123,563).


24 February, 2010

Climate wars have given science bad name, say leading Australian academics

And they're right about that. Admitting that crooks have corrupted and slid past the peer review process and denouncing those crooks would be the first step to restoring the good name of science but they are not willing to go that far. In fact, by continuing to dignify fraud with the label of science they increase the damage to real science.

In any case, peer review is a very weak defence against deliberate fraud. The fact that both British and American climate researchers hid their raw data for many years was a smoking gun that alerted skeptics to the fact that fraud was going on but there is no mention of that below.

Also missing below is any mention of any scientific fact. Why? Because there ARE no facts showing man-caused global warming -- merely guesses dressed up as "models"

UNIVERSITY leaders are pressing for a public campaign to restore the intellectual and moral authority of Australian science in the wake of the climate wars. Peter Coaldrake [Best known for curbing freedom of speech at his university], chairman of Universities Australia and vice-chancellor of Queensland University of Technology, told the HES yesterday he was "concerned about the way the climate change debate has flowed", and would address the role of science in the formation of public policy at his National Press Club address next week. "It worries me that this tabloid decimation of science comes at a time when we have a major national issue in terms of the number of people taking science at university,"Professor Coaldrake said.

Margaret Sheil, chief executive of the Australian Research Council, said she was deeply concerned about the backlash generated by emails from the East Anglia Climate Research Unit, the criticisms of Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, head of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, and poor research on the rate of glacial melting in a 2007 UN report on climate change.

Professor Sheil said she feared that these black marks would spread to a "broader negative public perception" of science. "Anecdotally, we now see tabloids and talkback radio, and even some broadsheet newspapers, perpetuating these criticisms and the notion that `scientists just made stuff up'," she told the HES. "These sort of comments reflect a widespread lack of understanding of the nature of scientists and science more generally."

She urged university leaders to do more to explain the rigour of the scientific processes and peer review. "We also need to learn from the medical community to better engage with the community on these issues," she said. "The National Health and Medical Research Council, for example, has community representatives on a whole range of committees [that] build bridges and trust. Much of our collective science communication efforts are focused on engagement with science at the school level rather than the public at large."

Anna-Maria Arabia, executive director of the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies, called yesterday for concerted action by the funders, producers, advocates and consumers of science to "restore confidence in the scientific process and profession". Ms Arabia said scientists welcomed public debate and embraced scepticism. "In fact scientists would welcome a debate on current climate change that challenges the science with science. A scientist never regards peer-reviewed research as being beyond criticism. "But unbalanced debates pitching peer-reviewed science against opinion, anecdotal evidence or the loud voice of cashed-up lobby groups is not healthy.

"There needs to be a circuit-breaker. And the circuit-breaker is a deeper awareness of the importance of science as a discipline that is based on a time-honoured process called peer review. "Peer review allows ideas, scientific views to change, to be corrected. It allows experts to spot mistakes and omissions. Peer review allows scientists to rigorously test their ideas. It is the robust nature of this process that has given people confidence to fly in planes and feed their children nutritious food."

Ian Chubb, vice-chancellor of the Australian National University, said some populists had found it easy to denigrate science because many scientific conclusions in the field of climate change rested on a balance of probability rather than incontestable proof. "What concerns me is when you get people who are purporting to comment on the science and all they're doing is seeking to turn themselves into celebrities." he said. [The chubby one seems to think that ad hominem abuse is scholarly argument] He also scorned critics of the science who were from other disciplines. "The world can't do without science and if we denigrate it and belittle it and besmirch it by inappropriate behaviour we're in trouble," he said.

Professor Coaldrake said he was attempting to broaden the peak body's public role to include issues such as climate, immigration, ageing and open source information. In attempting to "bridge scientific knowledge, research and public policy", he was seeking a bigger public profile for "the thousands of people within our institutions with a contribution to make", he said.


Australian Labor party out on a limb as as ETS fairyland fractures

THE Rudd government stares down the gun barrel of one of the greatest policy and political retreats of the past generation that confounds its election strategy and its policy credibility.

"Cap and trade in America is dead, the idea is completely dead," Chicago-based global economist, David Hale, participant in the Australian American Leadership Dialogue and a long-time personal friend of Kevin Rudd, told The Australian this week. "The Democrats in the coal-burning states have effectively vetoed a cap-and-trade scheme and Republican gains in the mid-term congressional elections will only make it even more improbable. Cap and trade has been totally submerged in America's economic problems and unemployment near 10 per cent."

Hale says the US confronts a dual crisis of economics and governance with climate change relegated to a minority issue. "America seems crippled by the fiscal crisis," he says. "There is no remote sign of a political consensus about where we are going and my fear is that America is becoming ungovernable. The separation of powers in the US system is the real problem. It means we don't really have government policy, the way you do in Australia. We just have outcomes. There is no government control of the legislature to achieve its program. I think we are heading for some dark moments over the next few years."

Australians, unable to comprehend the scale of this sentiment, should refer to the Pew Research Centre report on the US in late January showing global warming rated the lowest priority, the last out of 21 issues, behind even moral decline, immigration, trade and lobbyists.

Only 28 per cent said global warming was a priority for the US compared with the economy, the highest rating, at 83 per cent, followed by jobs at 81 per cent. (While energy rated 49 per cent or the 11th priority in the US, this usually pertains to energy security, not cap-and-trade laws). Describing voter sentiment, the Pew Centre says: "Such a low rating is driven in part by indifference among Republicans: just 11 per cent consider global warming a top priority compared with 43 per cent of Democrats and 25 per cent of independents."

The latest decisive shift in Australian business opinion comes from the Australian Industry Group and its chief executive, Heather Ridout. "I think the political consensus on climate change both domestically and internationally is now fractured," Ridout tells The Australian. "The emissions trading scheme is on life support. Copenhagen fell well short of expectations."

The AI Group national executive meets today and Ridout's comments leave only one conclusion: the responsible path for corporate Australia is to engage with the Rudd government to find an alternative strategy. Frankly, nobody, including the Rudd government, seems cognisant of what this involves. Ridout says: "Importantly, the way forward is not clear. As an organisation we will operate on the principles that we have already outlined. We continue to believe that a market-based approach is essential. Any scheme must take into account the competitiveness of Australian industry and the current international situation only reinforces this argument."

The Rudd government is stranded without any apparent game plan on its most important first-term policy (outside its response to the global financial crisis). It is rare for a national government to face this predicament in its first term. Labor seems unable to abandon its ETS yet unable to champion its ETS; it cannot tolerate the ignominy of policy retreat yet cannot declare it will take its beliefs to a double-dissolution election; it remains pledged to its ETS yet cannot fathom how to make its ETS the law of the land. Such uncertainties are understandable, yet they are dangerously debilitating for any government. In such a rapidly shifting policy and political climate, even fallback positions risk being rendered obsolete. As Ridout says, the way forward is not clear.

In the interim, Labor's response is to launch a furious series of spins, diversions and alternatives. The list is long: it will make health the main election issue; it will be brave enough to seek a double dissolution on the private health insurance rebate; criticism of its $250 million tax break for the television networks was just a Murdoch media conspiracy; and Tony Abbott is off the planet whenever he attacks the government.

Beneath such drum beating is a government whose world view on climate change is in eclipse and whose domestic political assumptions about climate change have been broken.

As a consequence Labor has lowered, dramatically, its ETS policy profile. Its tactic is to deny Abbott's scare by playing down its ETS. Great tactics, but what's the strategy? Where does this lead? Abbott's bite may be diminished, but what happens to Rudd's credibility? For how long does Labor stop talking about the moral challenge of the age? Is the ETS the policy that dare not bear its name?

Ross Garnaut brands the present phase "the waiting game". But "the agony game" better captures Labor's plight. Garnaut calls this "awaiting the international agreement" that "provides a sound basis for international trade in entitlements". But awaiting the global conditions to make an Australian ETS viable looks like a long wait.

In strategic terms Rudd has three options. They come under the brands belief, compromise and retreat.

The belief option is to stand by the ETS and seek its passage via the deadlock provisions of the constitution at a joint sitting after a successful double-dissolution election around August-September, which approximates a full-term parliament. This is strictly for a government that believes in its policy and its powers of persuasion. Such faith is visibly draining away from Rudd Labor.

The compromise option means radical policy surgery to the ETS, such as legislating a two-year fixed carbon price of about $20 a tonne to get the scheme operational, or even a carbon tax. This is one of Garnaut's options. But it presumably requires some deal with the Greens, a fateful political step that would only create a new set of policy and electoral problems for Rudd. The truth is Labor has not recovered from last year's collapse of its parliamentary strategy of joining with the Coalition to implement its policy.

It was Abbott's election as Liberal [Party] leader that ruined Rudd's entire game plan. The retreat option equates to admitting it is too hard to legislate a policy and too dangerous to make the issue an election centrepiece. Yet saying "no, we can't" would constitute a humiliation for Rudd, making it the worst in a series of unpalatable options.


Schools leaving students at the mercy of bullying

QUEENSLAND schools are failing to properly deal with the two worst kinds of bullying and often don't even check how their existing anti-bullying measures are working, the Government's own expert has warned.

Current approaches to tackling bullying inside the education system are unlikely to stem the growing menace of cyber-bullying. They also are unlikely to curb the effects of children deliberately excluding others. The stark warnings are contained in a highly anticipated report by Professor Ken Rigby, commissioned last year by the State Government. The report says cyber-bullying and social exclusion are "now seen as the most damaging of all to the mental health of targeted children".

After a review of the state's schools, Prof Rigby has concluded they are failing to follow up on how well their existing anti-bullying measures are working. "This needs to be remedied before schools can discover, with confidence, what works at their school," his report said.

Prof Rigby also warned the Government that it needed to continually provide the best new advice to its education department. He recommended every school be made to report annually on its anti-bullying tactics and then be encouraged to note them on their website.

One in three children are bullied in class almost daily, according to research released by Education Queensland last year.

The Rigby report, Enhancing Responses to Bullying in Queensland Schools, highlights a lack of education in schools about the range of anti-bullying measures available. It wasn't all bad, however, with Prof Rigby saying he was "much impressed" during his visits to state schools on their "dedication and sheer inventiveness on what was being done to address bullying". "I have worked with schools in every state in Australia, and it is not my impression that Queensland schools are less dedicated or less effective in dealing with bullying than any other state or territory," he said. "However, I do believe that a good deal of useful advice and guidance can and should be provided by the Department of Education and Training and by other educational jurisdictions."

Prof Rigby acknowledged he only visited a small sample of schools, with only staff and stakeholders – not parents or students – interviewed.

Education Minister Geoff Wilson said he would "carefully consider" the recommendations. Mr Wilson said the report was an important step in his commitment to dealing with bullying and behaviour in Queensland schools.


A profile of Tony Abbott, Australia's likely next conservative Prime Minister

IN the red corner stands Kevin Rudd, conservative man of strong religious conviction. In the blue corner stands Tony Abbott, conservative man of strong religious conviction. Standing between them, refereeing, are Australians who consider God to be less relevant than at any time in the history of this nation. Yet it sometimes feels like the state and the church have become one.

"Yeah," says Abbott, "but I don't bring religion into the square the way Rudd did and does. I am Catholic. I've always taken my religion seriously, even though I have struggled many times in vain to live up to its ideals. "I do not regard myself as a Christian politician. I regard myself as a politician who just happens to think religion matters. I would be appalled, absolutely appalled, to think religion drove anyone's politics in a secular democracy like ours." Abbott says his party never has, and never will, have an image of God watermarked on its ballot slips.

Abbott is moving about the country, visiting the troops, both the camouflaged kind and the party faithful, selling the message that while surviving the financial crisis made Rudd look good, the trifecta of low interest rates, high wages and low prices will not last. Doom is not sexy, but Abbott says: "Our job is to get the public to understand that the Rudd Government is making their situation worse." Things can "definitely get worse for Labor" over coming months. "We can win," he says. "It won't be easy. I'm not saying it's likely, but it is possible. "I don't go to the races often enough to be much good when it comes to odds. We are not a 50-50 chance, but we are not a rank outsider either."

Abbott has not had to reinvent himself for the role of leader. It would not be his style to become toned-down Tony and, besides, no one would buy it from a man who comes to the leadership as an already fully formed politician.

He stuck his jaw out yesterday when asked about his sex life, describing sex as one of life's great pleasures. But, he said, there were times when it was difficult to have sex: "Let's face it, it's almost impossible to have when you are on the campaign trail."

He said the inquiry about his sex life, linked to giving things up for Lent, was a very good question. "When I was a schoolboy, my great Jesuit mentor, Father Costello, said it was much better to do something positive in Lent than to give something up," he says. "And he said that we shouldn't have a hair shirt mentality where we were against the good things of life - we should have a heroic mindset where we went out to try to make the most of life."

That might be tricky to reconcile with his recent comments that he would advise his daughters to abstain from sex until marriage and not give away their virginity too lightly.

If it is correct that people find Abbott physically appealing, the question remains whether women in particular like traditional-values Abbott. "Look, I'm not going to get into this issue because that was then and now is now. My position is well known and it hasn't changed," he says. "I just observe that my view, Kevin Rudd's view and (NSW Premier) Kristina Keneally's view are all pretty similar, and yet journalists aren't rushing around interrogating Kevin Rudd and Kristina Keneally about their view."

His point is reasonable. It also reaffirms that today's voters see nuance rather than vast chasms when choosing between Liberal and Labor.

Asked if there was any circumstance where the death penalty should apply, Abbott says there are some crimes so horrific that it maybe the only adequate penalty. "But look, it's not my policy to reintroduce the death penalty. If the matter ever came before the federal Parliament it would be a conscience vote," he says.

Abbott has not changed: his role has. "I think that moving into a leadership position gives the public a licence to rethink their view about you. "I think when someone changes positions, go from one job to another job, even strongly held and entrenched views can change. "The other point I'd make is that I think people who follow politics closely and have an understanding of public life, actually quite appreciate there are some roles which are necessary and valuable but not naturally popular. "The person who fills those roles is often quite respected even if not necessarily widely liked."

Does he like Rudd? "We don't see each other in a context which is conducive to the normal growth of affection," Abbott says. But there was a time, 10 years ago, when they got along. Faith brought them together, on Monday nights, when former Liberal MP Ross Cameron held religious fellowship meetings in his parliamentary office. "In those days, I was impressed by (Rudd's) willingness to participate in something which tended to be dominated by Coalition MPs. "I know on occasion Rudd was given to understand by (Labor) that he was letting the side down by fraternising with the enemy. "And I respected Rudd for that and I found, in those days, much to like in the bloke. I also occasionally thought he was a little bit more in love with the sound of his own voice than he should have been. Nevertheless I did find much to like in him in those days.

"Since then, as I guess both of us have got closer to the pointy end of debate, you tend to be focusing on things that drive out affection. "That's not to say in a different context I couldn't find him pretty likeable."

In 2006, Rudd, then in opposition, published an essay entitled "Faith in Politics". It rankles Abbott to this day. Rudd had named his most admired 20th-century person as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian who was hanged by the Nazis. Rudd talked of the importance of taking belief into office, but making sure God was not hijacked for political purposes. Rudd then attacked John Howard's party for asking people to vote for them because they were Christians with defined views of private sexual morality, and because they chanted the mantra of family values.

"In short, the thing I found obnoxious was the way he was trying to exploit his undoubtedly sincere Christianity as a political marketing tool," Abbott says. "I thought that was a bit of a low thing to do. "He was saying that's what you guys were trying to do, wasn't he? Which I think was complete crap. Absolute complete crap. He was wrong. Absolutely wrong. "He was unable then, and would be unable now, to find any example of a senior Coalition politician saying, 'Vote for me because I'm a Christian'. "No one did, no one would. But Rudd was saying, 'Vote for me because I'm a Christian'.

What he was saying was that the Labor Party was a more Christian party than the Coalition because at the heart of the Gospel, he said, was social justice. "I don't want to get into a new argument with him over that, but I thought at the time it was both self-serving and wrong."

Proof that the campaign is under way is how little spare time Abbott has. The best way to pin him down is to jump on a plane and interview him at 10,000m. Up close he's a good-looking bloke who holds his 53 years well. The long years in government, and now Opposition, have not worn him down. He seems to be chasing minds, rather than hearts. He feels no need to present as a great Aussie bloke who, for instance, just loves his cricket.

For Abbott, sport is personal, a place where he has assessed himself. He boxed for Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar: "Getting into the boxing ring was scary. Um, packing down against Steve Finnane in my second game of first grade rugby was scary." Of knowing fear in recent times, he says: "Getting caught in a big set at Golf Course Reef at Mollymook - it's pretty scary to see a big wall of white water coming towards you, knowing you're going to get hammered and knowing there's probably a couple of equally big walls of white water behind it and you probably aren't going to be able to paddle out quickly enough to avoid it."

Abbott also said he'd had "a couple of hairy moments driving a car", and, as if to prove the point, on Wednesday he almost became a political footnote when his Commonwealth car was almost wiped out by a truck at a highway-side media stop near Geelong. "My life didn't flash before my eyes," he says. "I think the only word that had passed my lips was a short one beginning with F as I saw the truck go past."

Abbott does not fear Rudd. But would he have been better off letting Malcolm Turnbull destroy himself on behalf of the Liberals in this election? Because that's the way things work - isn't it? Australians give leaders a second term? "We didn't give (post-Great Depression Labor prime minister) Jimmy Scullin a second chance, and we only gave Gough Whitlam three years," he says.

If you removed Abbott's budgie smugglers, you'd find "Liberal" branded on his hide. You'd find no such mark on Turnbull when he stepped out of his Calvin Kleins. It was about Turnbull, not the party, and insiders feared he could have destroyed the Liberals. "But he didn't," says Abbott. "Political parties are resilient beasts. The only thing about political parties is they can go through difficult times where people worry about their survival, let alone their success, yet just a few months later everything can be different. "There's a cycle in politics, and when you're at the wrong end of the cycle, things look pretty bad. But there are a few problems that political parties are subject to that can't be cured by victory."

Where are you in that cycle? "Normally, it takes longer than three years for the political cycle to turn. But again that depends very much of the general environment in which governments are operating and the political competence of the government of the day. "I just don't think that the Rudd Government is quite the bunch of political geniuses people thought a few months ago."

On the question of asylum seekers, Abbott has announced a Howard II policy, the only difference being that he won't set up another Nauru or Manus Island to process refugee applicants. He thinks "it ought to be possible to reduce the flow, and if you can reduce the flow, then Christmas Island should be able to cope". He'll do this by reinstating temporary protection visas that will give no guarantee of permanent residency. But he agrees that under Howard, most refugees with TPVs ended up staying - and there's no reason the same wouldn't happen again.

Christmas Island, already close to capacity, will certainly overflow. But won't asylum seekers simply scuttle their boats and demand rescue - as they're already doing? He admits this is so. He will need to find Another Solution.

I ask whether he felt any sense of thrill for Barack Obama in victory. "I felt happy for Obama, because what greater honour could a politician have than becoming president of the United States?" he says. But the real thrill for Abbott was this: "I felt pleased for America, because it would be much harder for America's critics to say there was something fundamentally racist about America. Having said that, if I had been in America I would have been voting for McCain because I reckon he had, on balance, better policies."

Abbott does not believe Rudd should be attacked for being an awkward facsimile of a normal bloke. "I think Rudd's problems are not his personality. I think he's broken a lot of promises and he seems more comfortable with process than with performance. "I mean, he's a great one for setting up committees and claiming that as an achievement of itself. "We've lost count, but early on in the life of the Rudd Government I think we counted up about 150 separate reviews, committees, inquiries and other processes that had been put in place. "A lot of these don't come to anything. That's why people think he's all talk and no action."

He credits Rudd as a "highly intelligent bloke" but says the public can't get a handle on him: "I think the public want to know who the real Kevin Rudd is."

Abbott does seem to know himself. His team does not need to closely media-manage Abbott's mouth - just his time. "Yeah, look, I don't regard myself as God's gift to politics, and I don't regard myself as anything other than a flawed and fallible human being. I think, despite all that, I'm reasonably comfortable in my own skin," he says.


23 February, 2010

Token jail sentence for a violent black

Sounds like "multicultural" bulldust to me. I wonder what the victim thinks of it? Apparently unlawful carnal knowledge ("Statutory rape") is OK if you are black too

A VIOLENT man convicted of a series of horrific assaults on a 15-year-old girl he held prisoner has been freed from jail because he is an Aborigine. The Herald Sun reports the Court of Appeal ruled that participating in a Koori Court, where offenders discuss their crimes with a judge and Aboriginal elders in a room that has been traditionally "smoked", can lead to a lighter sentence.

Court president Justice Chris Maxwell and Justice Peter Buchanan said the 18-month minimum term imposed on Steelie Morgan, 26, was manifestly excessive because he took part in a "sentencing conversation" about his crimes. "His active participation in the process was a factor that mitigated punishment," the court said. "The sentencing conversation is designed to further the reformation of an Aboriginal offender through a unique blending of Aboriginal customary law and the English common law." Morgan has served seven months of the term but the appeal judges said the rest of the sentence should be wholly suspended.

During a 10-week reign of terror Morgan, of Moama, subjected the girl, who was his under-age sexual partner, to a series of attacks, where she was bashed, stabbed, humiliated and held captive. He threatened to kill her, smashed a full plastic water bottle over her head, threw a knife at her, which struck her on the neck, and bit her nose. Morgan made a weapon of a water hose and repeatedly struck her on the legs, threw a heavy tool, cutting her head, and forced her to stay in a bedroom for nearly a month.

Morgan pleaded guilty at La Trobe Koori Court to eight counts of causing injury intentionally, two of assault, one of making a threat to kill and one of false imprisonment.

The offences occurred between December 2007 and March 2008 and each count of intentionally causing injury carries a 10-year maximum term. After he was caught Morgan "sought reconciliation with his indigenous heritage", the court said. Justices Maxwell and Buchanan said Morgan was shamed by admitting his crimes before Aboriginal elders.


Bad likely to get worse for the Labor government

Rudd has now said the he is responsible for the failed insulation scheme so just one more house fire will expose him as the careless steward of the public's money that he is

Peter Garrett's political future, tenuous as it is, has entered a new phase that is even more politically fraught for him and the Rudd government than the past 10 months, which culminated in the collapse of his flawed and dangerously rushed $2.45 billion roofing insulation scheme.

Given that the Environment Minister faced a censure motion in parliament yesterday over a scrapped scheme under which 160,000 homes have been given shoddy ceiling batts, 80,000 homes have been installed with potentially dangerous insulation, 1000 roofs have been electrified, 93 houses have caught fire and four people have died, it may seem hard to believe things could get worse.

But there are almost a quarter of a million households adversely affected by the mishandled scheme, which has put roofing insulation into one million homes, and the government is unable to say whose house is at risk, when the risk will be assessed and when it will be fixed.

These numbers of households in danger are estimates based on samples. The government doesn't know if there are more than 1000 potentially fatal electrified roofs, or fewer, and it certainly doesn't know where they are.

Garrett was unable to offer any reassurances yesterday in answer to repeated questions as to when householders would know if their roofs were electrified, a potential fire hazard or just shoddy, or when any of these errors would be rectified.

Into this vacuum, Coalition environment spokesman Greg Hunt was able to extrapolate, based on the time it's taken to check some roofs, that it could "take 12 years to find and fix, through the 48,000 houses, all of the 1000 potentially deadly roofs". "One thousand deadly electric roofs are potentially out there. One thousand home owners are at risk. It is extraordinary that there is no plan to find and fix the thousand deadly roofs immediately," Hunt said.

Tony Abbott said the minister who made the mess was the last person to be trusted to fix it.

What's more, as the government spends millions to rectify the mess and left Garrett to defend himself, there are no more excuses if there are any more deaths, injuries or house fires. This issue is no longer within the confines of parliament -- it's out in the community. It can get worse, much, much worse.


Australia's State governments to choose immigrants

I wonder how many illiterate Afghans they will choose -- or won't they be given a choice about that? When the Federal government does not choose many of our migrants -- the "asylum seekers" -- giving the States power to choose seems a bit of a joke, if not a total illusion. It should be a good recipe for corruption, though

THE Bligh Government is set to draw up a migration plan for the state that could act as a brake on southeast Queensland's rampant population growth while ensuring regional centres receive a steady supply of skilled workers. Premier Anna Bligh said the plan would allow Queensland to choose which skilled migrants settled in the state.

Under new processing arrangements to be introduced by the Rudd Government, migrants nominated by Queensland would receive priority over applications by independent skilled migrants. "The State Government for the first time will have some influence on the migrant intake," Ms Bligh said. "It will ease some of the pressure off the southeast corner and ensure migrants are taken with the skills the state needs."

She said some significant new industries would emerge over the next five years and be big job drivers. She said over the next 10 years, cities such as Gladstone, Rockhampton and Toowoomba were likely to experience high population growth due to the ongoing resources boom. "The requirement of the LNG industry alone means Queensland will need more skilled labour, and the timing of these projects will be influenced by the access to skilled labour," she said.

Ms Bligh was speaking ahead of tonight's Our Future, Your Say public forum, sponsored by The Courier-Mail, where she will debate issues surrounding population growth with Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman, Sunshine Coast Mayor Bob Abbot and Griffith University urban planning Professor Brendan Gleeson. The Government's southeast Queensland regional plan envisages another 2 million people making the region their home over the next 20 years, sparking concerns about whether the state's infrastructure will be able to cope. Statistics show that net overseas migration is now Queensland's biggest source of population growth, followed by natural increase.

Ms Bligh said that 48 per cent of the state's population growth was due to overseas migration, while 35.5 per cent was due to natural increase and just 16 per cent was due to net interstate migration. "In the last five years, Queensland's net overseas migration has more than doubled while net interstate migration has almost halved," she said.

Ms Bligh said she understood why many people felt the pressure of population growth. "It's putting pressure on our roads, on our health services, on all sorts of areas of our lives," she said. But she said the growth was also a chance to build a vibrant city with more jobs, better productivity and more opportunities for children. "It really is a double-edged sword and the question of when is enough enough is a pretty hard one to answer."

She said state and local governments could introduce a population cap by ceasing to approve housing developments but such a move would have "diabolical" consequences. Housing would become unaffordable for essential workers such as nurses, teachers and police officers, she said.

She said regional Queensland still offered many opportunities to absorb population growth. "The challenge is to spread that population around the state in a more even way so that we don't overload some parts of the state and see the pressures build up to an unsustainable level," she said.


Australian "aid" to Pacific Island countries is a disaster

An army of well-paid advisers keep the Pacific poor

Taxpayers should be extremely concerned that egregiously high salaries are paid to aid-funded advisers, not because they are earning more than the Prime Minister but because the aid is being wasted. Capacity building has not merely failed to get Pacific islands to grow, but is responsible for their lack of development.

Some of these advisers do a reasonable enough job, though many do too little to earn any salaries. Many of the useful ones, for example, in finance departments, are not advisers at all. They manage budgets and expenditures. The islands have thus avoided the inflation and excessive borrowing of previous decades. But countries cannot develop unless their own nationals learn by doing. Nationals may initially make more mistakes than advisers, but only by actually doing a job without someone looking over their shoulder can a cadre of public servants be created. Yet 30 years after independence, key public service posts throughout the islands are held by expatriates. Solomon Islanders welcomed the pacifying functions of the Regional Mission to the Solomons, but they now seethe with resentment because they have no role in their own country. There is also almost no indigenous private sector in the Pacific. Australian expatriates dominate large business and the professions and Chinatowns handle the luxury trade that caters for them. In Fiji, which relied least on expatriates, they are flocking back. They are now Chinese rather than Australians.

Most of the Pacific graduates trained in Australia do not seem to be working in the Pacific. They resent advisers in positions they could fill that are being paid salaries they can earn only by working abroad. They find jobs in international organisations or the Middle East. In Papua New Guinea particularly, stratospheric expatriate salaries are justified by the personal danger arising from the violent crime that has grown steadily despite 30 years of advice.

Progress is inverse to the number of advisers. There are relatively few advisers in Samoa, which pulled itself together in the 1990s to achieve a decade of low but steady growth. Advisers are most numerous in the Solomon Islands and PNG where standards of living for more than 80 per cent of the population remain at bare subsistence level. Women work in the gardens struggling to get some cash crops to the market. Boys and men hang around smoking ganja and drinking beer. There are no jobs. There is no running water or electricity. Women give birth in the bush. Literacy is estimated to be 25 per cent, principally in urban areas. The more enterprising lads drift to towns where there are also no jobs. Crime is the realistic alternative. In Port Moresby and Lae, expatriate triads run gangs of Raskol that manage the breaking-and-entering, gambling, prostitution and illegal immigration. They probably earn more than the Prime Minister of China.

Capacity building runs in tandem with the UN Millennium Development Goals that have been adopted by AusAID. Capitalist development pursued by Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, up to a point even Indonesia, China and India - where there is not an expatriate in sight - has been abandoned. The Millennium Development Goals reject rigorous education, hard work, savings and investment that lead to improvements in living standards, for the socialist objectives of abolishing hunger (which the Pacific has never experienced), postmodern education that has empowered Pacific children but not taught them to read, write or count and minimal health targets that are clearly not going to be achieved. Tragically, a demographic transition to lower population growth is being achieved in PNG by the high death rates of the HIV-AIDS epidemic.

As Peter Bauer saw in the 1950s in Africa, aid supports elites who live comfortable lives while most of their peoples remain in poverty. The Pacific elites send their children to international schools or to boarding schools in Australia. Expatriates support golf and tennis clubs, cafes and restaurants. Locals are encouraged to steal to keep up with these Joneses.

Pacific islands have rich agricultural land and forests, marine resources and minerals. Their beauty is legendary so they are ideal for tourism. The Pacific has received more aid per capita than any other region in the world.

Barnaby Joyce may not be across the development literature but he can smell a rat. Australian aid to the Pacific indeed has been an example of transferring funds from low-income earners in Australia to high-income Pacific elites.


22 February, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is backing John Howard to head up international cricket

Government dental care at work: Desperate senior citizen takes takes pliers to his teeth

WHEN pensioner Baxter O'Brien was told he would have to wait more than a month to see a public health dentist for an aching tooth, he went looking for some pliers. The 75-year-old, from Babinda, south of Cairns, opted to extract the tooth himself, not prepared to go through Christmas and New Year in pain. "It was very, very painful. I couldn't bite on it or chew on it or anything," he said. "I got my bent nose pliers and pulled the tooth out myself. "There was no anaesthetic or anything. How do you describe pain? It was about a nine, I suppose, out of 10."

Mr O'Brien said he took matters into his own hands after being told the public dentist at Innisfail would be unavailable from December 4 to mid-January. "I don't want to make a hero or a brave man out of myself. This is to show how pathetic this bloody health system is," he said.

Figures released by Queensland Health last week revealed that in the last three months of 2009, more than 111,000 people were waiting to see a public dentist. The median wait for a check-up was 712 days and for a toothache so bad it kept you awake at night, such as Mr O'Brien's, it was 31 days.

Australian Dental Association Queensland president Ian Meyers, who resigned as the state's chief dentist late last year, said QH did not have sufficient dentists to meet the huge demand. "You've got about half the Queensland population that's eligible for care in the public sector, which has only about 15 to 20 per cent of the workforce," he said. "Unfortunately, there has been . . . pay inequity over the years and the remuneration that hospital dentists get is not in the same vicinity of the private sector. "There isn't the career path to keep them going."

Dr Meyers said QH had been investigating new models of care designed to reduce public dental waiting lists. "I think the Government is certainly keen and eager. They're ready for reform," he said. But any changes were likely to be delayed in the lead-up to the next federal election, expected later this year. "Obviously, the State Government is not likely to implement a whole lot of new changes just to have them changed again at a national level."

In a report to the Rudd Government seven months ago, the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission called for a $3.6 billion-a-year Denticare Australia scheme that would offer universal access to dental care. Dr Meyers said Denticare was an "option that should be explored".


Rudd's ineffectual dealings with the healthcare issue makes him vulnerable

If VOTERS have cooled on the issue of climate change since the 2007 election, health has, if anything, intensified as one of their big concerns – especially in NSW. Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott are both gearing up to make it a major battleground. This week the Senate will again debate the means test on the private health insurance rebate that was announced in the budget. The opposition is committed to knocking out the measure, worth nearly $2billion over the budget period, for the second time.

This gives the government a double-dissolution trigger on health, something it is anxious to get in place, even though the election won't be until the second half of the year. The revised emissions trading legislation has been given a lower priority so that the means test is dealt with quickly.

Abbott judges that Rudd is vulnerable on hospitals policy. Last weekend the Opposition Leader threw out a morsel of policy to increase the pressure, pledging a Coalition government would impose local boards, including clinicians and people with corporate expertise, on NSW and Queensland hospitals.

Rudd's timetable for advancing hospitals reform has slipped, although he already has an expert report and the government has done about 100 consultations with professionals and community groups (some 20 of them conducted by the Prime Minister himself). Now state elections are complicating things: nothing can be sorted with the states before the Tasmanian and South Australian elections on March 20.

Rudd has said that if the states aren't willing to shape up in a satisfactory reform deal, the Commonwealth would have a vote at the coming election for a federal takeover. But the Prime Minister clearly prefers a compromise. He did campaign in 2007 promising co-operative federalism – a big stoush with recalcitrant states just before the 2010 poll would be a bad look. This probably strengthens the hands of the states, although Rudd also needs to looks as though he is in control of the issue, so the politics is complex and unpredictable.

The Liberals are making hospitals part of a wider narrative about Rudd's failure or tardiness on delivering promises. The challenge for Rudd is to use his hospital announcement, belated though it will be, to get back on the front foot. When he was health minister in the Howard government, Abbott was itching for a national takeover of the hospitals but John Howard would have none of it. Not that Abbott wanted federal bureaucrats running hospitals; he envisaged a contracting-out system. But now he has stepped back from a national takeover – while criticising Rudd for shying away from one.

In NSW, campaigning on hospitals should maximise the extent to which the federal Liberals can reap benefit from the extensive community criticism of the state government's performance on hospitals, and the never-ending stream of horror stories.

In terms of his experience, Abbott should be well placed in the health debate. To have been a minister in an area is helpful; a lot of detail has already been absorbed. (Abbott has the same advantage of experience in workplace relations, which is going to be one of the most challenging of issues for him.) On the other hand, his experience means he also has a past; the government keeps throwing up negatives from his ministerial days.

The rebate is a much simpler issue than the hospitals. The government's argument is that with the ageing population the money is needed for health reform – that between now and 2050, the means test would save $100billion. It only hits high-income earners (singles over $75,000; couples on $150,000 plus) so it is a fair impost. The opposition argues that it will undermine health insurance and so put pressure back on to public hospitals, and Rudd is breaking a promise.

A recent Nielsen survey showed more than four in 10 were in favour of the means test and one-third were against. The opposition is vulnerable on the question of the money. A few weeks ago, on one of his very frank days, opposition finance spokesman Barnaby Joyce suggested the Coalition should keep an open mind on the rebate, given the large dollars involved. But Abbott was having none of that. Apart from anything else, Abbott's default position on issues is to just say no. That way, the battle lines are kept simple.


Desperation places credentialism under attack

Fast-track teachers to get six weeks training. And they certainly need no more than that. I taught High School successfully without one second of teacher training. Requiring a four-year degree is bureaucratic madness. The "new" idea is obviously inspired by the "Teach for America" program, which has been operating since 1990 and does seem to produce better teachers

TEACHERS could take charge of the most challenging classrooms after just six weeks training under a controversial strategy being considered by the Queensland Government. People with professional qualifications will be sent to teach in disadvantaged schools to plug a shortage of specialist teachers under the Teach for Australia program, The Courier-Mail reports.

But unions have slammed the strategy – which aims to attract high-performing professionals and graduates from fields including law, economics, engineering, science, mathematics and English – as disrespectful to teachers and a Band-Aid solution.

Teach for Australia chief executive Melodie Potts said research shows similar models overseas produce more effective teachers. Education Queensland assistant director-general Craig Allen confirmed the program was being considered and talks were being held with Teach for Australia.

The program involves six weeks of intensive training for six days a week at university, with teachers then placed in disadvantaged secondary schools where it is hoped they will inspire children. Their university study continues part-time for two years and includes a mentor and adviser before they graduate with a Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching.

Mr Allen said the department was "exploring the potential of Teach for Australia" to attract and retain "high quality individuals in teaching". The teachers are given a reduced workload to help concentrate on their part-time study.


The arrogance and folly of unchecked good intentions

Good intentions are not enough, says David Burchell, in a meditation inspired by a pipsqueak Green/Left politician who has done a lot of harm -- killing four people and endangering many others

PERHAPS the most beautiful and disturbing meditation ever voiced on the tragic character of modern politics, Politics as a Vocation, was delivered almost a century ago in another world from ours, among the bare whitewashed walls, wide-eyed Byzantine icons, slender Moorish windows and dusty sunbeams of the University of Munich, then consumed in the death-throes of World War I. Pressing on the great sociologist Max Weber's heart as he spoke was an agonised awareness of the great catastrophe already unfolding in Germany: the great tragic ballet in which the far Left and the far Right, locked in their fatal dance of mutual hatred, dragged the entire civilisation of Europe down into the flames.

Attempting to understand why so many people were willing to draw Europe into the abyss for the sake of imagined utopias they didn't seriously believe in, Weber was moved to compare the visionaries of his day to the early followers of Jesus's Sermon on the Mount or Moses' tablets, believers in an absolute ethic that brooks no compromise and focuses only on ultimate ends. To the followers of this creed, "if an action of good intent leads to bad results", the responsibility must lie with the world, or with the stupidity of others.

By contrast, Weber suggested, mature political leaders have to be content with an ethic of responsibility, one that takes into account the "average deficiencies of people" and holds itself responsible for its mistakes.

At our best we may manage to combine both ethics, so that the grand cause and the steps along its way are equally visible to us. Most often, though, the final goal is shrouded in life's moral mist.

Watching Environment Minister Peter Garrett's other-worldly television performances last week amid the dying fall of the government's home insulation program, I found Weber leaping to my mind. Here, after all, is the minister who best lays claim to our contemporary Sermon on the Mount: the preservation of the planet, seen as the overarching political good. Here is a man who incarnates the notion that a good conscience can overcome all political ills; the conviction that "from good only comes good, but from evil only evil follows", in Weber's words.

And yet here, at the same moment, is a man who seems constitutionally incapable of accepting any personal responsibility for one of the great public policy follies of the past decade and who seems, to all appearances, strangely emotionally detached from its human consequences. If there was ever an example of how an unquestioned good heart and political irresponsibility of the most abject kind can travel hand in hand - like two heedless child-lovers out of a Medieval chivalry romance - surely this is it.

It is humbug to suggest - as Garrett continues to suggest - that his scheme has been laid low by the machination of shonky operators or the negligence of half-trained operatives. Patently, there would have been no fly-by-night insulation firms and no army of semi-trained labourers in the first place but for a decision to throw billions of dollars of public money, holus-bolus, towards the creation of a new and for all practical purposes unregulated industry without any apparent concern for the consequences.

Nor is it credible to blame the existing safety standards of state governments when their creators could hardly have imagined the industry would grow 30-fold within a few months.

Curiously, in his interviews Garrett neglected to mention that the proposed replacement scheme will be subject to a rigorous independent assessment. But then, signalling a belated return to good governance might amount to a confession of error. And for our granite-faced modern Moses, that would never do.

By the normal measures of prudent governance it ought to have been obvious that the business of combining our largest ever stimulus package with a vast wish-list of public infrastructure programs and improvised environmental remedies was laden with peril.

As a stimulus package it is probably too large and too lengthy, because of the competing policy demands generated by it and because of the impossibility of cutting off the fiscal tap once so many undertakings have been given. At the same time, as a public infrastructure program it is too improvised, too spontaneous and too nakedly political. To save the planet, fill up schoolyards with new buildings, prime the pump and lock in the electoral support of Ute-Man all at once is a virtuous circle of vertiginous complexity. In the end, it is an invitation to irresponsibility.

Of all the grand literary creations of Old Labor - the romantic, quixotic Labor of the 1970s, with its endless litany of self-justifying mythologies - none is more elegiac or more eye-opening than Graham Freudenberg's classic biography of Gough Whitlam, A Certain Grandeur. Penned in the mordant, sententious tones of Roman imperial historians, it relates the fall of Whitlam as a kind of grand tragedy, replete with heroic but flawed characters and the inscrutable hand of fate.

Writing about the notorious loans affair that finally brought Labor to the abyss, Freudenberg conveys the impression that the disaster had only two causes: the grand but sadly flawed personality of Labor's minerals and energy minister Rex Connor and the diabolical malignity of Labor's enemies. On the question of whether a federal minister ought to secure a personal budget line by borrowing billions on the security of the Reserve Bank through a dubious business intermediary, in the ignorance of most of his colleagues and against the furious opposition of Treasury, Freudenberg is elegantly silent. Indeed, he does not even trouble to tell the reader what the Middle Eastern loans were supposed to be for, let alone whether they were necessary. All that matters was Connor's goal of building a great nation. This is the Sermon on the Mount reduced to a farce.

From this seemingly forgotten low-water mark of Australian public policy, I'd suggest we can infer the following moral. When you abandon the ethic of responsibility for a troubling and unstable combination of high moral rectitude and low political cunning, you expose yourself to the dizzying prospect of the abyss. And once you begin to fall, there are no handholds.

At present - in parts of its infrastructure planning, several of its environmental programs, much of its pseudo-support for hybrid automobiles and more or less the entirety of the National Broadband Network - contemporary federal Labor is tiptoeing close to the edge. It's time to step back again on to economic terra firma.


21 February, 2010

Leftist Australian Prime Minister silences critic

A typical Leftist "modus operandi". Stalin would understand

It was the night a young Lion roared but was seemingly silenced by the might of the public relations machine. A 19-year-old Lions service club volunteer who suggested the PM was "too stingy to buy a $2 scratchie ticket", was gagged within two hours of The Sunday Mail attempts to investigate her claims.

It all began with an email from the teenage fundraiser who was selling $2 footy doubles in the corporate dining area of last weekend's Indigenous All Stars game at Skilled Stadium. "We were going around the tables in the function room with most people buying tickets gladly to support the Lions Club," she said. "I then approached the table where the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, was sitting. Not only was he too stingy to buy a ticket, he wouldn't even look me in the eye and completely ignored me. His was the only table that didn't buy any tickets. I am upset that he would treat a volunteer this way and was disinterested in supporting the Lions club."

Two hours later, after the intervention of the PM's office, the NRL PR machine and the Lions club, the teen changed her mind, saying she'd been reprimanded for speaking out.

In public office, Mr Rudd and his fellow politicians constantly get fundraiser requests to buy tickets in raffles, lotteries and auctions.

In response to this email, The Sunday Mail contacted the volunteer, conducted an interview and, satisfied she was genuine, contacted the Prime Minister's press secretary Fiona Sugden for comment. One hour later it came with one line amounting to Mr Rudd fully supporting the Lions club. Then, 20 minutes later, the NRL's director of media and communications, John Brady, rang The Sunday Mail, wanting to know where it was going. "How can you believe this girl? Why would the PM ignore her? This is just muckraking," he said. Mr Brady then provided contact details for a Lions club representative who would confirm the story was rubbish.

When contacted, Lions spokesman John Clarke said nobody in his group would have made such a statement. An hour later, the volunteer changed her mind, sending a second email that retracted her earlier comments. She said: "I've been reprimanded by the Lions club for speaking on their behalf without authorisation. The Lions club is apolitical and must be seen that way. "I'm sure that you are aware that the Lions club works hard for the benefit of all in the community and that the fundraiser at the Titans game is a significant event for the club. I am not available for further comment."


There is little that is black and white in attacks on Indians

An amusing article below. It is an academic's long-winded way of saying that the attacks on Indian students in Australia are the work of other immigrants, mostly blacks. Up until about 2007, that was from time to time admitted in the media but you are no longer allowed to say that openly.

The writer's "solution" is risible however. It amounts to saying that when you solve all the other problems of the world the attacks on Indians will cease. Sending badly behaved immigrants back to their countries of origin would, by contrast, work like a charm. There is ample provision for that in Australian law but it it is only done so far with immigrants of British origin -- which is clearly racist

One of the problems with the debate about violence towards Indian students in Melbourne is that the analysis has focused on the victims and their nationality. It is hardly possible to make claims of racism or otherwise in these attacks without knowing something of the offenders. Who are they, and can they be understood solely in terms of their own nationalities (which is basic to the racist claim)?

Are those who argue that the attacks are racially motivated assuming that the attackers are all of Anglo descent? If they were of Middle Eastern or African or South Asian heritage, would that make it different? Are all instances of inter-cultural violence racist?

The treatment of race in this discussion has been simplistic. One-third of Melbourne's population was born overseas. Relative to Australia's indigenous people, every non-Aboriginal here has a recent heritage from elsewhere. Most of us are hybrids of one sort or another, meaning that the concept of race is complex. The answer to the question "where are you from?" from someone who looks Asian is as likely to be "Prahran" as "Thailand".

It is partly because of this, according to Victoria Police, and partly because of concerns about racial stereotyping, that the racial backgrounds of the perpetrators and victims of crime are no longer routinely recorded in Victoria. The fact is, we don't know the race of people involved in the vast majority of crimes in Melbourne, let alone whether they are racially motivated. We do have a sense that many robberies of international students go unreported and that the geographic distribution of these crimes is skewed, so the vexed discussion of proportionate and disproportionate incidences is being held in a vacuum.

There is anecdotal evidence that racial abuse has occurred in some of the attacks on Indian people. I expect that Lebanese victims of similar crimes also suffer racial abuse. Women and openly gay victims likely experience a different choice of words. What connects these crimes, I am prepared to hazard, is a word that has not yet been mentioned: class, of both offenders and victims.

It is undoubtedly true that there are racist, misogynist and homophobic people looking for anyone "different" to beat up – there are testosterone-fuelled Neanderthals in every era and society. But, in the absence of good data, we can also assume that there is a large number of alienated young people, brought up in a culture of virulent individualism, with its relentless demand for wealth, fame and beauty, who have come to realise that their reality is devastatingly at odds with their expectations. Poverty combined with a sense of thwarted entitlement is a bad mix.

We can assume too that some of the attacks are drug-inspired and that a laptop translates directly into a foil of heroin. The offenders in these instances may well be doing their own form of racial stereotyping but not necessarily out of hatred for the presumed race of their victim.

As is so often the case, the victims of these crimes of poverty and marginalisation are themselves poor and marginalised. The international education market has become more essential to Australia and the global value and accessibility of an English-language education has increased. So Melbourne is seeing more, less advantaged students living in the most disadvantaged suburbs where the housing is cheapest, having to work poorly-paid night jobs to survive. If it were ever true to assume that international students are wealthy, it is no longer the case. Their marginal status and class in the Australian context makes them vulnerable by these facts alone.

What can be done? The old policy response of law and order — ever wheeled out by politicians at a loss — is a demonstrated failure. Nowhere in the world has extra policing and heavier sentencing prevented crimes of poverty. Even where hugely expensive "zero tolerance" policies are applied, such as in New York, crimes of poverty still occur while the prisons overflow with young, poor, predominantly black men whose continued alienation is assured.

A more effective response would be to try to reduce class inequality. Providing decent, affordable housing and equal educational opportunities would be a start.

But important socialising environments — where people learn about themselves and others and develop the skills to deal with the things life can throw up — go beyond housing and school. The places where young people learn to interact positively and meaningfully with others are the small places of community centres, local clubs, theatre groups and — dare I say it — live music venues.

It is in these small social environments that people form friendships based on shared interests, and become realistic about their hopes and expectations. In places such as these they also meet people from different cultures, and women and gay people. These interactions sow the seeds for empathy and appreciation of difference.

Any serious policy response to street violence needs to start with a good, hard look at the city, from the macro, contextual view of the distributions of wealth, locations and types of housing and jobs, and funding of and access to education, to the micro issues of the social opportunities and facilities offered to young people. Into all these analyses then come the complexities of racial and class differentiation.

Simple solutions to urban problems are invariably wrong. In this anything but simple matter, the categorical claims for or against "Australia as a racist society" are neither meaningful nor helpful.


Irrational Medicare system delivers inverse health care

By Dr Jeremy Sammut

(Australians already have a "public option" for all, which they call "Medicare". It delivers cheap visits to private doctors but third-rate hospital care)

This week, two health stories from different states point to some fundamental problems with Medicare.

In Victoria, The Age has reported on a convicted conman investigated twice in recent years for suspected Medicare fraud who continues to bill the system for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph has alleged that the Federal MP for the NSW Central Coast seat of Robertson, Belinda Neal, offered (though she strongly denies it) to have a local Labor Party branch member moved up the waiting list for hip-replacement surgery in return for supporting Neal in a bitter pre-selection contest.

The extent to which Medicare may be being ripped off is unknown. Incredibly, healthcare providers are not obliged to hand over their billing records to investigators, and one in five who are audited refuse to do so.

The federal government spends about $14 billion a year on bulk-billed general practice and other allied health services, or about half the amount state and federal governments spend on Australia’s 750 public hospitals.

Expenditure on this part of the Medicare program (which all governments treat as a political sacred cow) is uncapped and demand-driven. Unquantifiable amounts of health dollars are being wasted due to not only fraud but also overuse of bulk-billed services consumed without upfront charges and co-payments.

By contrast, public hospital budgets are capped and this part of the system is supply-driven. Budget limits determine services levels, and public hospital care is rationed not only by elective waiting lists but also by emergency patients waiting for hours, sometimes days, before a free hospital bed is found.

Australia’s ‘free and universal’ public health system is therefore well-described as an irrational ‘inverse insurance system.’ The worried well can see the doctor for ‘free’ an unlimited number of times although their health needs are mostly minor, leaving taxpayers to pick up the ever-increasing bill. But when medical problems are most serious, an ‘inverse care law’ applies, and patients are forced to queue to receive hospital treatment.

The diminishing numbers of true believers who think Medicare the unblemished jewel in the crown of Australian social democracy are truly deluded. Medicare is not free, let alone universal, and beyond the cost to taxpayers, the highest price is being paid by the truly sick who are routinely denied timely access to essential hospital care.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated February 19. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

Now bananas and mangoes are bad for you!

EATING too many bananas and mangoes can make you gain weight rather than lose it, a weight loss expert has warned. Queensland Health recommends adults eat at least two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables a day, to help prevent heart disease and other health conditions.

But Dr Leon Massage, who operates a private weight loss clinic in Melbourne, has warned not all fruits are good for weight loss, particularly bananas and mangoes, The Cairns Post reports. "The tropical fruits tend to be more high in glycaemic index and more high in their calorie content," Dr Massage said. "So they are healthy, but you have to eat them in moderation."

Dr Massage, who was in Cairns this week to present a workshop on weight loss and nutrition, said dieters often made the mistake of eating larger amounts of fruit than necessary. "People often make the mistake in having large volumes of fruit, which can be a problem on their own," he said.

Cairns Base Hospital dietician Simone Conchin said it was nutritionally important to regularly eat different types of fruit and vegies. But she said people need to stick to eating two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables and make sure they exercise.


Desperate call for high school teachers in NSW

Not exactly surprising. Teaching was once seen as a noble profession. With today's chaotic schools, sensible people avoid a teaching career

MORE than 1840 high school classes are waiting for permanent teachers. The Education Department is also yet to fill hundreds of vacant positions. According to The Daily Telegraph, 421 teaching jobs are vacant in NSW, including 288 regular teachers and 133 head teachers.

Maths was one of the subjects hit hardest by the lack of head teachers, with 11 Sydney high schools and eight regional schools awaiting senior staff.

Based on the formula that every teacher takes an average of five classes of 25 students and head teachers take at least three classes, more than 50,000 students would be waiting for permanent teachers to replace casuals until the vacancies are filled.

A spokesman for the department said it took an average "five to six weeks" to fill teaching positions, meaning the wait to employ 421 teachers added up to more than 70,000 teaching hours.

Education Minister Verity Firth was clueless on the number of high school teacher vacancies. At a press conference that Ms Firth called on school security, she was asked whether schools would be safer if the state's 421 teacher vacancies were filled to improve supervision. "I'm not aware of that statistic which you are quoting," Ms Firth said. When told the figures were provided by her own department yesterday morning she said: "I need more information on what these vacancies are." The Daily Telegraph can tell her the figure includes 288 teacher vacancies in the secondary system.

After it was revealed this week that HSC students were forced to teach themselves via the internet in the absence of a qualified Year 12 maths teacher, the department revealed there were 52 vacancies for the subject. Apart from Davidson High School, there were 10 other Sydney high schools without head maths teachers including Bankstown Girls, Killarney Heights, Nepean, Parramatta, Punchbowl Boys, Quakers Hill, Rooty Hill, Ryde Secondary College, Sarah Redfern and Seven Hills. The list of regional schools included Boorowa Central, Broken Hill, Callaghan College at Wallsend, Coffs Harbour Senior College and Murwillumbah.

Opposition education spokesman Adrian Piccoli said the system of employing teachers was in urgent need of an overhaul. "It reinforces just how out of touch the Government is with priorities in education," he said.


20 February, 2010

Rudd set to shaft Australia's farmers

"We'll take Japan to court", says PM. This will have a major adverse impact in Japan. It will be seen as a loss of face. Japanese consumers are highly likely to stop buying farm products of Australian origin. Rudd should butt out of something that is none of his business. Once Australia is seen as a hostile nation by Japanese consumers, there will be no rebuilding of Australia's farm-products trade for a very long time. Japanese tourists are also important for Australian business and that could come to a grinding halt too

KEVIN Rudd has vowed to take Japan to the International Court of Justice if it doesn't agree by November to stop Antarctic whaling, but a behind-closed-doors deal could blow a big hole in his case before then. A proposed compromise in the International Whaling Commission that allowed Japan to continue so-called scientific whaling, on a more restricted basis, could wreck Australia's claim that the practice is illegal under international law.

The Prime Minister yesterday demanded Japan reduce its Antarctic research quota to zero, from this summer's maximum 985 whales. "If we don't get that as a diplomatic agreement, let me tell you, we'll be going to the International Court of Justice," Mr Rudd said. "Secondly, if we don't reach a landing point with the Japanese diplomatically, that action will occur well before the commencement of the next whaling season, which is this November, OK?"

The ICJ president until 2012 is Hisashi Owada, a former head of Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and father of Crown Princess Masako, wife of the heir to the Japanese throne.

Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, who meets Mr Rudd in Sydney today, said last night he wanted to know exactly what yesterday's comments meant. "I would like to ask him directly what his real intention was from his comment," Mr Okada said. "However, I understand he addressed that comment with discretion, making the precondition `if we don't get that as (diplomatic) discussion', so I do not see a big difference."

Liberal environment spokesman Greg Hunt criticised the ultimatum for postponing beyond the federal election a promise Mr Rudd first made as opposition leader in 2007: "He made the promise; he hasn't kept it." However, the new pledge is more categorical than Mr Rudd's recent assurances the government would act unless there was diplomatic "progress" before the IWC's June annual meeting. Mr Rudd has been heavily criticised by voters over the unmet promise, and was again yesterday on the Seven Network's Sunrise program before making his surprise commitment.

The Japanese fleet is expected to continue hunting for another three weeks in Antarctic waters, a large area Australia claims as an exclusive economic zone.

Following a series of hazardous clashes with a Sea Shepherd Conservation Society vessel, activist Peter Bethune leapt on to a Japanese vessel on Monday and is being taken to Tokyo for possible criminal charges.

Meanwhile, a "support group" of a dozen nations, including Australia and Japan, is trying to negotiate a compromise on the question that threatens the IWC's existence. The group is rumoured to be working privately on a deal limiting, but not halting, Antarctic scientific whaling and allowing commercial whaling in Japanese waters. Environmentalists and lawyers fear IWC acceptance of any scientific whaling as legitimate would be fatal for an international action based on illegality. The group's chairman is expected to report progress on Monday.

Environmental groups will ask Environment Minister Peter Garrett on Tuesday for an assurance Australia won't support any IWC compromise.


Crazy unfair dismissal laws are back with a roar

Unsafe worker can't be fired

THE nation's industrial umpire has ruled that a long-term employee who was legitimately sacked for repeated safety breaches must be reinstated and paid compensation because of his poor education and poor job prospects. In the latest ruling to concern business, Fair Work Australia found the worker had engaged in "relatively serious misconduct", but ruled the sacking harsh due to his length of service and the fact he was a poorly educated middle-aged family man, The Australian reported.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the ruling sent the wrong message, and "really exposes employers to double jeopardy". "Here we have an employee repeatedly failing to observe health safety obligations, a valid reason for dismissal found to have existed, but the company still found to have acted unlawfully," said the chamber's workplace policy director, David Gregory. "It makes it very difficult for employers to try and work their way through this maze of what seem to be competing obligations contained in different pieces of legislation.

During a shutdown at Norske Skog Paper Mills in Albury last September, Paul Quinlivan and a colleague were cleaning out a tank that captured staples from recycled pulp, when he repeatedly removed his safety glasses and was told four times by a manager to put them back on.

The tribunal accepted that his repeated failure to wear the safety glasses and his disdainful and abusive response to management amounted to serious misconduct. But the tribunal said the sacking was a "disaster" for Mr Quinlivan, taking into account that he had worked at the mill for 20 years, was married with two daughters, aged nine and 11, and had a mortgage of about $70,000.

"If the applicant had substantially lesser service; had not been a middle-aged man with very poor employment prospects for whom the dismissal has such serious personal and economic consequences; or if it had been brought home to him at any time on 2 September, 2009, that a further breach would have serious consequences, I would not have concluded that the dismissal was harsh," vice-president Michael Lawler found. He said Mr Quinlivan should have been warned rather than sacked. He ordered his reinstatement and that he be paid $16,000.


English teachers who don't know grammar

Grammar guide an 'education disaster'. The errors do seem to be bizarre. The author obviously knew nothing about grammar but just made it up as she went along. There is no logic or system in what she wrote -- JR

One of the world's most respected authorities on grammar has written to every school principal in Queensland, warning them of an error-strewn grammar guide distributed by the state's English Teachers Association. University of Queensland emeritus professor Rodney Huddleston says he was forced to write to schools directly because the English Teachers Association of Queensland refused to acknowledge or correct the 65 errors he had identified in its teaching guide on grammar, printed as a series of eight articles in its magazine.

In the letter, Professor Huddleston says the guide, called Grammar at the Coalface, "contains an exceptionally large number of errors -- over 60 in 15 1/2 pages of relevant text -- many of them very serious and basic, and including major misrepresentations of functional grammar". "It would be an educational disaster if teachers were to base their classes systematically and comprehensively on the Coalface Grammar," he says. "If students gave Coalface answers in tests and examinations, they would be marked wrong and generally regarded as lacking basic knowledge of grammar. "It is incontestable that it contains a great many errors, and I can see no justification for ETAQ's refusal to warn members of the dangers of using it as a teaching resource."

Professor Huddleston's view is supported by the former president of the Australian Linguistics Society, Randy LaPolla, who said Professor Huddleston was the "foremost expert on the English language and the grammar of the English language in the world".

Professor Huddleston, one of the principal authors of Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, first raised the errors in 2007 after the grammar guide appeared in the English teachers' magazine Words'Worth. As reported in The Australian in June 2008, Professor Huddleston wrote to the author, Lenore Ferguson, the magazine editor at the time, outlining the errors.

Dr Ferguson said at the time they were differences of opinion rather than errors, and the only mistakes she acknowledged were "mishaps" that had occurred in the editing process. Almost three years later, Dr Ferguson and the ETAQ still refuse to correct the guide, although the association has posted on its website until next month Professor Huddleston's critique and Dr Ferguson's response.

In her response, Dr Ferguson says the grammar guide "is now old business from a practitioner viewpoint" and "most of us have moved on". She says her intent was to provide a practical guide drawing on different types of grammar that would be useful in classrooms, but Professor Huddleston had replaced her "practical framing with a theoretical one and evaluates my articles from this superimposed perspective".

After being contacted by Professor Huddleston, Professor LaPolla, in his capacity as president of the linguistics society, wrote to Dr Ferguson in July 2008 urging her to publish corrected versions of the articles. In the letter, Professor LaPolla says his criticisms are the same as Professor Huddleston's, which were justified and not due to a different theoretical stance. Professor LaPolla told The Weekend Australian the mistakes in the grammar guide were basic errors and it was "bizarre" that school teachers in Queensland were telling Professor Huddleston he was wrong.

One of the errors cited by Professor Huddleston is "Sam's" -- as in "Sam's folder" -- being classified as a possessive pronoun, rather than the possessive form of a proper noun. Another example is the phrase "set of", as in "a set of bowls", being described as an adjective, which Professor Huddleston says is not a grammatical unit but a noun followed by a preposition.


The lies of Aussie Climate Minister, Penny ‘Wrong’

A comment from Britain

Our Australian skeptic friend, Val Majkus, has sent me a link to a speech made yesterday by Australian nutjob, Penny Wong, who is the Aussie Federal Minister for Climate Change and Water. Wong somehow kept a straight face when she told the crowd: “Climate change [is] happening more quickly than we previously thought.”

Wong was addressing the first national forum on coasts and climate change in Adelaide and promulgating all the usual doomsaying myths for her dwindling band of climate cult followers that global temperatures are fast rising and sea levels, as a consequence, will rise by a meter this century.

Then, the self-serving climate minister showed no remorse for going on to smear tens of millions of concerned citizens that form the grassroots movement of climate skeptics by implying they are under the sway of the tobacco lobby! Wong will come to rue her ludicrous statements. Projecting herself as some kind of high priestess. She is, in fact, no more than another gray-suited peddler of snake oil patter.

Here in Britain the mainstream media has remembered what it means to do objective journalism. Sadly, the Aussie press hasn’t yet woken up to Wong’s wonky word spin–but they will. The days of her ilk are numbered. So I need only proffer a couple of simple facts to debunk Wong’s ‘catastrophic’ global warming myth. But the minister won’t want her audience to hear such basic truths:

First, as widely reported, Professor Phil Jones, one of the world’s key alarmist climate scientists, admitted to the BBC last week that there has been no statistically significant rise in global temps for 15 years.


Second, scientists from 50 research and operational agencies from 26 countries have proved that world sea levels have fallen for the past six years.


Another triumph of government medicine

Toddler Tarliah O'Connell's tooth agony 'ignored' for days

A TODDLER suffering a mouth infection so severe it later required surgery and teeth removal was given only Panadol while the infection worsened at a hospital. Tarliah O'Connell, from Penrith, NSW, was moaning in pain after four days at Nepean Hospital and the painful infection then spread across her face. After being given only Panadol and Nurofen, a desperately sick Tarliah was transferred to The Children's Hospital, Westmead, last Thursday.

Her mother Raquel said Tarliah was immediately given morphine to control her terrible pain. She said her daughter has been left so traumatised she was now scared of medical staff. Tarliah has undergone serious facial surgery to treat the infection which even spread to her throat.

"Last Thursday they were still keeping her on Panadol," an angry Ms O'Connell said. "She was moaning in pain. "They [Nepean staff] said she needed to go to Westmead. We got to Westmead and they put her straight onto morphine." She said Tarliah may be left with scarring and may need more teeth removed. "She is still at the Westmead hospital and is being fed through a tube."

A NSW Health spokesman conceded Tarliah's pain relief consisted of only intravenously administered Panadol and oral Nurofen. The spokesman said "an apology has been offered" to the O'Connell family for their distress. He said Tarliah was also given antibiotics and IV fluids in a bid to "ease her discomfort". "The patient needed more specialised paediatric treatment and her doctor recommended that she be transferred to Westmead Children's Hospital," the spokesman said.

Opposition health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner said Tarliah's treatment was "appalling".


19 February, 2010

Homeless people not poor

SOME homeless people living on Perth’s streets are spending more than $1000 a day, say homeless service providers. The money is acquired through theft and sex to feed their drug habits, they say.

Colin Medling, a network director of Genesis, a Northbridge-based drop-in centre, said he was aware of some homeless people spending up to $1100 a day on heroin and pharmaceutical drugs.

Mr Medling said homelessness was not on the decrease and people were being forced on to the streets for “myriad reasons”. “Sexual abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, gambling, mental illness – these are just some of the reasons people find themselves out on the streets,” he said. “The basis, however, for all of these problems would be dysfunctional families from the very start.

“Many homeless people are addicted to all sorts of drugs, some of them pharmaceutical, but there are reasons why they are addicted. This is what has to be looked at.” Networking with other groups, such as employment agencies, was one of the prime services provided by Genesis, Mr Medling said.


A Warmist apparatchik at work

Penny Wong ignores the science

AUSTRALIA'S most iconic beaches, including Sydney's Bondi and surfing mecca Bells beach, could erode away or recede by hundreds of meters over the coming century, the nation's Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said yesterday.

But locals aren't so sure, The Australian reports. Bondi veteran Lee Boman has swum at the beach for more than 30 years and was adamant he had seen "no change" to the coastline over that period. "Nothing too drastic that indicates it is going to be changed in the future," said Boman, 53.

Bob Carter, a geologist and environmental scientist with James Cook University in Queensland, said Wong's comments appeared to be an attempt to panic the public. Pointing to historical rates of sea level rise of an average 1.6mm per year globally over the past 100 years, Mr Carter said it was reasonable to expect a total rise of 16cm in a century.

In her opening address to the National Climate Change Forum in Adelaide yesterday, Ms Wong made some alarming predictions for Australia's coast. "Not only are our assets and environments at risk, many of our sandy beaches could erode away or recede up to hundreds of meters over the coming century," she said. "It is possible that with climate change and without large and expensive nourishment programs, Bondi Beach, (Queensland's) Sunshine Coast and (Victoria's) Bells Beach may no longer be the beaches we know today."

She urged people not to listen to critics using isolated errors in the UN climate change panel's report to undermine action, claiming the report had been subject to "breathless, scandalised claims" implying the world had been hoodwinked by scientists.


Addled and secretive Labor party approach to foreign investment

No clear rules. Backroom "deals" preferred. A whiff of hopelessly corrupt and Democrat-dominated Chicago?

ON September 24 last year, the Foreign Investment Review Board's Patrick Colmer rose to speak to the Australia-China Investment Forum in Sydney. It is unlikely he intended his speech to be anything more than a straight-forward exposition of Australia's approach to regulating foreign investment. But that's not how his audience of foreign investment professionals and media heard it.

Colmer said that the Australian government "was much more comfortable when we see investments which are below 50 per cent for greenfields projects and around 15 per cent for major producers". He also noted "there are examples where we have accepted quite readily different arrangements to that".

These remarks threw the foreign investment community into a spin. The Australian's Matthew Stevens even coined the phrase "the Colmer doctrine" to describe what appeared to be a far more explicit statement of the government's policy than had previously been articulated by Wayne Swan.

With the speech having seemingly announced new policy, investment bankers, lawyers and the media descended on the FIRB's website in the reasonable expectation they might obtain a copy of the speech, but none was forthcoming. Journalists' requests to FIRB for copies of the speech were ignored or denied.

This led to speculation Colmer had gone off the range in his characterisation of government policy, adding more confusion to an already incoherent policy on foreign direct investment.

Sharing the foreign investment community's frustration, I sought access to the speech under Freedom of Information legislation. As part of the application, I sought a remission of fees under section 30A of the act, on the grounds that release of the speech would be of public interest and benefit.

The fee remission was denied by Colmer, who was also the decision-maker for the application, on the grounds that "mere curiosity on the part of a person or a substantial section of the public will generally not constitute a public interest ground. I am not satisfied there is a public interest sufficient to warrant the waiver of the $30 application fee in this case". This is an extraordinarily narrow reading of the public interest and public benefit given the reaction to the speech.

Having paid the fee, I received a letter from Colmer enclosing a transcript of the speech. The speech is still not available from the FIRB, but I have posted a copy on my website (www. for the benefit of the many foreign investment professionals and journalists who also suffer from "mere curiosity".

It goes without saying that it should not take an FOI request to obtain a copy of a public speech given by a senior public servant that was designed to explicate government policy. But it is consistent with the FIRB's reputation for secrecy and inscrutability.

It is perversely appropriate that the rest of Colmer's speech to the forum was an appeal for greater secrecy and discretion. Colmer said that "while the foreign investment review system is enshrined in legislation, the fundamental issues at the end of the day are much more policy issues rather than legal issues". He suggested that the media and lawyers were best left out of the process. Prospective foreign investors were effectively told to quietly cut deals with the FIRB.

It is an approach to foreign investment more appropriate to a country like China than Australia.

Treasurer Swan has since announced the FIRB will release "an easy-to-read version of the foreign investment review framework" to be made available in Chinese, Japanese and Indonesian. But the government's policy on foreign investment is not going to be any less confusing in a foreign language than it already is in English. Foreign investors cannot be expected to understand a policy that the government itself cannot properly articulate.


New workplace rules causing trouble

PRIME MINISTER Kevin Rudd faces a High Court challenge over his industrial relations changes by employers who say they've been left worse off. The National Retail Association flagged the move, saying the workplace umpire had "crossed the line" by imposing new costs on firms.

The association's Gary Black said the case would hinge on an undertaking by Workplace Minister Julia Gillard that neither employers nor workers would be disadvantaged. "The legal view is while there would be some flexibility around the interpretation of those parameters, in some cases the tribunal has crossed the line," he said.

Mr Black said retailers had been hit with higher wage costs, which had threatened employment. He said there had been a "sober assessment" of the strategy, and lawyers believed it stood a chance.

The legal manoeuvring came as Opposition Leader Tony Abbott pledged no worker would be disadvantaged if the Coalition was returned to office. Mr Abbott said he would introduce greater flexibility, but workers would not be coerced into bad deals. "Work Choices is dead," Mr Abbott said.

Ms Gillard said the Howard-era system would be brought back under another name. "He would bring back individual statutory employment agreements that can rip basic conditions like penalty rates away and he would take away unfair dismissal rights," she said.

But there have been growing attacks over Labor's workplace overhaul as cases of disadvantaged workers emerge. Labor's award modernisation instructions were purportedly not intended to disadvantage employees nor increase costs for employers.

Mr Black said the High Court route was being considered because the award-making decisions of the workplace umpire, Fair Work Australia, could not be appealed against. He said the association, representing 3700 Australian businesses, intended to seek writs in the High Court to allow the case to proceed. "What award modernisation has delivered is outcomes that would have been completely inconceivable under the old conciliation and arbitration system," he said.



Three current articles below

How a corrupt government health bureaucracy blames the media for its problems

By Anthony Morris, QC, who oversaw a review of Queensland Health in 2005

I HOPE that the Courier-Mail is thoroughly ashamed of itself. Thankfully, Heath Minister Paul Lucas has now explained that the essential problem with Queensland Health is not the failure of the Bligh Government, or its predecessors. Rather, as Lucas assured State Parliament last Tuesday (9 February) – quoting selectively from the unpublished report by British health mandarin Sir Liam Donaldson – the blame rests squarely with the CM and other media outlets, for creating a “media climate” which is “very hostile and adversarial”.

It took Donaldson a mere week in Queensland to produce his $40,000 report, but it seems that Queenslanders are not going to enjoy the full benefit of his words of wisdom. Lucas has reserved to himself the right to choose which extracts are officially published. So we must take Lucas’s word that the short extract which he has quoted is fairly representative of the thrust of the report as a whole, and not taken out of context.

One should not be surprised that, after spending a week in Queensland talking to QH bureaucrats in Charlotte Street, Donaldson has been left with the impression that media hostility is the greatest problem facing the healthcare system. Perhaps, if he had been able to spend a little more time here – perhaps long enough to visit some of the regional hospitals, and speak with some of the patients – he would have gained a slightly different impression.

Lucas, however, should know better. For one thing, he should know that, to the extent the “media climate” has become “very hostile and adversarial”, it is QH’s own doing. Perhaps nobody mentioned to Donaldson the fact that Queensland Health employs – at last count – over 60 full-time equivalent spin-doctors. Perhaps nobody saw fit to tell him that the main functions of this legion of propagandists are to manufacture “good news” stories for QH, to downplay and obfuscate anything which reflects poorly on QH, and, above all, to ensure that the media never get access to anything potentially damaging to QH without a fight.

Lucas should also know of the sterling work done by a small team of world-class journalists – especially the likes of Hedley Thomas, Des Houghton and Patrick Lion at the CM – in exposing major problems in our public heath service. With resources which are just a fraction of QH’s public relations machine, these journalists have repeatedly overcome QH’s defence mechanisms to ensure that the truth is revealed. Little wonder that QH bureaucrats find the “media climate” to be “very hostile and adversarial”!

Lucas’s real complaint – echoing the complaint apparently made to Donaldson by the bureaucrats with whom he consulted during his week in Queensland – is that the CM and other media outlets have the unfortunate habit of telling the truth. And that, of course, is the last thing that any QH bureaucrat wants.

I believe that I have read every report relating to QH which has appeared in the CM over the last five years. Not once, to my recollection, has QH’s army of spin-doctors found anything substantially wrong to correct in the CM’s reporting. So if the CM is to be criticised for anything, it is for informing its readers of facts which QH doesn’t want them to know. In just one issue this week – that of Wednesday 17 February – the CM demonstrated why it is so hated by QH bureaucrats.

One story concerned the demotion of former Royal Children’s Hospital chief Doug Brown, for misappropriating $6,500 of charitable donations to buy beauty treatments for nurses. Strangely, though this incident occurred in 2007, nothing happened until the CM blew the whistle. On the contrary, Brown actually received a promotion whilst supposedly “under investigation”!

No doubt QH bureaucrats are right to blame the CM for the fact that one of their senior colleagues has been punished for his wrong-doing. It remains to be explained why: (a) Brown has merely been demoted, rather than sacked and prosecuted through the criminal courts, for his theft of charitable funds; and (b) taxpayers, rather than Brown, are to reimburse the funds which he stole.

Another story concerned the latest tragedy of QH waiting-list figures. At least taxpayers and patients are now being given some approximation of the truth about this issue, compared with the folk-stories and urban myths previously being peddled by QH’s spin-doctors. But the full truth is yet to emerge, with Mr Lucas welshing on his promise to release dental waiting lists.

And so it goes on. The fact that the Health Minister and his department’s bureaucracy feel threatened by the “media climate” proves only one thing: that the CM, and other media outlets, are doing their job very well.

Lucas said in Parliament last week, “I yearn for the day when we can have some maturity in the health debate in this state”. His idea of “maturity” seems to involve the press writing only what he and his top bureaucrats want the public to know. So there is little wonder that he yearns for such a day to arrive. The rest of us can only hope that it never will.


Two years to see a public dentist in Queensland

THE median waiting time for a public dental checkup is two years - and people with toothache so bad it keeps them awake at night face a month-long wait for a Queensland Health dentist.

New figures show that the average wait for someone with bad tooth pain in Queensland is about 30 days to see a publicly-funded dentist. Those with lost fillings or broken teeth have a median wait of 50 days, while most people wanting a dental checkup from a Queensland Health dentist face a two-year wait.

Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle said the long wait for public dental treatment in Queensland was unacceptable. ``Everybody understands what it's like to have a toothache and the pain that can generate," he said. ``Multiply that over a 30 to 60-day period without any relief's an appalling situation."


Special favours needed to get prompt treatment in a NSW government hospital

Federal MP Belinda Neal was last night embroiled in a new political row as the bitter pre-selection for her marginal seat of Robertson erupted into a war of words over alleged favours for a senior branch member. Last night Ms Neal denied allegations that she had offered to help a 72-year-old senior Labor Party branch figure get her hip-replacement surgery performed earlier if she voted for Ms Neal in the pre-selection.

The allegations have been made by Louisa Sauvage, the acting president and treasurer of the Wamberall/Terrigal branch of the ALP, in Ms Neal's seat of Robertson. Ms Sauvage said Ms Neal visited her home last Friday to ask whether she would sign the MP's preselection nomination form. "She saw me with a walking stick and asked me what was wrong," Ms Sauvage said. "I told her what the problem was and she said, 'I think I might be able to do something for you'. I said that would be nice," Ms Sauvage said. But she said she didn't feel obliged to sign the form at that time. She said she provided her doctor's name and number to Ms Neal.

Ms Sauvage said that on Monday morning Ms Neal called her about 8.30am and told her to promise not to tell anybody "but I think we can organise something for you". "She then told me I had to promise that I would vote for her," Ms Sauvage said.

But last night Ms Neal denied acting improperly. She said: "After I visited Ms Sauvage and requested her support . . . she then raised her pain and her distress at having to wait a long time for an operation. "She asked if I could help. I told her I was happy to try but it was sometimes successful and sometimes not. "Over the next couple of days I investigated and determined it might be possible for her to have her operation earlier if the operation were undertaken by a doctor who might have an earlier available vacancy.

"I rang her on the Monday and told her that I would do a representation on her behalf and that I might have some success if she was prepared to consider another doctor. "She said she would consider that and I said I would go ahead and do a representation. I directed my staff to make this representation and they were sent the morning of the following day."

Ms Sauvage has been on a waiting list with the NSW Health system for three months and was told last week that it would be another 10 months at least before she could expect to have her surgery done. Late yesterday Ms Sauvage said she was phoned unexpectedly by the Wyong Hospital and told that a place had been found for her in April.

Ms Sauvage has been a member of the ALP since 1977. "I don't like to be pushed around," she said. "I felt like a second-class citizen, like she thought I must be stupid."

Ms Neal last night claimed that the allegation that anything was requested in exchange for assistance being provided to a constituent was entirely false. said: "I have made representations on many occasions and am happy to do so for any constituent who needs assistance."

Senior officials in the NSW Labor Party have been made aware of the claims made by Ms Sauvage. Ms Neal is being forced to recontest pre-selection for the seat because fellow Labor Party member Deb O'Neill is challenging her for the Labor endorsement.


18 February, 2010

Meat ants slaughter problem toads

There is no doubt that "bufo marinus" is a huge problem. I grew up close to where they were first released and know them well. Journal article here. The idea is to use cat food to lure ants to toad breeding sites. The ants eat juvenile toads only -- JR

Boffins have discovered new weapons in the battle against cane toads - cat food and meat ants. Scientists from the University of Sydney have discovered that native meat ants can be lured by cat food to kill cane toads.

Professor Rick Shine and colleagues observed ant/toad interactions on the Adelaide River floodplain 60km east of Darwin and found encouraging evidence of the deadly effect of native meat ants on young cane toads. "We can look at an interaction thats already happening, meat ants are already killing millions of cane toads," Professor Shine said. "We're just looking to make it a bit easier for them."

Cane toads are easy targets for meat ants because unlike their native counterparts they do not try to avoid them at great speed. Cane toads are likely to use the ineffective tactic of crypsis, or immobility, instead of more active escape tactics.

Ant densities and toad mortalities have increased more than fourfold with the addition of cat food baits. The study found 98 per cent of metamorph toads were encountered by meat ants and 84 per cent were attacked within a very brief two minute period. Over 50 per cent of attacks were immediately fatal, while 88 per cent of escapee toads died within 24 hours.

The research funded by the Australian Research Council also reveals meat ants can be used with low risk of collateral damage to native wildlife. The approach is also logistically feasible, low technology and inexpensive.

The cane toad was introduced to Australia in 1935 to control beetles that were destroying sugarcane crops in Queensland, but have since become one of Australia's most highly invasive species.


Rudd losing his grip -- on the defensive now

KEVIN Rudd is a proven election campaigner and an accomplished media performer when he is focused and setting the agenda.

As a new Leader of the Opposition, Rudd demonstrated he could concentrate on a single positive message and keep the Coalition government off-balance during the 2007 election. Yesterday, as Prime Minister, he called a media conference but he was unable to set his intended agenda, strayed into negative topics and got upstaged on the evening television news by Tony Abbott almost getting hit by a truck.

There was no sign of the frontrunning, confident politician in charge of a media conference positively promoting his own policies and deftly smothering the Coalition agenda.

There wasn't anything Rudd could do about the dramatic television footage of the new Liberal leader's close shave putting him down the evening news bulletins, but calling a media conference without a theme was a miscalculation.

After making a statement about homelessness which normally would have been dealt with by a ministerial press release, the Prime Minister was immediately quizzed on a range of topics that put him in a negative light.

The size of the $250 million tax break to the free-to-air television stations was unfavourably compared to the $10m he announced for homelessness, he couldn't answer questions about warnings to the government about the fatal housing insulation program and he had to adhere to the "stale, old" position of not debating nuclear energy.

The Prime Minister continued negative attacks on Abbott over homelessness, his accusation that Environment Minister Peter Garrett could face industrial manslaughter charges, his claim that the $250m given to the commercial television stations was an "election year bribe" and the Coalition's policy of a debate on nuclear power. These all ended in media coverage of negative issues for the government and positive television footage of Abbott making scones and talking about road safety. There's no sign yet of Kevin 07.


Australian climate target is foolhardy

No one else is unconditionally cutting emissions, so why does the Australian government aim for that?

AS a face-saver to December's collapse of the world climate negotiations, governments agreed to the Copenhagen Accord. This had vague provisions to pursue measures to limit global temperature increases to 2C.

The accord offered no guidance as to how this might be achieved but did say it would involve deep cuts in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Accordingly, developed country governments agreed to lodge quantified measures they would adopt to reduce their emissions by 2020.

Australia has made an unconditional commitment to reduce emissions by 5 per cent on 2000 levels, agreeing to increase this to 15-25 per cent, conditional on an international agreement. By comparison, Canada has agreed to a conditional reduction of 17 per cent on 2005 levels; the EU a conditional 20-30 per cent on 1990 levels; Japan a conditional 25 per cent on 1990 levels; New Zealand a conditional 10-20 per cent on 1990 levels; Norway a conditional 40 per cent on 1990 levels; Russia a conditional 15-25 per cent on 1990 levels; and the US a conditional 17 per cent on 1995 levels.

Australia is the only jurisdiction to have offered an unconditional reduction in emissions by 2020. This commitment has problems. The first is that it is based on proposals that have been voted down by parliament and which, though being re-submitted, seem certain once again to be rejected. Hence, not only has the Rudd government uniquely offered to deliver something unconditionally but parliament has denied it the offer it has made.

It may be argued this doesn't matter as there is bipartisan agreement for a 5 per cent cut in emissions by 2020. At the end of January, the Coalition announced similar goals to those of the government in its climate policy. However, this is invalid for two reasons. First, the government lodged its commitment before it knew of the Coalition's plans. Second, the government has maintained the Coalition's policy will not achieve the goal it has set.

It may be argued the global warming negotiation system is a meaningless farce and everybody is merely posturing. But no other country has offered an international commitment it cannot keep. Instead, they have ensured they would not be held to account for missing any 2020 targets they might set themselves. Their submissions were accompanied by conditions. Japan's offer is "premised on the establishment of a fair and effective international framework in which all major economies participate". Canada's commitment was, "to be aligned with the final economy-wide emissions target of the US in enacted legislation". Even the EU stipulates "that other developed countries commit themselves to comparable emission reductions and that developing countries contribute adequately".

In contrast, the Australian government has chosen to offer a firm commitment that is quixotic. Gesture diplomacy of this nature must have repercussions on our credibility.


Hospital boss dumped for misuse of funds but details kept secret

THE boss of the Royal Children's Hospital has been dumped from the top job as Queensland Health is forced to repay thousands of dollars to the hospital's charity after it was incorrectly spent on luxury beauty treatments for nurses.

RCH chief operations manager Doug Brown has been demoted and will be relocated within the department following the completion of a two-year probe by the Crime and Misconduct Commission. Another unidentified hospital staffer has suffered a pay cut, while two other unnamed officers will undergo retraining in financial management.

Queensland Health will repay $6500 to the RCH Foundation after Mr Brown approved beauty treatments for 65 nurses as part of an alleged pay-off after they missed out on free parking.

The foundation raises money for lifesaving research but, as revealed by The Courier-Mail last year, the funds were instead spent on body polishes, manicures and pedicures at a beauty salon in 2007.

After months of insisting it would comment once the probe was finalised, Queensland Health yesterday refused to release the final report, including the findings, recommendations and exactly why certain staff were disciplined.

The demotion of Mr Brown is an embarrassment for Queensland Health after the department chose him over other candidates to run the RCH last year while he was being investigated.


Australia's Anglo-Catholics vote to submit to Rome

Forward in Faith Australia, part of the Anglo-Catholic group that also has members in Britain and America, is setting up a working party guided by a Catholic bishop to work out how its followers can cross over to Rome. It is believed to be the first group within the Anglican church to accept Pope Benedict XVI’s unprecedented offer for disaffected members of the Communion to convert en masse while retaining parts of their spiritual heritage.

So far only the Traditional Anglican Communion, which has already broken away from the 70 million-strong Anglican Communion, has declared that its members will become Catholics under the Apostolic Constitution.

The Rt Rev David Robarts OAM, chairman of FIF Australia, said members of the association felt excluded by the Anglican Church in Australia, which had not provided them with a bishop to champion their conservative views on homosexuality and women bishops. "In Australia we have tried for a quarter of a decade to get some form of episcopal oversight but we have failed," he told The Daily Telegraph. "We're not really wanted any more, our conscience is not being respected."

Bishop Robarts, 77, said it had become clear that Anglicans who did not believe in same-sex partnerships or allowing women to be ordained as bishops had no place in the "broader Anglican spectrum". "We're not shifting the furniture, we're simply saying that we have been faithful Anglicans upholding what Anglicans have always believed and we're not wanting to change anything, but we have been marginalised by people who want to introduce innovations. "We need to have bishops that believe what we believe." Crossing over to Rome under the new scheme would give the group the chance to retain their Anglican culture without sacrificing their beliefs, he said.

On Feb 13th the group unanimously voted to investigate setting up an Ordinariate - an ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Church - in Australia.

It has formed a working group with a Catholic bishop, Bishop Peter Elliott, along with the breakaway TAC and the national church, ACA, to “set in train the processes necessary for establishing an Australian Ordinariate”.

Under the terms of the Vatican’s offer made last October, Anglicans who are disillusioned with the church’s liberal direction will be allowed to enter into full communion with the Holy See. But they may be able to continue using their old prayer books and church services, and will come under the pastoral care of a new bishop called an Ordinary.

Forward in Faith Australia, which is based in Melbourne, has up to 200 members, but not all are expected to convert. The group said it was committed to providing “care and support” for anyone who felt unable to be received into the Ordinariate.

Bishop Robarts said his group was the first FiF branch to "embrace" the Pope's offer so strongly. Anglo-Catholics in the Church of England have welcomed the opportunity but are waiting to see whether they will be given significant concessions on the introduction of women bishops – such as a “men-only” diocese – before deciding whether to cross the Tiber.

The Anglican Church of Australia ordained its first women priests in 1992 but so far its governing body, the General Synod, has failed to approve legislation needed to introduce women bishops.

"It's the first step on the road, saying thank you, we are going to go along this particular track because the door has been closed to us by the Anglican Church of Australia over a long period of time,” said the bishop. "I love my Anglican heritage, but I'm not going to lose it by taking this step."


TV shows video of violent cop's punch

Is it any wonder that W.A. cops have such a poor reputation in their community?

SECURITY video obtained by Channel Nine shows the violent incident outside the Court Hotel in Northbridge over which a Perth policeman has been fined $4500. It was now up to Commissioner of Police Karl O'Callaghan to decide whether to sack the officer [Is that a hard decision?] who had pleaded not guilty to assault in Perth Magistrates Court, Nine said tonight. [So he's a perjurer and unrepentant too]

The policeman had admitted punching Alan Russell outside the hotel in March last year but said he had done so in the course of arresting the man, who had been drunk and abusive. But video footage of the incident told a different story, Nine said.

Mr Russell said he had jokingly asked the policeman for drugs, Nine said. "It was unprovoked and it was very violent and I was very lucky to get out of it with the injuries I had, which weren't that severe," he told Nine outside court.

Nine said the court was told that originally Mr Russell had been accused of assaulting the policeman, but those charges had been dropped.


17 February, 2010

Clever! Sydney University dumbs down its image

A Latin motto is dignified and a mark of interest in scholarship but U. Syd would rather be "modern". They claim to be aiming at making themselves stand out but in fact have just joined the common herd. It is a long time since I graduated from U. Syd but if I were a recent graduate I might well feel that my degree had been devalued -- that I had graduated from an ordinary university rather than a distinguished one. But I guess that the Left who dominate academe these days despise all traditions -- even a tradition of high scholarship. Perhaps they suspect -- probably rightly -- that they are not up to the standard of their predecessors

After 150 years the University of Sydney has abandoned its status quo, dropping the Latin motto from its redesigned coat of arms and logo. Students and scholars have turned to the new technology of social networking to launch a campaign calling for the reinstatement of the Latin inscription.

The university spent almost $750,000 on the research and redesign that axed the motto: "sidere mens eadem mutato" - a reference to Sydney following the traditions of universities in the northern hemisphere. A further $500,000 was spent replacing marketing material such as banners and street signage, the university said.

The motto - most commonly translated as "the constellation is changed, the disposition is the same" - has been part of the university's coat of arms since 1857. As a first-time astronaut, Greg Chamitoff, a former university staff member, even took a patch of the crest into space on the shuttle Discovery in 2008.

Marian Theobald, the university's external relations executive director, said market research, overseen by the Chicago-based firm Lipman Hearne, had found the university relied too heavily on its sandstone heritage and something "bolder, more energetic and more modern" was needed. "The opinion of thousands of students, academics, alumni, donors and business groups was canvassed, and we discovered the university was struggling to differentiate itself from other elite Australian institutions, in the domestic and international market place," she said. "We needed to engage better with the outside world. The removal of the Latin motto during the joint design work by Lipman Hearne and the Australian firm Moon Design was purely practical. It's hard to reproduce and read online. It was impossible to read when reduced in size. "The motto will still be used by the university and will be maintained for more formal purposes, such as on testamurs."

Ms Theobald said suggestions that between $5 million and $13 million had been spent on the branding project were ridiculous. Costs had been kept to a minimum by allowing supplies of old stationery stock, publications and merchandise to exhaust naturally.

Emily Matters, president of the Classical Language Teachers Association, said the removal was hugely disappointing. "I think this goes against everything what universities stand for where one generation hands over its culture to the next," she said.

Anthony Alexander, president of the Classical Association of NSW, who also teaches Greek and Latin at the University of Sydney, said the deletion was far from a dumbing down of the university or a denigration of Latin. "What matters is what we teach, what we actually do in the classrooms," he said. "I don't think it compromises Latin, which is stronger than ever."

Elly Howse, president of the University of Sydney Students' Representative Council, said rebranding or a new logo was a failed approach at modernising the university's image. "The money should have been spent on teaching and learning facilities," she said.

A Facebook page titled "Bring back the old USYD crest" calls for reinstatement of the Latin motto, saying the new design was better suited to a primary school.

The University of NSW, meanwhile, said it had no intention of removing its Latin motto, "manu et mente" (with hand and mind) from its coat of arms.

The university adopted its new logo and the styling of its coat of arms with a soft launch in mid-January. The coat of arms mantling and the shape of the escutcheon (shield) have changed and the motto scroll is removed. The mane and fur of the lion have been changed, along with the number of lines in the open book and the coloration.


Surgery waiting lists grow in Queensland public hospitals

ONE in five Queensland patients are waiting longer than clinically recommended for potentially life-saving elective surgery. Queensland Health's latest quarterly report reveals 6762 of 34,480 elective surgery patients were left languishing on hospital waiting lists too long. The additional 728 patients on the long wait list compared with the previous quarter has been blamed on theatre closures over Christmas.

Health Minister Paul Lucas said that while the number of patients waiting too long increased, the difference was only several days and Queensland hospitals performed more elective surgery during the period. "The overall surgical workload has increased and it has increased significantly greater than the rate of population," he said. But Mr Lucas said he was concerned about a blow-out in the number of urology patients waiting too long and this would be addressed.

Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle said the number of long waits was "appalling" and a reflection of the Government's failure to plan and invest in infrastructure. Category one patients, those at risk of their conditions deteriorating quickly, were among the worst affected by the Christmas closures.

According to Queensland Health, there were 315 patients left waiting longer than the recommended 30 days at the end of the December quarter compared with 198 in the September quarter and 259 the previous year. There was also a blow-out in long waits for category two patients who should be seen in 90 days because their condition caused pain, dysfunction or disability.

The report found 4183 category two patients were waiting too long, 767 more than the previous quarter and 782 more than the same quarter last year. However, the number of long wait category three patients (conditions that do not require treatment within a set timeframe) improved. Overall, orthopaedic surgery had the most patients waiting too long, followed by general surgery and plastic surgery.

Mr McArdle said the Government was also yet to meet its commitment to release dental waiting lists. "What is the Minister hiding?" he said. "Why are Queenslanders being kept in the dark?"


Bullying at Canberra public hospital leads to exodus of doctors

The Government's defended an exodus of doctors from a hospital denying claims of bullying. Nine obstetricians, including four registrars, have left Canberra Hospital over the past 13 months, ABC Television reported last night. The Royal College of Obstetricians says doctors have reported a culture of poor management and bullying as well as lack of senior medical staff at the hospital. They'd since "voted with their feet", the college's Andrew Foote said.

The hospital and ACT Health were also accused of trying to hide medical blunders. Canberra mother Fiona Vanderhook, who was mistakenly told her foetus had died at five weeks, said the clinical notes she'd requested in order to pursue legal action had been censored.

"I would reject any sort of culture that says we cover up," ACT Health acting chief executive Peggy Brown said.

Of the four registrars to recently leave the hospital, ACT Health said three had been for family reasons and said the figures on such departures were common. But Dr Foote disagreed. "It's unheard of," he said. "When you've only half finished your training, you don't have a qualification ticket and you are at risk of never getting your qualification ticket if you walk away from a training program. "So things must be a pretty difficult for a registrar to do that."

Dr Brown said the department had not received any formal complaints.


Rudd must dump dead ducks and tackle what really matters

There is something noble about the advocacy of lost causes. Provided it is recognised they are lost. The alternative is self-delusion. There is little chance Kevin Rudd can get his emissions trading scheme through the Senate. To do so would require Labor to obtain seven additional votes. There are five Green senators and two independents but, for various reasons, the Greens and independents have indicated their intention to defeat this legislation.

When the legislation was subjected to a Senate vote last December, two Liberal senators crossed the floor to vote with the Rudd government - the Victorian Judith Troeth (first elected in 1993) and the Queenslander Sue Boyce (appointed in 2007 to fill a casual vacancy). Even if both cross the floor when it is next considered by the Senate, the Rudd government would still be five votes short of a majority - unless five senators from the Greens or independents vote with them.

The lesson is clear. The ETS is a lost cause. In which case, Rudd would be well advised to cut Labor's losses now and junk the legislation. A post-ETS political environment would make it possible for the Prime Minister to reshuffle his ministry and move the Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, and the Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, into different positions.

Rudd is primarily responsible for his government's inability to explain its climate change policies. However, the formal dumping of the ETS could be used as a rationalisation to explain a reshuffle.

Wong was a star performer in the 2007 election campaign and rarely missed making the required political point. It's just that, in her climate-change role, Wong sounds like an automaton who is unwilling to answer questions. Garrett appears to have become a victim of the PS syndrome - he is so committed to Planet Saving, he has not focused on the administration of Labor's environment program.

There was always a case for Australia awaiting the outcome of the Copenhagen summit before deciding on climate-change legislation. This would have suited both sides of politics. But Rudd bet on a more-or-less successful outcome at Copenhagen and the opposition leader, Malcolm Turnbull, went along with him because he is a true-believing eco-catastrophist. Tony Abbott's defeat of Turnbull in the Liberal Party leadership ballot, and the subsequent disaster that was Copenhagen, have changed the political climate.

Few would expect Abbott to win the next election but the Coalition under his leadership is capable of gaining votes and seats. The challenge posed by the new Liberal Party leadership should encourage Labor to change its focus.

* It has become fashionable for commentators to assert that Rudd cannot communicate a simple message. As far as the ETS is concerned, this is harsh. It is not clear if anyone can explain emissions trading in readily understandable terms. Before the 2007 election, Rudd could get across an understandable line. His current problem seems to be engaging in indirect speech. On Meet the Press last Sunday, for example, the Prime Minister prefaced his answer on a dozen occasions with the term: "Can I say?" - or words to this effect. No such question is necessary. He needs to talk directly.

* Since the election, the research capacity of the Prime Minister's office has been downgraded. This should be revamped. Two weeks ago Rudd forgot a commitment he had made about no worker being worse off under the Fair Work legislation. On Q&A last week, he incorrectly said there were three (rather than two) independent senators. His office should be spending time briefing the Prime Minister rather than running lines calculated to embarrass the opposition.

* There is little point attacking Tony Abbott's social conservatism. In the states where the Coalition threatens Labor - NSW and Queensland - social conservatism is not a negative. Some of the inner-city luvvies who dislike Abbott may not admit it, but the next election will not be won, or lost, in Ultimo or Leichhardt.

The Age journalist Katharine Murphy does not present as a prude. Indeed she describes herself as a secular feminist. Last month, Murphy described Abbott's advice to his young daughters about pre-marital sex as "more or less what I would advise my kids". Many parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents would agree - and quite a few would live in marginal seats. One of Rudd's appealing features to many voters in 2007 turned on the fact he is a social conservative himself. Labor should not forget this.

Political change is never easy. The success of the governments led by Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and John Howard is that they were able to implement significant reforms. Hawke and Keating never enjoyed a Senate majority and Howard only had majority support in the upper house in the final years of his government. Rudd needs to get things done.

Rudd's priority was climate change. Yet there was never any sense in Australia going out in front of the world on this issue. So far only the European Union nations have adopted an ETS and their economies are significantly different from that of Australia, Canada or the United States. The sinking of the ETS would make it possible for Rudd to focus on health and the economy. He would be ill-advised to go an election with an ETS in Labor's policy speech.


"Human rights" just a far-Leftist hobbyhorse

THE Rudd government is now overdue to respond to Frank Brennan's 2009 report seeking new policy and legal entrenchments of human rights: a "true believers" agenda largely deserted by the Australian people.

The long-run strategy of the Brennan report is the transformation of Australia's political culture. It seeks a culture where people see themselves and others as "rights-holding entities" and operate on this basis, where the rights culture is entrenched in the school curriculum and where the public service, from Centrelink to the police station, is re-educated and compelled by law to take a series of human rights into account in all decision-making.

Passage of a human rights act is the core recommendation. But Brennan's report, critically, recommends a series of administrative and legislative changes short of a human rights act that gets the cultural change immediately rolling. The key to Brennan's report is to see its incremental steps as part of a long journey to a different Australia. It is the opening chapter in a minority campaign by lawyers, the human rights lobby and advocacy groups to change the way Australia is governed.

Since its release last October, the report has attracted almost a dead silence, evidence it is not a priority for most Australians. Claims have been made that a majority of Australians back Brennan's human rights agenda. Such claims are false and contradicted by the report's own survey work.

It commissioned Colmar Brunton to conduct focus group research and a quantitative telephone survey. This found no crisis or no groundswell for substantial change. "Most participants in the groups reported that they had had no experience of having their rights violated or had ever even felt that they were under any particular threat," the company said. "In the survey only 10 per cent of people reported that they had ever had their rights infringed in any way with another 10 per cent who reported that someone close to them had had their rights infringed."

Even more disconcerting, 64 per cent of people felt human rights in Australia were "adequately protected", with only 7 per cent disagreeing. This is an exceptionally narrow platform from which to mount a change to Australia's institutions and culture. It should warn Labor that people will question the real motives behind any human rights act. It should make a prudent Rudd cabinet think carefully about this entire venture.

Colmar Brunton found "while it was universally agreed that human rights and their protection were important, views on how to achieve this were more varied". Nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) felt that with human rights the "spirit of the law" was more important than "the letter of the law". When asked about five specific actions to improve human rights, the "most preferred approaches were those which provided the least additional definition of rights". While 90 per cent preferred that parliament pay attention to human rights when making laws, only 56 per cent preferred a human rights law. So the public's preference is to improve rights is by modest, not radical action.

Yet the Brennan committee ignited a litany of stakeholders and groups, many representing the most vulnerable, the homeless, mentally ill, disabled, refugees, people from detention, the aged and those suffering drug dependencies, saying, unsurprisingly, they didn't get a fair go. The report said "lawyers and advocacy groups" saw what the average person missed, the gaps in our human rights protection. Of 35,014 submissions to Brennan's committee 87.4 per cent favoured a human right act. Brennan activated the human rights lobby that his committee was created to activate. The upshot is a true dilemma for the Rudd government: the public is disengaged but the human rights lobby is mobilised and expects substantive progress from Labor.

The Brennan report is a brilliant yet unconscious insight into the patronising morality at work that would be lethal for Rudd Labor. Its spirit is that the uneducated Australian public must be challenged to "reconsider current attitudes" and find a means to "recognition of other people's dignity, culture and traditions". Human rights advances depend on "reducing the levels of fear and ignorance that surround many aspects of life'.

Australians must be subjected to a "comprehensive human rights plan' anchored in the school system and in the community to correct their thinking. This is human rights dogma seeking an ideological re-positioning of our democracy. The human rights debate is shaped by politics. The reality is that human rights laws are techniques to deliver social and policy outcomes that are opposed by a majority of Australians and would not otherwise be obtainable.

Brennan's report makes clear the issues that energise the advocacy groups are hostility to national security laws, to the Northern Territory intervention and to strong border protection. Advocates seek changes in Australian governance to win on these policy goals.

For Rudd, alignment with such sentiment is an open invitation to his opponents. Tony Abbott, a cultural warrior, is sure to launch a ferocious campaign against Rudd if he walks down the Brennan path.

The deeper problem for Rudd with Brennan's report is its misconception over the means towards a better society and better governance. How does this report promote a better society? The answer, at best, is equivocal. The idea that the problems of homelessness, indigenous abuses and obese children have new human rights laws as parts of their solutions is highly contestable.

On governance the answer is clear-cut: new human rights laws will diminish Australian governance and lead to bad policy.

The arguments are well known. The trade-offs in any policy or legislated instrument should be evaluated on merit at the time. This is called representative democracy. It can be helped by having parliamentary committees to notify better human rights provisions. This is far superior to having policy imposed via the application of an across-the-board human rights act with its myriad unpredictable, intended and unintended consequences. This is the brainchild of lawyers ignorant of sound public administration. It would be inefficient in terms of promoting rights, sure to make government slower and more bureaucratic, risks politicising the judiciary and encourages more litigation.

Presumably, in an election year Rudd would not be so foolish as to support Brennan's call for a human rights act. The trap is that Rudd may play both sides: avoid the human rights act yet still authorise a series of ill-considered steps on the deluded path to a new political culture.


16 February, 2010

Legal action over failed Greenie scheme

THE Federal Government faces legal action on multiple fronts over its bungled home insulation program as fresh details of repeated warnings of the dangers emerge. Lyndon Hull, the uncle of Rueben Barnes, who received an electric shock in a Rockhampton ceiling in November, revealed yesterday that the family was taking advice from a Melbourne lawyer. Melbourne barrister John Ribbands said: "The Government, in a headlong rush to establish its green credentials . . . threw billions of dollars into this half-arsed program without giving any real thought to the checks and balances needed to make sure it worked efficiently."

It comes as Wendy Sweeney, whose son Mitchell was buried at the weekend, also contemplates legal action, and a Queensland grandfather sues the federal Environment Department after he was nearly electrocuted. Colin Brierley, 63, from Windaroo, south of Brisbane, is suing after he ended up in an induced coma in October after entering his roof cavity days after foil insulation was installed. "The electric shock went in the knee and came out the top of the head," he said. "I'm having difficulty with my memory, mainly short-term and balance and I'm having a bit of trouble with that, if I lift anything reasonably heavy I get pains going through the chest."

The use of foil insulation has been suspended, and Environment Minister Peter Garrett, who is battling to keep his job, has ordered a safety check on 48,000 homes which could be potential death traps. Four young tradespeople have lost their lives working on the program.

On October 16 Master Electricians chief executive Malcolm Richards warned Mr Garrett about serious and deadly dangers associated with his $2.45 billion insulation scheme. The contents of the letter have now emerged. Sixteen weeks ago Mr Richards told the Minister "the potential for further fatalities cannot be dismissed". But Mr Garrett did not ban foil insulation until last week. Mr Richards also raised concerns about metal staples used on foil insulation, and insulation being installed directly over high temperature light fittings which could cause house fires.

Construction, Forestry, Mining, and Energy Union national secretary (construction), Lindsay Fraser, called for "an investigation in the unscrupulous employers who put untrained people into these roofs that have resulted in deaths".

Mr Garrett denied he had snubbed an emergency meeting with unions and industry representatives to discuss the dangers of foil insulation. He said he called the meeting which was about technical issues, not to make decisions.


“Fuelling Future Famines”

This generation of pampered westerners is the first tribe in the history of the world that seems determined to destroy its ability to produce food.

The history of the human race has always been a battle for protein in the face of the continual challenge of natural climate change. Nothing has changed for this generation, except the wildfire spread of a destructive new religion that requires the sacrifice of food producers on a global warming altar.

Food creation needs solar energy, land, carbon dioxide and water. All four food resources are under threat.

Eons ago, long before ancient humans learned to use the magic warmth locked in coal, millions of woolly mammoths were snap frozen in the icy wastes of Siberia. They are still being dug out of the ice today.

In the last few weeks, in a mild repeat of this past climate disaster, massive snowstorms have killed millions of domestic animals in Mongolia and China. The capacity to produce and distribute food has been decimated across the top of the world from Northern Europe and Russia to North America. When orange groves in Florida are damaged and Texas gets six snowstorms in a few weeks it is obvious that nature is damaging the world food supply.

Solar energy produces all of our food. Those who follow the sun are already recording a dramatic change in sunspots, which tend to reflect solar energy. This seems to indicate that the current frigid conditions affecting the Northern Hemisphere may not be an isolated weather event but may be a harbinger of natural climate change.

Global warming has never been a problem for mankind. But global cooling is a killer.

Australia can feed itself and is a major food supplier to the world – beef, mutton, cereals, sugar, dairy products, pork, chicken, eggs, seafood, nuts, legumes, fruit, vegetables, beer and wine.

However green extremists, supported by foolish politicians, are gnawing at the foundations of Australia’s food chain. And the biggest threat today is Climate Change Policies.

Land is an essential ingredient to most food production. All over Australia, uncontrolled regrowth of eucalypt scrub is silently reclaiming our vast grazing lands, the source of the lowest cost beef and mutton in the world. Generations of graziers have created and maintain these grasslands against the ever present threat of capture by woody weeds. Now their hands are tied and their land is being stolen by global warming politics. The suffocating scrub will soon pass the tipping point, beyond which grasslands are destroyed and the land is no longer capable of food production.

Land sterilisation is also occurring via the stealth of Wild Rivers, World Heritage and other lock-away-land policies.

Even more food producing land is lost by policies that subsidise people to grow carbon forests in the stupid belief that this will somehow improve the climate by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Trees, grasses, sub-soil critters, grazing animals and carnivores are all part of the same carbon cycle. If one life form gets to monopolise land and carbon resources, it is detrimental to other life.

Still more stupid are market destroying policies that use government mandates and subsidies to convert food producing land to growing ethanol for cars. This has already caused massive dislocations to markets for corn, sugar, soybeans and palm oils. Forcing people to convert food into motor fuel is not a sensible policy and always adds to food shortages.

Carbon dioxide is the breath of life for all food production. Imagine the stupidity of trying to capture this harmless will-o-the-wisp in order to bury it in carbon cemeteries. Luckily for our food capacity, this suicidal policy of carbon capture and burial is unlikely to succeed.

Finally, let’s look at water, the life blood of all food production. Australia probably has access to more water per head of population than most countries in the world. However, decades of government mis-management have made us more vulnerable to every drought. Many government policies have encouraged the waste of water resources.

There are huge unused water resources across the north from the Fitzroy River in the West to the Flinders River in Cape York. Most of this water is untapped and unused because of government anti-development and land sterilisation policies.

In the south, other silly government policies have supplied water for “free” to the cities. Anything free is wasted. Because of urban demand, food producers are now being denied water at any price, but there is no real price rationing in the cities.

When natural climate change in the Northern Hemisphere is combined with political climate change in our southern food baskets, the real crisis creeping up on the world is not global warming caused by industry, but global famine caused by politicians. As Genghis Khan said wisely “Only a foolish horse fights with his feed bag”.


Failed trainee teachers 'allowed to graduate'

It shows how desperate the system is to get warm bodies into failing government schools

TRAINEE teachers who fail their teaching rounds in schools are being allowed to graduate and take charge of classrooms, according to the Victorian Principals Association. Primary school principals have accused universities responsible for teacher training of ignoring their advice that some trainee teachers are unfit to graduate.

University students studying to become school teachers must complete part of their coursework in teaching rounds at schools to gain practical experience and put theory into practice. But Gabrielle Leigh, president of the VPA, which represents principals from private and public primary schools, has told The Age school leaders are angry about the incidence of universities rejecting their school's assessment of a trainee teacher's performance.

"If there's a situation where the school feels the student teacher is not ready to teach, a lot of the time the university tutor will overturn the school's recommendation," said Ms Leigh. "The institution says the person is fit to teach, they graduate and then they come into schools. There are enough instances of this happening for us to be concerned about it."

The association has written a position paper on teacher quality, prompted by a groundswell of concern from its members about the training system's flaws.

Ms Leigh said previous federal government funding cuts to universities had also weakened education faculty tutors' ability to oversee the teaching rounds of trainees. "We get a very limited service from most universities," she said. "In the past a tutor might have come out twice to see how a trainee was going. Now you might get one flying visit, if that."

Victorian Institute of Teaching chief executive officer Andrew Ius urged the association to give him details of cases where school reports on unfit trainees had been rejected. The institute is responsible for accrediting teacher-training courses and registering teachers. "I'm disappointed we have not heard from the VPA because the issue is something we would be very concerned about," he said.

The Victorian Council of Deans of Education, which represents universities that provide teacher training, rejected the principals' criticisms. Its president, Annette Gough, said she did not know of any cases where school decisions had been overturned without a university consulting the school. Under university protocols, students who fail a teaching round are given a second chance to repeat the round at another school. Those who fail two rounds are liable to be suspended for a year and have to reapply to finish their course. "We greatly value supervising teachers' opinions," Professor Gough said.

"A student could fail one round but end up graduating because they've passed other rounds at other schools." However, she said the teaching-round component of teacher training was in crisis because successive federal governments had failed to provide enough funds to universities to cover the cost. Universities were battling to find classroom teachers to supervise trainees. Only 25 per cent of teachers in government schools, 12 per cent in Catholic and 10 per cent in independent schools were willing to do the job, according to the council's research.


All talk, no action slur haunts PM

FOR any political leader there is no more damaging sobriquet than to be labelled "all talk and no action". Yet this is a perception rapidly besetting Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Today's Galaxy poll commissioned for The Courier-Mail reveals 49 per cent of Queenslanders believe Mr Rudd is "more talk than action" – a view at least partially validated yesterday by the Prime Minister's concession he and his Government had not delivered everything they promised in the lead-up to the 2007 federal election.

It was a concession long overdue, and one all the more embarrassing for Labor in light of the Government's now stalled $1 billion digital education revolution and its widely touted pledge of one million computers in high schools. Not only has a disappointing number of only 220,000 computers been delivered nationally over two years – with just 21,000 in Queensland – but those machines, yet to be connected to high-speed broadband, cannot take proper advantage of the web-based educational resources for which they were designed. While the Government pauses to consider its rollout of a $43 billion National Broadband Network, these machines are, in the words of the Opposition, little more than "glorified typewriters".

But Mr Rudd has other charges of inaction, or action not previously mandated, to answer. Despite ardent promises in 2007, the Government – after two attempts – has failed to deliver a broadly acceptable climate change package. Mr Rudd also appears to have forgotten his pledge to put to referendum a Commonwealth takeover of the states' public hospitals. And while Labor promised no change to superannuation, the past Budget saw the cap on contributions for those aged over 50 reduced to only $50,000. It's not so much the lack of action but the gaping disparity between promise and delivery that is rankling voters most.

The Prime Minister's defence is not entirely without merit. Yes, the global financial crisis has taken precedence over the past 18 months, and there have been some major policy achievements. The ratification of the Kyoto protocols, the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, increasing the pension and, perhaps most laudably, keeping unemployment well below that of our major trading partners cannot be dismissed lightly.

But, at least in voters' minds, virtues rarely compensate for glaring omissions. Moreover, Mr Rudd's inaction on key policy fronts has left him open to the type of criticism Labor in opposition hurled at former prime minister John Howard's own dubious distinction between "core" and "non-core" promises.

Even if prime ministers ignore newspaper editorials, surely they heed opinion polls, and today's Galaxy poll could hardly be clearer in its message. With federal Labor in Queensland – a key state behind Mr Rudd's 2007 victory – now seven points behind the Coalition in primary vote, and two points behind after preferences, there's little doubt a perception of Government ineptitude over a bungled roof insulation rebate scheme has coupled with a resurgent Liberal Party under Tony Abbott to change the electoral landscape.

On the back of similarly grim polling for state Labor, where the Government and Premier Anna Bligh now distantly trail the LNP and Opposition Leader John-Paul Langbroek respectively, there's no doubt Mr Rudd faces dire challenges in Queensland, and perhaps elsewhere. Even in Victoria, where the Brumby Labor Government enjoys a strong lead over the Liberals, Labor there suffered a 12 per cent swing at the weekend Altona by-election.

What was unthinkable just a few months ago is now eminently possible: The Rudd Government could fall victim to its own cautious style and become only the second one-term national government in 110 years. And yet it is not too late for Mr Rudd to learn the lessons and lift his game. But if he remains deaf to the charge of "all talk and no action", he will face the voters' wrath.


15 February, 2010

Conservative leader plans local management boards for hospitals

This is basically a reversion to the old system -- a system that worked much better than the present constipated bureaucracy. Under the old system doctors and prominent members of the local community ran the hospitals -- with only a fraction of the bureaucracy that is sucking up the health dollars nowadays

LOCAL boards would run major public hospitals under Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's prescription to fix the nation's ailing health system. Mr Abbott yesterday foreshadowed a Northern Territory-style "emergency intervention" for public hospitals under the plan to install local management boards in Queensland and NSW within six months if the Coalition won the next election. The boards would be government-appointed, have control over hospital budgets and discretion to raise money from private patients.

The Rudd Government savaged the plan as "half-baked", while Queensland Health Minister Paul Lucas predicted a disaster.

Flanked by predecessor Malcolm Turnbull, Mr Abbott used the policy to attack Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for failing to meet his promise to improve or take over public hospitals. "All we've had from Kevin Rudd in two years is words ... and I'm telling Kevin Rudd that the only change that will really make a long-term difference is to empower local people ... by establishing local community boards," he said. Mr Abbott said the "systemic malaise" in NSW and Queensland public hospitals meant the Commonwealth should be prepared to intervene.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon said Mr Abbott's ideas were not a comprehensive plan for change. "He was a quick fix, Band-Aid Minister and he wants to be a quick-fix, band-aid Prime Minister," she said. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the system needed "urgent surgery" and he made no apology for taking longer than promised to find a solution. Mr Lucas said local communities were not the right people to run hospitals. "Having a local hospital board is a recipe for ... debt being run up by people who do not have the expertise to runthem."


Conservatives surge to poll lead

Kevvy hasn't lost it yet but the trend is clearly against him

SUPPORT for Kevin Rudd in his home state has crashed as Tony Abbott's new-look Coalition powers ahead of Labor for the first time since the 2007 federal election. The latest Galaxy poll, conducted exclusively for The Courier-Mail, reveals the energetic new Opposition Leader is making inroads in the crucial battleground of Queensland. The pivotal state delivered Mr Rudd victory two years ago but support for federal Labor has slipped three percentage points to 39 per cent, while the Coalition has stormed ahead six since November to 46 per cent.

It means the Prime Minister now faces a real contest in his own back yard, as more Queenslanders question whether he can deliver on his promises and whether he is too arrogant. If preferences were allocated as per the last election, the Coalition would lead on 51 per cent to the ALP's 49 per cent. "This represents a swing to the Coalition of five points since the last Galaxy poll in November and an improvement of around 1.4 per cent on their vote at the last federal election," Galaxy chief executive David Briggs said.

It is the first opinion poll since the 2007 election to put the Coalition in the lead and comes as both parties sharpen their attacks for an election expected later this year.

"Kevin Rudd is being attacked on two fronts in Queensland," Mr Briggs said. "On the one hand he must combat the rising unpopularity of the Bligh Government and on the other he faces the resurgence of the federal Liberal Party under its new leader, Tony Abbott."

Sixty-eight per cent of voters believe Ms Bligh and state Labor will cost Mr Rudd support at the federal election. About half of those polled think Mr Rudd would make the better prime minister and two-thirds of Queenslanders believe he understands the state. Less than half believe he is in touch with everyday issues and easy to understand.

But worrying for Mr Rudd is that 49 per cent of Queenslanders now believe he is "more talk than action" and 46 per cent think he is arrogant. It means the Coalition's pre-election argument that Mr Rudd is failing to deliver on his promises such as hospital reform and homelessness are beginning to gain traction.

The Galaxy poll of 800 voters across the state was conducted last Wednesday and Thursday as Mr Abbott called on Environment Minister Peter Garrett to resign over the bungled home insulation program.

The Coalition faced its own troubles, with Opposition finance spokesman Barnaby Joyce coming under attack for a series of gaffes, but Mr Abbott ended the week ahead. Since taking over the Liberal leadership in December he has re-energised the Coalition.

The Galaxy poll also reveals a majority of Queenslanders, 54 per cent, are satisfied with Mr Rudd's performance in his job. But the same proportion of voters give Mr Abbott a tick in his new role. "While the two leaders are neck and neck in terms of satisfaction, more voters are dissatisfied with the performance of Kevin Rudd, 41 per cent, than Tony Abbott, 34 per cent," Mr Briggs said.

Mr Abbott is 15 points behind his Labor counterpart as preferred prime minister but he has a stronger net approval rating: 20 per cent to Mr Rudd's 13 per cent.


No mathematics teacher in a NSW government High School? Due to lack of money says schools boss

So a teacher is replaced by a website. It's not money that is needed. It's a congenial working environment. Teaching was once seen as a noble profession. With today's chaotic schools, capable people avoid a teaching career. Some previous imbecilic comments from the pig's Trotter here (3rd article down)

NEW South Wales schools are doing all they can to attract maths teachers but are competing with higher-paying employers for a small pool of talent, a senior education official says.

The comments come after revelations that HSC students at Davidson High School in Sydney's north were being forced to teach themselves maths online because of a teacher shortage. The students have been without a qualified 2-unit maths teacher for the first month of year 12, following the retirement of a teacher last year.

NSW Department of Education and Training director-general Michael Coutts-Trotter says Davidson High School is searching for a permanent teacher and an interim teacher will be sent to the school tomorrow.

Mr Coutts-Trotter says he understands the frustration of parents and students, but the school has done all it can to support the students and to try to find a suitable permanent teacher. "They've begun the HSC year with a whole lot of undesirable changes, but the school has done everything it possibly can to support the people in that class," Mr Coutts-Trotter told Fairfax Radio Network.

"Nationally in the last 15 years people are taking fewer challenging maths and science subjects through their schooling, and as a result there is a shrinking pool of people of real ability in maths and science to take up teaching positions. "We're also competing for their skills against the finance sector particularly."

Mr Coutts-Trotter said about $7 million a year was being spent on scholarships, retraining and a range of inducements to encourage more people to train as teachers.


An opportunistic and wasteful spending spree

Some comments below from a disillusioned Labor Party supporter

IT was one of those airy, sun-drenched afternoons in January, when slanted fingers of sunlight flash through the trees, enamelling the eucalypt leaves a translucent pale green. I was idling on the front deck with an old book when a polite young man appeared at the top of the steps, bearing a plain black clipboard like a votary.

With a brisk yet obliging air he explained that his firm was urgently employed in delivering the federal government's ceiling insulation scheme, and that they happened to be passing through my town that very day. He already had an extensive list of appointments, and they were racing the clock before they moved on to the next town. But because of the public importance of the program he would fit us into his hectic schedule, if only I'd sign the necessary forms right away.

Summoning up the rules of etiquette dunned into us in childhood for such occasions, I replied that while we were grateful for the opportunity, things were busy right now, and we'd have to pass up the chance. Further, since our house was only 20 years old and seemed well-insulated enough to my inexpert eye, there was a danger he'd be wasting his time.

Some hint of scepticism must have passed over my face, because the young man now assumed an air of injured pride. With squared shoulders and a defiant chin, he insisted on the absolute public importance of their mission, as well as the urgent necessity for replacing out-of-date insulation of all types, regardless of how recently it may have been installed.

Indeed - and at this point his face brightened up again - in a manner of speaking you could say his firm was employed by the government. Once more he pushed the clipboard into my hand and with all the majesty of the public weal behind his voice urged me to sign without delay.

Until last Friday, when the deadline for installers to lodge their trade credentials at last expired, hundreds of likely lads such as Omar were treading our suburban streets, smiling sweetly and presenting themselves as the environmental representatives of the Australian government; all the while busily removing perfectly adequate insulation from homes and replacing it with insulation that is probably no better in quality and may be dangerous.

Probably in six months the same plausible young men will be in another line of work altogether. Perhaps they will be installing solar panels. Perhaps they'll be seeking work with the registered electricians whose job it is to inspect the thousands of botched ceiling installation jobs carried out by people like themselves; or with the builders who may be called upon to check the structural integrity of all those speedily erected school halls.

One way or another, they will be following the burgeoning money trail for nation-building measures of all kinds, a money trail that, after the accession of that unlikely central planner, Tony Abbott, to the Liberal leadership, seems set to continue as far as the eye can see, regardless of which party is in power.

It's hard to believe that a mere 20 years ago Ros Kelly caused a public scandal by misallocating $30 million of sports grants with the aid of a whiteboard marker. Nowadays any self-respecting nation-building scheme could work throughthat amount on a quiet Friday afternoon.

Indeed, in retrospect the Hawke-Keating government appears the very pattern of fiscal rectitude. Public subsidies were removed from assembly lines producing cars no sensible person wanted to buy and pushed in the direction of hospital beds. Welfare was targeted towards families in actual trouble, rather than to those with the loudest sense of grievance. Prudent policy making was assumed to involve a certain degree of short-term electoral risk, since good policy often takes a while to be recognised as such.

John Howard was, by contrast, an exquisite practitioner of political serendipity. Every policy action, from the highest to the basest, depended on the right conjunction of political circumstance, so that what you had already wished to do for some other reason suddenly became good policy by virtue of pleasing the right people. And so families were subsidised for the sheer merit of being a family, while middle-class health insurance subscribers were subsidised for the pure virtue of being able to afford health insurance.

In the world of contemporary policymaking - where there are hundreds of opportunities every week to distribute morsels of self-gratifying publicity, but no enthusiasm for mounting unpopular arguments or engaging in patient persuasion - serendipity has become the greatest of all political virtues. What more delightful sensation could there be than to discover some bold policy innovation you've always dreamed of bringing to fruition (but never quite dared to speak out loud) has suddenly become not only possible but necessary through happenstance?

What if an economic downturn could provide the means for distributing cash to a list of brilliant but unproven policy causes: things we've always wanted to do but never quite been bold enough to argue for in public?

And what if the very urgency of the situation makes it necessary to spend that money without delay and without red tape, shorn of the usual tedious array of pilot programs, feasibility studies, appointments on merit and other assorted bureaucratic niceties that ordinarily mar the grand visions of policy potentates?

This is the exact manner by which a set of programs that seemed, serendipitously, only to possess virtues and advantages, has turned into an object lesson in how not to make public policy and how not to dispense public funds, at least if you want them to be spent responsibly and without too many perverse consequences.

The trouble with political serendipity, in short, is this: when all the planets seem mysteriously to be in alignment, in all likelihood things are simply too good to be true. Economic rigour and electoral scrutiny are unpalatable political disciplines. And yet each of them in their different and sometimes contradictory ways serves to restrain governments from doing bad things.

The Labor Party of old, the party of the trimmers and worriers and doubters, learned these lessons from the bitter experience of decades. This government seems to have forgotten them within a couple of years.


14 February, 2010

Greenie policy burns houses down and kills workers

Misconceived and ill-thought out like most such schemes

PETER Garrett has admitted his troubled $2.5 billion insulation program has been linked to 86 house fires around the nation as the opposition stepped up calls for him to resign over his handling of the scheme. As opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt called for an investigation into the rise in house ceiling fires, it emerged that the government's program to give homes with foil insulation safety checks has stalled, despite fears 1000 roofs have been electrified by inept installers.

Standards Australia said it would review thermal insulation procedures, adding that the standard for installing insulation was not mandatory, and did not cover foil products.

The government undertook last February to insulate 2.7 million homes as part of its $42bn stimulus package, but the program has been dogged by claims of rorting and safety problems. The Environment Minister has been savaged for his handling of the $2.5bn program. Tony Abbott said Mr Garrett must pay with his job for the lives of four insulation installers lost in the program and resign, otherwise "the Prime Minister has to sack him".

But Kevin Rudd expressed confidence in Mr Garrett, saying safety had been his "No 1 priority". "I have absolute confidence in the minister," the Prime Minister said. "There have been tragedies for people's families. I understand that. But there are also tragedies with industrial accidents across the country in other areas."

A defiant Mr Garrett said: "I am here to do the job. "Let's be clear about the scale of the program. Over a million homes insulated, less than 1 per cent of complaints." The total number of approved suppliers is now 7300. Twenty have been removed for failure to comply with its terms.

Figures obtained by The Weekend Australian show 172 fires have been linked to insulation or reported in ceiling cavities since the start of last year, but Mr Garrett's spokesman said 86 fires had been linked to insulation installed under the program.

NSW Emergency Services Minister Steve Whan said the 67 insulation fires in the state last year and one this year were "concerning enough that an urgent public warning was immediately issued in November following advice from fire brigade statisticians". This compared with 16 insulation fires in 2008.

In Victoria, the number of fires involving insulation in a ceiling space doubled from 19 in 2008 to 38. Queensland reported 43 fires originating in the ceiling or roof space in the last six months of last year, compared with 35 for the 12 months to June 30 last year.

South Australia reported one such fire, down from two the year before, and in Canberra the ACT Coroner will investigate three house fires. Western Australia has reported 20 insulation fires since July.


Green policy bites the Labor party

THE greening of the Rudd government has entered a new phase, when "feel good" virtue turns into defective policy, shifty politics, chronic administrative failures and marketing overkill that now sees Environment Minister, Peter Garrett fighting for his political life. Garrett is an amateur in trouble. His elevation to the Rudd cabinet because of green celebrity status typifies the multiple stunts that cripple sound policy.

Garrett, with Rudd's support, is likely to survive, but he is not the real issue. Indeed, he is a Labor conscript from the domain of gesture politics, the symptom of a far deeper problem that plagues environmental policy across many Western nations.

Green political causes, deceptively seductive, offer so much. They were mobilised by Kevin Rudd in 2007 to seize the mantle of the future against John Howard. The record, so far, is that results cannot match the promise. On every environmental policy front the Rudd government is in trouble, from the global contest of fighting climate change to locally subsidised home insulation.

There is one certainly about green politics: epic declarations about the "moral challenge" of the age and saving the planet guarantee that governments will fail to deliver and invite cynical retribution upon their own heads. Green parties can thrive off this tactic but governments will be held to account; this is Rudd's most obvious environmental problem.

Because the environment is now being enshrined at the centre of government decision-making, it remains mired in multiple traps. Consider the Rudd record.

The emissions trading scheme, Labor's main response to climate change, cannot pass the parliament. Climate Change Minister Penny Wong, needs to implement this policy, yet public trust in the ETS is declining and, significantly, Labor sentiment for a double dissolution on the ETS is fading, betraying a dangerous lack of conviction by Labor in its own policy. The gulf between ETS promise and delivery is growing and threatens to be vast.

This leaves Labor's renewable energy target as its main legislated response so far to climate change. Designed to achieve 20 per cent of Australia's electricity output by 2020 from renewable energy, the scheme is utterly dysfunctional.

It is beset by a familiar conflict: whether the guiding star for policy is a market response or government intervention. The price of its renewable energy certificates is far too low to drive substantial investments in wind and other renewable energy projects. Wind power companies are going nowhere fast.

Among the problems is Labor's populist decision to use the RET to build in another scheme to promote solar energy, the consequence being to bias the RET to household solar technology instead of large-scale clean energy generation into the grid. Governments, state and federal, hooked on solar subsidies, undermine the RET's purpose. The government is urgently trying to sort out this mess.

Understand what is happening: the Rudd government cannot legislate an ETS that prices carbon and seems clueless on how to do so while its legislated scheme to drive investment into large-scale clean energy technology ahead of a carbon price is not functioning and needs revision.

The Rudd government has made a huge investment in green policy in terms of finance, time, energy, reports and political capital. Yet the results vary between modest and meagre. Policy and administrative problems continue to multiply. The announcement effect to win votes is repeatedly undone by mishaps down the line.

Garrett was floundering this week over two different programs conspicuous for their common problems: he was forced to order an electrical safety inspection for nearly 49,000 homes that have had foil installed as part of the Government's ambitious home insulation program with four deaths having occurred during the implementation phase; and he separately felt compelled to order an independent inquiry from PricewaterhouseCoopers into "all contractual agreements and procurement processes" concerning the $175 million Greens Loans program, a scheme that seems almost designed to create accountability disasters.

In 2009 green politics and energy efficiency dictated that Labor include home insulation as part of its $42 billion economic stimulus package. The ambitious plan was to insulate 2.7 million homes. Garrett had to make it work, but Labor's subsidy unleashed massive demand, quotes pitched to the $1600 rebate regardless of the size of the job, untrained installers, shoddy operators and a massive administrative task for his department to set quality standards and training for all installers.

Garrett told parliament this week that he was given a series of warnings by his department in early 2009 about the risks. He was warned by the trade unions. He was warned by the National Electrical and Communications Association about firetraps and dangers from unqualified installers. The opposition issued repeated warnings and formally asked the Auditor-General to conduct an inquiry into rorting of the scheme. Garrett's claim that he "had in place an appropriate level of training and safety regulations" does not stand up from the scheme's inception. The evidence points not just to administrative incompetence in pursuit of the goal but a government lacking the experience and know-how to give effect to such a scheme so quickly.

Meanwhile under the Green Loans, assessors had to be trained and certified to make energy assessments on up to 360,000 homes for an eligible interest-free loan up to $10,000 to boost energy efficiency. As usual, public subsidies created huge demands, a flood of assessors, doubts about their credentials, chaos with assessors trying to book assessments and very few easy "green loans" actually taken out in the cause of energy efficiency.

From top to bottom, it has been an administrative shambles. Garrett's claim that "some elements of the program are not working as effectively as they should" is a joke.

This followed the earlier $850m blowout in the solar rebate scheme when the generous $8000 tax break offered to householders produced a huge oversubscription. The solution was to scrap the rebate scheme in favour of solar credits within the RET, one source of problems with that scheme.

The Rudd government has been lucky that the political story of the past 12 months has been Coalition divisions. But the "free ride" it has enjoyed with little scrutiny of administrative and policy disasters is ending.

At the heart of its environmental problems and Garrett's failures are unresolved political, policy and administrative issues. Politicians have encouraged a culture of fiscal bribery in the cause of a better environment. That leads to bad policy and exaggerated public expectations. When the public realises (in the case of climate change) that it must pay more for energy then resistance ferments.

Meanwhile decision-makers are locked into re-occurring conflicts over market-based or old-fashioned winner picking solutions. Once policy is set, government departments too often lack the skills and precedents to manage programs effectively and this leads the way to rorts.

The truth is that environmental policy is double-edged. It needs to be better integrated into whole-of-government approaches. It has the potential to undermine governments that promise too much and are exposed as incompetent.


Conservative leader launches immigration committee

The opposition has formed a border protection committee to develop a strategy to respond to the surge in asylum seeker arrivals, which could involve turning some vessels around. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said Labor inherited a robust and effective border protection system that had now been progressively unwound, paving the way for what he said was a crisis on our borders.

Mr Abbott said the new strategy would initially aim to prevent the problem in the first place by minimising outflows from countries of origin and secondary outflows from countries of first asylum. It would seek to disrupt people smugglers and intercept boats en route to Australia, while ensuring those in need of refugee protection were identified and assisted as early as possible. Appropriate arrangements for dealing with unauthorised arrivals would be developed, focusing on the early assessment of refugee status and prompt removal of those who were not refugees.

Mr Abbott said an effective border protection policy required four central elements including being prepared, under the right circumstances, to turn around the boats. He said the opposition would retain a rigorous commitment to offshore processing. It would also create a special visa category for unauthorised arrivals to ensure permanent residency was not an automatic right. A coalition government would maintain close co-operation with source and transit countries, he said.

'The coalition is committed to pursuing policies based on these principles to ensure that Australia's borders are safe,' he said in a joint statement with opposition justice and customs spokesman Michael Keenan and immigration spokesman Scott Morrison.

Mr Abbott said the border protection committee would co-ordinate coalition policy across portfolios to develop a single border protection policy for the approval by shadow cabinet. No timetable has been indicated for development of this policy.

The committee would comprise Mr Keenan (convenor), Mr Morrison, opposition deputy leader Julie Bishop, defence spokesman David Johnston, shadow attorney-general George Brandis, opposition parliamentary secretary Jason Wood and former coalition immigration minister Philip Ruddock, now shadow cabinet secretary.

'The committee will also provide a forum for consultation with the community, stakeholders and other groups with an interest in border protection issues and to determine the coalition position in response to border protection matters as they arise,' Mr Abbott said.


Evil government social workers again

"Too old" grandmother not allowed to care for grandkids. If she were black, there would be no problems, of course

A GRANDMOTHER is fighting for the care of her two grandchildren after the Department of Child Safety told her she is too old at 68 to look after them. As the Federal Government pushes the case for older workers to stay in the workforce longer, Marlene Baker, who lives west of Brisbane, is restricted to once-a-month weekend visits with her grandchildren who live 100km away in foster care. The decision comes despite no age limit for carers and the shortfall of foster parents soaring to 500.

Grandparents account for one in five foster parents in Queensland but the department has ruled Mrs Baker and her 80-year-old husband Reginald are unfit to care for the children, aged two and four. The ruling follows Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's plan to lift the retirement age to 67.

Mrs Baker admits she has some health issues but claims she is well enough to care for the children. "I have already proven I can care for them. I do all the cooking, I drive, I clean my house," she said.

The two children have spent most of their lives living with their grandparents and their 35-year-old aunt. But last November the aunt, who was the legal kinship carer, told the department she could no longer cope with the responsibility. The department immediately moved the children into foster care, 100km away, despite Mrs Baker's willingness to continue to care for them.

Mrs Baker described the separation from her grandchildren as "heartbreaking", compounded by the fact she is only allowed one phone call a week at 9am on Saturdays. "This is their home. This is where they want to be," she said. "Every time they come here, they beg me to let them stay. They have big tears running down their cheeks. "How do you tell a four-year-old that it's not you that doesn't want them, it's the department?"

The siblings have never lived with their biological parents, who were considered unfit to care for their children. Mrs Baker first applied to become a kinship carer for her four-year-old grandson, when he was born. "They did a house inspection, I had a medical, I got a blue card and in the end I was told I was too old - I was 64 then," Mrs Baker said. The boy spent a year in foster care, until the aunt became his carer and also assumed care of his sister when she was born. For most of this time, the three lived with the Bakers, and Mrs Baker was their main carer.

The Bakers have nine children, 16 grandchildren and nine great grandchildren. Mrs Baker described the department's actions as "heavy handed". At the very least she would like more access to the children. "If I can't have them, why can't I see them more often, take them on holidays, why can't they be in foster care nearby, so I can drop in and see them often like a normal grandmother?" she asked.

Independent MP Dorothy Pratt said the Bakers were victims of time-poor social workers, and their story was not an isolated case. "If grandparents are capable of caring for a child they should be the first choice," she said. "There is not enough time put in to make appropriate choices and consider what is best for the child and the family."

A spokeswoman for Child Safety Minister Phil Reeves said the priority was to provide children with "a safe and loving home environment". "The department always prefers to place children with family if possible," she said. "But every application must be assessed with absolute rigour to ensure the child's best interests are upheld." [Blah, blah, blah]


13 February, 2010

Indigenous people need less not more discrimination

By Dr Jeremy Sammut

The shocking state of child protection services in the Northern Territory has been revealed by a leaked 2007 report by Dr Howard Bath which details numerous cases of Indigenous children failed by the system.

The report, which the NT government refuses to release, shows Indigenous children are at particular risk due to the ‘Aboriginal child placement principle.’ Placing at-risk children with family members or other Aboriginal carers to ensure they remain connected to Indigenous culture is standard practice in every state and territory.

The problem is that well-intentioned ‘anti-racist’ policies are discriminating against Indigenous children and resulting in worse outcomes. In the Northern Territory, basic child protection considerations have been set aside. Most ‘kinship’ carers are not even subjected to background checks by the Department of Families and Community Service. As a result, children are often taken out of one dysfunctional home and placed in another abusive situation. What ‘culture’ are children learning in these environments?

Retired children's court magistrate Sue Gordon has called for a national review of the Aboriginal child placement principle. She maintains that child protection services should not hesitate to place removed children in non-Indigenous foster care and should not be intimidated by fear of being labelled racist and creating another stolen generation.

Gordon’s call for child safety to trump ‘politically correct’ considerations comes as Alastair Nicholson, the former Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia, has indulged in the kind of cheap shot, race-baiting politics that Indigenous policymaking can do without.

Nicholson has branded the Rudd government's plan to extend income management of welfare payments into mainstream Australian as nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to perpetuate racial discrimination against Indigenous Australians.

This is a bizarre argument – how is it racist to treat Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians alike? As the NT child protection revelations prove, many vulnerable Indigenous children would benefit greatly from a bit less discrimination and a bit more equality, just as the federal government is proposing in relation to welfare quarantining.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated February 12. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

The Australian government's chief Greenie ignores pollution

Greenies talk the talk about pollution and "chemicals" but one of their leading spokesmen does not walk the walk even when he is in a position to do so

THE Environment Minister [above] was allegedly aware of cheap imports reeking of toxic chemicals. The insulation imports were reported to be "reeking" of the harmful chemical formaldehyde, the Herald Sun reports. A Melbourne insulation industry leader, Warrick Batt, said last night he'd raised concerns about formaldehyde in a meeting with the Environment Minister.

Mr Garrett has faced Liberal claims in Parliament that he ignored 13 warnings of safety problems that led to the death of four roof insulation installers.

The Herald Sun has learned that several insulation industry leaders raised concerns with Mr Garrett about formaldehyde in the batts being imported from China, Thailand and the US. Formaldehyde has been linked to respiratory problems and cancer. Its use is not specifically banned, but Australian companies being undercut by imports say the foreign-made product is not up to standard and could pose health risks.

Mr Batt, managing director of Melbourne-based Autex, said he met Mr Garrett three times in the past six months. "I told him we were aware some imported product had high levels of formaldehyde," Mr Batt said. "Mr Garrett effectively said if that was the case, and we could prove it, he would call for action to be taken." Mr Batt said he had told Mr Garrett that it should not be up to businesses to police their competitors.

Doug Mill, the managing director of the Demand Group, sent a letter to Mr Garrett warning that high temperatures in the roof could "release gases such as formaldehyde". Other senior industry figures, who did not want to be named, confirmed they had written to the minister. One letter described the imports as "reeking of formaldehyde". Another gave examples of roof installers vomiting when they opened bags of the foreign insulation.

A senior industry figure said there was no confidence that the Federal Government was able to check the quality of the imports. "We have no idea what are the long-term respiratory effects of having this in the ceiling," he said. Another said shonky installers were putting Australian-made batts around manholes but filling the rest of the roof with cheaper imports.

On December 18, the Polyester Insulation Manufacturers Association lodged a submission with the Government specifically warning about formaldehyde. The six-page letter said, "There has been a flood of materials imported to Australia which both do not meet Australian standards for performance materials, and represent a significant respiratory health risk to both installers and householders due to excessive levels of formaldehyde, which is also a known carcinogen."


Bullsh*t program to help poor readers

Teaching them about phonetics and spelling rules is what is needed but instead they get anything but

PRIMARY school children with poor reading skills are making bug-catchers in a summer school program run in Queensland with federal government money allocated to improve literacy skills. The summer school for literacy held in January and last September is intended for children in Years 5 to 7 whose skills are below the minimum standard in the national literacy tests.

The focus of the school is to teach them how to evaluate and make inferences from what they read and to analyse the way authors have expressed their points of view about a topic.

The need for knowledge of letter-sound relationships and sounding out words to read them -- known as decoding -- is downgraded. "The summer schools literacy emphasis is on discussing the meanings of texts and on making judgments about topic sentences and word choices rather than on coding and decoding," information provided for teachers says. "Teachers are encouraged to read texts aloud so that learners can concentrate on the higher-order thinking involved in making reliable inferences. "Teachers are also able to annotate their students' work where necessary, so that encoding difficulties do not prevent students from showing what they understand and can do."

In information provided to parents, the department says the literacy summer school will teach students "how to evaluate texts". "It is important that students understand that authors (the creators of written text, documentaries, stories, films, advertisements, screenplays, video clips, chat shows etc.) all have a particular purpose and point of view," it says.

One of the literacy activities outlined for teachers to do with their students is to build an insect catcher, or "pooter", after reading a magazine about invertebrates. The instructions for making the pooter are out of order and students must rearrange them before they can make the insect catcher. The summer school program is one of the strategies devised by Queensland under the national partnership on literacy and numeracy, for which the federal government has provided $540 million to help struggling students. It will also pay financial rewards to states that lift their performance in the national tests. The Queensland government is spending $5m of its $139m allocation over the next four years on the summer schools.

Queensland Education Minister Geoff Wilson said summer schools had been popular, with parent satisfaction ratings of about 95 per cent. He said about four in five students who attended the September summer school showed improvement in at least one area of literacy or numeracy, with 85 per cent of students saying it made them feel more confident about reading, writing and maths. Other initiatives introduced by the Queensland government included literacy and numeracy coaches in schools and "turnaround teams" to help schools identify and solve problems.

Macquarie University education professor Kevin Wheldall, developer of the remedial reading MULTILIT program, said the Queensland Education Department was ignoring the recommendations of the national inquiry on teaching reading. Professor Wheldall said the inquiry echoed the findings of similar studies in the US and Britain that teaching children letter-sound relationships and how to put sounds together to form words was the necessary first step in learning to read for all students. "I don't understand how they're allowed to spend federal money doing this, given that the money was earmarked for kids struggling with reading," he said. "We know this doesn't work, it's precisely the approach that's failed these kids in the first place. and they're just offering more of the same at summer school."

Award-winning literacy teacher John Fleming, who advocates the teaching of letter-sound relationships, said the summer school approach showed the need to ensure reading was properly taught from the first days of school. Mr Fleming, now at Haileybury school in Melbourne and the 2006 winner of the national award for outstanding contribution to literacy and numeracy, said if students failed to pick up decoding skills, that was difficult to overturn when they were at the end of primary school. "What they're advocating is trying to engage the kids because a lot of them by this age feel reading is not their go," he said. "To be fair, at least they're trying to give them an opportunity to engage in the activity first, but if these kids didn't pick it up when they were in the first two or three years of school, they will find it difficult now."

Mr Fleming said the students' main problem was "instructional deficit" and that they had not been given the skills needed to develop as readers in the first years of school. "They've been immersed and gone through a school that said `When the kids are ready, they will pick it up'," he said. "Unfortunately, for these sorts of kids, that's not true."

A spokesman for Education Minister Julia Gillard said the summer schools program was one of a number of initiatives by Queensland to improve literacy and numeracy, and all the measures adopted by the states and territories under the national partnership were required to be backed by evidence. The spokesman said the bug-catcher activity aimed to engage students in literacy through a practical activity.


Doctors shut operating theatres in NSW government hospital due to leaky roof

SURGEONS and anaesthetists at the ailing Hornsby Hospital will shut the operating theatres to all but life-saving cases on rainy days after a senior nurse slipped in a puddle from a leaking roof and shattered her arm last week. The snap decision will force some patients to move to Royal North Shore Hospital and others to wait longer for surgery.

Doctors, furious that a leaking air vent in the operating theatres has still not been fixed, say they fear a patient or staff member will die if they do not take action. The chairman of the hospital's medical staff council, Richard Harris, said yesterday that doctors had been left with no option after the Health Minister, Carmel Tebbutt, said on radio during the week that the leaking vent had been fixed in October and a new leak had developed during last weekend's torrential rain.

"How ridiculous. The water is coming from the same place. It has been leaking for 16 years and it has not been fixed. I don't want anyone else getting hurt or killed," Dr Harris said.

The Bureau of Meteorology predicts thunderstorms for Sydney for the next three days. Rain is expected to return on Thursday, which could put staff and patients at risk of electrocution, a senior anaesthetist, David Benson, said.

"If you have water in a roof where there are electrics, by definition you have some potential for safety issues," he said. "It is now time to to force the hand of the state government to to fix this problem." Dr Benson said a cut in the power supply caused by water in the roof could also put patients at risk. "There is a one-second delay before the generator cuts in but that is enough to cause the computerised monitoring systems to shut down and reboot themselves. "So effectively you are without any way of monitoring a patient for about a minute and half, which could be critical."

At present about seven patients a day have elective surgery at the hospital but this rises to about 25 a day later this month.


Rudd is bludging off what his predecessors left him

The Rudd Government claims to be superior in economic management. How so? The real reason Australia did better than most developed countries in the recent financial crisis was that the Coalition had by 2006 repaid the $96 billion debt run up by Labor, left a $5 billion Education fund, a $60 billion Future Fund and a $22 billion surplus! Add to this a virtually strike free environment, whereby employment grew, wages grew and exports grew. Our economy expanded in GDP terms from $530 billion to $1.1 trillion, and our national birth rate increased from 1.7 to 1.9 – One for mum, one for dad, and one for the country, was backed up by a baby bonus that did not discriminate between working and stay at home mums.

People did feel relaxed and comfortable and able in 2007 to take a punt on Kevin Rudd – that nice cheery chap from Sunrise.

He promised more of the same. He promised a new industrial relations system where nobody would be worse off. He promised to keep the 30% Private Health Insurance Rebate for everyone who takes out private health insurance, just like Medicare is for everyone who pays the Medicare Levy. He promised to turn back the boats carrying illegal asylum seekers to Australia and he promised to fix our public hospitals, having a referendum if necessary. And he promised to reign in grocery and petrol prices.

But what did we get?

A new industrial relations system taking us back to the strike prone 1970s and 80s, a system that will cut the wages of nurses in aged care by $300 a week; see young people with after-school jobs lose those jobs by insisting the employer pay them for a minimum of three hours, which it is not possible for them to work or for him to afford. So much for nobody being worse off! The so called ‘modern awards’ has delivered old fashioned inequities.

He didn’t repeal WorkChoices, as most people expected. He amended it to create his so called Fair Work regime. Had he simply repealed WorkChoices and re-enacted the provisions that existed prior to WorkChoices, we would had retained the benefit of the Keating and 1996 Howard reforms. Mr Rudd would then not be in the position he now finds himself of having broken his promise that nobody would be worse off under his Fair Work regime, and have to wear the approbrium of the Nurses Union saying that the Fair Work law is worse than the WorkChoices law.

To add insult to injury, the Maritime Union boss has, with the threat of more strikes, forced a maritime employer to give their employees a $50,000 pay rise. That is $1,000 a week, resulting in an annual income of $180,000 a year to maritime workers with no productivity gains!

With regards to private health insurance, that nice cheery Mr Rudd wants to take away the 30% rebate from ordinary Australians who believed his promise that he would do no such thing. Thousands of Australians will lose out. If you earn $75,000 Mr Rudd says you are rich and should lose your rebate. If as a couple you earn $150,000 you lose out. If you earn less than these amounts you might be ok this time, but what about next time? Teachers, police, nurses are hit this time; are you next?

As for the hospital promise - delivery NIL.

And then there is the U-turn on the promise to turn around the illegal boats. Not only does Mr Rudd not honour his promise, but he adopts a policy which encourages people smugglers to put asylum seekers lives at risk to get them to Australia by dropping Temporary Protection Visas and giving preferential treatment to asylum seekers on the Oceanic Viking. Since then, 79 boat carrying 3,618 asylum seekers have arrived and Christmas Island is overflowing. Australia is now seen as a soft touch.

As grocery and petrol prices have continued to rise we remember the failure of Grocery Watch and Fuel Watch. Not only has Mr Rudd failed to honour this promise, but now plans to give us a big new tax on everything – the ETS. This will force further price rises for groceries and a 20% rise in electricity prices. Thanks for nothing!

Meanwhile the poor man’s Costello, Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner, told ABC radio’s Fran Kelly on 4th February that he did not know how much of the $42 billion stimulus package remained uncommitted. “Oh look I can’t give you a precise figure Fran, because of course these things are a little bit complex”. Really Mr Tanner? You are of course the Finance Minister. It’s your job to know! Complex is the standard response from Government Ministers when they don’t know the answer. You will hear it ad nauseum. We were indebted to Senator Conroy later in the day when he told the Senate that $21 billion remains unspent. That is half of the package, not the ‘bulk’ as claimed by the Finance Minister.

Back to my first point of who is better to manage the economy. Mr Rudd has already run up a debt of $120 billion which has to be repaid and every additional cent he spends on the stimulus above what has been committed has to be borrowed. This plunges us into a sea of further debt. A combination of borrowing and spending and high taxation is traditional Labor behaviour. Hands up if you think this is good economic management??


Useless parole board keeps falling for a polite crook

Anybody who knows the first thing about psychopathy would know what Mr Bartulin is so why doesn't the parole board? Shouldn't they be expert in such things?

A HABITUAL criminal with more than 200 convictions who has repeatedly convinced the Parole Board he has mended his ways yesterday thanked a judge for yet another year in jail. Richard Matthew Bartulin was a menace to society who showed no sign of reforming, Tasmanian Chief Justice Ewan Crawford said.

The 41-year-old from Glenorchy has added convictions for burglary, stealing and three counts of perverting the course of justice to his crimes list. The Supreme Court heard that after the robbery Bartulin called his victim and pretended to be a detective, told the man the case was closed and recommended he clean up the evidence.

Justice Crawford said Bartulin had "an appalling criminal record" of more than 200 offences and had continually breached parole. "He says he wants to reform and realises what an idiot he has been," the judge said. "Having regard to his record, his saying those things is pointless. Actions speak louder than words. "The court must have regard to the terrible financial harm and inconvenience he has caused his fellow citizens over many years."

Justice Crawford added another year to jail terms Bartulin is already serving and said he should not be considered for parole. Bartulin said "Thank you, your honour" as he was led from the court.

The Parole Board has released Bartulin early five times in recent years. "The board is of the view that you have now learnt your lesson," it said before setting him free in 2004. "The board considers that you are not going to be a danger to the public." Three months later he offended again. In 2005, they let him go again. "We are still in the same situation we were when we granted you parole originally, that is, we think it is unlikely that you will commit any further offences of burglary and stealing," the board said.

Three months later he was back before the courts. His latest release on parole was June last year. This time he lasted four months.


12 February, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is pretty incensed that the Rudd government knew of the failures and dangers of their madcap "home insulation" scheme months before they took any action over it


Three current articles below

Australiagate: Now NASA caught in trick over Aussie climate data

In this article we look at the findings of two independent climate researchers who analyse climatic data used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to show warming of two degrees per century for Australia without explanation. We find that an earlier study by Willis Eschenbach in an article on What’s up with That (WUWT) is wholly substantiated by Kens Kingdom’slatest analysis of Ken Stewart at his ‘kenskingdom’ blog. As a consequence, absent any other justification from NASA, we must conclude that the NASA data has been fraudulently cooked.

GISS, based at Columbia University in New York City, has adjusted over a century’s worth of temperature records from the vast Queensland State (the Sunshine State) to reverse a cooling trend in one ground weather station and increase a warming trend in another to skew the overall data set.

Independent analysis by Aussie blogger Ken Stewart exposes a deplorable smoking gun of cynical manipulation of raw temperature data.

The process of adjusting raw data to create a “homogenised” final global temperature chart is standard practice by climatologists whose work is relied upon by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and world governments. This homogenisation process of temperature data has fallen into disrepute since the Climategate scandal where scientists were proven to have unlawfully used a “trick” to fake climate data and then destroyed their calculations rendering it impossible for independent auditors to examine and justify the methodologies used.

Ken Stewart has his own take on these latest findings from Down Under: “Wow- when they adjust, they don’t muck around!”

GISS combines GHCN data from all urban stations applying the same inexplicable two degree temperature increase as shown below to reveal the shocking disparity between ‘raw’ data and the ‘cooked’ GISS data:

Ken proves that the GISS homogenised older data to make the climate appear cooler a hundred years ago and then ramped up modern data to artificially make recent years appear warmer. Thus climate scientists have artificially created a steep trend line to falsely give an impression of a 2 degrees rise in Australian temperatures over a 100 year period. Ken found that if climatologists had stuck to the raw data the trendline would have been as low as 0.2 degrees per 100 years – thus the overall temperature rise has been magnified by a factor of ten for no apparent reason other than to cause alarm.

Ken explains how he undertook his research: "I decided to have a look at the temperature records of the weather stations closest to where I live, near Mackay in North Queensland. The Bureau of Meteorology lists 3 current stations: Mackay MO, Mackay Aero, and Te Kowai Exp Station, plus the closed station Mackay Post Office. GISS has a list of nearby stations… Te Kowai is an experimental farm for developing new varieties of sugar cane, run by scientists and technicians since 1889. It has a temperature record of over 100 years with only a couple of gaps. So in fact it’s an ideal rural station for referencing a nearby urban station, as it should have a similar climate."

Ken found that the “Mackay Sugar Mill Station” was far hotter in the 1920’s and 30’s but GISS “disappeared” this data. However, if we add the warming period back in we find that the warming trend almost disappears to become less then 0.2 degrees per 100 years! Ken concludes, “How can GISS justify their manipulation of the data, which they claim not to do?”

Upon closer examination of GISS methodology it appears that accidentally on purpose they used a “trick” whereby they turned “Mackay Sugar Mill Station” into a small town rather than a rural station even though it’s been nothing much more than cane fields for the last 130 years. There are different procedures applied to homogenising data between urban and rural weather stations.

I have examined Ken’s findings and can concur with him that there exists inexplicable anomalies that, without exception, appear concocted (homogenized) to create a warming trend when no evidence in changes in the local environmental conditions warrants any such manipulation. Moreover, GISS does not publish any explanations of why they chose to make cooler those temperatures in the first 40 years of their sample and then ramp up the temperatures for recent years. Absent any explanation from them, we may draw our own conclusions that the GISS lowered the older temperature records and raised the temperatures of recent years to create a fictitiously steeper homogenised warming slope to fit a pre-conceived warmist agenda.

Ken says this is fraud, “And it’s happening in my own backyard! I’m furious!”

This finding, when compared to those from other independent observers shows further attempts by government and government-funded agencies to fraudulent create a man made warming signal in Australia from natural events and data.

Ken’s findings tie in really well with the anomaly exposed by WUWT where Willis Eschenbach found similar dodgy data for Darwin, in the Northern Territory ( a vast Aussie state of 1,349,129 square kilometres (520,902 sq mi):

Here is Eschenbach’s comment on the data about Darwin: "YIKES! Before getting homogenized, temperatures in Darwin were falling at 0.7 Celcius per century … but after the homogenization, they were warming at 1.2 Celsius per century. And the adjustment that they made was over two degrees per century … when those guys “adjust”, they don’t mess around. And the adjustment is an odd shape, with the adjustment first going stepwise, then climbing roughly to stop at 2.4C."

The similarities in degree and extent of fakery found separately by Eschenbach and Stewart proves a consistent fraudulent objective: make older temperatures appear artificially cooler and exagerrate recent temperature data. has built up a close affinity with Australian skeptics who have worked tirelessly to expose the climate scam still being brainlessly plugged by Aussie Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. Further similar contributions submitted to us for publication are most welcome. We intend to continue to expose such fraud relying on the technical and analytical skills of gifted amateur bloggers to fully expose the greatest scam in the history of science. Our aim is to bring forth criminal and civil proceedings against all those involved.


Top science body 'in denial' over policy debate

THE CSIRO and the Rudd government are in "a state of denial" if they believe science can be separated from public policy, says eminent economist Clive Spash. He's hit back at criticisms his controversial paper on emissions trading read like "weak polemical journalism" and that the quality of his writing was substandard.

Professor Spash resigned in December following a long-running and bitter dispute over his report - The Brave New World of Carbon Trading. In the paper, Prof Spash suggests emission trading schemes, like the one the federal government hopes to introduce, are not the answer to climate change. It could even exacerbate the problem of human-induced global warming.

But the CSIRO blocked the paper's publication, arguing employees are restricted from commenting on public policy. CSIRO boss Megan Clark told a Senate estimates committee today she stood by the company charter. "I make no apologies for maintaining the standards of the CSIRO." She again defended the CSIRO's treatment of Prof Spash, saying she made every effort to convince him to make changes and thereby ensure its publication.

But Prof Spash was quick to return fire, and in a long list of grievances accused the CSIRO of harassment, intimidation and censorship over the course of several months. He was also gagged from talking publicly about his situation, he said. "My co-author withdrew from the paper feeling their job was under threat and I myself was harassed," he said in an email to AAP.

"Inappropriate mention of disciplinary action and implied dismissal were cited. "I was promised senior management would work with me. "Instead, I was given a substantially altered document without any input on my part. "I was then given an ultimatum to accept the changes or have the paper banned."

Prof Spash, a leading ecological economist originally head-hunted by the CSIRO, resigned two weeks later. He savaged the new charter as an attempt to micromanage CSIRO researchers, leading to self-censorship and preventing them from having any personal views made public. That was an infringement on free speech.

The CSIRO was wrong to think science could remain separate from public policy, Prof Spash said. "Open debate amongst researchers and in society is required to inform public policy, not manipulation of results due to fear of annoying political paymasters. "New information changes society in unpredictable ways and requires open public debate. "Management seems to be in a state of denial as to (this) reality."

He also took aim at Science Minister Kim Carr, who referred the Senate committee to an external review which labelled the paper "weak polemical journalism". "As a former school teacher I really wondered whether or not this was the sort of thing we were employing people to write on behalf of the CSIRO," Senator Carr also said. "The quality was just not there."

But journal New Political Economy, which was prevented from publishing the report, agreed the CSIRO was trying to censor it. It was "clearly improper" for the CSIRO to browbeat employees into changes which alter its conclusions, an editor wrote to Senator Carr in November. The unamended report was released publicly two days later.


PM left alone and exposed as big business backs away from Warmist laws

THE Rudd government has lost the last fig leaf on an emissions trading scheme that starts ahead of the rest of the world: "business certainty". The Business Council of Australia no longer considers the introduction of an ETS as providing business certainty and has put a caveat on support for an Australian scheme that cannot be met.

Given the fiasco of Copenhagen, the BCA has urged the government to change its scheme "in line with other international responses". Further, it has demanded the unconditional target of cutting greenhouse gases by 5 per cent by 2020, the same target as the Coalition's, not be lifted "before we have clear and credible commitments, and actions, from both developed and developing countries that are verifiable and monitored". That's impossible for nations such as China and India to meet: the BCA may as well have urged an ETS be set up on the moon before Australia lifts its target.

For more than two years, Kevin Rudd and Penny Wong have argued that there needed to be an early start for an ETS in Australia -- not just because climate change was the greatest moral challenge of our time but also to give business certainty for planning. That's why Labor originally argued for a 2010 start date and pushed it back only one year. It's also why the Prime Minister argued passionately for ETS legislation to pass last year when the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme bill first went to parliament and why he said it had to be passed before the climate change conference in Copenhagen .

Yet business and industry were not united on this need for "certainty"; even Malcolm Turnbull, as a Liberal leader supporting an ETS, argued for Australia to wait until after the UN conference.

Rudd consistently quoted the BCA as supporting his position. While some individual members were alarmed at Labor's plan, the BCA continued to support the government's position. That support's no longer there: the infant ETS is exposed on a hillside.


Queensland public hospital complaints go unanswered

But the light of publicity suddenly gets some action!

A YOUNG mum who can't hold her baby because of a botched hospital birth is among more than 20 Queenslanders whose complaints have been ignored by the independent patient safety watchdog. The Health Quality and Complaints Commission yesterday admitted that 22 online complaints about public hospital incidents had sat unread for up to five months because of a computer glitch.

The commission, which legally has 90 days to act, issued a receipt to patients but the complaints sat in a computer system until inquiries by The Courier-Mail alerted the HQCC to the problem.

One of the complaints was from Toowoomba mother Dawn Kelly, 20, who nearly died from a flesh-eating infection after having a caesarean. Her family believes the infection was caused by sloppy surgery and poor monitoring. Ms Kelly, who is allergic to latex, was given an epidural with a latex catheter. She has required 14 operations to repair damage to her uterus and abdomen since delivering her first child, Tyler, last April.

Ms Kelly and a neighbour who was visiting her in hospital say the surgeon said: "That's the way the cookie crumbles and this time the crumbs landed on you."

Ms Kelly's mother, Julie Parsons, said she had lost $25,000 in income while taking care of her daughter and Tyler, while Mrs Parson's husband David was working four jobs. "We've been kept in the dark on so many issues. There's nobody taking responsibility for anything," Mrs Parsons said. She had asked the HQCC to investigate in October, but was later told her online complaint was lost.

After being contacted by The Courier-Mail, the HQCC claimed the complaint was one of 22 unopened after being received online. The Courier-Mail understands the HQCC averaged one email every two days before the online complaints were shut down in November. "We apologise for the technical issue and wish to assure these complainants that we will manage their cases as quickly as possible," an HQCC spokeswoman said. The Parsons said their daughter had acute pain several times a week.

Queensland Health acting district chief executive officer Dr Peter Bristow said staff at the hospital "were sorry for the pain and suffering Dawn Kelly has been through. I realise that Ms Kelly's health problems have had a huge impact". Queensland Health said it was arranging an appointment for Ms Kelly to see a pain management specialist at a private hospital and to get surgery to permanently mend her abdomen in the near future.


You can’t debate immigration without being called a racist

by Scott Morrison, Australia's Federal opposition spokesman on immigration and citizenship

Last week I returned from a visit to Christmas Island to Parliament where the Labor Member MP, John Sullivan, from Longman in Brisbane, interjected during a speech and called me a racist. At the time, I was speaking to an Appropriations Bill that was seeking additional funds to make up for shortfalls in this year’s budget. Included in these shortfalls was $132 million for off shore processing of asylum seekers. We were supporting the Bill.

I noted that the 100 per cent plus blow out in costs demonstrated the Government had failed to appreciate the impact of their policy changes on the detention population on Christmas Island, that is now at unsustainable levels. Apparently, criticising the government’s poor budget management these days is also grounds for being called a racist by Labor MPs.

Reflecting on John’s classy contribution, it occurred to me just how lazy arguments against stronger border protection can become. Rather than engage in the debate, some self appropriate piety and indulge in moral hectoring as a substitute.

It would seem easier for some to think that those who don’t agree with them are simply evil racists and unable to comprehend, let alone share, their own self assessed high minded capacity for human compassion, than listen to what they have to say.

The pro-boats doctrine pedalled by some and adopted in practice by the Rudd Government has no monopoly on concern for the world’s dispossessed. To suggest otherwise is simply arrogant. Here are some things to think about.

There are reports that more than one hundred Afghans – men, women and children – perished at sea last year in their bid to come to Australia. Their families in Brisbane will probably never know what happened to them. They’re still waiting for the call.

Where are the public protests about the fate of these 105 Afghans and the policies that encouraged them to get on that boat? We have no idea how many others have died on vessels that never arrived. We do know that last November 12 people drowned after their boat sunk west of the Cocos Islands, and on Saturday afternoon 45 people were rescued after drifting for four days without food or water. And then there were five people who were killed when their boat, SIEV36, was set alight and dozens more injured, also in an attempt to gain entry to Australia.

In each case people smugglers profit. The ticket price is between $5,000 and $20,000 per passenger.

Some will say, but what about those who arrive by air? Well, when was the last time you heard of an asylum seeker drowning on board a 747?

Then there are those in refugee camps. Around 140,000 Burmese refugees are in nine camps along the Thai-Burma border. They began arriving there in the early eighties. Today people who were born in these camps are now raising their own children there, where rape, domestic violence and substance abuse are commonplace. During the past five years Australia has granted almost nine thousand off shore humanitarian visas to Burmese refugees. This enjoys bi partisan support. I have no issue with taking 13,500 people under our humanitarian programme each year.

Where we differ is allowing places in our humanitarian programme to be exhausted by those who pay for the services of people smugglers in preference to those offshore in camps. I believe it violates our sense of fairness.

While there are many other reasons, saving lives and helping those who will never be able to pay a people smugglers ransom to come to Australia, strike me as good reasons to stop the illegal arrival of boats coming to Australia.

Since the Rudd Government started rolling back the border protection regime inherited from the Coalition in August 2008, 79 boats have illegally arrived carrying more than 3,600 passengers. Not even the monsoon and the threat of cyclones have been able to overwhelm the magnetic impact of the Rudd Government’s failed border protection policies. This summer, 23 boats have illegally arrived in our waters, compared to just four during the same period last year.

Rather than take action, the Rudd Government has been content to blame the rest of the world and hope the problem will just go away. Worse still, they cynically hope we will just get used to it.

Faced with an overflowing Christmas Island, the Rudd Government has already rolled over and transferred people directly to the mainland from Christmas Island before assessment of their asylum claims has been completed. This not only sends the worst possible message to people smugglers, but it opens up murky legal ground regarding the status of individuals transferred. It only takes one judge in one court with jurisdiction to hear a case and the dominoes will fall.

And then there was the Government’s special deal for the Oceanic Viking. Mr Rudd guaranteed fast track processing, spent Australia’s diplomatic favours around the world to guarantee resettlement and most significantly compromised our national security by bringing four people rejected by our security agencies to Australian territory. This is simply unforgivable. Mr Rudd still maintains the Oceanic Viking arrangement was ‘non-extraordinary’. He should try telling that to the 200 plus people sitting in the port at Merak, the Indonesian Government who no longer trust us on these issues and, for that matter, the 140,000 refugees in Thailand. The Rudd Government blinked and have now lost control.

The Coalition had no such difficulty when it came to dealing decisively with these issues in Government. Our views and resolve have not changed. We will not compromise the off shore processing regime. While Nauru and Manus are closed, if necessary, other alternative options will be found. Boats will be turned back if circumstances allow, as Mr Rudd promised he would do. And we will begin the work of recalibrating the policy settings unravelled by Labor, starting with the creation of a new temporary safe haven visa.

Some will not like these policies, but people smugglers will understand them. You will also be spared the hypocrisy of the Rudd Government pretending to be one thing while failing to be another.


Victorian governor abuses his office

VICTORIAN Governor David de Kretser must give up his political activism ... or resign. On Sunday, this supposedly bipartisan official will launch a divisive "civil campaign" with radical green activists and Marxists. That campaign is explicitly political, with organisers declaring on their website they will be "targeting individuals, community organisations, business and government".

Has de Kretser forgotten he has a day job? For him to help whip up a political campaign against politicians is an astonishing breach of a governor's duty to stay above politics and remain a neutral "umpire". As former governor, Labor stalwart and judge Richard McGarvie wrote, a governor or governor-general must be a "respected person who remains entirely above partisan politics and exerts a unifying influence".

Yet de Kretser is listed as keynote speaker at a "mass convergence" at the Melbourne Town Hall organised by the Transition Decade Alliance, a collective of four far Left and radical green groups, including the Climate Emergency Network. The word "convergence" and the plethora of new and grand-sounding organisations behind it are in fact the calling cards of anti-capitalist groups behind such often violent demonstrations as the S11 blockade of the World Economic Forum in 2000 and the demonstrations against George Bush and George W. Bush. Their aim is to suck in more reputable groups in a "convergence" which they then try to take over.

And, indeed, the Climate Emergency Network's members include the usual Marxist and revolutionary Left parties, such as Resistance, Socialist Alliance, Socialist Alternative and Solidarity, as well as law-breaking green protest groups such as Greenpeace and Rising Tide, behind the illegal blockade of coal trains at Newcastle.

Nor is this the only sign that should have warned de Kretser he was being used to dignify a militantly political rally. Joining him at the microphone will be David Spratt, who speaks at conferences organised by Marxist groups and demands we switch to a "war-type economy" and spend "more than 30 per cent ... of the economy" to "save most humans and species from a global warming apocalypse". Another co-sponsor is Friends of the Earth, an anti-corporate green group that helped to organise the S11 blockade and insists "wealthier people need to consume less".

Still not enough warning for de Kretser? Then surely he noticed that neither Labor nor the Liberals had sent a speaker to the convergence? Surely he knew that the only politician billed to appear on the stage with him was Christine Milne, the most extreme Greens politician in Federal Parliament? Can't de Kretser see just from this alone how inappropriate it is that he be there? This "unifying" and "bipartisan" official will seem to be siding with the Greens against the big parties.

This is the most extraordinary breach of a governor's duty I've seen. Just ask yourself. Would you expect the Queen to turn up to such a rally, aimed at "targeting ... government"? Then what is the Queen's man in Government House doing there?

It's ludicrous I should have to remind de Kretser why a governor should keep out of politics. Yet clearly I must. Political meddling by an unelected governor is undemocratic, for a start.

Even more important is that the essential role of a governor is to make sure the constitution works as it should. Usually that's uncontroversial work. But as we saw with the sacking of the Whitlam government in 1975, or of NSW premier Jack Lang in 1932, sometimes a governor-general or governor must act in ways that can have us at each other's throats, screaming that democracy is dead. It will then be absolutely critical that no one can prove the Governor a partisan. It's even more vital he isn't.

It is obvious that de Kretser is passionate about the issue of global warming, and even preached on that subject - inappropriately, thought some guests - at his reception last month for Prince William. He's entitled to such opinions, but he is not entitled to abuse his position to advance them - especially not when they are highly divisive and intended to influence the biggest issue now in Australian politics.

If de Kretser wants to become active in politics, he's perfectly free to do so. But he must first quit as Governor, or be made to.


NOTE: My QANTAS/Jetstar blog is getting frequent updates.

11 February, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG thinks the wheels are coming off Rudd's global warming bandwagon

Victoria to ape failed British hospital reform

It leads either to "fudging" the figures or to hasty and inappropriate treatment -- causing death in some instances

WAITING times for patients at Victorian hospital emergency wards would be slashed by half to four hours as part of sweeping health reforms. Victoria is already testing a four-hour target for emergency departments in three Melbourne hospitals. The Brumby Government is closely monitoring the trial before deciding whether to roll out a four-hour benchmark across the state.

South Australian Premier Mike Rann - who faces a tough election fight on March 20 - is leading a national push for the four-hour target. He has been lobbying other premiers and Canberra to back the health plan - with mixed success. NSW is understood to be lukewarm, believing it would require thousands of extra hospital beds, but Victoria and Western Australia are proceeding with the target in a bid to clear emergency wards.

The plan comes as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is finishing a suite of reforms that he hopes the states will sign in the next few months. It is believed the PM is keen to offer the states extra money to speed up elective surgery waiting lists. He also supports a reform suggested by his Health and Hospitals Reform Commission to pay at least 40 per cent of the "efficient cost" of every public patient admission.

Mr Rudd, who has backed away from a threat to take over the public hospitals, yesterday raised the prospect of introducing hospital boards. This would give local communities greater control over their hospitals - but critics claim it would cost tens of millions of dollars in extra bureaucracy.

The Rudd Government has been working through options with the states ahead of a Council of Australian Governments summit, scheduled for March or April. But the states are far from united on the best way forward for health reform. The plan to introduce a four-hour target for emergency departments highlights the national split. Supporters point to the success of a four-hour target introduced by Britain in 2004. The target, along with extra cash, has produced a big [superficial] improvement at UK emergency departments.

Some concerns have been raised that hospital staff had compromised the level of patient care in order to meet the tougher benchmark. At present, patients who have been rushed to emergency departments have to wait up to eight hours to be treated and either discharged or admitted to a hospital bed.

Canberra appears lukewarm to requests from South Australia for extra money. Health Minister Nicola Roxon said the Rudd Government had increased health and hospital funding by 50 per cent to a record $64 billion.


Political snobs risk turning Barnaby into a martyr

The usual leftist arrogance and reliance on abuse

Ahhh, now we get it. Lindsay Tanner is smarter than that “freak show” Barnaby Joyce. In case we didn’t get the message in parliament last week (we can be a bit slow sometimes) Mr Tanner spelled it out again on Meet the Press on the weekend. Not only is Senator Joyce “off the planet”, his team mate Joe Hockey is a “lightweight”.

Yesterday in parliament he repeated the lesson again for those who’d wagged the last one or drifted off while doodling on our pencil cases. Mr Hockey is “out to lunch”, and again he filled us in on Barnaby. According to Mr Tanner, Senator Joyce is evidence of “a very big question mark over the leader of the opposition’s judgment for appointing him in the first place.”

For someone who’s so much smarter than his counterpart, Mr Tanner seems to have skipped the chapter in Politics for Dummies called “Australians don’t like smug politicians who reckon they’re smarter than everyone else.”

A strong collective wisdom has formed in the commentary about the Coalition Finance spokesman that he’s a dolt. Take last week’s coverage of Senator Joyce’s comments about the foreign aid budget.

* The Age: Joyce loses the plot on international aid

* The Sydney Morning Herald: Barnaby Joyce in policy whacko-land. (They’re the same piece, different mastheads, different equally snotty headlines.)

* In Irate woman interrupts Liberal trip on we read how Tony Abbott had “slapped down” his front bencher.

* And here on The Punch: Barnaby’s on his own with his comments on foreign aid.

Personally I think our foreign aid budget should be increased, not decreased, for two reasons: it’s the right thing to do, and the smart thing to do. But it is naive in the extreme to think that’s the only view out there. There’s not many people ringing talk back radio demanding we boost our funding to our troubled pacific neighbours or sling a few billion the way of Africa.

And was Saturday’s paper’s filled with people condemning Senator Joyce? No. Instead in the Daily Telegraph there were letters like:

* “Just how much longer do we have to put up with the childish antics of the Federal Labor Party who now resort to pathetic name-calling of Barnaby Joyce? It’s good to see Barnaby Joyce didn’t lower himself to their level,” wrote Gail Marsh of Riverstone.

* “Senator Barnaby Joyce is one of the few politicians who is making sense. His foreign aid comment made a lot of sense. We are billions in debt and borrowing more and more ... and we are still offering foreign aid. We should be looking after ourselves first,” wrote Bonny Nobrega of Earlwood.

* (Completely off track but worthy of sharing is this letter to the Tele from Susie Colvin of Bilgola Plateau: “All this talk about Tony Abbott wearing budgie smugglers is childish but I would like to say to his detractors that he at least appears to have a budgie to smuggle.”) [For overseas readers, she means that his manhood is evident. "Budgie Smugglers" is slang for a brief swimming costume]

I wonder how these people feel when Mr Tanner calls the man with whom their views accord a “freak show”? Or when commentators say his position makes him politically untenable? Pretty cheesed off I imagine.

The government’s “the opposition is stupid” theme was expanded during Question Time yesterday when Kevin Rudd called Tony Abbott “the straight talker from central casting.” Taking the piss out of people for speaking in coherent sentences is a high-risk political strategy, especially from the man who coined the phrase “programmatic specificity.”

I would have thought the left, and the more mainstream elements of the conservative side of politics would have learned how ineffective it is to write someone off as a half-wit when that strategy didn’t work with a certain red-headed fish and chip shop owner from Southern Queensland. You don’t have to agree with Barnaby Joyce but mocking him is going to have the effect of cementing his existing support base, and possibly giving him a leg up with some people who were undecided but don’t like smug bastards.


Sydney bids to poach Indian students from "racist" Melbourne

SYDNEY is making a bid to poach Indian students from Melbourne with a campaign to promote NSW as a safe study destination. NSW Premier Kristina Keneally said some Indians were failing to differentiate between the two cities after claims in India of racist violence in Melbourne.

Premier John Brumby has repeatedly denied claims that Victoria is racist. He has called on the services of cricket king Shane Warne to try to smooth relations in India. Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu this week said Mr Brumby was burying his head in the sand about the problem, claims backed by Indian student leaders.

Ms Keneally said a minister would be sent to India to tell education representatives students would be helped into safe accommodation in NSW. "The difference between Sydney and Melbourne may be lost in the overseas market. We want to send a message NSW is a welcoming place for international students," Ms Keneally said.


Australian bank the world's best for profits

A CAGEY interest rate strategy and lower bad debt charges have propelled Commonwealth Bank to a record first-half cash profit of $2.94 billion. The country's largest home lender and deposit-taker boosted the profitability of its lending operations by driving volumes through the Government's first-home-buyer grant and keeping a tight lid on costs. The bumper result, which puts the bank on track for a $6 billion full-year bottom line, was signalled to investors two weeks ago when CBA upgraded its earnings guidance. It establishes CBA as the world's most profitable retail bank with a return on equity of 18.5 per cent.

Chief executive Ralph Norris was upbeat about CBA's prospects as the Australian economy recovered from the global downturn. He defended CBA against claims it had gouged customers to achieve the stunning cash result, which was 54 per cent up on the previous first half. "There's nothing worse than a bank that can't make money," Mr Norris said.

"Over the last six months the outlook for the global and domestic economy has improved to the extent that Australia now appears to be on the road to a sustainable economic recovery. That is likely to bring with it a gradual improvement in demand for credit in the 2010 calendar year accompanied by continued upward pressure on our funding costs."

Mr Norris, now in his fifth year at the helm, said he wanted to continue as CEO. "I'm sticking around a for a while yet - although that's at the board's discretion," he said. He said the bad debt cycle, which eroded the performance of the banking sector in the past two years, had probably peaked after CBA's charge for impaired loans fell 29 per cent.

The recovery on global equities markets also fired the result, with investment activities generating a $142 million return compared with a loss of almost $200 million in the previous first half.

However, the bank can thank its depositors for helping to keep a lid on funding costs. CBA did not gouge most borrowers in the December half, relying instead on heavy volume growth to drive interest revenue. The interest take from home and personal borrowers actually fell. It was depositors who were forced to absorb the pain, with the bank delaying rate increases on leading deposit products until the end of the reporting period. The average interest paid by CBA to depositors with transaction accounts and fixed deposits fell to 3.48 per cent from 5.52 per cent a year earlier. The bank's interest margin rose because of this sharp decline in the cost of raising retail deposits.


10 February, 2010


By Andrew Bolt

Melbourne University alarmist David Karoly once claimed a rise in the Murray Darling Basin’s temperatures was “likely due to the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from human acitivity” and: "This is the first drought in Australia where the impact of human-induced global warming can be clearly observed."

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd grabbed the scare and exploited it:
BRENDAN Nelson was yesterday accused of being “blissfully immune” to the effects of climate change after he said the crisis in the Murray-Darling Basin was not linked to global warming…

In parliament yesterday, Kevin Rudd attacked Dr Nelson, accusing him of ignoring scientific facts.

“You need to get with the science on this,” the Prime Minister said. “Look at the technical report put together by the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology.”
But now comes the latest evidence that Rudd and Karoly were wrong: in fact, there’s no evidence in the Murray Darling drought of man-made warming, says a new study in Geophysical Research Letters:
Previous studies of the recent drought in the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) have noted that low rainfall totals have been accompanied by anomalously high air temperatures. Subsequent studies have interpreted an identified trend in the residual timeseries of non-rainfall related temperature variability as a signal of anthropogenic change, further speculating that increased air temperature has exacerbated the drought through increasing evapotranspiration rates. In this study, we explore an alternative explanation of the recent increases in air temperature. This study demonstrates that significant misunderstanding of known processes of land surface – atmosphere interactions has led to the incorrect attribution of the causes of the anomalous temperatures, as well as significant misunderstanding of their impact on evaporation within the Murray-Darling Basin…

However, to accept the correlation [between temperature and rainfall] as the sole basis for the attribution of cause to human emissions is to implicitly assume that the correlation represents an entirely correct model of the sole driver of maximum air temperature. This is clearly not the case.
What’s causing the evaporation and temperatures is not (man-made) warming. It’s kind of the other way around: more sunshine, through lack of cloud cover, and lack of rain and therefore evaporation is causing higher temperatures. And guess which scandal-ridden and alarmist IPCC report relied on Karoly’s claims? Reader Baa Humbug:
Karoly was cited very extensively in the AR4 WG1 paper.e.g. Chapter 9 Studies Based on Indices of Temperature Change and Temperature-Precipitation Relationships."Studies based on indices of temperature change support the robust detection of human influence on continental-scale land areas. Observed trends in indices of North American continental scale temperature change, (including the regional mean, the mean land-ocean temperature contrast and the annual cycle) were found by Karoly et al. (2003) to be generally consistent with simulated trends under historical forcing from greenhouse gases and sulphate aerosols during the second half of the 20th century. In contrast, they find only a small likelihood of agreement with trends driven by natural forcing only during this period.

"High" standards at an Australian public hospital

And a government that refuses to do anything about it

A SENIOR nurse was undergoing emergency surgery last night after slipping in a puddle caused by a leaking vent at the decaying Hornsby hospital. Her fall came two months after orders were given to hide the crumbling, water-damaged ceiling by painting over it.

Last year angry doctors called the rundown hospital "offensive and mediaeval", and complained of possum urine on the walls, dangerous cables across floors, and ceilings collapsing from rain damage. They have run a campaign to have the hospital rebuilt and say they were stunned to see a tradesman painting over the water damage in December.

In the latest incident, Andrea Walters, 54, who said staff had been mopping up water from leaking ceilings in her ward for 16 years, was finishing her shift in the operating theatres on Sunday night when she slid in the puddle. She landed heavily on her side, shattering her right arm. Doctors fear she will need a partial joint reconstruction and a nerve graft. She is expected to be off work for at least three months.

The head of the hospital's medical staff council, Richard Harris, said yesterday: "We are very cranky and upset about this, particularly as the rain marks were painted over … We haven't seen any evidence the state government is taking this issue seriously, and we now demand action."

Dr Harris said the Health Minister, Carmel Tebbutt, was shown several buckets under the vent during a visit in October. They were put in place after Sydney received 27 millimetres of rain in two days. She had asked how staff managed to move patients from the operating theatres to wards through open corridors in bad weather. "She was told it was a nightmare," Dr Harris said, "but nothing was done."

On Sunday two garbage bins and eight towels were put under the vent to catch the rain. They were removed when the leaking subsided, but another downpour about 9pm flooded the floor and caught Ms Walters unaware. "This was totally avoidable," she said. "The [leak] has been placed in the too-hard basket, and it should have been fixed. I haven't got a little bruise, I've got a life-changing injury."

A clinical nurse specialist who has worked at the hospital for 23 years, Ms Walters said she now feared she could lose her house because nurses do not receive penalty rates - which make up a large portion of their income - while on worker's compensation.

A spokesman for the Northern Sydney Central Coast Area Health Service said theatre staff reported the leak on October 26 and the ceiling was repaired two days later. Aesthetic repairs, including painting, were done on December 17. Maintenance staff were working to fix the leak, but there were no plans to replace the roof, she said.

An independent review, the sixth in 30 years, this week found the hospital to be unsafe. The review, part of a redevelopment master plan, found the theatres were a fire risk, surgical and medical wards were cramped and did not allow for effective clinical supervision; and bathrooms, nursing stations and storage areas were too small. It said the hospital needed painting, asbestos removed and its roofs repaired.


DNA backlog allows criminals to roam free

In a reasonable world there would be a 24 hour turnaround on this

Criminals are being left to roam the streets because of a backlog in DNA evidence waiting to be analysed, the NSW Auditor-General says. The demand for DNA analysis has increased by almost 40 per cent in the past five years, with little in the way of funding increases, a report by the Audit Office says. There is a backlog of 6400 cases waiting for the analysis of DNA evidence gathered - a backlog that would take a year to clear with current resources.

The Auditor-General, Peter Achterstraat, recommended that police should prioritise DNA samples to have the best evidence analysed first. He also suggested prioritising break-in and other property crimes and moving the most recent cases to the front of the queue to get criminals off the streets. Other states had overcome their DNA backlog with greater resources, he said.

"The safety of the people of NSW is of paramount importance. "Crimes need to be solved as quickly as possible and delays need to be eliminated. "The efficient use of forensic analysis is critical in the prevention of further crime and needs to be addressed immediately for the benefit of the public."

AAP reports: To reduce the backlog, Mr Achterstraat recommended a user-pays system for DNA analysis, and for police to better manage demand. "Firstly, we need a user-pays agreement for all DNA analysis," he said. "Secondly, police must manage demand by determining the best evidence in a case and analysing that first. "Thirdly, the great impact on reducing property crimes will be analysing DNA evidence for the most recent cases first by moving them to the front of the queue. This will give police a better chance of catching criminals and preventing further crimes."

Mr Achterstraat also recommended a review of the cost effectiveness of outsourced DNA analysis. While NSW Health's Division of Analytical Laboratories conducts the bulk of DNA testing, about 5500 cases a year have been outsourced to the private sector. Outsourced analysis costs $412 per item, almost twice as much as tests done by NSW Health, the report says.


Bank boss warns Rudd government against major regulatory reform

He's self-evidently right. Australian banks continued to make good profits while overseas banks were falling like ninepins. Disclosure: I am a CBA shareholder -- JR

Commonwealth Bank of Australia chief executive Ralph Norris has warned the Rudd government the Australian banking system does not need widespread regulatory reform based on the "poor practices" of overseas banks which sparked the global financial crisis.

The warning came as the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) posted a cash net profit of $2.943 billion for the first half, up 54 per cent on the same time last year. The profit increase, which was slightly above the bank’s previous guidance, was attributed to a decline in bad debt and impairment charges and flat cost growth due to a wage freeze for senior executives. The bank declared an interim dividend of $1.20, up 6 per cent, which takes CBA’s payout ratio back to 63 per cent -- the same level as before the start of the financial crisis.

Mr Norris told analysts it was vital regulators in Australia did not duplicate the potential widespread regulatory changes that were under consideration for the global banking system. The CBA also warned that funding costs would remain high in the next year due to longer-term funding remaining expensive and competition in the market for retail deposits. "There are regulatory discussions covering a number of areas of capital, liquidity and provisioning," Mr Norris said.

"The view has been expressed that there is a need to address a major failure in the global banking system but in reality that failure was only in the US, the UK and parts of continental Europe. "Outside these markets, the banks have performed reasonably well but the flow-on effects are likely to be felt for some time. "The cost to banks to access wholesale funding will remain elevated. Australia has largely avoided the impact and the major banks are in a strong financial position."

Mr Norris said the government had to ensure the Australian banks were not "materially disadvantaged" by potential regulatory changes. The banks are concerned a proposed move to make them hold more capital and liquid assets would drive up their costs. "We must be careful that Australia, which has a healthy banking system, is not materially disadvantaged by changes driven by the poor practices of banks in the northern hemisphere," Mr Norris said.

"One of the reasons why the Australian economy has performed so well is that the banks have been able to support their customers. I don’t know of any strong economy that does not have a healthy banking system."

Mr Norris, who is also the chairman of the Australian Bankers' Association, said he had told the government and regulators that there was a risk of over-reacting and implementing too much regulation in Australia.

The CBA's chief financial officer David Craig said the bank's move to cut some fees had cost CBA $50million-$60 million in the first half, however, that could double in the second-half.


Motorist anger as cyclists flout rules

Many cyclists are testosterone junkies who are incapable of considering other people

ROGUE cyclists are routinely running red lights and flouting road rules in Queensland, fuelling a growing backlash from motorists. Fed up with cyclists treating the rules with contempt, members of Queensland's peak motoring group are demanding the growing packs of riders get off busy roads.

Police images obtained by The Courier-Mail show cyclists blatantly running red lights and even breaking the speed limit. One red light camera at the intersection of Logan and Broadwater roads at Mt Gravatt captured four cyclists in the wrong on three occasions in November. Cyclists also have been snapped by speed cameras at Mt Coot-tha travelling up to 18km over the 60km/h limit. But lack of identification means police are often powerless to prosecute the offenders.

Penalties for cyclists caught breaking the law are substantially lower than for motorists who commit the same offence. Cyclists face a $100 fine for running a red light, compared with $300 and three demerit points for drivers. In a 10-month period last year, 168 cyclists were fined for disobeying a red light and 187 booked for riding without proper lights.

Growing numbers of cyclists on congested roads have been blamed for increasing friction with motorists. RACQ spokeswoman Lynda Schekoske said a recent survey found 85 per cent of its 1.2 million members wanted harsher penalties for cyclists who broke the rules. Its members also wanted separate facilities for cyclists, particularly on roads with high speed limits.


NOTE: My Queensland police blog never seems to lack new reports lately.

9 February, 2010

“Understanding the Ruddy ETS”

The Carbon Sense Coalition today claimed that the Emissions Trading Scheme proposed for Australia and now before the Australian Parliament was far more than “A Great Big New Tax”. The Chairman of “Carbon Sense”, Mr Viv Forbes, said that PM Rudd’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme combined a Big New Tax with a War-Time Rationing scheme and an Income redistributing compensation scheme, all to be run by a regulatory army probably bigger than our real army.

He continued: “Let’s try to understand this Ruddy ETS. “To simplify things, let’s look at just the electricity industry.

“If Rudd’s ETS ever rules Australia, companies producing electricity from carbon fuels must beg, buy or borrow a permit to burn coal, gas or diesel. “They can beg a free permit from some mate in Canberra; they can buy a permit from some lucky sod who managed to get more permits than he needs; they can borrow a permit by entering into some tricky derivative trade with a speculator in Chicago; or they can pay carbon credit penance to a shifty land owner in some foreign land who promises solemnly not to clear his trees. “No matter which option is chosen, power costs will go up and companies must pass the extra cost (plus GST) onto their customers or go broke. “There will be no effect on climate.

“Now look at consumers. “The ETS must push up the cost of all goods and services using carbon fuel. It will boost the cost of electricity, food, transport and travel. When this happens, consumers will suddenly understand the ETS Tax and politicians who voted for it will feel their anger.

“But there is a plan: “Let’s compensate all those likely to vote for us”. “If these subsidies work properly, the lucky consumers will be in the same position as they were before ETS, except for the extra bureaucracy. For these consumers, there is no signal to reduce their consumption of carbon fuels. The ETS will do nothing except create a tangle of red tape which consumes and redistributes wealth.

“But for the un-subsidised consumers, the ETS is an extra tax on everything. “And for the power companies, the ETS will produce nothing except a heap of angry customers, and lots of red tape.

Mr Forbes claimed that Tony Abbott was wrong about the ETS. “It is not just a Great Big Tax. “It’s a Great Big Tax PLUS a mountain of Red Tape. “And it will have absolutely no effect on world climate.”

Press release from Carbon Sense above

Kevin Rudd under fire for 'broken' hospitals pledge

KEVIN Rudd's election pledge to fix the nation's hospitals is under fresh attack after the Prime Minister said he wanted a "compromise" with states. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott jumped on Mr Rudd's comments and accused him of "walking away" from his promise of a federal takeover of hospitals if the states disagreed with his reform plan. In a sustained attack, Mr Abbott accused the Prime Minister of a string of broken promises and labelled him deceptive, weak, tricky and a lifelong bureaucrat addicted to process in a foretaste of the Coalition's election campaign.

Opposition Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey said: "If the Prime Minister cannot keep his 2007 election commitments, how can he be trusted with his 2010 election commitments?"

Labor previewed its attack, repeatedly questioning the Coalition's economic credentials. Mr Rudd said Mr Abbott's attack was "distraction with a capital D" to deflect from former Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull's climate change rebellion. Mr Turnbull confirmed he would cross the floor to support Labor's emissions trading scheme in an impassioned speech where he bucketed Mr Abbott's alternative plan. He said that schemes like Mr Abbott's – where "bureaucrats and politicians (would) pick technologies and winners, doling out billions of taxpayers dollars" – were neither economically efficient nor environmentally effective.

During a failed censure motion, Mr Abbott accused Mr Rudd of breaking several election promises, from fixing the the hospital system by mid-2009, to preventing homelessness and ensuring no worker would be worse off under Labor's workplace changes.

Opposition health spokesman Peter Dutton told The Courier-Mail: "This puts a big question mark on Kevin Rudd's integrity (and he's) had two years of wasted opportunity in health." He said Mr Rudd's willingness to compromise with the states was "confirmation he won't be able to fix hospitals".


OECD queries cost of new broadband network

But it's Kevvy's own idea -- his only one -- so he's likely to stick to it

THE OECD has questioned Labor's $43 billion national broadband network as the Communications Minister Stephen Conroy fends off an Auditor-General's report that shows $30 million was lost after he ignored public service advice that his original scheme risked failure.

As the opposition yesterday seized on the Australian National Audit Office report's findings that the government had been given "clear advice" of the risks in implementing its NBN election commitment, the head of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Australia desk, Claude Giorno, called on the Rudd government to apply more rigorous cost-benefit analysis to its infrastructure spending, including its $43 billion broadband network. Mr Giorno said "questions need to be answered" about Labor's broadband network because of the amount of spending involved and the apparent lack of any cost-benefit analysis.

The government's proposed fixed fibre technology network required "very careful assessment". "Maybe not everybody needs to have a very-high-speed broadband connection," he said. "Maybe it would be less costly to develop alternative technology depending on where you are geographically."

Taxpayers lost $17m and bidders about $13m. The government paid $604,918 to a panel of experts and $10.96m to consultants - including legal adviser Corrs Chambers Westgarth ($3.45m), investment, financial and commercial adviser KPMG ($2.85m) and regulatory adviser Frontier Economics ($1.31m). The experts panel, which assessed the original NBN bids, included: Tony Mitchell ($168,893.56); Rod Tucker ($161,476.63); Tony Shaw ($112,895.94); Reg Coutts ($128,892.49); and John Wylie ($32,759.49).

Opposition Senate leader Nick Minchin accused Senator Conroy of misleading the Senate on February 3 last year when he said the government's ambition was to sign a contract for the NBN by March. This was despite Senator Conroy having received a report from the expert panel on January 20 that none of the bids represented value for money.

Senator Conroy denied he had misled parliament, saying on February 3 that a range of policy options was still open to the government.

Opposition communications spokesman Tony Smith said taxpayers should be worried as Senator Conroy embarked on the new NBN proposal. "Taxpayers have every reason to be worried that the same master of this disaster is presiding over even more taxpayers' funds on the reckless NBN II proposal, which was announced without a cost-benefit analysis or a business plan."


Western Australia: Gifted kids let down by system

THOUSANDS of potential child geniuses are going unrecognised in schools, leaving many in danger of never reaching their full potential. For some of WA's 35,000 gifted children, their overlooked "gifts" have become a burden, forcing them to turn to misbehaviour or switch off from lessons.

According to US child intelligence expert Deborah Ruf, the education system - particularly primary schools - is failing to get the most out of gifted children. Dr Ruf, who will be speaking at the University of WA this week, said schools spent more time focusing on struggling pupils. "The brightest children spend nearly the entirety of their school years being instructed far below their capacity to learn, with the result that we are losing them and what they could become," she told The Sunday Times.

"Many of these exceptionally bright children are living right now in homes and learning in classrooms where the adults responsible for them often don't know or don't fully understand their potential. "Some of them are mistakenly labelled as behaviour problems. Others flounder in classrooms designed to meet the needs of children who are far behind them in their learning."

Gifted and Talented Children's Association of WA spokeswoman Kriss Muskett said gifted children went unnoticed because teachers did not know how to identify them. She called for teachers to be trained "at an undergraduate level" to recognise different levels of giftedness and how to deal with those children.

The Education Department said gifted primary school pupils were given the opportunity to extend themselves through the Primary Extension and Challenge Program. The part-time program is available to students in Years 5, 6 and 7. There are also 16 secondary schools that offer selective programs.

David Axworthy, executive director of school support services, said WA was the only state to test every student in Year 4 to see if they needed to be challenged, and more than $7 million a year was spent on public school programs designed for gifted students. Education Minister Liz Constable said she was committed to the development of gifted children because she had completed her PhD in the area.


Queensland Health a bureaucratic mess

ONE of the world's top medical experts has delivered a damning assessment of Queensland Health five years after the Bundaberg Hospital scandal. The unflattering report comes despite billions of dollars in extra funding being poured into the system after the Bundaberg fiasco. The top-level review, conducted by recently retired UK chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson, found the department and the independent watchdog set up following the 2005 health inquiries had little idea who was responsible for improving patient safety.

Obtained by The Courier-Mail, the August 2009 report said hospitals had overlapping and unclear safety standards, were too reliant on overseas-trained doctors while staff were burdened with duplication. There was also no strategy for remote and regional areas while the public was given a "weak voice" in the system.

In one of a raft of botched policies, Sir Liam identified an "ambiguity" between the roles of Queensland Health and the Health Quality and Complaints Commission. "(There is) no clear agreement on the respective roles of the (HQCC) and Queensland Health in quality improvement," the report said.

Sir Liam, who visited for a week last year focusing on clinical governance, said Queensland had made a "major commitment" to reform, including an impressive roll-out of programs, strong leadership and accountable services. But he also identified areas where policy was ill-defined or lacking, including unclear and varying reporting standards. "Some standards have strong clinical and managerial credibility, others are not valued," the report said.

Sir Liam, whose bill is expected to hit about $40,000, said recruitment was strengthened but that it took four to five months to hire doctors. "Many areas are still heavily dependent on locums (mainly international medical graduates)," the report said.

It also said that the role of the QH Patient Safety Board needed refocusing. "At the end of every meeting, the board should ask itself: 'Have we concentrated on the most important things?'," Sir Liam said.

Sir Liam noted patient safety was comparable to other countries but the PRIME incident reporting system was overburdening staff. "There is a clear sense of 'implementation fatigue' permeating the current system," Sir Liam said.

Predicting tensions, Sir Liam said QH should own responsibility for quality standards but said the HQCC was "ambitious" and wanted to be proactive in patient safety culture. "On the other hand, it is unlikely that Queensland Health's senior management would accept a wide-ranging quality improvement and cultural change role for the commission," he said.

Centre for Healthcare Improvement boss Tony O'Connell said it was moving in the right direction but admitted more work was required. "This is always a work in progress and we'd never say we'd completed all tasks," he said.


Australia Tightens Immigration Rules

Foreign doctors, nurses and school teachers who speak good English and have jobs already organised will be Australia's top priority migrants under new immigration policy

Australian Immigration Minister Chris Evans announced Monday several reforms to his country's immigration policy, including several policy changes aimed at attracting more highly-skilled immigrants to the country.

Criticizing the ongoing trend for new immigrants to enroll for vocational courses for gaining residency, Evans said that Australia would change the current list of 106 skills in demand and review a points test based on qualifications, skills and proficiency in English currently used to assess migrants. He said that the present list will now be replaced by a "more targeted" Skilled Occupations List.

"We had tens of thousands of students studying cookery and accounting and hairdressing because that was on the list and that got them through to permanent residency," Evans told Australian radio, adding that such courses will no longer be an assured path to permanent residence.

"The current points test puts an overseas student with a short-term vocational qualification gained in Australia ahead of a Harvard-educated environmental scientist," Evans said.

"We want to make sure we're getting the high-end applicants," Evans said, stressing that the changes brought about by the new immigration policies would try to attract more health workers, including more doctors and nurses, as well more qualified professionals in the fields of engineering and mining.

"The new arrangements will give first priority to skilled migrants who have a job to go to with an Australian employer. For those who don't have an Australian employer willing to sponsor them, the bar is being raised," Evans said.

"If hospitals are crying out for and willing to sponsor nurses, then of course they should have priority over the 12,000 un-sponsored cooks who have applied and who, if they were all granted visas, would flood the domestic market," he added.

Evans also pointed out that some 170,000 people applied for living and working permanently in Australia last year alone, when there were just 108,000 vacancies available. He added that all lower-skilled applications lodged before 1st September 2007 would be withdrawn and application fees worth A$14 million ($12.15 million) refunded.

The reforms in Australia's immigration policy comes in wake of reports that thousands of students from overseas, mainly from Asia, were manipulating the existing system by providing fraud documents to enroll for vocational courses at private Australian colleges, purely to gain residency permits.


8 February, 2010

Kevvy's true colours are beginning to show

KEVIN Rudd is turning Left and Tony Abbott is turning Right. This sets the context for the coming election battle. It means that ideology has returned strongly to Australian politics.

After two years of prevarication the Prime Minister's recent defiant speech promising a continuing splurge on infrastructure has now branded this as a big spending socialist government clearly in the mould of the Whitlam government. It includes the centralisation of power over the states and intervention in urban policies. Rudd has not learned the lessons of the Hawke and Keating governments, which were more adept at using market forces to achieve their policy objectives and much more in partnership with the private sector.

This trend will continue throughout the year, which already presents some key opportunities for more government intervention and attempts at redistribution of wealth.

The Henry tax review, the Cooper Report on superannuation and a tight budget will provoke a response from this government, which will see greater slugs on business, as too will the poorly designed Emissions Trading Scheme.

Higher income earners will also be targeted, especially through steeper means tests so beloved of Wayne Swan. The justification offered will be to offset the sequence of interest rate rises that are going to emanate from the Reserve Bank throughout 2010, because once again it will be the mortgage belts around the capital cities that will determine this coming election.

This is because the economy will return to centre stage as the election issue. Climate change will fade as an issue in the minds of voters in the aftermath of the Copenhagen debacle, recent lack of confidence in the scientific integrity of the UN Intergovernmental Panel and the weakening of expert international support for the kind of cap and trade schemes the Rudd government is so doggedly pursuing.

Indeed the unseemly speed with which the government tried to ram its legislation through last year was of great concern given that virtually no attempt was made to inform and educate the public on one of the most expensive and interventionist policies in Australian history.

Similar arguments are true of the ill-conceived, taxpayer-funded broadband scheme, which could just as easily be achieved through private sector funding and tweaked regulation.

The hidden agenda is in workplace relations where it is clear that the trade union movement has been promised further fulfilment of its aims in a second term of office to honour its key role in the election of the government . Just after becoming Liberal Leader, Tony Abbott made a monumental mistake in flagging a return to elements of the Howard government's Work Choices industrial relations regime as this will galvanise union support and funding for Labor in the coming election even from those unions that have been disenchanted with the tepid action from Julia Gillard on key planks of union policies during the first two years of office.

Abbott is taking the Coalition in many conservative directions on economic and social-ethical policy, which is cementing closer relations with the Nationals, and it is clear the public has warmed to the concept of an opposition that puts up a real fight to the government. But it is not clear that his missiles are guided ones. In modern politics all policy pronouncements need to be part of a carefully honed strategy, especially in an election year.

For this coming election will be close. The focus on opinion polling, which has the government well ahead, has taken attention away from the fact that it would take no more than a uniform swing of just over 2 per cent to topple the Rudd government. There are a string of marginal seats in NSW and Queensland; states in which Labor governments are performing very poorly. Recent experience shows us that a party's performance at state level does affect the support it receives at national elections. There are elections in South Australia and Victoria this year that will probably see Labor returned to office but the national government has few prospects of gains of marginal seats in those states.

This emphasis on states reminds voters of the enormous disappointment of the much touted Council of Australian Governments that, for the past two years has tinkered with, but produced no significant, reforms to the federation including the so-called "education revolution", which has proved such a damp squib.

But the key policy failure has been health. Here the best that COAG could come up with was a promise of a "decision-making framework", while ambulances are being turned away from emergency departments, patients lie in beds on hospital verandas, and people wait in vain for places in aged care accommodation rather than in hospital. The failure of the Rudd government to take over state hospitals stands as the most serious of its eight major broken promises from the previous election. Health is going to be a significant election issue.

Labor is going to lose some votes to the Greens at the coming election because of its compromise approach to climate change and it cannot be assured that these will all return to Labor in the form of preferences. And on this score there will be no double or triple dissolution on climate change. Labor cannot control the Senate through this tactic; it would just increase the number of Greens in the upper chamber, which would provide a headache, and climate change will fade as an issue. In the world of political reality a double dissolution is a desperate "crash or crash through" strategy, when all else has failed. There has been only one joint sitting of parliament, in far more dire circumstances than these. There is no need for a double dissolution. At present it looks like a bluff to try to divide the Coalition and maybe stockpile some other bills to keep the pressure on the opposition especially over industrial relations.

Australians tend to give new governments a second chance and the polling during the past two years would seem to suggest that the odds favour Labor this time round. But this coming election will be fought on ideological grounds, which has not occurred for some time and will at least give citizens a fresh chance to think seriously about the role of governments in their lives.


Something's rotten in the state of NSW - comprehensive public schools

The comprehensive public school classroom is an unreformed rotten borough of public policy. The My School website represents the first significant, successful reform of the Rudd/Gillard era and a welcome departure from decades of union resistance to desperately needed educational change.

Education is a sector sufficiently charged with mythology and vested interests that it's virtually impossible for us to tell each other the truth. At the risk of unfairly disparaging a legion of inspirational teachers, I will now have a crack at that task.

Education in NSW is delivered in five distinct packages: state selective schools, elite private schools, other independent schools (Anglican, Muslim, other religious and non-religious), the Catholic parochial schools, and the state comprehensive schools. The competing power centres, in order of influence, are the NSW Department of Education, the education unions, the federal Ministry of Education (essentially a funding and testing body), principals, teachers and parents. Four out of five pistons are firing - all effort must now be concentrated on lifting the teaching and learning environment of the comprehensive public school.

From a "consumer value" perspective" the selective state school is at the top of the food chain. It costs little to attend, requires little parental involvement and is the most ruthlessly exclusive model. Almost all students attending these schools are the children of first-generation migrants, mainly from Asia and the subcontinent. The smart parents of these smart kids worked out quickly which side of the bread the butter was on. By spending a few thousand dollars on coaching in primary school they can avoid shelling out 50 times that amount to gain access to the quality of teaching and the peer group they want for their children. In terms of results, it's a subsidy worth paying. The Anglo Australians are either too dumb or too complacent to make the same commitment to their children's future.

The selective government school system was extended in the 1980s and '90s as a response to the growing tide of evacuation from public to private schools - worse in NSW than any other state. The NSW Department of Education widened the range of selectivity from academic and agricultural to include centres of excellence in sport, technology and the performing arts. The move was largely successful in fostering great public schools, by drawing on motivated teachers and creating a positive peer-pressure environment.

The problem for public schools generally had been a vacuum of culture. While the non-government schools could define themselves by some coherent religious (or Steiner or other) ethic and community, the public system, in the absence of selectivity, took refuge in concepts of inclusiveness and tolerance, which lacked the horsepower to inspire commitment from parents, teachers and students. The resulting vacuum has been filled by behaviourally challenged students and defensive, disengaged parents - a problem massively exacerbated after the state selective schools and the non-government sector hoovered up the most talented and motivated students.

The so called "comprehensive" school lost its student role models. One public high school principal confessed to me the difficulty he was facing in getting students to accept academic awards at speech day for fear of being mocked and bullied in the playground.

In that climate, the academic results and overall school discipline went into free fall. Many outer suburban "comprehensive" schools, with no effective means to discipline chronic misbehaviour, became a chapter out of the Lord of the Flies. There is a tipping point where the forces of bullying, abuse, high staff turnover and low common-room morale, vandalism and outright violence overwhelms the educational project. Teachers become mere child minders, enduring a job they hate, trying desperately to do something for the few kids who really want to learn. With limited government budgets and without a supportive school community, there is no money for new initiatives.

The comprehensive primary school often evidences a complete drought of male teachers. Low remuneration, low prospects of merit promotion, the risk of sexual allegations in a low-trust culture, and the militant feminism of the teacher unions, creates an intensely male-unfriendly environment. The absence of strong, sporty male teachers is a disaster for boys' education. Education unions, rightly sensing the odds were stacked against them, adopted a strategy of resisting any kind of accountability for teacher and school performance and resisting the empowerment of principals that might distinguish one school from another. Most have no ability to select their own staff or nurture their own ethic, instead suffering a revolving door of department-directed staff transfers.

The unions have worked to maintain a victim culture under which the answer to every question is "more funding", putting all their creative energy into political campaigns that are designed to provide cover for the abysmal performance of most (but not all) outer-suburban comprehensive public schools.

However, there is hope. All the research shows the strongest ballast against the forces of darkness is an inspiring principal. I have witnessed non-selective public schools, drawing heavily from housing department estates and low-income suburbs, that bristle with pride, energy, courtesy and learning - invariably revolving around an inspirational principal..

The My School website is an excellent first step towards parent empowerment and engagement. It allows high-performing public schools to receive the credit they richly deserve, and flushes out the complacent among the privileged private schools.

It should be expanded to include: the number of teacher absences, the turnover of teaching staff, the number of teachers on stress leave, the number of former teachers in litigation with the department, physical assaults, the ratio of male to female staff and some metric for the effectiveness of the school council and the P&C association. It must now be accompanied by genuine devolution of budget and policy autonomy from the department to principals, and opportunities for merit promotion and more money for the motivated teachers we so desperately need to retain.


Coal is king -- despite the Greenies

The Greenies hate coal but they seem to have been steamrollered over this one. The Leftist State government loves the deal. No doubt the Greens will manage a few whines, though

MINING billionaire Clive Palmer has just announced the economic deal of the century -the creation of up to 70,000 new jobs. The Queensland entrepreneur has clinched a contract with one of China's biggest power companies to export $69 billion worth of thermal coal from new mines in central Queensland over 20 years. "This deal is Australia's biggest-ever export contract," he said proudly. "The best years of this state are yet to come." Mr Palmer said the deal would provide a massive boost to the state economy, and likely result in the restoration of Queensland's prized AAA credit rating.

Under the agreement, China Power International Development Limited will take more than 30 million tonnes of coal - worth over $3 billion - each year from six mines to be built near Alpha in the Galilee Basin, west of Emerald in central Queensland. The mines will be operated by China First, a subsidiary of Mr Palmer's massive privately owned company, Resourcehouse Ltd. He last week awarded an $8 million construction contract to Metallurgical Corporation of China, which built Beijing's Bird's Nest Olympic stadium. The project also involves construction of a 500km rail line linking the mine to a new coal ship terminal at Abbott Point, near Bowen.

The news was greeted enthusiastically by Premier Anna Bligh as "a massive shot in the arm for the Queensland economy". "I set out to create 100,000 jobs in this term of government. With the signing of this deal we take that target a huge leap forward," Ms Bligh said.

Standing side by side at the announcement, the irony of the LNP's biggest financial backer helping the Labor Premier achieve her election goal was not lost on either. Both said political differences - nor even an active defamation lawsuit by Mr Palmer against the Premier - would get in the way of creating jobs for Queenslanders.

The deal still has to clear the final hurdles of what the Premier described as "rigorous" environmental assessments. But if approved, work should begin later this year, with the mines fully operational by 2014. Mr Palmer said 7500 people would be employed directly, with 50,000-70,000 indirect jobs flowing on from the initiative.

This deal comes just seven months after Mr Palmer bought the threatened Yabulu nickel refinery in Townsville, saving 950 jobs.

Royalties from the coal exports will pump between $400 million and $700 million a year, depending on coal prices, into the Queensland Government's coffers - a welcome boost but not enough, says the Premier, to justify abandoning the sale of state assets. "This is great news for the Budget down the track," she said. "If everything goes to plan for the project, we will start to see significant mine royalties in 2014. "That's four years away. I'm not going to let the Queensland economy and Budget drift and lag in the meantime."

The deal cements the future of Alpha and the Galilee Basin as an economic powerhouse for the state into the future. With other mines also proposed, the region has the potential to produce 100 million tonnes of coal a year. In the long term, Mr Palmer said it could deliver more than the Bowen Basin, which fuelled much of Queensland's success over the past decade.


Time to scrap Rudd climate plan - academics

A COALITION of academics who doubt the science on the causes of climate change has called on the Rudd Government to dump plans for an emissions trading scheme and consider alternatives.

Their call comes as a Nielsen poll, published in Fairfax newspapers today, shows Australians prefer the federal coalition's climate action policy. Of those polled, 45 per cent favoured the Opposition's direct action emissions fund over the 39 per cent who backed Labor's carbon pollution reduction scheme.

The Australian Climate Science Coalition believes the Government is losing the political high ground on global warming. "The debacle in Copenhagen demonstrated the futility of Australia adopting a go-it-alone strategy,'' executive director Max Rheese said in a statement. Public faith in the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had been shaken following revelations about some of its information-gathering processes, he said.


The self-selected immigrants are flocking in to Australia

Just utter the magic word "asylum" and the door is open. Comments below by Scott Morrison, Australia's Federal opposition spokesman on immigration and citizenship

Christmas Island is overrun with asylum seekers to the point where the detention centre has become a visa factory for people smugglers. Ten days ago I stood on the shore at Flying Fish Cove on Christmas Island watching 30 Afghan asylum seekers transfer from HMAS Larrakia into the custody of immigration officials. Their boat was one of two that had been "intercepted" within 12 hours of each other the previous weekend. It's usually not too hard to find these boats, because they are usually looking for us. Getting intercepted is the point. Christmas Island is no longer a deterrent, it's the destination. The arrival of another boat is not a strange sight. It occurs twice a week these days. They're more predictable than Sydney ferries.

Immigration, Customs officials and police have the transfer process down to a fine art. They should, they've been getting plenty of practice. Since August 2008, 78 boats have illegally arrived in Australian waters, carrying almost 3600 people. Just this year, there have been 10 arrivals at an average rate of 100 passengers per week.

When I left the island I was told they had 1848 beds (including 200 in tents) and there was currently 1556 people in residence. While this represented a ten-fold increase in the detention population over the past year, it was clear, things were only getting worse. Since then another 320 people have been intercepted or transferred to the island, including one large vessel, carrying 181 passengers that motored straight into the harbour. Another was picked up on Thursday morning near the Ashmore Islands. During the same time, only 89 people left the island.

Despite its denials, operations at Christmas Island, under the government's failed border protection policies, are simply not sustainable. It is therefore no surprise that last week I was able to reveal in Parliament that the costs of running operations on Christmas Island had blown out by $132million this year, that's more than a 100per cent increase.

We are a generous nation and this is reflected in the way asylum seekers are being treated. In fact, if we looked after our first Australians in central Australia, where I visited last year, as well as we do those on Christmas Island, then there would be no gap to close. The key difference is that within 100 or so days, the vast majority of those on Christmas Island will be living on the Australian mainland with a permanent visa. Indigenous children have no such guarantee of ever being released from their desperate situation.

One of the more pleasing elements of the visit was to see that the many reforms introduced by the former Coalition government, such as case management, parallel processing, community detention for those at risk, separate facilities for families, women and children and a range of other improvements, are making a real difference.

In fact there is not one practical reform you can point to on Christmas Island that has been introduced as an initiative of the current government. Where they have made changes is to undermine the fundamentals of our border protection regime, by providing permanent visas to those arriving illegally, doing special deals for the Oceanic Viking passengers that traded away national security and being prepared to compromise offshore processing by taking people to the mainland before their asylum claims have been determined.

The government's changes have enhanced the product offered by people smugglers. They are now doing a roaring trade, but you can only come if you have the money. It is not uncommon, as I saw, for those arriving to have wads of cash in various currencies, in excess of $US1000 ($1140) at least. This is after paying up to $20,000 per person. Residence in Australia should not be driven by the highest bidder, where people smugglers ultimately decide who comes.

The government's changes have created a sea highway to Christmas Island that has become a visa factory for people smugglers. As long as these policies remain and the government continues in denial, people will continue to risk their lives on this journey. Also, places for those waiting five years in Indonesia and generations in camps, like those in Thailand, will be asked to wait even longer. These seem to me to be good reasons to change these policies and stop the boats.


7 February, 2010

Sea terrorists obstructing Japanese whalers again

For the sake of Australia's farmers, one must fervently hope that the Australian government keeps right out of this. It has taken decades to open up the Japanese market to some Australian farm products but if the Japanese consumer gets the idea that Australia is backing these hostile and dangerous publicity-seekers, that market would come to an abrupt dead end. Most countries have "country of origin" labelling laws for goods in their shops and the Japanese government would just have to step that up a bit for Japanese consumers to get all the signal they need

ANTI-WHALING activists have described how Japanese whaling ships circled their protest vessel "like sharks" before ramming it off Antarctica. Sea Shepherd founder, Captain Paul Watson, said the Japanese harpoon ship rammed the conservationists' ship the Bob Barker and tore a 90cm gash in the hull above the water line. The incident happened about 300 kilometres off Cape Darnley, in the Australian Antarctic Territory, about 3pm (AEDT) yesterday. No-one was injured in the incident.

Capt Watson said the collision was "entirely intentional" on the part of the Japanese. "Four Japanese ships circled the Bob Barker like sharks," he said. "Then one of them, the Yushin Maru 3, did a quick turn and rammed a three-foot gash in the hull. "Luckily, the waters are calm at the moment and we have a welding crew working to fix it."

The anti-whaling vessel was blocking the slipway of the Nisshin Maru, the Japanese whaling fleet's factory ship, when the collision occurred.

Japan's Fisheries Agency said however, the activist boat caused the collision by suddenly approaching the harpoon vessel to throw bottles containing butyric acid in an attempted attack on the Japanese ship. The Japanese agency accused Sea Shepherd of "committing an act of sabotage" on the Japanese expedition, noting that it is allowed under world whaling restrictions as a scientific expedition. "We will not tolerate the dangerous activity that threatens Japanese whaling ships and endangers the lives of their crew members," it said in a statement late yesterday.

Capt Watson called on the Australian government take action on illegal whaling. "The Japanese are violating Australian laws on whaling and nothing is being done to stop them," he said.

This is the second major clash between Japanese whalers and anti-whaling activists this year, after the Ady Gil sank following a collision with a Japanese whaling ship in the Southern Ocean on January 6.


West Australian police powers going the way of Nazi Germany

The W.A. wallopers already have a very poor reputation in their community and this is going to make it worse. NOTE: I have given up on posting here stories about the Queensland police. I now post such stories solely on my Qld. police blog -- and that is a very active blog -- with three separate stories just today. -- JR

TWO retired senior police officers have likened a proposal to give police unprecedented stop and search powers to Nazi Germany. Retired police superintendents Dave Parkinson and John Watson have spoken out against the proposal, which has been at the centre of controversy this week. They said the laws were draconian, similar to what would have been used in Nazi Germany. "This is becoming a police state," Mr Watson said. "It is wrong."

The pair claimed that removing the requirement of "reasonable suspicion" for a search to be conducted would affect innocent people, not the thugs it set out to target.

Their comments came after police representatives told a parliamentary committee this week that police did not request the extra powers and failed to guarantee they would reduce crime. But Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan has rejected the claims, saying he personally discussed the proposal with the former Labor government. Police Minister Rob Johnson has also stood by the proposal, saying it is needed to combat growing anti-social behaviour in night spots.

SOURCE Extended commentary here

Australia's immigration-fueled population growth too fast to be affordable

AUSTRALIANS must prepare for a fundamental shift in the way we live because the country cannot afford to cope with 36 million people. Economic modelling produced for the Herald by PricewaterhouseCoopers shows the task of building the new roads, houses, schools, supermarkets and recreation facilities needed by 2050 will be so great that the nation's current pool of savings will struggle to cover it, even with the help of foreign capital.

As a consequence Australians will have to make major lifestyle changes. These range from dramatic increases in housing density and an end to our reliance on the car, to the creation of self-sustaining urban communities capable of generating their own energy to avoid the need for new power stations.

Planning experts say we must also consider whether population increases will be accommodated in larger regional centres rather than allowing cities such as Sydney to grow. "The bottom line is 'prepare for change'," the PWC economics and policy team leader, Jeremy Thorpe, said. "The task of providing this infrastructure is a very significant one and at the moment we don't have the savings to cover it. Governments have to make a decision about what trade-offs they want to make to maintain a standard of living." Using figures from the government's intergenerational report, Mr Thorpe and his colleagues have calculated Australia will need 6.9 million more homes to cope with a population of 36 million by 2050. This represents 82 per cent of our existing housing stock.

Should Australians continue to rely on the car, the country will need 173,348 kilometres of new roads - a 51 per cent rise equivalent to the entire road network of Thailand. We would need 3254 new schools, 1370 new supermarkets and 1370 cinema screens.

In dollar terms, the amount spent by both government and the private sector on infrastructure would need to increase by approximately $2.5 billion every year until 2050.

The PWC economists say that while the government talks about increasing productivity, it makes no mention of the crucial role the national pool of savings plays in funding infrastructure. "The banks rely quite heavily on the savings of individual people to provide capital for investment in infrastructure. Because as a nation our savings are currently quite low, there is a real risk that there will be a significant shortage of credit."

As a result, both the private sector and government have come to rely heavily on foreign capital. But the global credit crunch has dramatically lifted the costs of overseas borrowing, requiring government and companies to take on extra debt.

The ageing population exacerbates this situation as older people contribute less to the savings pool, and tend to draw more from government coffers in the form of social security and healthcare.

But a spokesman for the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, dismissed the analysis. "Australia's reputation as one of the most attractive investment destinations in the world allows it to access large savings pools of foreign investors … to fund high levels of investment in our own economy," he said. "We are able to be a net importer of capital because foreign investors are confident we use their capital so well."



Four current articles below:

Reality dawns: The Greenest of the Greenies suddenly want factories -- but nice ones, of course

A factory owner would need to have a lot of heart to risk locating himself among such intolerant loonies

It's the Queensland town renowned for a postcard setting, caring community and laidback lifestyle ... but has Maleny become too green for its own good? As the children of a generation of tree-changers begin their working lives, Maleny is discovering that being green is no protection against that scourge of rural communities: youth unemployment. While other towns can rely on mining or agriculture to provide job opportunities, Maleny's young people are increasingly forced to desert the Sunshine Coast hinterland to find work, leaving behind an ageing population.

Community concern has become so acute that even local greenies are calling for drastic action and putting out the welcome mat for new industry. In the town that famously opposed Woolworths, business leaders, families and greenies are now united in their calls for a light industrial precinct to boost employment. Such a precinct could attract anything from brick making to glass fabrication but would have to meet local environmental guidelines. However, under existing council plans, there is no land set aside for industrial growth in Maleny.

Young job seekers currently have to compete for the few jobs at the town's biggest employers, Supa IGA and Woolworths, which both have workforces of about 100.

Latest census figures show Maleny has a median age of 42, compared to 36 for the whole of Queensland.

Hinterland Employment Service owner Jenny Jones said families who moved to Maleny in search of an idyllic lifestyle were often disappointed. "It's a great place to live and bring up children but when the kids leave school, there's just not a lot up here," she said.

Maleny Commerce president Stephen Dittmann said green activists had traditionally held sway in the town but there was now recognition that some development was necessary. "We need measured growth, we can't stand still," Mr Dittmann said.

Paul Gilmour-Walsh, president of local environmental group Green Hills, said even so-called greenies could see the need to grow the town. "There's definitely a need for an area, to put aside land for something like that up here," Mr Gilmour-Walsh said. "We need a balanced community so kids leaving school have somewhere to work; it's as simple as that."

David Schaumberg, 19, loves Maleny, his home since the family left Brisbane for a better lifestyle 16 years ago, but he cannot find a steady job. David recently worked for four months as a jackaroo in Kingaroy to earn some cash but is back in Maleny looking for a job. His friends are in the same situation, with many leaving town. "I actually think an industry precinct would be good for variety . . . as long as they do it the right way and not impact on the environment," he said.

Mother of five Maria Dodd said her eldest son Andrew, 19, held little hope of attaining his goal of a local electrical apprenticeship. The family moved from Brisbane about 10 years ago. "He keeps getting bit jobs. He's a hard worker but there's not much around," she said.


Costs of the greenhouse gas scheme remain a mystery to the party behind it

The Rudd government has failed its first GST-style test over the details of its emissions trading scheme and the compensation being offered to Australians for rising prices. Lulled into a sense of false security through Coalition support for an ETS last year and a largely sympathetic media, Kevin Rudd and his ministers have found themselves ill-equipped and under-prepared to answer basic questions people want answered, whether they are climate change believers or sceptics. After three years of Labor being formally committed to an ETS, ministers can't answer simple questions. The Prime Minister himself has conceded the government has failed to address the "complexity" of the ETS.

In parliamentary question time and in interviews, ministers, including Rudd, have blathered and blustered, dissembled and distracted when asked simple questions. Tony Abbott, once an adviser to John Hewson in his failed campaign to introduce a GST, knows how to run an aggressive retail political campaign on rising food and energy prices and to exploit complexity in policy.

As the treasurer who introduced a GST, Peter Costello rehearsed offsets and compensation for almost three years. He declared later it "scarred my life". But that drab work equipped Costello to answer the thousands of questions he received about the price of Coca-Cola and even the Hockey Bear pyjamas from Korea that Labor's Simon Crean produced in parliament one day, without falter.

This week in parliament, Rudd was unable to answer questions about what compensation a single person earning $45,000 a year would get or what a double-income couple on $65,000 each -- a NSW policeman and teacher -- would get.

Small Business Minister Craig Emerson blustered about the "most stupid question" he had heard when a dairy farmer's concerns were raised about electricity price rises from the introduction of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme being added to price rises everyone was already feeling now.

Aged Care Minister Justine Elliott could not address a concern that had been raised for months about pensioners in nursing homes facing increased living costs because of higher energy bills and not getting compensation. Some opposition frontbenchers actually won a bet that Elliott would read her set- piece answer to everything that didn't mention the ETS.

Yesterday, Assistant Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said "low- and middle-income earners are fully compensated" for prices rises passed on by power stations. In fact, half of all households will be "fully compensated".

When a government has not laid the groundwork for a major policy, when it can't explain it and makes mistakes about the costs to families it's on the back foot and in the wrong argument.


More Greenie-inflicted costs on the whole Australian community

ALL Australian homes will soon have to undergo a mandatory energy-efficiency assessment costing up to $1500 per property. The assessment has to be done before any property can be sold or rented under new laws to tackle carbon emissions.

The mandatory assessment - being drafted into law by the federal and state governments - will rate homes by an energy efficiency star system, similar to the ratings given to fridges and washing machines. It will apply to all commercial properties from later this year and to all residential properties from May 2011, Adelaide Now reports.

A spokesman for State Energy Minister Pat Conlon said the ratings would inform prospective owners or tenants of a building's energy use, so they could factor it in to their buying or rental decision. The spokesman said details of the "Mandatory Disclosure" scheme - including who would carry out the assessments and how much they would cost - were yet to be decided.

Energy efficiency expert Arthur Grammatopoulos, of Helica Architecture, said rating properties could cost up to $1500 per house. "I think this is a positive move for the industry but the question has to be asked, will there be enough experts to cope with demand when the law is introduced?" he said. A similar scheme with a six-star rating has been operating in the Australian Capital Territory's property market for several years.

Queensland's State Government introduced a mandatory Sustainability Declaration form on January 1, requiring homeowners to declare their property's green credentials to prospective buyers or risk a $2000 fine.

Mandatory disclosure has been criticised by property experts as an unwarranted expense that will not influence purchasing decisions or cut household pollution. The Real Estate Institute of SA said governments were playing environmentally "popular politics" by introducing a law that they say will simply add to the cost of selling and renting a home. "I think they are patronising people who are making the biggest purchase decision of their life by thinking a rating system will influence that decision," REISA chief executive Greg Troughton said. "It's already hard enough to buy and sell a home and this is just another financial impost that also has the potential to delay the sale of a property."

While Mr Troughton said vendors would bear the cost of having their home rated by a licensed expert, independent SA MLC and former Valuer-General John Darley said landlords would look to pass the cost on to tenants. "This will be an extra cost to working families who have to rent because they can't afford a mortgage," he said. "And we need this like a hole in the head unless the governments can convince us there is a definite benefit, like a reduction in household pollution."

The Council of Australian Government's National Strategy on Energy Efficiency says Mandatory Disclosure will "help households and businesses prepare for the introduction of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme".


A professor of baseless insults

(Professor Andrew Pitman is Co-Director, Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC) at the University of NSW)

Last week a paid public servant spoke untruths, but instead of being exposed by the media, he was aided by our taxpayer-funded public broadcast network. Andy Pitman spoke about the socio-economic position of a group he avoids, and let down UNSW, abused the title “Professor”, and misled the public.

The journalists allowed the baseless smears to be broadcast without question, not just once, but twice. Professor Andy Pitman on ABC Radio: Sarah Clark interviews Andy Pitman on glaciers. Robin Williams thought it was so “useful” he rebroadcast the same factually incorrect, irrelevant material on his “science” show. Oops. It’s hard to cram more anti-truths into one declaration:
“My personal view is that climate scientists are losing the fight with climate sceptics. That the sceptics are so well funded, so well organized, have nothing else to do, they kind of don’t have day jobs, they can put all of their efforts into misinforming and miscommunicating climate science to the public, whereas the climate scientists have day jobs and this isn’t one of them. All of the efforts you do in an IPCC report is done out of hours, voluntarily, for no funding and no pay, whereas the sceptics are being funded to put out full scale misinformation campaigns…”
Let’s correct the six seven-delusion paragraph

1. Skeptics are well funded?

Let’s put a perspective on just how spectacularly wrong these claims on ABC radio are. ExxonMobil paid all of $23 million to skeptics worldwide in total, over ten years. In the same period, the US government alone was spending around $2 billion a year on climate scientists. And if you include other climate industry players, from 1989-2009, the total funding is $79 billion dollars. Hence believers of the big-scare could dip into a pot that was at least 3,500 times as large as anything the skeptics of the same scare could draw from. (All this info comes from my Climate Money paper).

If there was any equivalent funding for skeptics, Greenpeace would have found that paper trail and the scare-friendly press would have told you all about it. Big-Oil could hardly hide $79 billion now could they?

Andy Pitman earns far more from his beliefs than this skeptical advocate and infinitely more than most skeptics (who earn nothing) while he postulates on things he has done no research on and misleads the public. (Take me to court Andy. I don’t mind discovery of documents, but I don’t pander to bullies’ requests in public.) Most skeptical scientists are those no longer in the pay of government or other alarmist organizations, free to speak up without losing their jobs. They are mainly retired.

In reality it can cost money to be an active skeptic. To print out handouts, to organize speeches at local community halls, to do mail outs to our representatives, or to pay for transcripts of interviews that misrepresent the science. It says a lot that there are so many people willing to put themselves out, money and time-wise, in order to save us from the scare with no evidence.

Pitman has received over $6 million in grants – obviously not paid to him personally, but paid into accounts he controls–for research he directs. Presumably he also earns at least the base salary of a UNSW Professor, I gather, $190,000 a year. For a science PhD that’s not bad, especially if you throw in multiple overseas trips with all expenses paid, and the odd-rock-star-radio interview with no hard questions. It’s a wicket worth defending.

2. Skeptics are “well” organized?

Organized how exactly? With no PR department, no union, no association, no office, no UN agency, usually no budget, and … though you can see how we fund national multi-million dollar televised Ad campaigns like “Think Climate, Think Fraud”, oh that’s right … that was Kevin Rudd: “Think Climate, Think Change” (give us your money). That cost Australian taxpayers $13.9 million dollars.

Pitman cries poor while his scare campaign team includes the major western governments, the UN, the banks, big oil (they always funded alarmism more, and now don’t fund skeptics), the green movement, the alternative energy suppliers, the reinsurance industry, and many businesses. About all the skeptics have is donors on blogs and a few dedicated organizations of like minded people, such as the indefatigable Heartland (which is in turn funded mostly by private donations, with no more than 5% from any single corporation). Skeptics are tiny voices against vast machines.

Pitman wouldn’t recognize a genuine grassroots movement if it mowed him down.

3. Skeptics are misleading the public?

Misleading? You mean like climate scientists who are using tricks to “hide the decline”, removing data from 75% of worldwide temperature stations, ignoring the best ocean temperature network data, colluding to keep contrary papers out of publication, avoiding FOI requests, abusing statistics to make scary hockey sticks no matter what data you feed them, and ignoring the masses of data and analysis (much of it peer-reviewed) that undermines the carbon dioxide theory of global warming? Or, how about putting most “official” thermometers next to airport-tarmac or air conditioner outlets, or pretending that one tree in far north Russia can measure global temperatures?

Strangely, it’s not skeptics who howl that “only peer review counts” while at the same time pretending that speculative information from the WWF, Greenpeace and a student’s paper of mountaineering anecdotes were peer-reviewed research by hundreds of experts.

4. “Explaining science is not my job”.

According to the UNSW Guidelines, it is. It’s what Professors are paid to do: to foster leadership and excellence in their academic area within the university and the community. As it happens, over the last 18 months, I’ve asked Pitman in writing to publicly name any misleading points from the Skeptics Handbook. He has refused.

5. I, Andy Pitman, volunteer to help the IPCC

As Andrew Bolt so aptly pointed out, Andy Pitman’s grants list includes around $60,000 in funding “for costs incurred as lead author on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change”. That’s not most people’s idea of volunteer work.

6. Skeptics don’t have day jobs

Pitman, contradicting himself suddenly, claims many “fully funded” climate skeptics don’t have day jobs, and for once he’s half-right, but scores an own goal by using the truth. Most active skeptics don’t have day jobs, precisely because there aren’t any paid climate skeptic positions to have. Many skeptics are retired, because no one else has time to audit the IPCC “for fun”.

As far as I know (correct me if I’m wrong), total ARC grants specifically available for research aiming to disprove the theory of AGW in 2010 are exactly $0.00, as has been the case since time began. (That’s another scandal, for another day.)

Who should be protecting Australia from paying reparations based on bogus science? When the bogus science is climate science, Andy Pitman ought be high on that list. Instead, he helps to sell out the nation that supports him to a corrupt unaudited foreign committee whose recommendations will mainly end up profiting large financial houses.

7. An ad hominem attack is “scientific”?

Notice how we’re not talking about climate science? Why, on a planet that goes around the sun, is a professor of science launching ad hominem attacks? A science undergraduate should grovel with embarrassment for making this mistake. High school debaters have stronger reasoning skills. Yet, the science reporters on the ABC don’t even blink.

So what if I was paid, oh, let’s say, $190,000 a year, by… an oil sheik (I’m not). But if I was, how would that change the satellite recordings that I write about from Universities on the other side of the world from me? What kind of conspiracy theory do you have to hold in your head to nullify the evidence with any information about funding? I’m a commentator forgoodnesssake, I don’t even collect, hold or publish results from the sediments, corals, ice cores, pollen, diatoms, boreholes, or tree rings that I talk about.

Aren’t we all grown up enough now to attack the ball and not the man? (Which goes for Penny Sackett too, our Chief Scientist, who said that exact thing tonight on The 7.30 Report. Where was Sackett last week? Did she miss the chance to admonish Pitman for attacking skeptical scientists?)

Look Mum. No logical errors here: Lest anyone think I’m committing the same logical error as Pitman by pointing at his vested interests, let’s put a razor fine point on it. He claims we are winning the debate because we have so much funding. We claim he’s losing because he has no evidence. At no point have I ever said his science is wrong because he is paid. So why post about his funding?

One: To show that he’s not only illogical, but spectacularly wrong as well. It’s a baseless smear campaign.

Two: The $6 million in research grants vs the $0 in skeptical grants tells us nothing about the atmospheric climate, but shows that there is a Gravy Train, and he is on it. And he’s the one who suggested that people’s opinions were affected by funding. Go soak in that irony.

Three: If people are going to try to bully and smear us, it helps to make it painful for them, by pouring the truth right back at them.

Since he effectively said “follow the money”, I just said, “ok”. And did I mention that the carbon market was worth $130 billion last year?

Speaking of money, who is paid to audit the IPCC? Officially, no one is. No agency, no institution, no government department. Information from that UN conglomerate committee controls global markets, and yet answers to no elected government, no ASIC, no SEC, no ACCC. Nothing. There ought to be teams of skeptical scientists paid to check on the alarmists, but no one at all is checking, except a few unpaid scientists and bloggers.

The bottom line: Pitman peddles misinformation about science and misinformation about skeptics. He could start by apologizing to the Australian people who pay his salary. Then he could say thanks to the Australian scientists working pro bono to do part of his job for him.

What a sad week for Australian science, a dismal day for Australian universities, and a low point for the ABC. It’s not so hot for taxpayers either, we’re funding someone who throws baseless speculation and insults back at the same Australian citizens he’s supposed to serve.

SOURCE (See the original for links)

6 February, 2010

Abused black kids taken away by authorities and then sent to other abusive black homes

Because of the Leftist "stolen generation" myth they cannot be sent to white homes -- which is of course blatantly racist. The fact that the lives, health and welfare of black kids are being stolen right now matters not at all to the race-obsessed and hate-filled Left

ABORIGINAL children in care are routinely being placed with relatives in remote communities where they are exposed to sexual abuse and alcohol-fuelled violence, a wide-ranging report on child protection - kept hidden by the Northern Territory government - has revealed.

The Bath report - compiled after an audit of scores of cases of children deemed at high risk who were in the care of the state - exposes the near-total breakdown of child protection systems in the Territory, where background checks on carers are rarely carried out, ministers regularly fail to review the progress of cases, and social services for troubled families are in critically short supply.

Howard Bath, who was appointed Children's Commissioner in the Territory after compiling the extensive report, documents case after case where children were failed by the system that was supposed to protect them. The report - suppressed for more than two years by the NT government - found Aboriginal children were at particular risk, often consigned to carers who lived in violent or abusive homes in remote communities where standard case reviews rarely happened.

Barely any Aboriginal carers underwent a registration process, and the government's bureaucrats warned it that a "sense of complacency" governed the assessment, review and management of cases of children placed in the care of a relative.

Dr Bath found the Aboriginal child placement principle - which states that Aboriginal children should be placed with a relative or other Aboriginal carers if possible - sometimes took precedence over child safety, and that the standards applied to foster carers were followed with much greater rigour than with relative carers. "'The present data suggests, as do some of the decisions in the case studies, that in some cases this principle appears to be given primacy over basic child protection considerations," he says. "It was never the intent of the principle that children should be placed in unsafe situations."

The NT Government, which is under enormous pressure over its handling of child protection after recent damning coronial findings, has kept the full extent of the crisis racking the department of Families and Community Services hidden from the public for more than two years despite mounting evidence of a system on the brink.

Two years after his extensive report was suppressed, Dr Bath warned that child protection had "slipped off the radar" in the NT, as the devastating findings of the Little Children are Sacred report faded from public consciousness. In late 2007, the Labor Government released the Bath report's executive summary and recommendations, but refused to release the damning detail contained in the close to 200 pages of the full report.

The Government is so sensitive about the contents of Dr Bath's report that it has even refused to release it to NT Ombudsman Carolyn Richards, who is investigating 35 complaints against child protection services. The Weekend Australian understands Ms Richards will be forced to issue a summons on Dr Bath to obtain the report.


Climate alarmists out in the cold

As the wheels keep falling off the climate alarmist bandwagon, it's suddenly become fashionable to be a sceptic. Out of the woodwork have crawled all sorts of fair-weather friends. But where were they when the going was tough, when we were being hammered as Holocaust deniers, planet wreckers, in the pay of the "Big Polluters", bad parents, pariahs, equivalent to murderers? It was pure McCarthyism.

But now, even the most aggressive alarmists have gone quiet or softened their rhetoric and people who sat on the fence have morphed into wise owls. They still think it's acceptable to mock touring British sceptic Lord Christopher Monckton's protruding eyes, a distressing symptom of his thyroid disease, in an effort to marginalise him as a lunatic, rather than address his criticisms. But, when even the British left-leaning, warmist-friendly Guardian newspaper has begun to investigate the fraud involved in "sexing up" climate change science, it's clear the collapse of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's credibility and the holes in the case for catastrophic man-made climate change can no longer be ignored.

We are witnessing an outbreak of neo-open-mindedness and face-saving from people who brooked no nuance. The formerly alarmist British chief scientific adviser, John Beddington, has said: "I don't think it's healthy to dismiss proper scepticism." Hallelujah.

Australia's Chief Scientist, Professor Penny Sackett, who just three months ago was telling us that we had only five years to stop catastrophic global warming, is similarly less gung-ho these days. On ABC television's 7.30 Report this week she expressed concern about "a confusion" between the science and the politics of climate change. "I think that we're seeing more and more a confusion between a political debate, a political debate that needs to happen, it's important to happen, and the discussion of the science. I feel that these two things are being confused and it worries me, actually."

Funny, proponents of the theory of catastrophic man-made climate change never expressed concern about the "confusion", aka politicisation of science, when it was running their way.

Blows to the climate alarm case keep coming, from fraudulent claims about melting glaciers, increased hurricanes and drought, dying Amazon rainforest, disappearing polar bears and the flooding of half of Holland.

The latest, most serious, blow was the revelation this week that an influential paper discounting the so-called urban heat island effect was based on vanished and perhaps fraudulent data from remote Chinese weather stations. The 1990 paper was co-authored by the besieged director of the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit, Phil Jones and a US colleague, who are now accused of a "cover-up".

Jones, of course, and other leading scientists, have been exposed by their leaked "Climategate" emails, as political partisans who tried to suppress data, subvert freedom of information laws, and blackball journals and scientists who didn't toe the alarmist line.

Meanwhile, revelations pile up about shoddy references used to sex up the IPCC's Nobel Prize-winning Fourth Assessment Report of 2007. Among them is the bogus claim that Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035, based on a speculative interview in a popular science magazine. The IPCC lead author of the chapter that contained the reference, Murari Lal, told Britain's Mail on Sunday last week that he knew the glacier claim was wrong but included it to put political pressure on world leaders to cut emissions. "We thought that if we can highlight it, it will impact policymakers and politicians and encourage them to take some concrete action."

Because it was in a good cause it was somehow OK for the United Nations' lead climate change body to slant science, cherry-pick data, and base claims on such flimsy references as Greenpeace and WWF propaganda, a student's master's thesis and anecdotes in Climber magazine.

This sort of "noble cause" corruption appears to have permeated climate change science, and set back the legitimate cause of fighting pollution. The dishonesty will have only ensured a generation of people will no longer trust environmental warnings.

One of the most significant recent revelations is how influential and embedded were environmental activists such as WWF and Greenpeace. Not only were their publications cited in the 2007 report in at last 24 instances as if they were proper peer-reviewed science, but their staffers were in familiar communication with East Anglia climate researchers, and were regarded apparently as "honest brokers" rather than political lobbyists. In one email, Alan Markham from WWF writes to climate scientists urging a paper on climate change in Australia be "beefed up".

WWF "would like to see the section on a variability and extreme events beefed up, if possible," Markham wrote in 1999. "I guess the bottom line is that if they are going to go with a big public splash on this they need something that will get good support from CSIRO scientists."

In another email to East Anglia scientists, WWF's Stephan Singer offers "a few thousand euros" to write a paper about the economic cost of Europe's 2003 heatwave.

They got away with it for a very long time. Today, the bankruptcy of the climate alarm cause is demonstrated by the fact its highest profile champion is Osama bin Laden. "Boycott [America] to save yourselves … and your children from climate change", he said in an audiotape released last week.

Rising in the opinion polls, the opposition leader, Tony Abbott, has found himself on the right side of history. He was even able this week to utter the former heresy that "carbon dioxide is an essential trace gas" and "these so-called nasty big polluters are the people who keep the lights on". But in the game of musical chairs that politics often is Kevin Rudd has found himself with no place to sit.


Shortage of public hospital operating theatres means tired surgeons operating late at night

HOSPITALS must stop the dangerous and inefficient practice of squeezing in emergency surgery in the middle of the night due to a lack of theatre space, surgeons say. Describing the situation as a "developing crisis in emergency surgery", the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons has called for hospitals to immediately restructure resources so that emergency surgery can be properly planned. "The current practice of performing cases unnecessarily in the evenings or late at night (simply because theatres become available) must cease," it said.

Patrick Cregan, the chairman of the NSW Surgical Services Taskforce, which recently developed a similar policy for the health department, agreed. Dr Cregan, who is also a surgeon at Nepean Hospital, said this week it was safer for patients if they were operated on in daylight hours rather than at night by fatigued surgeons, who were often junior. There was enough theatre space in NSW hospitals, he said, and it would not necessarily mean delaying elective or semi-urgent surgery.

He said developing an extra emergency surgery operating list, to manage conditions such as fracture repairs or appendix removals, would cost a hospital up to $500,000. "Manage the money, manage the staff, manage the resources so that patients get a safer, more effective outcome," Dr Cregan said. "The patient outcomes is significantly better. It's not money going down the toilet. At some stages we are running two or three theatres in the middle of the night at Nepean. It's crazy stuff."

Dr Cregan said emergency surgery was "the most predictable form of surgery around", and could be easily planned. "There's surges in demand every now and then but overall you know there's going to be 20 fractures a week," he said.

Several hospitals in Sydney, including Prince of Wales and Westmead, were developing acute surgery units but most of NSW has been slow to act.

The college said that unnecessarily operating overnight carried both a human cost - in terms of increased patient errors and fatigued clinicians - and a financial cost to the community from overtime payments of staff. "Regularly health workers face a choice between delaying an emergency surgical patient's treatment, thereby prolonging suffering (a potential for harm), and disrupting elective surgery - which unfairly prolongs the waiting time of a patient who may already have waited weeks."

This meant staff worked through the night on "less time critical emergencies" to clear the backlog of emergencies that could be days overdue.


Internet filtering demand defeated

But the government scheme is still threatening

AUSTRALIAN telcos and download enthusiasts came out on top yesterday after the Federal Court in NSW rejected a landmark legal bid to make internet service providers liable for online copyright infringement. A group of 34 major entertainment companies desperately hoped to convince the court that Perth-based internet firm iiNet authorised its customers to engage in acts of illegal file-sharing on peer-to-peer networks.

However, before a packed courtroom early yesterday, Federal Court judge Dennis Cowdroy dismissed the group's application. In summarising a ruling that ran for more than 200 pages, Justice Cowdroy said the critical issue in the proceeding was whether iiNet authorised copy infringement of certain iiNet users". "While I find that iiNet had knowledge of infringements occurring and did not act to stop them, such findings do not necessitate a finding of authorisation. I find that iiNet did not authorise the infringements of copyright of the iiNet users."

Justice Cowdroy ordered the application by the Australian Federation Against Copyright be dismissed and awarded costs to iiNet. Neil Gane, executive director of AFACT, said it would review the court's decision before deciding whether to launch an appeal. For now, internet providers can continue to let their customers use peer-to-peer networks to share illegal movie and music files without fear of sanction. The file-sharing system accounts for half of all Australian internet traffic and lets individuals share files directly with each other in pieces.

Justice Cowdroy acknowledged that copyright infringement was occurring on a mass scale but said that he could not be compelled to make a finding of authorisation "merely because it is felt that `something must be done' to stop infringements".

The chief and founder of iiNet, Michael Malone, was jubilant about the decision. "We've always said that we don't condone copyright (infringement) in any way," he said. "Copyright violations don't benefit iiNet at all so I guess we'd much rather be working with the studios to find some way to make their content legitimately available to customers."

Yesterday, both Telstra and Optus released statements welcoming the Federal Court's decision. "We welcome the legal clarity that today's judgment provides regarding the role of ISPs," Telstra spokesman Craig Middleton said.

Anita Cade, senior associate for law firm Blake Dawson's intellectual property division, said it could take two years to completely resolve the matter if it were to be pushed to the High Court.


The products of an "everyone wins" education are losers in the job market

EMPLOYERS are refusing to hire Generation Y workers because they lack a work ethic and spend too much time talking to friends in work hours. "Employers come to us about Gen Y, saying they're looking for a staff member but they don't want anyone in that 20s age bracket because they find they don't understand common courtesy in the workplace," Kristy-Lee Johnston, director of Footprint Recruitment told The Courier-Mail.

And the complaints don't only come from managers and bosses. Social researcher Mark McCrindle said: "They also come from other people in the team who are of another generation."

Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland policy general manager Nick Behrens said the global financial crisis should act as a wake-up call. "The chamber is hoping Gen Y will learn from this, that they can no longer take for granted the good times and will no longer get away with the luxuries they have been given."


Many Victoria police are crooks in checkered caps

VICTORIA police intelligence-gathering systems have been exposed as outdated and slack after police files were found in the possession of criminals.

A scathing report from the Office of Police Integrity said police operatives used "flawed" practices, putting top-secret information on some of the country's highest-profile criminals, including terrorists and members of Melbourne's underworld, at risk.

The revelations put further pressure on the already embattled Police Minister Bob Cameron, with the Opposition branding him "incompetent and out of touch", and calling for his resignation in Parliament.

Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu said it was another example of the collapse of law and order management under the State Government.

The OPI launched an investigation into the surveillance unit in late 2008 after a 68-page document containing information about a target was found in the home of a murder suspect. More than a year later, Victoria Police on Thursday admitted that it still did not know who leaked the documents.

This is the fourth damaging report into cultural and management problems within the force in the past 12 months. Despite admitting there is a corrupt police officer still working within the force, Mr Cameron continues to insist that all is well.

The OPI report, tabled in Parliament, found although physical security measures in the surveillance unit had improved since the breach, proper procedures were still not being followed due to poor management. "The fact that other sensitive law enforcement data was not accidentally or deliberately released appears to have been a matter of good luck rather than good management," the report warned.


5 February, 2010

Darwin attack motivated by stingy insurance payout

Insurance companies can be very arbitrary and arrogant so I am surprised that this is the first such attack. The TIO obviously left this guy in such a bad position that he obviously felt he had nothing left to lose. It appears that they refused to compensate him for loss of earnings after he was injured on the job, leaving him destitute. One hopes that in future all insurance companies will be wary of leaving insured people in that position -- JR

AN attack at a Darwin shopping centre which left 15 people injured has been compared to a smaller scale domestic version of the first Bali bombings. A man angry with his workers' compensation payout loaded a shopping trolley with jerry cans of fuel and set it alight after what many initially feared was a terrorist attack.

The injured were taken to the Royal Darwin Hospital after the man entered the Territory Insurance Office (TIO) claim branch about 11am - pushing a shopping trolley loaded with fuel and fireworks which were already lit. It hit a reception desk and started to burn out of control. Northern Territory Police Commander Colleen Gwynne said the attack was a rapid burning fire - not an explosion.

The bomber reportedly goes by the name "Bird" and is a former security guard who worked at a Darwin pub until being injured on the job in October 2007. He allegedly blamed TIO for loss of earnings that forced him to leave his three-bedroom home in Humpty Doo and move into a shipping container.

The accused ran from the scene, leaving those inside to take the brunt of the flames and smoke. He immediately handed himself into police.


Sadly for the Left, the attacks on Indians are NOT the work of "racist" white Australians

I have been saying this for years now but Andrew Bolt's comments below might get more attention -- JR

IT'S because so many people want to believe Australians are racist that Jaspreet Singh became the latest fake example of our evil. Singh, a 29-year-old Indian "student", turned up last month burned to a crisp, with a tale of having been attacked in Essendon by four racists with a can of petrol. The story smelled from the start, and not just of premium unleaded. Police even warned it sounded suss, starting with this notion that gangs roam Essendon late at night with cans of petrol, looking for Indians to burn.

But what followed is a golden example of a phenomenon that's made this country seem like a madhouse lately. If people really want to believe something they will, and facts barely matter. Indeed, facts are then evil.

That's why so many millions believe in the "stolen generations", for instance, especially when no one can name even 10 children stolen just for being Aboriginal. That's why millions more are sure man is heating the world dangerously, even when the planet has cooled for more than eight years.

And that's why so many of our preacher-teacher class, from academics to ABC broadcasters, have so eagerly insisted that every Australian (except themselves, funnily) is a racist redneck - a smugly self-regarding lie they're now shocked to see is believed of them, too, by an Indian media only too happy to pander to its own chip-on-the-shoulder xenophobes.

It's the wanting to believe that counts. So here's what we read last month about the bizarre barbecueing of Jaspreet Singh from Indian journalists and Australian cause-pushers.

Sindh Today, January 9: "Days after India asked Australia to take urgent action against those behind the murder of an Indian student a week ago, a 29-year-old Indian was set ablaze Saturday by four unidentified attackers in Melbourne, putting bilateral ties under strain."

The New Indian Express, January 11: "Victoria Police say ... there is no reason at this stage to consider this (attack) racially motivated. If the statement had been calculated to enrage, it could hardly have been more provocatively phrased. Perhaps, in Australia, opportunist crimes also involve setting the victim ablaze. In any other country, this would prima facie be considered a hate crime, in this case racist."

The Communist Party of India, January 12: "In the past two weeks, racist attacks on Indians in Australia have claimed two lives (Ranjodh Singh and Nitin Garg) while 29-year-old Jaspreet Singh is now recovering from burns ... "

The Sydney Morning Herald, January 15: "Aboriginal leader Tom Calma believes the recent attacks on Indian students in Australia could be racially motivated."

AND more. Even former Defence Force chief General Peter Cosgrove, too ready to bend with the fashionable wind, just days later gave an Australia Day speech claiming attacks on Indians had "erupted over the last several weeks to become a major problem", and "it is easy to conclude that they are racially targeted".

Just as well he didn't mention the now singed Jaspreet by name, because here's what we read this week of our latest martyr to Australian racism: "Singh, 29, of Grice Crescent, Essendon, in the city's north, faced an out-of-sessions hearing early this morning ... charged with making a false report to police and criminal damage with a view to gaining a financial advantage."

Of course, Singh could be completely innocent. Let the court decide whether he really just blew himself up while trying to torch his car - but do let the Indian Government now apologise for jumping to its own inflammatory conclusion about our wickedness.

But this is not the first time an example of Australian racism has gone up in smoke like Singh's shirt. Let me quote from a statement sent to Indian newspapers just last week by Australia's man in New Delhi: "The Australian High Commissioner, Mr Peter Varghese, today welcomed advice that the NSW police had arrested three persons in connection with the murder of Ranjodh Singh, a 25-year-old Indian man, whose burnt body was found in the NSW town of Griffith on December, 29, 2009. Gurpreet Singh, 23, and his 20-year-old wife Harpreet Bhullar faced the court on January 29. A third man was arrested on the same day and will also be charged with Mr Singh's murder. Mr Varghese said ... the identity of those arrested (all three are Indian nationals), as well as the conclusions reached by the investigation, clearly showed that racism had not been a factor.

Mr Varghese said that this case had been widely reported in the Indian media as a racist attack and he hoped that those, which carried such reports, would now set the record straight. Yeah, dream on, Peter. Why would we expect Indian journalists to stop jumping on every attack as proof of old-fashioned white Australian racism, when our own are just as likely to do the same - or to be so scared of seeming racist that they refuse to tell us all the forgiving truth?

THAT'S been the case ever since our media first paid serious attention to attacks on Indians - in 2008, when Sukhraj Singh was almost bashed to death in a Sunshine shop. The racial identity of those thieving attackers, officer? Can't say, couldn't see. The ethnicity of the boys who bashed Singh, Mr Reporter? Didn't notice, won't write. In fact, and said by almost no one, Singh had been belted by an ethnic gang of whom the only one since publicly identified in court is Zakarie Hussein, a 21-year-old from Somalia. But, you see, our police command and journalists would rather all Australians seemed racist than risk being called racist themselves for giving the facts.

And on this circus rolled. Take the notorious bashing on the Werribee train last year of Sourabh Sharma, which led The Times of India to declare that a "tribe of extreme nationalists who champion an exclusivist, white Aussie identity seems to be increasing in Australia". Check the CCTV vision and you could see what the police and journalists would not say - that the attackers seemed to include youths who weren't "white", and at least one who looked very Indian.

Indians and Pakistanis here actually know this "white racism" bogey is a myth, of course. Macquarie University student Mukul Khanna, called back home by his worried parents, told a local paper that a lot of his Pakistani friends had been bashed and robbed, but "interestingly, the attackers are mostly not locals and are themselves people of foreign origin".

Most of the reported robberies on Indian taxi drivers in the inner west in one six-month period were likewise by African gangs - but which police chief would dare say such a thing? Gosh, no; former chief commissioner Christine Nixon not only banned the term "gang", but falsely claimed at the last federal election that the Howard government was wrong - Sudanese immigrants did not have a crime rate higher than the average. She still hasn't apologised for deceiving you. Facts! Who needs them? Indeed, who's a racist boy for even pointing them out?

The joke is, of course, that this country is actually so short of real racists that it drives our manners police mad. In 2001, for instance, Equal Opportunity Commission Victoria's then chairman moaned: "I am not aware of any conclusive evidence that suggests that discrimination is increasing."

Solution? Instead of closing up shop, saying its job was done, the EOCV pushed the Labor Government to pass draconian new laws against racial "vilification" to help create more racists for it to go catch.

Our federal race commissioners have had the same problem, and lusted for the same solution. One, Zita Antonias, admitted a decade ago that complaints of racism had fallen by more than a third, but insisted we couldn't be that nice: "The figures are incongruent with anecdotal evidence."

Tom Calma, who succeeded her and now claims that the attacks on Indians may well be racist, was just as peeved to find so little real proof of these legendary (white) Australian racists. He blamed our stupid laws for having "made it difficult to prove there had been discrimination", and demanded the Rudd Government fix this disgraceful lack of racists by changing the laws to reverse the burden of proof. And since Indian papers say we're all racist, bingo, we must be, too, unless someone can prove we're not.

SO whether Jaspreet Singh got toasted by racists or soon will be by judges hardly matters. We're racist until proven innocent -but to prove we're not we must say who's behind much of this mayhem. And to do that would be, er, racist. Caught each way.

So our police and politicians, glowing with self-righteousness, meekly argue instead that we're not racist because - drum roll, please - the rest of us are just as likely to be bashed, robbed and raped as any Indian on our streets. Oh, goody. I can't tell you what a relief that news will be to anyone catching a late-night train to Sunshine.


IPCC goofs again: now Holland is drowned

By Andrew Bolt

Yet another blunder in that IPCC 2007 report which Kevin Rudd uses to justify his great green tax to “stop” global warming:
A United Nations report wrongly claimed that more than half of the Netherlands is currently below sea level.

In fact, just twenty percent of the country consists of polders that are pumped dry, and which are at risk of flooding if global warming causes rising sea levels. Dutch Environment Minister Jacqueline Cramer has ordered a thorough investigation into the quality of the climate reports which she uses to base her policies on.
Funny how every mistake now coming to light is of the kind that tended to make global warming scarier. You know, that the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035, the Amazonian rain forests were extremely vulnerable, the Antarctica would become too fragile even for dirty shoes. And funny, too, how the IPCC boss cadged so many grants, directorships and business deals as his IPCC hyped the dangers. (Just read a fuller list of IPCC controversies here.)

Nor is that the only sceptical news from the Netherlands:
Dutch researchers reporting to Minister Cramer on Wednesday said that global warming appears to be slower than had been assumed.
Surely Cramer’s demand now for a review of the climate science by her scientists is exactly what’s needed here, too. I mean, shouldn’t Climate Change Minister Penny Wong be saying exactly this sort of thing herself:
Dutch Environment Minister Jacqueline Cramer says she will no longer tolerate errors by climate researchers. She expressed her anger to Dutch researchers who presented their annual report on the state of the climate on Wednesday.
Here’s Tony Abbott’s way out of the pinch of claiming to still believe in dangerous man-made warming, yet blocking Rudd’s emissions trading scheme. Surely there’s now so many scandals engulging the IPCC and its science, that it’s mad for us to spend a single dollar more until an inquiry - with sceptical scientists on board too - reviews all the science we were once falsely told was “settled”.

Demand an inquiry now.


India goes even further:
India has threatened to pull out of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and set up its on climate change body because it “cannot rely” on the group headed by its own Nobel Prize-winning scientist Dr R K Pachauri…

In India the (IPCC’s) false claims (on the Himalayas) have heightened tensions between Dr Pachauri and the government… In Autumn, its environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, said that while glacial melting in the Himalayas was a real concern, there was evidence that some were actually advancing despite global warming…

(L)ast night Mr Ramesh effectively marginalised the IPC chairman even further. He announced that the Indian government will establish a separate National Institute of Himalayan Glaciology to monitor the effects of climate change on the world’s “third ice cap”, and an “Indian IPCC” to use “climate science” to assess the impact of global warming throughout the country.

“There is a fine line between climate science and climate evangelism. I am for climate science. ...” he said.


Leftist health reform proving rocky in Australia too

In America, Obamacare seems to have stalled -- JR

AN OPPOSITION'S lot in life is a thankless task; there are the long hours, minimal resources and they spend most of their time hitting brick walls. But sometimes there are small victories. As the Federal Government was taking the wraps off the third Intergenerational Report – a road map to 2050 on the challenges of the ageing population – the Coalition was forcing Labor into a backdown that would help older Australians now.

The win came on cataract surgery, and unless you are waiting to get your eyes fixed and face being out-of-pocket, it might seem like a loose-change victory. But Opposition health spokesman, Queenslander Peter Dutton, was able to force Health Minister Nicola Roxon to limit the cut in rebates for cataract surgery to 12 per cent instead of the proposed 50 per cent.

Dutton points out that for the three months before Roxon and specialists striking a deal, patients who needed their cataracts rectified had to pay hundreds of dollars or go to the public hospital system. Ophthalmology has the longest waiting times of any surgical speciality.

Backdowns from this Government are rare, but the win on cataracts illustrates that Labor has chinks in its armour on health. Dutton is also adept at attacking state governments on their health policies.

Despite all the hot air on climate change in Canberra as federal politicians returned for the unofficial start of the federal election, voters remain concerned about the here and now of improved health and hospital care and getting a decent education for their kids.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Roxon argue they have put money back into the hospitals system. Rudd repeatedly argues the former Howard Government took $1 billion from health and his administration has put $5 billion back in and helped reduced elective surgery waiting lists – but voters cannot actually see new beds with plaques on them or shorter waiting times to visit a GP.

Rudd's bold election promise to fix the nation's ailing hospital system and consider a federal takeover is still in the limbo-land of consultations. He has invested a lot of political capital in the issue, and his pledge that the buck would stop with him resonated with voters. But the Government has found it is far easier to say it will build super-GP clinics than actually get the construction off the ground, and massive reforms to the hospital system means having to navigate around state interests.

Roxon is now facing defeat again on the Government's budget measure to means test the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate. If it goes down a second time in the Senate, it hands the Government another double dissolution trigger.

Rudd argues the Intergenerational Report, prepared by Treasury, showed the Opposition's blocking of the scheme would rip about $100 billion out of the Budget by 2050.

But Dutton's detective skills from his former career as a policeman are still in good working order and he pointed out the figure was not in the actual report. It was instead provided to the Government in some briefing papers. Which brings us back to cataracts.

Dutton has also made mileage out of highlighting seemingly penny-pinching decisions by Rudd and Roxon such as the initial plan, before they reconsidered it, to cap the Medicare Safety Net for people seeking IVF treatment and the postponed proposal to reduce funding for chemotherapy drugs.

The Opposition is making inroads on health but they have a long stretch ahead in the lead-up to the federal election.


Boat people blow Australia's immigration detention budget

A flood of "asylum seekers" has blown the federal government's immigration detention budget, the opposition says.

Opposition immigration and citizenship spokesman Scott Morrison said the government had been forced to more than double the money it allocated in the last budget for offshore immigration processing. "In the May budget the Rudd government had allocated $125 million for offshore processing,'' he said in a statement today. "However additional estimates figures reveal the government is now asking for another $132 million for this work, an increase of more than 100 per cent.''

The claim comes on top of the arrival of another boatload of asylum seekers in Australia's northern waters today and fears the detention centre at Christmas Island will be unable to cope with further arrivals.

The boat was intercepted by HMAS Armidale at 11am (AEDT) about 11 nautical miles (20km) north of the Ashmore Islands, the federal government said. Initial indications suggest 89 passengers and four crew were on board. The group will be transferred to Christmas Island where they will undergo security, identity and health checks and their reasons for travel will be established.

It is the 10th asylum seeker boat to be intercepted in Australian waters this year. The Rudd government is under pressure over its border protection regime with detention facilities on Christmas Island at breaking point. There are already almost 1,800 detainees in immigration facilities on the island which have a capacity of 1900.

Mr Morrison said the government's border protection policy had failed. "Barely a day after 89 asylum seekers were flown to the Australian mainland in a futile effort to reduce overcrowding on Christmas Island, another 89 asylum seekers plus three crew are on the way to take their place,'' Mr Morrison said. "Seventy-eight boats have now arrived since the Rudd government started weakening the border protection regime they inherited from the coalition government, with 10 arriving this year alone with 602 people on board.''


4 February, 2010

Kevin Rudd, the man who isn’t there

As Opposition Leader, Rudd dragged out the brand new conservative suit Therese had bought for him, and vowed to halt reckless government spending. He said climate change was the greatest moral challenge of our time and pledged to tackle it, promised to take over hospitals in a year and bring in an education revolution, threatened to take the Japanese to court over whaling, warned he would turn back refugee boats, and promised to live at the Lodge.

He has done none of those things, and I doubt he ever will.

I don’t know why he is there, who he thinks or is, or what he thinks a Prime Minister’s job involves. It actually means he can and must do things, big things, which can shape the country he leads and not just spin from one pic fac to another.

In his first term, Howard took on his own base and reformed gun laws, an action which has had a hugely positive impact on Australian society; challenged the stranglehold of unions on the waterfront, and began the difficult task of introducing a goods and services tax. At the same time his Treasurer, Peter Costello, wiped out billions of dollars of deficit and put the Budget back in the black.

Consider just two examples of Rudd’s gross dereliction. First his approach on climate change. It was lazy and gutless. He relied on the media to make the opposition the story - and the Liberals stupidly obliged - and to pressure Malcolm Turnbull to support the Government’s policy. He failed to take his arguments to the people, to explain what his scheme entailed, and how they would be affected by it.

Second. When he was casting around for something else to do, he commissioned Ken Henry to undertake a comprehensive review on tax reform. He is now treating it as if someone has sent him a stink bomb. They probably have. It’s an independent report, he tried to tell Laurie Oakes the other day, it’s got nothing to do with the Government, and we might or might not pick up its recommendations. Oakes pointed out the head of Treasury was not exactly independent from the Government.

The man’s got a teleprompter where his ticker should be. Granted he succeeded in staving off the recession threatened by the economic crisis which saved him from disappearing into vapor, but any fool could do that by spraying around billions of dollars. The trick is to spend money wisely on long term productive enterprises, and there is little evidence that is happening.

By the time people realise how much has been wasted, and how hard it will be to repay, he will be long gone, and Julia Gillard will probably be out there trying to explain it all.

That can’t come soon enough for me. I watched all the Oakes interview with Rudd on Sunday. It went about 20 minutes and it felt as if half my life had slipped away. His voice acts like a verbal sedative. He throws in lots of facts and figures and uses his favorite expressions – you know something? Guess what?- as if he is about to offer some profound insight, then whacks us with another cliche. He is both anal and banal.

Away from the cameras, the secret Kevin is given to hissy fits, foul language and bursts of revenge. In public he is the eminently reasonable, totally predictable, and infuriatingly, nauseatingly hammy actor who got elected Prime Minister. Like I say, if anybody finds the real Kevin Rudd, please call his family.

Tony Abbott on the other hand can’t help but be interesting. It is both a blessing and a curse. He has opinions and he expresses them in ways people can immediately understand and the reactions are not always positive.

The trick for politicians is to be interesting enough to attract attention, but not too interesting so that they come across as scatter brained or weird or ill-disciplined(see Barnaby Joyce) and invite the kind of media exposure than can end up killing them.

So far Abbott is having some success. He is rattling Rudd’s cage like a great white shark in red speedos. Rudd is so tightly wound, it wouldn’t take much to unhinge him and if Abbott keeps his team united he might just manage it. Bring it on.


Couple sues Queensland government hospital over stillborn baby

PARENTS of a baby delivered stillborn at Redcliffe Hospital claim medical staff repeatedly ignored warning signs their unborn baby was distressed. Kym Marie Body and Robert Wayne Body, of Mango Hill in Brisbane's north, are suing the State Government which runs Redcliffe Hospital for nearly $300,000 in negligence and damages. Documents filed to the Supreme Court allege a midwife ignored and turned down the volume of an echocardiogram alarm that sounded for more than three hours while Mrs Body was in labour.

The documents also claim Mrs Body was diagnosed and treated for deep vein thrombosis and thrombophilia (blood clotting) at Redcliffe Hospital after the birth of her first child in 2004. She alleges the hospital ought to have known her medical history and the risks associated and failed to recognise a natural birth "could not be performed safely".

The documents show Mrs Body was admitted to hospital at 8am on February 26, 2007, and was monitored at half-hour intervals between 9.30am and 3pm. Her waters were broken by a doctor about 4pm and at 4.30pm an epidural was administered. It is alleged that at 5.10pm an echocardiogram alarm attached to Mrs Body began making loud noises, but the volume was turned down by a midwife. The documents claim four other times when the alarm sounded, indicating the baby's distress, it was turned down by the same midwife. The echocardiogram alarm continued to sound until 8.20pm but medical staff did not respond to it.

It wasn't until 9.30pm, when Mr Body requested for Mrs Body to have an internal exam that one was performed, court documents claim. By 10.40pm, Mrs Body was told the baby's heart rate was "low" and "we need to get her out now". Paige Hannah Body was delivered by vacuum extraction about 11pm. She was not breathing and could not be revived.

Mr and Mrs Body, who say they suffer anxiety and depression, are suing Redcliffe Hospital for $278,200. The State Government is yet to file a defence.


Gold Coast corruption again: Ex-police officers sue for $2m over bullying claims

TWO former Gold Coast detectives are suing for more than $2 million in compensation, claiming they were bullied out of the police service partly because they refused to act on illegal search warrants.

The revelation came as Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson admitted the Gold Coast's "Las Vegas" lifestyle may have corrupted some local police. He said there had been concerns about possible police misconduct on the Glitter Strip for at least a decade.

Ex-Gold Coast detectives Kurt Krebs and Graham Cameron have launched legal action against the Workers Compensation Regulatory Authority (Q-Comp) after they were refused compensation for alleged bullying-related stress. They claim they were driven out of the QPS after being branded as lazy for refusing to act on allegedly dodgy warrants. They are each seeking more than $1 million in compensation.

A magistrate this week ruled evidence relating to warrants could be admitted as part of Mr Krebs' case. Q-Comp's lawyers had been seeking to have the evidence excluded, arguing the warrant issue had not directly contributed to Mr Krebs' stress. However, Southport magistrate Michael O'Driscoll ruled the warrant evidence could support Mr Krebs' claim and to refuse to admit it would be a denial of "fair and natural justice". The case was adjourned.

Mr Atkinson yesterday held a crisis briefing with Crime and Misconduct Commission officials after The Courier-Mail revealed details of a major investigation into alleged police links to organised crime and the Coast's nightclub drug scene. The Surfers Paradise police station was raided by CMC investigators last weekend as part of the CMC probe that sources said would be "the biggest corruption scandal since the Fitzgerald inquiry". More than 20 officers are understood to have given evidence at secret CMC hearings.

Mr Atkinson yesterday likened the Gold Coast to Las Vegas and Kings Cross, with "temptations" greater than other areas, and some police may have "succumbed". "With 10,000 police, obviously from year to year some will do the wrong thing. That's unavoidable," he said. While he was "terribly concerned", he was confident there was no "widespread, systemic, organised corruption" in the police service and said the vast majority of officers were honest.

Mr Atkinson said the CMC had investigated concerns about possible police misconduct on the Gold Coast "for years", but nothing had been substantiated. "I believe we've done all we possibly can," he said on the Coast yesterday morning. "Every suggestion, every claim has been fully examined." Mr Atkinson called on the CMC to "clear the air" over the investigation. He said it should be finalised quickly to avoid affecting police morale.

Police Minister Neil Roberts ruled out calling an inquiry, saying the CMC already had royal commission powers. The CMC said speculation about the scope of its investigation risked hindering the probe "and unnecessarily undermines public confidence in the Queensland Police Service". "On the basis of current evidence, some aspects of recent media reports about the investigation are exaggerated or simply inaccurate," the commission's Director of Misconduct Investigations, Russell Pearce, said.

The Queensland Police Union has thrown its support behind those officers who give evidence against police accused of corruption. A union spokesman yesterday confirmed the QPU was providing legal representation for any witnesses required to give evidence by the CMC for its Operation Tesco. President Ian Leavers said it was obvious there needed to be a thorough investigation. "It is in the best interests of police and the community that the CMC investigation is conducted in a timely manner," Mr Leavers said.


Another dangerously incompetent bureaucracy

Schoolkids forced to wade croc-infested water. Bureaucrats don't give a stuff about anybody else

A PROMISED bridge that would save Northern Territory kids from wading through croc-infested waters to get to school has not been started. The NT and federal governments and the Victoria Daly Shire had planned to have a $1.5 million upgrade of the causeway in Palumpa - near Wadeye - finished by the return of the wet season, according to the Northern Territory News. Announcements of federal and NT government funding were made as early as June last year, but work on it has yet to begin.

Locals fear heavy rains expected soon will once again cause the billabong to flood the causeway, leaving residents cut off from the essential services, including the school, all on the other side of town. A 5m croc that was stalking the flooded causeway last year has reportedly not been caught.

A local man said people were disappointed nothing had happened. "There's nothing happening," he said. "It looks like a false promise."

It is believed the delay has been caused by "design issues", and work is not expected to happen until this dry season.


3 February, 2010

"My School" brawl exposes teachers' culture of mediocrity

I myself received what I regard as an excellent education at a country State school. I still remember much of the German "Lieder" and Latin grammar I learnt there around 50 years ago. I even remember enough basic physics to know what a crock global warming is. And I sent my son to a State school for part of his education. So I have no great objection to State schools as such. But it is when discipline is abandoned and the curriculum is dumbed down to politically correct pap that an alternative is needed -- and it is often sorely needed these days-- JR

In the mid 1990s the teachers credit union Satisfac came up with a kindly and seemingly innocent idea to celebrate the excellent work of its teacher members. The credit union, which historically had served teachers but like many other institutions now has a wide customer base, decided that to recognise the role of the teaching profession in its own development it would establish an annual awards event called The Best Teacher Awards.

But when the awards were initially proposed the reaction from the teachers union was one of outrage and dismay. Satisfac was told in no uncertain terms to shelve the idea, with the union arguing it was the height of impertinence for a credit union – or anyone else for that matter – to declare that some teachers were better than others.

This quaint Marxist view of the world has been on full display this past week as teachers unions around the country descend into apoplexy over the Rudd Government’s apparently wicked policy of letting parents know how their kids’ school compares to other like schools.

The unspoken backdrop to the unions’ long-standing hostility to any form of comparative rankings is, obviously, industrial self-interest. The danger which a website such as MySchool presents to the union is that parents might start asking hard questions if they see that their school is performing well down the list of comparable schools. For the first time, this website provides the public with data that is so rich that it’s possible to discern a drop-off in certain years or certain subjects.

There could be several reasons for a decline in performance. It could be a funding shortfall, which can be sheeted home to the relevant state government or education department. It could be explained by a change in the profile of the students in a certain year. It could also be that one of the teachers is no good.

It’s this last point which the teaching unions object to the most. They have taken the all for one, one for all philosophy to such a ludicrous extent that they have made the profession less enticing for passionate people who might consider a career as an educator, if not for the fact that you will forever be held back in terms of both workload and remuneration by the non-performance of the minority of disengaged or dud teachers.

If the unions were intellectually honest, this website would be welcomed as a long-overdue vindication of the excellence of most public schools. As the proud graduate of a public school, I’ve taken a perverse delight in monitoring the non-performance of some of the toffiest schools in the land, seeing nuggetty little public schools kicking the stuffing out of joints that charge several thousand dollars a term with an unchallenged promise of a better level of learning.

My School has shown that many parents are effectively being fleeced by this empty promise. They might get one of those nice triangular stickers for the back of the Range Rover, and young Angus might end up rubbing shoulders with a future front rower for the Wallabies, but if it’s reading and writing you’re after, you might do better to skip down the road to the local public school.

My School is not without flaws – we spent a couple of hours on it the other night, our child’s school, in Sydney, was compared to a school in Ballina, which at 739km away is a heck of a commute. But the fixation on such glitches – which are inevitable and can be easily recognised by the average user anyway on a website of this size – is an obvious ploy by the teaching unions to undermine the credibility of the entire venture in a fruitless bid to shame the government into its withdrawal.

There’s one criticism levelled against the site which carries much more weight and which the Federal Government must take very seriously. Opposition education spokesman Chris Pyne is absolutely right when he says there is little point identifying systematic problems with the performance of a minority of teachers, without also giving principals the industrial power to act against them. And to anyone who would say this is a teacher bashing exercise, it is not. It’s the polar opposite of one.

In the new age of transparency created by My School, it is logical and right to shift next to a discussion of performance pay. And it should have less to do with punishing the minority of bad teachers than giving greater reward and opportunity to the enormous pool of dedicated and brilliant teachers.

Thinking back to my school days I can only remember a couple of teachers who were so bad that they should have been frogmarched off the school grounds. They really should have been. There was one guy who seemed to be motivated by nothing other than a pathological dislike of young people. He would habitually tell kids at this largely working class school that they were so dim that they would be better off leaving immediately and going for an apprenticeship popping rivets at the nearby Mitsubishi factory.

And then there were teachers such as Anna Polias, an English teacher who would habitually write 10 or even 15 A4 pages of comments on your essays, stay back after school to organise extra-curricular stuff such as cycling days, bookshop visits into the city, where she would take us out to coffee, talk about politics and travel and our futures. People such as Ms Polias represent the majority of teachers in the public system. She should have been paid half as much again as what she was earning; the fellow I mentioned before had no right to be in a schoolyard at all.

I suspect there are a lot of hard-working teachers who privately believe that things should change but are afraid to say so for being marginalised by the union crowd.

The most appropriate memento from my school days for illustrating this entrenched hostility towards assessment and ranking is the absurd trophy I “won” while playing Aussie Rules for the Under 13s. In keeping with the post-70s educational zeitgeist, it had been decreed that it was unfair to simply have a best and fairest and that, just like at the Easter Show, every player should win a prize. The humiliating gong I won read “Most Attentive at Training” but should really have been inscribed “Most Incompetent Back Pocket” or “Pea-hearted pretender who avoids the hard ball”. Rather than getting a pat on the head as a reward for my uselessness, the coach should have taken me aside and explained politely that I was to Aussie Rules what Gary Ablett was to romantic poetry, and pointed me in the direction of the library.

Pretending that everybody is doing quite well at almost everything is no way to prepare them for later life. And teaching is the one profession where the unions believe that this same bankrupt philosophy should apply to working adults.


Rudd's empty talk on productivity

Deregulation and cutting the bureaucracy would raise productivity but in true Leftist style, all Rudd can think of is spending ever more of taxpayers' money

To get themselves re-elected, governments have to demonstrate they've been working hard to solve the biggest problems facing the country and that they've got big plans for further advances in their next term. To this end, Kevin Rudd has been stumping the country early in this election year promising to avert the looming slowdown in our rate of economic growth caused by the ageing of the population by lifting the annual rate of improvement in the productivity of labour from its weak 1.4 per cent average in the noughties to the outstanding 2 per cent average we achieved in the 1990s.

Rudd says we "must take decisive action to drive productivity growth forward - to improve living standards, to deliver better services while keeping the budget on a sustainable footing, and to improve Australia's international competitiveness". But how does Rudd plan to achieve his productivity surge? By doing more of what he's already been doing, "investing in the key drivers of productivity".

"By investing in record levels of long-term nation-building economic infrastructure - more than $18 billion worth of investments, including in roads, rail and ports," he says.

"By implementing an education revolution, doubling the investment in Australian schools over the next five years, and increasing overall real investment in education by over 50 per cent.

"By investing in business innovation, including innovative manufacturing and helping businesses use technology to work smarter and faster wherever they are, through the high-speed national broadband network."

And "by implementing micro-economic reforms to cut red tape for business and build a seamless national economy".

Convinced? I'm not. Though most of the items on that list are worthy and their continuation and enhancement would make a positive contribution to productivity, they're most unlikely to be sufficient to lift labour productivity improvement to anything like as much as 2 per cent a year.

Remember, the 2 per cent annual improvement experienced during the '90s was exceptional. It's generally agreed by economists to have been caused by the sweeping micro-economic reforms of the late 1980s and early 1990s: deregulation of the financial system, floating the dollar, phasing out tariff protection, tax reform, the move to enterprise bargaining and reform of government-owned utilities.

Even if Rudd had the courage - which he clearly doesn't - he couldn't put together a reform program of anything like the size and scope of the Hawke-Keating agenda. That was a once-only clean-out of the regulatory stables that yielded a once-only lift in the level of productivity. The present micro reforms Rudd refers to are pathetic by comparison, involving a move to uniform national rather than state-by-state regulation of a handful of industries. Worthy but no big deal. In any case, those reforms have got bogged in the bowels of the Council of Australian Governments.

As for all he's doing to "invest in business innovation", this is a reference to his neo-protectionist and inefficient government assistance to the vehicle and other industries. And it takes a lot of faith to believe his national broadband network will boost rather than knock a hole in national productivity.

Since Rudd clearly has no taste for the kind of controversial regulatory reforms that invariably arouse the ire of present holders of economic privilege, we're left with the category of measures that do good by spending money: building more economic infrastructure and investing in education.

It's not clear to what extent we face the "infrastructure backlog" Rudd talks about but, assuming we do, it's likely to require a lot more spending than he has presently committed. And his unqualified commitment to return the budget to surplus - drawing no distinction between capital and recurrent spending - leaves him little scope for additional infrastructure spending. Similarly, he has little scope for the greatly increased spending at all levels - early childhood, school, TAFE and university - needed to overcome the stinginess of the Howard years and affect a genuine "education revolution".

It became clear to me that Rudd wasn't fair dinkum in his commitment to an education revolution from the moment during the 2007 election campaign that he said "me too" to Peter Costello's three years of tax cuts. No, Rudd isn't sufficiently productive as a policy-maker - matching deeds to stated intentions - to bring about the marked improvement in national productivity he's promising.


The Queensland wallopers never change

Even putting a chief of police in jail has not slowed them down. Now it's drug trafficking. Good to see that the CMC have finally got off their fat behinds, though. Given the CMC track record, however, they could still go to water over this

THE biggest corruption scandal since the Fitzgerald inquiry, with claims of police in major drug trafficking, is set to rock the force. The allegations centre on the Gold Coast and are believed to concern some members of the Queensland Police Service, The Courier-Mail reports. The Crime and Misconduct Commission is tipped to call a public inquiry into allegations Gold Coast police have been involved with organised crime gangs, including outlaw bikies, importing drugs and dealing them through some of the Glitter Strip's nightclubs.

More than 20 officers are understood to have been hauled before secret CMC hearings to forcibly answer questions or give evidence against allegedly crooked colleagues. Phone taps, listening devices and covert surveillance are believed to have been used to gather evidence. "This will be the biggest corruption scandal since Fitzgerald," a senior police source said. "It will unfortunately drag down the reputation of the police service once again."

A multimillion-dollar cocaine bust on the Gold Coast last year is believed to have helped spark the CMC probe, which has been running for several months. The CMC is investigating allegations cocaine went missing from a Gold Coast police station. The Surfers Paradise police station was raided on Sunday, as well as another Coast station.

On Monday, in a separate incident, a Surfers Paradise constable was stood down on full pay pending an investigation after a drug bust in Brisbane's Fortitude Valley.

The scandal follows last year's Operation Capri which resulted in the damning CMC report Dangerous Liaisons. "This will make Capri look very small," the police source said. "We're talking about allegations of police involvement in importing drugs into Australia and distributing them through the Gold Coast nightclub scene. "Police on the Coast, by nature, work pretty closely with the seedier side of the tourism industry and it would seem some may have fallen for temptation and dragged the rest of their colleagues down with them."

Another source said drug dealers were blatantly plying their trade in nightclubs - with off-duty police present.

It is believed key players have not been questioned by the CMC, leading to speculation a public inquiry was imminent. Yesterday, the CMC said suggestions of a "major drug trafficking investigation" were "incorrect". But a spokeswoman said illegal drugs were part of an ongoing police misconduct probe, Operation Tesco, and would not rule out a public inquiry.


Rogue unions out of control under Rudd

SHIPPING company Total Marine Services has caved in to union threats of further strike action and agreed to wage and allowance increases of up to $50,000 over three years for workers servicing the lucrative oil and gas industry.

Together with an escalating dispute between Woodside Petroleum and its Pilbara workforce, the Total Marine deal confirms that Western Australia's minerals-rich north has become the front line in a new industrial push that employers warn could spread throughout the resources sector.

Employer groups have used the Total Marine agreement to attack the Rudd government's workplace laws, warning that the deal could flow across the shipping industry.

The Australian Mines and Metals Association said the deal contained no productivity offsets and was struck just two hours before workers were to embark on another 48-hour strike against the company. Steve Knott, the association's chief executive, said the dispute had been a "litmus test" for Labor's workplace laws, and the company had been forced into agreeing to the union claim. "The MUA (Maritime Union of Australia) took crippling strike action until vessel operators were no longer able to afford to withstand the action," Mr Knott said.

"This dispute has clearly demonstrated the Fair Work Act has made it easier for unions to initiate damaging strike activity and, as seen in the latest round of illegal stoppages in Western Australia, there seems to be little commitment from government to prevent such action."

The Australian Shipowners Association last night said Total Marine could only "resist repeated strike action for so long". Teresa Hatch, the association's executive director, said the wage rises could flow on to other shipping companies. But Paddy Crumlin, the union's national secretary, said the wage increases in the "historic" agreement were "reasonable".

The 30 per cent wage increase comprises 8.5 per cent back-dated to September last year; 3.5 per cent from this month; and three 6 per cent wage rises payable between July this year and July 2012. The union has also succeeded in winning a new construction allowance, which is believed to start at about $175 a day before increasing to $214 a day. The union said it was close to securing agreements with other vessel operators, including Farstad and Go Offshore.


Perth girl crowned Australia's brainiest student

Interesting that the winner is of Indian origin and the runner up is of Chinese origin

A 14-YEAR-OLD'S knowledge of neuroscience has led to her crowning as Australia's brainiest student. Uma Jha, from Perth's Shenton College, in inner-west Shenton Park, outsmarted more than 4000 national competitors to win the 2010 Australian Brain Bee Challenge.

The neuroscience competition tests high school students on a range of topics, including intelligence, memory, emotions, sleep, Alzheimer's disease and stroke. In front of a live audience in Sydney on Monday, Uma competed against other state winners in the national final of the competition, which included a brain-teasing anatomy exam, doctor-patient diagnosis and a neuroscience quiz.

"The competition was tied right up until the end and it was a really nerve-wracking finish," Uma said after the event. "I've never won a national science competition before, so it's amazing."

As the Australian Brain Bee Champion, she will travel to California for the International Brain Bee Challenge in August. Competition national organiser and Queensland Brain Institute professor Linda Richards said it would be a fantastic opportunity for Uma. "She has shown that she has a special talent and passion for neuroscience and we're very proud of her to be representing Australia at the international level," Prof Richards said.

The Australian runner-up was Andrew Li, from James Ruse Agricultural High School in New South Wales.


2 February, 2010

Australian pro-liberty thinktank vindicated on climate

By Greg Lindsay, Executive Director

Eighteen months ago in Tokyo, my two year term as President of the Mont Pelerin Society, founded by F.A. Hayek in the wake of World War II, came to an end. I was succeeded by development economist Professor Deepak Lal.

In my Presidential address, I traced the history and intellectual lineage of that famous Society back to the great thinkers of the Enlightenment and speculated about some of the problems and threats to freedom that modern-day liberals faced.

What I singled out in particular was the so-called ‘debate’ about the theory that man-made carbon emissions are responsible for causing potentially catastrophic increases in global temperatures. My concern wasn’t the evidence for this theory, per se, but what I described as ‘the regrettable features of the climate change debate, which I believe has descended into anything but a reasoned and scientific discussion judged by Enlightenment standards.’

My point was that scepticism – the rigorous evaluation of evidence – a fundamental building block of intellectual and scientific progress, was in danger of being swept away by a new form of pre-enlightenment quasi-religious belief and rent seeking:
'What is disquieting, and should be disquieting to all who cherish the principles of the Enlightenment, is the certainty of belief displayed by some of the believers . . . The politics of climate change have become intensely ideological, and far distant from a rational debate which allows for a free exchange of ideas. The debate, such as it is, has struggled to rise above the ridiculous, at its worst demonstrated by the morally offensive use of the labels ‘denier’ or ‘delusionist’ to discredit all who are so ‘unsound’ as to question the dominant interpretation of the science . . .

There is no question that we should apply the best scientific techniques to discover the truth about this issue and then deal with it appropriately. Unfortunately, one has to question the integrity of a great deal of climate research. This is because climate research has become an industry which is heavily reliant on the steady drip of government funding. Competing and challenging research is too often swept away . . .'
Just a year after that speech, a torrent of disclosures about dubious climate science practices has underlined my concerns. Popular tags such as Climategate have been applied and will stick; reputations have been tarnished and many will most likely be trashed. It seems that key scientists have allowed questionable objectives to politicise their science and have put at risk the standard procedures of the scientific method including peer review.

If the disclosures of the past few months do anything, they should restore some balance to this debate and allow competing ideas, theories and evidence to be tested. Apocalyptic visions distilled from the propaganda of climate activists that ended up in official reports should be seen for what they are. That international bureaucracies such as the IPCC should be taken in by such material should come as no surprise.

If anything good comes out of all this it should be to question the increasing dependence by scientists in all fields on government funding. Hopefully, policymakers will also pause to think through the implications of the dirigiste policies they plan to combat ‘global warming’.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated February 1. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

Rudd warns poll defeat a possibility after shock Newspoll result

For non-Australian readers this is a bit complex. Votes for minor parties are not discarded but are reallocated to the voters' second preference in the major parties. It is now only the voters for minor parties (mainly the Greens) who are keeping Rudd afloat in the polls

KEVIN Rudd has warned voters there is "no guarantee" Labor will win the next election in the wake of a shock Newspoll finding that the Coalition has overtaken Labor on the primary vote. The Prime Minister said today the reality was that Mr Abbott would be prime minister if two or three people in 100 changed their vote at the next election.

Newspoll, published exclusively in The Australian today, finds that Labor retains an election-winning lead of four points - 52-48 - on par with the result that delivered the 2007 election win. But for first time since the 2007 federal election, the Coalition leads Labor - 41-40 - in primary vote support.

Tony Abbott responded to the good news this morning during a pre-dawn bike ride up Red Hill, telling cameramen who assembled at 5am that the result was “encouraging, but that there's a long way to go”.

The Prime Minister, who attended church with Mr Abbott and other MPs today to mark the resumption of parliamentary hostilities, launched a media blitz with interviews on breakfast television and radio.

As Mr Abbott prepares to unveil his alternative climate change policy today, the Rudd government is preparing to face more political heat with the arrival of another boatload of asylum-seekers. This time, more than 180 passengers are on board, with the Prime Minister maintaining Christmas Island can still cope with the latest large arrivals without having to activate contingency plans to take arrivals to Darwin for processing.


Anonymous internet comments made illegal in South Australia

This is very troubling. People often have good reasons for anonymity. For instance: Known supporters of California's successful Proposition 8 (banning homosexual marriage) were subsequently harassed and attacked by homosexuals

SOUTH Australia has become one of the few states in the world to censor the internet. The new law, which came into force on January 6, requires anyone making an online comment about next month's state election to publish their real name and postcode. The law will affect anyone posting a comment on an election story on The Advertiser's AdelaideNow website, as well as other Australian news sites. It could also apply to election comment made on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

The law, which was pushed through last year as part of a raft of amendments to the Electoral Act and supported by the Liberal Party, also requires media organisations to keep a person's real name and full address on file for six months, and they face fines of $5000 if they do not hand over this information to the Electoral Commissioner.

Attorney-General Michael Atkinson denied that the new law was an attack on free speech. "The AdelaideNow website is not just a sewer of criminal defamation, it is a sewer of identity theft and fraud," Mr Atkinson said. "There is no impinging on freedom of speech, people are free to say what they wish as themselves, not as somebody else."

Mr Atkinson also said he expected The Advertiser to target him for sponsoring the law. "I am also certain that Advertiser Newspapers and News Limited will punish me personally, viciously for being the attorney-general responsible for this law," he said. "You will publish false stories about me, invent things about me to punish me."

The Advertiser's editor, Melvin Mansell, said: "Clearly this is censorship being implemented by a government facing an election. "The effect of that is that many South Australians are going to be robbed of their right of freedom of speech during this election campaign. "The sad part is that this widespread suppression is supported by the Opposition. "Neither of these parties are representing the people for whom they have been elected to govern."

The Right to Know Coalition, made up of Australia's major media outlets including News Limited, publisher of The Advertiser and parent company of, has called the new laws "draconian". "This is one of the most troubling erosions of the right to free speech in Australia for many years," Right to Know spokeswoman Creina Chapman said. Ms Chapman also pointed out that newspaper blogs such as AdelaideNow were moderated and publishers and broadcasters took responsibility for the material they published.

Opposition justice spokeswoman Vickie Chapman said yesterday while the Liberal Party had supported the amendment to the Electoral Act, she believed it would be too broad to implement if it included Facebook and Twitter. Ms Chapman said Mr Atkinson should introduce a regulation to limit its scope. "It is clearly not the intention of what we understood that to be," she said.

The SA law - which could also apply to talkback radio - differs from federal legislation, which preserves the right of internet users to blog under a pseudonym. The law will apply as soon as the writs for the March 20 election are issued. The writs for the election can be issued any time between now and 25 days before the election. The law will then lapse at 6pm on polling day. Mr Atkinson said there was no intention to broaden the law to take it beyond the period of elections.


Incompetent teachers must be given the boot

More power for principals to hire and fire would help

THE suggestion that poor children will not do well at school is both offensive and misguided. Anyone who knows much about education and teaching understands this simple fact: quality educational outcomes are directly related to quality teaching. It is the sleeper in the My School website.

Research has persistently shown better teachers mean better results. Do you think I am overstating the case? Well, consider this. According to the findings of the benchmark 2005 Department of Education, Science and Training's national inquiry into the teaching of literacy: "Highly effective teachers and their professional learning do make a difference in the classroom. It is not so much what students bring with them from their backgrounds, but what they experience on a day-to-day basis in interaction with teachers and other students that matters. Teaching quality has strong effects on children's experiences of schooling, including their attitudes, behaviours and achievement outcomes.

"Thus there is need for a major focus on teacher quality, and building capacity in teachers towards quality, evidence-based teaching practices that are demonstrably effective in maximising the developmental and learning needs of all children."

Even so, Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority chairman Barry McGaw, in The Weekend Australian, trotted out the tired and irresponsible argument that governments need to do more to "reduce the impact of demography on school results".

The demographic argument has been used by state governments for years to justify low school achievement. No matter that before the My School website indicated performance nationwide, the Australian Council for Education Research could demonstrate that it was not a question of where you lived but who taught you that affected educational outcomes.

If this was not the case, why then are the Teach for Australia flying squads of super university graduates targeting underperforming schools? While the Teach for Australia idea is significantly flawed in terms of adequate classroom preparation of teachers, it has identified that good teachers make a difference. McGaw cites evidence that, on the basis of comparable OECD data, in Australia "poorer schools and schools in poorer communities struggle to a greater extent". However, the answer is not physical resources or postcodes but who is in front of the class. I am a secondary teacher. I came from a poor family, lived in a working-class area and was superbly taught in Victorian state schools. My father was a storeman and bought me a desk, on hire purchase, so I could do my schoolwork. There were many children just like me. I owe my tertiary education to gifted teachers.

Why does the Australian Education Union cover for incompetence? What the AEU fails to address with any kind of serious intent is working co-operatively with governments to get rid of poor teachers. Education Minister Julia Gillard is savvy on the question of quality assurance in the classroom. This is why she can say: "A poor child can get fantastic results." How? Teacher quality must improve.

National primary and secondary principals associations have recognised that there is a direct correlation between a principal's ability to select staff and school results. Leonie Trimper, president of the Australian Primary Principals' Association, pithily noted last December: "Name any company that sits back for Centrelink to ring and say, `Here's your 10 staff.' "

In Victoria, taking a leaf out of Queensland's approach, there are $50,000 golden goodbyes on the table for poor teachers.

While the AEU can recite the mantra that the My School website - as federal president Angelo Gavrielatos did on ABC radio on the morning of the launch - is "inaccurate, incomplete and invalid", the question every parent in the country should be asking is: Does my school have quality teachers? If not, why not?

Those who link demographics with student performance are simply not facing reality. Poor children deserve quality education. If they do not get it, then look to the teachers.


High levels of immigration will be disastrous for the quality of life in Australia

By Barry Cohen, a former minister in the Hawke Labor government

NOW that Kevin Rudd has informed us that he favours a "big Australia" with a population reaching 35 million by 2050, will he also tell us what happens then? Do we continue to pursue policies that will further double our population by 2100, causing us to cease immigration altogether and then apply the Chinese solution: one child per family? And if the population is to increase to 35 million, what's the rush to get there so quickly?

Thanks to the ABC, Kerry O'Brien and The 7.30 Report, which devoted most of last week to showcasing the question of population growth, it appears that at last we are going to have the public debate some of us have been seeking for years.

I once asked in question time whether the prime minister was aware that immigration levels were causing concern because of the pressure they exert on "education, health and social services, housing and land prices and the consequent diminution in the quality of life that overcrowded cities have on our environment". I asked for a white paper on immigration to evaluate the costs and benefits of continued large-scale immigration. That was on June 10, 1970, and John Gorton's answer indicated he was none too pleased with my question. Neither was Labor's immigration spokesman Fred Daly. Having written and spoken about the issue for 40 years, I'm delighted a serious debate is about to begin.

My view then was that Australia couldn't have an immigration policy without first having a population policy. It hasn't changed. The then minister for immigration, Phil Lynch, understood what I was on about. He set up an inquiry under Wilfred Borrie, but when Borrie eventually reported in 1978, no mention was made of population numbers.

What surprises me is that Rudd has decided to support a massive increase without the matter being debated in public, the parliament, the party or the press. I am not alone in my concern. What advocates of big Australia haven't yet done is spelt out clearly the benefits from such a huge population increase. In the early 1990s our annual growth rate, including immigration as well as births and deaths, dropped below 1 per cent. It is now, thanks to more babies and more people living longer, almost 2 per cent.

With a population of 22 million, the deterioration in the quality of life in our cities is already obvious. Daily our media highlights the inadequacy of our schools, hospitals and transport system, housing and water shortages, and spiralling land prices. You don't need to be an urban planner, demographer or sociologist to see the problems. If the 35 million predicted by 2050 is correct, with Sydney and Melbourne rising to seven million each, we are courting disaster. Double the population and life in the cities will be intolerable.

No, no, say the big Australians, we can take millions more. We can but who will benefit? It is up to the big Australians to show how this will improve the quality of life for present and future generations of Australians.

In the immediate post-war period, Australia, having just fought a war of survival with the Japanese, recognised that we could not occupy or defend a vast island continent with six million people. It may seem xenophobic today but fear of being swamped by the yellow peril before, during and after World War II was real enough. Most of these fears have now abated and, thankfully, with the end of the White Australia policy, most Australians recognise that our security is no longer dependent on increased population. If it is, what numbers will be necessary to repel the three billion who live to our near north? .

The other reason given at the time was that a larger population would provide our manufacturers with the economies of scale. That may have had some validity then, but Australia's economy now depends more on mining, tourism and agriculture as well as financial and educational services rather than manufacturing.

The Prime Minister might also care to explain why the government is telling us we must reduce our carbon footprint while suggesting we should double the number of feet. We appear to be on two different planets. Some suggest that not to share our country with millions more immigrants is selfish and that we have the responsibility to help other countries to lighten their population load. Excuse me? What about helping them with population control?

Why has it taken so long for this debate to take place? One reason is that the ethnic lobby brands anyone who questions immigration as racist. That won't work with the type of people who are now entering the debate. People of the calibre of Dick Smith, Bob Carr and, if I may say so, yours truly can't be so labelled.

More and more Australians are speaking out on this issue and they will not be silenced out of fear of being blackguarded by those afraid to seriously debate the issue.

The pundits suggest the federal election will be fought on the economy, climate change, health care and education. To that we can add population and immigration. It's the big sleeper. Rudd and Tony Abbott take note. It will be a debate not about who comes to this country but how many.


1 February, 2010

Ten facts conveniently brushed over by the global warming fanatics

The following article appeared in a Left-leaning major Australian newspaper -- replying in part to some dishonest smears against Viscount Monckton elsewhere

1. The pin-up species of global warming, the polar bear, is increasing in number, not decreasing.

2. The US President, Barack Obama, supports building nuclear power plants. Last week, in his State of the Union address, he said: To create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country.

3. The Copenhagen climate conference descended into farce. The low point of the gridlock and posturing at Copenhagen came with the appearance by the socialist dictator of Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez, whose anti-capitalist diatribe drew a cheering ovation from thousands of left-wing ideologues.

4. The reputation of the chief United Nations scientist on global warming is in disrepair. Dr Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is being investigated for financial irregularities, conflicts of interest and scientific distortion. He has already admitted publishing false data.

5. The supposed scientific consensus of the IPCC has been challenged by numerous distinguished scientists.

6. The politicisation of science leads to a heavy price being paid in poor countries. After Western environmentalists succeeded in banning or suppressing the use of the pesticide DDT, the rate of death by malaria rose into the millions. Some scholars estimate the death toll at 20 million or more, most of them children.

7. The biofuels industry has exacerbated world hunger. Diverting huge amounts of grain crops (as distinct from sugar cane) to biofuels has contributed to a rise in world food prices, felt acutely in the poorest nations.

8. The Kyoto Protocol has proved meaningless. Global carbon emissions are significantly higher today than they were when the Kyoto Protocol was introduced.

9. The United Nations global carbon emissions reduction target is a massively costly mirage.

10. Kevin Rudd's political bluff on emissions trading has been exposed. The Prime Minister intimated he would go to the people in an early election if his carbon emissions trading legislation was rejected. He won't. The electorate has shifted.

None of these anti-commandments question the salient negative link between humanity and the environment: that we are an omnivorous, rapacious species which has done enormous damage to the world's environment. Nor do they question the warming of the planet.

What they do question is the morphing of science with ideology, the most pernicious byproduct of the global warming debate. All these anti-commandments were brought into focus this past week by the visit of the Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, better known as Lord Christopher Monckton, journalist by trade, mathematician by training, provocateur by inclination.

Last Wednesday a conference room at the Sheraton on the Park was filled to overflowing, all 800 seats sold with a standing-room only crowd at the back, to see the Sydney public appearance of Monckton, a former science adviser to Margaret Thatcher. At the end of his presentation he received a sustained standing ovation.

Monckton is the embodiment of English aristocratic eccentricity. His presentations are a combination of stand-up comedy, evangelical preaching and fierce debating. Almost every argument he makes can be contested, but given the enormity of the multi-trillion-dollars that governments expect taxpayers to expend on combating global warming, the process needs to be subject to brutal interrogation, scrutiny and scepticism. And Monckton was brutal, especially about the media, referring to all this bed-wetting stuff on the ABC and the BBC.

There has also been a monumental political failure surrounding the global warming debate. Those who would have to pay for most of the massive government expenditures proposed, the taxpayers of the West, are beginning to go into open revolt at the prospect.

Last week the Herald reported that Monckton told a large lie while in Sydney. On Tuesday it reported: He said with a straight face on the Alan Jones radio program that he had been awarded the Nobel, a claim Jones did not question. The Herald repeated the accusation on Thursday. It was repeated a third time in a commentary in Saturday's Herald.

In 2007 the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shared the Nobel Peace Prize with the former US vice-president Al Gore. The prize committee, in citing its selection of the IPCC, said: Through the IPCC … thousands of scientists and officials from over 100 countries have collaborated to achieve greater certainty as to the scale of [global] warming. Thousands of people were thus collectively and anonymously part of the prize process.

So what lie did Monckton tell about the prize? Despite the gravity of the accusation, the Herald never published the offending remark. Here, for the record, is what he actually said:

Monckton: I found out on the day of publication of the 2007 [IPCC report] that they'd multiplied, by 10, the observed contribution to sea-level rise of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheet. By 10! I got in touch with them and said, 'You will correct this.' And two days later, furtively, on the website, no publicity, they simply relabelled, recalculated and corrected the table they'd got wrong.

Alan Jones: But this report won a Nobel Prize!

Monckton: Yes. Exactly. And I am also a Nobel Prize winner because I made a correction. I'm part of the process that got the Nobel Prize. Do I deserve it? No. Do they deserve it? No. The thing is a joke.


Training fails to prepare new doctors

An increased emphasis on "social" education has left less time for teaching such basics as anatomy. Many medical schools also now have a bias against very bright students in the name of "equality"

MEDICAL students are emerging from the nation's universities feeling inadequately prepared to deal with crucial tasks such as calculating safe drug doses and writing prescriptions.

In a challenge to Kevin Rudd's twin promise to improve university education and doctor shortages, a government study has also revealed that medical supervisors feel the abilities of hospital interns fall short of their expectations. The study reveals just 36 per cent of junior doctors think they have been adequately or well-prepared to do wound management. And only 29 per cent of final-year medical students feel they have been adequately prepared to calculate accurate drug doses.

The landmark review of the nation's medical education system was finalised 19 months ago but released only on Friday. Medical leaders warn that the extra influx of students since the Education Department commissioned the research has made the failings it describes even worse.

News of the concerns about medical education comes before today's release of a new Intergenerational Report warning that the nation's ageing population will impose extreme pressure on the health system, including the medical workforce. It also comes as The Australian has learned a Rudd government program aimed at addressing the drastic shortage of nurses in the nation's aged-care facilities has failed, attracting just 138 nurses in two years, against a target of 400.

In the past decade, the quality of medical training has come under increasing scrutiny, particularly since chronic doctor shortages have sparked an increase in medical school intakes and the creation of medical schools in regional universities. In 2007, The Australian revealed that almost three out of four medical students said they were taught too little anatomy during their medical degree, while more than a third questioned their own competence in the workings of the human body.

Such findings led the Howard government to commission the Department of Education, Science and Training to do a two-year study, conducted between 2005 and 2007, to find out how best to train the nation's doctors. The report found medical students feared for their skills in a number of key areas, including knowledge of basic sciences, while hospitals increasingly struggled to make time for effective teaching in the face of packed waiting rooms.

Only 48 per cent of final-year students and 64 per cent of junior doctors thought they were adequately or well prepared to write prescriptions. Interpreting X-rays was a concern for 69 per cent and 77 per cent respectively. And just 44 per cent of medical students and 48 per cent of junior doctors felt they had been properly trained to insert a tube through the nose and down the throat of a patient.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon refused to comment on the detail of the report late yesterday. Instead, she blamed it on Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, a health minister in the Howard government. "Tony Abbott failed to plan for the health workforce needs of Australia and even capped the number of people allowed to train as GPs - a cap that this government has lifted," Ms Roxon said.

The medical community warned that the situation had deteriorated since the report was completed. Australian Medical Association president Andrew Pesce said more needed to be done to properly fund medical training. "Nationally, there will be 2920 domestic graduates from medical schools by 2012, and over 500 international graduates - many of whom will want to stay in Australia," Dr Pesce said. "This will swamp the existing number of intern places - with only 2030 currently available across the country."

The executive director of surgical affairs for the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, John Quinn, said the report was "a missed opportunity" to demand decisive action. Dr Quinn said the RACS was particularly disappointed, given it had been "vociferous about the dwindling and now inadequate teaching of anatomy" in all medical schools. "This would seem to be a failure to recognise the problem, and to propose some solutions to a problem that has been well-identified previously," Dr Quinn said.

Associate Professor Paul McKenzie, the president of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia, said the report was a "disappointment" for failing to recommend improvements to undergraduate science training.


Australia's useless navy

With more useless but very expensive ships coming. Rudd's aim of building more ships here shows an utter inability to learn. He wants to build a new design of submarine here even though the previous attempt to do that has been an abject failure and left us with ZERO operational submarines

We are, as the torturous lyrics of our national anthem remind us, a nation girt by sea, a condition that ensures that we rely heavily for our continued existence on ships. One wonders, then, why the Royal Australian Navy and the contractors that supply it have such an appalling record in delivering naval vessels that go anywhere near performing the tasks required of them to defend our island continent.

The performance of the locally built Collins-class submarines has been a scandal since the first was launched in 1996. The fleet has suffered an endless litany of mechanical, electrical and computer malfunctions, which has meant it has never been able to carry out the national defence tasks for which it was designed. The boats were too noisy, the combat systems didn't work, the torpedoes didn't fit and they were not cheap, having to date cost $10 billion. According to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, some of them only received fully functioning combat systems last year.

When HMAS Farncomb limped into port last week after its generator failed, it meant that only the oldest, HMAS Collins, was fit to put to sea and then only for training purposes – and this from the fleet that was supposed to provide Australia's front line of defence. There are also concerns that the Swedish-supplied Hedemora diesel engines may have to be replaced, an enormous task that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

The problems surrounding these intended monuments to Australian technical achievement were all but fatally underlined in February 2003 when a hose failed on HMAS Dechaineux while it was submerged. With 12,000 litres of water flooding the hull, it came within seconds of being lost with all 55 hands.

In May 1998, four sailors died in a horrific engine room fire aboard HMAS Westralia. An inquiry found the fire was caused by the non-standard flexible fuel lines fitted.

In August 2006, four sailors aboard the patrol boat HMAS Maitland were gassed with hydrogen sulphide.

One, Chief Petty Officer Kurt MacKenzie, has launched legal action for compensation, claiming the boats, which were never intended for the RAN but were a commercial design adapted to military use, were rushed into service.

Last week, with much fanfare, the RAN accepted four upgraded frigates into service. They are a welcome addition to the nation's maritime defence ability but were delivered five years late and hugely over budget. The fleet's supply ship HMAS Success does not meet the International Maritime Organisation's requirements for oil tankers to have double hulls. As a result, the Defence Department is seeking a waiver of this requirement from the international body.

In March 2008, the navy got rid of its Seasprite helicopters for $40 million, which may sound like a good deal until you appreciate that it paid $1.4 billion for them and that they were withdrawn from service shortly after being introduced because they were too dangerous to fly and had hopeless combat systems.

Why did we blow more than a billion dollars on junk? Well might you ask, for the decision to scrap them, taken seven years after they were supposed to start flying, ended one of the greatest debacles in the disaster-strewn history of Australian military purchases. The navy is at present flying Sea Hawk helicopters, which Defence Minister Senator John Faulkner has admitted are "increasingly difficult to support". Faulkner has also revealed that the fleet's mine hunters have "obsolescence issues" and that three of its six landing craft would soon have to be withdrawn from service.

Against this background, the Government has declared that it wants to acquire a new fleet of 12 submarines, with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd talking up the likelihood that these will be a uniquely Australian design. The other option is to buy a proven, off-the-shelf European model.

The political advantages of designing them and building them in Australia are obvious, although even the Defence Materiel and Science Minister Greg Combet has admitted that building the submarines ourselves would be "at the margins of our present scientific and technological capability" and the most complex project ever attempted here. Worryingly, Combet also added a political message, saying it would contribute to the modernisation of the Australian manufacturing industry.

But when the flag waving has ceased and the cheering faded, will we be left with a $36 billion fleet of Made in Australia vessels that are incapable of defending the country? The experience of the Collins-class vessels suggests that if political expedience triumphs over common sense, as invariably happens in this country, our coastline may be left unguarded. The Collins subs have never been called upon to fire a shot in anger. It would be a brave soul who would suggest that their replacements will enjoy the same good fortune.


Catholic schools teach Catholicism! How shocking!

Why send your kid to a Catholic school if that's a problem? I sent my son to a Catholic school despite my Protestant background and he enjoyed his religion lessons greatly -- and got high marks in them. Should I have expected anything else?

CATHOLIC schools are forcing Year 12 students to sit a TEE religion subject that will count towards their university entrance score. Outraged parents are taking their children out of Catholic schools because they believe the now mandatory Religion and Life subject will create an unfair workload on students. Students already studying courses like physics and chemistry will have an extra three-hour exam to cram for. And non-religious students will be forced to rigorously study Catholic values if they wish to get into university.

The Sunday Times understands that the idea to make all Catholic school students sit a religion exam came from Archbishop Barry Hickey. Catholic Education Office of WA director Ron Dullard conceded the decision had upset some parents. "Initially, there was some concern," he said. "I don't think the parents totally understood the implications that it actually does count towards their (child's) TEE and university entrance - and the fact that, irrespective of whether they were doing the exam, they still had to devote that amount of time as part of the policy of their Catholic education obligation to religion anyway."

One southern suburbs parent told The Sunday Times they had pulled their son out of a Catholic school. "My son didn't want the added pressure of juggling his religion exam studies with subjects like physics and chemistry," she said.

Mr Dullard said the mandatory religion exams should be a benefit for students. "It should give them an advantage, particularly if they've been doing RE (religious education) for 12 years in a Catholic school," he said. "I think the students will be better prepared for RE than any other of the new courses of study."

The subject Religion and Life was designed to be non-denominational by the Curriculum Council so that students from every school could study it. Curriculum Council chief executive David Wood said Catholic students would answer questions from the perspective of their faith. "The course is set up so that kids can draw on their knowledge and experiences in whatever faith they're in to respond to the questions," Mr Wood said.


Push for a Human Rights Act fading

The first big Australian political story of the year has raised surprisingly little attention. This is likely to change when the civil liberties lobby realises that the Rudd Government appears to have junked the human rights agenda.

Last Wednesday, The Australian Financial Review reported an interview with the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland. There was considerable media focus on his comment that the Rudd Government, if re-elected, would consider a referendum on the republic, the recognition of indigenous Australians, local government and co-operative federalism.

The interest faded when the Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said Kevin Rudd had made it clear "there are no present plans to have a referendum" on the republic.

Gillard said the Government was focused on immediate challenges and mentioned lifting educational standards. Fair enough. But if the republic is a lower-order issue to education, then education reform should take precedence over a human rights act.

This was the part of the McClelland interview that was essentially overlooked. He said it was the Government's philosophy that "the enhancement of human rights should be done in a way that as far as possible unites a community rather than causes further division".

If this is the case then a human rights act seems doomed. Writing in the Herald last February, the human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, QC, maintained that at the 2020 Summit "a thousand articulate members of the community came down in favour of … a charter of rights". Not so. This issue was only discussed in any detail at the summit's constitution, rights and responsibilities sub-stream, which was chaired by the legal academic Helen Irving.

There was majority support among sub-stream delegates for a charter of rights but also strong minority opposition. Following the summit, McClelland established the National Human Rights Consultation, chaired by the lawyer Father Frank Brennan, with three other members. He erred in not including someone who opposed a charter of rights. Irving would have been an ideal appointment.

The group released a report in September. Its most controversial recommendations turn on the proposal that Australia should adopt a human rights act and that the High Court should be empowered to declare a Commonwealth law to be incompatible with it. The Brennan report says that this recommendation may prove impractical. Brennan told The Weekend Australian in September: "My own view is that I think this provision is not going to be workable."

Little wonder McClelland is wary. In its foreword, the Brennan report concedes the Coalition is opposed to a human rights act and the Labor Party is divided on the issue. Two of the most articulate opponents are the former NSW premier Bob Carr, and the NSW Attorney-General, John Hatzistergos.

Then there is the new Liberal Party leader, Tony Abbott. As McClelland well knows, Abbott is capable of running a very effective campaign against a charter presented as giving more power to unelected judges and bureaucrats at the expense of the elected representatives of the people. Abbott's case would be strengthened by the fact that, on this issue, his views are close to those of Carr and Hatzistergos.

The Brennan report revealed that a majority of Australians believe human rights are adequately protected now. Outside such advocacy groups as GetUp! and Amnesty, there is little call for a charter. The majority of submissions came from these organisations while most of those opposing came from the Australian Christian Lobby.

In the lead-up to this year's federal election, Rudd and his colleagues do not need an argument with Christian groups - including the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, who has expressed concern that the human rights lobby is intent on constraining religious freedom. As McClelland has indicated, the Rudd Government does not want to preside over a divisive debate on this issue.

Nor is there reason to. Irving is correct in arguing that the Australian rights record is no worse, and in many cases is better, than in countries which have a bill of rights. Such recognition is missing from the Brennan report. The tone of Australia Day suggests that most Australians are happy with their lot. It seems that McClelland has come to a similar conclusion.


Postings from Brisbane, Australia by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.) -- former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party.

For overseas readers: The "ALP" is the Australian Labor Party -- Australia's major Leftist party. The "Liberal" party is Australia's major conservative political party.

Again for overseas readers: Like the USA, Germany and India, Australia has State governments as well as the Federal government. So it may be useful to know the usual abbreviations for the Australian States: QLD (Queensland), NSW (New South Wales), WA (Western Australia), VIC (Victoria), TAS (Tasmania), SA (South Australia).

For American readers: A "pensioner" is a retired person living on Social Security

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

On all my blogs, I express my view of what is important primarily by the readings that I select for posting. I do however on occasions add personal comments in italicized form at the beginning of an article.

I am rather pleased to report that I am a lifelong conservative. Out of intellectual curiosity, I did in my youth join organizations from right across the political spectrum so I am certainly not closed-minded and am very familiar with the full spectrum of political thinking. Nonetheless, I did not have to undergo the lurch from Left to Right that so many people undergo. At age 13 I used my pocket-money to subscribe to the "Reader's Digest" -- the main conservative organ available in small town Australia of the 1950s. I have learnt much since but am pleased and amused to note that history has since confirmed most of what I thought at that early age.

I imagine that the the RD is still sending mailouts to my 1950s address!

I am an army man. Although my service in the Australian army was chiefly noted for its un-notability, I DID join voluntarily in the Vietnam era, I DID reach the rank of Sergeant, and I DID volunteer for a posting in Vietnam. So I think I may be forgiven for saying something that most army men think but which most don't say because they think it is too obvious: The profession of arms is the noblest profession of all because it is the only profession where you offer to lay down your life in performing your duties. Our men fought so that people could say and think what they like but I myself always treat military men with great respect -- respect which in my view is simply their due.

The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody. And I have NO investments in oil companies, mining companies or "Big Pharma"

UPDATE: Despite my (statistical) aversion to mining stocks, I have recently bought a few shares in BHP -- the world's biggest miner, I gather. I run the grave risk of becoming a speaker of famous last words for saying this but I suspect that BHP is now so big as to be largely immune from the risks that plague most mining companies. I also know of no issue affecting BHP where my writings would have any relevance. The Left seem to have a visceral hatred of miners. I have never quite figured out why.

Although I have been an atheist for all my adult life, I have no hesitation in saying that the single book which has influenced me most is the New Testament. And my Scripture blog will show that I know whereof I speak.