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31 January, 2006

Queensland parents now need permission to photograph their own kids!

Parents are being banned from taking photos of their children at sporting events in response to growing fears about pedophiles. Queensland's junior sports clubs are demanding parents get permission from other parents and team officials before photographing children. And some sporting codes now require professional photographers to hold blue cards before allowing them to work at grand finals. Many clubs said the crackdown was in response to reports about men photographing children swimming at South Bank in inner Brisbane and posting the images on websites.

South Bank and pool operators such as Belgravia Leisure, which runs a chain of water parks including the Albany Creek Leisure Centre on Brisbane's northside, said they had a policy of asking people not to take photographs without permission. They also banned mobile phones with camera functions in their change rooms.

A similar situation now applied at most of the state's patrolled beaches, where lifesavers have been given guidelines on camera use. "Sadly in this day and age we have had to be more vigilant," a Surf Life Saving Queensland spokeswoman said. "We don't want to stop the mums and dads taking photos, and nor is that our place, but it's all part of our duty of care."

Queensland Netball affiliates such as the Downey Park Netball Association in Brisbane have a total ban on photography unless it has approval from team officials. Netball Queensland also has an official policy of employing only photographers with blue cards. "We ask parents who want to take pictures of their children to go to the manager of both teams which will be playing," Downey Park president Jane Seawright said. "The policy has been in place for over two years because sometimes we have undesirables hanging around."

AFL Brisbane juniors administration manager Cherie Brockwell said that from the start of the season in April the league would make parents check with ground marshals before taking pictures. "It was only a recommendation last season," she said. "We haven't had any incidents but we decided to be proactive because of what happened at South Bank." ....

A Grandparents and Grandchildren Society spokeswoman said the changes removed a simple pleasure for families. "These photos are what grandparents live for," she said. "You take that away and you're taking away a lot of enjoyment of life for a lot of people."

More here

Baby abuse secret in socialist Victoria

A report by the State Ombudsman into the case of a five-month-old boy left in the care of a sadistic foster mother is being kept secret by the Bracks Government. Community Services Minister Sherryl Garbutt, who announced her retirement from politics last week, has refused to release the damning report. The Herald Sun revealed last year a pediatrician from the Royal Children's Hospital recommended baby "Ben" should not be returned to his foster carer after being treated for broken bones, cuts, burns and bruises in November 2003. But it was only after the foster mother allegedly gouged out the baby's teeth with a knife a month later that the boy was removed from her care.

Ms Garbutt refused to comment last week when asked if the report would be tabled in Parliament before she retired at the November election. "Today is not a day for that sort of detail," she said. "I will be hard at work on all those issues and completing the reform agenda I have set in place."

Police and the Ombudsman are investigating the abuse of Ben, who was returned to the care of his natural parents. Opposition health spokeswoman Helen Shardey said yesterday she understood the Ombudsman's report had been with Ms Garbutt for at least two months. "The community has a right to know what happened to this little boy and what steps have been taken to ensure that this never happens again," Ms Shardey said. Ms Garbutt said last year the Department of Human Services was implementing new measures to prevent other children in government care from being harmed. Child protection workers will be asked to take the most conservative and cautious approach if they are confronted with conflicting medical advice on a child's injuries. Better communication would also be set up between the RCH and child protection workers.


Some imams 'condoning violence'

In Australia, Muslim women can speak out

The nation's most senior Islamic woman has attacked Muslim religious leaders who condone "wife-beating" and other forms of domestic violence. Aziza Abdel-Halim, the only female member of the Prime Minister's Muslim Advisory Council, has warned that Islamic women are being "put down" by imams and their rights ignored. "Women have suffered from sometimes ill-informed imams ... who have tried to put down women and negate some of their rights or activities," she said yesterday. "And some of them (imams) have condoned men beating women, which is un-Islamic."

The comments, unusually outspoken for a female Muslim leader, have surfaced amid concerns that no female community representatives had been invited to the coming national imams conference in Sydney. The conference is likely to see moderate spiritual leaders attempt to crack down on radical clerics and their extremists views and to develop a national board of imams. The imams meeting will be attended by 10 community representatives and 62 imams, including firebrand cleric Mohammed Omran, who has come under fire from the Federal Government and moderate Muslim leaders for espousing radical views, including that al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is not a terrorist but a "good man".

Sister Abdel-Halim, president of the Muslim Women's National Network Australia, said the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, the conference host, was being "unjust" by not inviting female community representatives to attend. "Women are half of the community and they bring up the other half, so you shouldn't really exclude them from anything," she said. "There should be some women observers who have a background in ... Islamic studies, and these women will represent the women within the community and should have an input." She said the women may "raise a few points of concern that the imams may not be aware of or may be aware of and may be reluctant to address".

Sister Abdel-Halim's comments about cruelty towards Muslim women were backed by Jamila Hussain, a lecturer in Islamic Law at the University of Technology Sydney, who said many imams were out of touch with issues concerning Muslim women. She worried that some spiritual leaders were indifferent to the cruelty being experienced by some women at the hands of aggressive partners. "We don't know what imams are telling the men," Ms Hussain said. "Are they taking a stand for example against domestic violence? They should be, but we don't know whether they are or not. We suspect that some are, but probably the majority are not."

Sister Abdel-Halim told The Australian that "imams wield a great deal of power over the community". "When people go to congregation, the imam for them is the source of religious knowledge and what he says to a lot of them is indisputable," she said. She said that, along with the imams who would be present at the conference, male and female academics and youth leaders should also be invited to share their views. She said she thought the AFIC board of executives "find educated women very threatening because women are ... very good community organisers and high achievers when it comes to (setting up initiatives)".

The federation has recently come under attack from community youth representatives and other Muslim leaders for not being representative of the Islamic community in Australia.


Australian actress does well

Australian actress Emilie De Ravin took out a prize at the Screen Actors' Guild Awards in LA today. De Ravin, who stars in US TV series Lost, won the award for best ensemble performance for a dramatic television series along with 16 of her fellow castmates. The Desperate Housewives cast received the ensemble award for best comedy series. Meanwhile, Australian film star Heath Ledger's Oscar hopes are fading, after Phillip Seymour Hoffman won the best actor gong. Hoffman won for his for his performance as writer Truman Capote in the biopic Capote. Reese Witherspoon won best actress honors for her portrayal of June Carter in Walk the Line. The prizes bolster their chances of winning an Oscar when the Academy Awards are presented in March.

More here

30 January, 2006

Lying Leftist historians are still ducking and weaving

Christopher Pearson comments on the call for "civility" by one of them, Wilfrid Prest

The polite fiction that local historians are a band of scholars resolute in the disinterested pursuit of truth perished long ago, which explains the decline of the profession's once-enviable reputation. When Prest calls for more sweetness and light and quotes R.H. Tawney's view that "an erring colleague is not an Amalekite, to be smitten hip and thigh", it is as though the Great Disruption of the 1960s, in Francis Fukuyama's phrase, had never happened, or Prest had spent the past 30 years dreaming.

For all that, Prest's disdainful review of Connor and defence of the Aboriginal history establishment, including most notably Henry Reynolds, is not without guile. It's the first sustained attempt to damn with faint praise a dissident historian challenging the dominant but collapsing paradigm of Australia's settlement. As readers may remember, Connor was the historian who in 2003 radically called into question the usefulness of the term terra nullius. He pointed out that it had no place in common law or in the thinking of 18th-century Whitehall or explorers and colonial administrators. Not only was it a 20th-century term, it had been dragged into arguments about settlement as window-dressing, to suggest that the enterprise had been based on the transparent legal fiction that the country had no prior owners. Reynolds had also used the magic phrase to mean, variously, unoccupied land, land belonging to no one, land with no sovereign and land with no system or tenure.

Terra nullius was a talismanic term. Everyone suddenly assumed the phrase encapsulated a freight of solemn argument that established the bad faith of our forbears and undermined Aboriginal rights in land. In fact, there was a dialogue of the deaf in which all sorts of people, including the judges in the Mabo case, revealed that they didn't know what they were talking about.

Prest concedes Reynolds's uses of the term are bewildering. Yet, he says, "Reynolds's undoubtedly confusing shifts of meaning seem in part at least merely to reproduce earlier confusions about the respective rights of Aborigines, colonists and the Crown". Prest never comes to terms with the charge that Reynolds has been culpably confusing, nor that he introduced the term disingenuously, as a piece of stage machinery - as another historian, Bain Attwood, asserted - to help sway ignorant judges' minds about 200 years of settled land law.

Prest does admit the High Court made decisions in Mabo and Wik "which seemed to lend special authority to some quite far-fetched misconceptions of terra nullius". But nonetheless he seems incapable of identifying instrumentalist history at its most blatant, either on the page or in the judgment. Instead he persists in seeing the phrase as a convenient construct in historical debate. "When historians of Europe or Britain refer to, say, the Renaissance or the Industrial Revolution, they are also imposing anachronistic, generalising labels on the complex, messy reality of past eras ... While the precise meaning and significance of such broad classifying terms is by no means agreed upon by all who now use them, their utility evidently derives from a common core content. The same may well be true of terra nullius."

For bare-faced effrontery, this takes some beating. Surely Prest, as a professorial fellow in law and history, ought to be defending categorical clarity and deploring confusion rather than sanctioning it. He ought also to realise the fatuity of bracketing sturdy portmanteau terms such as the Renaissance, which has well-attested uses, with terra nullius, which has so far been a mare's-nest.

Prest is on firmer ground when he argues that "the crucial issue nevertheless is whether the concept of terra nullius as (Reynolds) expounded it fairly represented late 18th century and 19th century official thinking about the legal status of the Australian colonies".

This might be a serious argument rather than just a debating point if historians, lawyers and commentators had ever shared a common understanding for which the phrase might serve as a shorthand term. We could then perhaps talk of terra nullius avant la lettre. However, there is no such shared understanding and never has been, as Connor's book conclusively establishes. For his pains in doing so, Prest calls him "a historian determinedly literal-minded in his approach to the past".

Prest bewails at some length the fact that Connor shows "unbounded contempt" for "numerous named colleagues and peers" and quotes some of Connor's descriptions of them: "state-salaried historians", "history warlords" and a "middle-class, careerist, intellectual elite". Prest remarks that "one can only speculate as to the sources of this extraordinary animus" and then proceeds to do just that. We are treated to an ill-informed, wholly speculative and presumptuous explanation for Connor's attitude towards the historians he takes to task, based on imagined wrongs Prest thinks he may have had to endure as a mature-age graduate student.

It seems never to have occurred to Prest that Connor might be justifiably indignant at the careless, ideologically driven history that has brought the profession into disrepute. Nor does Prest seem to see that terra nullius is the core of an account of settlement which is a gratuitous calumny on the settlers and which has also needlessly inflamed contemporary race relations in Australia.

The force of Connor's insistent refrain - "Henry Reynolds, please, produce your evidence" - is as lost on Prest as it seems to have been on Reynolds himself over the past two years. However, even in the cosy world of Aboriginal history, pressure is mounting for Reynolds to give an account of himself, from quarters which would once have been considered "on side". Tim Rowse, a senior research fellow at the Australian National University and organiser of the Australian Historical Society Conference, told The Australian's Higher Education Supplement (January 18) that Reynolds needed to respond promptly to Connor. "I think Henry should comment on this and I don't think he should wait until July's conference to do so. His reputation is in question."

When HES offered Reynolds an opportunity to answer Connor's arguments, he replied by email: "Have been in Europe for six weeks and don't feel able to comment at present."

Why Australia's greatest story is just not being told

The nation's heritage is being forgotten in history lessons, writes Kevin Donnelly

Was John Howard correct this week? Has the teaching of history fallen victim to a politically correct, New Age approach to curriculum, and are students receiving a fragmented understanding of the past? The evidence suggests "yes". Since the 1970s and '80s, as outlined in Why Our Schools Are Failing, left-wing academics, education bureaucracies and professional associations have embarked on the long march through the institutions to overthrow more conservative approaches to education.

The so-called traditional academic curriculum, with its emphasis on initiating students into established disciplines such as history and literature, and the belief that education can be impartial, have been attacked as misguided, Eurocentric and socially unjust. One of the first examples of the new history was the Keating government-inspired national studies of society and environment (SOSE) course outline published in 1993. History as a discrete subject disappeared and early drafts of the document were described as "a subject for satire" and "a case of political correctness gone wild". European settlement is described as an invasion, Australia's Anglo-Celtic heritage is either marginalised or ignored, indigenous culture is portrayed as beyond reproach and teachers are told they must give priority to perspectives of gender, multiculturalism and global future.

The 1999 Queensland SOSE curriculum, for one, was also decidedly New Age and one-sided. The values associated with the subject mirror the usual PC suspects, such as social justice, peace and ecological sustainability. In line with postmodernism, students are also taught that "knowledge is always tentative", that they should "deconstruct dominant views of society", "critique the socially constructed element of text" and examine "how privilege and marginalisation are created and sustained in society". Forget the ideal of seeking truth and developing a disinterested understanding of the world. Students are now told that everything is tentative and shifting and the purpose of education is to criticise mainstream society in terms of gender, ethnicity and class.

As a result of adopting an outcomes-based education model, all Australian history education documents adopt a constructivist view of learning. The student is placed centre-stage while the learning of important dates, events and the significance of great historical figures gives way to studying the local community or the life of such worthies as princess Di. As noted in Stuart Macintyre's The History Wars, detailing how history is taught in schools: "The traditional discipline came under increasing criticism from curriculum reformers for being old, stale and simply unrelated to students' needs. 'Relevance' became an educational ethos." Current approaches to history ask students to uncritically celebrate multiculturalism and cultural diversity without recognising that much of Australia's economic, political and legal stability relies on a Eurocentric tradition steeped in the Judeo/Christian ethic. A commitment to human rights, the rule of law and tolerance does not arise by accident.

The reality is that Australian society has proven to be such a successful social experiment because of those very values grounded in Western civilisation that can be traced back thousands of years via England and Europe to early Rome, Greece and biblical Israel.

Australian teachers are also told that how one interprets history is subjective and relative to one's culture and place. As argued by the History Teachers' Association of Victoria in the early '90s: "One of the great developments in history teaching has been the emphasis on the nature of representations, or versions, of history. There is no single version of history which can be presented to students. "History is a version of the past which varies according to the person and the times ... So not only is there no single version of history, but each generation re-interprets the past in the light of its own values and attitudes."

Taken to its logical conclusion, such a view allows Japanese textbooks to ignore the rape of Nanking and for British author David Irving to deny that millions were killed in the Holocaust. The belief that different versions of the past are of equal value and that each generation has the right to re-interpret history in terms of current values also allows revisionist historians to judge past actions in terms of what is now considered politically correct. As a result, today's historians describe the First Fleet as an invasion even though the Admiralty had given Governor Phillip express orders to co-exist with the indigenous population and Phillip, after being speared, did not punish those responsible.

As noted by the Monash University historian Mark Peel, of greater concern is that generations of students no longer understand or appreciate the grand narrative associated with the rise of Western civilisation and Australia's development as a nation. Peel states: "Students seem anxious about the absence of a story by which to comprehend change, or to understand how the nation and world they are about to inherit came to be. Indeed, their sense of the world's history is often based upon intense moments and fragments that have no real momentum or connection


Call for tax revolution

The Wall Street Journal has called for a tax revolution in Australia, with the removal of superannuation tax, the GST and lower income taxes. In an editorial in its Asian edition, the newspaper praised Sydney Liberal MP Malcolm Turnbull's plan for a $10 billion tax cut and a flatter tax system. But it said Finance Minister Nick Minchin's recent plan to scrap the 15 per cent super tax did not go far enough, especially with a $11.5 billion Budget surplus at hand. "The trouble is, Mr Minchin's ideas aren't revolutionary enough," the editorial said. The Journal said: "With a parliamentary majority, Mr Minchin and his government can afford to take some risks -- and make life less taxing for Australians."


Pam's itsy-bitsy visit (and gratuitous pic)

Beach babe Pamela Anderson is tipped to spend Valentine's Day in Melbourne. Anderson, who made waves on Baywatch before creating headlines with her chaotic marriage to wild rocker Tommy Lee, is understood to be heading to Melbourne to launch the new green M&M chocolate. Anderson will make a flying visit to be guest of honour at a celebrity-studded Valentine's Day party on February 14.


29 January, 2006

More on NSW government and police inaction in response to Muslim crime

.... Malcolm Kerr, a Liberal MP whose seat is Cronulla, says he's had a stream of constituents come into his office complaining of inaction by the police on revenge attacks despite what they said was clear evidence.

Some locals may have believed [police chief] Moroney when he said the lack of video evidence was the problem. "When the video turned up with that guy being attacked, it blew that out of the water," Kerr says. And, says Kerr, the fact that Iemma announced a huge increase in officers for Enoggera shows he did not take the issue seriously enough at the outset. "If the Government now says the task needs much greater resources, they should have put them in at the start five weeks earlier, when the clues were still hot," Kerr says.

Iemma and Moroney still say the police have not been soft on Middle Eastern crime. But the evidence suggests otherwise. A notorious police document outlines how, the night after the Sunday riots, "numerous vehicles were sighted congregated in the vicinity of Punchbowl Park [in Sydney's inner southwest]". "These vehicles and the crowd that had been gathered were suspected to be Middle Eastern criminals who have been involved in malicious damage and civil disobedience offences throughout the Sutherland Shire and St George areas," the document says. "A direction was given to police around midnight not to enter the area and antagonise these persons."

According to former police officers, it's not unusual. The police don't take on Lebanese gangs. But Debnam has not provided any evidence to back up his assertion that the Government specifically ordered the police to go soft on Middle Eastern crime. He has also failed to put up any proof that Middle Eastern political power brokers in the ALP are exerting influence on the Government to do so. Debnam's critics say his allegation is like saying that because his well-heeled electorate of Vaucluse, in Sydney's eastern suburbs, is largely Anglo-Saxon, he would be under pressure to go soft on Anglo-Saxon crime. Debnam agrees that the overwhelming majority of the Middle Eastern community has no interest in keeping the gangs out of jail. "Whenever I go out to those electorates and door-knock, all they say, whether they come from a Middle Eastern background or any other, is that they want the Government to crack down on crime," he says.

However, some former police officers, such as former police assistant commissioner and ministerial adviser Geoff Schuberg, say that, leaving the wilder elements of Debnam's conspiracy theory aside, there are some real reasons why the police are soft on Middle Eastern crime. One is politicisation of the police force in which police commissioners are less independent from ministers, and police are nervous right down the line of doing something that could be seen as politically incorrect or lead to a complaint of racial targeting. Schuberg says Moroney could stand up more to the gangs and the Government. "As a police commissioner you need to be a bit of a mongrel and give firm direction," he says. "I don't see that in Ken."

A second factor put forward by Schuberg, and well-known former detective Tim Priest, is that the skills inculcated in police officers have shifted from an emphasis on old-fashioned street policing to a more cerebral curriculum stressing socially conscious policing. "The old school of police of the past has been replaced with academics, who haven't the stomach," Priest says.

The third factor, Schuberg and Priest say, is plain fear of Lebanese gangs that, they say, have absolutely no respect for police, threaten to harm their families and have weapons they are quite prepared to use.

Some community leaders say the situation has highlighted the deep suspicion of governments and authority by many people of Middle Eastern background whose families have come from countries where governments are either corrupt or unreliable. "There is an old Arabic saying, 'Me and my brother against my cousin, me and my cousin against the world'," says one Lebanese leader. Randa Kattan, the executive director of the Arab Council Australia, believes there was possibly some underlying frustration that spilt over during the revenge attacks. "There is a lot of frustration in the community," she says. "They have had a lot to deal with since the rape stories [referring to infamous court cases]. It is a daily reality grappling with public opinion about Middle Eastern people and it won't go away very soon." ....

Tensions between Lebanese and whites at Cronulla are not new. Jane Tozen tells of an incident she witnessed well before the riots. It was December 7, and the mercury hit 38C at around 4.15pm, when she had just finished her regular routine in the gym of the North Cronulla surf lifesaving club. She and a couple of mates were looking out the window at a TV crew filming on the beach. But another group caught their eye. "There was a group of Lebanese hanging around the shower area," Tozen tells Inquirer. "They were mouthing off at one of the locals. Then they attacked him. He fell to the ground. He was covering his head. They were like flies, they were around him and kicking the shit out of him. A second local went in to help him and he was beaten, too. Then a lot of locals came round and there was a bit of a stand-off."

Lifesavers in the club called the police. The first car took 15 minutes to arrive and when it did the lone officer chased one of the Lebanese men. "I'm told he ran like hell and jumped over a fence," the new Task Force Enoggera commander Ken McKay tells Inquirer. "It was quite a chase. We got the PolAir helicopter in but he got away."

According to Tozen, the Lebanese man snatched a bag and ran, deliberately to allow the others to leave the scene uninterviewed. It was another 45 minutes, according to Tozen, before the police arrived in force. The two injured local men, streaming blood, had been treated at the surf club and had left. By that time some of the Lebanese had drifted back. According to Tozen, she and other witnesses pointed out the perpetrators to police. "They didn't arrest any of them," Tozen says.

"We told them the numberplates, which had these really gross words like Hot & Wet. The police did nothing, they just let them walk away. "It should all have been on high-quality video, because the television crew had turned its attention to the attack and filmed it. Everyone saw them do it. They told the police." But according to Tozen, the police did not act. She was wondering whether to go to the media, but her surf-lifesaving club banned members from speaking to journalists. (Tozen is not her real name - her fear is not of the Lebanese, but in being expelled from the club.)

This week, Tozen decided she'd had enough. She went to her local state MP, Kerr. He arranged for her to see McKay, whose task force is charged with rounding up "revenge attackers", the Middle Eastern men who attacked whites and their property after the race riots on December 11. McKay is trying to work out what happened. "There were a whole lot of incidents that day," he says. "It's a matter of establishing which event is related to which other one." McKay says he's trying to find the TV video but there is confusion about which channel the crew came from. One victim has been interviewed and a statement taken, McKay says. Another has been interviewed but does not want to pursue the attack. But no suspects have been interviewed let alone arrested.

So far, the Lebanese attackers have got away with it. Tozen is still as mad as hell. To her, it's just the latest of events that have been going on for years, in which Lebanese gangs have invaded her turf with impunity, bad-mouthing the locals, harassing and denigrating the women, sometimes starting fights.

But, as with a lot of the incidents McKay is trying to dissect, it's not always clean-cut. Inquirer this week tracked down one of the victims of the attack. Rather than present himself as an innocent bystander, the Cronulla local took pride in saying he started the whole thing. "That was the hottest Wednesday," says the victim, who did not give his name. "The lifesavers were attacked on the Sunday. I heard all the conflicting reports in the newspapers and radio. So I came down to the surf club and asked the lifesavers what happened.

"I was on my third longneck [beer] at that point, though I'm not trying to stress that now. I walked off and saw four Lebanese sitting on the park bench, they were being interviewed by a TV camera. As I walked past them I said 'f---ing Lebs' real loud, trying to get my voice on camera. I saw one of them calling his mates towards them. I got just past the lifesaving tower, next thing I know they all came past me and it was on. They were all over me. I reckon there was more like 15 than 20 of them. My mate was with me. He got kicked all the way from the point over to where the lifesaving club is. I got all the blokes off me, turned away and ran across the park. He was on the ground trying to get up and they were hitting and kicking him."

More here

The facts come first: All Australia's history must be taught in our schools

An editorial from "The Australian" newspaper below:

Many young Australians celebrated Australia Day in ignorance of what their ancestors accomplished and why. They will do the same come April 25th. Thanks to the way a generation has been taught, or rather not taught, history at school, young Australians are growing up completely clueless about how their country came to be the prosperous democracy they are proud of. As the Prime Minister warned yesterday, less than a quarter of senior school students study any history at all, and far fewer learn anything about their own country's past. The situation is equally awful in junior school years around the country. Certainly the previous premier of NSW, Bob Carr, recognised his responsibility to ensure students understand the importance of the great narrative of Australia's past, but too often our national story is little more than an optional educational extra.

To those who believe the primacy of the present means the past is irrelevant and that schools should exclusively prepare young people for further study or the workforce, this ignorance may not matter. For black-armed bedecked curriculum planners, out of sympathy with popular patriotism, it is a good thing because the national story they believe matters most is the story of the dispossession of indigenous Australians by white men, who also oppressed women and migrants. And because these are the people who have mainly held the heights in the state education departments it is their version of our past that has prevailed. In Victoria the fate of Aborigines, the evils of colonialism, and so forth and so on, are on the agenda. And because acting is an easy way of conducting a class in Queensland, students can be encouraged to learn history by role-playing oppressed people. So, instead of an overall narrative of our nation, and information on political events in European cultures that made us who we are, kids are taught bits and pieces of the past, as if history is an ideological grab bag, from which we can take whatever issues, ideas and events suit political agendas in our own age. This is a history that assumes young people need to learn our ancestors' failings first. Even more alarming, it bases what is taught on contested ideologies, that confuse patriotism with imperialism and judges people in the past by the standards of today. And it is all done independent of any narrative that explains the key events in our past and how they are connected to each other.

Advocates of the orthodox approach say an emphasis on facts and dates will always fail, boring students into ignoring irrelevant detail. Not if the epochal events of our national story are taught well it won't. And the idea that selectively sampling aspects of the past and using political ideas from the present to explain them ensures that students end up thinking the past is much like the present, only in fancy dress. It need not be like this. The task for history teachers in the junior school years is to give students a sense of the events and ideas that made us who we are. Inevitably that means an emphasis on the long march to democracy in Great Britain, Europe and North America. And it must include the story of Federation and the fight for women's suffrage at home. It probably does not matter much if 15-year-olds do not know the details of the deaths of Burke and Wills. But it is vital they understand how Australians developed universal suffrage. Selectively teaching what is wrong in Australia's past before young people are given the incontestable facts and dates they need to assess all the interpretations on offer is an affront to Australia's civil religion of an egalitarian democracy. It is time for all schools to give their students the facts about our past. And if crowded curriculums mean there is less time for political role play, that will be no bad thing.

A forgotten but notable episode in Australian history

The historical amnesia described by the Prime Minister, John Howard, on Wednesday was on full display on Thursday. Yet again, Australia Day was celebrated with no reference to the most momentous event ever to have occurred in Sydney on January 26: the Rum Rebellion of 1808. That evening, the local garrison marched down Bridge Street with bayonets fixed and music playing, and deposed Governor William Bligh, formerly of the Bounty. It was an exciting action that affected the course of our history and arguably influenced our national character. As we approach its bicentenary in 2008, it is time to consider celebrating it with an annual parade.

The Rum Rebellion has slipped into historical oblivion because it is widely misunderstood. Most people believe the autocratic Bligh was removed because he threatened the huge profits that were being made from trading in spirits by the officers of the NSW Corps and by businessmen such as John Macarthur. This view suggests it was nothing more than a squabble between equally unsavoury parties.

But it is completely wrong.... So what was the cause of Bligh's removal, and why should we commemorate it today? Essentially it was the culmination of a long-running tussle for power between government and entrepreneurs, a fight over the future and the nature of the colony. The early governors wanted to keep NSW as a large-scale open prison, with a primitive economy based on yeomen ex-convicts and run by government fiat. In contrast, a growing number of entrepreneurs wanted to build a vigorous economy, and sought political influence for themselves (as they would have had back in Britain). So the rebellion is important as the first major crisis in the fight between government and capital in Australia....

The Rum Rebellion led to the appointment of Governor Lachlan Macquarie, who through his unusual encouragement of ex-convicts possibly contributed to Australia's egalitarian character. One can argue over this (as well as just how egalitarian we really are), but the rebellion and its aftermath are part of that argument - another reason for remembering this climactic episode in our early history. It was also the beginning of that unusual local tradition of deposing leaders peacefully (NSW premier Jack Lang in 1932; prime minister Gough Whitlam in 1975)....

More here

28 January, 2006

Australian multiculturalists know they have a problem but ignore history in looking for the solution

They are part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Community relations were better before they came along

Miranda Devine has an interesting article pointing out that even Australian left liberals are now airing doubts about multiculturalism's ugly side. She points out how recently Philip Adams interviewed Professor Jerzy Zubrzycki, the man often credited with being the intellectual architect of Australia's multiculturalism policy.

"Zubrzycki told Adams the Cronulla riots were a "wake-up call" for multiculturalism. They illustrated the folly of dumping poor, unskilled migrants from Lebanon in the outer suburbs of Sydney in the 1980s, "on the understanding they would be looked after by their families . We left them to their own devices, with no specific settlement policy, traumatised [by civil war], unable to speak the language, unable to come to grips with Australian culture and also largely of the Islamic faith" ."

So the answer to multiculturalism's failures is even more multicultural bureaucracy. Isn't this like a losing General demanding he be sent more troops? My guess is that both Adams and Zubrzycki would (as I do) regard Australia's post WW2 immigration as successful. Yet the hundreds of thousands who came to our shores in the two decades after WW2, many of whom experienced devastation and wartime traumas, at least as bad as anything seen in Lebanon, had far fewer government provided services than immigrants and refugees who have arrived in recent decades. Many post-WW2 refugee immigrants to Australia ended up in Displaced Persons camps and had to spend two years living in amenity poor tent cities, with dozens of nationalities thrown together, more or less at random, working with pick and shovel before being released into the general community. Once released they had no translator services, no high profile community advocates on TV every night, and anti-discrimination laws were decades away. Hard work was really their only option. Still they survived and thrived. The immigrant groups who have come since the 1990s have, comparatively speaking, had it easy.

The pundits also ignore the comparative add-on costs between the two generations of immigrants and it's impact in promoting anti-immigration sentiment in the wider community. In the 1940s-1960s immigrants had a much lower government spending price tag per capita, even in relative terms, than in the 1990s-2000s. As such it shouldn't be surprising to learn that polls show popular opposition to the immigration program was much lower in the earlier period. Despite Australian society in the 1990s being considered much more diverse and 'tolerant' than the "White Australia" of the 1950s.

Trickle down arguments about modern immigrants 'paying their own way' may be correct in a textbook economics sense but are irrelevant in this particular case. If modern immigrants manage to 'pay their own way', the earlier generation must have been a bargain. The pundits also fail to explain why there were no "anti-immigrant" riots among the former generation of anglophile-educated Australians. No liberal pundits have even noticed that the participants in the Cronulla riot were actually from the first generation of Australians with pro-multicultural schooling from their first day of kindergaten. We know that three generations of Communist propaganda failed to turn the Russians into true believer marxists. Even though in the Soviet era all learned to mouth the phrases as required. Perhaps a similar situation impacts the doctrine of multiculturalism. Zubrzycki's solution would undoubtedly exacerbate tensions not relieve them.

Leftists protest over call to teach a balanced Australian history

Australia's national day of celebration was marked by a renewed outbreak of the culture wars as education experts debated the way Australia's story is taught in schools. The latest hostilities were provoked by John Howard's comments at the National Press Club on Wednesday, where he claimed the teaching of history had degenerated into a "fragmented stew" of post-modernist ideas with no clear narrative thread. His comments renewed the longstanding dispute between those who oppose the so-called "black armband" view of Australian history and those who argue that any single, authorised account of our story only serves to marginalise the powerless.

Opposition Leader Kim Beazley yesterday agreed with the need for "decent narrative history" but dismissed the Prime Minister's comments as coming "straight out of the right-wing playbook of the US".

Education expert Kevin Donnelly backed Mr Howard's concerns about the history curriculum being taught in schools but lamented the lack of change in history teaching after a decade of conservative government in Canberra. He pointed out that many currently fashionable ideas about the subject had taken hold under conservative state governments.

But history teachers attacked Mr Howard's emphasis on Australia's British heritage. Australian Education Union secretary Andrew Gohl told The Australian: "We know that John Howard says we shouldn't have a black armband view of history, but what does that mean? Does it mean we can't talk about the invasion of Australia, or the appalling treatment of indigenous Australians?"

State education ministers were also on the counter-attack yesterday, with South Australia's Jane Lomax-Smith saying politicians should not "dictate details of the curriculum". Victorian Opposition education spokesman Victor Perton backed Mr Howard, saying history courses were "all slanted against the European settlement of Australia". But acting Education Minister Jacinta Allan said history should be taught in a way that "encourages healthy debate".

A spokesman for NSW Education Minister Carmel Tebbutt said NSW had a well-established curriculum of traditional Australian history and said the subject was compulsory from years seven to nine. However, the NSW curriculum for younger students shows that, as in the other states, history is being taught as part of "human society and its environment" rather than as a free-standing subject. The NSW curriculum also stipulates seven "perspectives" that should be applied to the subject matter: Aboriginal, civics and citizenship, environmental, gender, global, multicultural and work.

Mr Donnelly argues the relativist approach, in which no single perspective dominates, is inherently contradictory. On the one hand curriculum documents point to the subjectivity of historical understanding, while on the other mandating approaches such as feminism and environmentalism as templates for students' understanding. The difficulty with reforming the system, he said, was that changes mandated from above were implemented by state-based education bureaucrats and professional associations with their own agendas.


Your government will look after you

Trains have had "dead man" braking systems worldwide for over 100 years but it was all too hard for Queensland government trains

Queensland Rail has been blasted for seven years of bungling over a train safety system that could have prevented the 2004 tilt train derailment. Despite telling a parliamentary committee a decade ago that the high-speed trains would have automatic train protection systems, QR has admitted it took seven years to get the safeguards working properly on electric tilt trains. A series of software and braking problems plagued the ATP system since 1998, and it was not properly operational on electric trains until last July. Diesel tilt trains are still operating without the ATP engaged. ATP automatically slows or stops high-speed trains if a driver fails to do so, as happened when the diesel-powered City of Townsville derailed north of Bundaberg on November 15, 2004.

Opposition transport spokesman Michael Caltabiano, who raised questions about why the ATP was not operational when the trains began service, said the answer had been more damning than he had anticipated. "So we've paid for the ATP system, it's been installed but they haven't got it operational until seven years later," he said. Mr Caltabiano produced transcripts of a Public Works Committee hearing from December 1996 at which Queensland Rail officials said the new trains would feature ATP systems. The committee's report also noted the tilt train project included "introduction of an automated train protection system", and said provision of the system had been contracted out.

A QR spokeswoman said it had clearly been QR's intention from the beginning to have the ATP operating, "but nobody knew how that system would work on the tilt train because it wasn't designed for a tilt train so it had to be modified". "I think Queensland Rail was probably frustrated with the length of time it was taking, but it was a matter of being 100 per cent confident that the system was safe," she said.

QR has received 110 claims for compensation as a result of injuries sustained in the derailment, and has so far paid out almost $360,000 in compensation. An Australian Transport Safety Bureau report into the accident found the train approached a 60km/h curve at 112km/h just before it left the rails.

Mr Caltabiano said QR had failed to offer its passengers the same protection it had used for years on freight trains. "The pain and suffering of those passengers on the City of Townsville train on November 15, 2004, has now been shown to be totally unnecessary and totally avoidable," he said.

More here

The Queensland police "service" at work

Big brave police handcuff double-parked mum

A mother was handcuffed and taken from her car by police in front of her children for double-parking outside a school. Yvette Green, 38, of Ipswich in Queensland, said she was stunned when a policeman thrust his hand through the open window of her car and slapped handcuffs on her as she tried to drop two of her five children at school about 8.40am (AEST) on Wednesday. Ms Green said her three-year-old son was left alone and scared, strapped in the back seat as she was led handcuffed from her BMW to an unmarked police car, also double-parked, outside the Collingwood Park State School.

School staff and parents - who asked not to be named - said dozens of children, including Ms Green's three-year-old son, were hysterical and crying as police took her into custody. Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson later rejected several of Ms Green's claims, but a local councillor has referred the matter to the Crime and Misconduct Commission.

Ms Green said she had had an amicable conversation with the police officer as he wrote her a traffic infringement notice. "I asked him why he was writing me a ticket and why he was also double-parked?" she said. "He then gave me an official warning and said, 'That's it' and leaned in and put the handcuffs on me while my engine was still running. "I couldn't believe it. The whole school, including parents, watched as I was taken away and put into the police car. I was so humiliated."

Two police officers took Ms Green to the Ipswich watchhouse where she was fingerprinted, photographed and charged with obstructing police, disobeying a direction and behaving in a disorderly and offensive manner. She said she was released and had to walk about 4km before getting a lift home. "I could not believe they arrested me with my youngest child (Greg) still strapped in the car," she said. It is understood police left the scene before Greg was removed from the car. He was allegedly left in the care of the school's principal until one of Ms Green's friends collected him.....

Local councillor Paul Tully said he had been besieged with telephone calls from local residents after the incident and last night formally requested the CMC investigate the matter. Ms Green said she intended to fully defend the charges in the Ipswich Magistrate's Court on February 15.

More here

27 January, 2006

Howard puts emphasis on traditional British values

John Howard has outlined his vision of a tolerant nation that rejects racism while placing core Australian values ahead of multiculturalism. In a keynote Australia Day address, Mr Howard identified the nation's "dominant cultural pattern" as a mix of Judaeo-Christian ethics, the spirit of the Enlightenment and British political institutions and culture. But he also praised the contribution of the Irish, non-conformists and successive waves of settlers to forging new attitudes and traditions. "When it comes to being an Australian there is no hierarchy of descent," he said.

While condemning the criminals responsible for last December's Cronulla riots, he said there was no need for "moral panic".

Mr Howard said immigrants were expected "to make an overriding commitment to Australia, its laws and democratic values". "We expect them to master the common language of English and we will help them to do so," he said.

In his address to the National Press Club in Canberra, Mr Howard again rejected a bill of rights, warning that such reforms could limit freedoms rather than protect them. He said the strength of Australian democracy rested on the three pillars of parliament, the rule of law and a free and sceptical press. Describing "a sense of balance" as the secret to Australia's greatness, Mr Howard said cultural diversity would never alter Australia's commitment to freedom and equality.

"We've drawn back from being too obsessed with diversity, to a point where Australians are now better able to appreciate the enduring values of the national character that we proudly celebrate and preserve," he said. "We've moved on from a time when multiculturalism, in the words of the historian Gregory Melleuish, came to be associated with the transformation of Australia from a bad old Australia that was xenophobic, racist and monocultural to a good new Australia that is culturally diverse, tolerant and exciting. Such a view was always a distortion and a caricature.

"In Australia's case, that dominant pattern comprises Judaeo-Christian ethics, the progressive spirit of the Enlightenment and the institutions and values of British political culture. Its democratic and egalitarian temper also bears the imprint of distinct Irish and non-conformist traditions."

More here

Sick government uses firemen to give medical care

More fallout from the closure of emergency services at Caboolture hospital

A fire crew was dispatched to give urgent first aid to a Bribie Island man who had a heart attack because ambulances were busy transporting patients away from the troubled Caboolture Hospital. Fire officers gave oxygen for almost 1 1/2 hours to retired NSW police officer John Kenny, 57, until an ambulance was available. As well as having to wait for an ambulance, Mr Kenny was diverted away from Caboolture Hospital's emergency department which normally would have treated heart attack victims in the area.

A Queensland Ambulance Service spokesman last night confirmed a fire truck had been sent to Mr Kenny because it was "an unusually busy night". He denied ambulance crews had been busy diverting patients from the Caboolture Hospital. "Every available crew in the area were on a code-one emergency response," he said. "It was just an unusually busy period at that stage. "We responded with a firefighting crew who all have advance first-aid and lifesaving equipment on their trucks. "While it doesn't happen very often, we do have a standing agreement with the fire service to do this sort of thing. They are a great back-up. It is better having someone with advanced first-aid and life-saving equipment than no one at all." The spokesman said that at all times ambulance officers were in contact with Mr Kenny and the fire officers treating him.

Mr Kenny said he telephoned for the ambulance at 3am on Saturday and was shocked 10 minutes later to hear a fire engine siren outside and four fire officers walking into his home. "They put me on some oxygen and said there were no ambulances available," Mr Kenny said last night. "I didn't believe it. I thought someone was playing a bad joke on me. It took an ambulance an hour and a half to get there. "In the end an ambulance came from Caboolture station. They said they were spending all their time running people around the place because there is no Caboolture Hospital."

Mr Kenny has been in Brisbane's Prince Charles Hospital waiting for an angiogram since Saturday morning. He said the person he was sharing his room with had been waiting for most of that time for a 10-minute stress test which he was unlikely to get before Friday. "I moved here seven years ago and I remember (Premier) Peter Beattie saying we've got the best hospital system in the world. It's world-class," Mr Kenny said. "It might have been then, but, by God, it's not now. "You can give the firies and the ambos a real wrap. But you can give the people running the place -- the State Government -- the thumbs-down."

A spokeswoman for Mr Beattie said last night the Premier was unable to comment until he had been briefed on the circumstances. Opposition health spokesman Bruce Flegg said the incident showed other emergency services were being drawn into the problems confronting the state's public health system. "Heart attack carries with it a very high risk of sudden death," Dr Flegg said. "Failing to dispatch the properly equipped ambulance and paramedics increases the risk the patient will not survive." He said the failure to send an ambulance was compounded by the fact that the nearest hospital, Caboolture, was not taking patients such as Mr Kenny.


Guess who?

(Post lifted from Samizdata)

"We've taken the biggest surge in national income in years and squandered it. The punters are spending every cent they can and Canberra is encouraging that by handing back its share of the commodity price loot as tax cuts."

Who would say such a thing? Sounds like the rantings of some bleeding heart welfarist think tank, rather than Australia's leading economics consultancy, as Access Economics likes to describe itself.

Yes, Keynesian wannabes Access Economics released a report fretting about interest rate hikes, and it feels the answer is to remove the financial options of individuals and ensure that the government collects and hoards ever more of the people's income. I suppose one should look at it this way; some day soon you might benefit if you find yourself in a geographic or demographic sweet spot that the government needs to court come election time.

Talking about rum plans, this proposal from Deloitte floats an admirable (though not particularly original) idea - swapping tax deductions on work expenses for across-the-board tax cuts. Liberals will start to choke when they see Deloitte's adjustment of the progressive income tax rates:

The poorest tax payers would see their rate cut from 15 per cent to 4 per cent, with the 42 per cent tax rate paid by people earning $75,001-$125,000 falling to 33 per cent. The top 47 per cent rate paid by those earning more than $125,000 could be cut to 44 per cent.

Deloitte would surely have access to the masses of theoretical and empirical evidence showing the superior economic benefits of shrinking the gap between top marginal rates of income tax and the lower rates, not to mention the moral argument. Why this EC (and I do not mean European Community, though maybe I do...) drivel, then? Why do Deloitte believe they need to field a taxation proposal that is going to win elections?

Thankfully, the political party that prides itself on its fiscal responsibility and economic liberalism holds government in Australia. Yet we have a curmudgeonly treasurer (chancellor of the exchequer) who steadfastly refuses to budge over our absurdly high top marginal tax rate of 47%. He is more than happy to ladle out benefits to politically useful groups, however. Oddly named, the Liberal Party of Australia, when one considers it is run by big government conservatives.

Couple these few good men with the leading economics consultancies, who seem to be trying to outdo each other in the social crusading stakes.

Have these people never heard of the Chicago school? I despair.

26 January, 2006

Greenie council caves in on beachside flag display

Three weeks ago Waverley Council was accused of banning the Australian flag. Now it seems it cannot get enough of it. To show that the national flag is welcome in Bondi, the council will fly it from flag poles on Campbell Parade on Australia Day - and if residents approve, the flag could fly over the beachfront permanently. The council also plans to hold a flag-raising ceremony at its chambers on Australia Day and to hand out flags to participants in its citizenship ceremony. But the Mayor of Waverley, Mora Main, denied that the council had backed down on its decision last month not to erect new poles and fly the flag on the Bondi Pavilion. "It's really more about trying to sell the fact that there is not a ban and there never has been." Under the plan announced yesterday, Aboriginal, NSW and Torres Strait Island flags will also be raised on Campbell Parade to mark Australia Day. Cr Main said the council, at its meeting next month, would consider whether to fly the four flags permanently. She said the proposal by a Liberal councillor, Joy Clayton, to erect flag poles on the pavilion was rejected because of concerns about concrete cancer.


Former Labor leader close to political ousting in back-room deals

Poor old Simon. I liked him. Even the contemptible Mark Latham liked him. Simon Crean is serious, well-informed and responsible but a bit on the boring side. But in the Labor party, intelligence and a record of service come a distant second to power. The graphic pictures him giving a speech

Former federal Labor leader Simon Crean is one step away from being forced out of politics as tense negotiations continue over preselections in the Victorian ALP. Former Hawke government minister Robert Ray has confirmed to colleagues he will quit the Senate at or before the next election, opening a scramble for Senate vacancies. And Premier Steve Bracks has suggested inviting national intervention in the branch to avoid the embarrassment of an all-in brawl over state upper house preselections.

Party sources have told The Australian that Mr Crean's hard-fought battle to hold on to his plum Melbourne seat of Hotham is close to lost, as the powerful shoppies' union (the SDA), has declared it is prepared to back his rival, National Union of Workers secretary Martin Pakula. But the SDA will only do so as part of a broader deal within the right-wing alliance that runs the party, and alliance partners the NUW and Labor Unity are split over other battles, and have not yet reached agreement.

Supporters of Mr Crean, 56, still refuse to say die in the seat he has held since 1990. They deny there has been any change in the SDA's position, and claim they have been assured of the union's continued support. If neither side backs down, the party could be in for an ugly internal brawl over the southeast suburban seat, embarrassing the state Government during an election year.

More here

Government paramedics at work (or not)

Queensland Ambulance will install a third communications system in six years after complaints that unanswered Triple-0 emergency calls led to patient deaths. The computer-aided Premier and Right dispatch systems had become obsolete, with one operator saying they "never did what they were supposed to do". It was expected to cost more than $1 million to set up the new system.

The Sunday Mail revealed this month how a Kilkivan man almost died when the ambulance service ignored his wife's initial call for help. Paramedics were dispatched only after she telephoned a second time, an hour later. Ambulance Commissioner Jim Higgins blamed the delay on a fault with the dispatch system. A communications officer was counselled over the incident, but no details released.

A paramedic who contacted The Sunday Mail this week said bosses were to blame. "The truth is the Queensland Ambulance Service bought a very expensive computer system . . . that was a mistake. It could not do the job and a second system had to be bought," the source said. He claimed staff warned management of the "high probability of error" with the systems. "They should be the ones held accountable, not a poor ambo working the failure-prone system," he said.

Officers had also told of a stoush [fight] between call centre operators in Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast, which they claimed had left critically ill patients to die. The battle related to who should take emergency calls and led to staff being disciplined and fined. An internal service briefing paper leaked to The Sunday Mail revealed Triple-0 calls overflowed from busier communications centres and were "causing difficulties" for smaller centres. The document said 17 per cent of calls were not answered in the first presentation from Telstra. Calls had increased, but staff numbers had not gone up accordingly.

A spokesman for Mr Higgins said the new computer-aided dispatch system would be introduced in ambulance and fire call-centres this year. He said it was an upgrade of systems which would ensure a "cleaner, smoother" operation. The spokesman would not reveal the cost of the new system.


Australian schools: Basics missing in 'sandpit science'

Science curriculums in Australian schools are becoming dangerously unscientific as education departments bow to the politically correct dogma of cultural relativism. Teachers and academics claim students are being taught "sandpit science" dictated by a dumbed-down syllabus that ignores basic scientific teaching. They say so-called "outcomes-based education" portrays science as subjective and culturally determined, and encourages students to treat established scientific principles with scepticism and disdain.

The South Australian curriculum describes Western science as "the most dominant form of science but it is only one form among the sciences of the world", while in the Northern Territory science is treated "as a way of knowing ... constructed in a socio-cultural context". While the traditional view of science is based on absolutes that can be empirically tested, the West Australian curriculum says truth is culturally determined. "(Students) recognise that aspects of scientific knowledge are constructed from a particular gender or cultural perspective," it says.

As education expert Kevin Donnelly points out in The Weekend Australian today, supporters of the relativist approach to science ironically include many who oppose the teaching of "intelligent design" creationism in schools.

Perth-based senior science teacher Marko Vojkovic said the foundations of science were not being properly laid in many secondary schools. "Last time I checked, Newton's theories of motion hadn't changed, the periodic table hasn't changed, the basic atomic theory hasn't changed and I don't think it's going to either," he said. "In a lot of primary schools the kids are getting no hard science. They are drawing holes in the ozone layer and saying that's why we've got global warming." Mr Vojkovic, a co-founder of the West Australian education lobby group PLATO, lamented the push towards activity-based learning, which often failed to provide content. "I call that sandpit science. Just let the kids into the box, let them play around and investigate. They learn absolutely nothing."

Australian Science Teachers Association president Paul Carnemolla yesterday defended constructivism, arguing against a return to a traditional, "transmissional" approach. "Trying to pump knowledge into an empty vessel has proven ineffective because it ignores the fact that students come into the classroom with all sorts of preconceptions, and if those are not dealt with appropriately, learning cannot take place," he told The Weekend Australian.


25 January, 2006

They've finally caught two Lebs

Two men charged over a Cronulla riot revenge attack have been refused bail in Sydney's Sutherland Local Court. Wael Tahan, of Riverwood, and Mahmoud Eid, of Regents Park, both in Sydney's southwest, were charged today over the attack of a man at Cronulla in the early hours of December 12, one day after the Cronulla riot in which people of Middle Eastern descent were chased and attacked. The court was told Mr Tahan and Mr Eid, both 19, were among a group of men who jumped out of a car to attack a man with concrete blocks and stomp on his head. The 20-year-old alleged victim of the attack, Jake Schofield, suffered serious injuries, including a fractured eye socket and nose, and two stab wounds. Mr Tahan and Mr Eid each have been charged with robbery in company, maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm and affray. Mr Eid has pleaded not guilty to the charges, while Mr Tahan has not entered a plea. Magistrate Paul Falzon refused bail, remanding both men in custody to reappear in Central Local Court on January 31.


NSW Police commander blames Arab leaders

The new police commander of the squad investigating the summer riots has made the explosive claim that Arabic community leaders have failed to inform on men involved in revenge attacks. Detective Superintendent Ken McKay, of Strike Force Enoggera, yesterday angered the community and the one leader singled out, Keysar Trad, on the same day the Police Commissioner, Ken Moroney, was forced into an embarrassing compromise, reinstating the officer he sacked as the head of the same strike force on Friday.

After a 90-minute meeting with strike force members and the Police Association, Mr Moroney would not specify Acting Superintendent Dennis Bray's new role, but the Herald understands he will be second-in-charge under Superintendent McKay. The association protested that Acting Superintendent Bray had been made a scapegoat when Mr Moroney dumped him for failing to tell him there was video footage of 30 men of Middle Eastern appearance attacking a youth in Cronulla.

Superintendent McKay complained yesterday that only five people had come forward to help police since that footage was released last week. He had expected 100. "Senior members of the Arabic community need to really have a close look at themselves and start . identifying these people. The only people that know these people out there are members of the Middle Eastern community . They need to stand up and . be held accountable for the actions of people in the community."

When the Herald later asked to whom he was referring to, a spokeswoman identified Mr Trad, the president of the Islamic Friendship Association, as one who could do more to identify culprits. Mr Trad denied shielding criminals, saying: "This is unfair. I am dumbfounded by it really. I spent most of Saturday helping the police." He accompanied Ahmed Jajieh, the one man interviewed over the Cronulla bashing, to a police station on Saturday. Mr Jajieh told them he had helped protect the bashing victim, known as Steve B, from 30 attackers, but police are frustrated because they believe he may have known some of them.

Mr Trad said he was contacted by the family of Mr Jajieh, whom he called "this hero", and agreed to accompany him for a voluntary interview. Mr Trad said he had met Mr Moroney and offered to find Islamic youth leaders who would help identify men in the video. The Lebanese Muslims Association president, Ahmad Kamaleddine, also took offence at Superintendent McKay's remarks.

On the reinstatement of Superintendent Bray, Mr Moroney said: "It's not a case of backing down at all." He had a "full and frank" meeting with him yesterday and pointed out that Superintendent McKay was still at the helm.


Peter Walsh: The Australian Labor Party should ditch the Greenies

Peter Walsh was a senator and finance minister in the Hawke Labor government

Since the 1980s, Australian Labor Party policy has been incrementally hijacked by well-heeled, self-indulgent, morally vain and would-be authoritarian activists, whom the media often misdescribes as the intelligentsia. If language had been less debauched, they would have been more accurately described as secular religious fundamentalists, as contemptuous of the values and aspirations of mainstream Australians as Mao Zedong was of Chinese peasants.

The consequences for Labor have been four successive electoral defeats. Short of a self-destructive Coalition implosion, there is little chance of reversing this electoral trend in the near future. Some smart Labor people have been long aware of the poisoned chalice handed to Labor by green ideologues and their media cheer squad. Opposition resources spokesman Martin Ferguson is one person to have attacked their holy grail: global warming and the Kyoto Protocol. Writing on this page recently, Ferguson drew attention to the mutual exclusivity of green hostility to economic growth, the greens' self-proclaimed commitment to social justice, their Kyoto-inspired eagerness to export technically efficient Australian industry to Third World countries (thereby increasing greenhouse gas emissions), and their secular religious veto of the only economically feasible alternative to fossil fuel for base load power: nuclear energy.

To secular religious fundamentalists - and others who should know better - global warming, induced by burning fossil fuels, is responsible for all disagreeable or dangerous climatic events: extreme high temperatures, extreme low temperatures, drought, floods, dying coral reefs and rising sea levels. Never mind that one of its high priests, Stephen Schneider, was predicting a catastrophic ice age only 35 years ago. The Kyoto hypothesis, so we are told, must be accepted without reservation. In several important respects empirical evidence does not confirm the climate model or models on which the Kyoto hypothesis is based. For example:

* Satellite temperature sensors - the most reliable source of global temperature data - show little if any increase in the lower tropospheric temperature.

* Precipitation on the Antarctic continent is increasing.

* Evidence, not yet conclusive, does suggest a small rise in surface temperature since 1970, but to fit the Kyoto models this should have happened 50 years ago. It didn't.

* Anyone who knows anything - including the authors associated with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - concedes their models are imprecise, even if they have not been designed to prop up favoured or predetermined conclusions. But Ian Castles and David Henderson's exposure of the fanciful economic statistics incorporated in IPCC models suggests they have been fiddled. If your case is immaculate, why feed lies into it?

* Authentic history is more reliable than models, doctored or otherwise. The Vikings, who settled Greenland early in the second millennium, grew barley crops for several centuries. To do that, the climate would have to be at least 2C warmer than now, but glaciers did not melt, sea levels did not rise, coral reefs did not disappear and atmospheric carbon dioxide remained stable. How come?

To divert attention from the enormous damage ratification of Kyoto would inflict on the Australian economy, the green cheer squad asserts we are forgoing a golden opportunity to make a fortune from carbon trading. That is another lie. At best, an honest international carbon trading system would reduce, to some extent, the losses of Kyoto compliance.

But who will regulate and audit an international market? Another misbegotten, self serving and corrupt offspring of a corrupt UN? Another IPCC? In the aftermath of the oil-for-food scandal, does anybody really believe the UN would run an honest chook raffle? Asserting that carbon trading will produce windfall gains for all is cargo cultism resurrected: the hoax of the decade, or perhaps century.

Planting forests for carbon sinks has become a fashionable stunt for populist politicians. Western Australia's populist Government announced it will plant enough trees to offset emissions from its proposed desalination plant. Recent research from Stamford University says that plants, including forests, produce 30per cent of the world's methane emissions. What about that?

Of one thing we can be certain. If rising atmospheric carbon dioxide really is a problem that threatens civilisation, Kyoto is not the answer. Nor is another populist stunt, renewable energy - unless we ignore the social and economic damage inflicted by an enormous increase in energy prices. Parasitic rent seekers who market windmills and solar panels (and would-be rent-seeking ethanol producers) are beneficiaries of the captive market already delivered to them by mandatory renewable energy targets, so they naturally demand those targets be increased. They may run into a political problem they have not anticipated.

A proposal to establish a wind farm in Denmark, Western Australia, an area much loved and populated by politically correct green nimbies, is being torpedoed by the residents. Consequently, federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell has refused to allocate it any money from the federal renewable energy slush fund, because the green nimbies, including the local Green state parliamentarian, don't want it. Be alert for many repeats of this hypocrisy.

The only economically viable answer to the emissions problem, if indeed it is a problem, is nuclear power, as Ferguson points out. In recent years, Labor has stubbornly truckled for Green preferences, which have helped lower the party's primary vote. But if it wants to remain a major party, Labor should pay more attention to Ferguson and distance itself from a movement that alienates a large body of traditional Labor voters.


Unscientific science teaching is now normal in Australian High Schools

Last year, a group representing Australia's leading scientific bodies signed an open letter arguing intelligent design is unscientific and should not be taught alongside the theory of evolution. The scientists argued that whereas evolution can be tested, teaching science students that a supernatural being was responsible for creation "would be a mockery of Australian science teaching and throw open the door of science classes to similarly unscientific world views - be they astrology, spoon-bending, the flat-earth cosmology or alien abductions".

Unfortunately, for those who oppose ID by arguing that science should only deal with what can be proved or disproved in a rational way, by being tested and open to the rigours of scientific explanation, the horse has already bolted. The reality, as a result of Australia's adoption of outcomes-based education, which includes such fads as whole language, where children are taught to look and guess, and fuzzy maths, where memorising tables and mental arithmetic go out the window, is that Australia's science curriculum is already unscientific.

One of the defining characteristics of outcomes-based education is that learning is no longer based on the traditional disciplines associated with an academic curriculum and the belief that knowledge is impartial and objective. Now, for example, the time available to teach geology may be reduced to accommodate teaching about the environmental damage that mining can cause, a different concern unrelated to basic science knowledge. Applications of science can be given priority over that basic knowledge. Tertiary academics in subjects such as physics and chemistry lament the way first-year courses have been watered down over time and that school science is more about sociology than teaching the structure of the discipline.

Even Geoff Masters, head of the Australian Council for Educational Research and a strong supporter of experiments such as outcomes-based education, accepts that Australia's approach to curriculum is far from perfect. "During the 1990s, considerable effort went into reform of the curricula for the primary and middle years of schooling, resulting in new state curriculum and standards frameworks," he says. "It is not clear that these efforts have improved levels of mathematics and science performance in Australian primary schools."

As noted by the South Australian academic Tony Gibbons in his book On Reflection, much of Australia's school curriculum adopts a relativistic view where science, instead of being based on an objective view of reality, is considered subjective and culturally determined. The South Australian curriculum states: "Viewing experiences, ideas and phenomena through the lenses of diverse cultural sciences provide a breadth and depth of understanding that is not possible from any one cultural perspective. Every culture has its own ways of thinking and its own world views to inform its science. Western science is the most dominant form of science but it is only one form among the sciences of the world." The Northern Territory science curriculum adopts a similar approach; described as a "social-constructivist perspective" and one where "science as a way of knowing is constructed in a socio-cultural context".

While the more traditional view of science is based on the belief that there are some absolutes that can be empirically tested - water boils at a certain temperature, the air we breathe is constituted a particular way - the West Australian curriculum also argues that our understanding of the world is subjective and culturally determined: "People from different backgrounds and cultures have different ways of experiencing and interpreting their environment, so there is a diversity of world views associated with science and scientific knowledge which should be welcomed, valued and respected. "They [students] appreciate that when they make observations, they do so from their own point of view and way of thinking. They recognise that aspects of scientific knowledge are constructed from a particular gender or cultural perspective."

Those familiar with the culture wars in the US, where new-age, politically correct academics argue that Galileo, Newton and Einstein are simply dead white European males and there is nothing superior or privileged about Western civilisation, will be familiar with the argument. As noted by Gibbons: "The implication is that Western science is a limited social construction and that other cultural sciences can make up for the limitations of Western science."

In addition to arguing that science is culturally determined, Australia's curriculum embodies a postmodern, constructivist view of knowledge. Constructivism places the student centre stage by arguing that learners construct their own learning and that more formal, explicit methods of teaching are unwarranted. Constructivists also suggest that learning is subjective as there is no external reality and each one of us constructs our own intensely personal and idiosyncratic view of the world. The result? Learning is defined as engaging and entertaining students and process takes precedence over content. On reading state and territory science curriculum, it is also obvious that Australia's approach is based more on teaching politically correct ideas and values than giving students a rigorous and objective grounding in science as a subject. Whether Tasmania, the Northern Territory, Queensland or South Australia, science as a subject disappears in favour of so-called essential learnings such as: personal futures, social responsibility, world futures and the inner, the creative and the collaborative learner.

Beginning with the national science statements and profiles, developed during the mid '90s, and continuing with current curriculum documents, teachers are urged to make science more girl-friendly, environmentally sensitive, contemporary and activity-based. The combination of ignoring the central importance of Western science, by arguing that it is culturally relative and simply one view of science among many, and defining science by what is politically correct has led to a dumbed down curriculum. As a result not only are boys disadvantaged, as science activities and tests are now more a measure of literacy skills, in which girls do better, but many teachers and academics argue that standards have fallen and that students are scientifically illiterate.

John Ridd, a retired Queensland secondary schoolteacher, whose PhD thesis examined maths teaching at the secondary level, argues: "Syllabi for both maths and science up to year 10 are long on fashionable educational theory, short on content and are pitched at a low academic level." Further evidence of low standards is the performance of Australian students in the 1994 and 2002 Trends in International Maths and Science Study. While Australian students always perform above the international average, they are consistently outperformed by countries such as The Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea.

Of greater concern is that at the year four level, based on a comparison of the 1994 and the 2002 results, Australia's performance remained static and many countries we once outperformed are now above us. Unlike Singapore, where 25 per cent of year four students achieved at the advanced level, there is a related concern that only 9 per cent of Australian students achieved at the same level. Debates about intelligent design and its place in the curriculum are important. Of greater significance is the broader question of how science is taught, or not taught, in our schools and the question of standards.


24 January, 2006

Total NSW government confusion in response to Muslim gangs

First they sack the cop in charge then they bring him back

The former chief of a police unit investigating revenge attacks linked to Sydney's Cronulla riot has been reinstated, to a less senior role. After a meeting with members of Strike Force Enoggera lasting almost two hours, Police Commissioner Ken Moroney said Superintendent Dennis Bray would return to the task force, but would have to answer to the new commander, Ken McKay.

Supt Bray was stood down for telling Mr Moroney there was no video footage of revenge attacks following the Cronulla riot on December 11. Security camera footage was released last week showing a man being attacked on the day after the riot by about 30 men of Middle-Eastern appearance.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting at Mascot police station today, Mr Moroney said: ``I have asked Supt Bray to stay with Enoggera.'' ``I have indicated to Supt Bray and Task Force Enoggera that Detective Superintendent Ken McKay will lead Enoggera. I need Enoggera to achieve further results. ``I need Supt McKay and the whole Enoggera team to go in another direction.''

Members of Strike Force Enoggera had sought Supt Bray's reinstatement, saying they would consider industrial action if their demands were not met. NSW Police Association president Bob Pritchard welcomed Mr Moroney's decision to reinstate Supt Bray as second-in-command of Strike Force Enoggera. ``It's a pity that the commissioner did not accept the recommendations of the task force to reinstate Mr Bray as the commander,'' Mr Pritchard told reporters. ``But the commissioner has realised the need for Mr Bray to be there.''


The leader of the NSW Left discovers conservatism

Sort of

Teachers have ridiculed the announcement by the Premier, Morris Iemma, that it will be compulsory for all schools to play the national anthem at assemblies, as a response to the Cronulla riots. Announcing the creation of "Australian values" units in public primary schools, Mr Iemma vaunted the teaching of "respect" and "responsibility" to the state's youth. But he admitted there was no way of forcing his anthem plan on independent schools.

The president of the NSW Teachers Federation, Maree O'Halloran, described the anthem idea as a reannouncement and window-dressing. Most schools already sang the anthem anyway, she said. The executive director of the Association of Independent Schools, Geoff Newcombe, said: "Many of the independent schools actually do that [sing the anthem] so it isn't a massive change."

Mr Iemma made no apology for his repeated use of the term grubs to describe the gang filmed on CCTV bashing a man in a revenge attack after the riots. "They demonstrated not just criminality . but that underlying lack of respect [for an] innocent, law-abiding citizen [who] should not be subjected to that cowardly thuggish attack by that bunch of grubs."....

Mr Iemma told a gathering at Government House that he wanted "every day to be Australia Day" and he wanted Australian values, such as notions of "decency" and a "fair go" to be taught in the home and at school. He said the five Rs - "reading, writing, arithmetic, respect and responsibility" - should be school policy. Mr Iemma warned anyone out to cause trouble at the beaches on Australia Day to watch out. "We're not backing away - you want to cause trouble on Australia Day, there will be police to meet you, arrest you and deal with you before the courts," he said.

Mr Iemma promised further announcements on affordable housing and community services. This was all part of a plan to target social problems behind gang crime, he said. Asked if they knew the lyrics of Advance Australia Fair, the Premier and the Education Minister, Carmel Tebbutt, began singing the second verse.

"From the beginning of this school year, all government and non-government schools will be expected to play Advance Australia Fair at their regular assemblies,' Mr Iemma said. "Most schools already do this as part of their everyday school life." The policy would not have to be enforced as private schools had agreed to the plan, he said. "Educational policies" to deal with the riots included creating "Australian values" units in public primary schools, he said.

More here

Amazing! Qld. government finds that cutting the number of hospital beds creates bed shortages!

It takes a government to need years to find that out

Health bureaucrats have been ordered to open every available hospital bed as the State Government struggles to overcome the "access block" problem choking emergency departments. The order has come with an admission by Premier Peter Beattie that planners were wrong to downsize major hospitals during redevelopments in the 1990s. Mr Beattie returned from his three-week annual holiday yesterday to issue a 10-point plan to combat statewide doctor shortages in the short term....

It commits $3 million to find ways to ease "access block", whereby the lack of available beds or medical treatment prevents patients from being moved out of emergency departments. "In addition, this week every hospital in Queensland will be instructed by the director-general to investigate how many beds it can open to assist with solving 'access block' across the Queensland health system," the plan says.

Mr Beattie said there was "capacity in the existing hospitals" to open more beds, but admitted his and previous governments had erred in reducing the number of beds in major hospitals. The Opposition said the Government eliminated about 600 beds when it redeveloped the Princess Alexandra and the Royal Brisbane hospitals as part of its capital works agenda in the late 1990s. At the time, the Government said fewer beds would be needed because future health care models would allow more day surgery and extra-mural treatment.

But Mr Beattie yesterday said the patient care model used to determine bed numbers then was wrong. "I think there were major flaws in the model . . . and the advice that we're now getting 15 years later is different to what it was 15 years ago. And I think we should be upfront about that."

More here

A small but significant revival of liberal arts teaching in Australia

Last week's column was a series of bleak reflections on the declining levels of literacy in Australian schools and universities. This column, in contrast, is about some welcome developments in tertiary education - the opening for business of Campion College in Sydney and its new degree course in the liberal arts. What difference will a private, Catholic college with an initial intake of only 30 students make to the Augean stables of the local humanities establishment? Time will tell, of course, but my guess is that it will make a difference out of all proportion to its size and sooner than many expect.

Campion is an overdue and welcome addition to the tertiary sector in Australia. It takes as its models the American and continental liberal arts colleges - Catholic, Episcopalian, Lutheran and indeed secular - and a modified version of the Great Books Program. The core of the course, amounting to about 70 per cent of the units, is compulsory. It involves close reading of demanding, seminal texts. Classes are small and the tutorial system is geared to ensure more than just a nodding acquaintance with the canon.

It will be the only humanities course of studies in which Google won't more or less guarantee that you pass. Corporate employers and headhunting firms, who tend to be familiar with American liberal arts courses and the calibre of the graduates they produce, will be taking a keen interest in Campion's first cohort. I expect that word of this will get out very quickly among arts students, and that many of them will be wondering whether their degrees from sandstone institutions are overpriced by comparison.

The deans of the various arts faculties will be inclined to sneer at a small, fledgling institution, and to be especially disdainful of its connection with the Catholic Church. Academe in Australia tends to take its own Enlightenment assumptions and particularly its secularism for granted as self-evidently good things. But many of the great universities of the West, including Oxford and Cambridge, were essentially monastic foundations and the idea that contemporary ecclesiastical affiliations could compromise the character and functions of a university would cut very little ice among America's Ivy League.

Campion promises to be a rather more Catholic institution than the Australian Catholic University. Its staff will be expected to swear an oath of fidelity to the Pope and the teaching magisterium of the church, for example. However, the college recognises, as John Paul II expressed it in Ex Corde Ecclesiae: "The right of individual scholars to search for the truth, wherever analysis and the evidence lead them." Relatively unfettered scholarship within the context of a campus dedicated to the ideals of Christian humanism may strike some as strange, particularly if they haven't read John Henry Newman on the subject.

To my mind it is no stranger - and far less inimical to intellectual liberty - than the politically correct pieties and Left-conformity of Australian public universities in general and their humanities departments in particular. What's more, Campion's emphasis on engaging with primary texts means that students will read ancient historians and Renaissance playwrights in their own words, rather than mostly seeing them through a fog of Marxist commentary or a filter of Michel Foucault.

It is only natural that many university lecturers should be appalled and confronted by this sort of back-to-basics educational fundamentalism. After all, it challenges their own pedagogical methods, their scholarship and much of what they stand for as teachers. Still, just imagine how captivating many parents will find it. Campion is designed primarily, though not exclusively, for Catholic undergraduates. They and their parents are likely to have had to live hard, sub-optimal choices all the way to matriculation. For example, many thoughtful Catholics regard the parochial system as at best a second-rate scholastic option and a proven failure when it comes to cultural maintenance and the transmission of faith.

They quite often prefer to send their children to conservative Anglican or Lutheran establishments, where theological modernism is less rampant, or to state schools where the agenda is merely secularist rather than noisily heretical. Many more have gone to endless trouble home-schooling their children and are now on the lookout for a comparably nurturing tertiary environment. For the thousands of parents in those sorts of predicament, Campion will stand out like a good deed in a naughty world. They will note with pleasure that the college offers Latin as an option, that it has hired one of Sydney's foremost church musicians for the chapel and prefers conservative liturgies and traditional devotions.

It's also just about the only place where students might still be encouraged to mount a Gilbert and Sullivan production - The Pirates of Penzance, perhaps - or where there'd be the enthusiasm and expertise to stage Henry Purcell's English opera, Dido and Aeneas.

Traditionally minded parents with no strong religious ties and Anglo-Catholic Anglicans who can't afford American college fees may well be tempted by Campion. More to the point, perhaps, they may feel moved to follow suit and start liberal arts colleges of their own. The establishment of a few more of them would have a cascading effect, akin to the reintroduction of the gold standard.

Reading the course outline for the three-year program, it's hard not to be consumed with envy of the 30 lucky little blighters about to be chosen for the first intake. Six semesters of history, concentrating on religion and culture from antiquity to the present, sounds just the sort of grounding that educated people need. The same goes for the core sequences in literature, philosophy and theology. It's hard to imagine coming out the other end of such a course without a good grasp of the best that's been thought and said since Plato.

Liberal arts has also tended to emphasise the importance of hard science in the curriculum. At Campion you can opt to undertake up to four units of maths and history of science, but biology is compulsory (and a creationist-free zone) along with a course on science and society. Another elective which is likely to prove popular is human bioethics.

It's all a far cry from the chaos of the summer of '68 - ground zero of the revolution - when I matriculated and enrolled at Flinders University. There the arts students had to belong either to the school of language and literature or the school of social sciences. Inspired by some once-modish theory, the system forced us to choose between English or other modern languages and the competing attractions of history as a major. It was almost impossible to manage a joint honours degree straddling the two schools. It was an obvious barbarism and I've heard similar horror stories about other Besser brick universities both at the time and more recently.

Apart from having an admirably integrated classical curriculum, Campion will be a qualitatively different experience from mainstream campus life in other ways. The most striking is class sizes. In many universities these days it's common for first-year lectures to be delivered to 500 students and for tutorials to comprise 20 people. At Campion, in the third year of operation, after a planned influx of international students, there won't be many more than 150 undergraduates. Everyone will know one another and tutorial sizes will never be over 15. The benefits of such an arrangement are obvious. The potential dangers are a tendency to group-think and a claustrophobic atmosphere in which young people can become inordinately focused on the dynamics of a small group.

Campion has residential facilities, but students are also free to make their own arrangements and live off-campus, which should help minimise those risks. Parents of prospective students can go to the web for more information. Before they do, I suppose I should warn them that tuition fees per semester are $6000, or $12,000 a year. For purposes of comparison, it's in the same league as a full-fee place in the arts faculty of the better sandstone universities. FEE-HELP, a Commonwealth student tuition loans scheme, will be available and it works along similar lines to HECS. Students repay their loans through the tax system once they're earning above a threshold income of about $36,000 a year. It's heartening to note in conclusion that Catholic dioceses throughout the country have also come to the party and begun to endow scholarships.


23 January, 2006

Lying propaganda about race being recycled

The ABC, Australia's major public broadcaster, is running tonight a 2003 California program called "Race: The Power Of An Illusion", in an effort to convince us that the evidence of our eyes is wrong. If such people won't believe the evidence of their own experience, it is unlikely that they will believe scientific evidence but the scientific evidence that races do exist in much the same way that people normally talk about them is now abundant. See e.g. here and here. There is also a specific rejoinder to this rubbishy program here

The Muslim terror that the unfortunate West New Guineans are fleeing from

The Federal Government has sought urgent clarification from Jakarta after Indonesian soldiers were blamed for killing four students in West Papua, two days after boat people from the area sought asylum in Australia. The attack, which pro-democracy activists believe was a reprisal for the decision by the 43 people to flee Indonesia, has sparked accusations that Australian immigration officials may have endangered the group's safety.

Activists said Indonesian forces murdered up to four students, who were shot on Friday in the West Papuan village of Waghete. Indonesia said one high school student was shot dead and two were injured. One victim, Moses Douw, is believed to be a close relative of a man among the boat people who landed on Cape York on Wednesday. The group, which has been detained at Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, claimed it was fleeing oppression in Indonesia. Human rights activists and the federal Opposition say Australia should register its utmost concern with Jakarta over the shootings.

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said Australia's embassy in Jakarta had asked the Indonesian Government for urgent clarification: "Obviously we've asked our diplomatic representatives to obtain the appropriate report for us." He declined to comment about possible links between the shooting and the boat people.

The Australian West Papua Association said the Government should register its disgust. "We can't have a special relationship with Indonesia that's based on covering up atrocities," spokesman Nick Chesterfield said.

More here

Muslim scum in Australia again

Four swimming pool staff have been beaten in an attack in Melbourne's north. Stunned witnesses said about 30 youths had punched and kicked staff, including a young woman, on the grass at Oak Park Aquatic Centre about 4pm yesterday. One witness, Alex, said families had recoiled in horror at the bashings. "I've never seen anything like it," Alex said. "I thought, 'Not another Cronulla'. "There seemed to be dozens of people involved, with most wading into the staff and people trying to help them. "They all appeared to be Middle-Eastern youths. "It was very upsetting and scary. There were hysterical children everywhere."

Nicholas Burt, leisure manager at Moreland Council, which runs the pool, said the riot had occurred after a male lifeguard had tried to calm two teenagers arguing on the grass embankment. Mr Burt said a third youth had butted in and when the lifeguard had escorted him to his belongings, after asking him to leave, a struggle had broken out. "That's when up to 30 other patrons started to physically attack staff," Mr Burt said. Three male lifeguards and one female security guard had been set upon by the group.

Mr Burt said that amid "blows to the back of the head and around the face", the staff had been driven into the pool's reception area. He said the attack had continued until police arrived. The staff, including one who suffered a smashed cheek, had been taken to hospital for treatment.

More here

A half-Australian Prince

And a prince in a very secure monarchy at that. Since his mother is Australian, Prince Christian will be entitled to an Australian passport

So high-profile was this christening that bookmakers had offered odds on the baby crying, but no one had thought to bet on the parents breaking down. Denmark's baby Prince Christian Valdemar Henri John did let out a few squeals, much to the delight of those taking the $A1.65 on offer, but it was more of a surprise as proud parents Crown Prince Frederik and Princess Mary also shed a tear. All went to plan as the heir to the Danish throne was christened in the Christiansborg Palace church in Copenhagen yesterday, with the baby protected from the arctic temperatures outside the church by his antique gown of Belgian lace.

There was never any doubt that he would be given the name Christian, which has been alternated with Frederik as the name of the heir to the Danish throne since the 16th century. Valdemar was something of a surprise - a historical name of Danish kings from the middle ages....

But there was a large media contingent present, with the proceedings televised live in Denmark and replayed several times. Among the 340 guests were Mary's sisters Jane Stephens and Patricia Bailey, uncle Jack Maton and his wife Barbara, her bridesmaid Amber Petty and several of her old Australian friends.

Mr Donaldson and his wife Susan Moody were third last into the church, followed by Queen Margerethe and Prince Henrik and then the new parents. Mary made an impression as she stepped out of the limousine - number-plate number one - wearing a white dress with a floral design, a China-blue jacket and a band of flowers into her bunned hair. After taking her seat she whispered to her fidgety son, and as the ceremony neared its conclusion the tears from mother and son could not be held back, while a dewy-eyed Frederik held Mary's hand.

Following the christening, Mary carried three-month-old Christian around the reception to tunes including Gundagai Groove and Mary Galop - an Australian touch to complement the eucalyptus used in flower arrangements inside the church.

More here

22 January, 2006

Good riddance: A poodle of the Left exits the ABC

The managing director of Australia's major public broadcaster (the ABC) has resigned early because he knew he was headed for the boot anyway. The following editorial from "The Australian" shows that under Russell Balding, the national broadcaster reflected the opinions of some staff and their ideological allies only

While ABC mandarins manoeuvring for opulent offices may notice the resignation of Russell Balding, chances are that few other staff will notice, or care, that the managing director is going. Because for all of his four years in the top job, Mr Balding did not interfere with the way the keepers of the corporate culture ran the ABC - like a student newspaper, selective in its stories, blatant in its bias and utterly opinionated in who its programs should appeal to. Mr Balding failed to ensure the corporation acted according to its charter, which requires it to provide "a balance between broadcasting programs of wide appeal and specialised broadcasting programs". That's because when it comes to entertaining and analysing, the ABC is run by some staff - for themselves and their mates. This is a very small group and they are utterly unconnected to the vast mass of Australians, especially members of the traditional ABC audience who look to the broadcaster for high-quality local and imported entertainment and unbiased analysis.

Consider the evidence. The ABC has abandoned new Australian drama. Only 11 hours - 11 hours! - were broadcast last year. Certainly, ABC apologists argue this is because of inadequate federal funding. Fair enough. But look what Sandra Levy, until recently the corporation's TV chief, chose to screen instead. There are quizzes and contests. They are followed by chat shows where inner-city comedians sneer at everybody who does not support gay marriage and oppose genetically modified agriculture. And while the ABC now hails Kath and Kim, remember that many among the tastemakers in the corporation fought tooth and nail to stop it screening. As an example of how out of touch ABC executives are from what interests and amuses ordinary Australians, that is hard to beat. But the performance of ABC radio does it. Many metropolitan stations are in the hands of 40-something announcers obsessed with their inner-city leftie lifestyles. And woe betide any broadcaster who dares dispute their orthodoxies.

In Sydney, Sally Loane was driven from the microphone last year, apparently for the high crime of attracting a diverse audience rather than rating with the people her bosses socialise with. It is the same in current affairs broadcasting, where the agenda is set not by the big stories that affect the Labor and Liberal parties but by the opinions of presenters on issues that fascinate them. The focus on gender issues, the environment, immigration, the rights of all minorities, but especially asylum-seekers, is all-consuming. It is not that the current affairs agenda is anti-Coalition; ten years ago, ABC commentators were sneering and snarling at Labor ministers. Rather, ABC broadcasters use their programs to score points on issues closer to the heart of Bob Brown than those of their listeners. Thus Tony Jones, who seems to mistake the television program Lateline for parliamentary question time, hammers away at hapless ministers about the needs of Cornelia Rau and the fate of David Hicks, while appearing less interested in the issues that matter to the vast majority of voters: health and education, employment and tax.

That Mr Balding declined to attend Senate estimates this year demonstrates the ABC's ingrained contempt for government, and how the managing director seemed to prefer placating his staff to explaining his organisation to senators. Mr Balding is not entirely to blame for the way the ABC is held to ransom by its staff. His predecessor, Jonathan Shier, failed to clean out the collective and succumbed to his own eccentric management style. Nor does it look as if Mr Balding was ever encouraged to take control of the organisation. John Howard has sought to stack the board with conservatives, notably anthropologist Ron Brunton and Janet Albrechtsen, a commentator for this newspaper.

But under chairman Donald McDonald the board has never demonstrated anything other than a desire to surrender to the staff. And while former long-serving communications minister Richard Alston used to talk tough about the ABC, his complaints were shrill and ill thought-out. Between them, they were never game to try to change the corporation's culture. It does not have to be this way. The ABC's well-organised online service and the community information function met by regional radio demonstrate what an asset the broadcaster can be when it tries. But the ABC will never fulfil its function to inform and entertain all Australians while its agenda is set by staff who will brook no ideas other than their own. The new managing director must take them on by avoiding Mr Balding's fundamental error: despite his title, he may have managed but he never directed the ABC.

How socialized medicine helps the poor

Australia's public hospitals show the way

Surgeons are being prevented from performing operations on poor people in public hospitals because of budget constraints, the Royal Australian College of Surgeons said yesterday. The college made the claim when rejecting Productivity Commission proposals which would overhaul medical training and pass some doctor roles to nurses and other health workers. The commission said the health system was inefficient and needed to be restructured to ease shortages in the medical workforce.

The Australian Physiotherapy Association yesterday backed the commission's report. But Royal Australian College of Surgeons president Russell Stitz said the recommendations would do nothing to deliver extra health workers. "The report does not address the real problems of inadequate funding, duplication, excessive bureaucracy and poor utilisation of current resources," Dr Stitz said. "Insufficient funding means too few operations can be performed and too few training places are available to train enough surgeons of the future. "Surgeons currently working within the public system are prevented from operating on needy patients just to balance budgets."

Dr Stitz said the health system was archaic and impractical. He also said that it would be indefensible to continue to operate under the "current chaos". "Tasks cannot be simply reassigned to other professional groups," Dr Stitz said. "There are insufficient numbers of workers throughout the health system."

More here

Dame Edna Everage honoured: "It's enough to make Edna pull a face: Australians lining up to lick the back of her head. The famous dame from Moonee Ponds and her long-suffering "manager" and alter ego Barry Humphries have been announced as Australia Post's Legend for 2006, joining Don Bradman, Slim Dusty and Dawn Fraser as national icons with their own postage stamp. The Australia Day issue features images captured over 40 years, tracing the evolution of Humphries and Edna - his rise to fame, hers to what she might describe as humble global megastardom. The managing director of Australia Post, Graeme John, said the honour acknowledged Humphries's contribution to Australian entertainment. "For more then 50 years he has helped shape our nation's identity, culture and - importantly - sense of humour with hilarious character creations," he said. "He has entertained and amused generations of Australians and captured the hearts of millions of people around the world through live performances, music, television series, books and films." Dame Edna is Humphries's most enduring creation, enjoying international recognition. "Dame Edna's signature catchcry 'Hello Possums!' has become a typically Australian greeting that's recognised from Moonee Ponds to Marylebone."

21 January, 2006

NSW Police implicitly acknowledge pro-Muslim bias so far

The head of Strike Force Enoggera, set up to investigate the Cronulla race riot, has been relieved of command following claims police failed to arrest those responsible for revenge attacks. The sidelining of acting Detective Superintendent Dennis Bray, announced today by New South Wales Police Commissioner Ken Moroney, comes after public anger at the failure by police to release video footage of a man being bashed by a gang of Middle-Eastern youths. Mr Moroney said he was unhappy Supt Bray had not released the footage earlier, and a replacement commander would take the helm of Enoggera.

"Clearly, there was material there that he could have been releasing and should have been releasing to the general community," Mr Moroney said on Southern Cross radio this morning. "Effective forthwith, Detective Superintendent Ken Mackay ... will assume command of Strike Force Enoggera. "Dennis will return to his ... position as detective chief inspector at Blacktown." Mr Moroney said he wanted the community to help identify the thugs in the video, and promised to make public any more video and audio evidence available. "If there was evidence available to us, we should have been taking the general community into our confidence, as we did with other elements of the Cronulla riot," he said. "What I've instructed is that there be a complete audit of all of our holdings, our audio material ... (and) it's to be released to the general community."

Mr Moroney said he would meet NSW Premier Morris Iemma today to discuss "a range of issues". He said Det Supt Mackay was a "very tenacious" and experienced detective who would do a good job as commander of Strike Force Enoggera.


The Leftist Prime Minister Australia nearly had

Can anybody now doubt that rage and hate drive the more committed Leftists?

One year after he left the Labor leadership, Mark Latham yesterday reminded the public why he was unfit to lead the country. In a classic Latham brain-snap, the former MP with a history of violence threw a punch at a Daily Telegraph photographer, injuring his wrist, and stole the photographer's camera. Mr Latham sped off in his car with the camera - and is believed to have smashed it in his shed. Last night he handed the shattered remains of the camera, worth thousands of dollars, in to Campbelltown police....

His attack on photographer Ross Schultz stunned shoppers in Campbelltown. Mr Latham emerged in a fit of fury from a Hungry Jack's restaurant, where he was munching on hamburgers with his sons Oliver and Isaac. Schultz, who was waiting for Mr Latham to emerge but did not enter the restaurant, said the enraged former leader began screaming obscenities and ripped the camera from his shoulder. "He took the camera and began walking to his car. I politely asked him to return it. He placed it on the bonnet and then turned around and threw a left hook at me," Schultz said. "I evaded it easily but he wanted to go toe-to-toe with me. I just kept telling him to calm down, 'You've got kids in the car', but he was off his head. "He was so worked up, I wasn't thinking of the camera." ...

An independent witness to yesterday's incident, Aaron Dredge, was looking out the window of beauty salon Jazz 'U' Up, opposite Hungry Jack's, when he saw a "big fella" throwing punches. "I'm not a political person at all so I didn't recognise him until the photographer told me afterwards who he was," Mr Dredge said. "The photographer was trying to talk to him but he turned away and threw a punch. Latham just went mental." ....

Mr Latham broke the arm of a Sydney taxi driver in July 2001 as he was being driven home after a night out....

Mr Latham has often cried foul at coverage of his private life but has not applied the same standards to himself. In his diaries, published last year, Mr Latham was accused of betraying the confidence of many Labor colleagues, publishing private conversations with the aim of embarrassing them. In one case, he mocked Labor foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd for breaking down following the death of his mother.

More here


From another news report. It looks like Latham was quite insane with anger:

The editor of Sydney's Daily Telegraph, David Penberthy, says the paper intends to seek $12,000 from Mr Latham to cover the cost of the smashed camera - even though the disc containing pictures of the incident was recovered with the photos intact. Mr Penberthy told Southern Cross Radio in Melbourne the former federal opposition leader and MP also threw a punch at photographer Ross Schultz, injuring his wrist, before fleeing with his camera... Mr Schultz began photographing Mr Latham as he emerged from a Hungry Jack's restaurant, where he had been having lunch with his two sons Oliver and Issac.

"He basically came charging out of Hungry Jack's like a bull at a gate, asked the photographer who he was and Ross said `I'm Ross Schultz from The Daily Telegraph'," Mr Penberthy said. "And Latham started screaming at him saying you're a pedophile, you're a pedophile. "We've got a couple of witnesses who were there ... he grabbed the camera, threw a punch but didn't land any."

Mr Penberthy said Mr Latham then put his children in the car and drove home, where he allegedly destroyed the camera. "It looks like he spent a good hour hopping into it with a claw hammer, it's incredible," Mr Penberthy said.

"We went out to the Campbelltown police station last night to report the fracas with the man who would've been prime minister (but) mainly to get our property back. "Our understanding is that after he'd pinched the camera from the photographer at the Hungry Jack's car park he sped off, took it home, took it into the shed and basically systematically destroyed it with what looks like a hammer. "It is in several hundred pieces - it's incredible."

There is another Latham story from last year that is of a piece with the above

These guys are fit to work as teachers?

Trust your government to protect your kids

Convicted stalkers, heroin addicts, frauds and former prisoners have been given the green light to teach [in Victoria]. Documents show the Victorian Institute of Teaching has allowed nine of 12 teachers with serious criminal convictions to remain registered. The Education Department said it would employ only two [Only two? Sure that's enough?], but would not say whether they were employed, citing privacy reasons. The others can work in the private system and interstate.

Child sex offenders are automatically deregistered. Those who remain registered include these three teachers: A WOMAN convicted in 2001 of heroin possession, receiving stolen goods and obtaining property by deception. A VIT panel hearing her case found she had been addicted to heroin "but there is no indication . . . this affected her ability to carry out her professional duties".

A MALE teacher who was convicted of stalking a 16-year-old boy in 2001, behaviour a magistrate said was "creepy". The VIT panel was told he repeatedly called the boy and posed as a Cosmopolitan photographer to get the boy to meet him. But it decided his "misconduct in his private life had not been followed in his professional life".

A TEACHER who spent more than two years in jail after pleading guilty to a hit-run accident in 2000 that left a pedestrian for dead. He'd been drunk and concealed it from his school; but the VIT panel found he'd matured and developed "insight and reflection" about the crime and "would make use of his learning and that this would enhance his contribution as a teacher".

Opposition education spokesman Victor Perton said the community would be shocked to learn these teachers were allowed back in class. It raised questions about the VIT's ability to properly register teachers. "The department might know of their conviction but what about the independent, Catholic and interstate schools?" he said. Parents Victoria president Elaine Crowle said the cases make a mockery of the registration process....

A Catholic Education Office spokesman said none of the nine worked at its schools. Association for Independent Schools of Victoria head Michelle Green said teachers were employed by the schools; the association did not keep such records.

More here

20 January, 2006

Refugees from Muslim terror arrive in Australia

Melanesians from the Western half of the island of New Guinea (people with traditional native beliefs) are being savagely persecuted by their Indonesian Muslim overlords. They are however very attached to their traditional tribal land so for them to flee to Australia is a sign of desperation. See my earlier post here for background

"More than 40 West Papuan asylum-seekers who fled the troubled Indonesian province in a large outrigger canoe six days ago landed on a remote beach in far north Queensland yesterday.... The 25m traditional dugout canoe was fitted with an outboard motor and was flying the outlawed West Papuan flag. "Save West Papua people souls from genocide, intimidation and terorist from military government of Indonesia," read a crudely worded banner on the boat. "We West Papua need freedom, peace, love and justice in our home." ... Faced with increasing political tension in West Papua and the overwhelming strength of the Indonesian military, Ms Byrne said the asylum-seekers fled the troubled province rather than risk being jailed and tortured for their knowledge of government affairs.... The asylum-seekers are believed to include Herman Wanggai, a student leader from West Papua who had spent time in prison for treason, his wife and their three-year-old twins.

More here

Greenies stung in the pocket by subsidy loss

Just about ANYTHING Green depends on subsidies from somebody else -- usually the taxpayer

The solar power industry faces "disaster" in Australia when Federal Government subsidies are ended next year. That's the warning from company boss Peter Bulanyi, whose solar company has been "riding on a high" thanks to the cost of the systems becoming relatively cheaper for new houses and the government subsidy. The solar power rebate was reduced from $8000 to $4000 per household from January 1 and will be phased out completely by the end of next year. "Our business has tripled since 2004," said Mr Bulanyi, owner of Solar Inverters in Urunga, NSW. "We have definitely been riding on a high. "It's kicked in with the building boom in 2004."

Mr Bulanyi is a wholesaler and installer of solar panel systems for houses, as well as servicing the equipment. He said his sales have increased by up to 50 systems a year, in a annual market he estimates at 500 new installations nationwide. "[The increase is ] because the cost of a solar system has been coming down," he said. "It's [ONLY!] $20,000 for a medium-sized system to be installed.

"All of a sudden, because the cost of housing construction has soared, it's very easy when you're getting a loan to whack the cost of a solar system in there too. "The government rebate [also] absolutely makes a huge difference." The removal of this government rebate, which will be phased out by the end of next year, will cut his sales in half, Mr Bulanyi said. "It will be an unmitigated disaster," he said. "I'd expect sales to drop by half, and that's a conservative figure."


Why the decline in literacy even among highly educated Americans?

Australian writer Christopher Pearson comments on the big drop in literacy among American university graduates

What, apart from rage, is the most appropriate response to the American data and emerging evidence of similar trends in Australia? I suppose it's to acknowledge the official confirmation of what most of us have long suspected. The jig is up. Thirty-odd years of curricular experiment and faddish methods of teaching reading have demonstrated their true worth. Thirty-odd years worth of students have been increasingly denied the most powerful means of meritocratic advance, of general self-betterment and, most importantly, of access to the canon of great works which are the core of Western civilisation.

The French have a phrase to cover betrayals of this order. They call it le trahison des clercs, the treason of the clerical classes. Implicit in it is the notion of conscious delinquency, of knowing better and still behaving irresponsibly. That is the charge that the subliterate young, here as well as in America, are entitled to level at many of their teachers, lecturers and the vast armies of education bureaucrats.

The rot set in when primary school teachers abandoned conventional methods of teaching reading in favour of more fashionable trends which involved less drudgery and less tiresome assessment of outcomes. The drift away from measuring skills and relative competency covered a multitude of pedagogical failures. And how natural it was that, as measurable outcomes began to decline sharply, Australian teachers' unions should have begun to echo their American counterparts and mounted the case that the process of measurement and notions of success and failure were inherently anti-educational and elitist.

It's important to acknowledge that not all teachers deserve to be tarred with the same brush. The loopy policy of automatic promotion through primary school meant that very often problem students suddenly became the responsibility of overworked teachers with no remedial reading experience and all sorts of other responsibilities. The prevalence of remedial reading courses at university level about a decade later suggests the dimensions of the dilemma.

By the time teenagers reached the second year of senior school, it would have taken a fair amount of courage in the early '80s to buck the system and refuse to promote them just on account of reading difficulties. It might well have been viewed as a vote of no confidence in colleagues and the system as a whole, a kind of whistle-blowing. No doubt many conscientious primary and secondary teachers dedicated time out of school hours to discreet remedial reading lessons, well before their principals began to acknowledge the existence and extent of a literacy crisis. Things would also have been much worse had it not been for the efforts of countless unpaid volunteers, belatedly doing the work that primary teachers should have performed years earlier.

Primary and secondary systems once served to certify not just adequate attendance but the acquisition of prescribed levels in certain skills. As the certification process began to fail, the universities ought to have intervened more effectively to preserve the value of their own currency. Instead they have presided over its gradual debasement. There are honourable exceptions in some of the sciences and engineering. But few first degrees are as demanding now as they were 30 years ago and, despite the unprecedented rate of growth in most domains of knowledge, very few are more onerous. In the humanities and social sciences, the dumbing-down process is at its most obvious and debilitating.

The Australian education sector as a whole is inclined to put a lot of the blame on external factors such as political interference. It's certainly true that Robert Menzies' sudden expansion of universities was a benignly intended catastrophe. Had he been more of a conservative, he might have realised the truth of Kingsley Amis's line: "More means worse." Again, a fuller account of the local literacy crisis would take account of the state government policies, especially those of politically correct Labor administrations, which sanctioned and concealed declining standards. The Dawkins era of philistinism triumphant - and the collapse of the distinction between vocational training and a liberal education - no doubt helped to ensure the emergence of the worst educated and also perhaps the dimmest generation of trainee teachers in the span of a century.

However, even making allowances for all the external factors, most of the blame for the present state of the teaching profession must lie with teachers themselves, especially but by no means exclusively with those in the public sector. Had they acted more like a body of professionals, it's far more likely they would have been treated as such. Instead there has been a burgeoning vicious circle. When 40 per cent of senior secondary students in Victoria enrolled in private schools last year, they and their parents may not all have known what they were buying into but we can be reasonably confident that they knew what they had spurned.

Some calculations from the Australian Scholarships Group, an education investment fund, were released on Thursday. The cost to parents of putting a child born in 2005 through the public system to matriculation is reckoned at $110,000. The price of a three-year first degree was estimated at an average of another $140,000. Brendan Nelson, the federal Minister for Education, should be monitoring levels of literacy throughout the cycle to give parents a better idea of just what they can expect to be getting for their money.

More here

19 January, 2006

More multiple rapes by Muslims

Two brothers accused of the multiple rape of a young woman at knifepoint have been found guilty in Brisbane of six counts of sexual assault. Fijian-born Afsheen Kashef Hussein, 26, and Azhar Zuhayr Hussein, 21, each pleaded not guilty in the District Court to eight charges of rape and one of indecent treatment of the 22-year-old woman at Mt Coot-tha in Brisbane.

After almost two days of deliberation, the jury of 10 men and two women found each of the brothers guilty of six counts of rape but not guilty of three charges: two rape counts and the indecent treatment charge. Prosecutor April Freeman however, submitted that a sentence in the order of 12 years for each of the men was appropriate and Judge Warren Howell adjourned sentencing to a later date.

Judge Howell informed the jury once their verdict had been delivered, that the two brothers have also been charged over a second rape at Mt Coot-tha, this time of a sex worker, in February last year. They have also pleaded not guilty to the charges but the brothers' co-accused - Brisbane men Zaak Imtiaz Ali, 21, and Zain Iftiaz Ali, 23 - have pleaded guilty. The matter will be heard on May 29.

More here

Police attack on civil liberties in Victoria

Police directives about what could and could not be photographed were an abuse of power and should be ignored, Liberty Victoria said today. The civil liberties body made the statement after a report in a Melbourne newspaper today said a member of the Geelong Camera Club received a visit from police after he photographed gas storage cylinders at the city's Shell oil refinery. Club member Hans Kawitski was told not to photograph industrial installations and was ordered to inform members of the camera club to follow his lead.

Liberty Victoria said its advice to photographers would be to ignore the directive. "The police have got no place making such warnings," president Brian Walters SC said. "Merely to threaten is exceeding police powers and is an abuse of power. "If you were a serious terrorist you wouldn't be openly taking photographs. Taking photos of public objects is a normal and quite understandable part of a modern society." Mr Walters said police had been spooked by politicians and had acquired "an inflated fear of terrorism". "We currently have thousands of cameras set up to watch citizens, but if citizens themselves take photos, the authorities take that as some sort of risk," he said.

Geelong Camera Club vice-president Frank Sady said the club was having its first meeting tonight after a summer recess. He said he would be advising them against following the police orders. "Until such time as there's a law (we won't be doing anything differently)," he said. "We're not doing any harm and we're not hurting anybody." Mr Sady said the directive reminded him of visiting Poland when the secret police were stopping photography. "No terrorist is going to hang around the front gate (of Shell's refinery) taking photos," he said. "It's just the freedom to do what's reasonable in our pursuit of photography. We take photos for aesthetic purposes, not for ulterior motives."

The Australian Photographic Society said the incident was sad but not surprising. Senior vice-president Bert Hoveling said he had been taking a series of photos at Eastland Shopping Centre when he was "hauled off by security to management". "They said, this is company policy that you can't take photos inside Eastland shopping centre," he said. "We have to run this fine line now between getting the photos we want for enjoying our photography or entering competition and not transgressing local policies or laws."


Feds pressure bureaucrat-heavy Queensland public health system

The Caboolture Hospital fiasco could cost Queensland $67 million in health funding, after the Federal Government yesterday ordered an investigation into possible breaches of the Medicare Agreement. Acting Federal Health Minister Julie Bishop said she was "extremely concerned" about the closure of emergency services at the hospital and the decision to send patients away to see GPs instead.

The State Government yesterday announced it was a step closer to restoring full services at Caboolture, with an agreement for three senior staff from the Mater Hospital in Brisbane to reopen the emergency department on Friday. It had been closed since Monday because of a doctor shortage.

But even as it solved the Caboolture problem, the Government was handed another as Ms Bishop asked her department to investigate the affair. Under the Australian Health Care Agreement, patients who present for treatment at the emergency department of a public hospital must be treated. The hospital is allowed to suggest other "clinically appropriate" service providers "but must provide free treatment if the patient chooses to be treated at the hospital". This agreement also stipulates that "hospital employees will not direct patients . . . towards a particular choice". The contingency plan enacted by the [Queensland] Government to cover the doctor shortage involves less-serious patients being advised to see their GP. Ms Bishop said the referral of more-serious Caboolture patients to Redcliffe and Brisbane may also breach Queensland's commitment to provide "equitable access to public hospital services regardless of geography".

She said the agreement provided for a "compliance payment" which would amount to around $67 million if Queensland failed to meet its obligations. "We're extremely concerned that the Queensland Government appears to be breaching its responsibilities under the Australian Health Care Agreement," Ms Bishop said. "We've provided very substantial funding - $8 billion over five years - and, clearly, this should be used to better maintain the public health system."

More here

Uranium stupidity

Since the Chinese already have nuclear weapons, what earthly good is it going to do to harass them over whose uranium they use in making bombs?

Government officials negotiating the sale of Australian uranium to China admit there is no guarantee it will never be used in nuclear weapons. Australian diplomats, due to meet their Chinese counterparts today in Canberra, are expected to push for China to agree to safeguards similar to those signed by other nuclear weapons states that buy Australian uranium, such as the US, Britain and France. The agreements are designed to prevent the use of Australian uranium in nuclear weapons. However, they allow countries with both nuclear power and nuclear weapons programs to mix Australian uranium with uranium from different sources.

More here

Australia has brick-thick "security" staff too

Two brothers with muscular dystrophy were made to crawl to their car after security guards at a Melbourne shopping centre refused to let them take wheelchairs through the front entrance, their sister said today. Sandra Costa said her brothers, aged in their 40s, were in tears after security at Westfield's Fountain Gate shopping centre, in Melbourne's south-east, forced them to discard the borrowed wheelchairs at the entrance. She said she was told it was policy not to allow the centre's wheelchairs out of the complex but bollards prevented vehicles getting up to the entrance. "It was only probably about three metres to get the chairs out but the security guard wouldn't allow us to bring them out," she told Southern Cross radio. "So one of my brothers had to get down and crawl to the car ... the other one half-crawled; I picked him up but it's really hard to get them in the car because they're big guys.....

Westfield issued a statement apologising for the incident, saying the guidelines for use of wheelchairs at its centres would be reviewed immediately. "The company is investigating the incident, which appears to have arisen over the interpretation by staff of guidelines governing the safe use of wheelchairs and other equipment provided to shoppers outside the centre," the shopping giant said. "The company deeply regrets the embarrassment and indignity suffered by the two shoppers and their family and will seek to meet with them privately to apologise and explain the steps taken to avoid this or similar incidents occurring again."

More here

The chronically corrupt NSW cops again

Two former senior NSW police officers face charges relating to a major corruption investigation targeting Australia's top crime body. Former Australian Crime Commission officer Samuel John Foster is due to face a Sydney court next month on charges relating to his alleged association with drug dealers, the ABC reported today. The NSW Director of Public Prosecutions has given the go-ahead to charge Foster's former ACC partner, James McCabe. However, tracking down McCabe could present a challenge to authorities. It's believed the former Victorian officer lives in Cambodia. Former National Crime Authority chairman John Broome said on ABC radio that the lack of an extradition treaty with Cambodia would be a major hurdle in efforts to prosecute McCabe. Both officers have been under investigation since 2003, for activities that took place while on secondment with the ACC. In 2004, NSW Police Integrity Commission (PIC) hearings were told details about how McCabe and Foster, while working for the ACC, allegedly tried to obtain drugs from a police informant for personal use. ABC radio said McCabe had been allowed to travel to and from Australia, despite being under investigation.

More here

18 January, 2006

'PC policing' row continues

A brawl has broken out over suggestions the NSW Government has been too politically correct to arrest the people responsible for revenge attacks in the wake of the Cronulla riot. NSW Opposition Leader Peter Debnam yesterday repeated his attack on the Iemma Government for being soft on ethnic crime and criticised police for failing to arrest people of Middle Eastern descent. Premier Morris Iemma denied telling police to go soft on people of Middle Eastern descent and responded angrily to the comments.

Inspecting the state's new anti-riot squad, Mr Iemma promised a crackdown on antisocial and riotous behaviour. "We're on the side of the police in this, he's (Mr Debnam) not. The hooligans and thugs have got no respect. No wonder, when the example is being set by the Leader of the Opposition," Mr Iemma said.

Mr Debnam's comments last week that the NSW Government had been soft on ethnic crime for the past 10 years prompted Mr Iemma's outburst and criticism from police Commissioner Ken Moroney.

"The statistics would suggest the Government is simply not putting the resources into rounding up these Middle Eastern criminals and thugs. The Labor Party seems to be indebted to certain ethnic groups," Mr Debnam said last week. Yesterday, he refused to back down. "Thugs on the streets of Sydney that should be in jail. That's the issue." Mr Debnam said the Government was too "politically correct" to act against ethnic gangs. "The community wants these people locked up and I'm going to keep raising this issue every day until those couple of hundred Middle Eastern thugs are behind bars."


NSW riot squad formed

Might abolition of the old one have been an ideologically-driven mistake?

It took three race riots in less than two years - but finally NSW has a riot squad. The hand-picked squad of 50 officers will be on call 24 hours a day. Their new tactics will include the use of riot shields and horses to force back lines of rioters. A further 600 police from across the state have been trained in riot response tactics and can be called in at any time. Eventually there will be 1200 riot-trained police on call across the state.

Unveiling the Public Order and Riot Squad yesterday, Premier Morris Iemma denied the squad was too little too late in the face of violent conflicts around Sydney. "There's riot police, tough new powers and plenty more coming in the fight to take back control of the streets and to ensure peaceful, law-abiding citizens can go about their business," Mr Iemma said. "This is another step in our fight to take back the streets in our crackdown on anti-social behaviour and riotous behaviour. "The message is a simple one: If you want to riot we've got riot squads and we've got plenty of cells in our jails to accommodate you."

Mr Iemma denied Sydney had an ethnic gang problem, saying: "No matter what their ethnicity, no matter where they come from the message is a simple one - your behaviour won't be tolerated." The Government announced plans to reform the riot squad - axed in the 1980s - after the Redfern and Macquarie Fields riots.

Deputy Police Commissioner Terry Collins said police had learned from the experience of last year's Macquarie Fields riot, in which officers were injured by missiles as they held their positions. "We've gone through that. We've tried to do that softly, softly approach, quite frankly," Mr Collins said. "We'll certainly be putting large contingents - a large field force - of police out there with a clear mandate to do what they need to do, not just stand there in the line, cop molotov cocktails, cop rocks being pelted at them."


Ordeal for woman injured just outside a large public hospital

The wonders of "free" medical care again

A one-minute trip to hospital became a 44-minute ordeal for a woman suffering serious head and chest injuries, as the human cost of the Caboolture hospital emergency department closure was revealed yesterday. On the first day of the Beattie Government's contingency plan for Caboolture, a fatal accident just 250m from the hospital's entrance resulted in a lengthy ambulance trip to Redcliffe for a 50-year old female patient. And it forced a 77-year-old with more serious injuries to wait for more than an hour to be airlifted to Brisbane. A 97-year-old female passenger, who had been receiving treatment at the hospital, died in the accident.

After weeks of denials, the State Government admitted yesterday that emergency services at Caboolture were effectively closed as a result of a statewide doctor shortage. The Caboolture Hospital's emergency department was closed from 6am yesterday because of a lack of staff. The fatal accident at the entrance to the hospital happened at 3.45pm after a white Holden Barina hatchback, in which the three women were travelling, and a white Holden Rodeo collided. The 97-year-old woman, who died in the crash, had been receiving treatment at the hospital. The 50-year-old female driver of the Barina was transported by ambulance to Redcliffe Hospital. The 77-year-old seriously injured passenger in the Barina was airlifted to Royal Brisbane Hospital.

Last night The Courier-Mail was advised it took an ambulance 44 minutes to transport the injured female driver to Redcliffe. But it is believed the woman, suffering from head injuries, broken ribs, and chest injuries, requires a high-dependency bed not available at Redcliffe Hospital, and will have to be transferred to either the Royal Brisbane or Princess Alexandra Hospital.

Australian Medical Association Queensland president Dr Steve Hambleton said he was advised a doctor from the Caboolture Hospital assisted paramedics at the accident. "A tragedy like this drives home the importance of quality services in large communities that are growing fast," Dr Hambleton said. "It may well have been that these people would have needed air transport anyway. "It just highlights how unpredictable our lives are, and the need for quality services." Dr Hambleton said the Queensland Government now had no choice but to "fix" the problems with its public hospitals.

Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg described the car accident victims as "the tragic human face of government spin". Late yesterday, Acting Premier Anna Bligh announced a temporary deal made with the Mater Hospital to provide doctors so the emergency department could be reopened in coming days. Health Minister Stephen Robertson insisted the two patients injured outside Caboolture Hospital had received appropriate care despite the closure. He said the woman transported to Redcliffe had received immediate attention from paramedics, and the person airlifted to Brisbane would not have been treated in Caboolture because of the nature and extent of her injuries.

But Caboolture's former emergency department director Sylvia Andrew-Starkey said the woman "would have been stabilised at Caboolture" if the department had been operational....

Mr Robertson yesterday admitted the Caboolture Emergency Department "is, in fact, closed" after claiming since late last year it would remain open and services would simply be scaled back. He said five people had presented at the hospital yesterday. Three had been told to go to a GP, despite Mr Robertson's claim earlier this month that "no one's going to be turned away". Despite previously insisting that the department would be staffed by a senior doctor during the day and a junior doctor at night, Mr Robertson admitted there had been no emergency doctor present to see the other two patients.

More here

The Australian Left wants to cut a tax!

But nobody seems to be mentioning that it was Labor's Paul Keating who put the tax on in the first place

Tax on superannuation would be slashed under radical proposals being considered by the federal Opposition aimed at boosting savings and delivering a person on average earnings up to $30 a week more on retirement. Labor is investigating a phased withdrawal of the 15 per cent contributions tax for middle Australia, those people earning between $40,000 and $100,000 a year. The party says this group of about 3million people misses out under the Howard Government's super system. Tax on the nation's super savings -- currently at almost $800 billion and likely to hit $1trillion by the end of the year -- has skyrocketed under the Coalition Government from $1.6billion in 1995-96 to about $6.7billion in 2005-06. Tax is charged on contributions, super fund earnings and final payouts, but the Government refuses to say how much is taken at each stage.

More here

Australian economy doing well

The economy should have ended the year with a healthy 3 per cent expansion despite a lacklustre retail sector, a slowing housing market and weaker exports. Moderate growth right across the economy, rather than a standout performance by any one part, should keep Treasurer Peter Costello on track to meet his budget forecasts. A survey by financial news service Reuters of 13 investment and banking economists finds an average prediction of 3 per cent growth during last year. The Government is banking on 3 per cent growth across this financial year to deliver an $11.5 billion surplus, up from the previous estimate of $8.9 billion, and lay the foundation for a strong $9.7 billion surplus in 2006-07. One of the more confident forecasters, Commonwealth Bank chief economist Michael Blythe, said that while last year had some disappointments, it was a year with "reasonable economic momentum".

More here

17 January, 2006

Fun! Greenies choose Halliburton!

"It's enough to make the hippies and peaceniks of Byron Bay choke on their organic muesli. Byron Bay Shire Council has awarded a contract to a subsidiary of Halliburton, the multinational formerly headed by US Vice-President Dick Cheney and condemned by anti-war activists as a major profiteer in the Iraq war. The hip northern New South Wales beach town, long a haven for anti-war activists, made history in 2004 by becoming the first place in NSW to elect a Green mayor, Jan Barham. But Ms Barham, one of three Green councillors who voted in favour of awarding a contract for a sewage treatment plant to Halliburton subsidiary KBR about three months ago, was silent on the decision yesterday. She confirmed KBR had been chosen to build the plant at Bangalow, west of Byron Bay, but refused to comment further. "Because the session involved a tender, the discussions were kept confidential, so I cannot comment," she said".

Not so coy was fellow Green councillor Tom Tabart. He also voted in favour of KBR over the two other tenders but said yesterday he did so reluctantly. Mr Tabart did not hold back when asked his opinion of Halliburton, the multinational said by US organisation Corpwatch to have reaped $8 billion in contracts in Iraq in 2003 alone."I think it's an absolute disgrace that a company can have such close political connections to the ruling clique in America and use it to such advantage and get away with it," he said.

He went further in a letter to the Byron Bay Echo explaining the council's decision, saying Halliburton was connected to the "odious Cheney neocons". But Mr Tabart said he had voted in favour of KBR because council staff had recommended its tender as the most cost-effective. He said refusing the tender on political grounds could have exposed the council to court action. "And if you scratch any multinational you'll dig up just as much dirt as you would on Halliburton, so what's the bloody difference?"

Mr Tabart said councillors who supported the tender knew who they were voting for as Halliburton's association with Mr Cheney and Iraq were vigorously discussed at the council meeting by opponents of KBR. John Lazarus, a Green councillor who voted against the KBR proposal, said councils should think carefully before choosing multinationals such as Halliburton for such contracts. "Halliburton has benefited enormously from contracts to the Iraq war," he said. "We should be looking closely at corporations we are supporting financially and at what they are doing on this planet."

The awarding of the contract appears to have gone largely unnoticed in Byron Bay. Mr Tabart denied the decision was kept secret. "It was all in the council minutes," he said. "It just wasn't picked up by the media."


An Australian Fabian puts us right

Want a laugh? Some Leftist git by the name of Prof. Allan Patience -- an adherent of the Australian Fabian Society -- is trying to tell us that modern-day conservatives are not really conservative. But get his definition of conservatism:

"Conservatives are wedded to a sociality that leads them often to side with socialists in public policy debates about issues such as welfare, industrial relations, education, health and taxation".

In his dreams! It is perhaps another indication of the ivory-tower mental world he in habits that, although he appears to be Australian, the word "sociality" that he uses is not found in my Macquarie Encyclopedic Dictionary, the generally accepted dictionary of Australian English. The guy really is on another planet. A detailed fisking of his rave is here.

He has another ivory-tower article titled "Bring back the politics of race harmony" which contains the lines:

"There is a crimson thread of racism still running through Australia's hard culture. There is no point in denying this. Our racism has to be confronted intelligently, through wise education programs, sensitive legislation, and a bill of rights".

He doesn't seem to like Australians very much but he of course knows how to put us right. How lucky we are to have him!


There are a lot of comments about our sagacious Fabian at Catallaxy

The downward spiral in the Queensland public hospital system continues

Emergency services at Ipswich and Maryborough hospitals are facing similar problems to Caboolture Hospital's accident and emergency department, which is closed from today due to doctor shortages. Both hospitals have been forced to divert medical staff from other areas to prop up understaffed accident and emergency departments, Queensland Health has confirmed. The department yesterday warned there was "potentially an increased wait for non-urgent matters" at both hospitals. "Queensland Health is exhausting every avenue to find solutions to addressing the staffing shortages," a spokesman said yesterday.

Although triage nurses will be on duty today at Caboolture Hospital, patients will be diverted to Redcliffe Hospital. Queensland Health is urging people to call triple-0 in the case of urgent matters and its hotline - 1300 557 514 - for non-urgent matters. Health Minister Stephen Robertson has insisted the reduction in services is a downgrade, but this was cast into doubt yesterday by Caboolture Hospital acting emergency department director Chris Johnstone. In an interview on ABC Radio, Dr Johnstone said "the emergency department at Caboolture Hospital will be closed". "In other words, there will be no doctors available to provide any medical service," he said.

Opposition health spokesman Bruce Flegg said Queensland Health staff had been threatened with disciplinary action just for using the word "closure". "The situation at the Ipswich Hospital is in a critical state, and locals in yet another huge Queensland community face the prospect of being forced to travel to the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane," Dr Flegg said.

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Severe danger to kids from the Queensland public hospital meltdown

"When three-year-old Zachary began swelling in front of Bronny Chetham's eyes last year, the terrified mother rushed her son to the emergency ward at Caboolture Hospital. He was playing with an egg he had broken open. It took only seconds for a severe allergic reaction to take hold. "When he turned around his eyes were swollen shut, his feet and hands were all swelling," she said. "By the time I got him into the shower, he had a rash from head to toe . . . and I raced him to the hospital." In the worst-case scenario, Mrs Chetham said her son would have suffered an anaphylactic fit, which could have led to death if they had been unable to access medical help immediately. So having the Caboolture Hospital's emergency department only five minutes away has always been a source of comfort to her.

But today, with the closure of the department, that comfort has been replaced by fear. With three children under the age of four suffering from allergies and asthma, Mrs Chetham said she was "terrified" by the prospect. Over the past couple of years she has rushed her children to the emergency department more than half a dozen times. The family, who place their eggs on top of the fridge and go to extreme lengths to keep Zachary out of danger, are now looking to move to Brisbane or to Redcliffe".

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16 January, 2006

How a Left-dominated justice system works

The article from NSW below seems almost incomprehensible until you know that the offenders are all, or almost all, black. How do I know that? The article does not mention race. But I know Redfern both from reputation and experience. I have lived there and driven taxicabs through it. And also take a close look at the photo accompanying the article

Teenagers repeatedly freed on "soft" bail are responsible for a wave of inner-city assaults and robberies, say police. Officers at Redfern are outraged over scores of recent attacks by up to a dozen offenders, some as young as 13. They say they are powerless to protect victims because the youths responsible are being let off by magistrates despite toughened bail criteria in the wake of the Cronulla riots.

A 16-year-old boy charged with multiple counts of robbery, assault, car breaking, trespassing and breaching bail pleaded guilty to most of the charges he faced at Bidura Children's Court last Wednesday. Police records show the offences had been committed largely during a five-month period in which the same court awarded him bail seven times.

Robbery figures for the command are higher than at any stage in the past three years. In September alone, 96 incidents were reported in the command, almost twice the number on record in February 2004 when the troubled suburb was branded Australia's bag snatch capital following riots ensuing from the death of Thomas "T.J" Hickey, 17, who may have believed he was being chased by police. Taxi drivers have been bludgeoned with hammers, and people punched and kicked by up to 10 offenders after handing over their valuables.

In response to the rampage, officers within the command's robbery unit formed Strike Force Artlett in early October. As a result, the number of robberies dropped but investigations revealed "a frustrating, high level of repeat violent offences being committed by a core of active and violent juvenile offenders", an internal police report states. "It was quickly ascertained that this level of recidivist offenders were subject to repeated arrest and charging for violent and serious indictable offences but were immediately being granted bail. "This has fostered a belief within this group, and as such continues to impact on the younger members of the community, that their actions are supported by the judicial authority through a failure to be held accountable."

One teenager facing detention over his role in a robbery is alleged to have told the arresting officers: "So what, I will go to Minda [juvenile justice centre] for two weeks, eat pizza and play PlayStation. I will be out before I get bored." When the document was tendered to the court in a bail matter, the magistrate refused to read it, detectives allege.

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Staff shortage shuts emergency ward at a major Queensland public hospital

An unbelievably incompetent health bureaucracy -- despite (or because of) the fact that they have got 3 times as many paper-shufflers as medical staff

The emergency ward of a major Queensland hospital will shut on Monday - probably for months - because of a doctor shortage. The Caboolture Hospital emergency ward was to be closed amid community fear and anger, Liberal health spokesman Dr Bruce Flegg said. "This community has been treated appallingly, they still haven't had any official word from the Government on what they are supposed to do in an emergency," he said. "People in Caboolture want an emergency department in Caboolture, they don't want to be told they've got to go a long distance to an already overcrowded hospital." It was only a matter of time until someone dies because of the closure, he said.

A health spokesman said this would be the only emergency ward closure in Queensland and no one would be turned away if they presented at Caboolture Hospital in a serious condition. "If you have a life threatening emergency, ring 000, if you've got non life threatening situations, we have set up a 1300 number where you will get an experienced emergency department nurse who will advise you about where to go for the most appropriate treatment. "About 60 per cent of people who turn up to the emergency department of a hospital are there for minor conditions that could be treated by their local GP."

The spokesman said the small number of bulk billing doctors in the area meant patients would need to travel to the next closest hospital - in Redcliffe - to receive free medical attention, for which they would receive a "patient travel subsidy scheme reimbursement". The Queensland Ambulance Service also would provide extra services to transport patients between Caboolture and Redcliffe hospitals, he said. The spokesman said the Caboolture emergency ward may be reopened in a couple of months and blamed the doctor shortage on medicos not wanting to work in Caboolture.

The Australian Medical Association has urged the Queensland Government to further improve the pay and conditions of the state's doctors, despite a pay rise awarded to senior doctors late last year.


Parents dig deep to pay for choice in education

Soaring costs are squeezing some families out of private education as fees top $12,000 a year at prestigious Brisbane schools. But enrolments are still expected to rise, with parents willing to "make significant sacrifices" to put children through their "school of choice". Even Catholic education was becoming unaffordable for some families, Federation of Parents and Friends Association of Queensland executive officer Paul Dickie said. "Increasingly poor Catholic families can't afford to attend Catholic schools," Mr Dickie said. "I know that principals do a lot to assist families, and we say that no one will be denied an education in a Catholic school because of their financial situation, but the thing is a number of them don't come because obviously they don't like coming up and saying, 'Well, I can't afford to go there.' "So the Catholic schools try to keep fees to a minimum, but because of increasing costs, fees will go up more than the consumer price index."

Fees at some Catholic schools are at the bottom of the cost ladder. The Southport School is Queensland's most expensive, charging tuition fees of $12,276 for a student in Year 11 or 12. At Brisbane Grammar School, parents will pay $12,270 to educate a child in Years 8 to 12. At the Anglican Church Grammar School at East Brisbane, "Churchie" parents will pay $11,124 for a son in Year 12. One of Brisbane's leading girls' schools, Somerville House at South Brisbane, will charge $9882 for tuition in Years 7 to 12, but this does not include levies for technology, excursions, bus travel and house expenses....

Association of Independent Schools of Queensland operations director David Robertson said enrolments were still increasing by about 4 per cent a year. Parents were willing "to do anything" to make sure their children attended their school of choice. "All of the research and data that we see keeps on coming back to the same issues," Mr Robertson said. "It's about parental choice, those parents value the partnership between the school and parents. There is a high sense that there is a very high quality of teachers in independent schools and issues like good discipline, academic outcomes - parents value all those things very highly."

Mr Dickie said demand for Catholic education also continued to increase because of their caring pastoral program, competent teachers and academic excellence, which all created "a happiness factor" that attracted mums and dads.

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The Whitlam myth: Thirty years on, the government he led looks no better

But he is still the great hero of the Australian Left. The following is an editorial from "The Australian" newspaper

Last Sunday's release of 1975 cabinet papers only added evidence to what was obvious 30 years ago - the Whitlam government was a disaster for Australia. But you would never know it from much of the commentary this week. Certainly critics still point to Mr Whitlam's failings back then, but his supporters suggest he had a vision for a better Australia, one which his successors were too blind to see, or too fearful to follow. This interpretation has gone largely unchallenged for so long that it now has the tenor of truth, even though it is mostly nonsense. Australians are a pragmatic people and apart from Mr Whitlam's ancient enemies, who remember the chaos of 1975, nobody much minds if the record of a failed government is rewritten. But in the way he has kept the flame of his government's memory burning bright, Mr Whitlam has perpetuated, and privileged, political thinking that still has the potential to do Australia damage. The myth of Whitlamism today is that political visionaries are somehow exempt from economic realities, and that symbolic issues matter more than the desire of ordinary people to put food on the family table.

Under Mr Whitlam, academics and artists prospered and the power of public servants to reshape Australia in their ideological image increased exponentially. Mr Whitlam was present at the foundation of the left-wing Labor Party that today believes reconciliation, the rights of refugees and the republic are the issues that really matter in politics and that the way to defeat John Howard is to ignore the economy as an electoral issue. But unemployment and inflation both rose while Mr Whitlam was prime minister and the stage was set for much worse to come. Government debt exploded. And for the better part of two years, Mr Whitlam's ministers made it obvious that they did not have a clue how to protect Australians from a global economy which no longer allowed us a free ride. Mr Whitlam supervised a great setback to the Labor tradition of Chifley, which saw the party's job as advancing the interests of ordinary Australians. Certainly Bob Hawke and Paul Keating convinced many former Labor voters who abandoned the party in 1975 to return. But the days when Labor could rely on the absolute loyalty of blue collar Australians ended under Mr Whitlam.

But while Mr Whitlam has acknowledged that of his three treasurers only Bill Hayden was not a dud this week saw him still selling his government's overall achievements. To a very great extent the endless writing of his own record has been Mr Whitlam's greatest success in public life. He has attended all the annual releases of his government's records and has sought to set us straight on what happened. In 1975 his government was soldiering on through political shock and shell to reform Australia, until it was ambushed by the governor-general. It is a story everybody interested in Australian politics knows off by heart and Mr Whitlam, obviously and understandably believes it. But this is no reason why anybody else should accept his version. Because, for all his prodigious powers of persuasion, Mr Whitlam is peddling a political pup, seeking to sell a self-serving and spectacularly selective version of his government's service.

And the staggering thing is that people listen still. Among the political paeans offered up to Mr Whitlam this week were praise for the way he ended conscription, pushed through equal pay for women, introduced a universal health scheme and free university study. He recognised China and granted Papua New Guinea its independence. He worked for the rights of women and Aborigines. He encouraged us to be proud of who we were with a national anthem and honours system created by Australians for Australians. And he was a great patron of learning and the arts. In just three years, according to the party line, Mr Whitlam transformed Australia from a racist, reactionary state where new ideas were suspect to an open society where the courage to be creative was finally accorded appropriate honours.

Seen through the rosy glow of 30 years of hagiography, Mr Whitlam led a country that was less ordinary Australia and more ancient Athens in the golden age of ideas and oratory. And to an extent he did. Australia was changing fast before Mr Whitlam was elected. Certainly prime ministers Holt and Gorton had laid the foundations of reform on which Labor built, but Mr Whitlam made a great many long overdue social policy changes. And compared to the economic inertia and endless, pointless, busy-work of Malcolm Fraser's years in office, his brief tenure was a riot of politically creative colour.

If Mr Whitlam had been interested in economics, supported by a competent cabinet that realised they needed two or three full terms to put their vision in place, things could have been very different. But he wasn't and they weren't - and the consequence was humiliating election defeats for Labor in 1975 and 1977 under Mr Whitlam, followed by a much less embarrassing loss after he was gone, in 1980.

In revering his record, at least those aspects that have nothing to do with effective administration or economics, Mr Whitlam's fans miss a much more important meaning in the Labor leader's departure from parliamentary politics. With Sir Robert Menzies and Malcolm Fraser, Mr Whitlam was the last of the patricians in public life. They were all men from an Australian upper class, who valued a classical education and towered over their cabinet colleagues. Despite Australia's egalitarian attitudes, they worked hard to inspire respect and deference from the electors.

But as the pace of political life quickened and Australia became less forgiving of their politicians, deference disappeared. And as the electorate became focused, even obsessed, with economics over the last 25 years, the voters became ever less forgiving of politicians who are big on ideals and light on management skills. Mr Hawke understood this and always presented as a man of the people who just happened to understand economics. Mr Howard does the same. Both learned the core lesson of Mr Whitlam's failure, one that many of his admirers still do not seem to see. For every prime minister economic management that allows all Australians to work hard and grow richer, so that they can live their lives as they wish, is not the only thing that matters. But it is the most important thing.

15 January, 2006

Why the NSW Labor Party government has been soft on Lebanese Muslim thugs

Because the Lebs have been political allies of the Left

About 40 cars set off from the park after midnight, heading for Cronulla and Maroubra. They moved in a large convoy, hazard lights on as a show of force. During the next three hours, across Cronulla, Maroubra and Brighton-le-Sands, between one and two hundred young Lebanese men smashed scores of cars, stabbed or bashed several people and threatened a number of women with rape.

True to their self-image as the "Lions of Lebanon", the hardest of the hard on Sydney's streets, not one of these men was arrested or even hindered by police in their self-styled intifada that night. Despite appearances, the police were not oblivious to the unfolding events. An incident report prepared by Bankstown police on December 13 makes for interesting reading: "On the evening of 12/12/05 numerous vehicles were sighted congregating in the vicinity of Punchbowl Park situated on Rose Street, Punchbowl. These vehicles and the crowd that had gathered were suspected to be middle eastern criminals who have been involved in malicious damage and civil disobedience offences throughout the Sutherland Shire and St George areas." A direction was given to police about midnight not to enter the area and antagonise these persons.

"About 4:30am police drove into the deserted street which is a residential area. Numerous taunts and racial slogans were seen written on the road . These messages were photographed. Some of the slogans identified the authors as being 'Leb' or 'Lebanese'. There were also a number of crude Lebanese flags drawn on the roadway. "During the evening police were advised by members of the public that the location is a rallying point for middle eastern criminals."

Senior officials and police were so spooked by the events of December 11, 12 and 13 - when a church hall was torched and children and parents attending a carols night were threatened and abused - and by the hundreds of text messages flying about calling for race violence, that a massive propaganda effort mobilised an extra 800 police to patrol the streets. As a show of force, it was mostly show. As one senior police source told me: "There was a terrible panic among senior police. They even thought of invoking the aid to civil power provisions [which allow military intervention]. "To get another 800 police on the streets, a lot of investigators from the State Crime Commission were pulled out and all the permanent task forces were decimated."

One month later, 14 people have been arrested for their roles in the anti-Lebanese violence at Cronulla and a Lebanese immigrant has been jailed for three months for burning the Australian flag at the Brighton-le-Sands RSL club in front of about 150 people on the night of the Cronulla demonstration. Soft targets. As for the far more sinister event, the large-scale, co-ordinated, premeditated attacks on scores of people and cars, not a single arrest has been made.

This was not the first such embarrassment of the police in the face of belligerent swarms of young Lebanese men. A retired detective, Tim Priest, in a lecture delivered exactly two years before the Cronulla riot, said: "In hundreds upon hundreds of incidents police have backed down to Middle Eastern thugs and taken no action and allowed incidents to go unpunished. I stress the unbelievable influence that local politicians and religious leaders played in covering up the real state of play in the south-west . My prediction is that within 10 years there will be no-go areas in south-western Sydney, just like Paris."

Within three days of the television images from Cronulla being broadcast around the world, and the violent response which followed, both houses of the NSW Parliament met in a special sitting on December 15 to push through laws to assist police in dealing with gangs or crowd violence. Yet when the Premier, Morris Iemma, talked tough about crime, anyone who had been watching the problem evolve over the years could not fail to notice the credibility chasm between his words and his actions. Responding to the Premier's tough talk, the Leader of the Opposition, Peter Debnam, told the Parliament: "The past 72 hours have been an absolute disgrace, including internationally, [and] blame should be sheeted home to the Labor Party of NSW for denying these problems for 10 years .

"What are the underlying causes of the problems that have surfaced during the past 72 hours? The Government admitted that the budget crisis has meant a reduction in police numbers in this state by 674 over the past two years . This Government's softly, softly strategy on ethnic crime is a disgrace and a betrayal of the NSW community. Yesterday I travelled around Auburn and I saw a church that had been burned down and church windows that had been smashed. On Monday night St Joseph's primary school was sprayed with bullets .

"I suggest that the Labor Party look back at the branch stacking undertaken in 1997 and 1998 and see who was involved in it. Unfortunately, one of the members involved is now the Premier." He was talking about 1996 and 1997 when Iemma was involved in a bizarre, large-scale ALP membership drive - classic branch stacking operations - which deployed hundreds of Muslim Lebanese-Australians as political ground troops.

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Martin Ferguson sets out a responsible approach to the climate controversies

Martin Ferguson is an influential figure in the Australian Labor Party (ALP)

Is the greenhouse effect real? The answer to this question will profoundly influence the course of global energy policy throughout the 21st century. As one of the world's biggest exporters of coal, uranium and natural gas, the stakes are high for Australia. Even if there were no greenhouse effect, there are other imperatives for the world to get a lot smarter about energy consumption.

Unprecedented world economic growth is creating unprecedented global energy demand, rising energy prices and faster depletion of non-renewable energy resources. These are genuine threats to our future economic wellbeing. Maybe worse, the unequal distribution of energy resources across the world is a real threat to future geopolitical stability. International initiatives such as the Kyoto Protocol and the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate have the potential to ease both these tensions. But although greenhouse gas reduction targets may be necessary, any frank review must conclude that the world's greenhouse emissions are not going down in the short term: they are simply being shifted from one country to another.

After all, the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitters are not bound by Kyoto. The US, as the world's biggest emitter, has refused to ratify the agreement. China and India, the second and fourth biggest emitters, are not required to reduce their emissions. And while we are often reminded by the Greens that Australia has the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions, let's not forget there are good reasons for that. Australia's relatively high energy intensity has to be considered in the context of the country's size and its relatively low population density, its climate, its heavy reliance on coal for power generation, and the presence of energy-intensive industries such as aluminium which form the backbone of the nation's wealth-generation capacity.

That is why it is a significant achievement of the Asia-Pacific Partnership's first meeting that the aluminium industry in the member countries reached an agreement on working together to reduce emissions. This is essential to overcome the problem of simply shifting emissions from one country to another and at the same time shifting Australian manufacturing jobs and prosperity offshore, to countries with lower environmental standards.

It is extraordinary that the Greens could place the economic security and jobs of their constituents at risk and at the same time advocate a worse greenhouse outcome by displacing Australian industry to countries with lower standards.

It's time to abandon the political correctness espoused by the green movement. Let's be real: without getting business on board we cannot achieve anything. The environmentalists are simply attacking the coal industry for the sake of it. Labor supports our aluminium and coal industries in their endeavours to develop lower emissions technologies. They are our big export earners, creating jobs and wealth for this country, and without economic prosperity no government can pay for the social and environmental welfare measures so vigorously demanded by the Greens.

The ALP knows full well that the key to a better Australia is jobs and economic prosperity and opportunity for all. To protect our economic future, we have to be part of the solution to the environmental impact of economic growth in our region, dominated by China and India. It is here that the Asia-Pacific Partnership really comes into its own. It offers Australia not only an opportunity for economic growth, but also allows us to be part of the solution to the environmental consequences of what is happening in our region, one of the most rapid economic expansions in world history.

Most rich countries have relied on coal, oil and gas to fuel their development. It's unreasonable and unrealistic to seek to deny emerging countries such as China and India the opportunity to expand their economies as rich countries have done. In the foreseeable future, they can do it only by relying heavily on fossil fuels and increasing their greenhouse gas emissions. Which is why cleaner technologies for the use of these fuels are the way forward. Those who hope to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and wave power need to come to terms with the reality that renewable energies, while they have an important and growing role to play, can't provide affordable and continuous base load energy.

Abandoning traditional base load power in favour of renewables would result in an indefinite global economic depression, condemning hundreds of millions of the world's poorest people to starvation.

Uranium is the other option for base load energy. Again, with nine out of 10 of the world's most polluted cities, no one can seriously deny China the right to pursue nuclear power as part of its energy mix, subject to the strictest non-proliferation safeguards. Similarly, no one can seriously suggest it is against the best interests of geopolitical stability for uranium to be supplied by responsible countries such as Australia, which take nuclear non-proliferation requirements seriously, and have a strict chain of custody procedures for uranium sales as well as bilateral agreements to deal with the safe and peaceful use of uranium and disposal of its waste products.

The failure of the UN conference last year to strengthen the non-proliferation treaty highlights the danger we face in driving the nuclear cycle underground and removing control of the nuclear materials trade from responsible nations.

The Asia-Pacific Partnership has a vital role to play in facilitating the development and use of clean technology, particularly in the fastest growing and biggest energy-using economies in the developing world that are not covered by Kyoto-style emissions targets. But it has to prove its value with concrete outcomes. Australia is pivotal in the partnership as a major supplier of clean energy resources to partnership countries and as a potential supplier of clean energy technologies. We can play a valuable part in achieving global security in both geopolitical and climate terms while securing our own economic future. But we must be part of the solution to the greenhouse challenge instead of just being part of the problem.


Australian anthropologist accused of mental illness by a strange expatriate American academic

The modern-day American Left does not of course have access to Stalin's psychiatric prisons as a means of dealing with dissenters but accusations of insanity do nearly as well. Never mind the fact that calling your opponent insane is completely "ad hominem" and, as such, an argument of no scholarly merit whatever. The article below deals with the Australian anthropologist (Derek Freeman) who conclusively demolished Margaret Mead's lies about the sexual permissiveness of primitive societies -- Lies which were for a long time immensely influential and eagerly seized on by Leftists.

The article summarizes a thesis put forward by Hiram Caton and if "ad hominem" arguments are of interest, I might note that in my own conversations with Prof. Caton, when he was Head of the "School of Applied Ethics" at Griffith University in Queensland, I found him to have some very odd views of his own (he thinks AIDS is a myth, for instance). He may even be right in his views but I would certainly not accept any of his judgments willy nilly. Those who live in glass houses .....

Just how far should scholars go in debunking intellectual opponents? Is persistence, to the point of ignoring one's own pursuits, a sign of mental instability? The case of Derek Freeman, the contentious Australian anthropologist who died in 2001 at the age of 84, raises both questions. For decades he relentlessly dissected and attacked the work of the noted anthropologist Margaret Mead, who died in 1978. Freeman sought to persuade his colleagues that Mead's pathbreaking work on Samoa was fundamentally misbegotten. In particular he criticized her first book, the one that made her reputation: Coming of Age in Samoa: A Psychological Study of Primitive Youth for Western Civilisation (1928). In it, Mead depicted casual sex among Samoan teenage girls to argue that adolescence is not a stressful time in all cultures....

Freeman was convinced that Mead had been duped into believing that Samoa was a sexual Shangri-La. He laid out his argument in two books: Margaret Mead and Samoa: The Making and Unmaking of an Anthropological Myth (Harvard University Press, 1983) and The Fateful Hoaxing of Margaret Mead: A Historical Analysis of Her Samoan Research (Westview Press, 1999). Freeman also participated in the making of a 1988 documentary, "Margaret Mead and Samoa", which included an interview with one of Mead's original informants, Fa'apua'a, who said, in the film's dramatic final moments, that indeed, she and her friends had fooled Mead....

Hiram Caton believes he has found compelling evidence to explain what drove Freeman. The recently retired professor of history and politics at Griffith University, in Australia, specializes in political psychology, with a particular interest in cult leaders and followers. He worked closely with Freeman from 1983 to 1993 and stayed in touch with him until his death. In "The Exalted Self: Derek Freeman's Quest for the Perfect Identity," published last year in the Canadian journal Identity, he argues that the anthropologist, who had a reputation for eccentric and antagonistic behavior, had a clinically diagnosable narcissistic-personality disorder. Freeman's urgency stemmed as much from that disorder as from his critique of Mead and cultural anthropology, Mr. Caton believes.

Not surprisingly, this starkly psychoanalytic view discomfits some scholars. Peter Hempenstall, a professor of history at the University of Canterbury, in New Zealand, is preparing a biography of Freeman with Donald F. Tuzin, a professor of anthropology at the University of California at San Diego. While he finds some of Mr. Caton's ideas "suggestive," Mr. Hempenstall says, the "presentation of Derek Freeman's personality as the result of a clearly established clinical pathology is too extreme and unconvincing."

The question of Derek Freeman's mental health and its role in his scholarly work is not new to close observers of the battle over Margaret Mead and her legacy. As Mr. Caton notes, Freeman was "shadowed by a reputation that he was a 'difficult man' who suffered from a mysterious psychological disorder." "Until his last breath," Mr. Caton says, "he denied imputations of a disorder, styled them 'defamatory,' and unequivocally affirmed his complete mental health and self-control."....

Mr. Caton says he became keenly aware of what he calls Freeman's "unusual psychology" during their extended collaboration. They conferred closely in a campaign to get social scientists to consider biological perspectives in their scholarship. During that time, Caton writes, Freeman gave him access to a large amount of his current personal correspondence and agreed to extensive interviews on his beliefs. That led Mr. Caton to ponder the complexities of the anthropologist's personality.

For instance, despite the obvious intensity of the two breakdowns, the correspondence unearthed by Mr. Caton reveals that Freeman did not suffer from long-term mental illness. No psychiatrist would suggest that Freeman was, say, schizophrenic. Rather, Mr. Caton argues, the documents suggest that Freeman's attacks on his opponents - whether real or perceived - stemmed from a narcissistic personality disorder. People with a narcissistic-personality disorder are generally arrogant, exploitative, and unempathetic, while exhibiting a grandiose sense of self-importance, observes Mr. Caton. They are preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success or brilliance, and they believe that they are "special" and can be understood only by other special people.....

Other anthropologists differ on whether Mr. Caton's use of the play and other evidence to argue that Mr. Freeman had a personality disorder is helpful, or even responsible. Paul Shankman, a Samoa specialist and professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, says the strength of Mr. Caton's analysis is his ingenuity in using such clues as Freeman's response to Mr. Williamson's play. That makes clear the dimensions of Freeman as "a deeply troubled individual," Mr. Shankman says. Moreover, he says, Mr. Caton "suggests how Freeman's psychological problems - with sex, aggression, dominance, and conflict - came to be personified in Margaret Mead."

Mr. Tuzin, of San Diego, is in the opposite camp. Mr. Caton's article, he says, "must be added to the long list of works that approach Derek Freeman ad hominem - this one with a vengeance - and prefer to dwell on his style and personality instead of the quality of his arguments."

Another former colleague of Freeman's, Michael W. Young, finds the article, and a similar one that Mr. Caton will soon publish, "compellingly argued" and "very persuasive." Both works "confirmed in a scientific manner what I knew about him intuitively," says the professor of anthropology at Australian National University, who knew Freeman and who in 2004 published a highly regarded first volume of a biography of Bronislaw Malinowski, the social-anthropology pioneer and South Pacific expert, titled Malinowski: Odyssey of an Anthropologist, 1884-1920 (Yale University Press).

And yet, Mr. Young says, "there is something about Caton's relentless dissection that is reminiscent of Freeman's own ruthless attempts to 'expose' others and demolish them. I sense an almost scary determination to lay the man bare. The overall effect, of course, is to diminish Freeman in some way - as all psychological biography tends to do - so it comes as something of a surprise when right at the end of his second paper Caton says something to the effect that he was an immensely talented man."

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Arts subsides mainly good for arts administrators

The episode of "Yes, Minister" in which a new hospital was running so efficiently that the administration resisted admitting any doctors and patients offers a chilling parallel with the state of the performing arts in Australia. Like that hospital, efficient administration is prized above quality and innovation....

It's often claimed we have a healthy arts industry. It is more accurate to say we have a healthy arts administration industry. The bulk of permanent staff of arts organisations are engaged in marketing, administration and finance. The people who write, design, stage and perform are mostly casual workers on short contracts.

The full-time staff mostly spend a short time in the arts industry before taking their marketing/finance/administration skills to a better paid environment. The practitioners are in it for the long haul.

There is an assumption that if performers are any good they should be capable of earning big money in Hollywood. The arts industry rightly touts our many successful international film actors as evidence to support increases in government subsidy for its administration, after all, the actors went to subsidised drama schools and appeared in subsidised local theatre and film before establishing overseas careers. But after the 10 or so of these actors who work internationally in movies, there are dozens more who often struggle just to make a living.

We have a lively fringe theatre scene, with new shows opening every week in old shirt factories, storerooms and backrooms. Much of this work is of a high standard. What is never publicly acknowledged is that most of the people who write, act in and design these shows will come away unpaid and, in many cases, have personally subsidised their seasons....

Arts boards present another challenge. It is thought important they have a good cross-section of members that include lawyers, accountants and businessmen. Indeed, one sometimes looks in vain to find anyone with arts experience on arts boards. I don't believe this happens in other professions. Creative people have the disadvantage that alone or in small groups, they generally don't have any infrastructure to use to tap into funding. Neither do they have a grasp of the language that governments understand.

So the Australia Council's promised new focus on practitioners is a good first step, but it will take fresh thinking to discover how actually to carry out this aim. There is also a considerable challenge to people in the profession to take a greater responsibility for the future of their industry. They must involve themselves in making decisions, join committees, write to the newspapers, make their opinions heard and not leave it to the bureaucrats alone to make the important decisions. They need to extend the exemplary commitment they show to working for their unions and go further.

This is not easy, either. The casuals who make and perform the arts are already committed to improving their craft, continually chasing employment and frequently running a second job to stay afloat financially. But in the end, the industry belongs to them, not to the necessary administrators and government funding bodies.

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14 January, 2006

Methinks the Commissioner doth protest too much

"Runs on the board" (a record of success) would be more impressive

NSW Police Commissioner Ken Moroney has strongly rejected "offensive" suggestions police have been directed by the NSW government to go soft on criminals of Middle Eastern background. Opposition Leader Peter Debnam has accused Labor politicians of ordering police to go easy on people of Middle Eastern appearance, who were blamed for revenge attacks after last month's race-related violence at Cronulla.

Mr Moroney today said the claims were a slur on him and all his police officers who have taken an oath to maintain justice without favour or bias. "I do not play politics and I am not about to start. "But this is an outrageous slur against everyone of my officers and I will not wear it," Mr Moroney told reporters. "I certainly know, having spoken to officers, that they find it offensive."

Mr Moroney also said he was concerned what effect the claims would have on the community. "One only has to listen to talkback radio today to gauge the effect it's had on the community. "What I am concerned about is the loss and the potential loss of support for the police who are out there doing their job."

Mr Debnam said no one had been arrested in connection with the retaliatory attacks, although many had been arrested for the violence at Cronulla. ``There is no doubt in my mind that the government has been going soft on ethnic crime for years,'' he said. ``The statistics would suggest the government is simply not putting the resources into rounding up these Middle Eastern criminals and thugs. The Labor Party seems to be indebted to certain ethnic groups.''

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Howard: Climate management 'must allow growth'

It is unrealistic to expect nations to sacrifice economic growth to halt global climate change, Prime Minister John Howard has said. Mr Howard told a conference of Asia-Pacific nations and corporations that growth was the only way many nations could reduce poverty levels among their populations. "The idea that we can address climate change matters successfully at the expense of economic growth is not only unrealistic but it also unacceptable to the population of Australia which I represent," he said. "(It's also) I'm sure unacceptable to the populations of all the other countries that are represented around this table."

Mr Howard, whose government has joined the US in refusing to sign the UN's Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions, said economic growth and climate solutions need not be mutually exclusive. "Our societies require of us that we find solutions to these issues that maintain the momentum of economic growth," he said, adding that new technologies could find a solution to the problem. "New technologies are therefore a credible and essential part of any suite of measures needed to reduce global emissions growth," he said.

Mr Howard said private enterprise must perform the bulk of the work needed to deal with climate change, reiterating a position that has become a central theme of this week's Asia-Pacific Clean Development and Climate Partnership. "Without the active partnership with the business community we are not going to achieve our goal," he said, The partnership, known as AP6, brings together ministers from US, China, India, Japan, South Korea and Australia with corporate giants such as Exxon Mobil, Rio Tinto, Peabody Energy and American Electric Power. Mr Howard pledged an extra $100 million for environmental projects in the next five years.


Even some on the Australian Left get climate realities

It looks like Martin Ferguson is an old-fashioned Leftist who actually cares about the welfare of the workers

Labor's left-wing powerbroker Martin Ferguson has urged the party to renounce the Greens and support the Howard Government's Asia-Pacific climate partnership. The Opposition resources spokesman said it was time to abandon the "political correctness" of the environmental movement and recognise the role of Australian business in providing jobs. "It is extraordinary that the Greens could place the economic security and jobs of their constituents at risk," Mr Ferguson said. "Let's be real - without getting business on board we cannot achieve anything."

Mr Ferguson, who also reiterated his support for nuclear power, opened a split in the party and the Left after acting Labor leader Jenny Macklin yesterday criticised the six-nation Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate talks in Sydney.

Ms Macklin attacked the conference's failure to set emission reduction targets and called for Australia to ratify the Kyoto Protocol of 1997, under which industrial nations agreed to collectively reduce their greenhouse gases by at least 5 per cent, compared with 1990 levels, by 2012....

Labor environment spokesman Anthony Albanese joined green groups yesterday in warning that the AP6 was no substitute for ratifying the Kyoto Protocol.

But after attending the talks yesterday, Mr Ferguson hailed the AP6 as "vital" to delivering cleaner, greener technologies and warned nothing could be achieved without getting business on board. "This is essential to overcome the problem of simply shifting emissions from one country to another and at the same time shifting Australian manufacturing jobs and prosperity offshore," Mr Ferguson said. "If the environmental movement got their way they'd close down the coal industry. It's time to abandon the political correctness espoused by the Green movement."

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Australian students waking up to what a poor investment many university course are

Australia's volatile higher education sector has fallen victim to the strong job market, with increased competition for students already starting to hurt smaller universities. One regional university, Central Queensland, has lost $5million in funding after being forced to return 490 student places to the federal Government for redistribution, having failed to attract enough students.

University applications continue to fall - down 3per cent, or 6607, this year, on top of a 5per cent fall last year - and the increased competition for students is driving a wedge into the higher education sector. Western Australia, with its low unemployment rate, has suffered the biggest drop in applications - down 8per cent on top of a 10per cent fall last year. According to figures compiled by the Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee, and released yesterday, Victoria is down 5per cent, Tasmania 3per cent and NSW and the ACT down 1per cent. Strong population growth has enabled Queensland to defy the trend with an increase of 3per cent, albeit after a 7per cent drop last year.

Australian National University vice-chancellor Ian Chubb yesterday warned that the dramatic student shift could have unintended political consequences for the Howard Government as it pursues major reforms in the sector. "The whole equilibrium is very fragile as we see a decrease in the number of fee-paying places, a substantial shift in student preferences, some universities handing back places and apparently other institutions offering low entry," Professor Chubb said. "So there is a whole different dynamic than there was a few years ago."

The strong job market, a push towards trades and higher university fees have meant students are responding in ways that were not predicted in the Government's education blueprint. Softer demand has brought lower entry scores and seen many students opt for the big brand institutions at the expense of smaller regional campuses. Acting vice-chancellor of the University of Queensland, Michael Keniger, said students could now get into metropolitan universities with lower scores than in the past so they were moving to the city. "We find it harder to fill places on our regional campuses," he said....

Professor Keniger said students were being more selective about what they wanted to study and where, rather than using the first-year as a bedding-down period. "I think we're certainly starting to see a separation of institutions," he said. "And that's a risk or an advantage."

Last year the Government injected an extra 10,665 new places into universities, rising to 39,000 by 2009. But with fewer students applying to university, the increased supply has driven entry scores down, prompting Education Minister Brendan Nelson to warn last month that standards were "unacceptably low".

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13 January, 2006

Flag burner jailed for three months

Miracles do happen

A [Lebanese] man who helped burn an Australian flag after the Cronulla race riot has been sentenced to three months in jail. Hadi Khawaja, 24, of Peakhurst, faced Sutherland Local Court today charged with malicious damage and entering enclosed lands with intent to commit an indictable offence during public unrest. Khawaja, who has been an Australian citizen since 1986, pleaded guilty to participating in damaging an Australian flag at the Brighton-le-Sands RSL on the evening of December 11 as retaliatory violence spread through Sydney suburbs.

His teenage co-accused, who cannot be named, is alleged to have climbed the flagpole and thrown the flag down to Khawaja who set it alight amidst a crowd of about 150 people.

Khawaja, who has faced court before over unrelated drug matters, had previously failed to answer a court summons in relation to a larceny charge, the court heard. A remorseful Khawaja today said he was sorry for damaging the flag. "It was a stupid thing to do and not something me as a person would normally do," Khawaja told the court. "I'd like to apologise to the whole Australian community for the act that I did."

Magistrate Paul Falzon sentenced him to concurrent jail terms of three months in prison for each offence, backdated to December 23. In sentencing, Mr Falzon said despite Khawaja not actually being involved in the race riots he had to take them into account. "In context of what happened at this time the item chosen was of significance to the majority of people who were in this country," Mr Falzon told the court. Khawaja is due for release on March 27.


"Emotive" Words Banned for Australian Government Employees

The latest trick in political correctness seems to be to label plain speech as "emotive" (Shock! Horror!). We read:

"Federal public servants will be told not to use emotive terms such as "eavesdropping", "propaganda" and "racial tensions" on government websites. The Thesaurus of Australian Government Subjects is aimed at providing public servants with a "broader vocabulary" of alternative and emotionless terms. Suggestions in the 175-page document, to be released this month, include:

* Surveillance should be used instead of "eavesdropping".
* Propaganda should instead be "communication" or "advertising".
* Racial tensions should be limited to "race relations".


Perhaps I have an excessively vivid imagination but I can imagine some quite pleasant race relations -- relations that certainly do not equate with racial tensions. And what government would not prefer to have its propaganda viewed as "communication" anyway? And I have always wondered about dropping eaves. They sound rather too heavy to drop.

China is being kind to Australia

Through the magic of trade

Resources companies are rushing to open new mines and restart dormant operations to catch the peak of the commodities boom as metal prices surge to long-term highs. On a day when both zinc and copper reached record highs, Kagara Zinc said it was planning to buy a second-hand treatment plant to get its Balcooma copper project in Queensland producing - and, at present copper prices, that would add another $58 million of cash margin to the company. Kagara is already riding the commodities boom with its 50,000 tonnes a year of zinc output. Nickel producer Fox Resources is another wanting to get on the copper and zinc bandwagon. The company, which released further promising drilling results from its West Whundo project near Karratha yesterday, is planning to start mining high-grade ore as soon as possible.

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Aged-care muddle

The article below does not even mention the vast bureaucratic maze that aged car providers have vto wade through in order to operate

A Queensland nursing home will employ overseas nurses to overcome a staffing crisis caused by a statewide shortage of up to 500 aged care nurses. The 60-bed facility at Yeppoon, which has tried for nine months to attract enough staff to open, yesterday received approval to hire four nurses from South Africa. [How big-hearted of the government!]

As well as the need to hire overseas staff, there are concerns Brisbane has an acute shortage of aged care beds. Aged care consultant Stan Manning said calculations based on State Government planning data showed another 7000 beds were needed. He said about 2000 places were needed on the southside, including some centres which were approved but had not yet opened, and a shortfall of 5000 beds on the northside. Mr Manning, the former head of Sydney's Wesley Mission, said it was taking longer for the elderly in Brisbane to find a place. "Most (northside) facilities have closed their waiting lists because they are now so long," he said. "It is taking people waiting for beds anywhere up to two to three years for a place to become available and be offered to them. "There is no doubt there is a problem because of the shortage of nursing staff right across Australia, but the situation is going to get dramatically worse. "Between now and 2021, there is going to be a 300 per cent increase in the number of people over the age of 80." .....

The staffing crisis has largely been blamed on the widening gap between what general and aged-care nurses are paid, a difference that has more than doubled in the past three years. The Federal Government boosted aged care funding last year but has been criticised for not ensuring the money was used to increase wages of aged care nurses, who are now paid on average $191.83 less than their hospital counterparts.

Despite that, however, Mr Gilkes said the shortage of aged care staff was not the biggest issue facing the aged health care industry. "To be honest, the biggest issue is actually finding land," he said. "You can't build a residential facility on an acre block. You need a reasonable tract of land, so that is the biggest issue in southeast Queensland." Queensland's 498 residential aged care homes care for 28,629 residents.

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12 January, 2006

Cutback for beach-violence operation

The Cronulla riot at least got the police off their behinds. A pity that's what it took

NSW police will scale back Operation Seta, established to deal with race violence after last month's riot in the Sydney beachside suburb of North Cronulla. Assistant Police Commissioner Mark Goodwin said Seta would be replaced by a scaled-down police presence in "at risk" beachside areas until the end of summer. When Seta shuts down at the end of January, an extra 142 police will be deployed to Cronulla, Bondi and Maroubra as part of the new Operation Beachsafe...

"Our latest intelligence is telling us that the risk of public disorder has dropped dramatically since the inception of Operation Seta," Mr Goodwin said. "I can assure the community we will continue to review intelligence for any potential outbreaks of violence or anti-social behaviour and we are in a position to respond swiftly." ...

But police were still appealing for public help in finding the three men wanted over a reprisal stabbing of a man at Woolooware about 10pm (AEDT) on December 11. A 23-year-old man was approached by the men near Woolooware Golf club and stabbed. Strike Force Enoggera today released comfit images of the three men of Middle Eastern appearance thought to be responsible for the attack.

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Lurching from one bungle to another

The Queensland Government was considering changes to its procedures for recruiting overseas-trained doctors in a bid to alleviate an acute staff shortage. Queensland Health has admitted facing a serious shortage of doctors and a cut in services when doctors' public hospital contracts run out on January 16. Hospitals were bracing for staff shortages caused by the retirement or resignation of doctors, as well as junior doctors moving to other departments or hospitals and staff taking leave.

The Queensland Medical Board raised concerns about the length of time it took to assess medical graduates, saying Queensland Health should space out its recruitment dates throughout the year to avoid a bottleneck of applications every January. Health Minister Stephen Robertson today said he would consider the suggestion. "In terms of our recruitment of overseas-trained doctors, if we can stagger that throughout the year then that may provide some improved workforce planning benefits which is something that I want to explore," Mr Robertson said.

Meanwhile, opposition health spokesman Bruce Flegg said an imminent reduction of emergency services at Caboolture, north of Brisbane, because of the doctor shortage would place more pressure on other southeast Queensland hospitals. The emergency department will feature just one junior doctor on night duty instead of the usual four. "It will overstretch the ambulance system, it will overstretch hospitals because they will have to provide retrieval teams to accompany these critically ill patients," Dr Flegg said on ABC radio. "The hospitals to which they are being transferred are themselves already under great strain and in no position to take extra critically ill patients."

However, Mr Robertson said Brisbane hospitals already regularly accept critically ill patients from Caboolture, playing down concerns they would not be able to cope with extra transfers. "The advice that I've received is that this is traditionally a quiet time of the year so hospitals ... don't have the level of demand coming through their doors as we see at other times of year so we have that benefit," Mr Robertson said.


Teaching by the book: All texts are not equal; some are much better than others

Below is an editorial from Australia's national daily, "The Australian"

It's back to the books for Victorian students - literally - with the state's Curriculum and Assessment Authority acknowledging literature is central to the study of English. Anyone out of touch with fashions in education theory might be surprised that anyone actually has to say this. But for years the idea that great books are anything special in studying literature has been dismissed by education ideologues who have encouraged the study of all sorts of "texts" - including websites and movies - at the expense of classic novels, poetry and plays of the English-language canon. As a VCAA discussion paper suggested in 2004, all sorts of print and electronic texts were suited for study, "rather than privileging traditional notions of literature". The idiotic idea that literary works that have entertained and instructed readers for centuries should compete for curriculum space with Salam Pax, a pseudonymous Baghdad blogger, reached its nadir late last year when the VCAA decided to reduce Year 12 English to just one book, plus a movie. And to ensure students were not overworked, they defined "book" to include film scripts.

While this was a first-class reform for education theorists who dislike any suggestion Shakespeare is superior to The Sopranos, it failed politics 101. Teachers rebelled and, before parents had a chance to join them, Education Minister Lynne Kosky said there would be no dumbing-down of Year 12 on her watch. The VCAA duly interpreted Ms Kosky's text and backed down. And now it has stated the centrality of literary texts for all English study in a revised statement of doctrine for all teachers issued last month. There is still a great deal of guff about the role of texts, including posters and advertisements. But at least the document asserts that literature "is fundamental to the English curriculum" and "that literary texts are identified as a primary focus for the study of English". As a statement of the bleeding obvious, this is hard to beat. And it is hardly a ringing endorsement of the universal values that great works of literature can teach us about other ages, and our own. But at least it acknowledges the primacy of literature in the teaching of English in Victorian schools.

This is good news. The Australian has always condemned the lazy, cynical sophistry that says one text is as good as any other in setting subjects for school study. By reducing the numbers of novels, plays and poems that high school students have to study, the curriculum commissars in state education departments around the country do their charges a disservice. They deny them the chance to engage with complex, creative work. And by prescribing digital detritus from our own era, instead of ageless literature, they have only confirmed for students what the young always know - that nothing interesting happened before they arrived in the world. The VCAA statement is one short step on the long road back to an emphasis on the academic excellence that comes from studying demanding texts. But it is a start.


The old "white Australia" policy still has some (cautious) advocates

But, as in the past, it is motivated by job protection rather than racism

"Australia's intake of skilled migrants with information technology expertise should be reduced to improve the prospects of local IT graduates who are struggling to find jobs, says an immigration analyst. Bob Kinnaird, of labour market consultants Kinnaird and Associates, said the Federal Government had brought in large numbers of IT workers over the past four years, even though there was a serious oversupply in the Australian labour market, particularly of graduates. He said the skilled migration program had effectively increased the IT graduate labour supply by nearly 80 per cent in recent years. During this time, 30 per cent of Australian IT graduates could not find full-time work. The policy had been a "miserable failure", Mr Kinnaird said, leading to an oversupply of entry-level programmers, high graduate unemployment and lower wages.

In his paper, commissioned by the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University, Mr Kinnaird said that in the past four years the number of visas granted to overseas students graduating in IT from Australian universities had increased by 62 per cent. The report said this had been accompanied by plummeting enrolments by Australian students in IT courses, which dropped by 36 per cent between 2001 and 2004. Mr Kinnaird said migrants were also losing out. "People lured to Australia on the promise of lucrative jobs in IT get here and find they don't have a hope of getting a job," he said. "It's a human disaster for these people who, in many cases, uprooted themselves and their families, leaving behind reasonably paid jobs [in India????], and find they are worse off when they come here.There's a heck of a lot of people driving cabs and working as security guards who are IT graduates."

Mr Kinnaird called on the Government to "substantially reduce" the intake of IT graduates through the skilled migration program until the market could absorb Australian IT graduates. He said entry-level programmers should be taken off the skilled occupation list. He also said the Australian Computer Society, which accredits the IT qualifications of applicants for permanent residency, should introduce tougher English tests and insist that overseas students spend three years studying IT in Australia, rather than two.

But Australian Computer Society chief executive officer Dennis Furini said that while there was possibly an oversupply of entry-level programmers, there was a shortage of specialists in areas such as e-commerce and network security. An Immigration Department spokesman said it relied on information from the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations to draw up the skilled occupation list. "The Immigration Department has no information suggesting IT jobs should be taken off the skilled occupation list," he said".


There are some comments of greatly varying quality on the above article here. I rather liked this one:

"It's an extreme example, but we used to have laws that made it illegal for black people to learn to read. Why? God forbid a black person should achieve the same ability to do a job as a white person.

We can't (ethically) prevent other people on this planet from educating themselves. We shouldn't (economically) prevent them from doing so either - a world with 50 million educated engineers is better than a world with 50 million people who can't read.

Australians (and Americans) don't lose jobs to immigrants because of migration. They lose jobs to them because the other person is better at doing the job, despite the inherent advantages they have in language and culture.

I work with immigrant engineering workers on a regular basis. These guys wern't born in the US, their families didn't speak english natively, they didn't grow up in this country - if these guys can do a job in a foriegn (to them) language, in a foreign culture, and to it better than a native.... whose fault is that? Getting (and keeping) a job is a competitive effort. I'd much rather see someone lose because the other person is better at the job than see someone lose because they were born in the wrong spot or have the wrong skin color.

And, at least in America, immigration is GOOD. Immigration lets us get young people to help fix our demographics problem. The best way to pay for all these damned baby boomers is to let a whole bunch of 20-something, educated immigrants into the country to pay taxes to support them (instead of letting them work in India where we don't get the money for our social system.)"

11 January, 2006

Plan to protect lying MPs

Leftist ethics on display in Queensland

Ministers will be free to lie to parliamentary committees without fear of criminal sanctions under changes proposed by the Beattie Government. The Opposition blasted the proposals yesterday, saying they would create one set of rules for politicians and another for public servants and members of the public called to give evidence to parliamentary inquiries. The changes have been prompted by the controversy surrounding former health minister Gordon Nuttall, who was found by a police and CMC investigation to have lied to a Budget Estimates hearing last year.

Such an action is punishable by imprisonment under the criminal code, but Mr Nuttall's government colleagues used their numbers in Parliament to impose a political sanction against him rather than a criminal one. He resigned as a minister and apologised for his actions.

Acting Premier Anna Bligh has now indicated the Government will move to protect MPs from prosecution for lying to committees, after CMC chair Robert Needham raised concerns about inconsistencies in the existing laws. "As a result of that I have requested the Attorney-General prepare advice and legislative options for Cabinet's consideration," she said.

Nationals MP Stuart Copeland, whose questioning of Mr Nuttall prompted the accusations the then minister had lied and the subsequent investigation, accused the Government of actively destroying a parliamentary accountability mechanism.


A health bureaucracy that seems unable to do anything right

Queensland's hospital crisis has deepened, with the State Government accused of trying to shift the blame for the looming doctor shortage on to the Medical Board of Queensland. With emergency wards across the state under threat of closure as early as Monday, an urgent meeting will be held today on how to fast-track doctor job applications. Health Minister Stephen Robertson yesterday ordered the medical board to speed up its processing of medical accreditation to bring hundreds of new doctors into the system.

But the independent medical board hit back, accusing Mr Robertson's department of dumping more than 150 incomplete doctor applications on the board last Thursday. Opposition health spokesman Bruce Flegg said the Government had attempted to shift the blame for its own failings. When existing employment contracts expire on Monday, emergency departments around the state face staff shortages and some elective surgery may need to be postponed.

Representatives of the Australian College of Emergency Medicine yesterday met acting health director-general Terry Mehan to raise concerns about the impact of doctor shortages. They warned only three hospitals - the Princess Alexandra, Gold Coast and Townsville - had filled all their emergency department staff allocations. They also claimed their warnings about doctor shortages had been disregarded for months, and concerns about Caboolture Hospital - where the shortages are expected to be most severe - were still being ignored.

Mr Robertson yesterday revealed he had ordered the medical board to be more "efficient, prompt and welcoming" in its processing of applications for registration. In a letter to board executive officer Jim O'Dempsey last month, Mr Robertson said delays in processing registrations were hindering the Queensland Health recruitment campaign. The Minister also demanded reports on how many applications had been delayed, and how an additional $3.7 million in funding allocated as part of the health reform process had been spent. Mr Robertson told The Courier-Mail the more stringent checks introduced in the wake of the Jayant Patel scandal in Bundaberg had created delays, but said there should be "no diminution of the standards that we have put in place" in fast-tracking the registrations.

Mr O'Dempsey accepted there had been some delays in registering doctors, "but this is necessary to ensure that doctors who are registered aren't frauds". He said Queensland Health had provided its "priority list" for registrations only last week - less than two weeks before the January 16 deadline - and many of the applications were incomplete. Of the 220 doctors identified, 91 had not supplied sufficient information and 68 had not lodged applications at all.

Mr Robertson said he had not been told of any problems with the quality of information being supplied to the board by his department. "The medical board haven't given the courtesy of alerting me to that particular issue, if in fact it did occur," he said.


New forum for a clean future -- and the nuke option

By Leslie Kemeny -- the Australian foundation member of the International Nuclear Energy Academy and a consulting nuclear engineer and physicist

It has taken eight years for the proponents and the supporters of a massively flawed and hugely expensive Kyoto Protocol to be challenged by a new international partnership set up to combat global climate change. The Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate comprises Australia, the US, China, India, Japan and South Korea. It represents over one half of the world's population and was established on July 28, 2005. The partnership will hold its first major conference and working party in Sydney this week. Prime Minister John Howard will be in attendance as well as senior ministers from all six countries. Industrial participation has been invited for tomorrow.

Australia's involvement in the Kyoto Protocol is now tenuous. As with the US, the country has ruled out any agreement that would set timetables and targets for greenhouse gas emission minimisation. Pragmatically and sensibly, Australia will not sign on to a treaty that is bad for sustainable development. Instead, the federal Government will seek to tackle global warming by using and developing low emission energy generation technologies. For these, a funding of $23 million will be provided. As well, a $500 million grant will be available for projects aimed at reducing emission from coal-fired power stations.

Astute observers of Kyoto consider that there is considerable merit in the Asia-Pacific Partnership model. Scientists and engineers believe that post 2012, the only way forward in the spirit of the Kyoto treaty will be the adoption of a "clean development" mechanism. This represents a mode of operation whereby members of the partnership assist each other in technology transfer appropriate to the needs, economies and development goals of the constituent countries.

They see an interesting partnership of two rapidly industrialising giants - China and India - and four developed countries. Of the six partners, five have extensive and growing nuclear power programs and the sixth, Australia, is the key supplier of clean, green nuclear fuel for such programs.

What impact would the implementation of the present form of the Kyoto Protocol have on climate change? The short answer to this is little, if any! Historically the protocol seems to be the product of coercive utopian green politics driven through the UN by segments of the European Union who have managed to outsource most of their heavy manufacturing projects and problems to other countries.

In contrast, the Asia-Pacific Partnership recognises the unique needs of both developing nations and resources supplying countries. It does not seek to mandate emission targets on disparate national jurisdictions and societies but seeks to promote clean energy technologies appropriate to them. And it proposes to allow a "clean development mechanism" and the workings of competitive clean energy source pricings to respond to national and international market forces. This ensures that climate change is minimised and sustainable development aspirations are maximised without heavy impacts on national economies.

Most energy experts now believe that the only effective solution to greenhouse gas minimisation and climate change is the global acceptance of nuclear power technology. In the UK in November 2005, British Prime Minister Tony Blair had backed plans to recommence building nuclear power stations in the UK, convinced that nuclear power is the only way to secure energy needs and to meet Britain's commitments to reduce carbon emissions. Studies prepared for Blair by David King, his chief scientific adviser and other advisers had shown that "renewable" energy forms such as wind had no hope of filling Britain's future energy needs nor of meeting greenhouse gas reduction targets.

Earlier, a declaration stating that nuclear energy should play an increasingly central role in the global fight against climate change had been signed by 25 members of the European Parliament. The declaration called for EU leaders to recognise nuclear energy's contribution in reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and called on politicians and decision-makers to back investment in low-carbon energy technologies, including nuclear power. The declaration also argues that nuclear energy's role in combating climate change should not be neglected on purely ideological or political beliefs.

Consider the immense contribution to greenhouse gas emission minimisation made by nuclear energy in 2003. In that year the global electricity produced by the world's 435 nuclear power stations was 2398TWh or 16 per cent of total primary energy production. The amount of avoided carbon dioxide emission because of the use of nuclear energy in 2003 was 2.4 billion tonnes. This is 10 per cent of total emissions. Japan's 54 nuclear power stations alone save the equivalent of Australia's total greenhouse emissions. And the secret of this success is uranium fuel imported from Australia.

Delegates from the developed countries attending Kyoto understood that behind the alarming growth of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the mechanism of population growth and energy usage in the developing countries. The UN anticipates that the present world population of 5.5 billion will rise to 8.5billion by 2025. Of this three billion increase some 2.8 billion will be in developing countries, which already account for 75 per cent of the world's population.

About this time it is estimated that China's greenhouse emission will be about four times greater than that of all industrial countries together in 1990! It is likely that even with a modest growth in its economy, by 2010 China's annual demand on primary energy will be equivalent to 1.8 billion tonnes of standard coal and 1600 billion kilowatt hours of electricity. China's present carbon dioxide emission per unit gross national product is around 6000 tonnes per US dollar - one of the worst in the world.

Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace and subsequently its president, recently berated those lobbying against clean nuclear energy. He says "activists abandoned science in favour of sensationalism", observing that "nuclear energy is the only non-greenhouse emitting power source that can effectively replace fossil fuels and satisfy global demand".

The 1997 Kyoto deliberations were ill-conceived and impractical. Delegates neglected the legitimate aspirations of the developing nations and seemed to be in denial as to the pivotal role of nuclear energy in greenhouse gas minimisation. It is to be hoped that the senior ministers and their staff attending the Sydney conference will be able to rectify these mistakes and signal a simple and transparent path ahead for both sustainable development and environmental conservation.


10 January, 2006

Spin doctor numbers surge

Queensland Health has been accused of being more interested in spin doctors than real doctors after a major expansion in its public relations staff in recent years. Figures provided to Parliament show the department has increased the size of its public relations and media management staff three times faster than it expanded its medical workforce. But the Government has defended the PR staff, saying they keep local communities informed of what's happening at their hospitals.

Health Minister Stephen Robertson told Parliament the number of full-time public relations and communications staff employed by the department grew from 32.05 in 2001-02 to 46.62 in December last year - an increase of more than 45 per cent. By contrast, annual reports tabled to Parliament show the medical workforce grew by just 14.43 per cent between 2001-02 and last year.

The number of nurses employed by Queensland Health grew by just 3.87 per cent over the four years, and the number of specialists retained as visiting medical officers actually fell by 17.7 per cent. The total health workforce expanded by 6.8 per cent over the period.

The cost of paying Queensland Health's PR professionals is this year expected to top $3 million for the first time on record, with a total wages bill of around $12 million since 2001-02. The department is now advertising a $100,000-per-year position for a director of public affairs in its corporate office. Mr Robertson said most of the PR staff were hospital-based information officers, and the number of public affairs staff in Queensland Health's head office had actually fallen from 20 to 14 as part of the health system reform process.

Liberal leader Bob Quinn, who asked Mr Robertson to provide the figures, said the results showed the Government's obsession with influencing public opinion on health rather than actually fixing the system. "What these trends show is that the Beattie Labor Government is more interested in protecting its own political hide than it is the health of Queenslanders," Mr Quinn said.


Diet author rejects red meat cancer link

The CSIRO yesterday stood by its Total Wellbeing Diet book, saying scientific evidence shows there is no link between red meat and colo-rectal cancer. Veteran nutritionist Dr Rosemary Stanton has asked Prime Minister John Howard to review the government-sanctioned diet which recommends a high intake of red meat. The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet recommends a red meat intake more than double the Government's own Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. The CSIRO's book sets down 800g of red meat a week or an average of 114g a day and at least 400g of fish a week or 57g a day.

Dr Stanton said the diet was better than the Atkins diet because it included carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables. But it still raised serious health issues - including the increased risk of bowel cancer. But co-author of the diet Manny Noakes said she stood by both the research and the diet. "The scientific evidence indicates that colo-rectal cancer is not related to fresh lean red meat intake," she said. "What is often overlooked is that abdominal obesity and lack of exercise contributes significantly to the risk of colo-rectal cancer as well as diabetes and heart disease. "The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet promotes exercise as well as an eating pattern which includes protective foods such as fish, wholegrains, fruit and vegetables." More than 550,000 copies of the book have been sold in Australia.


Mad schemes in councils gone wild

The mayor of Waverley, Mora Main, has a vision of a perfect world and it's practically car-free. Residents in Sydney's east who needed to get somewhere would borrow keys to "share cars" - preferably electric ones - from the council carpark and use them to, say, do some grocery shopping. The rest of the time, they could just walk serenely from place to place (lugging the children, car seats, sand buckets, mobile phones, handbags and the shopping) or glide along on the light rail (that doesn't yet exist).

Besides cars, Ms Main would also like to see fewer air-conditioners ("because we get beautiful seabreezes and it is only 40 degrees once in a blue moon"), and fewer backyard swimming pools (because the sound of children splashing can disturb creative types trying to work from home).

In recent weeks, she has been mocked for refusing to accept an Australian flag to fly over Bondi Pavilion.

In the course of promoting these ideas, Ms Main - who is 50 years old, never married, has no children and whose politics are Green - has been accused of being many things, among them a batty Leftie, an autocrat determined to tell others how to live, while being out of touch with the lives of "ordinary people".

In the letters pages of Sydney newspapers this week, many wondered whether Waverley council - which covers the famous Bondi Beach - had gone into "PC overdrive" and whether it was the maddest council in Australia. But there are quite a few contenders for the "Council Gone Wild" title.

Cairns City Council was once concerned about coconuts dropping on the heads of tourists as they walked along the Esplanade. Former councillor Bob Burgess wanted to pass a bylaw to allow macaque monkeys from Malaysia to collect the coconuts. "Each year it would cost a fortune to de-nut the trees," he said. He thought his 1989 idea of hiring monkeys would be cost effective and create a tourist attraction. "Sadly, my idea was ridiculed by people with less vivid imaginations," Mr Burgess said.

But it is not only regional councillors in Queensland who make mad decisions. The Gold Coast City Council last year erected a $25,000 pane of glass to silence hecklers in the council chambers.

In South Australia, Port Lincoln mayor Peter Davis recently suggested that asylum seekers who misbehaved while in detention could be silenced by, well, by being shot. "Tell them 'settle down boys or you might be buried'," Mr Davis said. "We'll only have to shoot a few to get the message across." Mr Davis - who says he doesn't "hold anything against people of Islamic origin" and says he happens to "love their Persian rugs and their banking system" - has also recommended ways to cook and serve up galahs.

Boroondara Council in Melbourne's east wanted to ban cricketers from hitting a six at the local ground. It decided that batsmen would score no runs if they hit a six over a certain boundary. This came after citizens complained about the risk of a ball hitting their car.

Nearby, at Glen Eira City Council, the Bracks Government last year sacked the entire administration because the councillors couldn't stop heckling each other. Another Victorian councillor, Vicki McClelland, who is now Frankston Mayor, was involved in a bitter battle with adversaries, who publicly criticised her weight, her taste for moccasins and suggested she work at the council tip.

The Tweed Shire Council (taking in Byron Bay to the Queensland border) was sacked last May after a report revealed that many councillors were "puppets" of a property development company that was trying to benefit from the coastal property boom.

And in Launceston, the council last year ordered a war veteran to take down his Aussie flag flying from a flagpole attached to his heritage-listed house because he didn't have a permit.

There was, of course, a politician who knew how to deal with stupidity, corruption and waste at the local council level: Victoria's Jeff Kennett. In 1999, he swooped over Victoria's 211 councils and sacked the lot of them. "It's wasn't because we thought they were incompetent, although there were certainly some very stupid decisions being made," Mr Kennett said. "It was mostly that we had too many, very small councils with too few ratepayers, so all the money was going on administration and not on services." Mr Kennett chopped the number of Victorian councils to 73. Labor, which opposed the policy when Mr Kennett was in office, has kept the numbers low.

Mr Kennett said: "People who were entrenched in office, who did appalling things, were the ones who screamed loudest." But he added: "No change will necessarily prevent a rogue council from developing. It still happens here in Victoria. When you want to re-paint a building, it can take months and then they come back and say, you can only paint it grey or some other dull colour. "What we need is a system where somebody can issue a permit for minor works, immediately, at a cost of around $10. Instead, we have a sheer stupidity, where councils are not decision-making bodies, they are avoiding making decisions, at huge cost."

Amid all this madness there are, of course, superb councils, such as the port city of Fremantle, in Western Australia, where Mayor Peter Tagliaferri has made it his goal to remove all residential rates within eight years. Mr Tagliaferri believes it well within council's ability to "give something back to the locals".

Back in Waverley, Ms Main has so far had the restrictions on pools and air-conditioners rejected, but the "share car" idea begins on January 20. There will be four cars - not hybrids, but petrol-driven Toyota Yarises - for residents to use. "It's not so radical," Ms Main said. "It's just somewhere between a hire car and a taxi." Asked if she had developed a thick skin while being heckled over the past few weeks, she paused and said: "Well, you've got to be quite centred."


9 January, 2006

Something in the wind?

Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer will meet US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington next week, after she was forced to cancel a scheduled trip to Australia. Ms Rice was to meet ministers from Australia, China, India, Japan and South Korea at the first Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate in Sydney. But she scrapped the trip to monitor the condition of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who is critically ill after a stroke. A spokesman for Mr Downer, who is currently in Mexico, said the minister would go to the US capital tomorrow. He and Ms Rice would discuss climate change, as well as regional security issues and the situation in the Middle East at their meeting on Monday, the spokesman said. A significant American delegation would still attend next week's climate forum in Sydney, he said. A spokesman for the US State Department said Ms Rice would likely visit Australia in March.


Disagreement about what's at steak

Not that the obesity warriors will care about the evidence for what they preach. As long as they are dictating to people, what they dictate does not interest them. But, for the rest of us, skepticism about food correctness is the only rational response to what we read below. Enjoy a juicy steak tonight!

It might be a best-seller, but a leading nutritionist says a popular Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) diet is baffling those battling the bulge.

Prime Minister John Howard has been asked to review the book The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet, on concerns from Rosemary Stanton and medico John Tickell that the diet recommends high amounts of red meat. The pair wrote to Mr Howard, saying the high meat content in the diet contravenes the government's own dietary advice. The Government's Australian Guide to Health Eating recommends consumption of 65 to 100g of lean red meat three to four times per week, but the new book advocates up to 300g of meat daily.

Ms Stanton said today the popular diet from the government-related agency, which has sold more than 500,000 copies in Australia so far, was better than the Atkins diet because it did allow a small amount of grains-based food. But she said it was confusing those desperate to shed the kilos. "They're (dieters) saying why do our dietary guidelines tell us to eat 65 to 100g of lean red meat three to four times a week," Ms Stanton told Macquarie Radio. "And yet the CSIRO diet says 200g of meat at night and then another 100g of meat, chicken or fish at lunch. What do I do? Which one do I follow?"

She said the diet was based on a CSIRO study of 100 women. Half the women were put on a red meat diet while half were put on a diet equally low in calories and equally low in fat, but with much less meat. Both groups achieved a relatively similar weight loss.

More here

Tim Flannery: Australian eco-nut

Next week the global debate on climate change comes to Sydney. Governments of the countries that consume most of the world's energy, dictate the world economy, house most of the world's people and which emit the largest share of greenhouse gases will meet to chart a new approach to climate change.

The meeting will be the first for the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate at a high level. Yet greens are hostile - they realise the partnership is a rival to the Kyoto agreement on climate control, which they prefer. Greenpeace says the partnership is a prescription for inaction. Paul Gilding, a former international director of Greenpeace, blames global warming for last week's record temperatures on our east coast. Anthony Albanese, Labor's shadow environment minister, has discovered the world's first global-warming refugees: fleeing from rising sea levels in Papua New Guinea.

WWF (formerly the World Wildlife Fund) has finally decided to enter the science debate. Its president, Rob Purves, has had his own foundation fund a new book by scientist Tim Flannery, the Australian humanist of the year in 2004 and author of the best-selling The Future Eaters. The book is The Weather Makers, the History and Future Impact of Climate Change. Bill Bryson and Jared Diamond have endorsed it, the former declaring on the cover: "It would be difficult to imagine a better or more important book."

So what case does Flannery put? It is a tract. For those who want to believe things are worse than they thought, that global warming will eliminate one in five living things, cause oceans to rise, make weather worse, melt the Arctic and Antarctic ice and the glaciers and cause people to migrate in large numbers, and have 243 references to demonstrate this, then this is the book for them.

For those genuinely curious about the scientific debate about global warming, the message is buyer beware. At times Flannery's writing is lyrical. His account of flora and fauna in the valleys and mountains of PNG is a delight. But, like Diamond, he is attracted, fatally, to the grand lateral leap in thought.

In The Future Eaters, Flannery makes a superficially persuasive case that Australia is overpopulated. Our (we humans) environmental footprint is too large. We consume more of the natural environment than is available. His leap in thought is that we are like ruminant carnivores that overgraze when herds are too large. However, Flannery does not account for the one thing that separates us from other species - our capacity to develop and use technology. The world's population has doubled since 1950, yet we are feeding people from a smaller area of cultivated land because we have applied technology.

Flannery makes similar leaps in The Weather Makers. His frame of reference for understanding global warming is Gaia. This is the idea that the Earth is one integrated ecosystem. Conceptually it is like a pseudo-scientific Earth Mother. He expressly rejects "reductionism", that is trying to establish the causal relationship of how one action affects another, such as how increased levels of carbon dioxide actually cause the Earth to warm. To quote him: "Saying that something causes something is an unhelpful way of thinking. Instead, what we have are seemingly insignificant initial occurrences - such as an increase of atmospheric CO2 - that lead to runaway change."

This is a handy logical let-out given that "what is causing what" is the key question for those advocating measures that will reduce the capacity to eliminate poverty. Flannery's most astonishing point is that the Earth's biosphere is shaped by "telekinesis" (how Uri Geller used to bend spoons with apparently paranormal telepathic powers). Activity in one part of the system remotely causes changes in others.

Consider what Flannery is implying. Do these big-concept, if not other-worldly, ideas warrant the discarding of a normal test in science to prove claims that one thing causes another? Would a construction company employ Geller to use his paranormal powers to build a skyscraper instead of using cranes on the basis of the theory implied in an otherwise implausible event?

Flannery hews to the Greenpeace and WWF orthodoxies on global warming and provides what he regards as evidence to support their positions. Basically he has collected every piece of research in recent years that demonstrates the impact of global warming. He treats the work of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as establishing a probability that the Earth's temperature will rise.

His pro-Kyoto scientific colleagues have always been more careful. John Zillman, the former head of the Atmospheric Research Division of the CSIRO, is always careful to state that the UN just laid out scenarios for temperature increases (the range was between 1.8C and 5.8C by 2100 and no probability was attached to them).

Flannery seems to be fully integrated into the green policy stream. Even the title of his book, The Weather Makers, seems calculated to emphasise the most current claim by green groups that global warming is causing intemperate weather. Ian Plimer, a professor of geology at Adelaide University, says there is no basis for such a claim. If Flannery says global warming is causing sea levels to rise, maybe we can't blame Albanese for saying this is happening in PNG, despite the fact the IPCC itself concluded in 2001 that there was no evidence of increases in global sea levels in the 20th century.


8 January, 2006

Psychiatric care policy under broad attack

The NSW Government struggled yesterday to defend its policy of putting the mentally ill back into the community after a revolt by police and health industry unions. The NSW Police Association backed its commissioner, Ken Moroney, who said officers should not have to deal with "every madman" being let out. The uproar follows a pitchfork and knife attack, according to Mr Moroney, by a mentally ill man this week on four police officers on the state's central coast, which resulted in serious injuries to three of them. The event has reignited a debate about closing down large mental institutions and releasing patients into the community.

Deputy state Liberal leader Barry O'Farrell said yesterday the Government had implemented only half of the recommendations of the major mental health report by public service strategist David Richmond. The Government had closed down the institutions without providing adequate services to enable discharged patients to cope in society, as Professor Richmond recommended in his 1983 report, Mr O'Farrell said. The secretary of the Comprehensive Area Service Psychiatrists Network, Alan Rosen, said community intervention teams had been "starved of resources". Some had closed down, while others had restricted their hours. Public psychiatry was "chasing its tail" as a result.

The police association's Luke Hannon said the pitchfork case should have been dealt with by trained mental health experts. Health Minister John Hatzistergos claimed yesterday figures ranking NSW fifth in terms of states' per-capita spending on mental health were out of date. State director of forensic mental health John Basson said the Government was trying to catch up with earlier inadequate spending on helping the mentally ill to cope in the community.


Two maverick letters that the "Sydney Morning Herald" somehow printed

Cool change on the way, but not for another decade

Scientific evidence is emerging to show the world's mean temperature will drop by 0.4 to 0.7 Celsius over the 25 years starting in 2015. This cooling will come about because the solar sunspot cycle will collapse sometime between 2011 and 2022 and remain subdued until the 2040s.

I know this is hard to believe, given the recent heatwave conditions. However, in the past 1000 years, on each occasion when the sunspot cycle has collapsed, the world's mean temperature decreased significantly. We should start preparing for these cooler temperatures.

Ian Wilson Toowoomba (Qld)


Three correspondents (Letters, January 3) claim that on the basis of a few recent hot days, global warming is now proved. Not so fast. That may be so, but the evidence is by no means set yet, if it ever will be, because there are plenty of reputable scientists who disagree.

Last month was Perth's coldest December on record, and while December here was on average very hot, it was made so by a few extreme days. If you cast your mind back, a lot of people remarked how mild the first part of December was and that Christmas Day was relatively pleasant.

Tasmania is experiencing cool weather while Europe is in the grip of one of the worst cold snaps for many years.

New Year's Day was reported as the hottest in 67 years, which suggests that there were very hot days more than half a century ago, too. I'm not opposed to the reduction of carbon dioxide and other pollutants but let's not make claims that are accepted only because the bandwagon is passing by.


Ice cores show warming 'natural'

Hundreds of thousands of years worth of climate records in ice cores show there is nothing unusual in a global warming trend over the past 25 years. Marine geophysicist Bob Carter, a professor at Queensland's James Cook University and leading climate change sceptic, said the effects of human activity would barely register in the long-term history of climate change. He told The Weekend Australian that ice cores from Antarctica "tell us clearly that in the context of the meteorological records of 100 years, it is not unusual to have a period of warming like the one we are in at the moment".

Dr Carter disputed the theory that human activity was making a current - natural - warm period hotter: "Atmospheric CO2 is not a primary forcing agent for temperature change." He argues that "any cumulative human signal is so far undetectable at a global level and, if present, is buried deeply in the noise of natural variation".

Fellow sceptic William Kininmonth, a former director of the Bureau of Meteorology's National Climate Centre, agreed. He wrote in a 2004 book, Climate Change: A Natural Hazard that there was "every reason to believe that the variabilities in global temperature and other climate characteristics experienced over the past century are part of the natural variability of the climate system and are not a consequence of recent anthropogenic activities".

But other leading scientists, who blame human activity for climate change, say the "denialists" are a one-to-99 minority. Will Steffen, director of the Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies at the Australian National University, said: "There is no debate. The debate is over." The evidence that human activity had increased emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, adding to natural warming, was "overwhelming", he said...

More here

7 January, 2006

Communism in Australia!

In 1853 Nathan Chase Thompson, a Scottish seaman, arrived at Lord Howe Island and fell in love with its lush green peaks and bright blue lagoon. He settled on the island and later built its first timber house. Now his descendants are fighting for their future on the Pacific island - 700 kilometres north-east of Sydney - under a plan to give some of their land to newer residents. To squeeze more people onto the island without encroaching on its World Heritage-listed national park, the Lord Howe Island Board has developed a policy that transfers land from families with a lot to those with none.

A descendant of the seafarer, Rodney Thompson, belongs to one of the five families that must give up part of their land. His family will lose 6.8 hectares. He said the family had planned to give the land, held under a "special lease" that has been renewed every 10 years, to its younger members when they turned 18. But now bids for the land will go into a ballot restricted to people who do not already have leases and who have lived on the island for more than 10 years. Mr Thompson said: "A person who has lived here for a few years can take the land back from us, the descendants of Nathan Thompson, the original settler. I imagine if Nathan Thompson knew they were going to take his land away he wouldn't have settled here in the first place."

Twenty-five parcels of land will be distributed over the next 20 years. The first draw, for 12 blocks, will be in April. Compensation had not been discussed, Mr Thompson said. "The board are proposing to take the land from the island people and sell it and make a huge profit. I imagine [my land] would be worth something like $600,000 to $700,000, but they haven't talked about giving us any money back."

Four of the leaseholders affected are considering legal action against the board, and Mr Thompson has called on the Independent Commission Against Corruption to investigate its actions. The board's chairman, Tony Fleming, said the Lord Howe Island Act allowed the Government to withdraw special-lease land at any time if it was needed for housing.


Market forces keep students out of useless courses

Expensive university fees have been blamed for a sharp drop in people seeking a tertiary education, as demand stagnates for full-fee places. University admissions figures show applications for entry to Victorian institutions fell 4.2 per cent, compared with courses last year. For NSW and the ACT, they are down 1 per cent.

As Year 12 graduates prepare for next week's first round of offers of university places, data from the Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre shows the number of students vying for a spot fell 1.6 per cent. "School leavers and their families are starting to raise more questions about the worth of going on to university," said Richard James from Melbourne University's Centre for the Study of Higher Education. "The costs of university courses have gone up" and that had been widely discussed in the media, he said.

The figures were delivered to Victorian Education Minister Lynne Kosky in a brief, which also revealed a plateauing of student applications for full-fee-paying places. "Preferences for fee-paying courses have barely changed, totalling 1725," the brief says.

Ms Kosky said it was clear that the federal Government's plan to increase university places through fee courses was not working, and students were unable to afford higher education without financial relief. "The FEE-HELP scheme is there but students are not picking it up," Ms Kosky said. "If that's an assumption the federal Government has made about the way they're going to grow higher education places, and the attitude is they can't pay either now or through FEE-HELP, that has some serious implications for the higher education of this nation."

The Victorian figures also reveal a sharp decline in applications by non-school-leavers. They were down by almost 2300, or 7.7 per cent. "They're the ones who've been applying year after year and they're obviously giving up," Ms Kosky said. The Minister said the data did not remove the need for extra commonwealth-funded university places in Victoria - a demand she made after a decline in federal revenue. "The shift is very slight in demand for university places. It's about 4000 students who miss out, so we still need extra places to meet the demand," she said.

Universities Admissions Centre data for NSW and the ACT shows Year 12 applications are down by 0.4 per cent and non-school-leaver applications are down 2 per cent.


Australia's refugeee Sudanese getting into their stride

Australia has recently taken in its first substantial number of Africans -- refugees from Sudan

A feisty young woman has scared off a bunch of masked thugs by kicking one of them in the groin. The woman, 21, and a male friend were ambushed in Flemington, Victoria about 11pm (AEDT) on Wednesday. The thugs, wearing bandanas, snatched at the Brunswick woman's handbag but she fought back and sank several kicks into the groin of one. The attackers then fled.

The gang is believed to be responsible for an attack minutes later in the Newmarket railway station underpass. A man, 32, was menaced with a knife then punched and picked, ending up in the Western Hospital with a broken nose after his mobile phone and an electronic diary were stolen. Police suspect the group was also responsible for four other burglaries and robberies around the same period: two in Ascot Vale, one in Carlton and another in Footscray.

It is believed they may have been travelling in an old grey Toyota Celica. The men were of African appearance and aged in their late teens and early 20s.


Australia's ingrained taxicab stupidity

Hailing a taxi in Melbourne can be a frustrating experience. If it's a Saturday night, chances are you will be waiting a while because there simply aren't enough taxis available. Yet on a Wednesday afternoon, you're likely to be greeted by an abundance of yellow cars as there are not enough customers to hire them. Melbourne's taxi numbers are insufficient in periods of high demand and this is most evident around Christmas and New Year. It's a stark reminder that something just isn't right with our taxi market. The problem is one of regulation, and there are two main aspects to this.

Entry regulation involves the Government restricting the number of taxis operating in the city at any time. Fare regulation involves the Government dictating to taxis what fares must be charged to customers.

The problem with taxi availability stems from entry regulation preventing additional taxis from entering the taxi market during times of high demand: such as on public holidays, the spring racing carnival and other major sporting events. And we can predict too well how the Commonwealth Games will worsen our taxi shortage as Melbourne handles the expected influx of interstate and international visitors. Entry regulation also restricts an increase in taxi numbers in a city as the overall level of demand for their services increases over time.

Fare regulation stops taxis from lowering or increasing their fares to correspond to the level of demand at different times. Such adjustment would provide an effective way of avoiding long lines at taxi ranks during periods of high demand.

Over-regulation is costing taxi users. A 1999 study by KPMG estimated that entry regulation costs Melbourne taxi customers $72 million every year in the form of higher fares. Six years later that cost must be even higher. This is especially burdensome for those who cannot rely on public transport, such as the elderly and disabled. The only means to remedy these problems is to change the way Melbourne's taxi market is regulated.

By replacing entry and fare regulation with a system in which anybody can own and operate a taxi (provided they obtain a taxi driver's licence and adhere to appropriate safety rules and standards) and where taxis can charge what fare they like, Melbourne's taxi market would function far more effectively. That's exactly what has happened in Dublin. After deregulation occurred in 1997, the quality of taxi services improved sharply in the Irish capital. Between 1997 and 2001, the proportion of customers waiting for a taxi longer than five minutes decreased from 72 per cent to 51 per cent. In 1997 the average waiting time for a taxi after midnight in Dublin was more than 30 minutes in 43 per cent of the hours surveyed. In 2001 this had decreased to 6.2 per cent. Significantly, just under half of taxi customers surveyed believed that taxi services had improved between 1997 and 2001 while only 6.2 per cent believed they had worsened.

It is only by removing the impediments to competition within the taxi industry that services can be improved. The Government should intervene for Melburnians and not just act to protect the interests of taxi licence holders. Both major political parties have been guilty of this protection. Transport Minister Peter Batchelor recently ruled out any relaxing of entry or fare regulation. So Melbourne taxi customers can expect to be waiting in line for a cab long into the future.


6 January, 2006

Crazy mental health system

To the Leftists who dominate our mental health systems, almost nobody is loony these days (unless you are a "racist", of course). I wonder why?

An attack on four police officers by a man wielding a pitchfork on the New South Wales Central Coast has prompted calls for an urgent review of the mental health system. Senior Constable Todd Weston was recovering in hospital today after a 41-year-old mentally ill man allegedly stabbed him in the arm outside a Lake Haven home. Two other officers also were injured in yesterday's melee, with one treated for knife cuts to the hand.

NSW Police Commissioner Ken Moroney today said the attack was further evidence of a mental health system in crisis. "My officers are out there every day having to deal with this problem and I have had a gutful," he said. "You can understand my frustration - it is not only for the safety of my officers, but also on behalf of mentally ill people and their families." Thousands of police were taken off the beat each day to deal with the mentally ill, particularly in rural areas, Mr Moroney said. "This takes them away from their other policing duties. It means there are less officers available to cover daily tasks."

He said yesterday's confrontation was not an isolated incident. "After the attack officers from the same police station went on to deal with nine other matters involving a mentally ill person last night and this morning," he said. "The numbers are staggering and they are only climbing as more and more mentally ill people come into contact with police. "This is an issue beyond policing, it is an issue beyond state borders, it has become a national health issue."

NSW Health Minister John Hatzistergos agreed the mental health crisis "required national action". He said authorities often had to deal with mentally ill patients who had drug-induced violent psychotic episodes. "Particularly in relation to the psycho-stimulants you can get quite aggressive and quite violent and unpredictable behaviours," he said.

NSW Police Association spokesman Luke Hannon said reform was long overdue. "It is clear that too many high-risk people, with little or no health and other support are being released into the wider community," he said. "The Government must urgently address this tragedy of the mentally ill."

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What you say when you are fresh out of ideas

A ludicrous apology for a serious political party policy: Pure political hot air

Australia must prepare to take in a new class of environmental refugees from the Pacific if the worst fears of climate change are realised, federal Labor says. Under its Pacific climate change plan, released today, Labor said a regional coalition should develop a strategy to relocate thousands of islanders when their island homes become uninhabitable. Low-lying Pacific island states such as Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, and Tuvalu - which sit just a few metres above sea level - are at risk of being swamped as global warming forces sea levels to rise.

"We should be part of an international coalition which is prepared to do our fair share," Opposition environment spokesman Anthony Albanese said. "The alternative to that is to say, and I don't think any Australian would accept this, that we're going to sit by while people literally drown."

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Ian Plimer excoriates the global warmers with the aid of historical facts

Ian Plimer is a professor of geology at the University of Adelaide and former head of the school of earth sciences at the University of Melbourne

Heat, bushfires. Just another Australian summer, some hotter, some wetter, some cooler, some drier. As per usual, the northern hemisphere freezes and the blame game is in overdrive. At the 2005 UN Climate Change Conference in Montreal, Greenpeace's Steven Guilbeault stated: "Global warming can mean colder, it can mean drier, it can mean wetter, that's what we're dealing with."

It is that simple! If it's hot, it's global warming; if it's cold, it's global warming. Demonstrators in frigid temperatures in Montreal chanted: "It's hot in here! There's too much carbon in the atmosphere!" The same apocalyptic Guilbeault says: "Time is running out to deal with climate change. Ten years ago, we thought we had a lot of time, five years ago we thought we had a lot of time, but now science is telling us that we don't have a lot of time." Really.

In 1992, Greenpeace's Henry Kendall gave us the Chicken Little quote, "Time is running out"; in 1994, The Irish Times tried to frighten the leprechauns with "Time running out for action on global warming, Greenpeace claims"; and in 1997 Chris Rose of Greenpeace maintained the religious mantra with "Time is running out for the climate". We've heard such failed catastrophist predictions before. The Club of Rome on resources, Paul Ehrlich on population, Y2K, and now Greenpeace on global warming.

During the past 30 years, the US economy grew by 50 per cent, car numbers grew by 143 per cent, energy consumption grew by 45 per cent and air pollutants declined by 29 per cent, toxic emissions by 48.5 per cent, sulphur dioxide levels by 65.3 per cent and airborne lead by 97.3 per cent. Most European signatories to the Kyoto Protocol had greenhouse gas emissions increase since 2001, whereas in the US emissions fell by nearly 1per cent. Furthermore, carbon credits rewarded Russia, (east) Germany and Britain, which had technically and economically backward energy production in 1990.

By the end of this century, the demographically doomed French, Italians and Spaniards may have too few environmentalists to fund Greenpeace's business. So what really does Greenpeace want? A habitable environment with no humans left to inhabit it? Destruction of the major economies for .07C change?

Does it matter if sea level rises a few metres or global temperatures rise a few degrees? No. Sea level changes by up to 400m, atmospheric temperatures by about 20C, carbon dioxide can vary from 20 per cent to 0.03 per cent, and our dynamic planet just keeps evolving. Greenpeace, contrary to scientific data, implies a static planet. Even if the sea level rises by metres, it is probably cheaper to address this change than reconstruct the world's economies.

For about 80 per cent of the time since its formation, Earth has been a warm, wet, greenhouse planet with no icecaps. When Earth had icecaps, the climate was far more variable, disease depopulated human settlements and extinction rates of other complex organisms were higher. Thriving of life and economic strength occurs during warm times. Could Greenpeace please explain why there was a pre-Industrial Revolution global warming from AD900 to 1300? Why was the sea level higher 6000 years ago than it is at present? Which part of the 120m sea-level rise over the past 15,000 years is human-induced? To attribute a multicomponent, variable natural process such as climate change to human-induced carbon emissions is pseudo-science.

There is no debate about climate change, only dogma and misinformation. For example, is there a link between hurricanes Katrina and Rita and global warming? Two hurricanes hit the US Gulf Coast six weeks apart in 1915, mimicking Katrina and Rita. If global warming caused recent storms, there should have been more hurricanes in the Pacific and Indian oceans since 1995. Instead, there has been a slight decrease at a time when China and India have increased greenhouse gas emissions. The impact of hurricanes might seem more severe because of the blanket instantaneous news coverage and because more people now live in hurricane-prone areas, hence there is more property damage and loss of life.

Only a strong economy can produce the well fed who have the luxury of espousing with religious fervour their uncosted, impractical, impoverishing policies. By such policies, Greenpeace continues to exacerbate grinding poverty in the Third World. The planet's best friend is human resourcefulness with a supportive, strong economy and reduced release of toxins. The greenhouse gases - nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide and methane - have been recycled for billions of years without the intervention of human politics.


Pre-school: The usual Leftist policy of the bludgeon

Parents should be forced to send their children to pre-school or face the loss of their family tax benefit payments, according to Labor MP Craig Emerson. Family payments were meant to compensate parents for the extra costs of raising children, the federal Labor backbencher said yesterday, but the money was being handed out to families with no obligation to spend it on the children.

"It is now generally accepted that early childhood development is crucial in determining the life chances of young people," he told The Australian. "Access to a pre-school education is vital in ensuring children are ready to learn from day one at school." It made no sense that some payments carried obligations while others did not, Dr Emerson said. The federal Government had so far tackled only reciprocal arrangements for Aborigines, parents on unemployment benefits and those getting single-parent payments. "Why should black and white families in urban areas be excused from any reciprocal obligation?" he said. "Family payments are passive welfare. If you have dependent children you receive family payments directly into your bank account, no questions asked."

The comments follow demands by Liberal backbenchers who claim some state-run pre-schools are so poor parents are opting for long daycare instead. But the backbenchers say long daycare fails to provide children with the basic literacy skills needed for primary school.

Dr Emerson's plan is controversial because politicians from both sides of politics have treated family tax benefit payments as obligation-free handouts from the federal Government. But Dr Emerson said it was odd mutual obligation did not apply to family payments. "It's a large area of payment - it's $14billion that's spent on family payments, essentially no questions asked." Under his scheme, pre-schools would be available for all children so parents could fulfil their side of the bargain. He said parents whose children were regularly absent from school should be interviewed by Centrelink and threatened with having payments withheld. Dr Emerson said his plan was different to the Government's mutual obligation schemes - which have so far targeted only Aboriginal families - because parents would be offered support, not just punishment. "Commonwealth and state support staff would be made available to assist with transport, remedial learning, positive parenting and counselling," he said. [More bureaucracy! Hooray!] "Opponents of proposals like this argue for the rights of the parents," he said. "But parents do not have the right to neglect and abuse their children. Defenceless children have rights, and we must protect them."


5 January, 2006

Courts 'going soft' on offenders

Queensland courts have been attacked as out of touch with community attitudes to crime after repeatedly failing to give serious violent offenders maximum jail terms. Not one of 477 people convicted of rape, attempted rape, robbery or serious assault in major courts last financial year was given the maximum sentence. Only 310 were sent to jail, with 24 given wholly-suspended sentences and 143 receiving intensive correction orders - sentences served in the community....

State-wide statistics, which have only been collated since March last year, showed the same result, with no maximum sentences for 288 offenders in the same categories. In major centres, 62 people were convicted of rape, with 53 receiving some time in jail. One rapist received a wholly-suspended prison sentence, and eight others were given intensive correction orders. The courts also recorded 157 convictions for armed robbery, with only 92 people facing jail time.

Queensland Police Union president Gary Wilkinson blasted the judiciary as "chardonnay-sipping lawyers who don't understand the system and have more sympathy for the offenders than they do with the victims". "Police are often frustrated by decisions of the courts in Queensland because more often than not the judges and magistrates apply the softly-softly approach with violent offenders," he said. "It's about time that Queensland courts gave these offenders the sentences they deserve."

Ms Lavarch said there was "difficulty and complexity" involved in sentencing criminal offenders, with an individual set of factors to be considered in each case. "Sentencing will always be a difficult balance when taking into account the punitive aspect, the victim's and society's concerns and the needs of the offender concerning rehabilitation and re-offending," she said.

Mr Wilkinson said most people involved in offences such as armed robberies were repeat criminals, and had little chance of rehabilitation. He said most of those people were not first offenders and that the "argument (of rehabilitation) doesn't wash".

Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg said the figures showed the State Government was "soft on crime", and committed a future coalition government to an overhaul of Queensland's sentencing laws. "To have 477 people convicted of crimes such as rape, attempted rape and armed robbery and to find that not a single one of those people received the maximum jail sentence speaks volumes about . . . Labor's failure to protect our community," he said.

Ms Lavarch said the State Government shared community concerns about crime. "I will continue, as did my predecessor, to receive advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions and if I am of the view that a particular sentence is manifestly inadequate I will exercise my right of appeal to have the appropriateness of that sentence tested before the Court of Appeal." A spokesman for Ms Lavarch said the Attorney-General and her predecessor Rod Welford had appealed 16 sentencing decisions last year.


Inquiry backs teachers' fears about nutty new methods

Teachers critical of a radical overhaul of education in Western Australia are suffering "substantial anxiety" and their concerns are valid, a parliamentary inquiry has found. A committee examining the controversial rollout of outcomes-based education - a system in which no student can fail and all subjects are equal - in Years 11 and 12 has recommended delaying a range of courses unless the curriculum council can produce subject information by early next year. "The concerns of teachers and schools remain valid and there needs to be recognition that both the stress levels of teachers and the educational needs of students will not be served by courses of study being commenced with insufficient resources," the committee reported yesterday.

More than 100 of the 182 submissions received by the committee, chaired by Labor MP Tom Stephens, addressed the issue of readiness. "The anxiety felt by some teachers is exacerbated by a perception that the new curriculum is being developed, at least in part, on the run," the report says.

The curriculum for outcomes-based English and engineering studies has been completed and will be introduced to Year 11 next year. Curriculum council acting chief Greg Robson said the 50 outcome-based courses - which include dance, food science and technology, and philosophy and ethics - were being developed in phases, which might give the wrong impression. "It's a well-planned, well-considered process - it's just that it's phased over time," he said. "People may draw from this that courses are being developed on the run, but the reality is there's been a long and extensive development process for all the courses." Mr Robson said the curriculum council could meet the deadlines and was confident all the courses would be implemented by 2009. However, if there were any glitches in the preparation of support material for teachers, the council would recommend a delay.

People Lobbying Against Teaching Outcomes spokesman Greg Williams, a maths teacher, said there was not "a snowball's chance in hell" the council would have the material ready. Melbourne education consultant Kevin Donnelly said the report was almost an admission that teachers had been 100per cent right in their criticism. "I find it quite bizarre they concluded that, but they are not going to put it back, they are going to keep going," he said. Outcomes-based education "is fundamentally flawed and misconceived, in my opinion".


Our wise leaders want us out of our cars but cannot handle it when we comply

Overcrowding on Melbourne's trains has worsened dramatically, resulting in contraventions of load limits and raising questions about how the State Government can achieve its goal of increasing public transport use. High petrol prices and population growth along rail corridors have led to booming train patronage in the past year - and regular breaches of passenger limits on major suburban lines, Government figures have confirmed. Public transport advocates have accused the Government of having no immediate plan to alleviate the crisis, and have called for urgent action to expand the suburban fleet.

According to the franchise agreement under which Connex runs the system, a six-carriage train should carry a maximum of 798 passengers. Department of Infrastructure figures reveal that between 7.30 and 8.30am, average passenger loads on most train lines are near or above that limit - indicating that some services during that period are exceeding the load standard. On four lines - Broadmeadows, Dandenong, Pakenham and Sydenham, the average number of passengers per train during the peak hour is above the limit. On the Sydenham line it is 950.

The news comes as city commuters are being hit for the first time by increased parking fees, the result of a new tax designed to encourage a shift towards public transport. The cost of all-day car parking in the city rose yesterday by as much as $4, while rises of about $2 were seen across the city.

The breached train load standards are evidence of what many commuters have long suspected: that carriages are becoming more crowded. They also raise questions about whether the train system is ready to cope with a new influx of passengers if the parking tax succeeds in prising commuters from their cars.


4 January, 2005

Bluff called on flag

The NSW Government has offered to provide Waverley Council with an Australian flag, flagpole and the manpower required to fly the flag at a Bondi beach landmark. Premier Morris Iemma yesterday condemned the eastern Sydney council after it was accused of refusing to fly the flag at the historic Bondi Pavilion because of concerns about racial tensions following last month's Cronulla beach riot.

Waverley Mayor Mora Main said the decision not to fly the flag was influenced solely by financial and heritage considerations. Ms Main has invited Mr Iemma to a meeting to discuss the issue.

But Mr Iemma today said that was unnecessary. "There's no need for a meeting and there's no need for consultation," he told reporters. "If they are short a flag we'll give them a flag, if they're short a flag pole I'll have the Department of Commerce send them a flag pole with the bolts so that the flag and the flag pole can go up at the pavilion immediately. "If you're short the work people to do it we'll send you the people from commerce to do it and just get the flag up.


Government proud of rising prison numbers

The NSW Government today refused to apologise for skyrocketing jail numbers, saying the state was proudly tough on crime. About one in 600 adults in NSW is in jail - a rate that's almost doubled since 1986, according to figures from the Department of Corrective Services. The number of prisoners in NSW jails increased by 7 per cent last year to more than 9000.

NSW Corrective Services Minister Tony Kelly today said the the state was proud of its record on crime. "The NSW Government is tough on crime, we make no apology for the fact that in NSW we respond to the community [and] we've become tough on crime," Mr Kelly told reporters. "We do lock more people up than some of the other states who are not as tough and we also ensure that once we do lock them up they stay there."

NSW Premier Morris Iemma said fewer inmates escaped from NSW jails than from jails in other states. "Whilst our numbers have gone from 6000 in jail to 9000 in a decade, our escapes have gone from 170 down to 32," he said.

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Wonder at Opera House

The Sydney Opera House has made the short list for the new seven wonders of the world. The 21 sites include Paris's Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum in Rome, the Great Wall of China and England's Stonehenge. A worldwide vote is being held and winners will be announced next New Year's Day. The survey is being run by the New 7 Wonders Foundation, based in Zurich, which aims to protect man-made heritage. "The ancient seven wonders were declared by a single man (Philon of Byzantium) about 2000 years ago, so I thought as a millennium project it would be fun to combine the latest technology ... (and have) all the people of the world (choose)," organiser Bernard Weber told ABC radio. The Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt is the only ancient wonder still standing. It has made it onto the new short list.


High-school Lesson one: Finish Year 12 to get work

Young people who leave school without finishing Year 12 are twice as likely to be unemployed after a year as those who complete secondary school. And the trend gets worse a year further on, a study of a group of 3500 young Victorians in post-school years has found. The University of Melbourne survey was released yesterday by Victorian Education Minister Lynne Kosky, who urged students to stay at school. "Students who have completed 13 years of school are more likely to have work, spent less time looking for work and work more hours," she said. "Students thinking of leaving school without any education or training options should think again, go back to school next year or start a TAFE course."

While 10 per cent of students who completed Year 12 were unable to find work or study a year out from school, the figure was double for those who left after Years 10 or 11. Of those still trying to find work or education a year later, 85per cent of the group who finished Year 12 entered the workforce or full-time study, but just 59 per cent of the early leavers had the same success.

The survey found schools in poorer regions had far higher proportions of students leaving without finishing Year 12. More than 30 per cent of students in the poorest regions quit school early, while just 15per cent did so in the wealthiest regions. About two-thirds of all students who left school early were male.

Friends Sam Kerbage, Liam Oliphant and Luke Stanza have finished Year 12 and believe it is the best option for the long term, but say they have friends who quit school early and found solid work that pays well. Sam, 19, left school in 2003 and started a computer science course, but deferred it to make some money before embarking on a career in hospitality. "People who drop out of school early, sometimes they achieve even more than other people do," he said.


3 January, 2006

Even the Leftist NSW Premier urges review of council flag ban

The New South Wales Government has urged a Sydney beachside council to rethink its decision not to fly the Australian flag over the iconic Bondi Pavilion amid suggestions the move was inspired by racial tensions. But Waverley Council's deputy mayor said Premier Morris Iemma didn't understand the facts and accused Liberal councillors of hijacking the issue for political gain. Mr Iemma today urged the council to reconsider its 6-5 vote against flying the flag over the heritage-listed building. "Our flag is a symbol of national unity and the council decision is just ridiculous, they want to reconsider it and reconsider immediately," he said. "There's no excuse for anyone else to be saying 'Well, because of the incidents, the riots of two weeks ago we're not going to fly the Australian flag'. That is just ridiculous."

Waverley deputy mayor George Newhouse, who was among councillors who rejected the flag proposal, said it had nothing to do with racial tensions. "We already fly the flag at Bondi, we proudly fly the flag at Bondi and this decision has absolutely nothing to do with racism or Cronulla. It has everything to do with practical common sense," Mr Newhouse said. "The Pavilion is a heritage-listed building and it will cost thousands of dollars to perform a heritage study and then erect the poles, which don't exist." "We already have the flag, we love the flag, there is no problem with the flag and as for council banning the flag, it's absolute nonsense."

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There is a good comment from the would-be donor of the flags here

Sydney's hottest day suddenly cools

I wonder which temperature the Greenies will quote? And the Perth temperature will not suit the Greenies either!

Sydney revellers awoke to a scorching start to the year yesterday, with the city suffering its hottest day since 1939. The mercury hit 45.2C at Sydney airport, while a high of 44.2C was recorded at Observatory Hill in the city centre. In the state's west, Ivanhoe recorded the highest temperature of the day, reaching 47C. At a surf competition on Sydney's northern beaches, the MC used a loudspeaker to say what everyone was thinking: "It's stinking hot, extremely stinking hot."

Shortly after 9pm, Sydney was hit by a southerly change, with gusts of 94km/h. Within an hour of the change, temperatures had plummeted from 40C to 24C at Sydney airport and 26C in the city.

Canberra residents also endured 40C, a hazy Brisbane sweated through a sticky 30C and Melburnians enjoyed a cool respite from their hottest New Year's Eve. But Hobart was a chilly 16C and rain in Adelaide brought temperatures down to 23C.

Despite fears that race riots would again break out in Sydney, the nation enjoyed a peaceful New Year's Eve, with millions of people turning out in all state capitals for fireworks....

Unseasonally cool weather in Perth ensured festivities passed without any major incidents, with 262 arrests, police said.

More here

An interesting email from a Sydney reader:

I heard from a friend the other day that one of the "random" attacks, a stabbing, that occurred after the 11th Dec riot at Cronulla beach, was not so random. Apparently a young woman was interviewed in the press and detailed regular sexual harassment by Lebanese gang members on the beach. The interview identified her by surname. Her family is apparently the only instance of that surname in the Sutherland Shire. One of the "random" stabbings carried out in the day or so after the riot was of her father, as he was putting out the garbage bins. I haven't been able to confirm this in the press, of course, the news media would have a vested interest in portraying this sort of attack as 'random'

Big demand for private education

But rising demand pushes up prices too, of course. New schools are not set up overnight in today's heavily regulated circumstances

Parents at Sydney's richest schools are struggling to keep pace with the cost of a year's education, which in one case has rocketed to almost $22,000 after another fee increase of more than double the inflation rate. A Herald survey of 44 of the state's elite secondary schools has revealed fee rises as high as 15.5 per cent and an average of 6.5 per cent. The inflation rate to September was 3 per cent. It is the fifth year in a row that private schools have lifted their fees by at least twice the inflation index, a move principals say is required to account for the increase of about 5 per cent in teachers' salaries next year and the cost of complying with insurance and workplace laws. The most expensive education in NSW and possibly Australia is provided by Shore, which charges $21,804 for year 11. It was the first school to top $20,000 last year and has lifted its fees by a further 5.8 per cent....

Murray Williams, whose son is going into year 11 at SCECGS Redlands at a cost of $19,800, said parents were tired of the "same massive fee rises and bullshit excuses. "The problem for people like me is that we got the kids into schools when it was reasonably affordable, but with the compounding rises it's now very expensive - and you can't just drop your kids out a year from the HSC. "It used to be that we slaved to pay off the mortgage, but the fact is that mortgage repayments today are truly petty cash alongside this stuff. With two kids costing $20,000 each and a third at $18,000 - all after tax - plus trips, books, uniforms, sports, you have to earn $140,000 before getting out of bed."

Several parents said they were concerned about meeting the cost of spiralling fees in coming years. The director of the Association of Independent Schools of NSW, Geoff Newcombe, defended the 6.5 per cent increase, saying "the cost of education, like health, is always much higher than inflation - to make a comparison between them is meaningless". Schools were spending 70 per cent of their budgets on teachers' salaries, "which keep going up and up", Dr Newcombe said. "[Schools are] so conscious of complying with occupational health and safety legislation, [NSW] Board of Studies requirements - they're actually employing people to monitor compliance."

But a teacher at one of the most expensive schools confided: "Principals say they have to lift fees to pay us, but the money mostly goes into their $300,000-plus pay packets, not to mention the corporate jobs they keep creating: business managers, marketing directors - all six-figure salaries."....

In Britain, where independent school fees have risen by more than three times the rate of inflation over the past 20 years, the top 50 schools have recently been found guilty of price-fixing. The chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Graeme Samuel, said although he had received no allegations of impropriety, "if there was a perception that prices were rising at a regular rate across the board every year, we'd certainly be interested to know why".

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2 January, 2006

Stupid politically correct Council bans Australian flag

A Sydney council voted against flying the Australian flag at Bondi Beach because of fears it would incite more race-fuelled violence on the city's beaches. Waverley Council voted 6-5 against the move on December 13, The Daily Telegraph newspaper reports. The Australian flag, along with an Aboriginal flag, were to be provided by federal Liberal MP Malcolm Turnbull and flown over the Bondi Beach pavilion.

But Greens councillor George Copeland said the flag had been used in the recent race riots as "a symbol around which to perpetrate racial violence". The decision has been criticised by the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia founder Keysar Trad and Police Association president Bob Pritchard as well as locals and returned servicemen.


Unusual frankness in the Australian media

Maybe it is only Muslims you are not allowed to mention. Note the racial description below:

A taxi driver has been assaulted and robbed in Sydney's inner-west. The 42-year-old Belmore cabbie picked up three men on New Canterbury Road, Marrickville, about 9:55pm (AEDT) last night, police said. He was directed to go to Fernhill Street in Hurlstone Park where his passengers punched him repeatedly and stole a sum of money. The three assailants, of Pacific Islander or aboriginal appearance, were last seen heading towards the Hurlstone Park Railway Station, police said. The cabbie was treated by ambulance officers at the scene for minor injuries.


The cab-driver was pretty foolish in my view. When I was a Sydney cabbie, I would never have picked up a group of blacks from that spot. And I had enough nous to survive two years of cab-driving completely unharmed and even unrobbed. There is a lot of people-management involved in cab-driving. And the fact that 50% of your passengers are drunk does not help

Another Ambulance disgrace due to bureaucratic infighting

Patients don't matter in a bureaucratic fight

Queensland Ambulance ignored a woman's plea to save her husband - responding only when she telephoned a second time. Mary McGregor called Triple-0 after husband Ken seriously gashed his arm with an angle grinder at their Kilkivan property, about 50km west of Gympie. But the first call for help fell on deaf ears. After an agonising 75-minute wait Mrs McGregor again phoned Triple-0 as her husband Ken, 68, bled profusely. An ambulance crew finally arrived about an hour later.

Mrs McGregor said she suspected the delay was due to "call centre error or mismanagement" and she demanded an explanation from Emergency Services. In an exclusive report last month, The Sunday Mail revealed a stoush [fight] between ambulance call centre operators left critically ill patients to die, according to paramedics. The battle between call centres in Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast over who should take emergency calls had led to QAS staff being disciplined and fined after an investigation.

Mrs McGregor said she believed her husband was almost a fatal victim of the conflict. The officers who responded told her they had received the emergency call an hour beforehand and had no knowledge of the earlier call to Triple-0. "I want to know what happened to the first call . . . there must be a record of it," Mrs McGregor said. "I want some answers from the Premier and the Minister."

The accident happened about 10am on December 10. The closest ambulance station was at Gympie and on a previous occasion a crew had taken 45 minutes to make the trip. "They were advised my husband was bleeding profusely from a gash in his arm, that he was currently on blood thinning medication for a heart condition, and that he was a paraplegic, so could not be moved without assistance," she said. "When an ambulance failed to arrive, Triple-0 was called a second time between 11am and 11.15am . . . the ambulance arrived some time after 12 noon. "The attending officers were efficient and provided a high-quality service."

Mr McGregor was taken to Gympie Hospital with a suspected severed artery, and later transferred to Royal Brisbane Hospital for emergency surgery. "I would describe a severed artery - especially for a person on blood-thinning medication - as a life-threatening injury," she said. "Thankfully, in this instance, the delay was not fatal." Mrs McGregor wanted to know what mechanisms were in place to monitor Triple-0 call centres and how often delays occurred because of "errors or mismanagement". "What processes are followed to rectify issues identified by either the monitoring system, the public or staff?"

Premier Peter Beattie and Emergency Services Minister Pat Purcell said the matter had been passed on to Ambulance Commissioner Jim Higgins for a response. Mr Higgins said he was very concerned and ordered an urgent investigation. In a letter to Mrs McGregor, he blamed the delay on a fault in the computer-aided dispatch system, with her initial call not being received and acted on by the appropriate dispatcher. The fault was not discovered until her second call. "The communications officer has been counselled . . . to reinforce the need to ensure that all operational procedures are adhered to," Mr Higgins said. "I regret the delay and any distress caused you and your husband."


A conservative friend of homosexuals

He sees homosexual unions as an individual liberties issue

It is difficult to imagine a more unlikely proponent of gay rights than far north Queensland MP Warren Entsch. The federal Liberal member is a straight-talking, Harley-riding former crocodile trapper and wild-bull catcher. His Leichhardt electorate stretches from Cairns through Cape York to the Torres Strait Islands - a vast and rugged expanse of hunting, shooting and fishing country. But the 55-year-old has emerged as a leading member of a group of back-bench MPs defying Prime Minister John Howard in pushing for civil unions for homosexual couples.

Mr Entsch, supported by fellow Liberals Mal Washer, Petro Georgiou, Judi Moylan and others, wants Australia to follow countries such as the UK in giving legal recognition to gay and lesbian relationships. "I'm fiercely heterosexual and I'm not a gay rights activist, but this is about fairness," he told The Sunday Mail. Mr Entsch said his stand was motivated in large part by his friendship with some gay couples. "I know people who have been in homosexual relationships for 20 or 25 years and their relationship is as strong emotionally and in terms of commitment as any heterosexual relationship. "I accept them as a couple socially. How can I go around to my friends' place and enjoy dinner and accept them as a couple and then go into Parliament and express a different view? That would make me a hypocrite. "If they asked me to promote their lifestyle, I would say No, but I will always defend their rights. "I'm not doing this as an activist. I'm doing it out of respect for them. "Those in gay relationships should not in any way be ostracised." ...

PM Howard is completely opposed to any form of gay marriage, but Mr Entsch and his colleagues say it's time for Australia to catch up. "I'm comfortable with what's happened in the UK and I'm supportive of it happening here, he said. "We're not talking about marriage, but civil unions. We're not talking about walking down the aisle." Under a civil union scheme, gay couples would have the same rights as married couples.

"These relationships do exist and we should recognise them," said Mr Entsch. "They are just as devastated at the loss of a partner as anyone else and the break-up of a relationship has just as much effect on them as anyone else. "The commitment they give to each other should mean there's no difference in the way they are treated, in terms of property rights and so on."

Conservative Liberal backbenchers have urged Mr Howard to continue resisting the push, and Queensland National Party Senator Barnaby Joyce says allowing civil unions would lead to pressure for gay men and women to adopt children. But Mr Entsch said: "Adoption is a totally separate issue and I would probably have a totally different view on that. Biologically, it's not possible to have kids if you are of the same gender and that needs to be accepted. "There are more than enough childless heterosexual couples desperate for families and not enough kids to go around, really."

Mr Entsch said he was not sure how his stand on civil unions for gay couples would go down in the electorate, although his opposition to Mr Howard's Marriage Act changes - banning gay marriage - before the last election did not hurt him at the ballot box. "Whether it will cost me political points, I don't know. It comes down to whether it's right or wrong. I'm not going to be a hypocrite."


1 January, 2006

1700 police to patrol Sydney

More than 1,700 police will patrol the streets and beaches of Sydney this New Year's Eve in a bid to prevent race-fuelled violence and drunken behaviour. But Deputy NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said there was no intelligence of a direct threat of violence to any areas in Sydney. He said a total of 1,760 officers would patrol Circular Quay, The Rocks and beachside areas including Manly, Bondi and Cronulla.

Mr Scipione said the heavy police presence was a result of recent trouble in the lead-up to Christmas, which included a race riot at North Cronulla beach on December 11 when an angry mob of 5,000 people chased and attacked people of Middle Eastern appearance. Mr Scipione said the New Year's Eve police operation would include mounted police, the dog squad, officers from the marine area command and undercover detectives.

But he stressed the police were not there as "anti-fun police" and should be respected by the community. "This year we are looking to ensure this is a safe city," Mr Scipione told reporters. "We ask that the community respect our cops for giving up their time."


Australian fashion products winning overseas acceptance

Billabong started out selling surfwear but now sells clothing of all sorts. I have shares in them.

A Billabong store stands proudly between Prada and Ermenegildo Zegna stores in the upmarket Plaza Indonesia in Jakarta. Its presence alongside the world's best-known design brands speaks for its standing among Indonesian consumers. Billabong - which had sales totalling $843.6 million in the 2004-05 year - typifies overseas the Australian lifestyle.

Another quintessential Aussie company is Rip Curl, whose brand is also synonymous around the world with board sports such as surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding .

Billabong and Rip Curl, whose combined annual global sales run over $1 billion, evoke images of sand, surf and blue skies. Their selling point is the freshness and vitality embodied in their "Australianness".


Beer drought!

It was almost enough to make grown men cry. Brisbane has narrowly escaped becoming a town without beer as the heatwave fuels an insatiable thirst for Fourex Gold. Alarm bells rang earlier this week when stocks of the popular mid-strength beer plummeted to 10 per cent. Fourex put out an SOS, recalling its brewers from holidays, and has been working around the clock to meet demand.

Brisbane's inner city Spring Hill Hotel was one bottle shop nearly plunged into the crisis. Manager Ben Harburg said the hotel was waiting for more Fourex Gold. "Certainly it's very good drinking weather . . . I've been ordering off them for 10 years and they don't normally run out," he said.

Fourex regional director Mark Powell said hot weather and the popularity of the beer had meant the volume sold in December was the highest since its introduction to the market in 1991. "We've never seen the warehouse so empty - it usually holds about two million cases and currently we're sitting at about 10 per cent capacity," Mr Powell said. "While we would normally finish production at 10 each night, we've been working around the clock since Boxing Day." Mr Powell said sales of Gold had grown 4 per cent in Queensland this year. Mid-strength beers account for about half the Queensland market and one in three of all beers drunk in the state was a Fourex Gold.

However, nationally, the beer market had been down. Fourex parent Lion Nathan said in November sales had been relatively stagnant for 12 months. Statistics released by the ANZ Bank this week showed that, while Australians were generally tightening their purse strings, they had increased their spending on alcohol by 4.8 per cent during the past nine months.


Another security bungle

Thousands of private pilots could be effectively grounded from tomorrow under long-awaited anti-terrorism measures being imposed by the Federal Government. The industry fears the situation may threaten the viability of some regional and remote airports which rely heavily on private-pilot traffic. From tomorrow, all pilots were supposed to have undergone background checks and received an aviation identification security card to be allowed to land at Australia's 190 security-controlled airports.

Transport Minister Warren Truss was forced to water down the new measures earlier this month because of the slow issuing process and failure of thousand of pilots to apply on time. Under the changes, pilots who have applied from today but have yet to receive their cards will be able to land legally at about 150 regional airports which were not previously regulated. About 40 larger airports will be limited to pilots who have received their cards.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority and other issuing authorities have been inundated with more than 10,000 applications in recent weeks. However, many of Australia's 36,000 pilots are yet to apply, meaning they cannot take off or land legally at airports or go into airport areas which are security controlled. About 50 Queensland airports or their secure areas will be off-limits to unchecked pilots, including Aurukun, Cloncurry, Longreach and Winton. Previously, only major airports and commercial pilots required the security measures but the Government beefed up the system following the September 11 terrorist attacks.

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